Wildest Moments

My last evening in France was as intended. I wanted things to be wild and hectic. I wanted to be brazen and rushed. Now timing was everything and my destiny was unknown. I just had a bunch of digital boarding passes to different places in the world. I didn't know where I would sleep. I thought by some good graces I would have a phone. So I was straddling my suitcases and trying to change out the SIM at the back of the car. I was up and at it way before the train approached the station. It didn't occur to me I was now wild. I was the one who disobeyed the warnings. I was teetering on a moving train with several bags and a phone. I was getting the annoying yet familiar messages in French about not having enough credit. I was off the train before everyone else. I was using ticketing kiosks. I was going down escalators. I was conversing with people on the platform. 

That little old lady was right. I was on the last train headed to the last bus to CDG. I expected to do as I had the entire summer. I wanted to be vulnerable. I wished to look down the cars and see when the other people got off with carry ons. Now I was along side the Parisians running down the ramp to the SNCF bus drivers. I was racing with the people who lived just outside of Paris proper in the ghettos and suburbs. Once the bus left for CDG it really wasn't full. Yet it paid to be first and up front. Now it truly was as I imagined. I was dashing through the city of lights driven by a mad man. There were rain drops on the window shield, major turns into merging traffic, the occasional expletive with a honking horn. I was living the life of others. I was getting the night tour I deserved. All I had to do was sit back and look out.

Now pulled in front of Roissy I was again myself. Standing in a lot of sparse cars and people I didn't know. The airport was most definitely closed. The doors weren't shut but it was dim inside. There was no one manning desks or counters. There were no travelers and tourists alike. It was just me and the other American waiting for our bags. The first on are the last to get their belongings from underneath. Others walked to the nearby hotel, hopped into waiting cabs or waltzed to misted over foreign cars. We were the only ones having to walk inside to the nothing that was visible. He went one way and I went another. Eventually we were separated by glass at two different terminal shuttle entries. He looked at me as if should come with him. I looked at him as if he was clueless. He went to Terminal 1 and I chose Terminal 2.

I didn't know where to go really. It was just around 1am. I had no phone service. I had no physical tickets. When I finally got on the public wi-fi my email was iffy. I didn't see a terminal or a gate mentioned anywhere. Not in my texts. Not in my messages. Not in my nifty travel app. When I walked over to directory boards everything was blank or in transition. When I peered into restaurants they had easily been shut for hours. The barmen were drying the last of the glasses and the shopkeepers were getting their coats to leave. Again, I was weak knowing that here I was with no phone, no food and no information. There was no lone pilot offering to follow him. There was no ticketing agent with no line. There wasn't even a janitor. I tried to switch my SIM again - still nothing. I tried to message someone and iMessage wasn't working. Meanwhile, the free wi-fi had a time limit and it was counting down. There was no muzak playing. I didn't see familiar signs. I sat down in the nearest chair and unraveled.

I could have gone back from where I came. I could sleep exactly where I was. I could try to find a pay phone to hear someones voice. It was cold outside. What if I didn't wake up? How does one make a collect call in a foreign country? I thought look for the signs that say "international flights" or "customs". It was an international airport in a European country - no flights were domestic. Customs and all the bureaucracy awaited me on the other side. This should have been a surreal moment. The one in which I dance across tables and steal plastic forks because no one was looking. It wasn't. I was scared. When I finally got ahold of someone they couldn't help me. Then the wi-fi ran out. I figured if I didn't get up and move, somewhere, anywhere I'd miss my flight. It was best to go back the direction in which I came. I would walk back in confidence. I would find someone. I would find my airline. I would find that guy with the guitar case that went the other direction.

I must have walked two miles past all the empty places. I passed the blank boards. I passed the humming restrooms. I walked down the disabled people movers. When I went to turn down the hall to the shuttle I was stopped by two seated uniformed guards. They asked me how did I get inside and where did I come from. CDG is under a lot of renovation and they had barricaded the entry/exit to the shuttles. There was audible work being done and they were there to protect it. They asked that I turn around and take the elevator to street level. Once outside there would be a driving shuttle that could take me around to all the terminals. They didn't know where my airline was. They couldn't help me. This was all they could do. To my surprise when I turned around I saw a mother and child running our direction. I signaled to her to follow me. She had obviously done as I did and had been somewhere in the terminal with her son. She may have been Black but she was French, she didn't speak English and she wasn't about to try. She just looked at me as though I was the person who could help them.

When we got outside it was much colder. It was nearly 2am and there were other people outside too. It was a line of the last of the airport employees. People in large coats, guys with construction gear, women smoking cigarettes - I gathered with them and she following clutching her boys chest as he clutched a small bag. Soon the glowing lights of the shuttle came and we went back onto the highway and down to the entry of Roissy. Her and I looked at each other with such fear. Now there was fog, no cabs and the employees all scattered to their parked cars. The driver told us to stay on board and then drove to Terminal 1. Her and I reluctantly got out to the newly remodeled building. It was a round capsule in the middle of nowhere. It was lined in glass doors. As we crossed over to it the driver drove off just leaving us in the cold. She immediately walked up to a door and found it locked. We continued around the circular terminal just to see people inside but all the doors closed. At one point I turned back out to the stop to get my bearings straight. She had looked at me so many times as though I mislead her. So now my back was facing her as she frantically pulled at locked doors.

After a while I didn't hear her grunts or the metal and glass. I simply heard the sealing of a electric door that had graciously invited her in. I then peered through the glass to see her pulling her son through the terminal. I was now wondering which door had worked. I was prying at the electric ones and knocking to see if someone would help. Everyone inside was doing as I intended. They were all in the chairs, atop their luggage, warm and fast asleep. No one could hear me. Finally a door opened just when I gave up. Once inside I made my way around looking for anything that made sense. My app popped open and said Terminal 1. The wi-fi had automatically renewed in the new terminal and I was finally in the right place. I just kept walking in that inner circle checking the monitors and boards. FInally one flashed Icelandic Air. It was clear that no airline had a permanent home. Basically airlines are hosted and in-between CDG's warnings about contraband and documents were the call letters of that days flights and or airlines.

I took a seat just in front of the stanchions. I would camp here and at least if I overslept a tad I could hear others making line for my flight. I was soon joined by a German girl who spoke English. There were two Nigerian brothers that let me borrow change for the vending machine. I slept with my messenger bag wrapped around my calves and my suitcase as a pillow. I set an alarm and woke two hours till to freshen up. The airport was still dark but employees were arriving. Someone came out and put up speciality class stanchions. The pens and bag labels had been refilled. The German girl was pensively waiting. I took a birdbath, changed into a more refined flying outfit and then proceeded to nap again. Suddenly, everyone had arrived for the flight and us two early birds had to make the back of the line. The access to the gates were behind the counters. There was  Barbarella-esque tunnel where a neatly dressed guard checked documents. There was no mass exodus. It was if we were all new, individually going up the conveyor belt to be sold.

Once upstairs I entered an all white and red mod styled gate. There were video games, duty free shops and free magazines. So I sat for a bit skimming a mag and attempting to charge my things. There was only one charging station for the entire gate. I had to find a place with my chunky convertor in-between everyones cords. Just before the flight began I walked over to a bakery. I gave the woman my last Euro change for a chusson aux pommes. It was still warm and probably the best I had ever had. Now as the aristocrats had boarded I had the charging station all to myself. I tried to inform others of the harrowing night but the internet just stopped loving me. My time with the wi-fi had run out and things weren't posting in real time. So I gathered up my cords and laptop and made my way to the end of the boarding line. I reached out to grab one of those sophisticated magazines for the ride. My passport was checked for the third time and I was grateful to just have somewhere to sleep. If I had only remembered that was my first of two flights I might have stayed awake. An hour later an Icelandic woman was nudging me. All of the other passengers had de-planed. My belongings were hanging out of the overhead compartment two seat rows ahead. My magazine mushed beside the armrest. Iceland on my left hand side.

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