For some reason the trip started out seeming curiously unreal, as though nothing was out of the ordinary and I wouldn't be thousands of miles from home by the end of the day. Do this, go there, nothing strange.
I flew American Airlines this time, and they were able to check my bag all the way to Geneva. That helps a lot. And American boards passengers in groups, which is a huge improvement over the Air France free-for-all scrimmage. Though it would make a lot better sense to board special passengers first, and then board in groups from the back of the airplane. I sat by a Tennessee lady returning home from a "Pampered Chef" sales getogether. She said the mechanics were required to fly on the plane they just fixed.
O'Hare was nice and dull. Duty free shops don't hold a lot of attraction for me. I kept reading Dogs of God (of which more anon) until boarding call. A seat was broken, so one woman had to take a special seat. Which was odd, since the one next to me was empty. Unfortunately, having the empty seat didn't help with stretching out. The armrests are too low, and having my arms hang interferes with sleep. As does the roar. The tune stuck in my head didn't help: of all the chilling songs to go through a parent's head If He Walked into My Life from Auntie Mame must rank as one of the worst.
American lost no opportunity to make sales for extras: duty-free 'goods' in their catalog or booze at $5 per bottle. The middle of each block of three seats had a phone you could call from at any time: just swipe your credit card.
Movies on the big screen--no choices. The CBS evening lineup takes a lot less time without commercials, and would probably have been equally good with the sound on. Something called Taxi involved the most amazing mumming and writhing on the part of what must have been the dispatch man. Chaplin he isn't: without the sound you can't tell anything. Then Pride and Prejudice, which I'd recently seen (good movie, but I was still trying to see if sleep was possible), and something called Best of Show about dog shows. Odd. Maybe if I kept my eyes open more often I'd have figured out what was going on.
Then of course the sun came up like thunder, reflected off the clouds. I'm not sure why the airlines consider yogurt to be a food, much less a breakfast food. I tried it, but found no reason to discard my old notions.
I can't say much about the Brussels airport, except that you have to walk for quite a while down some very dull corridors. Geneva was foggy, so the incoming plane was late and I got to watch a four-year-old making like an airplane and a bunch of grumpy business-types complaining loud and long on cell phones. The flight was only 2/3 full; every other seat was empty. My row-mate was a woman with an attractive face but oddly long and bloodless fingers--who read short sections of English and Flemish newspapers. She never seemed to finish anything, from the newspapers to the "meal."
I was in the last row, and my bag was about the last item left on the carousel. Out through the "nothing to declare" gate, and now to find the bus stop. Back and forth among the taxis; a sign here and a sign there but nothing I remember at all. Light dawns: this is the lower level.
With my bags I took up an unconscionable amount of room, which I was truly sorry for as the hinged bus fills up and a lad with a cast needs to find a seat. Bouchet is my stop, where it turns out the stop lights are out and work crews escort people across the street. I picked the wrong intersection, and missed my bus. No matter, another would be along in 12 minutes. And so it was. The whole area was loaded with children--I guess school lets out at 14:00 hereabouts. Some high-school-ages boys tried to see if a roll of plastic will trail behind the bus as it unrolls (it doesn't; it pulls free and falls behind) and left us with a string of firecrackers in one of the metal trash bins when they exit.
The buses are hinged in the middle. They stop at every stop (the motor turns off!), and if you want out from your section you push the button on the stantion. If you want in, you push the button by the door (there are 2 double-wide doors per bus section). Actually there are two buttons: one is marked with a stroller, and I suppose holds the door longer. You buy a ticket at the ticket machine, and nobody normally checks whether you have one or not--but sometimes an inspector is on the bus, and I understand the fine is substantial if you are riding without one.
My CERN badge didn't fit in my pocket, so I wore it all the way from Madison. The guard at the gate looked at it as I went by 10 feet away, and I was in--now to find the hostel and room and park my bags.
Of course there was a message stapled to my paperwork--a nice way to get in touch with people when you don't know their arrival. I dumped my bags in my room (5'th floor corner--it got pretty cold that night), and went off to change some money and get the laptop working in DHCP mode again. And then the day's work started.