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It is better to travel well than to arrive

January 18, 2013

Today, Friday started on Thursday evening.  At the end of the Advanced Course in the Westin with the snow cleared from the pavements, I walked down to Duke Street and got the bus out to the airport.  I always try and avoid taxis if I can, buses give you a sense of a place.  I also needed the walk as I had a red eye leaving just before Midnight on Thursday, landing midday on Friday.  Its Air Canada so I have no upgrade rights, but I had secured an exist row seat on the aisle.   I got out to the airport just after six, planning a long session of email catchup in the lounge.  However I was tired and it was difficult to concentrate.  After effects of the various chemicals taken to suppress the cold symptoms during the course and the general fuzziness which comes with that particular afliction.

Then the bad news started.  Firstly the flight was delayed to two hours, then incrementally up to three and a half with little explanation.  In credibly they closed the lounge, without so much as a word of apology.   I've never seen this before, if the last flight of the day is delayed every other airline I have travelled with has kept their lounge open to accommodate it.  In this case, not even an apology, just an instruction to leave at 2330; an instruction that was strongly enforced.   So I ended up trying to get comfortable by gate as the hours dragged on.  No sleep was possible given the seating.  The plane finally arrived from Toronto and spirits rose, only to fall as deadline after deadline passed.  We were finally told there was a problem with the emergency lighting.   Passengers started to get irritated and a pattern formed.  A passenger would complain, they would be dismissed, then an announcement would be made to the effect that we should all stop complaining as they had told us all they could.    When the flight was finally cancelled those of us with Tripit installed knew it ten minutes before Air Canada's staff.

Lack of communication is always bad in these situations, telling the passengers off when they try and find out what is going on is to add insult to injury.  There is a brutality to Air Canada's staff when their charges fail to behave as Nanny has told them and it was in full force at the gate.  One it was cancelled the online side worked well.  I got my complete new itinerary by text five minutes later.  Of course we had been sent to another gate to be re-booked resulting in a mad scramble and a long queue.  Why we were moved I don't know as it was the same staff, the same computer system.  I half thought they might upgrade me as there were seats free (I checked on line) but instead I was cast into an ordinary economy row in a window seat against all my expressed preferences.  We also had less than an hour to transit between domestic and international at Terminal 1 which takes a minimum of twenty minutes on a good day.   So I could only board when I got through.

As it happened it worked out well.  The person sitting next to me saw a free pair of seats next to us, so she grabbed one giving both of us more room.   I was spared the embarrassment of asking someone to move if I needed to get up, and I could move around a  bit which kept the sciatica which has plagued me since that fall on the South West Coastal Path, in control.  Another plus point was clear skies and a chance to take some pictures as we few over Northern Canada.  I had no room to work so I watched Thelma and Louse which about matched my mood, then drifted in an out of Walk the Line, one of my all time favourite movies as we crossed the Atlantic.

By this time I was worried about the drive home.  Snow was forecast and I had been up with maybe two hours of cat napping for over thirty hours.  The bus to the car park is only hourly at that time (downside of a cheap place) with the net result that I set off for home at 2230.   Driving conditions were good until I joined the A4 at Hungerford.  For reasons I fail to comprehend no one had thought to grit the A4 so I took over an hour to complete what is normally a twenty minute journey, slipping and sliding on compacted snow which was hiding black ice.   I finally made it home at midnight, pumped up with adrenaline so it was 0200 before I could go to bed.   Oh and yes, I am writing this on Saturday and predating it.

So I made it home alive, if stressed.   I didn't get stranded as did others but it wasn't fun.  The indifference of Air Canada staff to the information needs of their customers was the low point, the views north of Toronto the high.  The weekend is going to end up as recovery when I could have done with a concentrated session of work.  Travel they say, broaden's the mind and that is true but God it can be frustrating at times.

My title quote is from the Buddha, but I think it might be the new Air Canada motto.  They might also pick up on another quote from the same source: The way is not in the sky.   

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