Wednesday, June 24, 2009

E09: YYZ -> EDI

Getting through the airport security and onto your plane can, at times, be more trouble than others. There are times when i breeze through without a single worry – and then there are times that my shaggy hair, and long beard get me in trouble. I'm not sure if today was one of those times, or if today was simply a random check, but it was not the straight through experience it could have been.

Upon arrival I was put onto a flight two hours earlier than the one I had booked. I had booked the later flight, not only because I wanted some wiggle room if I got out of bed late, but also because I wanted my stopover in America to be as short as possible. I would much rather sit on a Canadian bench reading that an American one. Not for any patriotic reason, but because I knew YYZ. I don't know Newark's airport all that well – though it can't be worse than Miami. Also – I didn't pack any American money. There will be no snacks over the, now, five hours.

As I collected my tickets I had to fill out customs cards, and “enter America.” I've often wondered, once I pass the line, am I on American soil? If I broke a law sitting in the airport, would it be under the American criminal system? I assume yes, but I'm not sure.

Do I resent having to enter America while still located near Toronto? Maybe a little. Especially when agents tell me to, “say things in American.” But we expect this, and we move on.

As I tried to explain to the agent that I was off to Edinburgh (which was a city in Scotland, and not the mid-west – no I was just in transit through the states, thank you very much) I was then made to convince him that, despite my unusual appearance, I was indeed a high school teacher. After asking me the same question in multiple different ways, no doubt trying to catch me in a lie, I was then asked about how much money I was taking with me.

I told the agent I was bringing three hundred and fifty pound. “How much is that in American?” he asked. I don't know buddy – I'm not up and up on American currency exchange rates, what with your tanking economy, your crashing dollar, and the fact that since I was still standing in the middle of Ontario, heading to Scotland, I hand't thought to research ahead. Of course, I just smiled and said, “about six hundred dollars,” but I think my point got across.

Does this agent really not know basic currency conversions? Was his shock that three hundred and fifty pound would cost six hundred dollars American genuine? Did he really not know where Edinburgh was? I assume he was just playing a role, trying to convince me to offer up information that I was actually importing drugs, or part of some nefarious plot, if he kept asking away. And who knows? Maybe some people do crack. But, as international jail is the last place I want to end up, I am always up and up.

Next was the pestering for how much food I was bringing in to the country. The conversation that followed was an odd one:

“What food are you bringing in country?”
“What type of food do you have in your bag?”
Confused, I again responded, “none.”
“You have no food with you?”
“That is correct.”

At this point the agent paused a little, looking at my bag – (look, i know I'm not a small guy, but I can go without packing a bag of potatoes in my luggage, thank you very much. To be honest, I'd have probably been more likely to have a sandwich in my carry on.)

“So then, you're saying you don't know of any food in your bag?”
Wondering where this was all going, I again said, “no.”

He motioned to the search table: “If I were to check your bag, and there was food in it, that would be as big a surprise to you, was it is to me, is that correct?”
“That is correct.”

With that last comment he looked upset, and then looked away. “You can go.”

And off I went. I had no idea what had just happened. Was the food question just pretense to search my bag for drugs? And if so, why didn't he search my bag? Why was the food issue so consuming? How many times did he expect to ask before I would trip up, had I been carrying any? What type of people lie about having food in their bag, and what type of magic food to people often export from Canada into America? I would like to know what event just transpired, but I accepted I'd probably never know.

Depositing my bag on a moving belt, I went to my gate where the plane was waiting, boarded it, and then quickly found myself up in the air, only to come down in Newark an hour later – where I would wait for five hours to board the second flight: Famiglia Pizza taunting me, and tempting me, located no more than twenty meters from my seat at gate 134B.

At six twenty I notice that something is afoot when the L.E.D. lights at the gate illuminate. The departure city of Edinburgh doesn't alarm me. In fact, I'm almost comforted, until I see the departure time listed as ten o'clock. I check my ticket, I'm at the right gate. I check my flight number. It is different. Of course there was a gate change. Of course no one played an announcement about it. Why would they? What a silly idea that would be. And, of course, the gate that I'm directed towards is at the complete other end of terminal C.

As I pass the various bookstores, on my pilgrimage to my new gate of departure, I look for the latest issue of Wanderlust magazine, without success. In Scotland I should be able to get the latest issue, but due to importing, and such, that would be two issues beyond the one I currently have. It's like looking into the future, or – living in the past. I think I'll favour my first assumption.

Now, instead of New York's favourite pizza, I am tempted by a giant statue of Ronald McDonald crashing through a wall – and all the delicious, yet terrible, foods that comes with such a sculpture.

One hour to go.

A sense of dread formed in the pit of my stomach when we were all called up to check in with the flight staff. While waiting in line, I noticed that we had a delay of nine minutes posted. I've travelled too many times to be fooled by this. Once a delay is posted it means all hell is about to break loose. I've watched twenty minutes become eight hours, become ten hours delayed in the past.

Now, as the announcement plays about the “at least thirty minutes” flight delays due to maintenance problems I wonder just how long I'll be waiting. The words at least do not fill me with confidence. The words maintenance problems? They are potentially even more distressing.

Two hours and twenty minutes later than scheduled, problems were solved, logbooks were signed, and we were up in the air.

Continental is not an airline I would recommend, and I tell you why. Drinks (I'm referring to adult beverages here, of course) were not free. You could buy one for five dollars American, or four pounds. Aside from the terrible exchange rate, I have problems with airlines that don't comp drinks on ocean crossing flights. If they are willing to cut corners there, what other aspects of your flying experience are they willing to sacrifice? It could be said that because they are charging for drinks they have funds to improve other aspects, but I've never seen the logic play out that way in the past.

Somewhere in the middle of Bourne Supremacy I passed out.

1 comment:

  1. That food conversation is SPECIAL.

    Perhaps they were stalling you with all those questions so they could secretly scan your beard for something smuggleable.


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