Friday, January 13, 2012

Travelling - the extended version

 Thursday, January 12 - our day to leave sunny Florida and head to Saint John, NB.  I thought I'd make life easier and booked us on a flight getting in to SJ at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Since Dad had a dinner meeting uptown, we'd get to have a few drinks at Britt's Pub and enjoy the evening.  Friday we'd go up to the school, figure out what was going on and then drive over to PEI to visit friends. 

Wednesday I phoned (and emailed - got a little stressed with the delay of answer - turns out she was driving and couldn't answer) the shuttle-car to make sure our early morning pick up was all set.  I went over to the security gate to make sure they knew she was coming and would be there to let her in.  We packed, had a great dinner with Grammi and went to bed early.  All was good. 

4:15 am - the alarm went off.  We got up, had breakfast, packed the toothbrushes and pjs.  All was good.

4:50 am - the phone rings.  The driver was at the gate.  Busy morning at the gate, there were 5 other cars there too.  She just wanted to let me know that she had arrived and would be at the house shortly.  I heard her talk to the security guy through the call box and he said he would be there shortly.   We got our shoes on and hugged Grammi good-bye.  All was good.

5:55 am - We arrived at the airport.  2 hours 15 min before our flight.  It had been a lovely drive, we had chatted with the driver the whole way.  Check in was easy.  Our bag only weighed 49.5 lbs, so we had a full half pound to spare.  Security posed no problems.  We got to our gate at 6:05 am.  We even had enough american money to buy a breakfast sandwich. All was good

8:00 am - We boarded the plan and took off on time.  It was a decent flight.  Full, but we just read our books and enjoyed it.  All was good

11:00 am - We landed and taxied to the gate at Pearson international in Toronto.  It was a bit of a walk to customs - guess that's why there are moving sidewalks.  The line-ups at customs were small (it helped that we were near the front of the plane and got off before most of the others).  We went up to booth 8 and I handed both passports and claim card to the agent - a larger man, 50 years old (he told us) with very short reddish hair.  (Didn't look anything like you Dad - no beard).  I answered the questions.  Then he asked "who is this guy?" motioning to Mark.  I answered, "my boyfriend."  Agent - "Does he say anything or only when you let him?"  Me - "Only when I let him."  Agent to Mark "Oh boy.  That's what old married couples do.  Letting her carry the passports.  I'm 50 and I just started to let my wife carry my passports.  There's still time boy."   We got through with no problems (other than the razzing for acting like a little ol' married couple). 

11:20 am - Grabbed the bag, rechecked the bag and went to security.  While we weren't terribly impressed that we had to go through security again we dumped out the water bottle and got into the security line.  The guy scanned our boarding passes.  I took my boots off while in line (they always beep), took out all the  computers (yes, we are two people travelling with three laptops), took the belt buckle off,  and sent the stuff through the x-ray.  The guard had to scan my boarding card twice but then sent me through.  No problems.  After a few minutes, Mark was still standing on the other side of the beeper machine.  The guard came back to me for my boarding pass.  He scanned both of them again and then told us - Our next flight was cancelled.  He said there was nothing major, just go through security and head to the customer service desk. 

11:40 am - After putting the boots and belt buckle back on, repacking the computers and liquids/gels, we got out of security.  We headed over to the customer service desk.  "Our flight to Saint John at 1:30 has been cancelled."  Agent - "Yes, but there's a black out at the moment.  Come back in 15 - 20 minutes and we'll get you sorted."

12:00 pm - 20 minutes later we went back to Air Canada's customer service (an oxymoron I know).  The weather was bad in Saint John.  So she booked us on the next flight - 9:55 pm.  And we had to go out of security, get our bag (which we had just checked through after customs) off the carriage, go to the check-in, and come back through security.  Yay!  At least that will give us something to do this afternoon.

12:15 pm - lunch time.  We were getting hungry by this point, and having had to clear customs meant we didn't have much (any) food.  So we found a spot that served alcohol.  Expensive, I know... but at that point the drinks tasted very good.

2:00 pm - time to get and check the bag.  Somehow, between Florida and Toronto, our bag lost a pound... now weighing only 48.5 lbs.  If I could figure out how it did that, and bottle it, I could make millions.  Anyways, back through security.  Boots off, belt buckle off, computers out...  through the machine.  Boots on, belt buckle on, computers away.  How many times can you go through security in one day?

6:00 pm - Thank goodness for the free internet.  We'd go crazy (or broke) if it was still pay per use.  We found a good spot to sit and wait, complete with outlets to plug the computers into.  I knitted and watched "Being Erica" online  (have to make sure I'm caught up before I see the girls - well those that are still in NB anyway).  We sat at gate 120 even though our flight was for 109.  We were a little pissed that the flights to Fredericton and Moncton were still going out, but SJ was cancelled.  New York and Philadelphia flights were also cancelled.   

8:30 pm - Lucky us - there was a gate change - our flight was now going out of 120 (where we'd been sitting all day).  Time for some dinner.  I walked up to the sandwich place.  But the sandwich bar was closed - no smoked chicken avocado sandwich for us.  And I wasn't interested in paying 11$ for a sandwich in saran-wrap.  So I continued on my journey to find a food.  Extreme Pita.  hmmmm... they have shawarma.  We like shawarma.  In fact I had been joking at lunch that was what I wanted (since we ate it so much when we were in Oshawa).  So shawarma and coke it is.  Now back to our seats at gate 120.

9:15  pm - 15 minutes to boarding time.  I can't wait.  The TV is on CBC news feed.  Which is fine - interesting even - for the first hour... but since it just loops itself I think I can recite all the stories from heart after 8 hours of it.  A couple sat down near us and we chatted.  She was a new (relatively) grandma, so she showed me pictures of her 1 1/2 year old grand daughter - quite a cutie.  And we chatted some more.  WHAT?!?  the SJ flight at 9:55 pm is delayed an hour????  Well, we'll get in at 2 am....    ok, I guess.

10:45 pm - We should be boarded by now....   WHAT?!?  AGAIN?  Delayed another hour.  So leaving at 11:55 pm, getting in at 2:47 am.....  But don't worry - they are optimistic that the weather in SJ will peter out and we'll be able to land.

11:30 pm - The Air Canada Agent comes on the mic to announce that she is going home.  But they're still planning on leaving in half an hour.  Operations in SJ is to be in contact with operations in Toronto with details regarding the runway.

11:45 pm - any one for flight to SJ who is buying food or in the washroom, please make your way back to gate 120.  We will be boarding soon.

11:50 pm - Pre-boarding call.  Final boarding call. (that's right - no regular boarding call).  We're finally going.  Only 10 1/2 hours late.

12:10 am - still sitting at the gate.  Pilot - "I don't know what they told you inside, but we've been delayed due to weather in Saint John.  Snow, Freezing rain, ice pellets, all kinds of nasties.....   blah blah blah your safety.... blah, blah, blah... Safe journey tonight."

12:20 am - still sitting at the gate.  Flight Attendant - "We have too much fuel.  We are too heavy to land in Saint John with the way the runways currently are.  We need to unload some cargo.  Don't worry - this isn't your checked luggage.  This is other cargo that is going to Saint John.  Your bags will arrive with you."

12:30 am - Take off :)  Beautiful lights of the city.... Clouds.  Dark thick clouds (it's been raining here all day).

12:50 am - Drink service.  and because of the inconvenience, alcoholic beverages are free tonight.  So Mark and I had rum and cokes with our pretzels, read and slept.

An hour and a half later (note time zone change) -  We start our decent.  I can feel it in my ears.  I wake up to an announcement from the pilot.  "We are unable to land in Saint John.  The runway is too icy.  They've been working all night salting and sanding and scraping it, but the machines are still giving readings that it isn't safe to land.  Since we want this to be a safe flight for you, we are turning around and heading back to Toronto."
Seriously?  is it April 1st?  Guess it is a good thing we dumped the cargo for weight and not the fuel.

Thank you Dad for being so patient with all this rigmarol.  I'm sorry about the lack of sleep.  When I initially said we'd be in at 4:30 I meant pm, not am.  Thank you.

4:30 am - Arrival at Pearson International (for the second time).  We walk into the terminal - this time with no pedway so we had a short jaunt through the freezing rain.  Air Canada customer service (different people from the afternoon) were waiting for us.  "For those of you returning from the scenic tour of New Brunswick, we have rebooked you on one of the morning flights.  Please line up to get your new boarding passes and food voucher. You can use it anywhere in the terminal and you're in luck - A&W is opening for the first time in 15 minutes"    We'd tried to get to Saint John and failed, so we got our tickets changed to Charlottetown. Agent (sympathetic look on his face) - "You won't get in until 2 pm"   Me - "The flight leaves at 11 am?"  Agent - "Yes, you still have another 6 hours"  Me - "That's a shorter wait than yesterday".  The guy was quite helpful, the only issue was there was no one in baggage to pull our bag.  He gave us instructions to go get something to eat and then have one person leave security and talk to the people in baggage - not right away, since they weren't there yet and not to wait until 10:30 to do it (flight is scheduled for 11).  Now to get a hold of everyone about the change in plans.... 

5:15 am - breakfast... hmmmm... A&W?   nah.  Shawarma.  yes, that's right Shawarma for breakfast - with orange juice.  (Ellen - you've made a monster out of us).

6:30 am - Mark went out to make sure everything was good with the bag, while I stayed with the carry-ons.  And surprisingly the guy told him it was all good.  The bag had been pulled and was ready to go to Charlottetown.  Wow - communication success.  After waiting behind a school group, Mark finally through the security line up.  Guard - "No bags?"  Mark - "No bags"  Guard - confused look on face...

8:15 am -  Sitting at gate 111.  Flight board still says Charlottetown is a go.  It is snowing outside, but the biggest issue with any of the flights so far is that airport personal haven't shovelled the walkways to the planes.  Collin says weather is good in PEI - 10 cm of snow yesterday, rain later in the day (the regular kind) 8C.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Under the N - 45... N 45 BINGO!!

Thursday night = Bingo night. 
So the family finished dinner and walked up to the CanAm centre.  All 5 of us....  We missed you B.   Anyway, we couldn't be late, they stop selling cards 5 minutes before 7 pm.  So we left the house at 6 pm.   For those of you who know the compound, you know that the CanAm centre is at max 5 min from the house.  So an hour got us there in plenty of time to learn how to play, buy our cards and some more dabbers (different colours even), get a glass of water (no snacks this year) and get some good seats.  We weren't the first ones there.
Waiting for Bingo to start.

 Mom knows people everywhere, so it should be no surprise that she invited one of her friends that came to play to sit with us.  Another couple also sat next to mom and dad - the same couple that sat next to them the last time they played - 9 months ago.  Anyway this couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and neither of them look as old as their 90+ years.


Dad's not so sure about this
So having met all the other people at our end of the table, we were ready to get this game started.  The caller came to the microphone and announced that we'd be playing blue through pink before intermission and then grey, olive, brown and jackpot after.  So get your dabbers ready. This is quite a high tech system that they have - not even a year old yet.  Anyway the ball comes out and the caller puts it in front of a camera so that you can see (on one of three tv monitors) what number it is.  Then, after a few seconds, he calls it out and the number on the big score board lights up.  But the number doesn't actually count until he calls it out, even if you can see it on the screens before that...  Kinda makes you feel like you have ESP.

Grammi focused on dabbing the right numbers
Now since it is a new year, they added some new games.  This wasn't just any one straight line to win type of game.  We had to get such things as the "champagne glass", "lucky 13", "heart", and the "hair pin".  Remember that couple that had their 70th wedding anniversary that sat next to us - well, they won the "love letter" game - appropriate.

Intermission came. and so did the 50-50 draw.  We didn't buy tickets, so of course we didn't win.  As normal the person holding the first ticket drawn won the money.  However, other people also won.  They won a brownie.  Just one brownie - a snack for intermission.  So intermission was extra long as they read off the numbers of another 16 tickets.  Apparently a lady made a pan of brownies but there weren't enough for everyone, so they thought this was the fairest way to distribute them. Mom's friend (the one sitting with us) won one.

Bingo night resumed.  The patterns were so complex that geeky me had to colour some of the squares with the bingo dabber and others with a pen just so I wouldn't get confused about when to call bingo.  Mom decided it was our time to win, especially since the others at our table had already won (even if one was just a brownie).  She was extra determined. 

She was down to her last number on the second to last game.  She kept chanting 45 under her breath.  And then - finally - the 45 ball appears on the  TV monitor.  She got super excited, but couldn't call out BINGO until the caller called 45.  She was so excited she started nudging the 92 year old man beside her - who didn't have a clue what she was going on about.  The number was called and   BINGO!  Mom won the "big bucks".

After 2 1/2 hours of playing, the game was over and the hall was cleaned up, chairs and table put away, in under 10 minutes - just as dad said it would be - and we walked home having survived our first family bingo night.