In order to travel from France to Florence, we had to get on a teeny-tiny plane full up with Italian and French businessmen, along with the usual melting pot of tourists. We had made a wild dash to make that final leg and we were the last two to board.
Our seats were assigned, but when we went to sit (more like collapse), the seats had already been taken by three French passengers; a woman with the biggest carry-on I’ve ever seen (that too, had it’s own seat) and a couple of very chatty men.
In our tired, yet ever polite way, we let the three know that two of them were in our seats (the woman and one of the men). I speak some French, so I did my best to communicate. My friend, too, implored the woman. Madame stood, looked at us in a very cliche way, and moved herself and her bag over one seat, thusly complying to provide my friend with her assigned seat but taking no consideration for the fact that I may want to sit next to my friend (it must have been a pretty special bag she was schlepping).
In my tired and wonky mental state, I wasn’t willing to push the issue with her and it was to be a short flight, regardless. Besides, technically the guy was in my aisle seat.
I turned toward the two men. The one closest to the aisle (my seat) said, in English, “You will be much more comfortable ici,” and pointed to an empty seat in front of him. Oh, would I? I thought to myself in a most sarcastic voice. Instead I smiled (the universal pleasantry) and said, “I would like to sit next to my friend, if it’s ok.”
Apparently chivalry doesn’t fly in the French skies (or ironically in first class) because he wasn’t budging. I stood there for what must have seemed like an eternity to him as my very tired brain tried to sort out (between French, Italian or English) which would be the best way to respond. He stared at me waiting, muttering to his Ami (something rude, I was pretty sure). My grumpy, tired brain decided to retreat and I plopped down into the seat directly in front of him.
Meanwhile, the flight attendant, who had been observing the interchange swooped down upon me. Oh god…was she going to make me move? I was just standing up, gathering my things when she cluck-clucked at me and smiled, saying (in a heavy French accent), that I might be more comfy in the empty seat beside the one I was in (more leg room/window seat) and handed me a glass of much needed water.
I moved over one and she picked up my purse from the floor, buckling it into the seat I’d just come from (wow they must really treat women’s bags with kid gloves in France).
The nice French attendant and I began to chat, the two of us working on our weaker languages, as I retold the mad dash story to her and she smiled in that gentle way that implies pats on the head and possible milk, cookies and stories.
I closed my eyes for a few minutes, fighting the urge to sleep for fear of the whole jet-lag thing. The plane was alive with languages. I was in my own little Tower of Babylon. Who could sleep? My friend, that’s who! She was crashed out good and I was jealous.
When I felt a little more relaxed, I peered out of the window. I generally don’t do that a lot, as I have a fear of flying, but I was glad for what I saw. Below me, majestic, gorgeous, snow-covered and simply stunning, were The Alps (though I wasn’t totally sure). So, I turned back behind me and tapped the other Frenchman’s knee. “Excusez-moi, monsieur? Qu’est-ce que c’est, là?” and I pointed in amazement below. Bored by me, or perhaps my silly question, he gestured his chin toward the window and said, “EH, It is Alps.”
“Wow,” I said to no one in particular, then turned back to him. “So amazing!” but he had already returned to his conversation.
Then I felt sad for him. He had probably grown up seeing these mountains and for him, somehow, they were old hat.
I grew up surrounded by mountains and water, in Washington State, and yet, never do I tire of seeing the gorgeous scenes that unfold there. I looked back down the plane and no one was looking out the window. I actually fought the urge to yell out “hey everybody, there are some Alps outside!” but instead, I just woke up my friend and she came right over to peer out with me.
I was thankful for The Alps, and in that moment I was thankful for a rude French guy that wouldn’t get out of my original seat where this view would’ve been his, not mine.
The moral of this blog is that I hope you, my reader, never gets so caught up in conversation, life, worry, or, for that matter, even sleep, that you miss the best parts of things, or the simplest things.
The Alps may always be out the window, but one day you won’t ever have the chance to see them again.