January 1st, 2004.

French service.
An unfinished 'Meanwhile.'

The following article was left unfinished and unedited and should be read as such. Notes can be found below the article.

Aside from cheese, a few old paintings, and the occasional pretty girl with a sexy accent, has anything good ever come out of France?

I only ask because I am currently searching for a reason to like French things at the moment as I sit here on this Air France flight from Boston to Paris. A flight that was delayed for nearly five hours, which I understand isn't all that bad for an Air France flight.

Of course I shouldn't be so ignorant to judge an entire country based upon a few bad experiences, and I won't, but perhaps meeting one of those occasional pretty girls with a sexy accent would help balance out my feelings about the French right now.

This is a tale that started before Christmas when Delta told me that the flight I booked to Boston from the UK was being 'carried' by Air France. Things didn't get off to a good start when my Boston flight was severely delayed in Paris. I ignored this though. Charles De Gaulle airport is an interesting place, and as strange as it may seem I quite like airports as they are good places to people watch.

When we eventually boarded the plane I found myself sitting in front of a sweet little old French lady. Shortly after the much delayed take off I decided to recline my seat and try to catch up on a little sleep. Moments later though I was abruptly jolted back into the upright position by the old lady behind. I thought maybe she had not meant to jolt me forward like that so I carefully began to recline the seat once more. But as soon as I reclined and I sat back into the seat the little old lady once more rudely barged me forward again. She didn't speak English but was clearly telling me that if I reclined the seat on this nine hour journey she would be uncomfortable, as if this was somehow my problem.

We touched down in Boston in a fashion that resembled that of a crash landing. The pilot swerved around at high speed for a while which worried me somewhat as Boston Logan airport has impossibly short runways and landing strips.

Once off the plane the luggage was fed into the collection area at the rate of about one bag a minute. My first bag came through quickly so I was pleased. However the second article wasn't so forthcoming, and after a long while it was clear it was unlikely to surface. Eventually, along with 51 other people on this one flight, I had to report my luggage lost.

At this stage I was feeling pretty awful due to the fact that I had a sinus infection and because of work commitments I didn't get any sleep whatsoever the night before the flight. This situation meant that the single member of staff taking lost luggage reports actually had an easy ride from me as I simply wasn't up to my usual standard of complaining at poor service.

A lengthy process of form filling and luggage describing left me with an assurance that while the luggage wasn't where it was supposed to be, it was not in fact lost and would be with me tomorrow at the same time. Inconvenient, but not the end of the world.

The next day at six o'clock I was beginning to become concerned for my not-lost luggage, so I rang Air France to get an update on when it would be with me.

"Sorry, your luggage missed the flight from Paris." Explained an extremely uninterested Air France member of staff.
"Your luggage, it missed the flight in Paris sir."
"It missed the flight?" The air of disbelief and bemusement in my voice would have been easy to detect.
"Yes sir."
"How exactly does that happen then? I mean it's a box. Did it ignore the boarding calls because it was in Duty Free shopping or something? I mean you know that boxes aren't able to catch flights on their own right?"
Without even the slightest bit of concern, or even pretend concern the operator says "Yes sir. It will be here later."
"Yes sir."
"Okay, I know this is all being done the French way, but what does later mean exactly?"
"Later sir."
"WHAT TIME LATER!!!" By now the conversation is beginning to annoy me.
"Something like nine or ten sir."

'Well okay' I thought 'Nine or ten isn't great, but at least it'll be here.'

Nine o'clock passed, as did ten, then eleven. No one showed up with my luggage, despite enormously detailed direction and information from me. Air France simply never showed up and their so called 'baggage service department' was closed for the night. The next days plans were now in tatters.

In actual fact it took Air France three days to relocate my luggage then reunite me with it, and through all of that not a word or regret or a whisper of an apology. This, it would seem, is the French way.

The saga continued at check in today in Boston. Circumstances had me at the airport over 6 hours before the flight, but rules did not allow me to check in more than six hours ahead of the gate opening. Aside this face, there would be no one at the Air France gate to help me for nearly three hours anyway. But the Delta staff were able to tell me that my flight to France was already delayed by one hour!

As it turns out the flight was eventually delayed for nearly five hours, messing up my connection through Paris to Manchester in the UK where a friend is due to meet me at the airport.

--- Article Notes ---

Time of death : Not specified
The initial attempt at writing the first 'Meanwhile' for 2004 ended up as a long rant about Air France that just went on too long. I wasn't really concentrating while writing this. I was throwing down words between looking out of the plane window and eating aerofood. After a short break I read what I had written and immediately ditched the article entirely.