Dystopian Voyage Home

There’s nothing quite so depressing as the final walk from your hotel or apartment to the Métro as you make your way to the airport. You realize all that you didn’t accomplish and you regret every bakery you’ve yet to step foot into. I knew that Paris and I will meet again soon, if I don’t go at least once a year I lose my mind, but as I say in every blog post about France, it’s my hometown, and I’m always homesick.

After eating a plate full of pastries:

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I quickly dressed in all the new clothes that I had bought in Nice, and feeling like an elegant vampire, I swooped down upon the street. It was a chilly, grey day, but that is okay in Paris.

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Goodbye, my friend.

The trains were fast, and it wasn’t long before I was collecting my ticket at the Aer Lingus counter.

I was randomly selected for an intimate pat down, which is fine, but then they took my carefully packed bag apart. It feels so insulting when this happens. I don’t mind extra security, but can the security guards be a bit more personable? If you’re going to treat me like a potential terrorist, at least be careful of my antique espresso set that I have delicately arranged. It’s only decent.

Sitting at the gate as I waited to board the plane to Dublin, I wondered why airports all around the world put their crappiest restaurants and cafés after security. All the good restaurants are before, which just doesn’t make any sense. Everybody’s rushing through security, so there’s going to be a healthy crowd of people afterwards waiting to eat something. I don’t want a cellophane wrapped sandwich, you know? So I settled on a café crème that came out of a machine. Quite good, actually.

I’m one of those annoying people at airports during boarding. I keep my ticket hidden inside my passport so that nobody can see my boarding section. Then I linger outside the line before quickly darting in and boarding. This was my last chance to be Parisian, and I took advantage of the moment to board before most of the plane.

I watched a magnificent film named Jackie’s Back as I flew across the English Channel, over England, Wales, and Scotland before landing in Ireland. It was a documentary parody about a woman named Jackie Washington who had the potential to be as iconic as Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson, but she spiraled out of control. I squealed with laughter the entirety of the flight, and I’m quite sure my fellow passengers were glad to be rid of me. Whatever! I was living my best life. Here’s my new theme song:

I rather like the Dublin airport. I had plenty of time to catch my flight and there was a champagne bar. So that’s where I sat for a while, looking elegant in Zara and H&M while sipping on good champagne and a bunch of roasted, salted nuts.

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A glass of champagne is ALWAYS a good idea.

Nuts are really quite a filling luncheon, and I wish that I could have that combination every day. It’d make life a little more grand.

Then I entered a dystopian universe.

Americans who don’t leave the country don’t realize how weird America is. This is especially clear in airports. When you go to any other country in the world, you’re treated with a bit of respect. The passport control people are decent, and the customs people rarely give you any hassle. Going to America is overwhelming. First, you have to fill out a customs form, which is fine, but then you have to go through this bizarre pre-clearance process. I’ve never seen anything like it. Normally you have your passport checked when you land, but now it’s all done before you even board the plane.

So you go to a kiosk where your passport is scanned and then a photograph is taken of you. You can’t smile, so you can only do your best to look like a model instead of a serial killer.

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I think I did quite a good job, so I’m thrilled that this is the image of me to be found on government computers. After your certificate prints out, you have to go to another line where actual Americans are sitting behind counters with giant pictures of President Obama and Joe Biden hanging behind them. They’re smiling in these portraits, so it feels vaguely sinister. In fact, the entirety of the process was unsettling with all those American flags hanging all over the wood paneled walls. Rather like being in one of those movies about the dystopian governments in alternative realities. I won’t deny that I was uncomfortable as a scanner read all of my fingerprints, I was interrogated about my career, and then an image of my checked bag flashed on the screen. It was bizarre. There’s no elegance in flying these days. We’re all a bunch of convicts. 

Then you get to go through the entire security process again. I nearly threw my arms up in exhaustion. I need to have enough money to only fly private from now on. So, I removed my boots, and my jacket, and I emptied my bag, and I took off my watch, and I sighed as the line barely moved. There were Americans all over, and no matter what my passport says, I’m not one of them. I’m no stereotype, I’m a citizen of the world.

Finally, we boarded the plane, and I had an aisle row, which I immensely prefer, so I was happy. The person next to me was thin and sleepy, so we didn’t do battle for the arm rest or space. The plane itself was modern and there was a decent selection of things to watch on the screen. It was probably the most pleasant intercontinental flight I have ever experienced. The food was mediocre, but the wine was all right. And I finally got to hear something over the intercom that I’ve long wanted to hear:

“IS THERE A DOCTOR ON BOARD? ANY MEDICAL PERSONNEL?”

I sat right up in my seat and started watching drama unfold about ten rows up. I never did figure it out, and there was never a corpse, just a worried looking man who kept pacing the aisles. I’m glad he didn’t die, but that would have made an excellent story.

It didn’t seem to take very long to cross the Atlantic, and we were soon descending into Chicago. We had gone through the legalities back in Ireland, so we were all free to go the second we touched ground. This was actually rather a nice thing, but it still felt so strange being processed like that before even making landing in America. I had checked a bag, so I had to wait in an endless line. My gentlemanly disposition cursed me because I was assisting an older man get his bag. Every time he saw a black bag, he assumed it was his, so together we hauled it off the conveyor belt. But it was never was his. So we did it again. And again. And again. It happened probably six times before I excused myself.

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I was hungry and I wanted to stop at Ralph Lauren’s for a salad and soup before catching my bus home. The trains took forever, though, and then the Brown Line was down, so I went to Giordano’s and had some bruschetta and a whiskey sour before wandering off into the somewhat dangerous darkness around Union Station to get my bus home. It was early and I had a reserved seat and it was fine.

Watching the city fade away, I wasn’t happy nor was I sad, I was already planning my next trip. NEW YORK CITY, HERE I COME!

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