Good morning friends. How did you enjoy the 3:00am wake-up call this morning? What? You slept through it? Well, I guess that’s one of the benefits of being a virtual travel buddy. I pushed the snooze three times. The only thing getting me out of bed were dreams of boarding the airplane, climbing into my window seat and sleeping all the way to Toronto.
One of the benefits of leaving my house at 4:15am is the complete lack of traffic. I arrived at the Hyatt Place hotel at 4:45am where I’ll leave my car for the week.
A little backstory; this trip is costing me a good amount of money and, to be frank, I’m not yet making any money off this project. With that in mind, I’m looking to cut costs where ever possible. I often ask friends to take me to and from the airport (I’m a very good friend in return), but with an early outbound flight and a late returning flight, well, you can only ask friends for so much. A few days ago I remembered that, about four months ago, Hyatt Place had contacted me via Twitter and offered to send me a certificate for a free night. I got online and was thrilled to find the Hyatt Place in Tempe, Arizona has free parking and an airport shuttle if you stay there. I called them up and was informed that they were sold out for the night before my flight. Not one to be defeated so easily, I called back and asked for the front desk. I asked her if there was maybe just the smallest of room available.
“No Ma’am, unfortunately we are sold out that night.”
I explained to her what Drop Me Anywhere was and that I was really after the free parking. She asked me to hold and a minute later she came back on the line and said,
“Can you please hold while I transfer you to Ali, the General Manager (it felt like I was being sent to the principal’s office. Am I in trouble?)?”
A few seconds later I was speaking with Ali. Without even a full explanation needed, Ali offered me free parking for the week and a shuttle to the airport. People often underestimate small acts of kindness. As this act will not only save me $50-$80, this was no a small act to me. But more importantly, the kindness of a big business supporting a small, beginning business is well, as Mastercard would say, priceless.*
I arrived at the airport at 5:15 for my 7:00am flight. This being considered an international flight, it’s requested that you arrive two hours prior to the flight. And of course there’s the whole inconvenience of the customs and immigration experience. Funny thing is, most international flights also include a free bag checked, free drinks, free headsets, blankets, pillows and food. That’s not the case for this “international” flight.
I step onto the moving walkway to get to my gate. There’s a recorded man’s voice giving instructions on the walkway, “Please hold onto the handrails.”
There’s a woman’s voice giving you instructions on the walkway going in the other direction, “The walkway is ending. Please watch your step.”
At one point they seem to be talking over each other, even arguing. Before long I start expecting the man’s voice to simply say, “Yes dear.”
I take Mr. and Mrs. Walkway to my gate and patiently wait for my row to be called. After a half hour, I finally board and head over to seat 13A. Aah, a window seat to lean my pillow up against and sleep for a few hours. But first, I must get past the guy in seat 13C who doesn’t seem to want to get up to let me through. He moves his legs to the side and indicates that I should climb over him. This is a bit of a traveling pet peeve of mine. It bothers me enough when a woman does this, but when a man does, I think chivalry is definitely dead. As ladylike as possible, I climb over him with my backside about two inches from his eyes (aah, could that have been his plan?) and fall into my window seat.
About thirty minutes after takeoff Mr. 13C pushes his flight attendant call button. When the flight attendant approaches he whispers something in her ear. She heads back down the aisle and, in a few minutes, returns with a wheelchair that can fit through the narrow aisle. Mr. 13C lifts his armrest and slides into the chair. It’s at this moment that I think, ‘I’m a horrible person!’ I put my head against the window and go to sleep.
I land in Toronto with nearly ninety minutes to get through immigration and customs, re-check my luggage and get to my gate. I get in the very long line that says, “U.S. Citizens.” They have two windows open and about 100 people waiting in line. After standing in line for about 15 minutes, they close one of those windows. Beginning to get a bit nervous about making my connection, I try to get the attention of the lady telling people which window to go to (uh, again, there’s only one window open). I’ve watched her sourly shout at people, not once saying hello or cracking what could possibly be construed as a smile.
I finally get her attention and ask, “Is this the right line if you have a connection to New Foundland?”
“Yes, it is. You’re in the right line,” she responds. “What time is your flight?” she adds.
“Well what are you doing in this line?” she shouts at me.
“You said this was the right line,” I respond.
“No I didn’t! I don’t tell people which line to go to. This isn’t the line for people with connections! You should have gone to the one over there!”
After getting through immigration, claiming my luggage, smiling at the customs officer and rechecking my bags, I realize I’m doing okay with my connection time so I stop at a foreign exchange booth to exchange a minimal amount of money that will get me some food and a taxi to my bed and breakfast (travel tip – I’ll wait to exchange more at a bank in St. John’s as that’s where I’ll get the best rate). The nice thing about heading to Canada is the U.S. dollar is doing very well in comparison to the Canadian dollar. Apparently, the airport exchange booth hasn’t gotten the memo as my $60 U.S. dollars is worth $57.86 Canadian. Add the $3.95 fee and I walk away with $53.91.
As it’s been a while since I had anything to eat, I decide that I’m doing so well with my time that I stop at Starbucks to grab a yogurt (gotta love a $7.00 yogurt parfait). As I head over to the doors marked D1, I meet up with the TSA lady (or whatever they call them in Canada). What? I have to go through another security checkpoint to get to my gate? And my yogurt isn’t allowed through? With no time to eat it, my $7.00 yogurt goes straight into the trash. Welcome to Canada.
Tomorrow – Playing in Pubs and Dungeons
*Don’t forget, at the end of this St. John’s series I’ll list all expenses incurred so that you can get an idea of what your budget might be should you do a similar trip. Hint, don’t buy the $7.00 yogurt.