Monday, April 23, 2012

yesterday's excitement

As I stood early yesterday morning in the long Air Canada line at CDG airport, inching toward the machines that issue boarding passes and bag tags, I kept hearing a garbled announcement in French and fractured English, asking someone to please “pick up the white suitcase left at …” And I thought, please, whoever you are, pick it up.

At last, I was one person away from the machines when chaos erupted; police had decided the white bag was dangerous, and this entire section of the airport was to be cleared instantly. Pandemonium – police in camouflage holding machine guns shouting at us to move out, move to Exit 6; bewildered travellers, reluctant to give up a hard-won place in line, shuffling off. Giant crowds jamming the hall, bags everywhere. No, this can’t be happening! I thought. A soldier was shoving us along when I broke away and dashed to one of the deserted machines; trembling, I entered my info – had checked in last night on-line, luckily, though unable to print a boarding pass – and while the soldier clutching his gun muttered impatiently behind me, I got my boarding pass and bag tag and, greatly relieved, joined the multitudes outside.

Next issue – I assumed the delay would be endless and had to warn my brother that I’d be landing much later. He'd sent a brief email that morning  – Mum’s still pretty bad, call when you get in. I decided to ask Lynn, still at the apartment in Paris, to phone Canada for me, and, glad that the cell phone I’ve carried with me all over Europe and hardly used finally had such an important job, I I entered her number. A notice came up: you have no money left in your account.

In the milling chaos of the bomb scare, I tried to figure out how to put more money into my French cell phone account – only, eventually, to be told, “Now enter the 16 digit number associated with your account.” Said number at the bottom of my suitcase. Finally, I asked a Frenchwoman I’d been chatting with if I could use her phone briefly, and was able to leave a message for my friend. 

25 minutes later, we were let back in. It’ll be hours before they sort out this lot, I thought, making my way easily through customs and security, and began to wander around near the gate. I was flipping through magazines when an announcement came over the P.A.: “Would passenger Elizabeth Kaplan please come to Gate 351.” Yowza! They had put everyone through in extraordinarily speedy fashion, and the full bus was waiting for me. Luckily, there was a guy whose passport they thought was fake; he was ten minutes later than I.

We were delayed taking off, all the planes stacked up because of the security scare, but once airborne, an hour and a half late, it was a smooth trip. I watched “My week with Marilyn,” “A Dangerous Method,” and “Being Elmo,” a documentary about the puppeteer who created Elmo for “Sesame Street,” a lovely film, very moving. The Marilyn film was really good, and the Freud/Jung split explored in "Method" interesting to someone who's been through psychoanalysis, as have I, though the movie was a bit gothic in bits. Watching films - such a great way to pass a very long plane ride. Keeps a big airbus like that very quiet. And then of course there's the delicious food. 

That morning, my friend Chris had emailed me an article: "Major snowstorms expected in eastern Canada." Unbelievable, especially as throughout my trip, the weather was great in Toronto and awful in Europe. But Toronto was blessedly sunny yesterday, no sign of snow yet, the trees green, my garden overgrown and full of life. It's wonderful to be home, though of course I'm not home, I'm in the basement suite until my tenants upstairs depart mid-May. I immediately called Ottawa - my mother miraculously much better, chatting, lucid, though still very weak. A great relief. So it was decided, given the dire weather report for Monday, that I would take the day to sort out my life. 

Which I did - making my digs liveable - much cleaning and finding stuff, I'll spend the next 3 weeks running up and down stairs; I had lunch with my daughter with my son as our waiter. Oh my absurdly different children - pregnant Anna is all extremely soft roundness, and extremely tall Sam all sharp angularity. Hand on her belly, I felt the baby kick. "You can come out now," she said to him. "Much more room to stretch out here. You'll like it."

Went home to deal with: bills, income tax, a leaky roof, the furnace, laundry, a new tenant, cleaning the suite, upcoming courses, many calls, and getting a plane ticket for first thing tomorrow and a rental car in Ottawa.

And, now, unbelievably, I have to pack again.

But I did have my rue Mouffetard croissant for breakfast this morning, with friend Patsy's blackberry jam made from Gabriola Island berries. A classic meeting of two great cultures. 

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