tales from the Road: LA to Geneve

Reporting live from St Genis Pouilly, France. Indeed, it is 3 AM here, and this blogpost is brought to you courtesy of JetLag. Don’t expect anything coherent.

Also, compare to last time.

LAX >> Philedelphia

Interesting t shirts I saw on this flight:

“I ain’t afraid a no ghost”

“i (heart) hot moms”

“US Armed forces: Sinking our teeth into the Middle East” (accompanied by a graphic of an angry, cartoon commando duck…?!?!)

Number of people reading “Hunger Games”: Only 2, surprisingly.

A middle-aged woman sitting behind me decides to impose her life philosophy on the college-aged girl sitting next to her. Souls to be molded. It’s interesting for a while, but I tune out at: “You see there, are many levels of consciousness…”

Philadelphia >> Brussels

I cannot sleep on airplanes. Even when I’m lucky enough not to have anyone sitting next to me.

Brussels airport is large, efficient, hypermodern, and for some reason inundated with advertisements from energy/oil companies (“Europe: Fueled on Norwegian Gas. Statoil”). Also, there are chocolates and many women wearing expensive-looking pairs of boots.

Brussels >> Geneva Airport

In which I discover that my French is better but still sucks. Goodbye, social competency. I’ll miss you.

Also: Mont Blanc from the air, always a crowd-pleaser.

Geneva Airport >> CERN

Fortunately for me, the Geneva airport is well-practiced in transporting sports equipment: It is, after all, one of the premier ski destinations in the world. As I stand by the sport equipment baggage carousel waiting for my cardboard bike box to appear,  I find myself in a circle of Swedes who are talking jovially and with the kind of assurance that only comes with having a ‘secret language’ to speak in pubic. I just stand there, silent smiling. My bike shows up, unharmed, and it’s a piece of cake to cart it over to left luggage, and get on the bus.

Once at CERN, however, the real fun begins. I manage to convince the woman at the front desk to give me a visitor pass and I decide to leave my luggage at our office before going about procuring my access card. As I’m walking up the hill, the wheels on my rolling luggage begin to collapse. It must be clear that I’m having a rough time, because one of the many CERN vans whizzing by honks at me. You think I don’t know that I look like an idiot? It doesn’t help that my luggage is pink. God, why do I have pink luggage? Oh right, it was cheap. Cheap. Pretty soon the wheels have almost totally collapsed and I’m loudly dragging my pink luggage through the world’s premier Particle Physics research facility. I’m soon rescued however: Someone takes pity on me and I’m offered a ride to my building in a CERN van.

Only a few people are in the office, they’re working quietly. I’m greeted by a few short “hellos” and friendly smiles. It’s like I never left. It seems longer ago that I was in Berkeley than when I was last at CERN. It’s unsettling. I make it to the users office in time to get my access card, but am missing a form. C’est la vie.  I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

CERN >> St. Genis Hostel

I wait ten minutes for the bus, only for it to discover that it is full and there’s really, really no room for me and my giant, decrepit suitcase. I wait 30 minutes for the next bus, and almost fall asleep sitting on the bench, having not slept for something like 30 hours. I’m nearing my personal record (36) and it’s not a good thing.

When it arrives I get on, and am subsequently blockaded from the door by a mom, her stroller, and her three other children. I miss the stop at the hostel because I am falling asleep, even while standing up. At the next stop I attempt to get off bus, but when I pull on the plastic expandable roller handle (you know what I mean, right?) to my luggage, it snaps unceremoniously off. I spend a few moments staring dumbfounded at it, during which time I miss also the next bus stop. the bus lurches to a start, and a guy who obviously works at CERN (oh yeah, there’s a type) catches my lugguage as it’s about to topple. His shirt says “—– High School, Class of 2005.” He’s American. God bless you, sir. I utter an exasperated “thank you,” he smiles and hands it over as the bus begins to slow down again. I gather my embarrassingly uncontrollable belongings and get off the bus. I leave the suitcase on the curb and dramatically stuff the detached handle into the nearby, tiny French trashcan. I roll drag the suitcase across the street and down a block to the next bus stop and wait, again.

I make it, at last, to the St. Genis Hostel only to discover that my room is on the sixth floor et n’y il a pas de ascensuer. No elevator. I lug the bag up each flight, just as the wiring is beginning to bust from the seems. I still have no idea what I’m going to do about this problem. I’m already having nightmares about how much it is going to cost me to buy a new luggage in Geneva.

My (temporary) room in St. Genis is very basic and smells like some sort of cleaning solvent. It takes me a good five minutes to figure out how to open the window, but when I do I can see the Jura and I have to smile despite it all. I want to wash my hands in the washbasin, but when I turn on the faucet the water sprays out at remarkably high pressure and at remarkably high temperature. My pants are doused. Hot showers, indeed. I’m so tired the world is starting to swim before my eyes.

I usually don’t cry during real life (usually only during movies, books, and emotional pieces of music) but here, I get pretty close. I change my pants, sit down on the simple, yellow-sheeted bed and think: What in the hell am I doing here, really?

I don’t know. But here I am. Here we go, guys.

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3 Responses to “tales from the Road: LA to Geneve”

  1. Sabrina Says:

    You’re doing Physics, of course, once you’ve had some sleep. Glad you arrived safely, if a bit incoherently. Good luck!

  2. michael9murray Says:

    LOVED the pink luggage: wheels falling off in the ultra-technology centre (of the world, I guess)!
    We can laugh now. It is allowed. Past tense is relaxing.

    There’s always this double (at least) vision of things when we ‘on a mission’ of tackyness and sophistication. Seems they are necessary to each other – is that cos we all have feet of clay, as it were?

    Enjoy!

  3. tornspira Says:

    thanks for the well wishes you guys!
    Re: Physics….yeah, more like labview programming it seems!
    Re: ultratechnology centre…yes, I suppose, but you’d be surprised how much CERN, on the outside at least, looks like a decrepit 1960s industrial park 😉 Haha, feet of clay, indeed.

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