Heading Home?? - The Graduation Adventure Day 15

Thursday, June 5th

I've stopped writing about the trip home.  Mostly because there are rarely stories attached to the trip.  You get up, get to the airport, wait for the plane, get home, blah, blah, blah.  But sometimes you have to write about the travel home.  Sometimes, things go weird enough that the story needs to be remembered.  Unfortunately, this was one of those times.

Our flight home was 1215p.  We were ready.  After the big Disneyland day two days before, and yesterday's day of mostly rest (and awful weather), the knowledge that we were a few hours away from takeoff was comforting.  The bus came at 7a.  Then again at 9a.  Then various other times in the day.  But we didn't care about those times.  We were told to board a bus thee hours prior to our flight.  Our choice was four hours early or two hours early.  We figured, let's do early.  Less of a chance for racing.  The one thing we didn't want to do was race.

So the first issue of the morning was to get our luggage down the stairs and to the front desk.  And that took a while.  It was early and there was no elevator.  I left Elias with the luggage near the bus pickoff point and I went to check out...only to find no one was there.  At all.  I hung around for a while, but the knowledge that no one was going to help me was pretty well understood.  I dropped the key cards off in a box (labeled "Early Check-Out") and walked away, hoping they knew those keys belonged to me.

The bus arrived right on time.  I handed over the bus voucher and the driver asked what terminal we were going to.  I had looked yesterday and thought it was Terminal 2A.  We jumped on the bus and I thought I could soak up the WiFi for a few more seconds to confirm our terminal.  Here was where I first discovered it was going to be an interesting day.  On the American mobile site, the flight showed a delay.  It was now leaving at 430p.

I need to let that sink in for a moment.  It was 7a.  We were driving away from the hotel.  And our flight was now leaving 9 hours from this moment in time.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

It was about this time I turned to Elias and said, "Do you want the good news or the bad news??"

All I could do was hope we ran into traffic or were delayed somehow.  We weren't.  One hour later, we were in the parking lot of CDG, walking to the American counter to find out what the hell was going on.

It actually took a while to walk to our airline in the terminal.  Many hours later, Elias and I realized what we need to do in the future.  We need to get a luggage cart.  It would save much drama on our end.  So...bank that idea to memory.  The first/only counter we found for American was crowded.  But we had nothing but time...

While standing at the end of the queue, an old man came up to us and asked "Chicago??"  I shook my head yes and he began to explain he only knew a little bit of English, but he was on his way to Chicago with his wife to visit their son.  The son married an American woman and has a few kids.  The old man obviously didn't travel much (ever??) and I smiled wide and told him the workers would take good care of them.  I did not tell them about the delay.  Because why dash the hopes and dreams of an elderly man??

When we finally had tickets in hand and were dropping off our luggage, I was able to ask a worker what was going on.  He didn't know, but then I began asking questions that saved us a bit today.  "Is there any way we can get to Chicago earlier??"  And he began searching.  

We could go to Dallas, then Chicago.  It would get us in at 730p.  Meh.  CDG to JFK.  It would get us in at 730p.  No.  CDG to London.  Ooh...promising.  Until he said we would have a one hour connection.  In Heathrow.  Changing terminals.  I've done Heathrow before.  If I'm changing terminals and going through security, I can't do that in an hour by myself.  Add Elias to the mix...both the agent and I shook our heads.  This wasn't happening.  

During this time, I asked him an important question.  "How much is it to get Admiral's Club passes??"  His eyes lit up a little and he got on the phone.  $60 per person.  Or $99 for one with a guest.  I paused.  "What if you have Gold Status??"  The dirty secret of this trip is I bought the tickets one day before I lost Status.  But they still counted me as having Status, so there were still a few perks.  No change.  I mentally did some math.  $99...how much do I have on that credit card right now??  Looking back, I could have done it.  But I was gun shy with the amount I'd spent over the last few weeks and I didn't want to go over the edge.  Knowing now...I should have done it.

The agent was super nice throughout the whole conversation.  And he gave us a €30 voucher for lunch since our flight was SO delayed.  Bright side, we were able to dump our crap, so that was something.  And with that, we had 7 hours to kill.

Our first stop was breakfast.  Breakfast was scheduled at 7a at the hotel, but we were gone by then.  So it was 9a and we were both hungry.  We actually stopped at the VAT refund area first, then went to Paul's for pastries.

We had been to Paul's a few days earlier in Paris, so we knew it was a safe choice.  A few pastries and some drinks and we were cool for breakfast.  We found a table in the terminal and just sat there for a while.  Why not??  We had time to kill.  

If you look closely, you'll see the only Delayed flight is ours to Chicago.
Outside of the security area, we got our bearings.  Restrooms are downstairs.  Security is to the left.  But security is later.  I have a story about the restroom.  Once we dropped off our luggage, I made a pit stop at the restroom.  After two hours of sitting in the Paul's dining area, Elias needed to take a bit of a break.  I waited on the main level of the airport while Elias took the elevator downstairs.  After a bit, the elevator opened up to find a massive crowd of Asian tourists.  My first thought was selfish...PLEASE let Elias be in this elevator too.  Why??  Because it would be hilarious.  Elias and I are cut from the same cloth.  We are pretty anti-social (or as it's now known...Introverted) and the idea of being in an elevator by yourself with a group of 20 other people is kind of hilarious.  Sure enough, in the corner of the elevator, trying to be completely invisible, I see Elias.  We lock eyes and both of us start laughing hysterically.  By the time he got to the bench I was commandeering, we were nearly crying with laughter.  I know there is nothing really funny about this.  Someone is in the elevator with someone else.  It just struck us as ridiculously funny at the time.  And still does.  No, I have not been drinking.  When Elias and I talked about the elevator he said, "They just kept piling on..."  

We sat.  We wandered.  We sat some more.  There was seating outside of McDonalds, so we hung out there for a while as we stole their WiFi.  Here's the thing with CDG.  They do have free WiFi, but it lasts 15 minutes and cannot be re-upped.  McDonalds...hang out as long as you want.  We updated family about our predicament and let them know to track our flight.  We had no idea what time we were going to land.  We barely knew what time we were going to take off.  At this time, it was supposed to be 5p.  But this day seemed to be a castle built on sand.  I didn't want to assume anything.

It was close enough to lunch and we had a decision to make.  A €30 voucher was burning a hole in our pocket.  I found a few places we could try.  The food looked good.  The prices weren't bad.  Elias had one place in mind.  And we were already there, stealing their WiFi.  Yep, we were going to McDonalds.

Ok, I am not opposed to McDonalds as a concept.  Truly.  I love their fries and ice cream, and I have made it vey clear that McDonalds is the place I will visit when I need to soak up some excess alcohol.  But when you have so many options, McDonalds will never be my choice.  I didn't know what was through Security and worried there wouldn't be much (there wasn't when we flew out of ORY, so I didn't know if this was a French thing.  Not to jump ahead any, but...it wasn't.  There were great options once you made it through).  Ultimately though, this made Elias happy.  McDonalds it was.

Here's the thing though...have you ever tried spending €30 between two people at McDonalds??  We ordered through a kiosk and figured out what we wanted to eat.  I think it came to about €20.  No big deal.  We were under the voucher, so we were good.  And then the manager asked us if we wanted to get more food.  "It's free money.  You may as well spend it."  So we started throwing things onto the bill.  I don't know how it happened, but we had two Extra Value Meals, three ice cream sundaes, two or three drinks, macarons, and I don't even know what else.  The tray they gave me was damn near embarrassing.  So embarrassing that I couldn't take a picture of it.  But I guess the more embarrassing part was how much we did eat.  Elias did suck down two sundaes and his meal.  I ate the sundae and some of my burger.  And we pretty much had to leave the restaurant out of the cover of night, never to be seen again.

Macarons at McDonalds.  They were pretty legit.  I'd eat these at home if they'd serve them.
We decided to finally go through security.  And it was easy enough.  We stood in lines.  Passports were stamped. It is what it is.  It was good to see inside the security area, there was plenty of food and shopping.  We walked up one side of the terminal, then turned around and walked down the other side.  Had I any extra cash, we would have picked up a few macarons for the road, but we decided to step aside from the confections.  I think the three sundaes sort of dampened our interest in any food.

As we walked one direction, we met up with the Old Man again.  He waved and said Hello.  Then he frowned and said, "5 o'clock."  I know, Old Man.  I know...

At a certain point, we just couldn't do it anymore.  We sat at the gate and waited.  The flight was going to start boarding at 420p.  Which meant it actually began to board right around 5p.  Because why wouldn't it??

We finally board the plane. Only to find we are on a much older model.  A plane that has not heard of the concept of in-seat video.  Now, I'm not a snob when it comes to planes.  I know it will sound like I am by the end of this paragraph, but seriously I'm not.  But three or four overhead video screens on a 9 hour flight...a flight that has already been seriously delayed...that's what sent me a bit over the edge.  Plus, the movie they were showing...The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

The universe wants me to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

This was the movie on the flight to Buenos Aires.  This was the movie on the flight back to Chicago from Buenos Aires.  This was the movie on the flight to London.  And it's the only movie I can watch on the flight back to Chicago.  Followed by Night at the Museum 2.  At this point, I have to believe Ben Stiller has a deal with American Airlines.  I mean, if we're going through Ben Stiller's oeuvre couldn't we get some Dodgeball action up in here??  Because if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.

But I'm actually getting ahead of myself here.  Because after all we've been through today, it wouldn't be as easy as boarding and taking off, right??  Of course not.  But for a minute, we thought we were in the clear.

Everyone was strapped in and ready for this flight to get going.  The plane backed up and got into position to make its way to the runway.  And sat there.  No movement.  After 5-10 minutes of sitting, the pilot gets on the speaker, so you know you're going to be screwed.

Turns out, there is some kind of issue, not mechanical, and the truck can't pull the plane to where it needs to go.  Well, something to that effect.  I'm not gonna lie, I had wine later in the flight, so some of the details might have a bit of fuzz covering them.  The bottom line was we had to be pushed back to the gate to fill out a mechanical report.  Because of course we did.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 1215p.  Then it was 5p.  By the end of the rigmarole, we pushed back at 6p.  Only two hours before we were originally going to land in Chicago.  Whatever.  Just get us in the air.

Our mood as we got on the plane that apparently didn't want to leave France...
By this time, I wouldn't have been surprised if we had sucked a bird into the engine on takeoff.  But we didn't.  And Walter Mitty started, so we must have been safe.  We were strapped in and ready for 9 hours of travel.

On our way!!  For reals!!
It was that realization two hours earlier that kind of freaked me out.  Elias and I were sitting by the gate, waiting for anything to happen.  Elias casually said, "We'll still have 9 hours to go..."  It kind of stopped me in my tracks.  All day, I was using 5p as our goal.  It was the moment we were waiting for.  But I had actually forgotten about the fact that this goal was the first leg of our day's adventure.  Apparently, delays at airports affect me more than I ever thought they would.

The carts started coming with drinks.  Because we were in Main Cabin Extra, they came to our section first.  The flight attendant gave Elias his Coke.  Then she asked me.  Wine.  It was definitely wine.  And her response was priceless, "Oh, I figured as much."  And then, she opened a giant bottle of wine and handed me a very heavy pour.  Look, she has never met me, and I hope I don't give off the air of someone who needs wine to function (wait...do I give off that air??).  But with the day as it was, wine was going to be flowing on this flight.  The cart came back around with dinner and I got another full glass of red.  Perfection.

Do. Not. Judge. Me.
Lunch/Dinner was served and it was what it was.  After we ate, I realized one of the fatal flaws in my plans for the day.  Back when I thought I was going to be flying during the day, I made the decision to wear my contacts on the flight.  I only had one set of contacts left, and they were in my eyes.  Ordering boxes of contact lenses were on the list of things to do when I returned home.  So I knew we were flying during the day, and I didn't expect I'd really be sleeping.  Plus, if I put contacts in my bag, they'd leak a bit and there was a bigger chance the contacts would be dead by the time I unpacked.  The fatal flaw in my plan was the 6 hour delay.  So now we were flying at night.  Prime sleeping time.  Elias and I did sleep on and off.  And my eyes were on fire by the time we made it to Chicago.

He didn't need to worry about contact lenses.
And yes, we did make it to Chicago.  By the time we got to the parent's car, it was 9p or so.  I was supposed to be home originally at 230p.  Whatever.  We were home.  And with that, the 15 day Graduation Adventure had come to a close.  I guess it ended with a bang and not a whimper.  Next time, I'd be fine with more of a whimper...not gonna lie...

6/5 - 10,000 steps, 4.5 miles


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