Wednesday, July 14, 2004

We're Going To France

Ben sat in his seat, face glued to the window with excitement as the plane passed over the coast out over the Atlantic Ocean, leaving North America behind.

Trudy and I looked at each other and smiled. She whispered to me, We're going to France!

And we pushed back in our seats and proceeded not to sleep one wink for the whole flight there.

Trip to France, Day 1
Over the Atlantic Ocean

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The Scarfed Woman

It was the beginning of our trip. A friend had braved the pouring rain to get us to the airport. We checked our bags. We got our boarding passes. We were ready to go. Along with a plane full of other people, we waited for our flight.

I first noticed her from across the waiting room. She was a big woman, tall and broad. She had a scarf over her head and a long tunic on. She walked with a distinctly non-feminine walk, something between a limp and a lumber.

She walked into the waiting area pulling a black suitcase behind her. She was very large. It seemed very small. I watched her for a few moments and then put her out of my mind.

But a minute later she walked up to us, pulling her suitcase behind. She came up to us but didn't sit down. Instead, she pushed her suitcase backwards, close to Trudy's legs. And then she turned and walked away.

She walked away!

In the middle of a mass of people waiting to board a transatlantic flight, this woman with broad shoulders and a manly walk and (forgive me) a scarf on her head walked quickly away from the suitcase that she has just pushed so close to Trudy that it seemed to belong to her.

Did you see that!? Trudy gasped.

The stunned look on my face was all the answer she needed.

Another woman sitting across from us who did not speak English was clearly distraught. She motioned with her arms and uttered a few words in a slavic accent as if to ask, Do you know her?

Trudy said, No, we don't!

Meanwhile, the scarfed woman showed no signs of returning.

As I began to try to decide what I was going to say and to whom I was going to say it, she walked across the hallway into a restroom. I kept my eyes riveted on the door. I frankly expected a large woman without a scarf and without a tunic and without a limp to come out of the bathroom soon.

A few minutes went by. The woman seated near us was looking very, very rattled. And then a large, scarfless woman did emerge from the bathroom.

My nerves began to tingle. My palms began to sweat. I prepared to stand up, not knowing what I was going to do. But before I could move, another large woman followed the first. And the second one had a limp. And she wore a tunic. And she had a scarf on her head.

She crossed the hallway and walked directly to where we sat. Without sitting down, she grabbed her abandoned suitcase, turned around and walked away.

We watched her as she left. She followed a winding path between the waiting passengers. She traced a wide circle around the room to the hallway which she had earlier crossed. And eventually, by this odd choice of route, she arrived again at the bathroom, but this time she did not go in. She walked past without stopping, pulling the suitcase behind her. Down the hallway and soon out of sight.

The woman across from us shook her head in evident disbelief. Trudy laughed. I sank back into my seat.

And a man, whom we had not previously noticed, looked over at us and said, "Ok, that was weird."

Trip to France, Day 1
Houston InterContinental Airport

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