by Amber, aka Defi Diva
Luckily the military had trained me well when during my first deployment to Iraq I was unceremoniously dumped on the tarmac in Kuwait with 6 military bags and a weapons case.
“Ma’am, you’ll need to check in at the terminal headquarters about a quarter mile down the road.”
“What about my gear?”
“…Yes Ma’am, you’ll need to check that in as well…”
So my quarter mile turned into about 3 by the time I arduously leapfrogged my bags to the terminal. I think they call these relived war stories “flashbacks”. And I indeed was having them at the Toulouse Airport.
After having sorted out my car rental and offering my house, 401K, and all my gold jewelry up for collateral to Hertz, I had found my luggage and began pondering the movement of it. The luggage came into the main conveyor system and was easy enough to throw on one of those luggage carts they have at the airport. The next stop took me to the oversized luggage conveyor and when I finally found it I was elated to see my three wonderful bags sitting there waiting for me. They made it!!!! The relief washed over me. It was like I found my long lost dog. I wanted to rush up and give them all great big hugs. But in respect for public decorum, I refrained and offered them a little pat and smile instead.
Having found all my bags, I was now faced with a new and daunting realization. The oversized conveyer happened to be in a secure room behind a series of one way sliding doors that were curiously protected by bollards. The whole security design had me puzzled. Were they trying to keep people in or out? And why did they feel the need to limit the size of the exit area in the place where oversized luggage was delivered? When faced with these seemingly illogical, sleep deprived moments, I’ve found that just sucking it up and moving forward is usually your only option. So there I went… First the 135 laid horizontally across the luggage cart, then the 111 on top of it, followed by the sail bag. I looked like a mock up of the Wright Brothers bi-plane. Everyone stopped to stare, so this is what it is like to be a famous sporting icon?! Perhaps I should have offered autographs?
I pushed the cart to each obstacle, then I would stop off load the sail bag, off load the 111, off load the 135, carry them through the obstacle to the next open area one by one, push the cart through, load up the 135, load up the 111, load up the sail bag, move to the next obstacle…. and so it went. When I finally made it to the parking garage that housed my rental car, I was soaked in sweat and my shoulder was throbbing. There I was in my bad hair, baggy eyes, and rumpled clothes, when the perky Hertz attendant in her well tailored French suit came whisking out from behind her desk. “Oh! You must be tired! Are those surf boards? Really do you surf?!! Oh let me go get the car for you!” And off she went, perking the whole way while I slumped to a crumped, gooey mess.
The black Mercedes “Thingy” soon came screeching through the garage and pulled up next to my bi-plane. The attendant folded down all the seats and helped slide my gear in on top of them as they didn’t fold flat into the floor. I slid in behind the wheel, and it immediately felt like I was at home. The windsurfing gear was up to my ears and I couldn’t see out any of the back windows, just like my very own Jeep. I was in my element at last.
I don’t know how I made the 160km drive. I don’t remember it very much. Hopefully I was awake for most of it. I remember at one point trying to sing along with a French radio station in a desperate attempt to stay coherent. The navigation system lady was the only one who would talk to me and her conversation skills were a bit limited, but at least she spoke english. I did finally make it though. I even found my “Camp Ground”. I had to wait a couple of hours for registration to open though. They had apparently strict rules on check in times. It was between 5 and 7pm…no exceptions. (And no, they don’t accept Master Card!)
So I found a nearby, shady picnic table and put my head down. I just was going to “rest my eyes”… I don’t know if it was the French couple that sat down at the table to eat their ice cream or the fact that I was drowning in my drool that woke me from my nap, but either way I was glad I did. Registration was open and in full swing! I walked into the reception area, and there sat the attendant, a portly man who proudly spoke no english. Great… I had forgotten to print my booking, but had luckily saved it on my iPad. He wasn’t impressed, he wanted it on paper. Finally, when I pointed to the reservation with my name against it he relented and copied the booking number from my iPad onto the reservation. He gave me my key, my gate code, and offered some other advice to which I just smiled and nodded. I maneuvered the Thingy through the gate, down a small road lined neatly with little tiny houses to my #43 “bungalow”. To my relief, there were no abandoned heroin needles or seedy looking sofas sitting on the front porch. It was in fact a very nice well kept hut with a small kitchen, bath, and most importantly, a bed. I had made it! I was in Gruissan, home of the Defi!