I believe I have some ‘splainin’ to do! I have been away from my blog for quite some time now. Most of it without any other reason than I just wasn’t feeling that great and couldn’t quite get into the zone. Having recently returned from a two-week trip to lovely Malaga in Spain, I’m feeling quite a bit more inspired now. Let me tell you a little about the travel portion of my visit.
It was October 21st and we were at Pearson International Airport in Toronto getting ourselves sorted out for the trip. I have been traveling as a handicapped person for quite some time already and I can tell you that the wheelchair services in Toronto’s airport are far from what they should be for a world class facility. The people who actually have to work at this service are some of the nicest and most helpful I’ve had the pleasure to meet, but they are too few and so bogged down with paper work it’s amazing they ever get anything done.
This time was no different and I had to wonder what was on that paperwork, because there are so many additional questions. Can you walk through the Security check point? From the Security area to a golf cart? From the golf cart to the waiting area? From the waiting area to the plane? Onto the actual plane and to your seat? Having been through this rigmarole many times I tried to save them time with a quick explanation of what the problem is hoping the rest would be self-explanatory. They politely thanked me for the information and followed up with, yes but can you walk through…and off we went again.
I reminded myself to be thankful for having this service at all and that it wasn’t the fault of the nice person who was just trying to get me onto my flight. But wouldn’t it be nice if there weren’t so many people abusing the system? They’re sitting in their wheelchairs getting pushed ahead of all the lineups and getting seated first, etc., but then you see these same folks arriving at their destinations. At this point, they are too impatient to wait for the service, and before you can say “your wheelchair has arrived” they are hauling their luggage off the baggage carousel and sprinting to their waiting vehicles. It makes you want to cry out “It’s a miracle folks!” as my friend Freddi did in a similar situation.
Getting onto the plane:
The helpful flight attendant directed us toward the aisle and seat as indicated on our boarding passes, and we still managed to get it wrong which would have created all kinds of havoc in the aisles if the plane had not been only half full. We finally found our correct aisle and seat, but when we were standing there we noticed that the row number printed above the seats was just a few inches off-centre, thus making it difficult to tell if row forty-five is the one on the right or the one to the left. We took our best guess and hoped not to be embarrassed. This has happened to you too right?
Overhead bins: We’re finally getting there! Let’s just get our carry-on stuff into the overhead bins. Surprise! The lady who could just barely walk a minute ago has transformed into a Ninja and has jumped onto the seat in front of us. She is hurling her carry-on stuff into the bin while everyone in the immediate vicinity is trying to avoid the whirling and twirling of her great Ninja cane.
That’s it, we’re pretty much ready for take-off…or are we?
Before being allowed to take off we are treated to a series of instructions in the official languages of the various countries we are departing from and heading toward. That’s always about when I appreciate being Canadian with our two official languages. This means, on international flights, we will likely be listening to instructions a minimum of three times. It could be worse though; Zimbabwe has 16 official languages according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Usually the destination country’s language, on this particular flight it was Dutch, is the one most easily spoken by the entire crew. So first they covered the instructions in English and French. The English was understandable, but the French sounded like Ewokese, however both were short and sweet. Then they started in Dutch. This lasted considerably longer and was punctuated here and there with laughter and sometimes even applause. What were these incredibly entertaining instructions? Certainly not the boring rhetoric we had just listened to. And of course, this is where my paranoia kicked in. Here’s what I imagine might have actually been said.
“Good afternoon dear passengers. Before we begin, I would just like to point out that you are flying with quite a few Canadians today who can’t understand a word I’m saying. The following instructions are meant for those of you who can.
There are several emergency EXITS on this aircraft. Please take a moment now to locate your nearest EXIT. If we need to evacuate the aircraft, floor-level lighting will guide you towards your EXIT. The Green Light is for Canadians and the Red Light is for US. The Green Light will lead the Canadians to a further EXIT thus getting them there just after the slide has detached and become a life boat, allowing US to deplane with relative comfort and time. (A smattering of polite applause may be heard at this time) Each door is equipped with an inflatable slide which may also be detached and used as a life raft. Oars, which the Canadians have no idea about,(quiet tittering now) are attached on each side of the raft and may be used for navigation purposes and have also proved useful in batting away any clinging Canadians trying to get on and use up space that is meant for US (loud laughter accompanied by applause).
We remind you that this is a non-smoking flight. In order to have a cigarette in peace you are advised to ask one of our crew to disable the smoke detectors located in the lavatories.
We are pleased to offer the Canadian passengers a choice of rubbery meat – let’s call it chicken – or pasta with some sort of sauce for their in-flight meal today.
If you would prefer something decent to eat, please knock twice on your tray.*
*Please note that the above is strictly a product of my own imagination, but please don’t try and tell me you’ve never noticed or wondered about in-flight instructions.
Once we arrived in Amsterdam, the flight crew told us all to remain seated with our seat belts securely fastened, but this was roundly ignored by most and the same frenzy with the carry-on baggage ensued, only in reverse. We stayed on guard for Granny this time.
In case you haven’t traveled much, or have been lucky enough not to have experienced stopovers, allow me to expain what this annoying part of travel entails. They are usually long enough to make you crazy from the wait and start arguing with your partner over
someone something stupid.
On the other hand stopovers are mosty too short to actually leave the airport building and see a bit of a city/country you’ve never visited before. This is likely to turn you into a snobby travel liar. “Amsterdam is gorgeous, I would love to go there again when I can spend more time.” Translation: Amsterdam has a really pretty airport and maybe someday I’ll be able to get out of the airport and visit the city too. On this latest trip, when we were ready to board on our return flight, I sent my sister a snotty little text saying, “gotta go now, but I’ll be in touch when I get to Paris.” I could have just said, “when I get to the next airport”, but that’s so boring Dahling.
This reminds me of a time when Franco and I were traveling to Spain and had a stopover in Heathrow Airport in England. We were waiting to get on our flight to Malaga and somehow our request for wheelchair assistance was misplaced. We were fretting and checking with the assistance desk every thirty seconds or so, when over the loudspeakers came a very polite English accent advising the following: Will Mr. Francisco and Mrs. Renelle, kindly make your way immediately to gate number 43. You are delaying the flight and your luggage is now subject to be off-loaded. Thank you.
I honestly didn’t know how to react. Wow!! My name was just blasted across all of Heathrow Airport. How cool is that? Or – Holy crap!! The plane is leaving without us. The assistance people were quick to reassure us that since it was the airport’s fault, the plane would definitely not be leaving without us. This doesn’t make up for the angry glares of all the other passengers who had been forced to wait for us. “Sorry, airport screw-up.” Yeah right, their faces said.
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