Tuesday, 7 May 2013: Tallahassee to Marseille

Written Wednesday, 8 May 2013

clamps Well, the wrens are launched, for better or for worse, and I think they'll be okay. As planned, I went out Tuesday morning, donned thin plastic gloves, draped a cloth over the nest, then held one hand lightly over it where it covered the mouth of the nest, then pulled out a couple of clamps, until I could get the other hand under the body of the nest to lift it out of the box. One baby immediately panicked, pushed its way past my hand and flew quite competently to a bush about 30 feet away, where it was met by a parent who swooped in to join it. I carefully carried the nest the few feet to its new wire cradle, gave the residents a few moments there to calm down, then gently lifted off the cloth, at which point another baby leaped out and flew away, toward the same bush, where the parent again met it on arrival. When I looked inside, the nest was then empty, but out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a third baby flutter and skitter out of the undergrowth beneath the fig tree to join the family group. I therefore conclude that, if the little birds weren't actually ready to leave the nest, they were darn close; one of them might already have ventured out before I came on the scene. They're together, the parents are with them, and they clearly fly well enough to get back to the nest if they choose to, so I declared a happy ending, put away the ladder and box of clamps, and closed the garage door with a clear conscience. At the right, you can see a photo of the box back on its top shelf, sans nest.

At the appointed hour, David's last remaining graduate student arrived to take us to the airport, and our series of flights proceeded essentially without incident. The SkyTeam organization meshed perfectly—Delta flew us to Atlanta, KLM took us on to Amsterdam, and Air France then delivered us to Marseille. Each flight included the usual quota of inconsolable, wailing infants; as usual, David slept on the trans-Atlantic leg and I didn't (I watched Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters, which I would never have paid to see but which proved reasonably entertaining; I especially liked the fully-automatic crossbow with high-capacity magazine and the hand-cranked electroshock machine); and the food was reasonably good. The only tricky bit was that our connection in Amsterdam allowed only 75 minutes for arrival, passport control, customs, and airport security check, but as it happens, we made it handily. They provided a special express line for people with tight connections, but ours wasn't tight enough to qualify. Instead, we took advantage of the special SkyTeam Sky Priority lane, which was almost as fast. Passport check was cursory; we weren't even asked the usual "What is the purpose of your stay" question. Security threw us something of a curve though—overhead monitors outlined the three required steps: (1) take your laptop, and its power cord, out of its case, (2) take off your jacket or coat, and (3) take everything out of your pockets and take off your belt. Easy, nothing about shoes, liquids, and whatnot. But when we got to the head of the line, then they told us they wanted our little bag of liquids and that all our electronics (computers, Kindles, even cameras) and their power cords and chargers had to be taken out. But no, they weren't interested in our shoes. When they pulled me aside and asked to look into my bag, I assumed it was because I'd forgotten to take out my little pocket recorder, but actually what worried them was a little oval plastic coin purse densely packed with euro-change, which on the scope looked like a solid metal object.

We never had to do anything about our luggage, and no one even glanced our way as we strolled through the "nothing to declare" lane. It all worked much more smoothly than in, say, Atlanta.

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