the commuter's eye

life in pink

Posted in mindscapes, odd around the world, peripeteia by martzipan on October 27, 2017

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coming back home (ii)

Posted in customs, borders and other habits, peripeteia by martzipan on May 12, 2011

french customs and borders work in mysterious ways

just got back in paris few days ago. silky smooth takeoff, flight and landing, right on time, like a swiss army knife, with my o’ time favorite low cost carrier, wizzair. so far so good, except the customs’ check on beauvais airport when showing them my passport, as i usually prefer to travel with it, even within the eu borders. the guy scans it once, then twice, then it looks at me from behind the thick glass, then back in my passport. it scrubs it with his finger – like the officers in bucharest i have told you about in my previous post. pulls out a ballish/rubberish uv magnifing glass from his pocket and starts scrupulously examining the first page. then he scans it again and says something to his colleague. i ask him if he wants my id card, he mumbles something that i can’t understand because of the thick glass. i slip my id card over the counter, he doesn’t even look at it and he gives it back to me. after scaning my passport once again, he finally decides that my document and i are both ok and mumbles again something about a wrong expiration date in the check lines at the bottom of the page. ‘whatever’, i reply in my head, but not without wondering how come that my passport was good enough in us, uk and other eu countries (including france) before, when we still needed visas to travel…

coming back home (i)

Posted in customs, borders and other habits, peripeteia, romania is my country, trips by martzipan on April 25, 2011

andante – on the substantial identity

friday (very) morning, before easter. the 16th arrondissement is mostly asleep, except me and the vis-à-vis neighbor, whose window is constantly lit during night, although i’am unable to tell if he’s actually awake or not. i can never sleep when i have to travel long distances, whether it involves planes, trains, cars or any other more conventional transportation means, usually because i’m delaying until the last minute the packing of the entire small paraphernalia, such pens and ink pens, usb sticks, data transfers, notes and notebooks and other similar minuscule non-senses. as i’ve finished packing around 2 or 3 am, it doesn’t make to much sense to put myself in bed, unless i really wanna miss the plane that takes me back in my home country, in this case. so, instead of counting minutes, i prefer reading something and surfing the net.

the moment of departure arrives. while i’m getting dressed, i try to figure out a way to get downstairs my humongous suitcase. six floors, no elevator. the solution was to pull it down the stairs, literally, with me in front of it as a ‘counterweight’, one stair at the time. lifting it was out of the question as it weighted almost three quarters of my weight (27 kilos, to be more precise, as i found out at the airport). mr. picard, our friendly ‘gardien’ – who is generally awake very early a.m. – bickered something involving people, sleep, noise, etc. because it was a case of ‘force majeure’, i hope he eventually understood.

at 6 a.m., paris – or at least my neighborhood – is unexpectedly dormant. but not the buses, which runs with the precision of a swiss watch. half an hour later, i get to the porte maillot, and – thanks to the shuttle driver who was kind enough to stop – the other two guys heading to the same airport and i hoped in (i spare you of the tragic-comic details about the loading of that heavy bag).

although a state of the art vehicle, with a/c and all the comfort, as it was winding through the sloppy entrances and exits of the highway, it somehow reminded me of our old commuter buses and i’ve suddenly got the feeling that we were some high school kids going to a camp or something like that during the not-so-long-gone ‘golden era’. no matter how unbelievable this sounds, i don’t have a (decent) mp3 player to carry with me. therefore i eavesdropped to the exuberant and captivating conversation about construction materials that two folks were having few rows behind until i fell asleep. instead of beauvais, i woke up in beaumont, but it turned out that our bus made a small detour to get some fuel.

eventually, we’ve got to the airport, where it was all fun and games, until i’ve realized two things: one, that i have no lighter, and second, that i don’t have enough change to buy a decent drink (i.e. cola).

meanwhile, i checked in my luggage and got a sparkling yellowish no-name thing to drink for my sole one euro coin. luckily, in front of the airport, there were enough people smoking so i manage to light my cigarette. funny thing, though, as the only planes taking off were heading towards bucharest and the place was crowded with romanian folks, when asking them for a lighter they were all constantly replying me in french. and so did the funky-blingalicious bunch of minority co-nationals when, at his turn, one of them, with a ginormous pair of sunglasses (although it was heavily overcast), has approached me for the same issue. i told the guy in plain-vanilla romanian that i don’t have any lighter or matches, but i can gladly borrow him my cigarette. he understood me perfectly and said thanks in french, scrutinizing me from head to toes. he turned back to the other folks, said something in romani, then turned to me and this time asked me in romanian where was i from. i answered him: bucharest. ‘where from, more exactly?’ ‘north train station (gara de nord)’ they’ve all laughed – ‘hear this (in romanian), “gare de nord” (in french)’. at this moment, another happy fellow asks me if, per chance, i’m not interested in buying a ‘highly performant’ video-camera (actually stolen), for which he’s ready to cut me a great deal. yeah, right! ‘sorry folks, i spent my last euro on this yellow-sparkling thing to drink. but who knows, maybe next time’. the sunglasses measured me again – head to toes – and threw out the verdict: ‘give the kid a break, bro, he’s one of ours’. and they left, as i was exhaling my last smoke and putting out my cigarette.

p.s.: the plane flew smoothly all the way to bucharest or i slept so deep that i didn’t feel any bumps (which is hardly unlikely, judging by the slick way we landed, three hours later). it followed the ordeal of custom check – one foreign kid in front of me was detained because he had no visa, after the border officers spent more than fifteen minutes carefully examining his documents with a philatelic magnifying glass and other state-of-the-art technology, such as an uv lighter and their fingers (which obstinately scrubbed every page of the passport). finally my luggage arrives (with no damage at all), i grab it and i hurry to the exit. i’m home. my ‘home’ home.