Two years ago around this time, two friends from France visited me while I was in New Jersey for a while. The day they were to return to Marseille via Paris, a blizzard hit this area. As we ate lunch in a burger joint (their choice of meal most days, although I emphasized several times that Americans do not eat burgers every day), the TV screens around us showed the snowy landscapes and reported that all domestic flights out of New Jersey and New York were cancelled. A few hours later, as we drove to the airport, the snow kept falling and traffic moved at a snail’s pace. We half-believed that we would arrive at the airport only to find out that their flight was cancelled. Guess we’ll just have to stay here then! my friend’s son said hopefully.
The airport was empty. Only three flights were taking off, all international. Thus, in spite of the traffic delay, everything was speedy at the airport with no other passengers competing for the check-in desk.
Contrast this with my trip from Paris to Bristol, England a few years ago to visit my friend and her family in Wales. I woke up the morning of my departure to find it snowing. Anticipating possible flight delays, I walked to the library to borrow an extra book to bring.
I arrived to the airport early, as I usually do, and read and watched people and ate a fruit. It was still snowing—not much accumulation, but constant falling. I was sitting pretty at the gate at the scheduled time of my flight’s departure, but there still weren’t any employees at the Easyjet counter.
A couple of airline staff finally appeared. The plane we were to take actually arrived in Paris only about half an hour late, and we boarded a mere fifteen minutes later. We were mistaken if we thought we were off to England, however. This was when the real wait started.
First we waited for a vehicle to arrive to refuel the plane. Then for another vehicle to come de-ice it. I’m not sure where it was coming from, but it took its time.
There was an inch of snow on the ground.
I looked out the window and saw two employees with a shovel. I thought, We’re not now going to wait for them to shovel the whole area by hand, are we?
We took off close to midnight. I had left my apartment over seven hours prior. And to think that the flight was less than an hour!
My poor friend and her dad had been waiting for me at the Bristol airport for about two hours. Because the delays were announced in small chunks, they could not have known when we were actually going to take off from Paris.
We drove to their home in Newport, Wales. When we arrived at their cute brick house, my friend’s mom padded down the carpeted staircase barefoot in a long leopard-print bathrobe and enveloped me in a tight hug. “I’m not in France anymore,” I thought.
I had been in France long enough to be surprised that a woman I had never met could warmly hug me as if we had known each other all our lives. It was nice. Everything was so cozy, in fact—it had been a long time since I had been in a carpeted home, since French homes usually aren’t (I say ‘usually,’ since ‘never’ seems like it must be false, but I have not actually seen one with carpeting). The large bed in the guest room where I slept was covered with pillows. A claw foot bathtub stood in the middle of their bathroom.
It was my first time to Wales, and I did not know what to expect beyond the stories of my Welsh hostess and friend, whom I had always known in the context of our life in Paris and its environs.