Exhausted from our journey we walked into Charles De Gaulle airport, Kate on crutches, and I was loaded up with six bags; two suitcases, two jam packed carry-ons and a couple of stray bags that just wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. I found a trolley and packed it to overflowing.
We had three hours ’till our flight was due to depart. The reason we had traveled to Paris in the first place was to catch a flight with enough leg room to accommodate Kate’s broken leg.
The Qantas lounge was closed due to renovations, so we had to mingle with everyone else, thousands of everyone else’s. It was like a giant dodgem car rink except the cars had been replaced by people. Everywhere we walked people would bump into us and in turn we would bump into everyone else. All the time being extra careful not to bump into the machine gun wielding police. Charles De Gaulle airport is enormous.
We found two tightly packed seats in a row of five, and we created a small dwelling using the trolley full of bags as a wall. I had Kate settled in so I went to find food, We hadn’t eaten all day.
I’m not an agoraphobic, but I could have become one in this airport. People wandered aimlessly with no apparent purpose, or was that just me.
After all of the wonderful food we had eaten in France, (even now I can taste the Bouillabaisse Del Mare), our last meal would be junk food.
I found my way back through the crowd with what passed as food and when I arrived back to Kate I immediately felt uneasy. Kate was now sitting in my seat and a young man had circumnavigated our fortress of baggage and squashed himself in next to her. I don’t know what body language tipped me off, perhaps that he was almost sitting on her lap, but I was on high alert. I just stood above this guys chair and gave him the filthiest stare until he shimmied the other half of his butt back onto his own seat. With Kate sitting with her plastered leg sticking out we were easy targets.
We both ate and as I was disposing of the rubbish I caught the young guy shrugging his shoulders to someone in the crowd. I returned back to my sentry post, standing right over this guys seat. Eventually he got up and left, again gesturing to someone in the crowd.
I relaxed a little but I was still on high alert. Instead of sitting down I stood with all of our valuables, handbags and wallets held close. Every couple of minutes I would do a 360 degree scan of the area just to make sure (of what I’m not sure). Mostly I just watched the people.
While in France the way people dressed had been an ongoing fascination of mine, particularly in Cannes. Considering that Cannes is a place where people come from all over the world to see and to be seen much of the fashion borders on the ridiculous. Suffice to say, It’s the only place I’ve seen a sixty year old balding man in hot pants, knee high colorfully striped socks, sandals and a mesh singlet. So many of the people look a little simple in the head as though their parents have dressed them. Perhaps it’s a tourist thing, but I live in a beach-side suburb and it’s amazing how many people don’t know how to dress casually.
Back at Charles De Gaulle an elderly French couple had moved into the young man’s seat and the seat next to it and together with their trolley we had created a reasonably secure perimeter. After about twenty minutes the old lady stood up from her seat to stretch her legs. She moved outside of the fortress and leaning on her trolley began to do a quiet chant to herself. I’m not sure if it was a religious thing but she closed her eyes and softly sang to herself for what seemed like ages.
Bang, a tall well dressed man in a suit bumped into her, knocking her cardigan to the ground. He quickly and gracefully picked it up and placed it back on the trolley. As he briskly walked past me I came within millimeters of punching him in the face. I knew he’d done something but I didn’t know what. I had watched every move he had made but I hadn’t seen anything. I looked at the woman who still chanted as the man in the suit disappeared into the crowd.
I wanted her to react, to check her stuff. Finally I interrupted her, I already knew that she didn’t speak English, but, “Is all of your stuff still there?” I gestured with my hands to her trolley. She was a little pissed off at the interruption and after giving me a filthy look she went back to chanting only to stop after twenty seconds and check under her cardigan. She looked on the floor, she moved bags to look under them and then with her hand to her chest and with an expression on her face as though she would faint at any moment she looked accusingly at me.
All hell broke loose. Her purse had been stolen. It took some time before she stopped looking at me suspiciously. We called the machine gun wielding police over and Kate and I spent the rest of our stay in France giving a police report.
Back in Sydney Kate had a metal rod inserted into her bone and to this day her right foot stands out at a funny angle.