Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dubai to Paris and then some unpleasantness

Okay, some more stream-of-consciousness rambling that I wrote during the flight. Then there's a description of what happened after landed.

Part 1: flight

It should be illegal to broadcast a wifi network using the word 'free' if that network is not, in fact, free. I don't mind if things *aren't* free – no one is obliged to provide a service for free, after all – but I get very angry when someone claims something is free when it isn't.

Hmm, maybe I didn't get that much sleep during the Adelaide-Dubai flight as I first thought, 'cause I'm feeling pretty wretched right now.

And we also just took a different flight path than the one I took last time – one that didn't allow as good a view of the Burj. So that was annoying.

But now we're on our way to Paris.

So far I have amused myself with movies during this leg – for a few different reasons, not the least of which is that I'm now in an A380, which has a bigger entertainment screen than the 777 I was on before.

So, I rewatched Tangled, one of my favourite Disney films. And the range includes a half dozen or so filmed Shakespeares from The Globe – and since one of those is the first play I did, A Midsummer Night's Dream, I've opted for that. Here's the IMDB page.

So far it's been quite different from any of the productions I've seen (or done) before – the mechanicals were introduced via a kind of rustic tap number. Oh, wow. This is the campiest, slapstick version of this show I've seen – and yes, that includes the extremely campy and slapstick version I was in. They've got Bottom as a terrible underactor, as opposed to the usual terrible overactor. It's pretty funny, I guess, but I don't like it as much as when he's a complete ham. I also didn't like that much of it was very shouty, for no apparent reason. Still, it was pretty good overall.

We're flying over Venice! Maybe.

Mountains with snow. Also, how bloody big is the wing on an A380?

I feel like complete crap. It's going to be a struggle to do very much other than collapse into bed once I get to the apartment, even though I'd like to stay up for a couple more hours so I can get adjusted to local time – not much point if I wake up at 3am and can't get back to sleep.

Part 2: unpleasantness

Sunday afternoon at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport means slow lines through border control because there weren't many staff on. And I did wind up stuck behind two consecutive people who had to have protracted conversations with the officer before I got my turn. However, once I was there it was a case of them looking at my passport, looking back at me, scanning the passport and stamping it – far less effort than it took me when I went through Heathrow back in 2014, where I had a short interview.

Then came the not fun at all process of waiting at the luggage retrieval. I always feel terribly anxious during this part, since I don't feel it's anywhere near secure enough. People just grab bags off the conveyor; who the heck's to know if they've got one that isn't theirs? My unhappiness about this hasn't been increased since Emirates left my bag in Dubai on my way home in 2014 (it got delivered the next day). But I was a lot more worried here because I'd be almost completely screwed – or, at the very least, seriously inconvenienced – if I didn't get my bag here. Eventually, though, it came out.

So, I went to find a payphone so I could make the two phone calls I needed to make – one to the shuttle service I'd booked a transfer to the city with, and the other to the guy from the apartment rental company who'd be meeting me to give me the keys and show me around the place.

There aren't many payphones at Charles de Gaulle, but I found one, and waited for the guy to finish using it so I could have my turn. I dialled the number I had on my instructions. Nothing. I look at the screen, where it was telling me (in French) that I need to insert money.

I didn't have money. I didn't have money because I'd been told I didn't need money; the calls were toll free. I very specifically double-checked this with the apartment people so that I wouldn't be faced with this precise problem when I arrived.

For fuck's sake. So, I tried assorted variations on the number, based on the assorted prefixes one could use. Still nothing.

To say I was frustrated by this would be an understatement. I very much hate it when things don't work the way they should even when I haven't a) gone without as much sleep as I'd have liked to get, and b) flown halfway across the fucking world in a country where I didn't speak the language and had very few options available to me if this couldn't be resolved.

But I kept trying. I attempted to buy a calling card from the dispenser. It wasn't working. Eventually I tried the credit card option – and the first card I tried didn't work. That caused even more concern because I wasn't 100% sure it wasn't a problem with the card, as it was a new one I'd specifically obtained for the trip. So, I might have an additional problem to deal with, even if I got this other mess sorted out.

I tried with another credit card. After many attempts (thanks to the unhelpful diagram on the phone and the instructions – in French, naturally) I got a result – but it was a recorded voice telling me that it wanted to quote me how much it would cost. "Fine", I thought, "the amount it was asking for in coins was 2€, I was happy to pay that.

Hence my surprise when the recorded voice said that it would be 10€ for the first minute and then 1€ (or something like that) for every minute after that.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

I assume I'd made some kind of mistake and didn't opt to connect the call and try again. Nope, same result. Eventually I realised this was probably the only way I had of getting hold of the person I was depending on to let me into the apartment. So, I agreed and I got put through to a number, and eventually it was answered.

Success? Not at first. I struggled to get anything out of the guy, which led to the brief, horrifying supposition that he had no idea who I was or why I was calling, and that I'd been scammed into forking out thousands of dollars for an apartment hire that didn't exist.

This was not a pleasant experience. I then got a bit shouty until it finally became clear that he was the person and he did, in fact, have the keys to the apartment and would be meeting me there later that afternoon. I then tried to explain to him that I had been unable to contact the shuttle bus people in order to get me from the airport into the city, but he seemed even more confused by that so I decided he wasn't going to be any help with that and hung up.

Oh, the eventual cost of that phone call? $27 Australian (I know 'cause I checked my credit card statement). Fucking unbelievable.

Anyway, it was time to try the same method again with the shuttle people, even though I was fully aware of how much it would likely cost if the conversation were a prolonged one. I'd paid for a goddamn shuttle bus, and a shuttle bus I would have.

Or not.

For whatever reason, the recorded voice – after reminding me of how much money its bloodsucking fucking asshole owners were going to gouge me for – told me that the number was unable to be reached (or something like that).

I may have sworn out loud a little. Or a lot. I thought that was pretty reasonable in the circumstances, given that what I would have liked to have done – and very seriously contemplated doing – was rip the payphone out of its housing and throw it on the ground. But I managed to control that particular urge.

A woman nearby had heard my numerous rants/swears/tirades and asked if I needed any help; I told her of my situations and she very kindly offered to call the number on her mobile phone – and it worked perfectly for her. They didn't seem particularly interested in helping me, since I was well behind the schedule I'd been given based on my arrival time – despite the fact it was their phone not working that had put me so far behind. But they agreed to come at pick me up at '15' in ten minutes.

So, off I rushed to the other end of the terminal where cars/buses/taxis left from. I got most of the way around before stopping (sensibly) to check a map to look for '15'. But the map I looked didn't show a '15' – it stopped at 13 (or 14; I can't remember exactly right now).


Of course I couldn't call them again; I didn't have the means. So, desperate, I looked around for anything that had a '15' on it – it obviously wasn't a number anyone in France likes, because anything involving it is horribly undersigned (that should have been a clue to what happened later); the only thing I could find was an alley in the underground parking. I didn't know what else to do, so that's where I went.

Wrong choice – though it took me a while before that became obvious. So, I headed back upstairs and decided to keep looking, even though ten minutes had well passed by this stage. I kept walking past the ascending gate numbers, even though the map didn't go as high as 15.

Then I saw there was a 15. It just wasn't on the fucking map. I went to the gate, just on the off-chance they were still there – and the actual door to 15 was closed for repairs. So, even if I had gotten that far within ten minutes, I might have still missed it because I'd have had to go all the way back to 14, go outside and then up to 15 that way.

"Fuck it", I said to myself, "I'm catching a taxi."

Thankfully, the taxi driver was polite, friendly and completely okay with my mangling of French. He got a very angry, extremely paranoid me (expecting the worst, I literally went into fight-or-flight mode every time we stopped in traffic; had anyone try to reach into the cab I suspect I'd have taken their arm off at the elbow) to where I hoped my apartment was – though I know that it was the right street 'cause I'd looked at it on Google street view.

That counts as a win, even if it cost 50€ that, by booking a shuttle, I shouldn't have had to spend.

Another win: the guy *was* there to meet me. He let me into the apartment and showed me around. I had another minor panic attack when he said the washing machine/dryer combo was just a dryer - since the number one reason I was staying in an apartment rather than an hotel was so I could do laundry, and had picked this particular one because it had a washing machine. But on closer inspection he realised it was a combo.

Let's just say I'm not wild about the people this company chooses to employ and do business with – though that's somewhat balanced out by the great location of the apartment; more on that another time.

He left. I collapsed on the bed. After I while I realised I needed to do a few things, specifically to let people back in Australia know I was still alive. So, I typed in the (extremely long) wifi password from the back of the device next to the tv set on the chest of drawers – expecting, given how the day had gone, for it to not work first time (if at all); lo and behold, it connected.

Another small win.

However, I was still in a state of both exhaustion and annoyance; I therefore opted to not do anything else that evening other than unpack a bit, have a shower and go to bed. This plan became somewhat flawed when I realised that while I'd been provided with towels, I had not been provided with soap.


So, after having my soapless – but otherwise pleasant – shower (the water was hot and sufficiently pressured), I went to bed.

It pretty much could only improve from here.

Note: Please don't suggest to me the things I could have done other than what I did. After I'd gotten some rest, I realised there were a whole bunch of things I could have tried; that, of course, is the benefit of being clear-headed, which – given that I'd been awake for the best part of 40 hours (apart from whatever it was I got during the first leg of the flight, which I don't think was all that much, and it certainly wasn't enough to put me at full mental capacity) – I most certainly was not. I was also very nervous and more than a little emotional, neither of which is what you want to be when trying to make decisions.

I was also furious at having been misled, which didn't help either.

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