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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Escaping SFO

(Note: We had little internet access on the boat. This was a blessing as much as a nuisance. The net result is that you'll get our trip reports now over the next few days. These were largely written while at sea.)

James graciously offered to let us leave our car at his place, less than a freeway exit from SFO, and shuttle us over to the airport. We figured we were well on our way when we walked through the door, arriving about 15 minutes later than we'd planned, but with plenty of time.

The baggage war on customers has gotten ugly. The humorless clerks at the Air France counter weighed our checked bags, which we'd carefully ensured was under the limit. No problem there. Then they wanted to weigh our carry-on as well. Turns out, we were over a bit on the carry-on, and if it was over, it wasn't going on the plane. We could check it, but no carrying on. No way. No how. Not for an extra charge.

So we pulled off to the side, slipped on a half-dozen outfits, stuffed our pockets full, and tried again. Still over by 3 kg. So, check a bag at $55, throw something away, or call James to take something back. Great. The Air France clerks were absolutely firm on this front. Nevermind that Erik and I weigh well less than the average passenger, if it was in a bag, it had to be under the limit, no exceptions. So much so that I noticed one of the ticket clerks down at the gate later, presumably to check up or some such. I don't know, but this is not an empowered workforce with customer service in mind. Nope, rules are rules.

We checked a bag, praying that everything makes it safely to Barcelona. If not, it will be an interesting start to the trip. All of our carefully separated items, conscientiously loaded to ensure we'd have enough to go on even if our bags missed the boat were now a jumbled mess and we'd have trouble making it more than a day or two without luggage arriving.

Next we made it to security. I've no idea what makes me such a fantastic target for extended search, but I seem to get the special treatment every time. This time, the metal detector made no alarm, but they STILL wanted to pat me down. So, I was sequester in a little plastic box while they called for a female to check me. Erik put himself back together and I stood in stocking feet waiting
and waiting
and waiting
and waiting for a female to come check me.
Erik mentioned that our flight was now boarding in 5 minutes. The agent said he'd called for a female agent. I told him that it was fine if he could just do the check so that I could get on my way. He said they weren't allowed to do that. I suggested that maybe they should have staff on hand to handle it then. And we waited. At this point I was pretty stressed out and figured that the only thing that might get some action was if I burst into tears, so rather than trying to contain my emotion, I started just letting it go. This actually did seem to make a difference as the supervisor came and got me from my box and walked me over two lanes to where the female agent was standing and had her do the search, and we were off.

We arrived just as the plane was boarding, but we weren't to our row yet, so I left the bags with Erik and sprinted for the toilet. My intended leisurely calm start to the trip was not to be had, but soon we'd be on a plane and away from the torture of the airport and it just wouldn't matter.

The flight was lovely, though I was sitting next to an overly chatty used car salesman from San Leandro headed to France to visit his wife and son. The chatting was good mostly, but there came a point where I just wanted to read my book and he kept talking about how life isn't complete until you have kids. Ah well. Mary Roach will have to wait until the next leg.

We made our way through French customs, which was as easy-going as ever. No questions, no fuss, just open the passport and ka-chunk goes the stamp. Trekking over to Terminal 2F, we went back through security where we did not have to remove shoes, wait for a pat down, or generally be treated like a criminal in Mary Janes. In fact, the guy guiding the line was really helpful and friendly. I miss that. I miss the excitement of travel and the joy of where everyone is heading. It's all hostility and rules and show-of-force in American airports nowadays. Leaving SFO, sweaty and flustered, I thought to myself that it was a good thing this was the trip of a lifetime, because I wouldn't want to travel again anytime soon. Sitting in Charles de Gaulle, it feels a little different. It's a beautiful terminal - light and airy with an open ceiling. There's the sound of multiple languages being spoken around me and the smell of good coffee and good bread in the air.


  • No internet is a good thing, The point of a honeymoon trip is to get away and enjoy the trip. Stopping to write about it every day doesn't always contribute to that.

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 2:46 PM  

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