It was more stressful than I thought it would be, more tiring than I remembered it was and just as strange as I imagine it could be.
Once upon a time, air travel used to be exciting. Hand out a ticket, take a seat, enjoy a movie and some food, sleep a bit and reach your destination faster than by boat. Flying should feel efficient and indulgent.
Except it’s neither.
You may have heard that Canada is dealing with extreme cold weather this week—don’t laugh, it happens, and by “extreme cold weather” we mean that the thermometer shows -25ºC and it’s even worst with the wind chill. When Canada issues a cold weather alert that includes the words “Polar Vortext”, you take it seriously.
At least, it wasn’t snowy, so if both Ottawa and Toronto airports were able to deal with such extreme temperatures, our flights would be okay. However, we weren’t—Mark caught a cold and was coughing nonstop (we secured antibiotics the day before leaving) and I was just getting over my own virus. The last two days before the trip were challenging because we had a lot to do but when it’s this cold, it hurts to go outside. Even with gloves, my hands were bleeding and cracking.
Until the very last minute, I thought the trip may not happen. Too cold, too sick… who knows. I was almost surprised when, after queuing for half an hour at the Air Canada counter (the self-service kiosk never worked for us, either my long, hyphenated name is cut either Feng just doesn’t exist), our two backpacks were checked in and we were issued boarding passes.
“Just so you know… there is a slight delay for your Ottawa-Toronto flight!”
Ah. Knew it.
“How ‘slight’ is the delay?”
“Did he say ‘fifty’ or ‘fifteen’?”
“Fifty,” I replied, always the pessimistic one.
I was right. And then, while Mark was sleeping—like he never slept as a baby—in the stroller parked at Gate 17 and while airport stores started closing, the flight was delayed again.
I don’t think any of our Toronto and Ottawa flights ever left on time.
We landed later than planned at Pearson but we still had enough time to make the connection. And as we discovered as soon as we arrived at the usual Terminal E, we had plenty of time since our flight to Santiago was also delayed.
“I have a $10 voucher from the last time our Air Canada flight was cancelled,” I reminded Feng. “May as well use it.”
Cheap bastards. Turns out that with $10, you can’t buy anything but two drinks and a small bag of chips.
“Did you try that place?”
“Two dim sums for $8.”
“Let me look… ah, you can get an Asian salad for… never mind, $22.”
Fortunately, Mark was still passed out in the stroller and I had brought my own snacks, so Feng was able to enjoy the small bag of chips. We wasted time commenting on the temperatures displayed on TV screens—-25C in Winnipeg, -32C in Whitehorse, -15C in Toronto, 25C in Kingston…
“Wait. Is it Kingston, Jamaica, or Kingston, Ontario?”
“Ontario, I think. I mean, all the other cities listed are in Canada… must be a typo, they forgot the ‘-‘ sign.”
I had lost track of time when we finally boarded. The flight was full so it took forever for everyone to sit down, put carry-ons away, etc. Meanwhile, Mark was asserting that he wasn’t tired or sick anymore and can he watch IT on the plane.
Nice try, buddy.
At least, wait until Feng and I are asleep.
I watched The Day After Tomorrow (just to see people dealing with a blizzard and an upcoming ice age), and then a Quebec comedy I found hilarious. In the meantime, I made the okay choice of “chicken” (never pick Air Canada’s pasta dish) and managed to break my plastic knife buttering my bread.
We landed in Santiago ten hours later. There were more delays, more lineups and my backpack was one of the last one to show up on the carrousel but eventually, at 4:30 p.m., local time, we were standing outside the arrival hall.
We had made it. It was 30ºC, sunny, and bright and I looked like an idiot with my jeans and sweater.
We took the bus to the station, then a taxi to the rented apartment. I gave Mark a shower, I took one and we changed into shorts and t-shirts.
“Let’s go out. We need to withdraw pesos and buy drinks.”
This is why, illogically, I stepped inside a hair salon instead of completing the above tasks. I had been waiting for a long time to get a haircut—the last one I had was in France. I didn’t care about it in Canada, I spent the entire month of December wearing a tuque anyway. But suddenly, I needed a fresh start and for that, my hair had to be chopped off.
It could have been a very bad move because I was exhausted and I had to explain what I wanted in Spanish but it turned out great.
I spent the night walking around Santiago, marvelling at everything. It’s hot! There are people in the street! It’s lively!
Maybe I should sleep now. After all, this is just the beginning…