15 June 2006

Just a rambling travel post

Today's travels have been full of all sorts of interesting little tidbits to post about! The first has to do with the Twingo. I am over it. I hope I do not get another one. It's clearly a city car - and it does drive wonderfully in the city. But the interior arrangement and ergonomics are not right for me. And it is painfully under-powered (1.2 liters, I think) with odd gearing. On the highway, you always feel like you want a sixth gear. Yet if you have to give it some gas to get a move on, it's a anemic. But, as a city car, it's fine.

The second tidbit comes from when I stopped to fill the Twingo before depositing it at the airport. There was a guy outside cleaning the faces of the readouts on the pumps, signs posted around the pumps about not smoking, etc. Well, I nearly fell over when he grabbed a pump handle and wet his rag with gasoline as his cleaning agent!! I am sure that is illegal in France, like it is in the U.S. (even one drop on the ground is considered a hazardous material "spill"). And of course I am sure it happens more often than one would hope (gasoline is a great solvent), but it still shocked me to see it.

Somehow I then managed to transact my entire time at the airport in French, from returning the car, to checking my slightly overweight (.7 kg) bags and getting exactly the seat I wanted, to chatting with some other passengers, to getting on the plan. OK, I am sure that it only seemed to go better because 1. the people at the airport speak English and can thus reason out what the Hell I am trying to say, and 2. I am saying things that I have said over and over during this past half year.

[Holy crap! It's been 6 months of this commuting gig! I have not been home in nearly 7 weeks. That is a long time.]

I love the McDonald's at Charles DeGaulle Airport. You can sit and watch the plans taxi by, pull into gates, take off and land. You can also do some serious people watching. Today though, I just sat and watched big Air France Air Buses come and go while eating my favorite configuration of a Royal Cheese (Quarter Pounder!!): With two layers of their addictive friends on top of the cheese and with some ketchup. Oh, Heaven! On this trip back I am going to try getting back on the weight band wagon, and the first thing to go is fast food as much as possible; at one point I was doing very well with it, only having it maybe once every six weeks to fill that deep-down craving that can only be filled by long thin potatoes fried in beef tallow. Mmmmmm.

Something very interesting while in the airport: I was asked several times (5) for directions or information. I think I am sort of becoming a local in that I must have this look about me as I whiz around the terminal. Of course, it may also be because I am often standing still having a smoke outside. Which reminds me: This morning there was this standard U.S. government issue Ford Crown Victoria sitting at the curb with some kind of security guy (maybe FBI, Embassy, or CIA, who knows) attached to it, complete with sunglasses on a cloudy day to hide his shifting eyes. He was hanging by the open car door clearly waiting for somebody to clear immigration and all that. Now, if he was trying to look inconspicuous, he failed. If he was going for the "don't fuck with me" look, then maybe he did better, but there's plenty of West Africans in Paris that could whip this dud into a pulp. Anyway, he was joined by two robots just like him, and that was when he went from cocky Agency dude to bewildered American. It was great watching him trying to back that boat up through the chaos of taxis, buses, and passenger cars. It took him almost 7 minutes to do what others were doing in like 2. Priceless.

We were delayed getting on the plane by an hour, I guess to fix something with it. Fine by me. Take as long as you need or get another plane, but no complaints from this peanut gallery. While waiting I met an interesting retired German Literature professor from U. TX Austin. We had a great conversation for about 90 minutes. What a treat to meet somebody that you can have an engaging conversation with at random! I apparently was the only person on the flight to get my lighter through security, so I was very popular with the smoking crowd. Of course, the boarding was a typical CDG clusterfuck but I have gotten that shtick down pat.

On the plane, a huge treat! The flight was so empty that about 1/3 of the people had a whole row to themselves, about 1/2 were two to a row with an open middle seat, and the rest 3 to a row probably because the were traveling together. And, extra treat, people seemed to organize themselves so that nobody was stuck with a person in front of them (to recline and just be generally irritating). So, I have enough room to work on my laptop (but not my work one, it is still too big), which is what I am doing right now. We are scheduled to arrive only 7 minutes late, so no big deal: They build so much slop into the flight schedules now that they can leave an hour late and still get in on time - they just get a variance on the speed limit. One thing that is interesting is that it still takes the same time to fly to Europe as it did when I was a kid, yet airplanes can go faster now. I think they go the same speed ensure on time arrival with no problems, and then go faster to make up time when they are delayed in leaving. Tricky, but it makes for statistics that can be bent the right way for marketing and advertising.

So, only 1 hour and 20 minutes until we land, then all the processing, then SHG, kitties and order-in Chinese food!!


Now I am home, having slept well, pumping up on coffee for a busy day. Yay!