mercredi 30 janvier 2008

Run Julien Run (An Extreme Travel How To)

This month is the first anniversary of my arrival in Arizona. To celebrate it, I decided to expand my blog with a few stories that I never found time to write up before. For this one, I recommend a techno music background with the volume progressively increasing...

And I thought getting on time to Benito Juárez Airport in Mexico City would be the difficult part. To my Mexican friends’ credit, we actually got there early. Check in, security, look at the screen, look at the screen, look at the screen... where’s my flight? Didn’t I just check in? Turns out the Mexican airlines have a monopoly over the screens. If you’re flying Continental, wait for the PA announcement... if there is one.

Somehow, I got on the plane and we even arrived on time at George Bush Intercontinental (don’t laugh, it’s the airport’s real name) in Houston. My connexion was tight, but it had gone smoothly the other way, so why worry? Unfortunately, as soon as the screeching tires of the plane landed on Uncle Sam’s back, trouble started.

It took forever to get off the plane... which is what happens when people have luggage they can’t even lift. Then, I became a victim of my whiteness and lack of Spanish accent. The stewardess had given me the forms for US citizens, so at the immigration booth I went from first in line... to last. Murphy’s law kicked in: I ended up in the slowest line behind all the undocumented Mexicans. When I finally got to the counter - again - the immigration officer who spoke fluent Spanish and knew how to deal with people from south of the border was dumbfounded by the banal Canadian student I was. “Are you sure you don’t need a visa?? I’ll have to make calls to check this out.”

I finally got the phone’s authorization and walked off, nervously looking at my watch. I had lost a lot of time. Still possible if I don’t have to go too far. Oh darn... the screens work here, and they’re telling me that my flight leaves from another terminal. To get there, I can’t even run - I need to take a monorail which feels slower than trains in northern China in the mid-1990’s.

Late man walking... there is still some faint hope until I get to the overcrowded security check. Once again, it takes for ever. Remove your shoes, take off your belt, show me that camera works... It gets almost farsical - I’m trying to imitate Carl Lewis in unterminable hallways, shoe laces untied and holding my pants up... no time to put my belt back on! I break my own sprint record and finally get to the boarding gate.

“I’m sorry, the plane left five minutes ago. There are no more flights to Tucson until tomorrow morning.” @£¤¢*! Always late except when you need it! I walk back through the same hallways and security checkpoint and go to the Continental counter. I’m in damage control mode at this point. It’s already past 9 PM, nowhere close to Tucson, and I have class in twelve hours.

Then I get a semi-brilliant idea. “Fly me to Phoenix instead.” This plan B gets me about 200 kilometers from Tucson around midnight. Sure enough, when I arrive in Phoenix my luggage is... somewhere, but not on the bagage carrousel. And I’m still not in Tucson. There’s a bus, but no schedule - talk about defeating the purpose. By about 1 AM I get to the Avis counter. The only car left is a big boat, but it’ll do the job, albeit at an inflated price. Then it’s the true American experience. Driving a big boat on an Interstate in the middle of the night. Let me tell you, doing this road for the first time was a memorable tourist experience. The view was amazing: “How’s my driving? Call 1-800-22-DRIVE” “Right lane must exit” “DUI? Expect the max!” And let me tell you about the cooking of the Casa Grande McDonald’s!

I finally get to the “Speedway Boulevard - University of AZ” exit. Thank heavens! It’s about 3:30 AM. Can’t say I was rested when I got to my 9:30 AM class. But such is the way of the traveller, the extreme traveller.

Oui, en somme, je m'aperçois que les voyages, ça sert surtout à embêter les autres une fois qu'on en est revenu!
- Sacha Guitry

2 commentaires:

essstar a dit...

It's good to read that others have those fun connective dashes through random airport terminals.

The more I travel, I can't decide if I want to get out and see more or curl up and hide between the sheets.

Stay warm, big J.

Anonyme a dit...

En rétrospective, c'est toujours plus palpitant! C'est l'expérience que je retiens de chaque fois que mes bagages me précèdent (ça m'est arrivé) ou me suivent (plus souvent qu'autrement), à chaque fois que je me rende au train mais véritablement à la dernière minute, et également lorsque tout va mal, on rate son vol, donc on prend un train mais qui est en grève donc ne part qu'à chaque deuxième voyage, bondé de monde, pour ensuite emprunter un taxi illégal (car les autres sont déjà il y a longtemps pris par d'autres passagers et partis).
Ah, vive les voyages!