Having bought a cheap ticket that was not reimbursable, having a laptop and (now) phone with no charge, dealing with the language barrier and long lines, and being sleep deprived and insanely dumbed down, I ended up spending 3-4 hours at the CDG airport in Paris getting my new travel plans to Istanbul together for just under the extra cost of $1,000.00.
The good part of this story is that, while that was happening, my daughter-in-law, son, and two friends from "home" (home in this context being the USA) said very encouraging, calming, and downright funny things that helped me survive my personal little ordeal. Everyone said "these things happen." Everyone said "pay the money and let it go." One person said "I believe this same thing happened in the book Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne... and they had to get a hot air balloon out of Paris."
Murphy's Law continued to preside over my life, though the court's decisions were not so solid. I started noticing sweetness sprinkled in.
That night, upon the recommendation of the last CDG attendant I spoke with, I stayed at the Ibis airport hotel. Upon leaving the airport proper in order to get to the train (that would transport me to the hotel) I needed to leave my rolling cart. I had been drowning and the rolling cart had felt like my life saver. My life savior. My savior. I had to leave behind my savior. I looked down at my savior. I am a strong one. I made the right choice. Really, I had no choice. I unpacked my bags and left the rolling cart behind. So brave am I.
On the train, I met a Parisian who used to work at CDG. She had quit because she didn't like the confusing layout of the new airport structure or the unfriendliness of the airport staff who weren't willing or equipped to help people (like me) through the mayhem. She apologized for all airport employees. She apologized for all Parisians. I think she apologized for the insensitivity of humans in general. There was a language barrier. I know so little French. Je connais très peu le Francais. I got that from my google translator. She didn't speak much English, though more than I speak French, and I think I got the gist of her apologetic rant. When the train stopped and we got off, she looked at me, and then walked me from the train transport to the hotel entrance. I believe she read my body language. I think my body language was saying, "somebody, please, save me." She was my new savior. I am forever grateful to the grandiosely apologetic Parisian woman whose name I will never know.
I walked into the Ibis Hotel, with my too many too heavy bags, paid for a room, and made my way upstairs. My Ibis Hotel bedroom was (please, excuse my crude descriptive phrase here) an Ikea wet dream.
The very first thing I did was to get naked. No, not because of that (the above crude phrase). I got naked because my clothes stunk and I wanted out of them. And I wanted into the big shower. So into the shower I did go. And the shower was hot. And the shower stayed hot for a very long time. Yes, I took a very long, very hot shower. It was what I am now calling "a revival shower." Yes. It was the kind of shower that makes you say "Halleluiah" right out loud to no one. It was the kind of shower that made a burned-out, barely-hanging-on-by-a-thread, whisp-of-a-64-year-old-woman feel human again.
I love my pajamas. They are comfy and they speak to me. My pajamas say: "you will be going to bed soon, Ami." I put on my pajamas. I put on my little slippers. Standing in my pajamas and slippers, I realized "I still needed to go downstairs." I needed to search for a way to charge my laptop. I needed to eat. I did not want to take off my pajamas. I thought, "I can rock these pajamas" and out the door I went.
The human me seemed capable, all of a sudden, of walking herself down to the lobby, asking where I might purchase an adapter, walking to the vending machine, and purchasing an adaptor... that worked. I had already been charging my phone (in my room) and now (back in my room) I charged my computer. At 7pm, when the restaurant opened for dinner, I traipsed back downstairs (in my jammies) and had the dinner buffet.
I was seated in the single-women-section, it seemed. There were four small tables, two chairs at each. There were two women already seated when I arrived, one woman at her own table, each at opposite ends of the single-women-section row. The two women were dismayed by neither the two tables between them or the language barrier that seemed to be looming in the stumbling questions. They were full-force already chatting when I arrived. Before I even sat down they included me in their conversation. And here we sat, one woman, seated at her own little table, her back to the glass windowed wall, facing the restaurant activities, lined up in a row: un, deux, trois. We were the Single Women at the hotel restaurant and we had each other's backs (even if they were... to the wall).
Though my moment of Sisterhood was sweet, and the food delicious, I'll skip to the best part: sleep. I slept. Such seemingly little things: a shower, a charger, food, company, sleep. So enormously helpful.
The next morning, I checked out of the hotel and headed back to the train. Yes, I had a shower and sleep under my belt. No, my brain was still not fully functioning. How do I know this? Because the first thing I did was to get on the train going the wrong way. I was at Gate 2. I was trying to get to Gate 3. The train headed off toward Gate 1.
Between the gates, there were "parking" stops. When I realized I'd gotten on the wrong train, I sighed out loud. My train neighbors looked at me. "I went the wrong way" I said. One neighbor, in broken English, said "You can stay on this train and, after it gets to the final destination, it will turn around and go back to where you want to go." I got the gist of what he said. I liked the gist. I liked it very much. I felt a moment of relief... until he added, "I think."
I decided to stay on the train. I did, after all, still have my too many too heavy bags to lug around. In a couple of stops, at the end of the line, at Gate 1, rather handsome looking man got on. He was looking and sounding as confused as I had been for two days (and I guess, still was). "Is this going to Gate 3," he asked to anyone. He sounded... not American. His French-sounding neighbors tried to help but I could see he was unconvinced and still nervous. When the train stopped at "parking" (between each gate, I now knew), he again looked nervous. His eyes were saying, "should I get off here? Where am I? Am I lost?" I caught his eye and said, "not Gate 3," and smiled reassuringly. I could have added "I think," but I did not. I knew he did not need that added stress.
Gate 3 was the last stop. We both got off, caught eyes, smiled and nodded. His eye-communication seemed to say, "I'm grateful for your support." It was a lovely little moment. I cherished it.
I made my way to the Turkish Airlines-to-Istanbul line. I had asked a Turkish Airlines attendant "where's the line to Istanbul" - just to be safe. She pointed to a line... that wrapped in and out like a mile-long snake, around the corner, down the hall, past the tech store I had been in the day before. I had never seen a line like that. anywhere. I saw my handsome, not-so-confused-now train buddy in the line slightly ahead of its end point. I nodded as I passed him, settling in at the very end of the line.
I was the last person in line for only a moment. More people lined up behind me. It was impressive. The line slowly (very slowly) moved forward. I really didn't mind. I was on time. My too many too heavy bags were neatly and securely piled onto a rolling cart. I was a relatively satisfied camper.
I pulled out my (fully charged) laptop, and spent the time in line writing. I wrote one of these entertaining little blogs. I may have written two. I was happily lost in my writing. At one point, close to where the "normal" line would have begun, the handsome man came back to see me. He got close and then turned around. I think he got a call. He mouthed to me, "I'll come back when I'm done with this" and headed back to his place in the line. He may have turned around because he got a call. Or, he may have turned around because he smelled me as he got close. It was my shoes. I had been wearing my painted Clark clogs. I thought, "these will be easy to get in and out of at security lines." Yes, they were. But, they weren't walking shoes. And I'd only worn them since leaving NYC. I had done a lot in those clogs, including stress sweat. I had done a lot of stress sweating in those clogs. So, yeah... they were getting mighty stinky. Stinky enough for me to suddenly notice and wonder. You never know. He did not return.
I got to the ticket counter and the ticket/baggage claim attendant, looking at my ticket, said "you're in the wrong line." I must have cocked my head. I'm cocking my head now, just remembering hearing her say that. "This is going to IST" she said, "you're going to SAW." The day before, I would've stood frozen and cried. This day, however, I pushed my rolling cart full of bags to the next counter.
The counter assigning tickets and checking bags to SAW had no line. Zero line. For a moment, I thought maybe I'd missed my flight, again. I had not. There was just... no line going to SAW. I got my ticket. I checked my bags. I kept the rolling cart for my one rolling back-pack, long wool coat, wool hat, and scarf. And off I went to my gate. I would not see the handsome man again. Maybe we were star crossed lovers. I suppose we were, in another life, in a movie.
In no time at all (really. I got to the gate and it was time to board)... I was on route to Istanbul.
Ima skip details here because I don't remember them. At one point, though, I noticed mountains. an ocean of mountains, that went on and on and on. And interspersed in the vastness of these mountains were cities.
And then there was... a mine? a crater? it was huge. I thought of a movie we'd seen in May in Istanbul. In the movie a sweet young man from Istanbul travels to a different, more conservative area in Turkey, and ends up being murdered by the locals, and thrown into a... mine? a crater? In real time, I was looking down at this huge... whatever it was... remembering the movie... wondering. Is this where he was killed? Is his body in there? The movie was not a documentary. It was a drama. Still, seeing that (whatever it was) way down there... it gave me a very creepy feeling.
Then there was water. An ocean of water. It was not really an ocean. The trajectory for this flight did not include flying over an ocean. It was a lot of water, though, like an ocean. And then there were mountains. Mountains and mountains. And then there were lights. As we got closer, the lights became a city, and the city became Istanbul. And then we landed at the SAW airport.