And then it was time to fly back.
At 4pm on the 18th, having long booked a late flight to Orly and a room at the Ibis Orly hotel in order to catch the next day’s 10am flight to KL, I was informed that the flight was delayed … to 7:30pm – only to be rescheduled overnight to 10:20pm – more than twelve hours altogether.
(The airline’s only gesture was to provide us with a free dinner around 7:30pm at the airport; when a night’s airborne rest later we were woken up three hours before landing, AA didn’t have the decency to offer coffee or fruit juice to passengers free of charge but those who had paid for it in advance got their dinner … at 8am French and body time. Feeling like puking at the salmon’s fumes, I returned mine and literally had to beg for a cup of hot black coffee – got one without being charged five rupiah I didn’t have and was probably the only one on the plane to be such favoured. On the KL–Bangkok flight, feeling ravenous after dieting for thirteen hours, I asked for any makan I would pay for. All set dishes were sold out. I ended up with a bowl of noodles – 60 baht, 1.5 euros.)
At 5pm on the 18th still in Toulouse, I went out to buy a 20cl flask of pastis at the Casino shop on avenue de Lavaur to drink later that night and maybe the next day in the late hours at Orly. At 8pm, a Blagnac airport goon ‘confiscated’ it, claiming that only 10cl of ‘liquid’ was allowed. There is no 10cl pastis for sale. The stooge threatened me with arrest and detention when I uncorked the flask and poured some pastis into his water goblet. I had to let him have it. I thought too late I should have spit in it before relinquishing it.
The liquid rule absurdity was never more obvious than later in the trip, when I got a small plastic bottle of water on board the AA flight to KL, drank most of it and then slipped it into my bag, only to have it ‘confiscated’ prior to the AA connecting flight to Bangkok. There wasn’t even 10cl of liquid left in it. Plain, clear drinking water, for fuck’s sake!
In the long hours of waiting at Orly airport the next day, I befriended a French pastry cook based in the Langkawi and told him about the pastis flask, among many other anecdotes we exchanged about customs madness. He had paid through the nose for 30kg of baggage, he said, and besides had marzipan in his cabin luggage. I felt exultant when, meeting him again past the checkpoint, he told me that, upon his marzipan being ‘confiscated’, he had remembered my remark about spitting and deliberately dropped the marzipan to the floor and stepped on it before handing it over with a grin.
I do wish more would behave like him, and actively show their displeasure instead of behaving like sheep. It’s quite dispiriting witnessing crowds of travellers going hastily through the motions of shearing themselves of metal to get that silliness everyone resents over with a.s.a.p. or enduring the pilfering of their belongings without ever bleating. They are as complicit in their misery as those who, enjoying their modicum of power by the book, enforce it on them by claiming that these are the rules and there’s nothing they can do about it – which is what torturers big and small the world over always reply as if they had no mind of their own, no common sense and no humanity. Starting with drinking water, you end up with Buchenwald.
At Orly, the checking of my bag produced another item of contention: a three-year-old small tube of shaving cream which I was told was exactly the size of some terrorist device, but had been taken off the list of dangerous items only last month. Ah, then, those silly rules can be changed?
I’ve kept the height of drollery for the end: you may remember Chart Korbjitti’s and my cheese chokes at the hands of the Paris Roissy vulture the last time we ventured out (‘Une histoire de fromages’, 22.10.2009). This time, chat échaudé, I didn’t bother feeding the creatures. But only weeks earlier, my daughter had to face them.
Thanks to her end-of-year bonus, she had gone to see her grandfather for a week and left him one week before he died. On the return trip, she made the mistake of putting a hermetic translucent box of stinking cheese her father loves into her cabin luggage instead of her suitcases. There were four sorts of cheese: camembert, reblochon, maroilles and munster. At Roissy, the vultures lectured her on cheese. There were two sorts of cheese, they lied: firm cheese, allowed, and soft cheese, verboten. Whereupon they deemed camembert and reblochon soft cheeses and ‘confiscated’ them and let her (me) have the firm maroilles and munster. How kind of them! How humane! May they call their swindling Blagnac colleague, start on my pilfered pastis and rot their guts in hell!