Felicitations, Fellow Fliers.
Exactly one year after my trip to Miami, I had an opportunity to go on my second work-related sales conference, this time to Orlando. During this time I made sure to get my passport in order so I'd never have to deal with that particular nightmare again. Unfortunately I was soon to find out the hard way that sporting an official passport was no guarantee that the trip would go smoothly.
Here are some vintage diary excepts from that flight:
Wednesday, March 10'th
Our flight is scheduled for 5 pm so I've been told to expect a pick-up anytime after 1 pm. My crew finally rolls in at 2:30. Mercifully, they have some Smirknoff Erce on da chill and instantly all is forgiven. Knocked back a few while heading over the new bridge to Dartmouth. Despite the fact that we're running behind schedule we doggedly stick to our plan of having an early supper at the Mic Mac Bar and Grill. My concerns about our tardiness evaporate as I enjoy another Erce and devour a tasty club hizzouse sammich.
We arrive at the airport late, around 4-ish. While security hustles us through they neglect to give us a boarding pass for our connecting flight.
'Ask about it when you get to Toronto,' we're told.
The flight to T.O. is unremarkable. Listened to Dennis Leary's No Cure for Cancer to set the mood. Between the chain-smoker's acerbic bombast and my concentrated intake of Smirknoff Erce, I find myself working on a Class One headache.
When we get to T-dot we find out that we're not on the passenger manifest to Orlando. They go on to tell us that the flight is overbooked and we've been downgraded to 'standby'. Is this because we went through Halifax so late? Probably, but it still doesn't explain why we're completely and totally abscent from the system.
An executive class attendant tries to set us up in the system manually but they're unable to procure seat assignments for us. Can't say I'm surprised since they're trying to cram seven extra people with no valid reservation onto a plane bound for the Spring Break capitol of the world at the last minute.
After recovering our bags and checking in again, we wait with baited breath as our seat-blessed co-workers board the plane. We're forced to watch other standbys with 'priority' waltz through the gate ahead of us. When our departure time comes and goes and our plane begins to roll away we begin to suspect that maybe, just maybe we aren't going to make this flight.
Damn!!! We were all so excited to get to Orlando a day early. We coulda checked in, cleaned up, grabbed some drinks and hit the hot tub.
NO HOT TUB FOR YOU!!!
Instead we're given the option to fly from Toronto to New York City and then catch an early flight to Florida the following morning. The really galling thing is that our luggage is now en route to Orlando without us. Thank God I had the foresight to pack socks, underwear and my toofbrush in my carry-on.
We rush Amazing Race-style to our gate to try and catch the NYC flight. The trip is brief but distinguished by three things:
- Headache now at least a Class 2. In the past five hours it's faded and then roared back at least three times.
- Flying into one of the world's greatest cities at night is almost worth the misery. I'm still stunned. I can understand why Fritz Lang was inspired to make Metropolis after flying over Manhattan. It's a sea of lights in every direction. In quick succession I inventory the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Empire State Building and Ground Zero during our approach. It's downright awe-inspiring.
- Landing at LaGuardia Airport did little for my migraine. For a moment there I thought we were gonna pitch on the top of a tenement building.
Despite it all, I'm kind of psyched to be in New York City. A part of me wonders if we can get into Manhattan for some sightseeing but as time ticks by, hope for this quickly evaporates.
We nearly die of exposure waiting for our shuttle to show up. At one point in time "Sheckie" Allen refers to the driver as a 'mental midget'. Eventually we end up at the Eden Park Best Western Hotel in Flushing, Queens: birth place of The Nanny, a.k.a. Fran Drescher. Welp, so much for seeing something cool.
By the time we get to the hotel it's nearly midnight. Exhausted and starving, we all gather in L____ and S____'s room to order Domino's Pizza and watch an episode of The 5'th Wheel (from the producers of Blind Date, dontcha know). It's a downright enchanting evening.
K________ gets in touch with some local family members and invites them over. Before they arrive she likens me to her nerdish nephew. This is a fair cop, but I have to confess to being slightly put off when the guy shows up and vaguely resembles the Unibomber.
My own room is disconcerting. Beyond the meat-locker like temperature, there are mirrors EVERYWHERE and the bathroom sells...things. I finally crash around 2 pm but the unrelenting stream of traffic continuously barreling down the exchange right outside my window keeps me wide-eyed for most of the night.
Thursday March 11'th
I mistakenly set my alarm for the time we're supposed to be on the shuttle to the airport. Fortunately my sleep has been so shitty I wake up twenty minutes before the clock begins to blare. This gives me just enough time to wash my face, shave, brush my teeth and change clothes. I kick myself for not showering the night before since I'm already starting to feel a tad "ripe".
We finally get to the airport. Incredibly the airline rep tells us that she has no record of Air Canada making any arrangement for us and sends us back down to their customer service desk. Just before everyone darts off I ask if there's room on the plane and if we can at least reserve some seats. She does this for us and we're finally rewarded with real, live legitimate tickets from Air Canada. We quickly dash back and exchange these for boarding passes which, to our bleary eyes, look like Golden Tickets to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
Security at LaGuardia is the worst I've ever seen. Shoes are removed, belts are whipped off, hats are doffed and anuses are probed. The TSA agents don't even have the decency to return my boarding pass and passport after molesting me. I'm almost struck dead with horror when I realize these two precious documents are missing, forcing me to double back and retrieve them.
When we finally get through the gauntlet of security I celebrate by picking up a NYC t-shirt. Hey, technically I was there!
I try to sleep on the flight to Orlando but it's virtually impossible. I find it really hard to sleep on a plane; I always feel as if I'm going to miss something important. Perish forbid if I don't get that free three-gram pack of stale pretzels that's comin' to me.
Despite the trials and tribulations it's all worth it when we step off the plane into that gloriously warm and humid air. Everything looks green and lush and the smell of tropical flora instantly revives our weary senses. It's the complete and total antithesis of how things look back home. It's like being transported to another planet.
Although getting here has been pretty miserable but we all know that it's just a test. In light of all the awesome experiences we'll probably have over the next three days, all this strife and misery will quickly boil down into nothing more substantial then an amusing story.
To be continued...
EPIC GRUB The Mic Mac Bar and Grill ain't fancy, but Dear God, it's good.
EPIC LAUGHS The first time I heard No Cure For Cancer I nearly died. Literally. I was driving at the time and laughing so hard I could barely see through the tears.
EPIC FLICK Still one of the most startling visions of the future, Metropolis was light-years ahead of its time.
PROFESSIONAL FAILURE This is weird since TSA agents spend most of their time trying to strip passengers naked...
FAILURE TO REPRESENT "Tastefully decorated rooms" my ass. I sincerely hope they've renovated since then...