February 2014

How a Flight to Canada became a Flight to Anywhere

Ice rain.

That is how a flight to Canada became a flight to anywhere.

Ice. Rain.

That’s right folks of Britain. Such a weather condition as ice rain exists. And yes, it is as frightening and obstructive as you are imagining. It is also the reason why I had to take a thirteen hour bus ride across the U.S./Canadian border.

So this is how it all happened. Seven hour flight from Glasgow to Newark in New York. Land in Newark and exit the plane. Everything is going well. I make my way through immigration, it takes a while and I begin to worry about missing my bag on the baggage carousel. Eventually they look at my passport, take my electronic fingerprints and photograph, ask some questions and let me go. It’s nerve-wracking even when you have nothing to hide.

Next stop: baggage collection. After forty minutes I finally see my blue bag slide down the chute and onto the carousel. It’s at this moment that I always become Popeye, trying to impress all those around with my incredible bag lifting strength. Once my bag is by my side I look around and pretend that everyone is staring at me with surprise and admiration. That’s right America, a strong feminist Scot has arrived!

Onward now, I hop on the air train and zoom towards Gate A. I find the baggage drop-off and make sure it is put in the right flight section. Done.

My hands are free and my speed increases as I locate my exact gate and hurry towards it. The giant yellow A23 sign grows larger as I approach the golden gate. I breathe, I’m here. I have time, let’s grab a smoothie and oh look there’s a nice restaurant over there that looks nice. I catch sight of the flight details board to my left, I turn and search for my flight. There it is, with a big flashing CANCELLED sign beside it.

All I can think is aghwhywhyhwyhwyhwygahhhsjiwufasnfkzjfblgnlkmdghkdf. Exactly that.

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As you can tell, I’m pretty stressed by this point. But I keep my cool and head towards the United Airlines service desk. My flight is cancelled, when can you put me on the next one? Just to let you know, this is Saturday afternoon and I have to move in to my new place on Sunday and start back at university on Monday. The lady looks at me the next flight to Ottawa is Monday morning, I can give you a list of hotels where you can stay until the flight.

I look at her and think to myself this will not be it! I shall not stop here. I must fight for my right… to fly.

And so I do, eventually the lady gets me on a flight that night to Montreal. A sigh of relief. I nap on the floor for a couple of hours and eat dinner at the nice restaurant. I chat to some fellow stranded travelers and when the time comes I return to my gate. And guess what? There’s that beautifully soul-destroying CANCELLED flashing in my retina.

I stomp back to the lady and ask if there are any other flights. No, none tonight to Ottawa. Have you any flights to anywhere in Canada? We can put you on a flight with another airline to Halifax in the morning and then a connection to Ottawa. Perfect. I exit the airport to find somewhere to sleep for the night and on my way I pass the airline that I will be flying with in the morning. I decide to check in early, after all the flight is only in a few hours. The man looks at me and replies That airline had no authority to book you with us. The Halifax flight is already overbooked. You would be waiting for someone to not show up if you were to get that flight.

Frustration ripples through me. It was in that moment that I decided I’M DONE WITH PLANES AND AIRLINES AND FLIGHTS.

I look down at my phone and see seven unread messages from Erik. There is a bus leaving from Newark in forty minutes. Please tell me you are on your way. Get in a cab now! It is the last bus and it will take you to Ottawa. GO GO GO!

I fly out the airport’s doors and into a taxi. Newark Bus Station please! I get there in a flurry, panicked and exhausted with stress. A woman greets me there, I had a guy on the phone asking if there were any bus tickets to Ottawa for his girlfriend… Are you the girl? I breathe out and smile, what a sweetheart. The lady helps me buy my tickets and puts me on the bus when it arrives.

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Thirteen hours on a bus is a relief compared to the finicky nature of planes. I slept for most of the way and was welcomed at the other end by the smile and open arms of a beautiful Canadian boy.

That was the long, stressful adventure of How a flight to Canada became a flight to anywhere. To be honest, I did not have it as bad as other people in the airport. I overheard one woman saying that her flight had been cancelled every day since Monday. She had been there for SIX days. I couldn’t help thinking that despite everything, I got it easy.

Love Jill

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