Day 1: Arrival in Paris
Trip Start Apr 27, 2014
22Trip End May 21, 2014
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Wow! What a busy first day! The flight was slightly late in taking off, but it was smooth from then on. One of the noisiest and lit up international flights I have been on. The general lighting wasn't dimmed until well into the flight and then many people turned on their reading lamps to continue their conversations and what not. The guy to my right decided to play a noisy driving game on his tablet. Sleep was elusive...
At a certain point, people finally settled down. More of the lights went off and most conversations tapered off. I was in a middle seat and did my best to get some rest. The guy to my left was a seasoned flyer. He wore noise cancelling headphones and was dead to the world. Only thing is that he was very tall and finding a comfortable position did not look easy for him
Toward the end of our flight, I got to talking with the my seatmates. Mr. Guy-on-my-right turned out to be a retired pilot who now worked as a flight instructor. He was going to Paris to join his wife who was a beauty product sales person. She had sold a few bottles of perfume worth $2,000 each (hard for me to imagine!) and had consequently been awarded a trip to Europe as a prize. Mr Guy-on-my-left turned out to be an Englishman living in Oak Park for the past 30 years. He's an accountant by day and a girls field hockey referee in his off hours. He was going to Paris to spend 4 days with his brother who doesn't like to travel to the US.
I should have known better... In order to take the RER from CDG to Paris, you should really have the fare ready in coins (9.75 Euros). The machines didn't like the American credit cards I tried and I didn't have enough coins to cover the fare. At one point, I called Jay who was sleeping back in the US in order to double check that I had the correct pin for my chip card. I had forgotten that he was on the road so that turned out to be a dead end (and created a tired and cranky husband). Next, I considered buying my ticket in the ticket office, but the line was painfully long. Finally, I gave the machines a last try and, by some stroke of luck, it accepted my backup credit card for payment this time. Yay! I would not be stranded at the airport for 23 days. :) Unfortunately, the whole ordeal put me even further behind schedule.
Once I was on the train and barreling toward Paris, it was time to send a text to the apartment owner to confirm my arrival time. I tried over and over to send the text, but each time was greeted with a "Message Send Failure" notification in maddening red. I called my phone operator's international customer service desk. The person I got was slow and methodical. I wanted to tear out my hair. "Listen I know you're doing your best to help me out, but this is urgent. Can we speed things up a little?", I pleaded with him. He spoke a little faster...for about 10 seconds. He had a script and procedure to follow darn it and he would not be swayed, by golly! Eventually, he offered up an actionable solution to try: shut off my phone, restart it, then experiment by choosing different French carriers. If that didn't work, he said that I would have to call him back from a land line in order for him to help me further. I looked out the window of the train. Where was I going to find a second phone while riding in the RER?! I told him this just wasn't going to be possible and was there any way to still help me. He just asked me to first try the carrier trick and then to call back and they would see what they could do. I hung up, tried his solution, and received further send failure messages. This was getting serious. My landlady expected me to text her. We had set up a tentative meeting for noon and it was past that at this point. I could think of no other option than to call Jay for help...poor guy! He was frustrated and unhappy, but succeeded in leaving a message on her cell phone. I made it to the 15th, but then quickly became lost and turned in circles. It began to lightly rain. The second person I stopped in the street for directions became my hero for finally heading me in the right direction. Ok, so I would make it to the apartment, but then what? Would the landlady be there? Would she still be waiting for me 45 minutes after our orignally scheduled meeting time? There was no way to know