tirsdag, juni 27, 2006

Attn Flight 1159: I'm Not French. Seriously.

The flights back from Palm Beach were a circle in hell, only time moves faster in hell. The Atlanta airport was apparently in quite a state due to a lack of equipment, so anyone hoping to fly into Atlanta was delayed if they were even being allowed the attempt. Flight 1159, Palm Beach to Minneapolis with a brief stopover in Atlanta to add passengers, sat on the tarmac for a little over an hour while the Florida sun beat down on the windows. Then we taxied back for more fuel and to have a mechanic look at the AC, which was only half-functioning in the main cabin.

But that's fine. These things happen.

Eventually, Flight 1159 departed. We were to have landed in Atlanta at 6:00, I think. Maybe 5:30. We landed at 7:25 pm. They asked those of us continuing on or for whom Atlanta was the final destination to allow all those seeking connection flights to deboard first. We complied. Then they announced that our flight, again, Flight 1159, was actually continuing on from a different plane.

Fittingly, we landed at the far end of Atlanta's A Concourse. The connecting flight was at the far end of the B Concourse. So I hoofed it. I hopped onto the tram as the doors were closing, just like one does to give a spy tail the slip in the movies.

It was 7:29. The flight was to leave at 7:30.

A bit sweaty, I made it to the plane at 7:33. I said to the woman, "I was on this flight. Well, this flight number. They told me to come here. Do I still have the same seat?" "Sure," she said, as if it was no big deal to get on a plane, any plane, when you wanted to. She scanned my ticket.

As I walked onto the plane, the first flight attendant said to me, "Just in from Paris?"

I shook my head. "Palm Beach," I said. She frowned as if I was the crazy one.

So I took a seat. I noticed that all the people around me were speaking French. Another flight attendant passed. I said, "We are going to Minneapolis, correct?" And she said, "Eventually."

Eventually, indeed. We did not depart for another 90 minutes: 9:05, rather than the posted 7:30.

In the interim, flight attendants passed and asked if the remaining seven open seats were truly open. Recalling how awful seat 10B had been on the flight from Palm Beach to Atlanta, and realizing I was on the exact same style of plane, I took the open aisle seat and told an attendant that the middle seat was still open. So they brought a woman onto the plane and gave her 10B, an undersized, spatially-challenged, hell-forged rock wedged against the wall separating the haves (First Class) from the Have-Nots (Coach). Poor woman. But I wasn't feeling very charitable having already sat in that Iron Maiden for the previous few hours.

The French conversation continued around me. I had a brief daydream of discovering I was on a flight to Paris. I had my passport with. Why not? That wouldn't be such an awful boarding mistake.

A few more obviously French passengers were let on. These guys were wearing super tight t-shirts over fit but rather formless bodies--the sort I think signs people who do not mind walking places. One man was wearing a thin, tight ribbed sweater, a cream-colored thing with short sleeves. Around his neck he'd tied a thicker green sweater. They milled about a bit at the front of the plane while the attendants decided where they'd have to sit.

Finally, we left.

I'm not one to imbibe on planes, really. I'm drinking very little these days anyway (though Florida was a welcomed setback to this program, damn you Rum Runners!). The altitude increases the dehydrating effects of beer. I've no medical data, but it seems pretty obvious. With a long day only getting longer, I thought a beer was in order.

"Do we have a Heineken?" I asked the woman pushing the drink cart. We did.

"Five dollars," she said. I soon discover my apparently French mistique is working overtime.

In part, I understand, it's my choice of words. "Do we have a Heineken?" rather than "Heineken" or "Can I have a Heineken." Sometimes I use British English words (though not with a British accent). For example, I might call a light, misty rain a mizzle. "What's it like out?" "A bit of a mizzle," I might say.

In part, it's my apparently unplaceable accent that has caused people in various places to ask if I'm from Finland, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, New York, Minnesota, Chicago, Canada, California and so on. Language has exploded in my mouth. I defy categorization.

I've a weird face too and rather untameable hair. And there's something to the way I carry myself that must indicate a more European style, as in Germany and Denmark I was often spoken to in the native languages first while others were addressed in English.

And on this day on the plane, I was wearing white shoes with red laces that I'd bought in Copenhagen last year.

All this to say the attendant baffled me. She said, "Five dollars," and when I opened my wallet she added, "Oh, in American."

"Certainly," I said.

Later, the woman next to me, the one I'd condemned to the Hell Known As 10B, asked slowly, perhaps to aid my comprehension of English or perhaps she was deciding where I might be from, if I now lived in Minnesota. I said, "Oh, yes, right in Saint Paul." She added, "Wow!" as if this should be worth an exclamation. A Frenchman! A real Frenchman! In Saint Paul!

It's all good.

So we landed in Minneapolis about 11, three hours late. With all the international confusion I was feeling pretty good about things. I knew my luggage wouldn't be there. My luggage is never there after my trips to Palm Beach. It wasn't. So I caught a cab home.

In the moments before I fell into a six-hour coma on the couch, I checked my e-mail. I'd a message from Expedia telling me my flight schedule had changed. I worried that perhaps it meant my late August flight to Copenhagen had been cancelled, so popped by the Delta site for an explanation.

There, I found they'd rescheduled me to stay in Atlanta this night. I was to fly from Atlanta to Cinci, and Cinci to Minneapolis the next day. There was no recognition of the flight I'd actually taken. But I will alert them to it, for I want those miles, damn it. I fly too much to ignore them. One day soon, I'm going to swagger through those private club doors at the airport. It will happen, and there's nothing they can do to stop me.

Never mess with a Frenchman.
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