The Joys of Air Travel
As usual, I’m always trying to fit too many things into my schedule, and I haven't learned to say no yet when asked to do one more clinic, judging job or horse event.
After a very busy and successful Halloween Fun Show and 40th Anniversary Open House at Maplewood the last weekend of October, I headed off to show at Paso Robles Horse Park for two weeks. This has become my favorite place to show! And it was even more fun when I won two 1.3m speed classes on Stallone and was champion!
But in order to pay for the two weeks of showing, I flew out on the Friday of week 2 to Toronto to judge the Sporthorse and Thoroughbred classes at the prestigious Royal Agriculture Winter Fair.
Besides not waking up in time (I set my alarm for 5:30 pm not am:( ) the judging went smoothly from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. I successfully arrived at the airport in plenty of time to catch my 8 p.m. flight to Connecticut, where I was headed to give a USHJA Zone 1 Trainer Certification Program Clinic.
Then, everything began to unravel...the flight was delayed, first 30 minutes, then an hour, then it was cancelled. The extremely pathetic customer service agent from Air Canada (the twin airline in terrible service to United) was only able to book me on a flight the following morning at 7 a.m. through Montreal, arriving into Connecticut at 11a.m. (the clinic was slated to start at 8 a.m.). And because the cancelled flight wasn't a connecting flight, no hotel compensation was available.
Great—where do I sleep? Not in the departure gate area. I was told to evacuate the area, and I must retrieve my bag at baggage claim or else! But I couldn't figure out how to get to baggage claim, as the departure floor was for departing people, not arrivals, therefore no baggage signage.
And all vendors were now closed, all employees gone, nobody to ask directions. Finally, after 30 minutes of feeling like a very frustrated rat in a maze, a janitor emerged from a bathroom who pointed me up a flight of stairs. This led to customs.
Since I’d already cleared customs, I had to re-enter Canada by clearing customs again. Then I had to fill out a declaration form—again. When I finally got to baggage claim it was about 11:30 p.m. I spotted my bag and grabbed it. Then I had to show the declaration form to the security guy before being allowed to leave the area.
As I exited, I looked around for a place to camp, only to realize I did NOT have my bag! I was so flustered and exhausted I must have left it in baggage claim. But they wouldn't let me back in. I had to go down the hall 1 mile to Air Canada Customer Service. They gave me a note, took my carry-ons, computer and handbag, told me to take my passport and note, go back to baggage claim and wait for someone to arrive to escort me in. 30 minutes go by. Nobody comes. I try to break in, but I’m stopped. I find a TSA guy on break and beg him to help me. He gets me in, and I find my bag, right where I left it.
I go back to retrieve the rest of my belongings 1 mile down the hall. The agent recommends a good place to sleep. Up three floors and down 15 blocks there’s a quiet area with lots of benches. I trek up there. It's past midnight now. I find the area. There are nearly 50 benches pulled up next to windows or rearranged in various configurations. All occupied with bodies.
I retreat back 15 blocks, down three flights of stairs to the Starbucks I spied just outside of baggage claim. There’s a seating area right in front that’s about 1 foot wide, but long and padded. One person is at the end of it—snoring loudly—but there’s enough room for me.
I set down my three bags, take my belt off and tie my luggage all together to the table so nobody can steal anything while I sleep. The cleaning people drive by in a large, noisy sweeping machine every five minutes. It’s 1 a.m. I set my alarm for 5 and make sure it’s AM. There’s an outlet to plug into right under my feet. Things are looking up. If I can sleep for four hours I'll be OK to teach this sold-out clinic tomorrow (today) that had to be completely reorganized since I’m a no show:(
I can't sleep. My ribs are cracked from almost falling off in my last class on Thursday, and I can't get comfortable. I fall asleep for an hour, then manage another hour. My alarm goes off, and I sit up. The snoring body is gone. I step around the corner and order a venti dark roast soy misto. I grab it and sit back down at base camp. I drink my coffee, put make-up on, untie my belongings and head to check in.
I follow the signs to check in for Montreal, but when it's my turn they tell me I have to go down 13 blocks because I’m returning to the USA. I lose it and start screaming at the agent that I've had enough. So, she checks me in. Then I go through TSA, then I make my way to the gate and board.
It's a huge plane, and I have the entire row to myself. It's a nice flight, and I try to look on the bright side—I've never been to Montreal. I don't even know where Montreal is! I sleep the whole way there.
I deplane, head for the next flight, which leaves in 30 minutes. I have to go through TSA again. I have to go through customs, again. The line is long, but I possess a Global Entry card so I proceed to the machine. It says my Global Entry card is invalid. I try again. Same thing. I am NOT going to the back of the line. I walk up to the agent and explain the problem He says it's probably because I got a new passport but will show me how to do it. It doesn't work for him either. He senses I'm about to explode and just lets me go.
The connecting gate is the farthest possible one. I run. I arrive as they are boarding. I have a feeling it's a small plane because I'm in seat 2B, and I don't think that's first class. Boy, was I right. Not only were there single rows of seats on each side, but no overhead bins.
I sat down with my carry-on in my lap. After everyone (10) boarded, I told the flight attendant that I didn't know where to put my bag. He took it and put it in the cockpit. No need for a PA system, he told us to buckle up, not to be alarmed when they tested (revved) the engines, and since he was also the co-pilot, if anyone needed anything during the 90-minute flight, just come up to the cockpit.
I tried not to focus on the pilot and co-pilot/flight attendant that were both mid-20 males of questionable ethnicity. I tried to sleep, but after experiencing the revving of the engines for 5 minutes, followed by taxiing down the runway for 10 miles, I wasn't very tired anymore.
Obviously, I didn't die, and somehow pulled off teaching three groups of riders in front of 60-70 auditors, led a roundtable discussion and had a nice dinner before getting to the hotel. Then there was the incompetent front desk person who couldn't figure out where my reservation was, how many nights I was staying, why I didn't show up last night, etc.
But, as they say, all is well that ends well?! I'm excited to be on a normal plane heading West toward home...