About seven hundred years ago, an Italian fountain (?) had a vision. In his vision he was lost in a forest and attacked by wild animals. Fortunately for him, though, he was rescued by a dead poet and soon after they encountered a famous gate, over which was inscribed
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate
Since I don’t read medieval Italian (or any other kind for that matter) I looked for a translation. The always-helpful Project Gutenberg tells me that it translates as
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
Beyond the gate Dante found Hell. That’s one interpretation — I think that it’s also possible that he somehow got a glimpse of the modern travel experience and just assumed it was Hell.
The boiling blood, of course, was his idea.
I have said before — more than once — that I hate travel. Bad things happen when you travel. Bad things happen when you get ready to travel. Heck, bad things happen when you even think about travel. We recently tested these statements when we dipped a toe into Phlegethon: old friends of ours (TV and LM from ‘Wedding‘) were planning an excursion to a tropical island hideaway when they had a momentary lapse of reason and invited Ms. Rose and I to join them. Tropical islands are nice. They also mean Travel.
Our interaction with the travel ‘experience’ started tentatively, almost playfully.
Our local airport is small. How small is it? Well, it’s so small that it pretty much only has one — you name it and there’s probably just one: One carrier. One security line. One pre-security bathroom. One post-security bathroom. One departure lounge (on the plus side, at one time it was full of interesting aviation art). One non-departure lounge (no art, but it has, um, beams). One gate. And so on.
Because of this, after we had checked in it didn’t take long for the nice lady from the check-in desk to chase us down. Apparently they had discovered that the plane was full. (How they managed not to discover this earlier is a mystery to me — after all, the plane only holds 19 people; even I can count that high.) Because of this discovery they had to send the nice lady running through the terminal with a fistful of updated boarding passes. Her message was simple: delicate blossoms of femininity like Ms. Rose were to sit at the back of the plane while bloated monstrosities like myself were to sit at the front. I was so entertained by the nice lady running through the terminal that I almost let the implied weight criticism slide. Almost.
And they took down all the art in the departure lounge. :-(
The flight itself was uneventful except for the conversation the guy in 1A had with the co-pilot:
“I can fly the plane if you want.”
“Are you a pilot?”
“No, but I play video games.”
They decided not to take him up on his generous offer. Probably a good thing — he totally didn’t have the right hat.
The second leg of our trip was a trans-continental one: Five and a half hours in a confined, germ-filled metal tube. Five and a half hours sitting motionless and worrying about blood clots. Five and a half hours with two nearby babies prepped and ready to scream at the top of their tiny but incredibly healthy lungs. (Fortunately, one of them didn’t. Much.)
Eventually we arrived, met up with TV and LM and started to plan for the next leg of the journey. That leg involved a ferry ride, a thirty-four kilometer drive and another six hours flirting with deep vein thrombosis. Piece of cake.
Except things were going a little too well; we were about due for that “bad things happen when you even think about travel” thing to happen. In particular, two unnecessarily cunning canines figured out that Something Was Up and decided to ‘help.’
The official plan was to drop them off at a local (-ish) canine boardinghouse the night before the ferry ride; it was thought that doing so would significantly reduce any last-minute ‘excitement.’ Of course, within minutes of being dropped off, the slightly disabled canine — the one with ONLY ONE HIP — jumped a fence and escaped, his partner in crime right on his heels. (Do dogs even have heels?) Their landlady promptly labelled them ‘troublemakers’ and evicted them forthwith.
Cue the excitement.
Not only was there excitement, Plans had to change — in particular, the thirty-four kilometer drive had to quadruple in length. And of course the ferry was late, there were massive, never-ending traffic jams, there were broken-down vehicles in the WORST POSSIBLE PLACES and there were several “you can’t get there from here” moments. The icing on the cake happened after we had ejected our brace of smirking canines, after we had driven from one end of the city to the other (twice), when we were mere minutes from our final destination — so close that we could see it. Nothing could stop us.
That’s when we were hit by a Honda Civic.
After the traditional accident song and dance we were running a little short on time but, as mentioned, we were basically AT our destination and there were no obvious injuries so off we went. After all, nothing could stop us, right?
Except perhaps the airline — they did try. Despite them we made the plane (although we did have to have a conversation with another nice lady). And of course the screaming baby also made the plane. The screaming baby always makes the plane.
On the way home, well, things were no better but were at least different. We were supposed to arrive in Vancouver at 8:32. It didn’t happen. In actuality, we arrived a couple of minutes after 9. That was a problem, but not, by itself, a disaster. Problem was, they wouldn’t let us off the plane. It wasn’t just us, though — they wouldn’t let anyone off the plane: the bridge thingy was broken and apparently our only option was to wait for the maintenance folks to come and fix it.
That was a disaster.
So we missed our connection and entered that entertaining but stressful realm of zombie passengers waiting for a Flight With Room. “We can put you on standby for the flight that leaves in three hours” said the nice lady named Maria. Trouble is, the carrier constantly massively overbooks that flight so it was likely that some (many? most?) of the zombies would be left behind.
Including us — we could have gotten one of us on the plane but it wasn’t clear that Splitting Up was a good strategy. I mean, it never is in horror movies. (Fortunately, the guy flying to Chile who had a valid ticket that the carrier wasn’t willing to honor got on.) “Well” said the other nice lady at the other service desk “you can try standby again on the flight that leaves in two hours or we can get you on the one in that leaves in four and a half if we act now.” “We’ll take the sure thing” we said and ran off to look for a hotel in Toronto — anything close to the airport with a shuttle.
We found one (got the last room in a ‘Halloween sale’ whatever that is) so it was only a matter of waiting. (And eating — the doughnut I had at lunch was the high point of the entire day. Apparently the doughnut chain mentioned in ‘Meeting‘ sends their best doughnuts to YVR. Interesting, if inexplicable.)
So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then sat with another screaming baby for four thousand kilometers until we arrived in Toronto sometime after 1:30 (AM) and had to find the one pillar in the place with the hotel shuttle. We went to the ground floor (I assumed that shuttles would arrive on the ground floor) to look for ‘our’ waiting area and… it wasn’t there. We found an airport employee (they’re a little thin on the ground at 2AM; an empty airport is somehow even more depressing than a full one) and he directed us to the other ground floor (who knew?) where we found a crowd. They were waiting for… the same shuttle — apparently lots of people took advantage of the Halloween sale.
By 3AM we were in bed. Fortunately, the clocks went back an hour that night so we had four whole hours of sleep before the alarm went off. After a quick stop at the caffeine store in the lobby (this hotel had it all) it was back on the shuttle and back to the airport by 7AM.
Things were a little busier than they had been six hours earlier. In particular, the check-in line was just over a hundred meters long — it snaked through the cattle chute, down a hallway, around a corner and down another hallway. Of the ten check-in desks, two were open. (Now where have I seen this before?) After making it through that lineup, the security line was only slightly better.
I’ll say one thing about airports: they definitely know how to create a mood.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s actually worth it.