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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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And so it was Friday, the last day of our trip to Paris, with an evening departure to JFK.

We woke up about ten after reading till past midnight. We packed up and were out around 11, leaving the bag at the hotel. We never did anything fancy with the hotel, but were quite pleased.

Well, except for one thing.

The minibar is automated, and instantaneously charges your room if you remove something from it. This screwed us twice, once when I looked at a bottle of liquor because I wasn’t sure what it was, and a second time when a can got knocked out while trying to put something in the “personal area” (about the size of a small tissue box. We just sucked it up rather than fighting with the hotel staff that we’d replaced the items, but this whole idea of an automatic minibar seems rather offensive to me. Room service can check inventory each day, thank you very much.

We took a rather snowy walk to Au Panetier. While there was cold and light snow through the week, it was coming down hard by this point, and accumulated about two inches by the time we reached the boulangerie. I had a baguette with chevre, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, butter, oil, vinegar, and so forth. This was a darn good baguette. I have in my notes that it was the second best I had behind Julien. I also tried a lovely apricot tart, but I think I’ll stick with pain au chocolat. They are addictive.

We forged onward to E. Dehillern, a kitchen and restaurant supply store with no peers. It was horribly cramped, both with people and stuff. Everything has serial numbers on it, and you go to a price book to figure out what it will cost you. Most stuff was a good bargain (US goods being the exception); copper pots and so forth were dirt-cheap compared to the states. Didn’t buy anything, but this is a stellar place to equip a kitchen.

Had a real miserable walk back to the hotel and then dragged the luggage through the slush to the train station; it lacks the ground clearance to actually roll once there is more than half an inch of muck on the ground. A few trains and a long hike through CDG later, we were at our terminal.

Along the way an accordion player treated us to french folk tunes in the train. Afterwards, he went through begging for money, and seemed to do pretty well through the deal. Shortly after we boarded what looked like some sort of nun, who passed through the train, dropped pieces of paper, and then returned through to pick them up and request a donation. Having offered nothing but guilt, she did very poorly by comparison to the musician.

Checked in business class and b-lined to the lounge, which was meticulous, empty, and hot as hell. Sarah likes being warm, so it worked out.

All through the lounge are espresso machines and refrigerators with free beer/coke/etc. The bar is open and free, with various liquors, wine, and snacks. The American drunks could learn from this; if they could control themselves, our lounges would be free and visitors would be allowed to go behind the bar and serve themselves, instead of the chaos you see in the lounges at LGA and JFK.

Anyhow, we had a couple of hours till our flight, which we passed in the lounge, where I was entertained by the diminutive beverage containers, snacked on various things, and rested.

We then went to our gate, where we waited about an hour beyond boarding time before boarding by class … except we were getting on a bus. To board a 767! So, they boarded oh, 80 people or so, by class, and then we all went outside, stormed through some slush pools, onto a bus, where we sat. Then the bus drove for 15 minutes, and we proceeded in a chaotic herd across the tarmac and up a stairway, to find our seats, deposit snow and slush and salt everywhere, and make a general mess of things. This was repeated several times for the remaining passengers. I was absolutely dumbfounded. The last time I boarded a plane by bus was a Saab SF340 at DTW … which is a shade different than a 767. I think it has something to do with the new-looking terminal not yet being completed, but the whole experience was absurd.

We got on the plane, went through the initial business class niceties, and then our purser told us that we would be delayed, at minimum, two hours now that we’d boarded.

Make that three hours.

And then we don’t take off, that’s just when we get in line for de-icing.

All I can say is I was thankful to not be in economy class. Over 12 hours on a 767 in economy is not my idea of a good time. We received portable DVD players with a library of 20 discs; I used this to watch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which was good. 6/10. I guess the scary thing was that very little of it surprised me, since at my previous job I worked with a bunch of ex-enron folks, and a bunch of traders, so I was used to people that were, uh … “like that.” I don’t miss it. Next was A Few Good Men, which I’d never seen. It was like a good John Grisham book, and I enjoyed it. 6/10.

They provided those Bose noise-canceling headphones. As expected, they pretty much sound like shit. Most of their sound isolation is physical, with the active response doing a poor job of notching out a rather small chunk of sound, which doesn’t include the higher or lower pitches of the engine noise, and did very little to block the noise of the babies screaming, crying, and running around next to us. Far better is a pair of in-ear physically isolated earbuds that actually sound decent; you get better noise blocking, and, unlike Bose products, they actually sound good.

The people with the babies next to us that changed their fucking diapers in the middle of business class, so it smelled like shit for the rest of the trip.

Food was unexciting, but plentiful, featuring numerous bits of cold seafood to start, a dinner salad, a pork and potato dinner, ben and jerry’s ice cream, and rather good wine. I slept through the snack so I can’t speak for that.

I guess what it comes down to in the end is that despite the luxury of better travel on the way back, Sarah and I seem to have a terrible knack for getting into all sorts of mess and delay coming back from vacations. In perfect weather coming back from Belize we got diverted to the wrong airport in Florida. Leaving Paris we got in after midnight. It just seems to be a given whenever we take a trip that something is going to get screwed up. It doesn’t ruin the vacation, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is always such a downer; flying home isn’t fun in the first place, and all of the additional hassles don’t make it any better.