Mon Dieu! Who woulda thunk?
This trip to the Czech Republic took us through Paris since, peculiarly, the booking agent could find no reasonably priced direct flights from JFK to Prague on fairly short notice.
After going through the gauntlet of screaming TSA goonettes in New York, passing through French security was like being ushered into an exclusive club. It wasn’t that they required any less – shoes and belt off, pockets emptied, l’ordinateur out of the carry-on bag, pat-downs as needed, and so forth. But they were civilized and gentle about it, and cooperation with them came as naturally as putting sweet butter on a brioche.
Mom, though in a wheelchair, was not exempt from any security measure, which ultimately brought on the hilarity. A woman agent asked me in French (I look like French linguist, naturelment!) if it’s okay for her to pat down madame. I summoned all 47 words I remembered from my high school French introductory class (that would be 1966-67) and whispered conspiratorially “Oui, mais madame est ma mère.”
Instant consternation, French versions of facepalms all around. The young lady was désolé, désolé and then désolé some more, and she immediately assured me that maman est très belle and looks so very, very young.
By this time, we were all chortling, and one of men quickly added that Monsieur est très vieux, hence the understandable, the most understandable confusion. More giggling, more professions of désolé, a gentle but thorough check of my mother, and we were cleared to go through.
I scoured the very bottom of my fount of French knowledge and quipped that we are clearly in the city that is home to the Comédie Française. There was polite laughter at this, and off we went.
Maybe I actually remember 51 words of French, and not the pedestrian and most inadequate 47. I am pleased.
But I am even more pleased that the Gestapolitano approach to airport security is not universal. Pockets of humanity left here and there, and all that.
Outstanding argument for dismantling the TSA and building an airport security system from scratch using competent people. Imagine Janet Napolitano flipping burgers to make ends meet! A delicious thought, if there ever was one.