Anxiety on the Death Star

The airport these days can be a scary and intense place…almost anxiety-attack-inducing.

Is all metal off my body?  There is an underwire in my bra…I really hope they don’t try to take my bra, I mean, that’s just going to be uncomfortable.  Would I have to go back to my gate and check-in my bra?  Can an underwire be used as a weapon?  I doubt it but then they have also confiscated my nail scissors before…

Are all my liquids in the regulation size plastic bag?  What about my eye cream?  Is eye cream a liquid or a solid…what…oh my god, I have no idea.  Is eye cream a liquid or a solid, people?!  LIQUID OR SOLID?

Which line am I going to be in?  Is that the normal one or the scan your naked body one?  Wait, no, don’t wave me over there, I don’t want the naked body scan, it’s so awkward.  I act like I’m cool with it to the TSA people but guess what?  I’m NOT – it creeps me out.  Sh*t – I’m definitely in the naked line.

Alright, smiling at everyone, trying to hurry to get all my stuff in those bins as quickly as possible…don’t want to be that guy.  Wait, what?  I can’t put my coat in the same bin as my laptop…uh…okay TSA…I didn’t know that coats were impenetrable by X-ray machines.  Unzipping my boots, trying to not have my butt hang out the back of my pants while I bend over to do this, geez, there really is no graceful way to pull this off.  Okay – ready to go…oh my god…this is the worst…there is a hole in my sock.  I can’t BELIEVE I didn’t check my socks…I mean; this is the one time in your life when your socks get a lot of play-time, come on!

These are the thoughts that are generally running through my mind as I hurry to wipe away the water that has dribbled all over my face while I was chugging my water bottle that I forgot was in my purse. Thoughts that are the result of years of U.S.A. Homeland Security combined with years of New Zealand and Australia customs (see what happens if you try to enter New Zealand with a bit of mud on your boot…I dare ya)*.  So, on my recent trip to Munich you can imagine my nerve level trying to pack for JUST carry on.  I measured all my liquids and checked and re-checked the Lufthansa rules (while constantly considering how to properly pronounce “Lufthansa”).  The most difficult aspect was that I knew I wanted to bring my friends that I was visiting some treats from France.

“I don’t think I can take these carry-on,” I hold up the camembert and paté to MB that I had purchased to bring them.

“Quoi?”  He looks at me and blinks.  “Why not?”

“Well, on the website it says I can’t take food products more than 100ml.”  But for some reason I need a second opinion on that vague and ambiguous regulation.

“Ouaaaaais…but it’s not like it’s a bottle of wine, uh?  I’m sure it will be fine.”

“I don’t think the rules work that way,” I say to him.

He shrugs and I can almost hear his inner dialogue, “rules? Pffff….”

Now before I go any further perhaps I should explain that I am an obsessive rule follower…even jay-walking makes me itchy.  I would like to say that it is all because of my strict moral code but let’s face it – it is mostly my abhorrence to getting in trouble.  I HATE being called out for having done something wrong and I’m such a nervous rule-breaker that I ALWAYS get called out…always.  MB, on the other hand, is French.

The French seem to enjoy seeing what they can “get away with”.  I don’t even think that they are trying to “challenge” authority but rather that they all believe that authority doesn’t really apply to them (for further information read this previous post: https://breadispain.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/duck-a-lorange-in-an-ashtray/).  So, I decide to try it out and see what I can get away with – into the bag goes the camembert and paté.

As I stand in the waiting line I watch in horror as the security video plays the directions and restrictions for getting through security – there on the screen are, no joke, a jar of paté and a wheel of camembert with big X’s on them.  At this point, my palms start to sweat, maybe I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.  I’m not a rule-breaker; I’m a dork!

My nerves are on high alert as I go through security, knowing that there is something contraband in my bag.  I waltz through the X-ray and wander out to the other side to wait for my bag.  Everything seems to be fine until suddenly I see the uniformed woman walking towards me with her hand on my bag.  I hear this in my head:

(“The Imperial March” for those of you too lazy to click on the link…and if you don’t know what “The Imperial March” is, I can’t help you, you are lost forever).    I can just imagine myself walking over to her, “please Lord Airport Official!”  Then, I begin choking as she says, “you have failed me for the last time, Admiral.”  …Or something like that.

Anyway…off the Death Star and back in France she pulls me over and motions for me to unzip my bag.  As soon as I do she pulls out my zip lock bag of camembert and paté with an “AH HA” – Sherlock Holmes-y kind of move.  At this point, I realize I have a decision to make: I can come clean and just go on my way or I can try to be a cool French person and try to get away with it.  I decide to channel my inner-Frenchness.

I shrug at her and try not to smile (a French person wouldn’t).

“Ouais…” I say, before continuing in French.  “I wasn’t sure about these but, you know.”

She looks at me with narrowed-eyes and I’m not sure if a) she believes that I really didn’t know or b) respects the fact that I am bold-faced lying.  Either way, she continues.

“It is the size,” she says, “They have to be less than 100ml for the carry-on.  Do you want to go back and register them?”

I shrug.  “Pfff…non, they are just gifts.  It is a pity for my friends but not for me so, you know, who cares?” I laugh wickedly at this.

I see her apprise me once again, “the force is strong with this one.”  She then laughs at my joke** before leaning in conspiratorially.

“You know,” she says speaking in a low voice.  “If this was duck, no problem…it’s just the pork.  You will know for next time, uh?”

I smile at her and start to put my bag back together.  Ah well, so I wasn’t able to keep my contraband…MB probably would have managed it but that is okay; I am what I am…a rule-following nerd.  Breaking the rules is uncomfortable on me.  And who knows?  Maybe France is becoming more stringent about these things, I mean; it is the airport after all.  If there is anywhere that regulations are followed it is here, right?

I zip up my bag and turn to walk towards my gate but not before noticing the Airport Official with my bag of food.  I see her turn to put it in the “discard” bin and then stop suddenly.  An inner war seems to be waging in her mind.  She looks down at the bag containing my unopened jar of paté and full wheel of camembert and then she sets it next to the bin as opposed to inside of it.  I laugh to myself, we are still in France – all is not lost.  Contraband paté and fromage will be served on the Death Star tonight.

*For the record, Australia took not one but two packages of grits on two separate occasions away from me because they were suspect.  It’s ground corn…that is all!

** The French have a little bit of a “mean girl” complex.  They like mean humor and jokes – it amuses them.  I will perhaps write on this topic soon.  If you need further explanation rent: Le Dîner de Cons.  That is the French film that “Dinner for Schmucks” destroyed.

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A Visit from France on the Occasion of My One Year Anniversary

France:  “Bon anniversaire!  Bon anniversaire, bon anniversaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaire, bon anniversaire!”

France is standing at my front door holding a cake with candles and singing.  I look confused.

France:  You going to let me in, huh?  I don’t know, maybe you prefer I stand here all day with this cake that I bring for you.  I mean, you know, it is warm out here, non?  Just February, just a deep freeze all through Europe.  No, it is fine; I will just stand here until you are ready, huh?

Me:  Oh right, so sorry, come on in France!  What is the occasion?

France:  Oh la la la la…you are serious?  All the same, you Americans.  I can smoke in here?

Me:  No, actually we don’t smoke in th—

France has already lit a cigarette and is walking around the apartment.

France:  So you don’t know what today is?

Me:  Uhhh…no?

France:  This is your one year anniversary in France!  I don’t know, maybe this is not important to you, I can go.  Enjoy your day, Americaine!

France says “Americaine” like an accusation.

Me:  Oh wow!  You are so right – I can’t believe I missed it!

France looks at me petulantly.

Me:  It’s just been so wonderful that the time has gone too quickly; it never seemed like a year already!

France is placated.

France:  Hhmmff.  Well, what do you have to drink?  Let’s have some wine, huh?

Me:  It’s 10am.

France:  You exhaust me.

Me:  I just (I realize defense is futile)…I’m sure I have something.

France:  What is this thing you people say, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”.

France starts laughing maniacally and chokes on cigarette smoke.

France:  (*cough cough* ) Sooooooooo (*cough cough)* stoopeede! (stupid)

I give France a very serious look.

Me:  You know, I can play the song for you if you would like.

France:  You have the song?!

More maniacal laughter.

France:  That is too good, that is great, I love you people!

I smirk at France’s amusement and pull out a bottle of red wine.

Me:  This is okay?

France:  Oui, parfais!  Vin rouge with a chocolate cake.  This makes sense.  Maybe we have some cheese first.  There is cheese yes?

France looks at me with narrowed eyes and suddenly I feel like I am being tested.

Me:  Cow, sheep, goat?  Which would you like?  Perhaps I put out some of each?

The side of France’s mouth twitches, threatening to turn into a smile before being consciously pushed back into a line of disinterest.

France:  Ouais, meexte (mixed) is good.

Me:  Ah – I don’t have baguette though!

France shrugs.

France:  Not a problem, of course I have baguette, huh?  I am France, non?

France pulls two baguettes out of the bag the cake came in.  Even though it is -7C (19F) they are still warm.

Me:  You know, there is some pate and cornichon as well, I can put that out too if you like.

France:  Ah ouais?

France seems surprised.

France:  Porquoi pas?

I begin to arrange the cheese on a board. 

France:  So…one year in France, what do you think?  You like eet (it); do you think you are different?

Me:  Why France, you never ask questions like this!  It’s so personal, so concerned, are you afraid that I haven’t had a good time here?

France:  WHAT?!

France appears horrified by the implication.

France:  No!  Of course not, you eembeceele (imbecile); only a philistine would have a bad time here!  Pfff…I don’t know why I ask thees (this) at all.  C’est obvious, you have not changed a bit.

France stubs out the first cigarette and lights another.

Me:  Oh France, don’t get your panties in a bunch –

France gives me a look of utter disgust at my phrase.

Me:  Of course I have changed!  You don’t scare me as much as you used to.

I smile thinking this is funny.  I get an eye roll in return.

Me:  I have eaten many interesting things.

France:  Ouais…

Me:  Horse tartare, fromage de tete, calf brains…

France:  Pas mal…

Me:  I’ve seen a lot too!  My first trip to the Mediterranean, the French Alps, 13th Century castles…

France: …13th Century…not that old…

Me:  …the Eiffel Tower!

France:  Pffff…the Eiffel Tower…ruined Paris, you know…

Me:  I’ve learned a lot of French.  I’ve realized that French women aren’t as intimidating as I first thought…

France:  …wait until you are here longer…

Me:  I’ve eaten Dijon mustard in Dijon and boeuf bourguignon in Burgundy!

FranceBourgnone, not Burgundy.  Pffff…what is it with you Americans and bouef bourginone anyway?  You are all obessessed because of this Julia Child person.  And why can none of you pronounce bouef properly, huh?  Boooouuuueeeeffff…c’est ne pas difficile!

I put my hand on France’s shoulder and give it a little squeeze as I place the tray of cheese and pate on the table.  France makes a barely audible sniff. 

France:  Well, this is good.  You realize the good things of France; I am happy for this.

France absently turns the wine bottle on the table, looking at the label intently and I detect the lightening rapid movement as a hand wipes an eye.  Then France crushes out the second cigarette and looks at the cheese tray.

France:  Ah mon dieu, what are you doing putting the epoisse like thees (this) on the tray, no, it must go in a bowl!  Pffff…what will we do with you?

I smile at France and bring a bowl over.

France:  Maybe we keep you for a bit longer so you can finally get things right, huh?

I lift my wine glass and smile to myself.

Me:  Yes, maybe.  I want to thank you for a wonderful first year, France!

France:  Ouais…

Me:  Santé!

France:  Santé!

France raises the wine glass but doesn’t meet my eyes.

Me:  FRANCE!  You know you have to make eye contact; it’s the rules!

France looks me in the eye and gives me a broad smile.

France:  Ha!  Americaine!

And this time Americaine doesn’t sound so bad.