Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.
On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone?
I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.
My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).
"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!
Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....
Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!
I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!
A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"
"I can't find my bag!"
Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)
My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.
"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"
"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"
"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"
"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"
I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?
"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."
Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.
But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:
"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.
The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.
"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.
A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."
I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...
"Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....
"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.
As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.
"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."
Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.
I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.
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New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and France