Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

I have elucidated at great lengths about the hoity-toity developed countries and their arrogance, the crisp response or cold reception one receives when one steps into their arena, {especially towards a person who comes from a developing nation or a third world country like I do}. But my recent harrowing experience at the Paris airport has brought many more thoughts to the fore about developed countries and the convoluted reasoning they have for their behaviour just because they are a high and mighty developed nation. I assuredly don’t think Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport; alias Roissy Airport deserves to be called an airport at par with world standards.

Reports say that in 2017, the airport handled 69,471,442 passengers and 475,654 aircraft movements, thus making it the world’s tenth-busiest airport, Europe’s second-busiest airport (after London Heathrow) in terms of passenger numbers. It is also the world’s tenth-busiest and Europe’s busiest airport (ahead of London Heathrow) in aircraft movements. In terms of cargo traffic, the airport is the twelfth-busiest in the world and the second-busiest in Europe (after Frankfurt Airport), handling 2,150,950 metric tonnes of cargo in 2012. The incumbent director of the airport, Franck Goldnadel, was appointed to his position on 1 March 2011. 

What good is all that grandeur if the nescient transit passengers feel harrowed and dread buying a ticket which has this airport as its transit destination.  My first experience was so traumatizing that I have practically banned Paris itself as my tourist destination, I am happier not seeing the magnificent Eiffel Tower; such is my fear of having to set foot on that airport. First is the sheer size of the airport, the labyrinth terminals; and gates in each terminal are a 10,000-piece crossword puzzle.  I was travelling from Raipur (Chhattisgarh, India) to Mumbai (Maharashtra, India), from Mumbai to Paris (France) and from Paris to Dublin (Ireland); this was my whole sinuous travel itinerary. The first hurdle came when Raipur airport issued a boarding pass only till Paris! I had to collect the Paris to Dublin boarding pass from Paris airport. This was already extra work for me, a boarding pass in hand saves time and the headache of hunting for the booking counter (customer service desk) in international airports. I had already endured an unpleasant experience in the past, and I was not looking forward to another one.

I actually tried to haggle, beg, implore at the Mumbai airport customer service desk, to issue the boarding pass for my last sector; just to escape the torture at Paris.  International airports are ginormous; I have severe language problem (all is lost in translating my Inglish (Indian- English) and understanding their accented- Frenglish!), there are not many staff in sight, and even though people are all over the place, there is actually no one who you can approach and ask for help or assistance! Thus, I disembarked at Paris airport with an already heavy heart. I knew that my Paris to Dublin flight was from Terminal 2, and we landed at Terminal 1. The bus which took us to our next destination had a map indicating the stops and the very wise me disembarked at Gate 2L. But, I made the fundamental folly of thinking if I reached terminal 2, the gates starting with 2 will all be within the same premises.

Boy! was I wrong, the torture had just started!

My premonition came true, the customer desk (which I could locate on the third attempt!) was deserted. I waited patiently for 10 minutes then asked a uniformed officer passing by if someone would ever come! The lazy reply was, “Ouie’ Recepsion, (reception) mam!” (pointing in the opposite direction). So, I dragged my feet to the reception area where I could see a pleasant and pleasing persona (God’s small mercies) behind the desk. He issued my boarding pass and one look at that pass I knew my next headache was on its way.  My boarding gate was 2K and that gate was in another building!

I needed to make my way back to the bus stop, go to the other building marked Gate 2K. So, again I ask for directions and the crisp response is, “Ouie’ Follow allow (arrow)! directions” (with a grand wave of the hand). Those arrows were leading me nowhere and I was getting frustrated with these French and their weird accents! They spoke English like French and flayed their arms way too much, gesticulating wildly for everything and vociferously too, if I may add. Again, God’s kindness, a passenger who knew French was next to me and could fathom that gibberish and asked me to race behind him.

Huffing and puffing we reached the gate, boarded the bus and made our way to Terminal 2, Gate K, phew! I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I still had time to kill, and I was totally ravenous from all that running around. Like I usually do, I parked my suitcase on a chair and started to head towards the rest rooms to freshen up, when I heard the announcement, “Please do not leave your bags unattended, it will be treated as a bomb scare and disposed immediately!”

Okay, can’t risk that, so with the bag I drag myself to the rest room; when I receive this message from my husband, “Take care of your purse and belongings! People get robbed in Paris!” Oh! Wow, I thought. It does not end here though; I loitered into a Michael Kors store, picked up a wallet and immediately sensed the saleswoman breath down my neck. I was a little disturbed by her look and proximity; yet managed to ask if she could show some more wallets, different colours, maybe. The response I received was the weirdest ever; this lady asks me which country I am from! Now, I was totally taken aback, what was the connection, I wondered, my nationality and the wallet?

I said, ‘Indian’

Believe it or not; she shows me the prize of the wallet! I cannot tell you how huge the explosion in my head sounded! For the gall and nerve of that woman, I thought! How dare she show me the price! I wanted to stomp out of her stupid shop, but my better senses prevailed. I smiled with poise and equanimity and said, “It can be higher than this, please show me a bigger size and some other colors too!” It was fun and gratifying; her dumbfounded expression, and change in her demeanor. I did buy a wallet, just to prove a point.

Finally, it was time to board leave the dreadful place (the welcome note again totally lost in Frenglish) and head for Dublin (the Irish are the most charming, welcoming people). I happily stood by the said conveyor belt waiting for my suitcase; 10, then 20 minutes passed, and I get the sinking feeling again, the French were continuing to take their revenge. I went to the customer service desk and the lady was profusely apologetic (big difference); my suitcase was still in Paris, it will be loaded in the evening flight.

So, the most advanced airport in the world; and not one single thing happens in an orderly way, from boarding to getting home with my luggage; all went awry! Need I say more?

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_de_Gaulle_Airport