Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cruise:Trip Home

The ship docked early in the morning, but we didn't have to leave until about 9AM to get to the airport for our 11AM flight home. Another advantage of our penthouse status was not having to line up for departure at a designated time, like everybody else, but just go when we wanted, knowing that our bags would be waiting in the VIP section whenever we came down. Mary had arranged for a limo to pick us up, on the grounds that it only cost $10 more than the regular shuttle bus, and as long as we were living the life of the rich and famous, we really ought to go all out.

Arriving at the airport, we discovered that our flight was delayed three hours -- which meant that we could not possibly make our one-hour connection in Vancouver. The Air Canada desk hadn't even opened yet, and when it finally did, they weren't able to do anything for us anyway -- all they could tell us was to check with the desk in Vancouver...which of course meant we would have to leave the secure area with our luggage after leaving customs and start from scratch -- at midnight on December 22, so, basically, hopeless.

So Mary, having watched far too many episodes of Amazing Race, got on her cellphone to Air Canada in Canada, and managed to book a flight for us out of Vancouver at 10 the next morning, and booked a night at the Fairmount (airport hotel in Vancouver) before the rest of our flight had even cleared the initial lineup in Hawaii. We then went off for a leisurely lunch in the airport, browsed through a bookstore, set the kids up watching a movie on the computer, and generally found ways to kill three hours. We still were the first to arrive at the gate (once it opened for our flight --security conscious American airports don't let you sit down until the previous flight has departed). We approached the desk about getting seats together (they had randomly slotted us in, so we were separated from the kids) and the attendants efficiently issued us new boarding passes so we were all together. The trip was okay for me as I took care of Tigana; bit more challenging for Mary keeping Kasia entertained.

We arrived in Vancouver at midnight and were funneled into an enormous line-up for immigration/customs. There must have been a 1000 people ahead of us as the Christmas rush maxed out every flight, and there were only three windows open as immigration was down to the Christmas-week-midnight skeleton crew. It took about an hour to get to the head of the line, and about 30 seconds to be processed. But after hours on the plane, and hours more in the airport awaiting our delayed flight, we were all very tired.

And I knew I was in trouble when I heard a little voice from knee-level saying, "Daddy, I don't want to stand here any more." Pointing out that nobody was enjoying standing in line; that we had to stand in the line to get home; that it was probably against the law to leave the line; and the importance of not wandering off, joining another family, and never seeing us again, did not seem to help Kasia comprehend that she had to stand in line and that there was nothing really we could do about it. So after the 50th repetition of "I don't want to stand here any more", she apparently felt her message was not getting through, and so felt the need to punctuate the comment with a fist to my leg. "Daddy! I do NOT want to stand here any more." *Punch*

"Hey, stop that! That is not constructive. Look, I've explained that there is nothing -- ouch!"

So the last thirty minutes or so of the wait is punctuated by the rhythm of a tiny fist hitting my leg at regular intervals. The expression on Kasia's face is not angry or tantruming or anything of the sort, just this tired determination to be heard and her problem addressed.

(Tigana, it must be said, was dealing with the situation like the seasoned traveler she is, and was helpful and cheerful throughout the journey home -- aside from the entirely understandable chorus of "I don't want to go home, I want to stay in Hawaii!".)

So. It was probably a good thing that Mary had booked the Fairmount, so we could crash immediately, rather than trying to continue on that night, as did so many others from our delayed flight. Having so many people miss their connections, they put on extra flights at 3AM, which would have meant arriving in Calgary at 5AM. Followed by a two hour car ride home to Lethbridge -- well, actually it's a three hour drive from the Calgary airport, but I doubt that we would have made it all the way in the condition we were in.

Once through customs (25 seconds, thankfully, after clearing immigration) and a very long walk from the International Terminal to the Air Canada windows to confirm that we were still booked on the 10AM flight the next morning (we feared that they might have been cancelled, given the provision of the extra night flight) we went to our hotel room and slept for five hours. In keeping with the rest of the trip, the Fairmount room was extravagant (not that we actually paid more than what a normal room would have cost) and

Next morning, onto the plane and home. Off the plane, Mary takes the kids to the washroom and collects our baggage, while I zip out to the Park and Fly lot to retrieve the car. Which is stone dead. I discover the dome light has been left on. So, I call the CAA, and a truck eventually shows up to provide a boost. But it is definitely fortuitous that we didn't arrive at 5AM -- as Air Canada would have planned it for us -- to find our car dead.

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