How One Flies

June 28, 2006 - by jason

It isn’t a complicated problem on the surface: get from one’s house in France’s Rhône Valley to the Joyent office in San Anselmo, California. Just a hop, skip and a jump, surely.

Getting a reasonably priced ticket from Paris to SFO is of course the first priority (one flies economy, because one’s Scots/Dutch heritage leads one to be cheap as all hell). One has learned never to whiffle about with the Expedias and the Travelocities and the Kayaks during the business week: transatlantic rates only ever dip reliably sometime in the middle of the night between Saturday and Sunday, and even then it’s a mad dash between browser tabs to catch the elusive combination of price, minimal stop-overage, and a rich flow of points.

There’s no really easy way to get to Paris from here: it’s either an hour long flight from Marseille, with a few hours of driving and check-in time tacked on, or a three-hour train ride from Avignon with at least 45 minutes in the car to get to the station. The train is less expensive and in many ways more pleasant, but no matter how one gets to Paris it pretty much needs to happen the night before, otherwise there’s no way to guarantee the preflight earliness one needs to a) get on the plane at all, and b) ensure a decent seat, and, possibly, c) wheedle and cajole an upgrade to one of those mythical barcaloungers way up front, where they, well, you know what they do up there.

So one rolls the Hotwire dice and spends the night at one of five or so hotels hugged around Charles de Gaulle, where free shuttles, CNN International, 22€ breakfasts and eye-crossingly overpriced wifi lay in wait to help one enjoy one’s stay. The Sheraton in Terminal 2, incidentally, represents the motherlode of CDG accommodation, and if Hotwire can get you in for $80 US for the night, as is often the case, it feels, standing in one’s complimentary terrycloth robe, watching planes noiselessly take off and land through the triple-paned windows, like a major freaking score.

The next day, at the worryingly dilapidated Charles de Gaulle Terminal 1 – all greasy tubes and sweating concrete – one somehow manages every single time to connect with the same US Homeland Security screening agent, and every single time the concept of a Canadian living in France who’s the president of a US-based company needs to be laid out, documented, flowcharted, powerpointed, written in blood, before she invariably wanders off to ‘speak to the supervisor’, who in turn flips through one’s passport, sniffs the air, shrugs his shoulders, and sends the agent back to begin the second round of interrogation: who packed one’s bags, anything resembling a weapon, and so on.

Once a boarding pass is issued and the security scans, pokes and prods are complete, one is faced with the brutal truth that, unless one is connecting through the somewhat sin-accommodating Dulles International, there will be no cigarettes for the next fifteen or so hours. Fine.

Provided the sleeping tablets have worn off upon arrival to SFO, getting through customs and immigration can be a breeze: just a matter of inching along four and a half miles of snaking queues, smiling brightly to the agent and not feeling self-conscious about the swath of dried red wine covering half of one’s nice new white shirt.

Getting home is, of course, an entirely different story.


Sign up now for Instant Cloud Access Get Started