off to New York…

There was a time, a long time ago, when I actually enjoyed traveling, especially transatlantic travel.  But that’s a distant memory now.  

It’s midnight and I’m in my flat in Paris … a nervous wreck. My flight leaves tomorrow from Charles de Gaulle airport at 11 a.m. After hunting all over the apartment for my tape measure, I finally found it and measured the dimensions of my suitcase. Check. Then I weighed my suitcase. Check. Then I measured and weighed my carry-on which is a knapsack. Check. Then I made sure that no weapons … tweezers? … were in my carry-on. Then I collapsed onto my bed. Then I got up and poured myself a glass of wine. Then I got on the internet to check the 7-day weather forecast for New York City. What??  Strong winds and an incoming surge of arctic air to blast the northeastern US this weekend. Jesus! Re-open the suitcase and throw in an extra sweater, woolly scarf, hat and mittens. It’s April, for Chrissake’s sake, not December or January!

And that’s where I’m at now. I need to finish off this bottle of wine because I’m defrosting the fridge. My friend, Lori, who I am meeting in NYC, is emailing me from Santa Rosa, California asking if I want to join her at Manhattan’s Belasco Theater to see the play, Blackbird. She already has a ticket, but informs me that tix are still available. I have read reviews that say that this excellent drama, starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, is harrowing and profoundly unsettling. No, I can’t handle harrowing right now. It’s comedy or nothing. While Lori’s at the theater, I will go to the Hayden Planetarium to catch a space show. Having recently discovered that I’m a pantheist, I’m currently into stars, the universe and sky phenomena.

I’ve never been so jittery about travelling before. Is it because I heard on the radio this morning that Brussels airport was, in reality, a disaster waiting to happen? It was revealed that a small percentage of airport personnel (baggage handlers, those who clean the inside of airplanes, and catering staff) are Islamic State (ISIS) sympathizers. Remind me never to fly out of Brussels airport. But this leaves me thinking … is Air France and Charles de Gaulle Roissy airport up to par as far as security’s concerned?

Last week a work colleague said to me, “Have you filled out your ESTA form?”

“My what?” I replied, dumbly.  “Your ESTA form,” she said, “European and other citizens need one if they want to enter the USA.”

“Oh, I’m using my Canadian passport,” I said breezily, “I don’t need an ESTA whatever-you-call-it.”  Wrong!

I then read something on the internet that sent me into a spin.  “As of April 1st, 2016, all eligible Visa Waiver Programme travellers must hold a biometric (e-chip) passport.” Again … huh? I had NO IDEA if my Canadian passport, renewed in 2013, was biometric or not. Running out of the office, I tore home, raced into my flat and opened my drawer where my two passports lived. To my dismay, I saw that my Canadian passport was not biometric, but – thank gawd! – my British passport was.  

So that meant that I was now a VWP traveller (Visa Waiver Programme) and needed to fill out an ESTA form on-line (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) and pay $14 for the privilege.

There was a time, a long time ago, when I actually enjoyed traveling, especially transatlantic travel. But that’s a distant memory now.  

What kinds of traveling calamities can happen?, I asked myself, being careful to avoid the worst. And I cast my mind back to that calamitous trip to Cuba when Air France lost my suitcase and for 2 weeks I was without clothes (other than the clothes on my back.)  I stood in line with Cubans in front of libreta stores to buy stuff. Or when that Air Canada jet, seconds before take-off, blew a tire and we skidded off the runway and landed lopsided in the grass before a brigade of fire engines came racing out to spray the entire aircraft with foam. Or that flight back from Acapulco when a female passenger died and they spread her body across three seats, leaving her feet to stick out into the aisle.  

From experience I’ve learned that in the event the airline loses your bags, all you need to have on your person are the bare essentials: your passport and your credit cards. Oh, and also your sang froid.

3 thoughts on “off to New York…

  1. Relax. Enjoy your journey. Pre-worrying never helped anyone…and NYC can be cold in April…but stores are available to purchase whatever you need. Credit cards accepted.😊

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