My trip from Paris to New Jersey was partially easy and partially exhausting. The easy part was that I got three seats to myself on the half-empty Air Canada flight from Paris to Montreal, so I got to take naps and relax; also their new entertainment system was quite good as well.
The exhausting part was where that flight was 1 hour and 40 minutes late boarding and taking off, seriously cutting into my original 2 hour 21 minute gap between that flight and my connection to Newark, where my brother-in-law was waiting to pick me up. To make my odds of catching the second plane better, I arranged to move to the front of the plane shortly before landing, so that I could be one of the first off the plan and sprint through customs to the next flight. I knew it would be a very close call and there were no guarantees I'd make the second flight at all, because when passing through Montreal en route to the U.S., travelers must clear customs IN CANADA now. The only good part was that I would not have to reclaim my checked baggage; they have a system in place where they scan an image of your suitcase, show it to you on a computer monitor at customs so that you can verify it is your suitcase, and THEN they let you pass through to U.S. Passport Control. But still -- it's an extra step in the connection process and it takes time.
And time is exactly what I did not have. So any shortcut I could find, I would use.
WELL. I got through the jetway first, speed-walking like I've never speed-walked before. Up the escalator. Down a hallway, jogging a little. And I was halfway down the people-mover (still speed-walking) before I realized I had somehow managed to drop BOTH my cell phones - French iPhone and American flip-phone - in the plane, because they were not in my pants pocket where I had put them before deplaning.
TOTAL PANIC!!! I turned around and ran the wrong way on the people-mover because I didn't want to wait until I got to the end to turn around and go back. Down the stairs next to the escalator I had just ascended. Just as I got near the jetway, the guy who had been seated next to me at the end of the flight spotted me, and stopped me to say he had FOUND my phones, and had handed them to one of the flight attendants! Thanking him profusely, I continued my mad dash. Like a salmon swimming against the tide, I pushed through the crowd of people still leaving the plane in the jetway (politeness be damned) and got to the door of the plane. I looked at the flight attendant at the door and said, "Two cell phones?!" and her colleague turned around with both my phones in her hand. SUCCESS!
But now, I had lost even more time to catch my flight. Mentally kicking myself but shrugging it off, I retraced my steps, literally elbowing people out of my way and not caring what they thought. I was a woman on a mission: CATCH THAT DAMN PLANE!
I got to the U.S. Connections desk, where there is only one agent and you have to wait in line while they verify your boarding pass and direct you where to go next. And wouldn't you know it, I got behind a spry-looking but very slow-moving and quite chatting old geezer who hadn't a care in the world as he was heading toward HIS flight. he just wanted to shoot the breeze... and I began to wish I had elbowed HIM out of the way and cut in front of him at the desk.
Finally, it was my turn, and I was again on my way. Down another long passageway, I turned a corner, and spotted one of those golf carts about 50 yards away, stopping to offer to pick up another customer. I yelled, "STOP! PLEASE STOP!" and started chasing after the cart, with other people looking at me like I was bloody deranged. I suspect I looked the part by then: hair a mess and sweat streaming down my red, hot face. No gym workout could have been harder.
The golf cart mercifully stopped as I ran up to it, thanking the driver. He proceed to drive us down the hall and around another corner... where he stopped because we had to go through another checkpoint (good grief, Canada!) before taking an escalator down to a lower level where we would go through Canadian passport control and the "Is this your luggage?" video baggage claim, followed by U.S. passport control just afterward.
Luckily - no line! I was one of the early arrivals, but I still only had 20 minutes to catch the plane and I was worried I would miss the cut-off when they close the doors before push-back. The Canadian passport lady cleared my boarding pass and passport, but... they had no information yet on my checked suitcase! I guess it hadn't yet been taken off the other plane and an image scanned. So she directed me to take a seat and watch a monitor screen for my name, and when my name would start flashing, I could come back to her desk. I said that I didn't mind if my suitcase came with me, but she insisted I HAD to get my suitcase or I couldn't go through. Bitch.
Minutes ticked by, and NO ONE'S name was flashing on that screen (there were about seven people in the same boat). I was freaking out by this time. I've never in my life missed a flight, and if I missed this one it wouldn't even be my fault.
Then, I heard the U.S. passport agent asking a small group of people nearby if any of them had a flight coming up immediately, and one man said, "My flight is at 5:30." So I piped up: "And mine is at 5:16!" I rushed up to the agent and said, "Listen, I'm staying with family in the U.S. and I don't CARE if my suitcase is not on this flight with me, but *I* need to be on that flight! Can you let me pass through please?" So, he took me and the other guy through, and cleared us to continue without any assurance our suitcases would be on our flights. If they didn't make it, they'd be sent on later and we'd have to deal with the airline to retrieve it or have it sent to us. So much for that Canadian bitch and her assertion that I HAD to wait for my suitcase!
I broke into another sprint becuase of course my gate was at the end of the terminal. And I was rewarded for all my effort, sweat and anxiety because the gate was still open, and 2 minutes later I was in seat 6A, calling my brother-in-law in New Jersey to say: "I'M ON THE PLANE! AND WE'LL BE ON TIME! SEE YOU SOON!"
In the end, although I left Paris so late and had so much aggravation, I got to Newark right on time. And in a rare airport miracle, my suitcase made it onto the flight AND was one of the first ones to roll onto the baggage carousel. Ten minutes later, my BIL arrived, I had my first family hug in a year, and we were headed toward home.
I love my family. I do not love Air Canada, however. This was one unnecessarily rough rentrée.