24 August 2006

Stumbling through the big trip (Part III)

When last we left our travelers, they had just abandoned their horribly tortured and abused dog in favor of airport security. (In case you need to catch up on our return trip home, here are the links to part one and part two.)

Even prior to the "no liquids on board" days, there was no lack of security in Charles de Gaulle airport. In fact, my theory is that they are single-handedly trying to combat the high unemployment rate by hiring hundreds of people and positioning them in arbitrary spots to check IDs and plane tickets. If we hadn't been so stressed about being bumped to stand-by status, we probably would have laughed at the absurdity. I swear, we'd walk about 10 to 15 steps down a hallway, and two airport personnel would stop us and ask for IDs and plane tickets. It's not like we were going through a security gate or checkpoint -- it could have been anywhere. In fact, I'm surprised that they didn't check my credentials when I stopped to buy a bottle of water.

Anyway, we got through security just fine, and followed signage through a maze of hallways and personnel until we got to ... a door to the parking lot. "You've got to be kidding me," I thought. Nope, at this point, we showed our IDs and tickets, and then boarded a shuttle bus to take us to the next stage in our journey!

Once we got off the bus and wove through more hallways, we finally found the counter for stand-by passengers to check in. We make a beeline for the counter and begin to plead our case for getting on to the flight. (If only I had had a picture of Didge making big brown eyes at the camera...) The folks at the counter were nice, but they couldn't tell us anything for another 20 or so minutes (I've forgotten the actual length of time, but it wasn't terrifically long). The minutes dragged onward, and finally, we were able to ask again.

After clarifying to the airline employees that we were not staff members (to which they replied, with surprise, "Then why are you flying stand-by?" Aaaaargh!!), we finally got word that there were two free seats on the plane. We made it! I can't even begin to describe the relief that rushed over both of us. We had been strategizing about who would go on the first flight if only one of us could get on, but that, obviously, was not ideal. Now, we didn't have to worry about it.

As a side note, we were as polite and patient as we could be throughout this whole ordeal. As for the family next to us who had also been bumped to standby ... well, let's just say, I think they spent a heck of a lot more time at CDG than we did that day. (It pays to be nice to the people in charge.)

Fortunately, once we were comfortably seated on our desired flight, we were good to go for the rest of the trip home. Didge popped out on the other side of the Atlantic without any major injuries, and we realized just how easy it is to get through customs when you speak the same language as the agent. (Not that we didn't spend a good 10-15 minutes mentally preparing for a French conversation while waiting in line ... some habits die hard!)

Thus endeth our tour de France.

Waaaaaahhh! When can I go back??


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