January 23, 2008

Travel Ugh

So, following my recent trip to Halifax (and earlier adventures with non-existent planes and trains), my 2008 record for successful encounters with commercial transit is nought for three.

I arrived at Halifax airport yesterday, having checked in online, and went to drop off my bags. At the desk, the woman asked:

"I don't suppose you'd be interested in travelling tomorrow, instead?"

Ha ha ha.

"NO," I said. "I would not." Gulp. "Is there a problem with today's flight?"

Well, it turns out that the plane I was supposed to be on was broken down in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, and thus nowhere to be seen (said the woman later, "They wish they were here, believe me."). Thankfully, there were enough people booked on the flight to Boston that they opted not to cancel it and instead dusted off the reserve plane from the hangar in Halifax — so I got my boarding pass and went off to wait in the departure lounge.

After a while, there was something of a commotion, and a group of loud Americans entered the lounge led by a wheelchair-bound albino with waist-length hair, a studded black cowboy hat, crossed eyes and, judging from his reaction to the news that the flight was delayed, a serious case of Tourette's.

It turns out that he was none other than Grammy-nominated blues singer Johnny Winter and his band and handlers. Their behaviour occupied that obnoxious nexus that exists where people are not actually that famous, but think they are the hottest shit for a thousand miles in any direction anyway. (Okay, so in Halifax airport this may have been true, but still.) I gave up reading my book and instead listened as they tried to extract special dispensation from every member of staff they set their eyes on.

Eventually we were boarded, and walked down a series of winding hallways to a door onto the tarmac, where we beheld our replacement plane in all its glory: not a jet, but a 37-seater turboprop, the smallest plane in Air Canada's fleet and one with a recent history of malfunctioning landing gear (SAS grounded all their aircraft of the same model a few months ago citing safety concerns). Not to worry, though! We stood watching for fifteen minutes as two fire trucks and their crew examined the plane inch by inch to make sure it was airworthy.

There's this episode of The Simpsons where they go to Australia, and the Prime Minister is just some drunk guy in an inner tube who lives next door; well, as we stood waiting, the Air Canada groundstaff, trying to quell our anxiety, informed us that (this is definitely my favourite part of the story) the Head of the Department of Transport himself was on the plane, "dotting every i and crossing every t". How reassuring.

When we finally boarded and took off, the stewardess helpfully informed us that because of strong headwinds and the fact that turboprops can't fly as fast as jets, the normally eighty minute flight would take a full three hours. As compensation, she was going to supply an open bar, except that for the thirty or so people on board there were only six beers to go around. Miraculously, I got the last one, which I suppose was small solace.

Anyway, now I'm back in Boston and safe and sound, but I have to admit, I'm a little terrified to even take the T anymore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you blame Mr. Winter? Sounds like he was the only one aware that the airline was pulling something (and apparently they were) and his crew and band were trying to get to the bottom of it due to the fact of his health issues and the potential to miss his next show!

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