A few unexpected things struck me between the time I left my NYC apartment for the last time and my plane’s takeoff. One was how damn heavy and numerous your bags are when you’re packing for an international trip with no return ticket. This was compounded by having to make one last bank deposit and grab lunch in the middle of my trip to JFK airport. Every time I got on and off the train, or entered the bank, or the sandwich shop, I had to give everyone that nervous friendly smile which says “trust me, I had a normal childhood and these large bags will not be going boom”. One couple helped me up the stairs at 96th street, and after I explained my luggage from hell, they warmed right up with congratulations and stories from their last trip to Paris. I started to realize the philanthropic power of the sentence “I’m moving to Paris”. I mean how often do you get to pull out such a great line? I consider starting more conversations with strangers in the future just to selfishly slip in my current plans. I never pull this trigger.
Another change that snuck up unexpected was realizing the purchase of my airport dinner was the last time for a while that I’d see American money in my hand. You don’t notice how much the little things like currency create the fabric of familiarity that gives us the feeling of being home. Having said that, even the few US dollars I tucked away in a jar two weeks ago are starting to look a little bit odd.
Other notable changes included seeing my wallet sans Metrocard, and changing my iPod to a 24-hour clock. To my chagrin, this means any digital clock after noon requires a math problem of subtracting 12 from the current time. A small annoyance I admit, but math is math, and math is gross. And that’s nothing compared to the ice cream headache of deciphering the morning’s weather forecast in Celsius. Somewhere there’s a formula that will sort me out, but be careful what you wish for is what I always say.
Lastly, my flight obviously had a large number of vacationers on their way to Paris. I’d see them with tourist books in hand, overhearing them discussing excited plans and itineraries to squeeze in as much as possible. Normally I’d have been right there with them, but I realized just then that planning a “Paris trip” had oddly been the furthest thing from my mind, and my trusty Rick Steve’s tour book had never even made it close to my carry-on bag. No doubt because I had way too many other things to worry about, but also I’m in the unique position of having time on my side. With the promise of a future with hundreds of trips into the city, I relaxed and reveled in my incredible luck. In a weird way, it almost seems obscene. I mean, wasn’t Paris always supposed to be one of those exotic locales just out of reach, the stuff of daydreams and Google searches? It’s like a fat kid waking up in an after-hours McDonalds and somebody left the deep fat fryers on.
Well, here’s to hoping he never takes those McNuggets for granted.