Belgian business

Namaste! Jet Airways, it turns out is an Indian airline. Appropriate since I am on my way to surprise Ashish. I booked this trip in late January and have kept my plan a secret (despite many near slip ups). He thinks some friends of Karen are dropping by for lunch but he will open the door and it will be me. But firstly I am spending the night in first class on Jet Airways. This plane features seats that lie flat. Literally hundreds of movies to choose from (granted most of them are from Bollywood) shown on huge screen TVs and, when you are ready to sleep they give you kurthas, a sort of short sleeping gown. 

The dinner, mostly yellow and orange, was really good. They had plenty of choices but I went with the Indian menu, చాలా ధన్యవాదాలు. Pumpkin soup and chiapatis, followed by paneer and peas and then a grated carrot dessert. I could have lived without that part. The Barbera d’Asti was excellent. Not exactly Indian but Italian/Indian, I can see the confusion on their part.

After I finished watching Gravity (meh) I hunkered down (and when I say down, I mean down, the seat lays flat on the floor) for a night in my teeny weeny, itsy bisty, minute, shoe box of a bed. There is no way that one might mistake this for comfort. It is not. And while I am aware that the vast majority of the people on this plane are sitting upright wedged in like sardines, tant pis, that is not of my concern. My concern was actually falling asleep in less than ideal circumstances. Fortunately I did manage to accomplish this feat but was awakened not long after when the French man (I am not sure if he was actually French, he spoke French but he could have been Canadian or Belgian) in the seat/bed directly across the aisle from me began attempting to revive his wife who had apparently passed out and was unresponsive. This required that the entire plane was awakened, the plane’s lights came on, a doctor was summoned like in a movie and then he, the flight crew and 50 unrelated busy bodies hovered over her, and hence, me, scrunched down in my uncomfortable sleeping pit discussing the situation and the various possibilities that may have caused her grave situation. When it was determined that she had taken several sleeping pills washed down with 2 bottles of champagne the doctor said she’d be fine, everyone left and the lights again went out. The husband then began noisily searching for something and when I say searching, the guy was on a mission to find something and not giving up. I have seen terriers chasing squirrels with less resolve than this. He had several discussions with flight attendants one of whom gave him a flash light so he might redouble his efforts to keep me awake. 

He did not find what he was looking for and in fact they remained on the plane after the flight landed and we deplaned to continue their examination of the area. I did eventually fall asleep on the flight but wished I’d had the champagne and pill combo she’d had. She looked refreshed and well rested when breakfast was served. I noticed she had champagne with that too.

Skiing is like learning French

It occurred to me as I was careering out of control down steep and alarming mountain slopes that skiing is not unlike learning French. Certainly there are some differences. The possibility of being injured learning French, while it exists, is not nearly as great as it is when skiing. Special equipment is necessary for both activities but dictionaries, note pads and pens are probably not quite in the same accoutrements league as skis, boots and helmets. They are certainly not as heavy and cumbersome. Though, come to think of it, a helmet might come in handy while attempting to speak French in France. Not that you would actually be in any danger of being assaulted but you will at least feel safe. Wearing a helmet affords a certain level of comfort and safety if not exactly fashionability.

Skiing and French are things that do not come naturally unless you happen to have been born in the French Alps. They are activities that enter your life out of desire rather than need, generally speaking. And both of them require being taught, learning and practice, lots of it. The basics of the two are pretty easy to grasp and once you are off and running there is a curious sense of impregnability that can be the source of much frustration. Once you are conversant with, say, numbers in French, or stopping on a steeper-than-bunny-hill slope, you open yourself up for disaster. When in the market in Paris you ask insouciantly, “Combien?” (how much) and the impatient baker responds with “9.98 euro” (neuf quatre vignt dix huit) which literally translates to “nine four twenty ten eight,” the same vague panic creeps up on you whether you are losing control of a transaction in French, or your downhill velocity is ramping up to a point that your abilities may have outstripped by your limitations.

There are many unseen difficulties and dangers with skiing or learning French. Things that must be learned little by little, a lifetime, really, of learning, with all manner of arcane rules, steep learning curves and secrets only the initiated seem to know. Yes, skiing includes the prospect of broken bones but with French the emotional damage caused when you’ve been disgraced during a brief conversation involving bread in front of an impatient queue of French people can last a lifetime.

Tell that to Sonny Bono.