Europe: Leaving the Ground

The flight from Atlanta to Paris took nine hours.

It was the second time I’d flown in my entire life — the first time was earlier that day on the thirty minute flight from Birmingham to Atlanta.

I arrived in Paris only to discover that it had an infinite number of terminals. I had no sense of direction. I do not speak French. Though I was utterly lost, it was my gravitation towards old people that struck me. They’re supposed to have wisdom, I think. They’ve earned the right to be grumpy.

I say all this because at the airport, I found Speedy Ruth and Slowpoke Margie. Both could be described as your average little old ladies: mid-70’s, short white hair, comfortable walking shoes (orthopedic style).  They happened to be on the same flight as me from Paris to Athens, which I was fortunate enough to overhear as I gazed up at signs that all looked the same and pointed in contradicting directions. Immediately I latched on because as we all know, better to be lost with two old ladies in Paris than by yourself.

I met Margie first because she has a tendency to lag behind and a more endearing personality than Ruth, who happens to be a champion at walking fast but also figuring out where we needed to be, so I liked her equally. I discovered that Margie and Ruth had been friends for thirty years which amazed me. Some people aren’t even lucky enough to be married that long much less travel the world with their best friend of thirty years. After a few minutes, I noticed that Margie was seriously falling behind and Ruth was gaining speed and somehow I was in the middle simultaneously trying to keep up with Ruth in a crowded foreign airport, yet also making sure Margie wasn’t falling too far behind. This is my life.

Margie said, panting only slightly, that this has always been how their relationship is. She said the important thing was Ruth never really left her behind; Ruth just needed to be the leader.

Once we found customs, Ruth hurried us through, waving her hands and instructing which line to stand in. I followed her instructions closely because she’d gotten us that far, and also I am from the South.

We do not ignore our old people.

Eventually, we arrived at the terminal where we would board our plane and we chatted a little but as is life, we eventually lost each other in the crowd and continued on our journeys as individuals.

Speedy Ruth and Slowpoke Margie are, in a way, my heroes. Besides the fact that they might have saved me from utter airport disaster, they also reassured me that I had done the right thing by taking a risk. I took a year off after high school, with plans to attend college later, and worked for a year and a half saving money for the trip I had just begun. On my flight from Atlanta to Paris, my five week trip around Europe had gone from a dream to a very scary reality. They showed me that most people are not fortunate enough to find their Ruth or Margie. Most people are not fortunate enough to get lost in an airport in Paris. Most people are not fortunate enough to leave the ground, but for some strange reason, I was.

  • Anna Patricia Hawkins

    I love this. I know people like Ruth and Margie. Granted they’re in their 20′s, but my friendships with them and theirs with each other are so similar to this situation that I can’t help but laugh.