Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

I'm back in NY, after what could most charitably be described as a very comprehensive security checkpoint at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris that delayed the flight by 3 hours. I have no problem with added security, I really don't, but I'd never seen it quite like this before. Once everyone was checked in and ready to board, they had the 200+ passengers line up, and one by one they emptied all of our carry-on luggage and re-packed it, did very thorough full body metal detector swipes ("can you take off your belt? can you take off your watch? can you take out your fillings?"), and scanned our shoes specially. This took 3 hours. Sloooow. But the plane didn't blow up, so it was all worth it.

I had the good luck to encounter an overly-friendly insane man to help make the time pass more quickly. I tend not to find myself making conversation with strangers very often. My grandmother is very good at this. I never really feel comfortable starting to talk to a stranger. But anyway, this guy saw me reading an English-language magazine (the British version of GQ, actually -- I figured when else will I get a chance to sample British magazines at no greater cost than their American counterparts, available with the 20 Euros I still had left at the airport's international newsstand) and took to opportunity to ask me if I thought we were at the right gate -- I did -- and then he launched into a long discussion of his life. He was engaged a while ago, but it didn't work out. Marriage is supposed to fun, he said, and they fought too much. He might go teach photography at the University of Texas, but they would have to offer him a lot of money. I didn't get the impression they've heard of this plan yet. He is a photographer. He carried a camera. He wouldn't stop talking. He just finished taking pictures on a movie set. He went to Paris for half a week to write a screenplay. Screenplays don't get written in half a week, I didn't say. He met a woman at the airport (before meeting me) whose daughter is a singer. He's going to write a part for this woman's daughter in his movie, and then she'll become a famous singer and he'll become a famous director. And then he's going to move to Alaska. With his fortune. And buy a house there. And eat fish. Have I tortured you enough?

But on the plane, I got to sit next to a rude French woman and the husband she tortures, which was much more entertaining. She got on the plane -- I had the aisle seat, they had the window and the middle -- and said something to me in French. I figured out what she meant and got up to let her through. She gestured to the overhead bins, screaming at her husband, and he tried to cram their bag in where there wasn't enough space. He failed. So then she pulled someone else's bag out -- a girl's knapsack, sitting behind me, and threw it to floor, stuffed her bag in, and then tried to cram the girl's bag back up there. She thought she succeeded. Three seconds after she let go, the bag fell and hit the girl in the face. The French woman screamed at her husband some more. No one apologized to the girl. They stuffed her bag back up there. Then the rude French woman argued with her husband about (I'm guessing) who would get the middle seat. Guess who? Poor husband. A bit of the way into the takeoff, they turned the lights off. I was reading so I turned my light on. She then did her best impression of Al Gore in a presidential debate, sighing and squirming and trying to shield herself from this awful light with her magazine, making uncomfortable faces and noises until I just shut it off. The food came around and they asked whether we wanted chicken or beef. She said beef, her husband said chicken, and she yelled at him -- I assume that she was saying how awful chicken is, or something to that effect -- I kept hearing the words for chicken and beef but could pick up nothing else. Neither one ate their food, and she said something about Americans. Four trips to the bathroom later, including one where she literally stomped on my pillow as I moved to let her pass, we were about to land. Her husband asked me if I was from New York -- it turned out he lived here for a year when he was young and could speak some English. His wife said something. "She says these are the ugliest buildings she's ever seen," he told me. Welcome to America. I hope the taxi driver rips you off.

It's actually too bad that these people were my last impression of France, because overall I didn't find the people any ruder than Americans, any smellier, any more worthy of mockery. They were fine to me, I guess -- although I didn't understand anything they said so who knows. They were notably less obese than Americans, but that may be because all of the subway stations involve tremendous amounts of stairs, and really the whole city is a walking city and everyone walks. So they get exercise. And I guess portions are smaller, although certainly I found them to be well bigger than ample and especially when each meal has fourteen courses.

The rude plane people are overshadowed by the relatives I visited for Christmas Eve dinner last night -- my cousin's wife's brother and his family, who are French. They were extraordinarily hospitable and pleasant, although for all I know they could have been making fun of me all night in their secret language code (I mean French, obviously). The food was unbelievable, including oysters and foie gras (two French delicacies widely available but expensive it seems). And a traditional French Christmas log cake (bouche), which, if compared to the American fruit cake is like comparing a chia pet to the Wrigley Field outfield. There are better analogies out there, I'm sure. I am still full, 24 hours later.

Apologies for the week-long focus on France, if you didn't like it. It's over now, and back to the usual stuff. Although I'm hoping that the downturn in hits this week is because of the holidays and people not being online rather than due to people not wanting to hear every detail of my vacation. Uh, maybe not. Anyway, more fun soon.