Reader Notice: Any lament about being stuck in Paris is, by definition, ridiculous. I know that.This is about being stuck away from people you love.
Air France made me cry. Not sob, not bawl my eyes out, but real tears, real “I can’t cope” tears. Since I long ago learned that “I can’t cope” tears have no traction in my world – maybe in others, but not in mine, never have – the tears stopped at the point where I said aloud, “Well, that’s really going to help, Patricia.”
Insomnia is no respecter of borders and sleeping only between 5:00 am and 9:00 am probably had something to do with my fragility, as did a desire to get home and hug my grandchildren, to dedicate my life to them as the most viable thing I’ve got going.
Yes, this is a somewhat hollow lament – I am in Paris, after all! – but loneliness is not ever hollow. I have a psychiatrist friend who was in the teams that “treated” Vietnamese boat people decades ago. She said they wanted to talk about the same things everyone else wants to talk about. Not the war, not loss of home, but the intricacies of love and caring and insecurities. Why should I be immune?
So when the email notice came from Air France canceling my flight 24 hours before scheduled takeoff, I was already flirting with self-pity. It was complex and went on and on about booking options and financial transactions, and it was in French without an English “click” button.
Now, I had known for two weeks that the Air France pilots were on a “soft” strike with some flights cancelled, which is why I kept checking to see that my flight was still on schedule. It was, up to that moment. I had packed.
Action time! Call the telephone number, get a real operator, tell her or him everything, get a new booking, and arrange a straight financial exchange. The first two tries didn’t get through at all and the third time I got the “Thank you for your patience, we will be with you shortly” recording – for 30 minutes, which is when I hung up at $1 per minute.
But had I been sitting around, helpless and waiting? No! I had been online in the race with phantom leagues of people who were also rebooking as fast as they could.
Stick with Air France rather than try in foreign languages to manage the finances. The strike is scheduled to be over in two days. Five seats left on the Wednesday flight, work fast, get that information in, choose a seat, click to confirm. Now!
. . . oh, oh . . . an air message. There is a technical difficulty and my reservation cannot be confirmed. Of course, there’s a technical difficulty! There are 500 plus people from my plane alone who are rebooking. No way those five seats will be left next time I try.
This is when being alone, being sleep deprived, and wanting your grandchildren to run to you with their arms open come together in a special way that creates a stinging sensation in your tear ducts.
It’s not about reservations and flights. It’s about being connected to others. It’s about being in the human family. It’s about being loved and giving love, being embraced and embracing, celebrating each other, and having someone bring you coffee while you’re trying to get home.
I made my own coffee and went back to try online again. My speakerphone was still saying “Thank you for your patience, we will be with you shortly.” But this time when I pulled up my reservation to change it, it said I was confirmed on a flight in two days. My earlier attempt had gone through.
I shut off my cell phone, dressed in black like Johnny Cash, told myself I was one tough cookie, and I went out to lunch – a poached egg over thin-sliced gently steamed peppers and corn for the first course and wild mushroom risotto for the second course.
I can cope for two more days.