Friday, May 31, 2013

Existing the U.S. - Vacation in France - I

Hi guys, our family of 4 are now in France for 6 weeks.  Among a long list of things to do, I plan also to write few vacation-related posts here during this time.  Happy now?  Good and thank you for your visit.

I have decided to turn my private travel diary into a public one because I am fed up by going through my old files to find NONE of what I wrote in the past vacation trips.  It turns out it's safer to store what I wrote at those uncontrollable public sites such as here at the and than in my personal computers.  So, let's get started, shall we?  BTW, if you happen to know where I live in the U.S., please feel free to sit our house.  You are welcome to water our garden, harvest the peaches, salads, or my favorite Chinese long beans... But it is really not a good idea to get inside the house, unless you are interested in stripping the Chinese food smell off the wall.

On the evening of May 28, 2013, the journey began.  It did not have a great start because I left my sunglasses in the purse that I'd decided not to take with me on this trip in the last minute.  In a frantically rush minute, I transferred everything but this important item from the purse to a backpack when Fabrice was calling us out of the house.  We had exactly 2 hours and 20 minutes in hand and the drive from our home to airport usually takes 20 minutes.  Thus, the man has his reasons to rush us.  He respects international flight check-in policy and I respect him for sticking to his principles.

At precisely 1 minute after he pulled it out of the driveway, I discovered this vital mistake and guiltily asked the love of my life to turn back the car.  Fabrice usually would just simply shake his head but then grant me such request.  This time, however, he decided to follow his gut, "Well, in this case, we won't go to your office then."  He spitted out his impossible-to-lose negotiation.  Oh, right, he had to remind me that our budgeted 5-min detour to my office was for my retrieving another forgotten item, my digital camera charger.  I know I know, my memory loss has given us too much stress.  "You can always use my iPhone!"  He added.

"No, I prefer to use my camera."  I disagreed.  I know his iPhone would be fine, but can you imagine that having a 6-week trip to France without your own toy to play with, particularly it is the one that helps you to remember the special moment?  No?  Good and thank you for being on my side!  So he continued driving ahead and I continued to be mad at myself and him, a little bit, for being unsympathetic for my precipitated memory loss, for pretending not to know the fact that I have given all my precious neurons to our lovely kids!

Anyway, when we arrived the airport on time (!!!), Fabrice was unable to check us in.  This did not surprise me because I never had any luck with those machines on any of my/our prior international travels.  What surprised/worried me was the fact that the airline ticket counter agent couldn't locate our ticket information on her computer, either!

"What do you mean by being not able to find us in your system?"  I inquired aggressively.  Sorry, Ma'am, I was not mad at you, I was mad at my husband for failing to confirm our tickets with AirFrance.  Now he had ruined our trip to France!

"Oh, the information in our system about your names and passport numbers are all wrong."  She answered.  She looked confused and anxious, but I was relieved.

"It's merely a system error, she will have it fixed, no worries."  Fabrice tried to calm me down.  He clearly misread me.

"You are the one who purchased tickets at the first place.  It must have been YOU who introduced this error to the system."  I finally got a chance to have my revenge!  Computer error, my ass.  They are just pieces of electronic machines made and operated by us intelligent people.  They don't rule us, we rule them, remember?!  We are not watching hollywood movies here.

"I am pretty sure that I'd double checked."  He was still in denial and I was still in a bad mood.

But I had no clue about what or who I was mad at the most: the stupid computer system that mismatched our info; my lost memory; or Fabrice's careless that ruined my chance to say to him "See we could have had plenty time to turn back the car for my sunglasses!"

"We have gotten some time until our departure.  Cheer up, we are on vacation!"  Oh yes, this guy is in a great mood, but he just pushed a wrong button.  Now, he gave me a reason to be really mad at him.

Although his tone was gentle, genuine, and caring, that, my friend, did not change the thought that he was responsible for wasting our time at the ticket counter.  Although I was questioning why the Delta Airline, the partner airline of AirFrance, had not had our passport information already since we traveled so often, I still decide not to let him off the hook,

"Why couldn't you be more careful!"  I threw this at him and then wisely excused myself from the unpleasant scene.

By this time our lovely kids had already turned into naughty monkeys: they were jumping up and down the luggage bags, chasing each others' tails, doing their cartwheels (Zhuzhu), shaking his butt (Niuniu), laughing so loudly that made echoes in a spacious and nearly empty airport.  They clearly needed some discipline from their tiger mother.  So, I took them to the airport waiting chairs on the opposite side of the ticket counter.  The 3 of us sat on the chairs.  Patiently, we waited.

10 minutes elapsed, the beloved daddy did not come to get us;
20 minutes passed, he was still standing beside the ticket counter, like moron, seemingly quite calm;
30 minutes, then
40 minutes...

Then I gave up counting.  By them I became fully engaged with my newly added Facebook friends.

It must have been another 20 min passed when Fabrice came to us later, because the boarding had already started when we reached our gate.  We have proved once again that the 2 h international flight check-in policy is necessary, except the one we were about to get on was not really an International flight.  It's a small domestic flight to transport us from our small home airport to Atlanta for the true intercontinental flight.

Needless to say, I cannot carrying my angers for too long.  Plus, I was quite sympathetic to Fabrice who had to stand beside the ticket counters, quietly and patiently, watching those agents to have the "system error" corrected.  How difficult could it be to match 4 names with corrected passport numbers in a computerized system, really?

It pains me too much to having to deal with incompetent people "trying their best yet their best was still inadequate" to solve my problems.  "I cannot believe how many incompetent people in the U.S. doing jobs without getting proper training."  I generalized thinking about the troubles that I had encountered in those past international trips.

Fabrice usually would disapprove me to make negative and generalized statements. He doesn't usually get irritated by people's inadequacy, either.  Well, let's say he does not usually show any signs of irritation in general.  It's not their fault, he says to me whenever I am annoyed by other people's incompetence.  He strongly believes that getting angry at incompetent people only shows your own inadequacy (just for the record, he was right.  I have recently learnt the true moral of the The Rabbit and The Turtle story that I told my students millions of times, but this is a post for another day).

But this time, he agreed, "It took 3 different agents to get things straightened out."  Ah ha, got you!

But you know what, he said nothing, showed nothing, and even felt nothing, the whole time.  He might have been helped by his iPhone over there.  I bet that he would have not said anything if it was not I who brought up the topic.

"Only you could deal with them."  I appreciated and spoke the obvious.

There is a major difference between him, the introverted Martian, and me, the extroverted Venusian.  Whenever I see people who are in need of hands, I would immediately show my willingness to get involved by either providing my helping hands or my helping minds.  He, on the other hand, would inevitably stand behind, waiting to be asked to lift a finger!  If I meet someone who is incapable and rude, I would make sure that he/she knows that she/he should not treat the next person in line the same way!  But he either leaves or sucks it up if leaving is not an option.  In China, my behaviors are kindly called professional sickness.  But in the industrious countries, such as the U.S., they are named "butting in other people's business".  "Don't be so hard on people."  My ex-boyfriend John once warned me when I described a situation where I pointed out some people's shortcomings.  "If people are not asking you for advice, they would not take what you say seriously anyways."  Fabrice says.

Before you hate me though, I have to clarify that I offer my sincere compliments generously whenever a job well done, regardless it is done by my own acquaintances or strangers.  I promote communications/connections among "strangers".  We only live in this society once, we need to take the opportunity to get to "know" as many people as possible, you see.

Where am I?  Sorry, I got side-tracked.

After a rough start, we were happy about that Fabrice was cleared as a non-terrorist, the kids were confirmed not to be our stolen goods, and I, of course, had always been the least of the agents' concerns.  So we said bye-bye to the princesses and toy story figures on Zhuzhu and Niuniu's suitcases while they were taken away by the luggage carousel.

Off we went to Paris!

Following a short and drink-free ride from our home airport, we got on a big 777 flight of AirFrance in Atlanta.  They put us in the last row in order for the 4 of us sitting together.  It was a full flight and the free wines were not worth our extra $$$ on the tickets.  Fabrice said the extra $$$ was for a better service.  He is right.  Few minutes after the monster took us up in the air, attendants brought kids' meals and toy bags.  They know how to attract family travelers.  After the meal, the kids were quietly watching their inflight cartoons so we parents enjoyed our meal without interruptions.  Soon after that, both Zhuzhu and Niuniu fell into a coma in the seats between Fabrice and I.  They did not even ask to open those toy bags, what a treat!  Then we took our beloved Bose noise cancellation headphones off their heads.  The Daddy used them to work on his slides - the poor man has 2 presentations to give in Paris the next day.  I, on the other hand, used my noise-free headphone to enjoy my inflight movies.  I had time for 3 action thrillers.

"Bienvenue à Paris!"  I read the sentence on the wall in Français, which impressed Fabrice.  I was in a high spirit, despite I have not slept a single minute the whole time.  

A vacation finally start for me and the kids!!!

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