FLIGHTS, FROGS AND A FINN
The story starts, as mine always tend to, in Finland. It was an average, mildly chilly June morning, when I got onto the Finnair flight 0871, and settled down to 'enjoy' yet another transatlantic flight experience. As said, I had done this before, but there was one new factor in the plan - I had a stop in gay Paris, to change planes.
Now, you have to understand, I have nothing in particular against the French, but I must tell you, in the strongest possible terms: do not, under any circumstances, go to the Paris airport. I was expecting a vast cosmopolitan complex with good cafes. What I got instead, was a vast, chaotic sprawl of hallways, and cold, sterile lounges. There were no proper signs posted anywhere, and the signs that they did have, were all in French. Everyone smoked indoors, nobody spoke understandable English, and all of the service was slow and/or unfriendly.
Truly, I had two hours to change planes, and how did I end up using these two hours? Did I have the nice cup of coffee and the croissant I had been fantasizing about all morning? No. Did I get myself a copy of Empire or the Gay Times, to read during the flight? No. Instead I had the distinct displeasure to run around for an hour, just to find a bus to take me to another terminal, and then to stand in line for thirty minutes, just to get my boarding-card printed, which took the skill-challenged individual behind the counter some twenty additional minutes.
Now, those of you who are good at math, can figure out that at this point, I had some ten minutes to get to my plane. What makes matters even more hilarious, and worked to raise my blood-pressure a few more notches, was the fact that the boarding-card didn't even have a seat marked on it. "I'm sorry sir, we not able give you seat here, you go satellite seven, they give you seat."
By this time, I was getting somewhat frantic. I have never missed a flight in my life, and this was definitely not the time to do so. I still had one more connecting flight to get to in the US, to reach my final destination of Charlotte, and I truly did not fancy the idea of missing that. So I rushed, panting, to satellite seven, where I found yet another security checkpoint (I had been through three at this point), pitifully understaffed, with a huge line between it and myself. I kept my cool, seeing I still had some minutes left, and actually did manage to make it through in time. This was mostly due to the plane being late in the true French fashion, boarding when it should have already been in the air.
Now, if you think that my problems were at an end, you are most mistaken. I got to the boarding-gate, only to have one more French person tell me that I should go to the USAir desk, to be assigned a seat in the plane. Now I am happy to say, I did not punch this woman out, there and then. I only told her, in no uncertain terms, that I was coming from said desk, and that they had told me to get the said seat here. She retorted with a mess of something she most assuredly thought to be English, but the only words I could make out were: "please sir, just calm down, please". A helpful American (they do exist) interjected at this point, telling me there was another desk, neatly hidden behind some ornamental plants, just nearby. I followed his instructions, and indeed, found this desk, where a group of merry Frenchmen were smoking and having a bit of a laugh, under a USAir sign that had been turned off in the most friendly fashion, making it somewhat impossible to notice from any distance. I approached these jolly continentals, slammed my ticket to the desk to attract their shifty attention, and demanded my seat. To my surprise, the jolly natives actually managed this in only eight minutes (I timed them). In a few moments more, I was on the plane. To add insult to injury though, I had the only French stewardess on that particular flight.