This will be the shortest trip I have made to the U.S. so far- I arrived Wednesday and leave Sunday. I know it sounds crazy, but who wouldn’t make the trip to be part of her kid’s first college Parents Weekend?
One of the great things about living out of the country is that when you come back, everything seems new. You notice things you didn’t notice before. The good and the not- so -good. The quirky, the funny, the sad, the scary- it’s all so much more readily apparent when you see it with fresh eyes.
My flight from Paris landed in Atlanta, where I had to take a connecting flight to St. Louis. As my I filed into Passport Control with the rest of my bleary-eyed and slightly rumpled flight mates, I was pleased to see that the lines were not overly- long. Yea. The last thing you want to do after sitting on a flight for 8 hours is to stand in line for any extended period of time. The man in charge of managing the people in line was such a happy and friendly man, I found myself beaming just listening to him. “Y’all just move on up to any line you want. We want to get you on your way. Now y’all move in close! You’ve been on a plane together- y’all should be friends by now! That’s right– be people-friendly, y’all!” He really said all of those things in his booming Southern voice. Maybe not in that exact order, but he said them. Toto, I don’t think we’re in France anymore. Now, I know I am at a disadvantage in France because I don’t understand a lot of what is said to me, but I’m pretty sure that no one in the Charles de Gaulle airport EVER said anything like that to me. And I KNOW that no one there has smiled at me as broadly as he did. He was so sweet, so southern, so NOT Parisian. I knew I was home, and it felt good.
Next stop, after retrieving my bag, was security. Lines were short there, too. I was livin’ large. I put my carry-on bag and my shoes on the belt, and waited to go through the body beeper. As I am watching my bag go down the belt, I suddenly remember the water bottle I stuck in it as I left the plane. Merde. But when I slinked over to the belt to confess my sin, the security guy was all smiles. “This your bag?” Um, yes. After he opened the bag, retrieved the contraband water bottle, re-scanned it, and handed it back to me, I apologized for my over-sight. He gave me a big, forgiving smile and told me it was no trouble. Huh? Really? Awesome!
Now y’all know I LOVE Paris, I love France, and I love, love living there. So you know I’m not France- bashing here. It’s just that the U.S. (or is it just the South?) does “friendly” in a way that I can appreciate much more easily than the way the Frenchies do “friendly”. And I love it.
I had just enough time in Atlanta to find some supper before finding my gate. I took the escalator up to the food court area, and before I even surfaced I smelled it. Fried chicken! Be still my beating heart! I took a quick tour, in hopes of talking myself out of said fried chicken, but it was no use. Fried anything is hard to find in Paris. And fried chicken is unheard of.
So there it was. My first meal back in the U.S. Two fried chicken thighs (though I could only eat one), a biscuit brushed with butter-flavored spread, and a tub of mashed potatoes and gravy. Yum.
inhaled ate my dinner and found a bathroom in which to remove the greasy remnants from under my fingernails, I began to feel a little ashamed. It was kind of sad that the only aroma of the Terminal B dining area was that of fried food. It was even sadder that eating it made me so deliriously happy. Sadder still how super-sized so many of the people around me appeared to be. Could there be a causal relation at work? And the abundance of styrofoam, which is not to be found in Paris, was disheartening. We have the friendly thing down, but we have a long way to go with nutrition and the environment, people.
This fellow diner caught my eye. How could he not? Is it just me, or is there something contradictory and just plain wrong about neon and camo on the same body? Definitely don’t see that in Paris.
I know you all would love to hear more of my deep philosophical thoughts on my mother country, but I have to go now. 30 Rock is on television, and that’s something France definitely does not have. It’s so good to be home.
God Bless America, my friends!
PS- The 30 Rock episode is to be continued? Really? Next week? Double merde. Way to burst my bubble of happy, Tina Fey.