Mark is possibly the only kid who was picked up from school early on an otherwise perfectly ordinary Wednesday to take a ten-hour flight straight to the Southern hemisphere.
“Quick! Shower, put on the clean clothes I left on the bed and let’s go!”
“I’m so excited!”
I’m lying because humans are complicated and it’s not the place nor the time to introduce Mark to the concept of cognitive dissonance.
Buying plane tickets online is deceptively easy. There’s a world map above Feng’s computer, anywhere South feels like a great option and, of course, we can totally do it, we’ve done it before, no big deal. We picked a travel date, the cheapest tickets available before the Christmas rush.
And yes, at this exact moment, I was genuinely excited to go travelling again. From that night on, I worked harder to save money and the thought of leaving both the routine and winter behind made all these cold Canadian days bearable.
The days went by until I realized I would actually be boarding the plane we bought tickets for very soon. As usual, it triggered my yearly (I never remember my dreams) nightmare—my in-laws show up to take us to the airport and I tell them I’m not ready, I haven’t packed yet, but they tell me to come anyway and I have nothing but my passport with me.
The next morning, I went from “excited” to “pragmatic and methodical.” To avoid a potential “backpacker without a backpack” situation, I spent two days packing. I gathered all the items on my very detailed master packing list I tweaked over the year. It lists everything I need, from “Arnica” (for bruises) to “Ziploc bags” (very handy to keep all your plane ticket stubs and other paper memorabilia from the trip).
Fear set in after packing, when I had too much time to think. Suddenly, my Ottawa routine felt comfortable and I started to question my sanity—why would I want to put everything I need in a backpack and leave without a plan?
This is when I started to hope for my in-laws to show up and take us to the airport. My backpack was ready and it was now or never. Gotta jump, can’t hesitate.
For once, there was no snowstorm the night before our flight (2015 trip), Feng and I weren’t coughing nonstop (2016 trip) and Mark wasn’t passed out in the stroller with a fever (2017 trip). The only minor issue we had was that according to the flight confirmation email, we weren’t seated together—surely, this could be worked out at the airport.
And so to the airport we went, in the middle of rush hour traffic.
Our Ottawa-Toronto flight was only ten minutes late—nothing short of amazing, it’s usually cancelled for no reason—and we had plenty of time in Pearson. The guys grabbed a burger at the arrival gate because Gate E is the home of overpriced food, then we sat around for a few hours waiting for our 11:55 p.m. flight.
Passengers started to line up at the gate at 11 p.m. Apparently, we weren’t the only one with weird seating arrangements.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a full flight tonight, I repeat, we have a full flight tonight.”
Air Canada staff seemed completely shocked to be dealing with a full flight.
“We may not be able to accommodate all carry-on luggage. If you wish to volunteer to have your carry-on checked, please make your way to…”
Like the other three hundred passengers, I didn’t pay attention to the end of the sentence because really, who’s gonna volunteer to check a carry-on bag, even for free? That’s right, no one.
I asked about our seating issue. “Nothing we can do. We have…”
Yes, a full flight tonight, got it.
Feng and I ended up on the middle seats of the middle row and I was behind them, in a middle seat as well.
We took off a bit late—nothing to do with the full flight, everything to do with de-icing the wings—and we follow the predictable routine. We all choose the chicken meal option, we watched movies we had missed when they came out (Feng and I) or watched movies not suitable for a six-year-old kid (Mark) and slept for a few hours.
I was cold and I wasn’t the only one, the three other passengers in my row were shivering as well. I asked for another blanket but the flight attendant gave me an eye roll instead—“we have a full flight today…” Good to know, apparently Air Canada can’t handle full flights.
Nine-and-a-half hour later, someone lifted a window shade. The entire middle row turned their heads to see what was going on outside. There was light, so much light! And patches of green as well, oh, so much green…
We were almost here. From winter to summer, from short days and long nights to long days and short nights, from—15⁰C to 35⁰C…
It’s almost summer down there, in Brazil, after all.
I’m not scared anymore. I’m excited again.