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Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Sunday, July 03, 2005
The Terminal
Are you familiar with last year's rather mediocre movie, "The Terminal", starring Tom Hanks as a traveler trapped at JFK airport? Not allowed to enter the US, but not able to return to his own country, he takes up residence at the airport. I think I need to rent that movie tonight. Perhaps it will make me feel better about the last 24 hours.

Until yesterday, this was hands down the worst travel experience of my life, and I was glad to have it over and done with, since there was no where to go from that experience but up. That was, until yesterday. Yesterday, I took a day trip to Toronto. Yep - over 1,100 miles roundtrip just for the day. In fact, I took a day trip to the Toronto International Airport just to look around, cry in frustration at not being able to get out of the airport, and finally came home at 2:00 AM this morning.

But I digress. As those handful of dozen readers out there know, I had planned a nice 6 day getaway vacation in between jobs to relax, regroup and recharge before starting my new job on the 11th. I had a terrific intinerary all planned out to a place I have always wanted to visit, and instead of whining to the internet, I was supposed to be riding the tidal bores on the Bay of Fundy as I write this post. It was not to be.....

I had a terrific time yesterday morning, blasting music, packing and picking out CDs and books to take with me on the trip. The house was reasonably clean, the cat monsters were being looked after by the neighbors, and I was really excited about my little 6 day adventure.

My neighbor gave me a lift to the airport, and at 2:30, the flight to Toronto went off without a hitch. I must say I was surprised at the size of the plane. A 24 seat propeller driven commuter plane for an international flight? Oh well, whatever gets me there.

Arrived in Toronto about 4:30, went through customs, collected my bag and got on the commuter bus from the International Terminal to the Domestic Terminal for the flight to Halifax, NS. Upon arrival at the terminal, I check the departure monitor and my heart immediately sinks. All flights to Halifax have been cancelled. WTF?? I make my way to the nearest Air Canada gate, and still calm (this won't last long), ask what's going on? "Oh, they cancelled them about 1/2 hour ago due to fog. We've had this problem for the last 48 hours. It's all backed up. You better check at the ticket counter to see what they can do. It may be tomorrow before you can get out."

OK, the panic begins. This is NOT happening I tell myself. When I called ahead this morning, all the flights were on time and there were no problems. Of course, I get to the ticket counter and there is one poor man there and a line of frustrated travelers about 10 people deep. After about 15 minutes or so, I finally get to the counter, and as soon as I say "Halifax", he shakes his head and hands me a slip of paper with an 1-800 number on it and tells me to call the number to see what they can do. He can't help me. And he looks at me in that doomed-prisoner-about-to-get-a-last-meal kind of way. It wasn't comforting.

Now I'm beginning to panic a little. I call the number and after being on hold for what seems like forever, I get "Peter" on the line. Peter turned out to be a Godsend, but even he couldn't fix what was about to happen.

Peter: "The earliest I can get you to Halifax is Monday night or Tuesday morning. I'm sorry".
Me: "Ummm - this is my entire vacation. I'm scheduled to come home Thursday night! Aren't there any connecting flights or other destinations nearby?"
Peter: "Let me look around".

So, I patiently waited with my heart in my throat while Peter - being genuinely helpful - spent the next 45 minutes looking at connections to places like Monkton (with a 3 hour bus ride), New Brunswick (sold out till Monday, and I'd still have to take a 2 hour ferry and drive another 2 hours, Prince Edward Island (sold out till Tuesday). The long and short of it was that I simply couldn't get there from here. Spending 3 of my six day vacation just trying to get it started struck me as not too relaxing.

Tearfully, I came to the conclusion to cut my losses, save myself more than $1,200, turnaround and go home. It was now 6:00 PM, about the time my flight to Halifax would have landed, and where I had plans to have a nice dinner on the waterfront by 7:30 or so.

Peter was able to book me on the 8:40 PM flight back to BWI. I thought that would leave me time to get something to eat, collect myself from the little meltdown of disappointment I had over all my plans getting flushed down the travel toilet, and get the flight just fine. Wrong again.

I had to retrieve my bag from the cancelled flight - I won't even begin to relay the frustration this caused - but it was after 7:00 before I was able to lay my hands on it. Now I had to take the shuttle bus BACK to the International Terminal, go through customs AGAIN, and get to my gate.

By this time, it's 7:30, and I find out that my gate is at a "satellite terminal" that requires yet ANOTHER bus ride.

Fast forward - 8:15 PM. No food, totally sad and frustrated, consigned to my fate. My cell phone was nearly dead from calling and canceling car rentals, reservations for tours and trips, and canceling the Bread (I mean BED) and Breakfast reservations.

We board at 8:45 and sit on the plane until 9:15. Again, it's a small commuter plane and is filled with cruiesgoers returning from an Alaskan cruise. No explanation is given for the delay. None. When asked point blank, the attendant mumbled something about "waiting for confirmation". One couple looks like a pair of zombies from the latest George Romero flick. That was my first clue that my nightmare was nowhere near complete.

An immigration and customs official boards the plane, speaks quietly to the zombie couple and escorts them off. (???) About 10 minutes later, the attendant informs us that due to an outbreak of Norwalk Virus on the aforementioned cruise ship, our plane was being detained and would not be allowed to land in the US. WE WERE BEING QUARANTINED!!!

This is not happening, This is not happening, This is not happening, This is not happening, This is not happening, This is not happening.......Bad dream. Wake up!! I kept telling myself.

Nope - we deplaned, and took yet another bus back to Customs, where health officials met us to debrief us. During this debriefing, they were looking at the passenger manifest and asked myself and 4 others to come forward. (This is just getting worse, and worse, and worse, I said).

"You folks weren't on the "Royal Caribbean's Cruise of Misery", were you?" They asked.

"No sir, not me" - I'd been through misery, but not of the cruising variety.

"You folks are released. They're bringing another plane and we'll have you out of here by 11:00 PM."

Joy!

Of course, you all know the ending to this saga. I return to the same exact gate I left from a mere 12 hours ago (seemed like a lifetime), and went to baggage claim, only to watch the luggage carousel turn slowly for 1/2 hour with no signs of my luggage. Yep - lost in Toronto somewhere. Perhaps quarantined with the zombie luggage. They told me not to even call and inquire about it until later this afternoon.

I will make lemonade out of this lemon, but I need a day to regroup, get my luggage back, and figure out how to relax for the 8 days of vacation I have left to me.

Any ideas???

UPDATE: This would have been helpful to know.....apparently, even the threat of fog shuts them down under these circumstances:

Expect delays at Halifax International
By TOM PETERS / Business Reporter A critical stage in runway upgrading at the Halifax International Airport may cause some delays or flight diversions for at least another three weeks, an airport spokeswoman said Thursday.

The Halifax International Airport Authority has reached a significant point in its runway maintenance program. As a result, the shorter of its two runways has been closed and runway instrument landing systems, which aid aircraft during times of low visibility, have been taken out of service during this period.
Travel Advisory for Flights to/from Halifax

July 1, 2005 - Runway reconstruction at Halifax International Airport may cause delays and cancellations to flights to and from Halifax, particularly during inclement weather. For further details, please see the Halifax International Airport Authority's information link:

Halifax Airport Authority

Customers with flights to and from Halifax are advised to check on the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport by consulting the aircanada.com or calling 1-888-422-7533, or by using a web-enhanced cell phone.

For July 1st and 2nd, due to the runway reconstruction and inclement weather with visibility below limits, Air Canada advises that flights to and from Halifax will be impacted for the rest of the day.

Customers with flights affected by the weather and wishing to make alternative travel arrangements can do so without penalty, space permitting, through Air Canada Reservations at 1-888-247-2262; TTY: 1-800-361-8071


posted by Broadsheet @ 12:10 PM  
10 Editorial Opinions:
  • At July 03, 2005, Anonymous seadragon said…

    That is the most depressing vacation story I have ever heard. I'm so sorry to hear about how horribly it went. But I do think you made the right decision. It sounds like you would have just gotten yourself in much deeper and still wouldn't have actually had much of a vacation in the end.

    (Incidentally, The Terminal wasn't all that good and I don't know that seeing it will make you feel any better. It might make you more frustrated with airlines!)

     
  • At July 03, 2005, Blogger eebmore said…

    I doubt this will make you feel any better, but as a half Fundian, quarter mi'kmaq I have to say "What ever would you waaant to go theeer faaaa? Daan-Eastas aaaa stuufee." With that said, that blows chunks... sorry to hear.

     
  • At July 03, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    eeb: I had no idea?! Good - you can give me recommendations for my return visit - because return I shall! My requirements were beautiful scenery, cool summer weather, nice beaches, interesting history, small towns with lighthouses, and a quaint, but homespun local culture with a uniqueness (and requisite accent) all its own. Those requirements, and a geology documentary on the tides at the Bay of Fundy in the 7th grade pretty much sealed the fate on my geeky interest. I wanted local museums dedicated to the island culture as opposed to MOMA, and ceilidhs on PEI as opposed to nightclubs...just a slower, more peaceful pace for a few days.

    Oh, and did I mention the seafood??

     
  • At July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I thought The Terminal was a good, if sort of predictable, movie. You need cheering up!

    -Snay

     
  • At July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What can I/anyone say? Maybe it's a sign that you should just stay in Baltimore and chill. Weather is supposed to be good, it's a holiday weekend. Pour the mojitos, blast the CDs, read the trashy mags and rent any film BUT "The Terminal." Why re-visit that misery? The upside is, you still have a vacation to de-tox from one job and gear up for another--it's a state of mind. Go there and repeat after me, "Canada is evil," "Canada is evil," Canada......." Apologies to the eebmore person but you'd have to have the back story to understand my righteousness on this issue.

    I'd call you right now to discuss the matter but am apparently only receiving incoming calls, can't make long-distance out as stupid Sprint (who took 5 WEEKS to hook up this phone in the first place) cancelled my long distance a week early. Gah.

    A vacation can take many forms. Make that lemonade and be glad you don't have to pack your stupid life-possessions up in stupid boxes in order to take the stupid new job!

    p.s. yes, that last comment was pretty self-serving. Why did I think moving was so exciting say, three months ago?

     
  • At July 03, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Sister #2 is that you?? In your very special case, and with apologies to all Canadians everywhere, I would agree wholeheartedly with your unique and well justified bias in this regard.

    "Happy" moving day.

     
  • At July 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As Susan Gutfreund remarked the day her husbands business went up in flames "Quel bummer!"

    C

     
  • At July 05, 2005, Blogger Neckbone said…

    Jesus Linda- I'm sorry. I know you were psyched for that trip.

    I know: come do a weekend in Iceland! We'll show you around.

     
  • At July 06, 2005, Blogger Maktaaq said…

    That is unbelievable! You should write up a query letter about this trip from hell and send it to Budget Travel magazine...or some other travel magazine...

    Some friends are going to Nova Scotia next week: do you think they'll make it?

     
  • At July 07, 2005, Anonymous Your Connecticut Friends said…

    No more air travel for you, hon!

    You know you're always welcome in Gloucester...oh wait, Hurricane Cindy is coming.....

     
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