Postcards from Katherine
Keep in touch with Katherine and receive datelined mini-stories from her travels across the country and the world.
Postcard #36: Travel at Christmas
It’s tradition to travel at Christmas. The three wise men did it and now about a million other people do it every year. I’ve been flying west for thirty-five years and I never learn.
It started with the radio alarm at 7 am: flight cancellations, storms on the east coast. Toronto was clear, but a ferocious wind blew me out the cab door. Check-in: flight delayed an hour and a half. No problem; we read and drank coffee. When we did board, the seatplan was screwed up. A different plane, in fact. That was barely sorted when the announcement came: the air conditioning doesn’t work. This flight is cancelled. Please de-plane. (Really? Is that a word?)
We sat at the gate. An announcement was promised in 10 minutes. It was noon. Long lines formed. The single staff person pleaded for patience: now it was 1.30. There was no announcement. Nick eavesdropped behind her desk and overheard that we would be put on a flight at 9.15 pm. Maybe. At best.
We panicked. Went to another desk, stood with the disconsolate many. Most had indeed come from the east, Halifax. The desk person said it was an act of god. God works through air conditioning? She pleaded for us to leave, use the phone, go online. But the lineup only grew. At 2 pm we gave up and went home to watch the last episode of Fauda on Netflix. It was inconclusive.
Back to YYZ. Our 9.15 flight left at 11 pm. In recognition of our day-long delay, said the flight attendant, she could give us free earphones. She seemed to say this without shame. We arrived in YYC at 1 am (3 am Toronto time). The couple in the next seat told the flight attendant that it had been a long day. She lowered her head and appeared to chide them. “Mother Nature.”
I get it. They were, however mildly, complaining. I too, writing this, may be complaining. How can we whine about a mere day of hell in an airport when Mother N, or a god if you believe, or mankind, has delivered the world a year like 2016? We have homes to go to. We are grateful. And yet.
There are no Banff Airporter buses at that hour.
We had a bet about our bags, bags that were full of gifts. I said they would not arrive, Nick said they would. They did not. Tempers frayed in the long line before the solitary luggage man. We gave up at 2 am and got a room at the Delta. Slept 4 hours. At 7 am we returned.
It was a new day. More innocents were busy consigning body and earthly goods to the airline. Our bags were still in Toronto. But they would arrive that day! Definitely! The driver would leave YYC after midnight and deliver them to us in Canmore. We’ll call first, said the fellow. No don’t, said Nick.
Gratitude department: sister and husband braved the bleak pre-dawn and fierce winds to join us for breakfast, a festive buffet with wrinkled sausages and cubed scrambled eggs. The bus at 10. Nick on the phone with his broker buying marijuana stock. Life can be strange. But it was under control.
Shortly after noon we arrived. Heaven is home when it’s snowing and your favourite artists are with you: Carol Wainio on the wall, the new Leonard Cohen on the CD, Margaret Atwood on the coffee table. We got Dad’s minimalist 1960 Christmas triangles lit up on the garage. We put a note on the door for the Air Canada man, left him a glass of milk and a plate of cookies and went to bed.
When we woke up this morning the bags were here. The note, and the cookies, were gone. Hallelujah. Happy holidays to everyone.