Chapter Ten: The Longest Day…And Night…And Day

P1070835Chapter Ten: The Longest Day…And Night…And Day

Day Twelve – Strike 2, The Disconnect, Confirmed, I Go Hugo We Go, Goodbye Mickey, Is There a Doctor In The Queue, Confirmed My Ass, Tracy Plays Her Cards, The Waiting Game, “You’re On”, Dead Man Running, Tracy Gets Us In A Little Jam, Tracy The Sherpa Returns, The Passenger You Want To Kill, Bad News From The Finger Puppet, Breath Of Fresh Air, Is There a Doctor On The Plane, The iEKG, Over My Dead Body and Home Not So Sweet Home

Once again I had trouble sleeping, so like Pavlov’s dog I picked up the phone at 4:30 when I heard an email buzz through. It was from my friends at Air France. We had been checking every day for the past week, and our flight home from Paris to LAX had not been affected by the strike up until now.

The Air France email stated, and once again this is not an exact quote, “Hello valued passenger. I know we’ve lured you into a false sense of security that your Saturday flight will go off as scheduled, but we have now decided to cancel your flight back to Los Angeles. Enjoy the rest of your vacation.”   I’m not 100% sure, but I think the email had an “LOL” at the end of it, too. They were nice enough to provide a phone number to call.

At about 4:45 a.m. I called Air France to see what options I had. For nearly 90 minutes I waited not so patiently, listening to prerecorded message after prerecorded message. Then, out of nowhere came a voice I have learned to detest. It was Siri, and she was asking me if I needed help.

siriI had not summoned her, but she wouldn’t go away, and then, like I wanted to be at that moment, the line went dead. I had been disconnected.  Thanks Siri!

By this time, Tracy was awake, and as she kept me from jabbing a knife in my eye, she calmly suggested I use the land line in the apartment instead. I called a local Air France number to see if that might work better. It did. Luckily, the wait was only about 20 minutes until a real person actually came on the line. They said our Saturday flight was indeed cancelled, and that we could not get out before Sunday or Monday. I inquired if they had a flight today (Friday), and was informed that, yes, they had seats on an Air Tahiti Nui plane departing tonight.

I said, “That will work.” I asked if the seats on the Air Tahiti Nui flight were confirmed, and I received an enthusiastic, “Oui.”  This was followed a short time later by an email confirmation with seat assignments.

spockAlthough I had wanted to try and make a go of one more entire day in Paris, I channeled my inner Spock and realized this was the most logical solution to this mess, although I could have given a Vulcan death grip to Siri.

We showered and went to see one or more Paris sights before leaving. We stopped by Camille for a quick omelette and croissant, and then headed out for a last morning of sightseeing.

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It was perfect that we chose Maison de Victor Hugo for our first stop, because I was feeling Les Misérables (poetic license).  This is where Hugo lived for 16 years in the mid 1800s and again later in the century.  He died here in 1885.  I was hoping there would not be a repeat performance by a diseased tourist.

P1070810We walked through various rooms including the Reception Room…

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…Juliette Drouete’s Chinese Drawing Room (Drouet was an actress who subsequently became Hugo’s mistress)…

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…The Dining Room…

P1070820…and finally the bedroom where Hugo died.  I didn’t stay there long.

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Stepping back outside, it was perhaps the most beautiful day I had ever seen in Paris.

P1070825Not that we’d get to enjoy it.

P1070827We still had about an hour to kill, so we walked around snapping some more photos on a picture-perfect day.

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We even found aptly named street that gave us a chuckle.  I think it was where Mickey originally lived.

P1070764“Maybe I should have tried for a Sunday flight,” I told Tracy.  She shook her head in a way that said, “It’s time to go home.”

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The last church we visited was Notre Dame des Blancs Manteaux, a Baroque church constructed in the 1600s. From what I remember from the photos it was an interesting interior…

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…but I started a coughing attack from Hell…

P1070801…so we got out of there before parishioners were infected.

P1070797My last photo in Paris was of the Tour Saint-Jacques.

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My original plan before getting sick was to get reservations to climb it today. Unfortunately, we would not get our UNESCO World Heritage Sight card stamped there today, because it was time for us to rest, pack and depart for the airport.

We had what we believed was a foolproof plan to make this trip as easy as possible. Our flight was not scheduled until 7:10 p.m., but we would arrive at the airport very early, get our tickets and then have some food, purchase some cough syrup, read and relax until our flight. This, we thought, would be the most prudent way for me to ease into the flight and hopefully not cough for the entire 12 hours on the way home.   So much for planning!

We bade Mickey “au revoir” and our taxi arrived at Charles de Gaulle a little past three. We thought we might be the first ones there. We thought incorrectly.

The queue for the 7:10 p.m. Air Tahiti Nui flight was already a long one, but we were four hours early so the line did not really bother us. About 15 minutes later, the day turned from sublime into insane.

As we stood there, a woman checking her bags on the flight collapsed with what seemed to be a heart attack. I won’t go into the gory details, but people started yelling for a doctor.   There just happened to be one in the line not far in front of us.

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Soon the paramedics arrived, and the woman (who was talking) was wheeled to an awaiting ambulance accompanied by her husband. It took nearly an hour, but finally Tracy and I got to the check-in desk (trouble ensues) woman.

As I tried not to cough, we showed her our original Air France tickets and the information about our now “confirmed’ tickets on Air Tahiti Nui. Her look eerily reminded me of the woman at Mélia 1 who told us “our room” had a broken toilet. Silence, at this point, was not golden.

Looking up from her computer, the woman said, “I’m very sorry Mr. and Mrs. Maitai, but Air France overbooked this flight, and you will be on stand-by.” I was in no shape to try and string together any kind of coherent response (which was probably fortunate for us), however Tracy, who might have been nearing the breaking point after five days spent with a non-stop coughing husband, did not miss a beat.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Well,” she said, “we know there are two extra seats because a woman just had a heart attack, and she and her husband won’t be on the flight.”  I looked on in admiration and trepidation.  Although a great try, it didn’t work. We would have to wait until 6:10 (an hour before our flight) to see if we had a seat or would be traveling back to Paris to try and secure a hotel room

As my closest friends will tell you, I take these types of setbacks very calmly…ok, maybe not. For nearly 2 ½ hours I paced like I was awaiting the birth of our first child, or so I surmised since we don’t have any.  Meanwhile, Tracy kept searching our insurance policy to see how much extra it would cost if they ended up having to put my cadaver in the cargo hold.

At about 6:07, Tracy sidled up to the agent who was about to read off the names of the few lucky ones who would be put on this flight. I know a lot of people who think I’m crazy to always get to the airport early, but this time it paid off. We were the first names on the list (we heard later that that only three more were called after us).  That was the good news.

The bad news was we would still have to check our bags, go through the long security line and get to our flight (not to mention find some cough syrup since we couldn’t bring liquids through security).

With less than an hour until our flight departed, after depositing our bags, we ran. If Frankenstein could have run, this is what it would have looked like. It was not a pretty sight. I was running like an 80-year-old man through the airport…in slow motion… coughing. I actually think I saw a guy in a walker pass me.

We finally made it through security…almost.   They needed to check Tracy’s bag for contraband. Time was not on our side.

Speaking of liquids, the agent then pulled out two jars of jam from her carry-on that we had purchased from Hédiard. We thought we were toast.

The agent then took one glance at my face that looked exactly like a face looks when you have less than ten hours sleep in four days, gave Tracy a small smile that seemed to say, “Madame, you should have married a younger man,” put the jars back in the bag and let us go. We filed it under current events.

Channeling her inner Sherpa from our 2005 train trip to Rome (please see Italy 2005), Tracy picked up both bags and led us in our final sprint (perhaps a slow jog or a kind of fast walk would sum that up better) to the already long line waiting to board our flight to Los Angeles.

P1070836By the time we reached the Air Tahiti Nui line I felt like we had run all the way to Papeete.

Papeete_-_Marina_TainaI was sweating so much it looked like I had been through a car wash.  The run had not helped my cough either, which was now pretty bad again after our mini marathon run through CDG.

Since the flight was just about ready to board, Tracy only had a few minutes to shed the bags and sprint to find cough syrup before contemplating divorce on the flight home.

There was no cough syrup, but she did purchase some cough drops and Kleenex that would hopefully preclude me from getting 248 of our closest friends seriously ll on the flight back to L.A. We boarded, and I was seriously not in good shape. The run had completely wiped me out.

During the first few hours in the air, I attempted the best I could to not cough, sucking down cough drops while watching a movie I have no recollection of. It was then I started going even further downhill. My breathing was becoming more and more labored, so I took out the little device I use to check my breathing saturation and heart rate, which Tracy lovingly (I think) calls my “finger puppet.”  Below is a demonstration from my kitchen of the amazing finger puppet.

IMG_1762A normal SAT rate is 95 or above. When I was admitted to the hospital four years earlier, when I got to the ER it was at 78 and they immediately put me in the hospital.  When I placed the finger puppet on in the plane, the reading was at 85. I turned to Tracy and said, “This is not good. I don’t know if I can make it to L.A.”

Short of throwing me off the plane (which I’m sure she seriously contemplated), Tracy did the next best thing. She explained my plight to the flight attendant and asked if they could find the doctor that was on board.

Tracy told her that she knew there was a doctor on the flight because a woman had a heart attack in line at CDG and one had come to assist.  She was going to use that line until it worked.

I was led to the center galley where I heard the words from the pilot you never want to hear when traveling on an airliner (especially if the pilot is talking about you), “Could a doctor please come to the center galley?  We have a passenger in need of assistance.”

Not only was there one doctor on board, but two of them were suddenly at my side. It was the Mayo Clinic of the air.  Only needing one, the other took his seat, very happy in the knowledge he would not be infected with whatever plague I was carrying.

Digression: It was less than a week later that the man in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola. My friends said it was lucky that our flight wasn’t scheduled a week later, or they would have diverted the plane to Newark and quarantined the plane. That would have been terrible because then this trip report would have been even longer.

As we flew over Greenland, the doctor took out his iPhone. He told me to “hold the phone” (literally), and as it turned out he started taking my EKG. Yes, there’s an APP for that! (photo from gizmodo.com)

18mlh9v9onalrjpgHe asked some medical questions to ascertain that I was not having a pulmonary embolism and then instructed the flight attendants to put me on oxygen.  MY SAT rate immediately went up and I felt much better. Although airplanes are oxygenated, at that altitude it’s not 100% and any breathing difficulties are only made worse.

The doctor then stated he thought that when we landed I should be taken off the plane first and rushed immediately to a hospital. Since the passengers seated around me already had taken a lottery on who would kill me when I returned to my seat, I respectfully declined the recommendation.

IMG_1103After the doctor departed the galley, being the loving wife she is, Tracy snapped a photo of me with the oxygen mask on my face as I sat there (the story and laughs always come first in our marriage). When she showed it to me, I couldn’t believe the airline hadn’t charged me extra for two extra carry-on pieces of luggage because of the large bags under my eyes.

After a couple of hours of much needed air, the flight attendants said that was all the oxygen I could have just in case someone else needed it. I hope they at least change the mask if that happens.

The rest of the flight was fairly brutal as my SAT rate dropped again by the time we reached the Canadian-U.S. border (I have to stop looking at that in-flight map), but fortunately once we started descending it rose to a level where I didn’t think I’d keel over and have to have people step over me to disembark.

To make a long story even longer, we were picked up by friends at the airport, but instead of going to the hospital, I told them they could just take us home. We got home about midnight, and four hours later I realized I better go to Urgent Care.

Three hours and two breathing treatments later I was diagnosed with Acute Bronchitis. It was the early morning of September 28th. I would not end my non-stop coughing spell until the beginning of November.

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So that’s the story of our not so romantic 20th Anniversary Paris trip.   Sure, we had flight problems, hotel problems, a little mouse as a roommate (hope he’s ok) and a rather bad illness, but this was the first trip we’ve ever taken where the stars just did not align correctly for a good part of it.

P1070441Sometimes, you’re due for a little bad luck (just ask the San Diego Padres about the last half century). You just have to make the best of it, and I think we did.

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Still, we have a lot of great memories of places we visited and people we met.

P1060978We were also able to dine at some wonderful restaurants, and, really, what’s a trip without a “Pringles Night” in your hotel room or apartment?  Plus, our not getting to everything is just another in the hundreds of reasons we’ll have to return to Paris again in the future.

P1060914So, as always:

Enjoy The Journey! Attitude Is Everything!

(and always have a doctor on speed dial)

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