Leaving The Country

Aha! My misleading title will hopefully confuse many of you! You’ll come and check on me in my basement dwelling just to make sure I’m not upset about Romney’s loss or something.

In reality, this is the first in my four-part Europe blog series. So when I say leaving the country, I just mean on vacation.

As was recapped in the previous entry, I quit my job and decided to go to Europe for the first time, because, well, I didn’t really like what I was doing, and the timing on all of it made sense to me. And so I went and met up with Maggie, who’s currently an au paire in Germany. As stressful as the meeting-up part of the plan was, it wasn’t even the most stressful part of the journey. But more on that later!

Allow me to set the scene. It’s Thursday November 1, and the previous day was Halloween, the greatest of all holidays. The granddaddy of celebrations. The reason for the season.

Leading up to All Hallow’s Eve, I’d attended three Halloween parties. At the first, a quasi-housewarming party for the new house, I tried to be a werewolf.

Look, werewolves are incredibly underutilized in today’s pop culture. We had Teen Wolf (the movie) and American Werewolf in London, but then Twilight and Teen Wolf (the show) did their best to ruin everything. And now vampires and zombies have their cool franchises, but poor werewolves are kind of neglected.

So I did my best, but putting fake fur on your face and making it look like it’s actual fur is really difficult. I ended up going as a guy who’s about to turn into a werewolf. I was just bit. Like, maybe only moments ago. I had fur on my arms to show the beginning of my transformation – which ended up being really painful to remove and left small bare patches on my otherwise quite hairy forearms.

At the second party I was a character from The Warriors. It was lazy, and I’m not proud.

At the third party, I wore a sweatband, a skinny black tie, a blue button-up, dress pants, and black suspenders with my trademark life-size headless doll tucked in. What was I? I have no idea. But I sure made people feel like they should know.

Anyway. So it’s November 1. I wrote that last blog entry, ate Chicago Style Gyros with Brit (a new weekend staple. Seriously, that place is scrumptious), then Brit drove me to the airport. Over the course of my Europe trip, I took seven plane rides. For international flights (of which five of my seven were), they say to arrive two hours before departure. I kind of think that rule is ridiculous and unnecessary, but it completely depends on the airport and time of day.

Well, I did show up two hours early, and at noon on a Thursday no one is at the Nashville airport. So I walked around aimlessly until finding a random jazz quintet performing in the food court. Watched them for awhile, then hopped on the plane and went to Chicago.

This first flight was lovely because there was no one next to me and it was only an hour and forty minutes long. Landed in Chicago, had to wait around for another two hours. I bought some cashews and Sour Patch Kids to appease Maggie (she claims Europeans don’t have Sour Patch Kids anywhere). The flight from Chicago to Paris was oversold and they were offering to give people credit if they agreed to take the same flight the next day.

I talked to Maggie on the phone for the last time before we’d see each other in person. The plan was kind of insane because neither of us would have phone service once we got to Paris, meaning we each had an address for our hotel and were just planning on meeting there, despite our lack of French skills.

I don’t quite understand how airlines oversell flights, but I guess when you have people buying tickets from a number of different sources, it can get confusing. As a result, I knew I wouldn’t have the same luxury as my previous flight of having an empty seat to spread my body onto. I ended up with a window seat (DUH I’M WATCHING THE WORLD BELOW ME) and had a stern Japanese woman next to me. I was not her biggest fan.

Any time I’ve been on really long flights (three times in my life now), the Asian passengers suit up as if they’re going to war. When I went to Japan two years ago I watched with fascination as a Japanese couple took off their normal shoes, put on more comfortable slippers, divvied up pre-rationed snack food, and shunned the airline-provided blanket in favor of their own fleece ones. They were pros.

The woman on my Paris flight did much the same thing, but then was just weird. When eating the airplane dinner, she didn’t eat her roll or drink her water, so she put them in a bag for later. Except the bag was the barfbag. Something about eating food out of a bag meant to house your vomit really made the food less appetizing to me, but she didn’t seem to mind.

So Japanese woman has a Japanese friend right in front of her and they’re constantly talking in quiet Japanese (I remember enough Japanese to piece together what they’re saying, but they were talking soft like only Asians can), and next to the Japanese friend is this weird guy. Like, real weird. I know I just called my Japanese neighbor weird, but this guy’s like way weirder.

When he sat down he looked all around the plane about a hundred times, like he’d been alerted there was a terrorist and all he needed to do to dissuade the guy was to make eye contact with him. I don’t know if he ever found the terrorist, but he definitely made eye contact with me a few thousand different times. Making direct eye contact with a complete stranger is uncomfortable, especially when the back of their head is never out of sight for the next 9 hours.

He was confused about the light above him and I notified him that the button for it was on his armrest, and apparently that meant that he would smirk at me the whole plane ride. We became buds because I told him about the light button. We had a shared history.

Halfway through the flight I went to the restroom, and he happened to go too. As we waited in line, he started talking to me about flying and I noticed he had a really thick accent, then I asked him if he was from France and he said no, Mexico. Then I felt like an idiot, because those accents aren’t even close to the same. “I couldn’t place your accent,” I said, as if that made up for the fact that I just thought a Mexican was a Frenchman.

When I flew to Tokyo, every seat had their own screen and they could watch whatever they wanted (I wasted that power on Book of Eli and Ghost Writer, both of which I disliked). This flight instead had the more cost-effective screen for every few rows of seats, which meant we all had to watch the same thing.

The first movie was The Amazing Spiderman, which I hadn’t seen yet. I watched it and was thoroughly underwhelmed. Look, I get it, it’s grittier, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are great, but it felt like the differences between it and Sam Raimi’s Spiderman were only present to justify rebooting it so soon after that disaster that was Spiderman 3. The way Spiderman’s uncle dies (hardly a spoiler) is almost exactly the same in both movies. Yeah, they’re staying true to the comics, okay, but the giant lizard man was just boring.

The next movie was Hugo, which I like quite a lot. I watched the last half of that again, which was interesting because it takes place in Paris and I was about to be there.

The flight finally over, I land in Paris and have four hours before Maggie will arrive by train. Four hours to get across Paris to the hotel. EASY.

Except not. Actually incredibly, brutally difficult.

Everything’s in French, and while French isn’t really that far removed from English (I would later encounter Czech and Hungarian, both of which are practically UNUSABLE), it was different enough to confuse me greatly. After a long struggle and talking with both the helpful Information Desk girl and the less-helpful Currency Exchange girl, I had a few euros and a train ticket and I was riding into town. Who do I encounter on the train? Why, that weird guy from the plane. And what does he want to do? Make eye contact. Always making eye contact.

I ride the train forever, finally get to the stop that’s supposed to be close to the hotel, and then get caught in the rain with my luggage, feebly reading off French street names and trying to orient myself. I walk in the wrong direction until I find the street I need, but end up going behind some big manufacturing area and looking like SUCH A TOURIST.

So then I was frustrated and wet when I finally found the hotel and checked in. I tried to relax in the lobby and wait for Maggie to show up, but she hasn’t emailed me anything saying she arrived in the country, and I have no way of knowing if or when she’ll show.

Twenty minutes pass in which I sit there on the couch staring at a French magazine like I can actually read it. Finally Maggie walks in and we’re able to decompress and try to figure out how to keep all of France from hating our freedom-loving souls.

Stay tuned for more pictures and words!

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~ by Jon C. Forisha on November 13, 2012.

2 Responses to “Leaving The Country”

  1. AHHHHH I WANT MORE PICTURES AND WORDS NOW!!!!

  2. Love this! You make me want to quit my job and take off.

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