Since I was now flying standby, I could not get any flights that did not involve fewer than two stops and they were short stops indeed making me somewhat worried about making connecting flights. I was given the best route home that we could find which meant flying from Paris to Washington Dulles to Atlanta and then on to Salt Lake City. The layover in Dulles was 45 minutes and the layover in Atlanta was 45 minutes making for very close calls, especially given that I’d have to go through customs in Washington D.C.
The interesting thing about getting on the plane in Paris was that we’d have to be driven in a bus around to the plane and when the gate opened I had a woman walk up and and put her luggage down right in front of me before walking back to her seat and sitting down…. Bizarre I thought, but I let it go. When the line started moving she got up, moved her luggage back in front of me and then sat down again. Fortunately they opened up the line for frequent flyers and I moved over to that line only to hear the woman ask in French, why does he get to go to the front of the shorter line only to be told that it was a special line for exclusive passengers (meaning frequent flyers). Ultimately, which line you got in meant nothing because we were crammed all on the same bus to go out to the plane which seemed very French, exclusivity combined with egalitarianism to the point of absurdity.
The flight home was relatively non-eventful save a little medical issue with one of the passengers on the trans-atlantic stretch. The head steward suddenly appeared by my seat saying “Dr. Jones?”. I was surprised wondering just how he might know to call me Dr., but suddenly realized what must be at issue. I responded with “yeah, but I’m not that kind of doctor…..” to which he simply looked perplexed. I pushed further telling him that I was not a physician, but rather a research doctor and admonished him to go looking for a physician on board. When none was found, he returned to let me know that there were no physicians on board and that a medical student was attempting to deal with the problem. “Ahh jeez.” So, up I go to the first class section to find an individual shivering and shaking. I thought initially it must be epilepsy, but then he turned to me and said hello while still shivering… I did a quick exam, finding no localizing symptoms, he was oriented X 3 and simply complained of being cold and shivering uncontrollably. The medical student had her stethoscope out and was talking about malaria which did not make a whole lot of sense given the normal appearing temperature of the gentleman by feeling his forehead. We were currently over the Atlantic and the pilot was asking if we should turn back to France… “no, absolutely not” I replied. The shivering passenger was quite muscular and had been doing lots of manual labor in subtropical Africa, flying into Paris that day which was quite cold. The plane was also quite cold and I asked if he had a coat to which he replied “no, I’ve been cold all day”. Adopting Occam’s razor I asked him if he would like some warm tea and a blanket to which he smiled and asked for some hot tea with milk which the steward provided. Ten minutes later the passenger was sleeping nicely and all was better.
The rest of the flight was smooth as could be, our shivering passenger had a wonderful sleep once he warmed up and thanked me profusely when we were getting off the plane. After that it was a quick trip through customs in a rush to get to the next flight to Atlanta. I have to say that customs at Dulles was a much more pleasant experience than the last international trip through customs in Los Angeles coming back from Japan. The Dulles Airport was clean and everybody was courteous and efficient. Had I more time in Dulles, I would have gone to the Udvar-Hazy Center where they have an amazing display of aircraft as part of the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space including the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the Enola Gay B-29, an SR-71 and a sister Concorde to the one I saw at Charles de Gaulle. Again, it’ll have to be another trip as I was able to make my flight to Atlanta just in time complete with a first class upgrade.
The same held true for Atlanta as I made the gate just in time for a very full flight to Salt Lake City also with a first class upgrade. The flight was actually a very pleasant flight and I sat next to the president of Western States Chiropractic College, Joseph Brimhall. We talked books, science, aviation, scuba diving and more which made for a very pleasant flight.
Thankfully there are no other trips planned for a month, so I can focus on getting a ton of work done including a chapter that is late, a manuscript and five talks/presentations in the month of April and two photowalks over the course of the next 30 or so days.