Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Journey of Misadventure


The kids are now back at school and I finally have a bit of time to start writing about the gardens that we saw during the Garden Bloggers Fling in Minneapolis, which took place in mid-July.  As I sorted through all of the photos, it was as if I was re-living those beautiful gardens.  The Fling is so often a blur of places, gardens and people - it's wonderful to sit back, relax and really think about what I saw.

Group photo taken at Como Park Japanese Garden and Conservatory

My first post on the gardens we toured in Minneapolis will be up in a couple of days.  Today, I thought I would do something a bit different – tell you a story about my rather bumpy journey to Minneapolis.  I didn’t realize just how funny it all was until I was describing it to a friend once I returned home.  Each time I thought I had finished telling her about my journey, I would recall another “bump” in the road…it was seemingly never-ending and downright comical (after the fact, of course!).

So first things first – I get to the airport.  Now, the last time I traveled on my own was back in the day when you would receive a paper ticket to bring to the airport – you know, the ones with a dozen carbon copies that got ripped out at each check-in point, from the baggage drop-off to the plane.

Since the advent of e-tickets, my husband has been in charge of those things and I, quite frankly, just went along for the ride.  Sort of like when I’m in the car and he’s driving – we could go to the same place a dozen times but, if I’m not driving, I pay little attention to the specifics of how we got there.

Anyhow, I wasn’t exactly sure how the “e-terminals” worked and I didn’t want to mess up so I decided not to do an electronic check-in but just wait in line.  It was a long line but there were 9 agents at the Air Canada counter, so it shouldn’t take too long, right?

Well, that WOULD have been the case had I not arrived just before their break time.  Slowly, one by one, each of the agents left…until there was one.  Seriously – one agent and easily 50+ people in line.  I think my eyes got a bit buggy with disbelief as each agent cleaned up their spot and left...and from what I overheard in that line, I wasn't the only one that was miffed.

After a few minutes, a 2nd agent joined the first.  And that was it for the next I don’t know how long – probably at least 45 minutes or so before the agent count went up to a whopping total of 3.  So what should have easily been a 10 or 15 minute wait turned into over 1.5 hours.  Luckily my husband dropped me off at the airport a couple of hours before I needed to be there (4 hours before the flight) as my daughter had a birthday party to go to, so I wasn’t really pressed for time.

Well, that was a bit annoying, I thought, but now I’m free and clear.  At this point I also discovered that my flight was delayed by half an hour.  No big deal – that gave me plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and finish up a post I had been working on.

Then it was off to find my gate.  I should have known that it was not going to be the typical gate when I was directed towards a corridor that had a large sign in front of it that stated it was a 7 minute walk to the gate and this was your LAST CHANCE if you wanted to get a snack, a coffee, even a bottle of water.  It had a “you are entering a no man’s land” sort of vibe.

And that wasn’t far off the mark.  You know how some schools have the main “proper” school and then they have the outcast portables?  This was the portable of Terminal 1.  After the 7 minute walk – and that was pretty much accurate at a normal walking pace - you arrived at a long, narrow space with 2 counters at one end and a throng of people in between you and any information.  The photo below shows practically the entire waiting area.

Can you see the flight info on those monitors at the far end?
Yeah, me neither.

When I looked up what people said about these gates online, the comments were quite comical – one of the best was “when people talk about the middle of nowhere, they’re referring to here”.

The only monitors in the entire area were at the far end where the United and Air Canada counters stood.  I still had quite a bit of time before the revised departure time but luckily, I found an empty seat after a boarding call for a United flight.  All I could do was wait so I took the opportunity to catch up on a scarf I had been working on...nothing de-stresses like a bit of good ol’ knitting in a crowded airport terminal.

My first lace piece and, in keeping with the theme of the Fling, a leaf print...
which is actually still in progress, slow knitter that I am

The plane we were going on was tiny…the smallest plane I had ever been on.  We were at ground level and the plane was parked 20’ away from us.  I’ve only ever been on international flights and those to touristy destinations so this was a new experience.

The plane

We were going to embark the plane by going outside and climbing the stairs….not so unusual for tropical climates, where I have done that many times on much larger planes, but very unusual for Toronto, where you board all planes (or so I thought) through covered ramps.  And the fact that you only went up 4 steps or so and you were on the plane was strange too – as I said, I was a bit thrown by how small the plane was.  My husband assured me that smaller planes were actually safer than larger ones, but that didn’t really keep me from being a bit nervous.

As there were no monitors in the waiting area, you had to completely rely on announcements to find out what was happening with your flight.  So, I’m sitting there doing my knitting and waiting to hear a boarding announcement.  And I waited and waited and waited.  Nothing.  The revised flight time came and went…still nothing.  I’m hearing continuous announcements and updates for United Airlines but not one from Air Canada.  So I work my way through the hordes of people up to the Air Canada counter.  There was one agent there and she was on the phone.

The monitor over the agent counter still showed the revised flight time…over 30 minutes earlier.  I also noticed that a United flight scheduled to leave after ours was already boarding.  At this point I’m getting a bit panicky.  Did my flight board early?  Did I missed the announcement?

As I’m standing there, another anxious passenger comes up beside me – “Are you waiting for the flight to Minneapolis?” she asks.  I tell her that I am and we both remark on how we haven’t heard any announcements, etc. which actually re-assures us as it’s doubtful that both of us would have missed them.

A couple of other Air Canada staff members show up and the one agent gets off the phone, speaks to them for a moment, and then gets on the loudspeaker.  Three names are called to the counter – and wouldn't you know it, one of them was mine.

Apparently the flight was overbooked and I didn’t have a seat.  I should have realized something was up when I checked my luggage and the agent told me that I would “get my seat at the gate” which I found rather odd.  So heads up – if you don’t get a seat right away, chances are there is no seat to give.

They offered me a voucher to get onto a later flight but that would mean I would miss the Welcome Event altogether so I declined.  If worse came to worse, I suppose I wouldn’t have a choice, but thankfully an Air Canada staff member who was also booked on the flight agreed to go on the later flight, as did a couple of other passengers.

In the end, the flight was delayed by over 3 hours…which meant that I wouldn’t even be landing until after the Welcome Event started that evening.  Oh well, I thought, at least I didn’t miss the flight and I would still be able to make most of the event as it was relatively close to the hotel.

We boarded the plane and I was relieved that we were finally on our way.  But we hadn’t even started to move before we hit another snag.  Since this was a small plane, the emergency exits in the middle of the plane were located beside a pair of seats, which were directly behind me.  Once everyone was seated, the stewardess approached the passengers in those seats to ask if she could count on their assistance if the need arose.  Unfortunately one of the passengers was an elderly gentleman who didn’t speak English and didn’t understand what she was saying.  As she would need someone sitting there that would be able to respond to instructions, she asked if he would mind switching seats with another passenger, using one of his relatives as a translator.  He refused.  The plane literally sat there for an addition 20 minutes while a group of people attempted to persuade this fellow to change seats, which he finally did, thankfully, without incident.

The seatbelt sign was on and the stewardess was doing the safety speech.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, the baby sitting on his/her mom’s lap in the seat in front of me picked that precise moment to do a poo.  A very, very smelly poo.  Now, it was just as bad a stink for me as for everyone else, especially as I was so close to them, but as a mom, all I could feel was sympathy.  We’ve all been there, when our kid is the one that stinks up the room.  And this was 10 times worse than a normal situation as she couldn’t do a thing about it.  She had to sit there, in cramped quarters with 50 other people, and wait until we were up in the air and the seatbelt sign was off.  To make matters worse, the indoor air didn’t go on until several minutes after that and you could hear the grumblings throughout the plane of “what’s that smell”.  Yikes!  Poor mom!  Let me tell you as soon as we were at cruising altitude & that seat belt sign was turned off, she practically leapt from her seat, heading for the bathroom.  The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful – thank goodness – and we arrived in Minneapolis in good time.

There is a super easy light rail system that heads right into downtown Minneapolis from the airport but I wasn’t really sure how that worked and, as I was on my own, I decided to get an Uber instead.  I should have known that, on a day like this, getting to the hotel would have it’s fair share of bumps as well, starting with making the pickup call.

Once again, I usually leave that to my husband, so this was the first time I had done that at an airport.  I turned my phone off “flight mode” and started the Uber app.  Well, as it happens, my phone thought I was still in Toronto.  I fumbled with the app, etc., but no matter what I did, it told me that I wanted a pick-up at Toronto Pearson Airport.  The way the app works is that it “knows” where you are and advises the driver of this.  There is no way to circumvent this and tell them to pick you up at a different location.  So I call technical support (aka my husband) and he gave me the age old, solve-practically-every-technical-issue piece of advice – turn the phone off and then on again.  Presto!  I was now “officially” in Minneapolis :)

With the car on it's way, I went to the general pickup area and waited.  Of course, it turns out that at this particular airport, Ubers pick up their passengers in a completely different area - I wasn't even on the right floor...ugh!  Thank goodness the drivers call you a few minutes before they arrive otherwise I would never have known that I was in the wrong spot.

So you would think that once I got into the car, that would be it for the misadventures, right?  Wrong.  And I knew it as soon as we came to a particular part of the highway that split off into two directions and the driver asked ME which highway I thought we should go on.  Oy!  You would think that picking me up at the airport and driving me to a hotel would be a huge hint that I wasn’t a local.

We finally get to the downtown core...and then he pulls over and stops.  I can tell he’s debating something and not sure what to do.  So he turns to me and says that according to his GPS, the hotel should be here.  Are you kidding?  It “should” be here?  What does that mean?  So here we are, in the middle of the city, and he has no idea where the hotel is.  We had to grab someone off the street and ask them where on earth this hotel was.

As it turns out, the hotel is attached to the Mayo clinic and the combined building takes up an entire block.  The Mayo clinic faced the street we were on and the hotel faced the street that was one block over.  I'm not 100% sure, but that's the only reason that I can think of for the mix-up.  Due to all of the one-way streets, he had to go down a couple of blocks before cutting over, etc., (at this stage, what's one more delay, right?) but we finally made it to the hotel.

And then, to top off my *lovely* journey, would you believe that he pulled up to the sidewalk across the street from the hotel and was going to drop me off there.  Across the street.  With my luggage and 4 lanes of traffic to cross to get to the hotel entrance.  Ummm…no.  I had to ask that he please turn into the circular driveway at the hotel entrance.  Sheesh!  Don't get me wrong, the driver was a really nice guy, just not that experienced, obviously.  By the time I got into his car, I was already at my limit when it came to things going wrong that day, so every little hiccup was magnified.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I finally arrived, a little worse for wear, at the Welcome Event which was held at the newly renovated Minneapolis Central Library.

Minneapolis Central Library

I was exhausted and starving but, mostly, I was VERY happy to see everyone.  I was so busy recounting my travel tales and munching down on the delicious eats that I completely forgot to take photos once I got there.  Thankfully the rocky start was not an omen of the Fling itself, which was so incredibly fun...I still get a tingly feeling now when I think about how wonderful it was.  So that’s it for my travel rant – from here on in, it’s all about the glorious gardens.

BTW – our trip back to Toronto was not exactly uneventful either….more lineups, more delays & a bit of comedic relief.  But that’s a whole other story :)

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. Ah, Margaret .... you write so well. I felt I was almost on the trip to Minneapolis with you. This was very much fun to read. I look forward to your further adventures!

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    1. Oh, thanks Jane! The rest of the trip was nothing but great gardens and great friends, so much more enjoyable then the rough start :)

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  2. You couldn't make it up, could you. Oh, that poor mother on the flight, we can all relate to those sort of incidents. Glad you've shown your knitting, what a lovely pattern, you'll have to show us it again when it's finished.

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    1. When it comes to airport stories, there's no shortage of tales, that's for sure! I'm quite enjoying working on the scarf - I'm now probably about 3/4 of the way done. I think the detail will really shine once it's washed & blocked - I'll make sure to post a photo when it's all done.

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    2. Loved reading this and your knitting is pretty ♥

      summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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  3. I could not stop laughing. Everything that could go wrong almost did go wrong. We did miss a flight once because we couldn't recognize our names when they called us, that was in Buenos Aires. Boy was that a trip of airline misadventures. But you made it there and obviously had a great time. Sometimes these misadventures are the things you remember and laugh about the most. Can't wait to hear more about The Fling.

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    1. Geez - I would not have been a happy camper had I been bumped from that flight. At least I was here - if I had been in foreign country like you were, a small freak out session (in my head, of course) would definitely ensue.

      And I completely agree - usually the "hiccups" are the most memorable part of a trip. It's hard to remember that, though, when you are in the thick of it :)

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  4. I don't think I will fly ever again. The last time for me was with the paper tickets as well, and I don't think I could handle all the confusion, etc now.
    At least you made it! But wow, such delays. Ugh.

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    1. You know, I'm not sure if it's my faulty memory or reality but it seems as if all this new technology, etc., has had little impact on waiting times at the airport. In fact, in the past couple of years, I could swear that we've had to stand around waiting in lines for much longer than in the past. All in all, the experience hasn't improved - for me anyhow.

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  5. Thankfully you made it! Totally worth all the trouble : )Flying these days is rough. Our flight was delayed a couple of hours. Traveling from Houston there is no direct Southwest flight so our plane stopped in St. Louise Missouri. There they took everyone off the plane because a big thunderstorm was passing thru and the threat of lightening was dangerous. And the sky turned black as night in the middle of the day. We finally got to Minneapolis several hours late. We came a day early so didn't miss anything! I will remember the trick of turning off your phone if Uber doesn't work!

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    1. It was DEFINITELY worth the trouble! I think that you and I were not the only ones as I recall a few others having issues with flights that day too. Maybe this is par for the course when you are dealing with smaller, local flights. You were smart flying in a day early - I'm definitely going to do that next time!

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  6. What an experience - all the worse when you are on your own! An amusing read though :-)

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    1. So true - when you are sharing the misery with someone else, it somehow doesn't seem nearly as bad!

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  7. I'm glad you finally made it to your destination! I guess everyone who flies will eventually have troubles, but yours seem to have ganged up on you all in one day. I can't wait to hear about the fling though!

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    1. They certainly did - each one individually would not be a big deal, but cumulatively it made for a very trying day!

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