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Leaving Paris; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love French People

Sadly, I think I am no longer allowed to hate the French. This is extremely irritating, because, like my earlier distaste for Hemingway, I have been very vocal in my irritation and it's extremely irritating to have to admit that being wrong. But, there's no real way around it.

My last day in Paris was a glorious day, spent adventuring around the city and making the long trek to the airport. "Paris" Beauvais airport (and I use "Paris" loosely) is about 75 minutes drive outside of Paris, closer to Calais really than the metropolis the airport gets its name from. Entering the airport after a long busride full of extremely upset but nevertheless very attractive Dutch girls worried they were going to miss their flight (which they did), I passed the armed guards, whose weapons were in fact loaded. This is something I've never seen anywhere. Even when I left the U.S. only a month after the 11 September attacks, the guards still didn't have their rifles loaded. Not even the guards at the Eiffel Tower had loaded rifles, and the Eiffel Tower is much more likely to be a target of terrorist than Beauvais airport.

Beauvais airport is basically a glorified cargo airport that the discount airline Ryanair has adopted to sell tickets to those who don't know how crappy a place it is, to sell no frills jumps to various low rent locations throughout the British Isles. Ryanair is the only airline to operate out of Beauvais, for good reason.

Anyway, I'm still carrying--or towing, rather--the Trailer, and it is damn heavy. Slightly lightened by me reading a couple books and discarding them along the path, but nevertheless really heavy. And Ryanair has a strict fifteen kilogram limit on luggage, and seven kilogram limit for carry-ons. When I get to the head of the line and put my luggage on the scale, the Trailer weighs in at 32.8 kgs, while the backpack hits a little over 10 kgs, putting me at 43 kilograms when I'm only allowed 22. And the fine, you may ask?

Six euro, per kilogram.

One hundred and twenty-six euro. Just under $120, with the current conversion rate.

Now, my flight only cost a total of fifty two euro, around $44. I weigh in the neighborhood of 85 kilograms myself (the last time I weighed myself, which was seven months ago. I think I've lost weight since then, but in the absence of any proof I'll just use the old estimate for now). My bag weighs about half of what I weigh, and will cost me roughly three times the cost of my ticket (and that includes the 15 euro "supplemental" costs--take that off and the price is cut even further).

So I frantically try to figure out ways to cut down the weight. I put everything I can into my coat. I carry three books in each pocket of my khakis, I wear two shirts and put my flannel around my waist, and take out my two biggest books with the intention of just carrying them in my hands. I still am only able to reduce the weight by about five kilograms.

So I go back to the guy at the counter and ask him again for the price per excess kilogram, hoping against hope that I misheard him about the six euro fee. Maybe it was 60 cents or somethign. I'm grasping at straws, but fuck it, 126 euro is six days rent, 8 bottles of whiskey, and approximately one seventh of my savings at the moment.

What happens next is unexpected, considering my experience with French bureacracy thus far. When he says, "Six euro per kilo" I first try to argue. "That's not what it said on the website." I don't know what it says on the website, I only vaguely remember seeing one pound per excess kilo somewhere (it was probably on easyjet or something). "It said two euro on the website. I checked it out because I was worried about this. Has there been some change in policy?" Arguments from false authority probably are more impressive if delivered with conviction. It may seem, reading through my statement, that I was trying to badger the guy. In fact, I was trying not to whine. If I had thought of it at the time, I would have proposed me buying another ticket and trying to call my luggage another person.

I finally broke down and said, "I simply don't have the money. I'm sorry, I just don't." I just was trying not to cry at this point. This is where he surprised me. After a brief pause, he nodded, and said, "Okay. It's okay," and waved for me to give him my bag.

Now, I suppose I could tell this story as another instance of the "surrender monkey" image that I've been talking about. After all, he did surrender to me. But he didn't surrender to American might or Prussian strength or any bullshit like that. He "surrendered" to my inate pitifulness.

Bloody awful. So the Trailer that made me so irritated with the French roads and the metro system wound up being what reconciled me to those "cheese eating surrender monkeys." How humiliating.

After that, my only real worry was the Aaliyah factor--would the added weight of the Trailer be too much for the plane to get off the ground?

Obviously, my fear was unfounded (part of the problem with all non-fictional personal writing is that, except for journalistic updates and deathrow confessions, you know that the writer is going to survive, if not with their dignity intact, at least enough to be able to write about it. That's probably why we focus mainly on the "lost dignity" factors more than the "nearly killed" elements). Though I swear that the guy sitting next to me on the flight was going to Ireland for a casting call for Preacher as the Irish vampire Cassidy. He had the stubble, the shades, even the vest--only a very incongruous French accent marred the picture.

The plane even landed fifteen minutes early in Dublin, though it was an awful landing. It came down hard on its back wheels and took an interminable length of time for the front wheels to connect, while the cockpit did some screwy inverted version of fishtailing, and I tried unsuccessfully to remain calm.

I hate flying.


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