Thursday, June 10, 2010

Paris Diaries, Part I: Gander

In every group of strangers, there is at least one person who will not be quiet.

“You know, I was going to bring sneakers, but I decided instead to pack three pair of sandals and a pair of boots. You have to have a lot of room for boots, so I had to bring another suitcase for my sweaters.”

Bridget tried to bury her face in the pillow and pulled the airline blanket over her head in a vain attempt to silence the incessant chattering. According to the big clock on the wall, it’s 2:30 in the morning. “Two thirty in the morning!” she wanted to shout to Chatty Cathy. Alternate strategy: think of Guillaume.

Guillaume, who waited for her somewhere in the Paris suburbs. The possibility of soon being with him enriched her libido. In all their phone conversations and email exchanges, Guillaume insisted that the two of them would spend all their time together in his apartment, all ten days of her trip.

“And I went out and bought two new outfits. I know I shouldn’t have. But they were so cute, and 10% off.”

Tiffany. Chatty Cathy has to be named Tiffany.

Instead of being an hour away from landing in Charles DeGaulle Airport, she, Bridget Meyerson, found herself trying to sleep on an orange naugahyde couch in a large, bright room. She never expected to end up in the airport in Gander, Newfoundland where the plane was forced to make an emergency landing. The pilot had assured the passengers that there would be another plane along soon to pick them up and take them the rest of the way.

The airport staff was very cheerful there, but their courtesy and helpfulness couldn’t replace the fact that Bridget wanted desperately to be in Paris, in Guillaume’s apartment, where they would spend the entire ten days of her visit. Except that likely they would emerge to enjoy a lovely dinner in a bistro or drink a cup of café au lait or a glass of wine at a sidewalk table while they watched people going by, commenting upon them in whispers before returning to his apartment.

“You know, Brad wants me to send him postcards, but you know, I told him that we didn’t have that much free time and, besides, we’re broken up anyway. Do you like these shorts?” Tiffany again. So nice to hear her broadcasting her life from across the room.”

Bridget sat up and caught the view of a pair of strawberry milkshake legs wearing abbreviated black shorts, the legs lined with a pink ribbon. “I took the bow off this leg. Do you think I should have taken off the bow?” Another woman her same age knelt at her feet, a sleepy look in her eyes. Neither one of them appeared to be more than 21.

Bridget eased back down. It would be ridiculous to go to Paris and not spend a day in the Louvre. She wanted to see the Mona Lisa and the classical Greek statues. And especially the painting by Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People of 1830” depicting a courageous bare-breasted woman urging a bevy of men into battle. She’d never forget how exciting that painting was when she first saw it on her only other visit to the city, on her senior whirlwind trip through Europe.

Bridget wished that Guillaume planned to meet her at the airport; instead he’d suggested that she take the subway to his apartment, only three changes of line to get there, very easy.

Bridget met Guillaume, a tall dark haired striking man in very tight jeans, who came into the restaurant she was auditing as part of her job in financial management for a mid-level food chain. He flirted with her mercilessly, and one thing led to another thing until, after two intense days together, she found herself taking him to the airport and engaging in regular email exchanges with him in preparation for the trip.

Bridget wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, to have a picnic along the Seine. She wanted to pretend that she lived there as she passed the cheese shops and markets.

“Glenn says he’s interested, but he only calls me everyone once in a while. He’s such a jerk. Do you like these gladiator sandals? These are my favorite pair.”

So why did Guillaume spend all of their last phone conversation asking her about her last day in Paris and how she’d get to the airport? He never once offered to take her. Once in passing he had mentioned how he might have a “work-related commitment” for a couple of days during her stay and would she mind a hotel during that time as his hours would be very erratic?

Bridget wanted to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. She wanted to eat an éclair. She wanted to turn “Liberty Leading the People of 1830” into a screen saver for her computer.

“Isn’t this great luggage? I got it for Christmas from my Aunt Madison.”

Bridget loudly beat the pillow and growled. Guillaume est un idiot.

Bridget wanted to visit the Moulin Rouge. She wanted to see Le Can Can. She wanted to go to Euro Disneyland.

A woman’s voice came over the loud speaker. “Universal Airlines passengers to Paris. We are sorry but the plane to continue your journey has been delayed. The airline wishes to express its deepest apologies. Unfortunately, there is no one here to help you. Airline staff never comes this far north.”