I moved to Paris on June 15th. The plan was to live and work here for a year and see some more of Europe. So far, things have not been going to plan.
I knew I would write about things being needlessly complicated very early in my trip. I never imagined that I would start writing it before I left. When I originally wrote this, I was sitting at the gate in Melbourne airport, 90mins before my flight. It took me an hour to get from the check-in desk to passport control. Without having to wait in any lines.
When I arrived at the check-in desk, I was asked something I had never been asked before. This is my third extended trip to Europe, I have been on shorter trips to Asia and the US, and numerous domestic flights. And I have never been asked this.
Brace yourselves – they asked to weigh my cabin baggage. Who does that?! Now this is a year-long trip, so I stuffed my checked baggage (a very large backpack) with all of my clothes, then put my shoes, books and laptop into my cabin baggage (a wheelie suitcase, measuring approx 50cm x 30cm x 25cm). The checked baggage weighed in at 20.3kg (I was allowed 23). The cabin baggage weighed in at 17.86kg. I was allowed 7 (though they raised this to 10 because I had a laptop). My options were:
1. To move 3kgs from the suitcase to the backpack (which was already so full it was ready to burst) and send another 4kgs home with my sister
2. Pay another $700 to check the second bag and take the lot
Now, my bank balance as of last Monday was -$10 (not including my mortgage) so option 2 wasn’t really an option for me. So my sister and I went to a corner and repacked, switching some clothes in my backpack with some shoes in the wheelie suitcase, and moving my books to my handbag (Nine West, slouchy, soft purple leather).
Second weigh in:
Big backpack = 21.8kg
Wheelie suitcase = 12kg
Back to repacking – I gave Rhiannon, my sister, a small pile of things to take home (I couldn’t give her too much – I was going to Paris after all!), moved another pair of shoes to the backpack and unpacked a second handbag into which we put my resumes, notepad, portfolio and a jacket.
Third weigh in:
Big backpack = 20.8kg (I have no idea how it got lighter)
Wheelie suitcase = 10.5kg, which they accepted. Success!
My backpack checked in, Rhiannon and I hid behind a pillar and proceeded to put some of the items we’d removed from the wheelie suitcase back in (I figured now I was safe). We said our goodbyes and I walked through the international gates. I showed my boarding passed, turned the corner, and there was a blonde airport employee standing next to some scales and weighing cabin baggage (I knew we shouldn’t have put everything back!).
There was no escape. I put the suitcase on the scales. 14.8kg. The blonde advised me to move my bulky things to my handbag, and I was sent back to repack my things for the fourth time.
Rhiannon returned to help me – I gave her some more things to take home, took out the second handbag again and put it over my shoulder, with my long jacket hanging over it so it wouldn’t look too conspicuous.
We said goodbye. Again. I showed my boarding pass. Again. I put the wheelie case onto the scales . . . 10.5kgs!
Then the blonde asked me to put my handbag on top of the case. 15.4kgs. I told her that she was the one who had told me to put my heavy stuff in the handbag, and she said she hadn’t realised it weighed that much. A man came to help her and the verdict was unanimous – I have too much baggage.
I went back out to my sister in tears, sank back down to my knees and started unpacking again. Rhiannon flew to my defense, saying that we’d already been through this several times at the check-in desk and were told the weight was okay. So we were sent back to the check-in desk to get a special stamp and signature on the tag of my suitcase. They did this without any issues and said that the blonde shouldn’t have been weighing my handbag at all.
I went to the gates and the blonde’s accomplice was there. I showed him my boarding pass and the stamp, and he told me to see how I went. I went through the gates towards the scales.
The blonde wasn’t there.
I looked left.
I looked right.
I make a run (well, a swift walk) for passport control.
And that’s how it took me an hour without waiting in any lines.