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Saturday, July 2, 2011

An American Adventure in Paris: Our Long-Winded and Only Slightly Exaggerated Tale of Whoa!

Chapter 1-getting there

In the spring of 1972, I was a senior at New Britain (Connecticut) High School. As the time neared for graduation, I heard excited murmurs from some of my fellow students of trips to Europe. These exploits were intended to emblazon their passages toward adulthood; to celebrate and measure the moments before serious study replaced senior slacking-off. 

Unfortunately, I was never in a financial position to make such a journey. We were a poor family and I was only starting college through the grace of my older brother. Tom agreed to pay for my first year with the caveat that it needed to take place outside of Connecticut. He was wise enough to know that I needed to get away from the difficulties of our family circumstances and start fresh. He was very wise. I chose Houston, as I'd applied late in the year to colleges and most warm southern-state schools had already closed admissions. Houston was simply the furthest away from Connecticut I was accepted.

Fast-forward some 26 years to 1998. Chuck and I were successfully settled in to our lives in Colorado, where we'd lived since 1978, having moved there shortly after the birth of our son. I'd met Chuck almost the instant I arrived in Houston, we hit it off right away and were married 5 years later, on my 23rd birthday. Chuck had just won a contest at his real estate firm. The winner was to earn a trip to Paris for 2 for a weekend! Well, who flies to Paris for just a weekend, right? My masterful negotiator was able to get the donor to kick in an entire week. We were thrilled. We set the trip for March of that year. We hadn't done anything special to mark the passing of our 20th wedding anniversary the summer before, so this was going to be a long-overdue celebration of that milestone.

In the meantime, we had a few problems to work out, in terms of logistics. Our daughter, an actress, needed to be in LA at that time of year. Since she was still a minor, I would take her annually to LA for about 3 months so that she could be there during Pilot Season, a time of year when there are generally more opportunities for actors to audition, since networks are testing out new 'pilots' for television, in addition to the movies that are filmed year-round. She and I would stay at the fabulous Oakwood in Toluca Lake, a corporate housing facility that is nation-wide. However, this one, in particular, had a perfect set-up for child actors and their families to have the full-on experience of pilot season. We'd been staying there during pilot season for the previous 3 years and would have an absolutely great time. 

Because I would be initiating the journey from LA and Chuck would be starting from Aspen meant coordinating flights. This wasn't quite as difficult before 9/11, but it still had it's challenges. In the meantime, I also had to figure out custodial care for my daughter, who at 15, couldn't be left alone. I'd arranged for one of her acting coaches to stay with her. However, about 2 weeks prior to leaving, he called to say that his wife couldn't accompany him and he felt uncomfortable being left alone with a 15 year old girl. Good call. But, now what? I was terrified to tell Chuck this newest development. He was getting so excited about the trip, that I was worried he would cancel if he thought we were minus the guardian. I knew I'd conjure something up, so I didn't want to worry him needlessly.

My son, in whom I did confide, suggested that my daughter stay with him. Problem was, he was in Colorado at college. I couldn't imagine flying her back there for the week while we were in Europe. But, I did keep this option in my back pocket, just in case.

Another friend offered to take her. I was thrilled, but my daughter wasn't. She didn't really get along with this woman's daughter and was uncomfortable with the whole idea of it. Strike 2.

Finally, 2 women from our Colorado group (our children all had the same manager) of acting families offered to watch my daughter for me while I went. One I'd known quite well for several years. She'd raised 3 other children to adulthood and had her son in LA for his first year. The other woman I didn't know as well, having just met her during this trip. But, I already liked her a lot. Her son was just 8 at the time. She said she always wished she also had a daughter and was looking forward to doing 'girl stuff' with mine. Bingo! We had a winner! Now, it was time to prepare for my trip!

I was very excited about journeying to Europe. Chuck and I had been to Mexico, but never anywhere else outside of the US. I ordered a book, called "Speaking French in 10 Minutes a Day" after noticing the Spanish version in my daughter's possession. In fact, since it was just 2 weeks from our trip, I asked that it be 'rush' shipped. Allegedly, that was 2-day shipping. What they didn't tell me was that it didn't necessarily ship the day, or even the week, that you ordered it. It arrived the day before our trip was scheduled; I had 10 minutes of French class under my belt!

Chuck arranged that I fly from LAX at 7:30am; he was to depart from Aspen at about 9am. We would both arrive in Denver at approximately 9:45 and we had a flight to Dulles (Washington, DC) that left at 11am. From Dulles, we would depart to Charles DeGaulle Airport at about 7pm. It was all sort of tight scheduling, but by the following morning, we'd be in Paris! Ooh la la!

The first sign of trouble was when Chuck called me at 9pm the evening before our trip. He had been just about to go to sleep when he checked the road report (something you have to do in Colorado during what can typically be the heaviest snow month of the year). The forecast showed the probability of a huge blizzard moving into Aspen. He knew the planes would not fly out of there in those conditions. He called for a ground shuttle to see if he could get aboard. He could, but it would leave at 3am for Denver. The trip would take 5-1/2 hours. That really sucks for him, I thought to myself. But, at least we're going to Paris!

Since the flight out was on United at 7:30, one of my friends who was to watch my daughter, offered to take me to LAX at 4:30am, so I wouldn't have to leave my car unattended at the airport for a whole week. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that my father always made promises that he didn't come through with, I have had a lifelong thing about not believing something is going to happen until it is imminent. So, I didn't start packing until about midnight. I didn't finish packing till 2:30am. I set the alarm clock for 4 and quickly drifted off to sleep.

I awoke with a start. I heard birds chirping as I stretched my arms and legs, snug in the bed. I slowly made my eyes open, smiling at the day. I remember thinking, "Wow! I had no idea that it was so light out at 4:00am!" Slowly, I turned my head toward the alarm clock, which had still not gone off. 7:30. I stretched again, then sprung upright in horror. 7:30!!! That's what time my plane leaves. I screamed at the top of my lungs, waking my daughter in the process. I started crying uncontrollably. What would I do? 

I immediately called United and pled my case. I was sobbing on the phone..."Ma'am. The only way you will make it to Paris today is if you take either our flight to San Francisco, where it is currently fogged in--we aren't sure that one will get out), or you can take a flight to Chicago, which leaves at about 11:30am and then have a direct flight to Paris, arriving within 1/2 hour of your husband's flight, at 9am tomorrow." "But, it's my aaaaannniversaryyyy..." I sobbed. "I'm sorry, Ma'am. That's really the best we can do. I am not even sure that they will honor your ticket at LAX. You know, they don't have to, since you missed your flight." "But, I didn't miss alarm clock just didn't go off like it was supposed to!"

I called my friend, who was supposed to have taken me to the airport. She said that her alarm failed to go off, as well. However, she had awakened at 4 and when she didn't hear from me, she thought I'd decided to drive myself, after all. When she heard my hysteria, she rushed over, ready to drive me to LAX. 

Problem was, now it was almost 8am. Burbank is only about 11 miles from LAX, but you wouldn't know that at rush hour. We spent nearly an hour just getting from the 101 northwest to the 405 south. We drove at the breakneck speed of about 10 miles/hour from the 405 in Sherman Oaks past the Wilshire Blvd and Venice Blvd exits. It was 9:45am and I figured that Chuck was in Denver, by now. My friend had a bulky mobile phone that she let me use to try and reach him. 

I called the Denver Airport and had him paged on the dreaded WHITE PHONE. Within a few minutes, he picked up. "Where ARE you?" he bellowed into the phone. "I-I-I am s-still in LA," I sobbed. "WHAT?" (he may have said another word here). "Why are you still there?" As I went on to explain the situation to him, he was livid. "Maybe we should just cancel this whole thing. It's not starting out very well," he screamed into the phone. But, I insisted that I give it a try, to go to the airport and see if I could get on the flight to Chicago. "Oh, that's just great," he sputtered. "I am supposed to be going to Paris with my wife and now we're going separately!" "Please, Chuck. You can't make me feel any worse than I'm already feeling," I cried. "Oh, just let me try!" he replied at about 105 decibels!

We got to LAX by about 9:50am. I rushed inside the terminal to speak with a United agent. I was exhausted and tears were streaming down my face. I explained the whole situation to her, modifying my disappointment with sobs. She quickly printed up a ticket, handed it to me and said, "RUN!" I asked my friend to let Chuck know that I'd made it aboard. I wondered if my luggage would make it, too. Frankly, at that point, I almost didn't care and I finally started to relax. 

Once boarded, I took my customary 1-1/2 mg of xanax and settled into my seat. It seemed as though, just minutes later, the plane began scurrying down the taxiway and started to slow for the long line of jets that were jockeying for take-off position. That's when the captain came on the PA system. "Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking." (why did they always have to sound like Carleton, the drunken doorman on 'Rhoda')? Then, a collective sigh from the passengers as he continued, "Due to a HUGE snowstorm that is currently hitting in the midwest, we have been put on hold for take-off. It appears that we will be sitting here for about 2 hours." OK. 2 hours. I looked at my watch. Take-off in 2 hours? "We should arrive in Chicago at an adjusted time of 4:40pm, CST." I looked at the ticket in my hand. My flight to Paris was leaving at 4:20pm. I started sobbing all over again. The woman sitting next to me asked if I was ok. "N-n-no," I stuttered. "My husband is going to Paris without me!" With that, I fell into paroxysms of sobs and doubled over in my seat. My seat mate turned and stared out the window. I can't say I blamed her. 

True to his word, the Captain delivered our flight to Chicago on time; which, of course, was too late for my connection. It was snowing in Chicago, but certainly not a white-out condition. I found that to be rather frustrating, given the circumstances. 

I bolted off the plane, still crying, and ran to the United Customer Service area. "Please," I begged. Is there some way you can reach my husband? You see, I m-m-missed my f-flight to Paris and he is at Dulles now and probably getting ready to board h-his flight. And, this was our 20th A-anniversary trip and t-the alarm didn't ring!" "It's ok, Ma'am. We can put you on the next flight to Paris, tomorrow night!" she replied with a big smile. "B-but, he'll be heading there today." "Just a minute. Did you say he was leaving from Denver?" I nodded. The customer service agent looked up Chuck's flight. "Why, Ma'am. Your husband isn't going to make it to Dulles on time. His flight was 2 hours delayed taking off from Denver because of the snowstorm there. He's going to miss his connection, too. But, look: if you run like the wind to gate C-17, you can get on a flight to Dulles that should arrive just about when he does and you can spend the night there and fly out together tomorrow." 

A giant wave of relief flooded over me. I quickly popped another 1/2 mg of xanax and ran for C-17. They were just about to close the doors to the gateway when I arrived, clearly out of breath. Once through the portal, I calmly strolled down the jetway and to my seat in coach and settled in, falling fast asleep before we even took off. I suddenly heard a muffled, "Is there a Dr or person with medical knowledge on board this aircraft?" through my dreams. I startled awake and located a flight attendant. "I'm a nurse. Did you find someone to help?" She shook her head and explained that there was a young man aboard who said he was diabetic and thought he was having a reaction. When I arrived at his seat, toward the front of the plane, the young man in question was trembling and sweating profusely. He was speaking slowly, but was clearly conscious. He was wearing a Medic-Alert bracelet, indicating he was, indeed, diabetic. I secured a glass of orange juice for him. He drank it down and it worked it's magic. The flight attendant said that the pilots wanted to know if they needed to land the plane sooner than DC. I told her no...the kid would be fine. As it turned out, he'd taken a dose of insulin earlier and hadn't backed it up with anything to eat. He was able to follow the juice with a meal, and was just fine. Whew. I was glad it was an insulin reaction and not a baby. I don't do babies. 

It was nearly 9pm EST when I deplaned in DC. I ambled down to baggage claim to find my things, glancing at the monitor to see if Chuck's flight had made it in. It had. Early. I found my bags and went to the United counter. "Excuse m-me," I started. "B-but, my husband's flight was supposed to be here now, but he's already gone and he didn't know I was coming. And, I d-don't know w-where he is...Oh, and it's our 20th A-an-ni-ver-sar-yyyyy," (I suddenly realized I'd been telling my tale, now, for nearly 12 hours, and had barely stopped crying in all that time). 

"Here, Ma'am. This is a taxi transfer. They took your husband to this hotel. Please. Just take it. Go now." They actually seemed, well, relieved to have me leave the airport. The taxi driver was nice, especially when I explained that I didn't have cash to give him a tip, since I thought I'd b-b-be in P-paris by the next morning! Waaahhhh!

I walked into the lobby of the hotel, Westfield's Marriott, a nice, upscale place in Chantilly, Virginia. I'm not sure where I thought United was putting up it's displaced passengers, but I thought it might be more in line with a Motel 6. This, then, was a nice surprise. I approached the desk, which, except for me, was devoid of customers, but heavy on the employees. There were 3 people ready to take my information. "I'm just here to meet my husband. He doesn't know I'm here. It's a surprise!" I smiled. They glanced at each other. I am now sure they thought I was trying to catch Chuck with 'the other woman.' "Well, Ma'am. We can't give you his room number. We're sorry, but that violates our security policy." I couldn't help it. Really. I flooded with tears. "It's our 20th Anniver-ver-sary. I-I m-missed the p-plane. W-we were s'p-posed to b-be in P-paris!!!" I was beginning to feel like Laura Petrie, talking about her Aunt coming to their wedding, "all the w-way from O-hi-hi-ooooo!" "Let's call his room," said one desk clerk. "Yes, LET'S!" repeated another. They dialed. It rang. And rang. No answer. I broke into fresh tears. One clerk said, "Could he be in the restaurant?" "N-noooo!" I sobbed. The bell captain, overhearing the commotion, interjected: "Well, what about the bar?" Everyone looked at me expectantly. I glanced up, a smile splitting my tears and pointed at my nose. BINGO! That was it. One of the bellboys showed me the way.

As I approached the bar, I could hear one loud, slurred voice above all the others. "...and, when I got to the airport the white phone was paging me. The WHITE phone. That'sh NEVER good! And, she over-schlept and she'sh on her way now to Parish....I did everything right. And, I'm here!" I looked into the barroom. There was my husband, splayed across the bar. The bartender who apparently had heard this tale at least 20 times, appeared as though his eyes were rolling back in his head. "And...that looksh like her. THERE!" Now, in our adult life, I have rarely seen my husband drink to excess. However, even I had to agree that this was probably a justifiable occasion in which to do so. 

We ate some dinner at the bar and went up to room 377, where Chuck proclaimed himself happy to see me! So happy, that he wanted to upgrade our tickets to business class! Oh, yes! He called and used some of our accumulated frequent flyer miles to do just that. It was going to be a great trip, after all!

I realized how much I'd missed my husband. Even in his somewhat goofy, drunken state, he looked at me with puppy dog eyes. I told him I wanted to get out of my travel clothes and dashed into the bathroom. When I came out moments later,  I was serenaded to the sonorous racket of loud snoring. Chuck had passed out diagonally across the bed. Great. We hadn't seen each other in nearly 3 months and he fell asleep!!  I climbed into the other bed in the room and fell into a  deep slumber. Timing wasn't important for the following morning. I could sleep as late as I wanted. We had till about 7 pm till our flight was leaving the next day. AAAAHHH...sleep.

Chapter 2-To Paris. Really this time!

The next morning, we slept in and went downstairs in the hotel for a late breakfast; then, lazily returned upstairs, taking our time. We packed and decided that we were taking no chances. We'd just spend the whole rest of the day at the airport. Maybe we could even treat ourselves by buying our way into the Red Carpet Lounge. So, we headed for the airport and were probably there by 1pm. We milled around for a bit, buying magazines for the long flight, then located the Red Carpet Club. We stepped inside and Chuck started to ask them about buying a day's stay there. I smiled at the attendant and explained that it was our 20th anniversary and that we almost didn't make it to Paris. By the end, I had tears in my eyes--and she did, too. She not only let us in for free, but when she told her co-worker about us, they handed us free drink vouchers, too! 

Once seated in the lounge, I decided to call our daughter, just to be sure she was doing ok and that my friends, were, too. We told her the entire harrowing tale and she was happy for us that we were actually going to get to Paris together! Toward the end of the call, she inquired as to whether she could go to our apartment (she was staying with one of my two friends every night while we were gone) to do her homework, as the environment was quieter in order to get things done. Of course, I said. That would be fine! Oh, and I left the car keys in the drawer by the refrigerator, just in case one of my friends has a car problem and needs to use it. 

My car was a 2-year old Eagle Vision. I hadn't really liked it very much. It felt like a "guy" it was trying to be macho. I was used to driving a stick shift. This car had an "autoshift," which was supposed to make you feel like you were driving a stick shift. It was the dumbest thing ever. That being said, it did actually look pretty sharp. We were going to start teaching our daughter to drive it after she and I returned to Colorado from LA in April. 

We checked in with our son, too, who was in his sophomore year at Colorado State. He was doing great and was genuinely happy for us that we were having a getaway. And, he actually thought we were already in Paris. Why wouldn't he?!

777's were only a few years old when we were taking this flight. Neither Chuck nor I had ever flown on one. And, now, we were going to do it in business class! Oh, joy! 

Business class, was definitely not full. We had seats that could only be described as plush, leather recliners. We'd never been on a flight where we each had our own individual screen, so we were quite excited about being able to choose whatever movie we wanted to watch, too. And, the dinner was like a fine restaurant. Steaks and lobster and just about anything you wanted. They opened bottles of fine French wine. In fact, they gave Chuck his own bottle, since no one else was drinking that particular one. You were also given a goodie bag of toiletries, ear plugs, eye mask, slippers and just about anything you might need. We felt like idiot hicks who'd hit it big! 

At one point, during the night, Chuck had to use the restroom. When he stood up, he pulled back the curtain overlooking the coach class. There, the passengers were splayed all over their seats, hoping to find a decent position in which to ride out the long flight. He quickly drew the curtain back and, with a long sigh declared, "It's horrible. Horrible!" 

I pulled out my French studies, too excited to sleep. We were due to get to Paris at about 8:30am. I wanted to be ready! 

I remember walking thru Charles de Gaulle Airport in awe. It was a beautiful facility...clean and new-looking and it had lots of windows with views to the sky; very futuristic! The Metro (Parisian subway system) runs from the airport and into the city. Chuck had done some configuring prior to getting to Paris (he certainly had the spare time!), so as to know which trains would be best to take to get to our hotel. 

The man who offered the prize to Paris for the contest Chuck had won was a multi-millionaire land developer. He traveled frequently to Paris and told Chuck's office that the hotel he'd booked for the winner was the same one in which he stays when he travels there. As it turned out, it wasn't located very far from the airport, at all. Maybe the first or second stop on the Metro. We were able to walk from the train directly to the hotel. I remember seeing the hotel and thinking it looked sort of "quaint" and very European from the exterior. 

We entered the hotel, obviously 24 hours late for our reservations. "Bonjour, Monsieur! May I help you?" Chuck gave our names and a little background on why we were late. "Monsieur. We are very sorry. But your room isn't ready." "But, how could that be? We are late!" "Yes, Monsieur, but when you didn't arrive, we had to give your room away. Now it is not ready." It was about 10am, and the room would not be available until at least 3pm, she explained. She said that we could store our luggage with the bellman for safekeeping. So, we gathered a few essentials, checked our bags and headed upstairs to the in-hotel restaurant for breakfast.

Chuck plotted out a course to the Eiffel Tower. In spite of our travel fatigue, we figured this would keep us away long enough for them to prepare our room and we'd get to see the landmark at the same time. In studying the metro maps, Chuck recognized that we were located far from the city at this hotel. We'd be taking the metro everywhere. We'd exchanged currencies in Washington, prior to boarding our flight. 

One of the lessons I studied while on the flight was how to ask for tickets for the Metro. Evidently, it is best to buy 10 of them, or 'dix billets, s'il vous plait." I repeated this phrase to Chuck a few times. He became annoyed with me and said, "I'm sure they speak plain English." He approached the ticket window and said, "Ten tickets, please." "Eh?" replied the vendor. ("say, 'dix billets, s'il vous plait,' Chuck")...Chuck: (bellowing): "Meh Eyuh Hev Ti-en Tee-Kats, Pleeeze?" "Eh?" the vendor replied, even more loudly. In a quiet voice, I approached the vendor. "Dix billets, s'il vous plait?" "Ahhh Ti-en Tee-Kats. Oui, Mademoiselle." He glared at Chuck, but smiled sweetly at me as he handed me our 10, tickets. "I don't think I like these people," Chuck said, under his breath.

As we awaited the approach of our train, a man pressed against my back. I turned around to see him trying to take my purse, which was slung over my shoulder. I grabbed it tightly and he ran. But, a policeman saw the whole thing and chased after him. We boarded the train and took the long (45 minute) ride into the city. I had to remind myself to stay en-guard; we were, after all, in a big city.

I suddenly felt full of energy and, as our train pulled to a halt at our stop, I bounded off and raced up the stairs toward the surface street, anxious to see the city above. About 1/2 way up, I heard behind me a very LOUD, "Oh SHIT!" I would have known that voice in any language. I turned and headed back down. What I didn't expect was that he meant it literally!! On detraining, he had plopped his sneakered foot into a very large, steaming, loose pile of...well...SHIT! And, it actually looked too large to be from a dog, if you know what I mean! And, not only had he stepped in it. But, it had 'backsplashed' up the back of his pants, nearly to his ass. And, you could almost see the odor steam coming off of it. This...was...exceptionally...BAD!!!

"Should we go back to the hotel and get a change of clothes for you?" I inquired, trying hard not to laugh. Chuck was in a shitty mood. Really. "I am NOT going all the way back (he may have said a bad word; a really bad word in here, too) to the hotel and coming back here. I'm NOT! Let's just go." So, we went. No one came anywhere near to us. We still didn't see any dogs, either.

When we got up to street level, we were able to look several blocks ahead and see the Eiffel Tower rising over the trees. We started to head in it's direction. The foul stench that emanated from Chuck's jeans was nearly overwhelming. Suddenly, he flitted to my right. With a quick motion, he lifted his right leg up high and began to wipe it off on the elevated lawn of the home we were passing. It didn't really clean the jeans off, but it did remove some of the larger 'chunks.' And, really, I was starting to get used to the odor (NOT!). 

We made our way to the tower. I believe we had to pay money to go up in it. As we learned, it requires an elevator ride to go up. So, first, that meant we had to stand in a line. On some stairs. I stood behind Chuck to cloak him, but every so often, I would move aside. You know. So no one would think "it" was me. We were the first into the elevator. I moved to the opposite back wall from where Chuck had gone. I watched as people came into the elevator, politely crinkling their noses to try and determine WHO had let go! I started laughing hysterically, which made Chuck laugh. Many others on the elevator laughed, too. Probably to keep from crying. Oh, yeah. It was BAD!

We walked around the tower and were amazed by the views. We really were in Paris! It was beautiful. It was cold and gloomy...but, beautiful. I had no idea that there were things to do on the Eiffel Tower. I thought it was just a big radio tower-looking thing. But there are shops and restaurants and all sorts of things to see and do. I bought a few post-cards, and Chuck did, too. 

When we returned to our hotel that afternoon, we were finally permitted to go to our room. As soon as we stepped foot in the elevator, we realized that this was not going to be a luxury stay. The room was tiny and the walls were thin. It was difficult to imagine that the multimillionaire who'd sponsored the contest stayed there. A brochure in the room indicated that it was the European cousin to the Motel 6. Great! We could hear everything our neighbors were saying, and could smell their cigarettes. The tv had only one English-speaking channel (the BBC) that wasn't all news. The bed was 2 twins moved together, but there was nothing to hold them together, as we soon discovered when in the middle. As the beds spread rapidly apart, it sort of squished any romantic potential. 

I decided to shower, which was fine. But, when I plugged my hair dryer in, it knocked out the electricity. "Chuck? Did the power go out in the room?" "No, Dear. The power went out on all 5 floors of the hotel!" Oops. Someone switched a breaker and it was all good.

Later in the week, I found the offensive jeans, stashed in a plastic bag to be taken back home, in Chuck's suitcase. A woman would have thrown them out in the garbage. Only a man would take them home after marinating them for a week in plastic.

But, the rest of the week was really fun...we went to the Louvre, took a dinner cruise down the Seine, went to the Pere le Chaise Cemetery (to visit Jim Morrison, among others), saw "Good Will Hunting" in English (subtitled in French), saw the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs - Elysees, toured the Notre Dame Cathedral, visited a holocaust museum, had amazing wine, food and chocolate and best yet: Chuck let me buy all the Metro tickets. 

Back to LA--Surprise!

It was tiring, heading back to the States. United routed us so that Chuck and I flew together, first to Chicago, then had separate flights: he to Denver, then Aspen and I flew to LAX. Still, it was a total of about 17 hours from the time we left Charles de Gaulle till we reached our respective destinations. Worse, when we arrived at Charles de Gaulle, we realized that our Business Class seats were only honored one way. Our return trip would be in coach. Horrors! Chuck saw what it was on the trip there. He had no desire to fly back that way! But, there we were: tucked into the very center seats of a 777 midway in the coach cabin. There was a family sitting behind us. They all seemed to have a cold. Maybe tuberculosis, even. It sounded like it. And, why, with American's being more overweight than ever, do they make the seats so narrow? I weighed 127 lbs and I was rounding my shoulders to fit in my seat without touching the stranger to my right. But, long though it was, it was a good flight and we returned right on time. My friend and my daughter picked me up at the airport and I took them out to a steak dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (this was before my daughter became a vegetarian) in thanks for a job well done. 

When we stepped inside our apartment at the Oakwood, my daughter looked at me and said, "Mom, I have to tell you something. It's bad." I don't have to tell you that my heart was racing a bit, so when she continued and said that she'd invited a few friends to the apartment for a party, I kind of bit my tongue. That didn't sound too, too bad. "What happened?" I wondered aloud. "One of the boys brought some beer and we each had some. By the next morning, one of the kid's Mom's came over and was yelling at us! She said she was going to call you, but told me she wouldn't if I told you first." Of course, we had a VERY long, VERY detailed discussion, in which I collected names, dates, social security numbers and the like. This was serious, and I knew it. "You spent the night here in the apartment?" How did that happen? As it turned out, she'd manipulated the permissions I'd granted her by telling my friends that when I called from the airport, I said she could go to the apartment any time she wanted; that she just needed to check in with them. They thought it was weird, but didn't question it. "But, Mom. That isn't the worst part. I crashed the car!" I was just thinking that this was an awful situation...but, now, the whole 'drinking incident' paled by comparison. "You WHAT?!!" "Security* came to the door of the apartment and said that the car was parked illegally and must be moved or it would be ticketed. I really thought I could safely move it. But, when I tried to back out, I hit the big pipe (that they placed to mark the parking spot). Then, I hit it again when I tried to straighten the car." *This story was later proven false. She admitted, afterward, that she was just wanted to try out her driving skills by driving around the parking lots.

"Oh brother. Let's go look at it." I was exhausted and suddenly, it didn't feel as though I'd just been on vacation. We approached the car. One of the headlights was dangling out of it's socket, looking much like an eyeball that has been wrenched out of place, dangling for all to see. There were rubber scuff marks all over. It was actually remarkably UNdamaged from what I'd expected. I told her that before I actually killed her, I would need to sleep on it. We went to bed.

The next morning, with a clearer head, she and I went to the Chrysler dealership and had them assess the damage. "Well, you can either pay $2000+ for the major fix-up...or you can pay about $150 and we can make it work. What do you think?" I chose, of course, the $150 and had my daughter enter into an agreement to repay the money, apologize to the parents and friends whose trust she'd abused and she needed to toe the line STRICTLY for the rest of her time in LA...and next year's pilot season would be in question. Cheryl was a good kid, but it was an important lesson for me to learn that even good kids make stupid choices.

Strangely enough, the car held together pretty well, though occasionally the headlight would pop out, if we hit a big enough bump in the road. When we returned to Colorado, Chuck started giving our daughter driving lessons. After the first one, he told me that the car felt as though it was 'pulling.' "Yeah, I really don't like this car at all," I replied. The next morning, before I even woke up,  he'd gone to a Honda dealership and traded it in for a new Accord. I didn't tell him about the accident till well after our daughter had left home and was in her 20s. He needed to cool off and some secrets are better left kept. 

I'd return to Paris in a minute, but Monsieur still has a few reservations, s'il vous plait!

© 2009 Ryb Katz. All rights reserved


  1. I'm using Erika's acct. for comments. HAHAHAHAH!
    Wow, we have some shared experiences.........
    Your account of GETTING to Paris sums up why I have AAA - Airport Arrival Anxiety. I am always frantic about missing the plane and usually arrive hours before I need to - driving everyone crazy.
    My own week in Paris, while eventful, pales in comparison esp. with the excremental portion of yours = LOL at the pants on plastic...All I did was to flood the bathroom and out into the bedroom - and we (my friend Sue and I)also ran into a room available problem which she with 3 years of living in Paris, was able to sort out.)
    Travel is it's own special experience and I really enjoyed going along for the ride with you.Very very funny! Look forward to reading more of your excellent writing!

  2. Thanks, Myrna, for taking the time to read this...I really respect your opinion! omg...I would love to hear more about your Parisian adventures!