Paris : Day 1 – Angels and Airplanes

I guess the whole point is, we can never know.

Are the little coincidences really coincidences?  Or are they the universe trying to talk to us the only way it can, short of mailing us a FedEx package with a return address of “Universe” containing a note that says “Here’s something you need to know…” ?

I suppose that’s where faith comes in.

After my usual departure-day routine of packing at the last possible minute so as to not stress a cat who has figured out what said packing means, I stared out the window riding to the airport, wondering if this was a good idea.  You know, the quitting, the relative aimlessness of the past month, and now getting on a plane to go continue all these things, only with the addition of thousands of miles of distance and thousands of dollars of cost.

Again, I suppose that’s where faith comes in.

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As I settled in to my seat, I noticed  a nice middle-aged lady across the aisle from me, and what appeared to be her older-aged mother in the seat in front of her.  We were in Business class, so they couldn’t have a window seat and be next to each other, so they  opted for the piggyback setup.  I always enjoy watching people who are flying in Business for the first time – it’s one of the few times you can see child-like wonder from grown adults; “you mean I get to use all this?!” “wait, this seat becomes a bed?!” “I really get a pair of slippers?!”.  For the mother, the experience seemed to be a blend of excitement and overwhelm simultaneously; she kept glancing at me in my seat.

I got the feeling she wanted to be across the aisle from her daughter, maybe so she could quickly throw a glance to say ‘how the hell does this thing work?’ whenever she needed to.  Plus, she seemed uncomfortable sitting next to the window for whatever reason.  I offered to switch seats with her so she could sit next to her daughter.  She exhaled a decidedly relieved ‘thank you’, and I went about the business of collecting the stuff I had laid out for the journey.

After we got off the ground, I engaged in small talk with the daughter.  She excused herself to help her mother figure out the seat belt, the entertainment system, the earphones, the seat controls, the menu… basically everything.  Watching her lean over her mother and explain everything, I had to smile.  This is exactly how I was with my mom on her first trip to Europe.  Hours later, when she could finally relax and enjoy the amenities, the mother couldn’t stop smiling about how fun and exciting this all was.  I had seen that smile before…

Midway through the flight, I had a chance to talk more with the daughter, and asked if they needed any help or advice on Paris.  She informed me they were only transferring in Paris, they were actually headed to Rome.  I asked what the occasion was—she told me they scheduled a mother/daughter trip to Rome.  Her mother always wanted to see the Vatican, she said.

When she said that,  I looked across the aisle at her mother, who was listening to us.  She flashed a smile and a nod.  I pretended to need  something from my seat for a second, so I could turn away and regain myself.  I suggested she visit the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary while she was there, and explained why.  She said she was an animal person and it sounded great; I told her to go take a peek at the office, and the plaque on the gate was in honor of my mother.

In that minute she put the pieces together, and knew why the idea of taking her mother to Rome was something this strange man was so invested in.  She bit her lower lip and cocked her head in that universal  ‘I’m sorry’ look.  I just smiled and told her to relish every minute.  She smiled and nodded.

Deboarding the plane, I offered to help guide them to their connecting gate.  Charles de Gaulle airport is infamous for being difficult to navigate if you have to transfer flights there.  As we walked through the terminal, her mother frequently stopped and fell behind.  Eventually she said she was having some kind of pain in her leg, and she couldn’t walk anymore.  CDG being the black hole of customer service that it is, there were no airport staff nearby to help.  I had all the time in the world, so I offered to carry the mother to the next gate.  Although we agreed it would be hilarious, she instead just asked for me to support her by the arm so she could keep weight off that leg.

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Eventually, we got to a point where I couldn’t stay with them and still be able to get my baggage behind immigration.  I pointed out where to walk to, and wished them luck making their flight.  The mother grabbed my forearm and said “thank you so much, sir, you’re an angel”.  All I could think to reply was “actually ma’am, I think you are”.  The daughter smiled and waved, and I turned to head in to Paris.  For whatever reason, now I was sure this was the right idea.

I guess that’s where faith comes in.


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