I finished packing and checked my email for any last-minute complications. I took down the name of the driver Bahati Villa sent for me, phone numbers, etc. At 11, Austin drove me to the airport in Birmingham. Halfway there I realized I’d forgotten to pay my water bill. I gave Austin some cash and he agreed to pay it for me (thanks buddy). We made it to the airport in plenty of time, but not enough to discuss higher education reform, World Cup soccer, American politics, and everything else Austin and I talk about. Check-in was easy enough, and my bags were checked all the way to Zanzibar. The guy in front of me was Ira Glass, or a dead ringer for Ira Glass. I thought about asking if he really was Ira Glass, but I have a strict travel rule: find the gate first. After I find the gate and confirm my flight is actually leaving from that gate, I can do whatever else. It keeps me from missing flights, but I never did find out if that was Ira Glass or not.
Check-in for international flights is two hours ahead, which left me a solid hour to kill once I found my gate. I was close enough to the Good People pub in BHM, so I got an IPA while I waited. The super-slick dude next to me ordered a Heineken. Seriously? Good local beer and you order the Budweiser of Europe. Whatever.
We flew to Atlanta, then I hustled from a domestic terminal to an international terminal. Found out my old friend and colleague Kathleen Shea Smith was in the Atlanta airport at the same time. But there was no time for a visit – I made my Paris flight with only about 20 minutes to spare.
Going to Paris, I watched movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Full Metal Jacket (never saw the whole thing through), and The Usual Suspects (same). Then I put on The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug and fell asleep. Thanks Peter Jackson! I like some of his stuff, but that one took a rollicking children’s adventure story and turned it into this “serious” movie. Anyway, it knocked me out until we landed in Paris.