As some of you know, Dan and I really love to travel, particularly to Europe. For many years our preferred carrier was Air France. As always, my first priority is food, and Air France serves some really decent chow. Almost equally important is the fact that going through Charles de Gaulle airport for a connecting flight means that you can pass time shopping for beautiful Limoges espresso sets and many other luxury items, duty-free. Of course, you also have the opportunity to stuff two enormous wheels of brie in to your carry-on…at least that’s what I hear.
Even with all that, we frequently had some time to kill waiting for our connecting flight. Years ago we were looking around to find seats anywhere near our gate after our flight was delayed for the 4th time when we first noticed the inviting frosted glass door to the large, deluxe Air France club at CDG. It seemed to be a delightful place to kill some time eating free snacks and chilling out.
I believe that club membership is rather pricey, but I wouldn’t know about all that. What I do know (with all credit due to my brother Barry) is that if you walk into a place as if you own it, full of confidence, charm, and in this case joie de vivre, very few people will question your right to be there. The French, in particular, prefer not to stoop to asking to see your card or show ID; very distasteful. I’m going to be honest, we were tired, cranky and straight up desperate to get in there. We figured it was worth a try. Dan followed me through the door as I greeted the hostess with a warm “Bon Jour!” and a confident smile. I gestured to the lounge and asked Dan if he wanted to see if our usual seats were available and he readily agreed. “Merci!” and a little wave to the hostess, and we walked right in to the place.
We settled in with snacks and beverages, put our feet up and relaxed in the big overstuffed chairs, and found ourselves half hoping that our flight would be delayed again so we could take in a little more of the ambiance. When we finally had to leave I waved and said “au revoir!” to no one in particular, and even had the raw nerve to wink and blow a kiss to the hostess on our way out. It worked so well the first time that we began to go straight to the club every time we went through the airport. Ah oui, life was good. We should have known it wouldn’t last forever.
After pulling off this stunt repeatedly for several years, a hostess finally stopped us at the door and asked, in a painfully polite fashion, to see our cards. You would think that at that point we would have had the good sense to turn around and leave. To be honest though we kind of forgot that we were actually sneaking in; we started to feel entitled to our usual seats and accoutrement. So when the hostess stopped us, I said “of course!” and pulled my wallet out of my purse. I started rifling through credit cards, a library card, a Starbucks card, the Monopoly get out of jail free card that I have been known to carry…tsk tsking that I couldn’t find my card. Dan followed my lead and took a cursory look in his wallet.
I flashed my most charming smile and told her that we were terribly embarrassed, we must have left our cards at home in Canada. Yes, Canada. What am I stupid? These were the W administration years; it wasn’t safe to be American! We put our passports in red maple leaf covers, said “’eh!” a lot, and hoped for the best. Sometimes for dramatic effect we would speak affectionately about our pet moose. And hockey.
Anyway, the hostess gave us a charming smile and said it was not a problem, but could we just tell her the color of our card so she could look it up? Yeah right. Still, without a moment’s hesitation I confidently told her we had the silver card. She smiled and shook her head no. Oh my goodness, I’m color blind! Dan honey, is that card more of a blue? Another negative from Madame Hostess. Oh, now I remember! It’s red! No dice. Gold? Nope. I seriously doubted that Air France would have a green card, or orange or purple or something, so there was nowhere left for me to go.
I was dangerously close to telling her I was going to call my butler and have him fax a copy of the card immediately, if for no other reason than to win an Academy Award nomination, but even I knew it was pointless and silly. Still, I had to save face, so in my haughtiest tone I turned and said to Dan “I certainly hope you are going to call François and tell him how poorly we have been treated! This woman clearly has no idea who we are!
I know she had me with the card color, but surely there is an executive at Air France named François. Probably two. Let her worry about which of them will be calling her to get to the bottom of the situation.