Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Vacation Log 1 - Departing NY

Mrs Stevie had planned our travel itinerary down to the last detail, with pre-paid baggage1 and seats pre-allotted the entire length of the route.

These plans were entirely successful right up until the moment we tried to implement them.

The day started badly in the middle of the night as due to the arcane2 rules about passenger arrival times, which now apparently require people to arrive for a flight with two hours to spare. Thus it was I greeted the "day" at 2:45 am, just about the time I am normally hang-gliding naked with a selection of young female film stars of robust yet delightfully pendulous frame. We should have known something was wrong when the limo rolled up. Instead of the Town Car we had requested we were given the use of a stretch limo of rare opulence, fixtures and fittings-wise. It transpired that the Town Car had suffered a minor prang and we had been "upgraded"3.

So it was with great pomp and circumstance that we arrived at La Guardia airport and submitted ourselves to the tender mercies of Air Canada, at which point things began to unravel. And this is not the trivial unraveling of a sock caught on a sharp toenail I am speaking of. This was the altogether more alarming unraveling of the rope on which one is suspended from a vertical rock face of several hundred feet of lethal drop.

The "Bag Drop" line which should have been a matter of walking in, queuing for a few minutes and handing off the one checked bag we had was almost out of the terminal door. The people-needing-to-be-ticketed line was out of the door, and a fight was brewing as we entered the building.

Our flight had been "Delayed" to the point it would now not leave until 7:30 am, an hour or so after it should have done. This had, naturally, triggered a cascade failure of everyone's travel plans and the bag drop line was now the "discuss and reject various different flight plans" line. There was only one person running that line too, with another swamped in the "ticketing" line and a third, a rather snotty one who was channeling an Hispanic Basil Fawlty that day, presumably because some idiot had put him in charge of the "prestige customer" line and he figured the kudos of this frequent flyer club was somehow conferred on him

Which was ironic really because he proved to be the most colossal twbleept it has been my privilege to see in action for Lo! these many years, from his initial refusal to even speak to anyone not "in the club" who had the nerve to approach his royal personage to his breathtaking announcement when things had stalled to the point that planes were in danger of leaving with no passengers ordering the passengers for Montreal to "not form a new line but to come forward when called". This, of course, caused mad races for the honour of being the "next" passenger and not a few arguments.

The guy in front of us was fortunate enough to be the first to be called when a fourth member of staff was eventually added to the roster, but our hopes of finally getting to find out what the fbleep was going on were dashed when it transpired he was trying to fly to Costa Rica and sorting out the mess the delayed flight had caused took almost an hour.

By the time we were called forward by this same agent (all the others were busy trying - and eventually failing - to ticket passengers to Montreal) we had been on line for almost two hours, and our flight plans now called for us to lay over in Calgary for four and a half hours or so.

Now there are definitely worse places to cool your heels while planes arrive to take you wherever you wish to go than Calgary Airport, but it is, when all is said and done, an airport and intended for people to come to in order to leave. Staying in such places is inconvenient, counter to the purpose of the day and expensive whatever your level of investment in the place, be it a hotel room or a meal in the food court.

The one good thing offsetting the sheer stupidity of it all was that our agent gave us an upgrade to first class for the Minas Torontor to Calgary leg of the journey, and that would be a great comfort and a sovereign elixir for whatever outrages would be perpetrated on us in that disgrace to the science of travel, Toronto International Airport.

except it didn't. The flight to Toronto was cramped, but the passage through the various quest levels was surprisingly (and to these old traveler’s eyes, suspiciously) easily.

Flying out was a dream. Mrs Stevie and The Stevieling, who had unfortunately had gotten nauseous, most likely from the truly disgusting food we were served by Au Bon Pain (my muffin had a hair baked in for example) were sitting in one pair of seats and I was forced to share the row across the aisle with a young, sleek, blonde wisp of whom I am certain Mrs Stevie would not approve had she not filled her ears with anti-ear-pop earplugs and had her line-of-sight blocked by the heaving Stevieling. It was all good.

We progressed across the width of Canada in sleek opulence, feasting on Quails Eggs, Venison, Filet Mignon and Unicorn, all washed down with non-screwtop wine made from grapes harvested by hand and trampled by virgins in vats made from rare hardwoods smuggled out of the Amazon rainforest. True, there were the moans of those traveling steerage to contend with, but we were given complimentary mink ear plugs and there was always the luxury sound system should that fail to drown them out - such as at the mid-flight rancid peanut and muddy creek water ration issue.

All too soon the five and a half hour flight was over and we debarked into Calgary Airport for our interminable wait for flight synchronization to reoccur. We passed the time by having me watch the bags while the women went shop-hopping. I was just about dead on my backside by now, so I entangled my limbs in the various bits of luggage entrusted to my care and fell asleep in a lush easy chair. These chairs are dotted around Calgary Airport and I heartily agree with their presence, since it is a foregone conclusion that if you are there you are going to be there for hours.

We also went for a small meal, which was okay I suppose but nothing special4 and then ran the gamut of security for the third time before we boarded our Dash 8 to Grande Prairie.

The Dash 8 is a shoulder wing, twin turbofan aircraft which seats about 100 people in far too close a proximity, and everyone including the wisp5 was fidgeting like mad the entire journey. I tried to alleviate the wisp’s discomfort with some tales of my various triumphs in the field of superior tool usage, but she clearly had been driven to madness by the change in conditions between the Toronto-Calgary and the Calgary-Grande Prairie legs of the journey and she threatened to spray me with mace.

We arrived, retrieved our checked baggage which had not gone to New Orleans as I expected, previous experience at Minas Torontor suggesting that possibility, rendezvoused with my family and were whisked off to Chateau Stevieparents where I drank a small Gin and Tonic and passed out.

Nous sommes arrivé au Canada.

  1. Airlines now charge people for having the brass nerve to ask them to put luggage into the otherwise wasted space of the hold
  2. Or, as I prefer to call it, F-tarded
  3. Which beat the alternative: "abandoned"
  4. I was surprised at the fast-food nature of my burger given that we were in the beef capital of the world
  5. By coincidence she was again seated next to me