Travel log: Sept. 3, 2014
Wednesday, 6 a.m.: Alarm clock sounds. I am heading to Sarnia, Ont., of all places, carrying five bags of photo gear. Extra baggage charges give me a stomach ache.
8 a.m. Red Deer: I board a cigar-tube puddle jumper and fly to Calgary. I am travelling on an airline that, for legal reasons, shall remain anonymous (hint: it begins with ‘Air’ and ends with ‘Canada’).
10 a.m. Calgary: Get on plane for Toronto. Take seat. Since it’s a 4.5-hour flight, so I can stretch sore knees etc. I’ve “upgraded” at a cost that makes my stomach ache some more. This seat, however, has a large monolith directly in front with even less legroom than a regular seat. Turns out to be flight attendant jump seat.
10:20 a.m.: Captain announces a “small problem” with the cabin pressure warning light.
11 a.m.: Airplane towed back to gate. I’m still in worst seat on the plane. Throw minor snit at flight attendant.
11:30 a.m.: Flight attendant relocates me to “better seat” and says: “Sir, I hope you prefer more leg room than watching TV.” A beat. “Because the TV at this seat doesn’t work.”
Noon: After two hours sitting in a motionless plane, we finally take off.
3:30 p.m.: Meals are delivered. Mine is missing. “But I have a prepaid food voucher,” I say. “Unfortunately,” they say, “You are not on our list.”
4:10 p.m.: They find my name, which was under my former seat number, and bring me ‘food’ just before I pass out from low blood sugar.
6 p.m. Toronto: Late arrival. Flight attendant tells me I can still make connection to puddle jumper flight to Sarnia “If I really hurry.” Good, I think, I have hotel and car rental reservations in Sarnia and I will be at the location at 9 a.m. ready to videotape a fitness video.
6:06 p.m.: Staff at Arrival Desk stop me. “We’ve cancelled your connecting flight, and rebooked it for tomorrow morning. Here’s your Toronto hotel voucher. Pick up your bags at carousel No. 133” (which is 1.5 km away). “What a.m. I supposed to do with five heavy bags of equipment?” I say.
6:50 p.m.: Forty minutes later, still no baggage at carousel. Approach Baggage Counter. Call the manager. He looks at my baggage tags. “What are you doing here?” he says.
“You don’t need to be here. Your bags will be in Sarnia on whatever flight you take.” I pull a medium snit.
7 p.m.: Shuttle bus stop at muggy, dusty airport pickup road. Waiting for shuttle to hotel. Attempt to cancel Sarnia hotel and car reservations. Nope.
8 p.m.: One hour later, still waiting at bus stop. Every hotel shuttle in Toronto, except mine, has gone by at least three times.
8:05 p.m.: Phone hotel as listed on flight cancellation documents. “He will be there in 20 minutes.”
8:35 p.m.: Phone hotel again. “He will be there in 20 minutes,” she says again. I pull a big snit. “He hasn’t even left yet, has he?” I squawk. She says: “Air Canada is supposed to let us know when passengers need a shuttle, but they never call us.”
9:05 p.m.: After two hours, small shuttle van arrives. I’m almost too depressed to throw much more snit.
11 p.m.: (18 hours of travel) Finally have supper in hotel café, retire to room without luggage, clothes, ablutions, etc. Pass out face down on bed (may or may not have crawled under the covers first).
Thursday, 6 a.m.: Alarm clock.
7 a.m.: Pearson Airport, Toronto. Mayhem and a million people. Rebooked flight document won’t scan in check-in machine thingy. Ticket agent says: “Line up over there.”
7:40 a.m.: Finally at counter. Counter agent: “You didn’t need to line up here! This document is your boarding pass and you should have gone directly to Gate A163, which is boarding now. You are late,” he says, handing me back my paper. He looks me right in the eye and says, loudly: “Next!”
8:45 a.m., Sarnia: Car rental — check. Bags and gear — check (a miracle!). Directions to site — wrong!
10:30 a.m.: Arrive at site of shoot, 90 minutes late. Shoot schedule in shambles.
In spite of it all, shoot goes extremely well. Spend rest of time avoiding the muggy sweat-fest of the 31C, humid Ontario weather. Air conditioned hotel and car are favoured.
Friday, 3 p.m.: After muggy non-air-conditioned puddle jumper flight from Sarnia to Toronto, I board flight to Calgary and find my upgraded Exit Aisle seat ($50 extra!). Captain announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize that our air condition isn’t currently working. …” Many of us are convinced we are melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.
3:30 p.m.: Captain: “Folks, we’ll be late departing as the ground crew is having trouble closing the cargo doors. We are also working on getting you some air conditioning.” Too worn out by now to pull a snit.
4 p.m.: We take off late.
5 p.m.: “Sorry sir, you aren’t on our food voucher list.”
5:40 p.m.: “We found your name on our list. Here’s your cold cardboard pizza. By the way, sir, are you passing out?”
7:30 p.m.: Calgary arrival. Flight to Red Deer isn’t until 9:40. Find airport beverage establishment.
9:05 p.m.: Boarding time, sit at Gate A1 in ugly airport basement.
9:35 p.m.: PA announcement: “We apologize Red Deer passengers, we can’t locate our pilots at this time.” (I swear I am not kidding.)
10 p.m.: Announcement: “We have found our pilots, but they are currently parked at the wrong gate.”
10:15 p.m.: Announcement: “Unfortunately the flight to Red Deer currently has no fuel. There has been a mix-up and no one ordered a fuel truck.”
10:16 p.m.: I throw a seriously major snit.
Midnight (2 a.m. Toronto time): Arrive home. Six flights in three days, approximately 650 hours of travel.
All I can think of is when every flight attendant announced proudly that Air Canada had just been voted Best Airline in North America for the fifth year in a row.
I cry myself to sleep.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.