A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the chance to fly through Toronto on vacation, and all I can say is “What’s up with those Canadians?” Every time we stopped, looking up and around at signs or deciding what direction to take, up popped a Canadian telling us, “Follow me”, and leading us onward. They were popping up like gophers, every couple of minutes, complete with wide smiles and friendly voices. Walking out of one area, we found one of those terminal golf cart limos stopped directly in our path. Not to fetch us, mind you, but the driver stopped along her way just in case someone (like us) needed a lift to where she was going next.
It makes me think that if Canada were ever invaded, the intruders would be met at the shore or border, with a pot of hot tea and some scones and cookies, along with maps, blankets, and a chorus of voices asking “is there anything else we can do for you?” This stands in stark contrast to some other areas of the world, where the natives treat those that need some help as either lunatics, idiots, or cockroaches that have crawled out into the light.
The downside of this vacation was air travel, and lots of it. Taking an hour or two hour flight is pretty fun, sometimes even exciting. Taking a 5 to 10 hour flight is quite a different story. Walking off the plane, you pass row after row of empty cups, food wrappers, bottles, newspapers, pillows and blankets, all strewn about. It looks like you’re passing through a war zone. And in a sense you are.
It starts early, with the enemy booking those precious aisle and window seats. The next step is boarding, where various combatants attempt to stuff suitcases the size of Cadillacs into the overhead bins, delaying your entry and in some cases risking damage to your carry on luggage. Once in the air, the enemy will slowly lower their seatback into your territory. Do not let this transgression go unchallenged. Either start pushing the touchscreen in their seatback repeatedly, or lean close to them and say “Where the hell are those air sick bags? I think I might have to throw up”. Victory will see that seatback raised soon after.
You will also have to fight off so called allies, that will smile and sit next to you, but before you know it they are staking claim to the armrest between you. Judas is alive and well and sitting in 22B.
After a few hours, your legs and butt will start to revolt. To stop the pain, you try and shift in your seat, move your legs, stretch…….all to no avail. Waterboarding begins to look like a more comfortable alternative. So you decide to head back to the restroom. Unless you’re lucky enough to be on an aisle, you need to begin by tapping your neighbors on the shoulder, and pointing a finger indicating you need to leave the area. Be sure to avoid using the middle finger, however tempting that may be, as it tends to result in black eyes and spilled drinks. Upon receiving your signal, your neighbor begins the long process of moving out of the way. Drinks put down, earphones removed, seat belt unfastened, book tucked away or video put on pause, blanked removed, pillow placed on seat……it may take 5 or 10 minutes for the process to be completed.
You then proceed to the restroom, hoping to find some refuge, but instead you find remnants of the monkey cage at the zoo. Scraps of toilet paper, fluid on the seat, and maybe a momento in the bowl. Reality crashes down hard. So you clean up a little and do your business. Flush and get up to wash. Glancing down, you see toilet papaper stuck in the bowl. So you flush a second time, and see the tissue stay exactly where it was. Somewhere down on earth, you know the toilet bowl designers are laughing their heads off at your plight. Fighting the temptation to reach down and move it, you wash up and exit. Only to have the cute girl in 17C be standing in line next, entering as you leave. And you know her first thought is, “What kind of pig was in here?”. You find yourself wondering if those emergency exits work in mid air……..
On the plus side, inflight movies are a lot better now, with more choices and individual screens. Except when they’re interrupted by announcements by the crew. About seat belts. About flight time. About food service. About drink service. About duty free shopping. About the weather. About the crew. In English. Maybe in French. Maybe Spanish, Russian, German, Portuges, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and 10 or 20 other languages. Accompanied by the drumbeat of passengers beating their heads against their screens in frustration.
Upon reaching your destination, you walk off the plane and head toward the local gambling hall, otherwise known as baggage claim. Behind the scenes, baggage handlers are shooting a game of craps. “Snake eyes,….damn….okay, that blue bag gets sent out to Honolulu, and I’ll take your New York bag for the next Cleveland flight…….Let’s roll again…..Hey, send some of yesterday’s flight bags up there so the people have something to look at while we figure out where their bags are.”