(written on June 22nd, 2012)
In an Air Canada 777 over the open ocean plugged into the armrest headphone jack listening to XM enRoute Francophone in the music bank, provided on my personal screen in the seat in front of me, I see Europe in my metaphorical rear view mirror and North America sprawled out on the horizon. The cabin air is cool and surprisingly fresh. Many of my fellow travelers are wrapped in their sumer sky blue airplane blankets.
Last night we arrived in Paris via the TGV (aka the bullet train) around 7:30 in the evening. At the Montparnasse station we caught the #4 metro to Gare du Nord with a Plum Village retreat goer, a young Alaskan named Johanna. From there we caught the B train to Charles De Gaulle Airport. Having had no reservations or plans of where to stay for the night we decided to just get a room at a hotel in the airport. It was 9:30pm or so by the time we got to our room. We were quite tired from the long day’s haul. After crawling out from our hefty backpacks we went downstairs to grab some dinner at a pizza restaurant attached to the hotel lobby. I ordered a cheese pizza (pretty much the only vegetarian fare in Paris) and an ice tea and Mike got a limousine burger and a glass of bordeaux. His burger arrived sans bun and sans everything else we know to be burger like.
After a good nights sleep and reluctantly getting out of bed we rode the airport shuttle to terminal 2. Despite needing to go to 2A we first had to pass through 2G, F, E, D, C, and B. It was like taking a quick trip around the world passing through all of the international terminals. I led the way weaving artfully around confused travelers, rolling suitcases and small children holding the hands of their parents.
In contrast to Mike, and despite the many weary faces, I love airports. The window lined catwalks, fresh boarding passes like amusement ride tickets in my hand, moving walkways and uncomfortable connected seats at the departure gate. We’re never the same person coming and going from the airport. I was reminded of talking with Mike before leaving home and in a mental void of the word airport I called it a plane station on multiple occasions, perhaps a sign that I was multi-tasking to a dangerous level in my preparations to leave the country :)
I like practicing my smile at airports, a place that is in desperate need of them. The long faces remind me to find my smile and wear it joyfully, to come back to my breathing so that I don’t fall into the collective pitfalls of grouchiness and impatience. Offering our smile is a great gift to ourselves and those around us, it should not be underestimated. In the spirit of Thay, this is not wishful thinking, it is a deep practice.
After using up the last of our euros on some croissants, making our way though multiple passport and boarding pass checkpoints we patted the outside of the plane as we boarded, a sign of good faith for the journey, and found our seats. Bound for Toronto, Canada and a brief layover we set to the sky 60 minutes late for our 8 hour tour across the north atlantic.