I can't believe I actually made it...

Sunday was a gong show. I feel that's the only way to adequately describe my experience trying to fly from Toronto to Saskatoon during the crazy storm that just happened. Let me start from the beginning...

Even though I knew they were cancelling flights left and right, mine seemed to be the little flight that could, so we decided to give the drive a shot with the understanding that if it was terrible we would turn around and come home. I have to say that I can't believe how many people were on the 401. Seriously, people, stay home! I also can't believe we actually made it to the airport. It was pretty scary--our windshield wipers kept icing up, which meant we had to pull over often to clean them off, we drove about 60 the whole way (instead of our usual 130), and some people were driving like big jerks (surprise!)... It was pretty intense, but after almost 2 hours on the road we finally made it. I was a little over an hour early for my 12:15 pm flight, so I felt like I was doing well. I got in line and I was in semi-disbelief that my flight was actually going to go. Little did I know this would be the first of 14 lines I would stand in that day. Yeah, I basically stood in lines ALL DAY on Sunday. It was awesome.

My baggage had been checked, I had my boarding pass, I made it through security without any problems, and all was well--until I actually left the security area and looked at the screen to see that might flight is cancelled. Yes, that's right, unless the flight was cancelled 5 minutes after I checked in, the person at the counter totally checked me onto a flight that was cancelled. Awesome. So I found the customer service desk and waited well over an hour to find out what my options were. After some kind of big ordeal (I'm still not sure what happened, but it involved a lot of typing, some consultations with two other people behind the counter, and many phone calls to the help desk), I was able to get on the 4:20 pm flight to Saskatoon that was still scheduled to take off. I went to reclaim my baggage, which I found pretty quickly despite the fact that it looks exactly the most of the hundreds of other bags that were there. From there I learned (through sarcasm that I didn't catch at the time...oh luggage guy, you're so funny!) that I had to go back to the departures level and basically start from scratch by checking in, getting a new boarding pass, and re-checking my luggage. Oh joy! The line was longer than it was the first time I went through the check-in process, but it still wasn't too bad...I felt like I was doing well...

I went through security again, confident I would get through quickly because, well, I had just gone through a few hours earlier with no problems. Only this time there was a problem. Thinking that I was about to get on a flight, I had filled my Nalgene with water and then, in the stress of trying to get my plans changed, I had forgotten to empty it. So the security personnel is standing there, holding my bottle, and I'm apologizing for being an idiot and trying to explain why I'm a little frazzled. Naively I asked if I just needed to dump it out so that I could be on my way. She scoffed and stood a couple seconds, considering her options. This made me nervous. Finally she told me she would be right back, and she took the offending water bottle into some little room. I had no idea what was going on. Was she telling on me? Was I going to get searched and questioned? Surely this was what was about to happen given the kind of say I was having. Luckily a few minutes later she came back with my empty Nalgene. She explained that their normal procedure is to make people exit the security area and get rid of whatever contraband item(s) they have so that they can go through security again, but she decided to make an exception for me. I immediately felt a little guilty, as I knew that had it been a racialized person (that's the PC way to say visible minority now, if you didn't know) I probably would have been questioned and searched. Oh white privilege, you always have this way of catching me off guard.

I proceeded to buy a phone card so that I could let my parents and Chaz know about the change in plans. After my calls were made I went to check on the status of my flight. To my surprise (or maybe not so much), it was cancelled. Awesome.

So back to customer service I headed. This time the line was MUCH LONGER. It was gross, actually. But, whatever, there were 4 people working, so I figured I'd have a new flight booking ASAP. Except then I noticed only 3 people were working. And then two. And then one. And then zero. Seriously. There was a point where the one woman who was working left and we were, hundreds of us, standing in line waiting to be helped by, well, no one. Finally the employee came back and announced that every person was taking a minimum of 20 minutes to re-book, and suggested we use some courtesy phones to try and get our flights re-booked. I decided to take her advice, if only for a change of scenery (I had been watching the phone line and it wasn't moving very quickly, but, at least it seemed like the more promising option, given the lack of staff at the service desk).

Once I moved to the phone line, I was very happy I did. Not because it was faster, but because the other people waiting in the phone line were all kinds of fabulous. We kind of had a big party in the phone line and I have to say it brought some much needed humour to my day. We eventually even started working as a well-oiled machine: there were 6 phone and we realized that if someone actually got through to an operator (which took about 45 mins) they could just keep them on the line when they were done their booking and pass the phone on to the next person in line so that that person wouldn't have to get in the queue...how smart are we?! So, anyway, when I eventually got through the operator I got was fabulous...I really wanted to be anywhere other than Toronto, so I asked her to check out flights to Calgary and Edmonton (because at least I'd have people to stay with if needed), but she was convinced that my best bet was to go through Winnipeg and that, if that flight was actually able to leave there was a connection that would still get me into Saskatoon that night. I wasn't so convinced that was the best idea...I KNEW that the flights to Calgary and Edmonton had been leaving all day and I knew that if I could get on one of those flights I would more than likely be able to at least get out of Toronto. You know how when people are trying to book their flights on the Amazing Race they get all crazy and stressed out trying to find the best flight like their life depends on it? I totally make fun of those people when I'm watching the show, but, yeah, that was me. How embarrassing. So I was going back and forth trying to decide but then the operator got really excited and informed me that the Winnipeg plane was huge and that if any plane was going to be able to take off it was going to be this one. That sealed the deal.

I passed my phone off to the next person in line (and gave this awesome guy I had met in line who was also trying to get to Saskatoon my flight information so he could try to get on the same flight...so much sharing!) and went on my way to reclaim my bag. Again. As I passed the customer service line I ran into some of my friends from my first time standing in that line. I told them the phones were moving pretty well given that we had mad teamwork going on. I also told them about my new flight and they informed me that the other Winnipeg flights were being cancelled (they were right by the information board, so as they were standing in line they were just watching flights get cancelled one after another). My heart sank. I had another Amazing Race moment where I questioned what I had done and beat myself up for not taking the "safe" flight to Calgary even though it would have meant an over-nighter. But, what was done was done, so I sucked it up and off I went.

Reclaiming my baggage wasn't as easy the second time as it was the first time--you could barely move there were so many bags waiting to be claimed. I've never seen anything like it. I did a few walk-arounds and couldn't find my bag. I waited. Then I did a few more walk-arounds. Still nothing. The bags kept coming though. There were so many bags on the carousel that it kept getting overloaded and shutting down. I ended up standing beside a guy who had been waiting for 2 hours and his bags still hadn't come. To entertain himself he was finding all the bags from his flight and putting them together in one location. He was all kinds of quirky and was one of my favourite single-serving friends of the day. We also started removing bags from the carousel to try and de-clog it. We did our part to help because we're nice like that. Eventually the poor guy gave up...Air Canada had hooked him up with a train to get him where he needed to go, but the tragic thing was that he had packed his winter jacket and all his gear in his checked baggage. So I wished him well, and off he went to face the storm in a sweater.

Eventually I ran into one of the people I spent a lot of time with in the first re-booking line-up who was also trying to get to Saskatoon and she couldn't find her bags either, which was somewhat comforting. She had re-booked to a Calgary flight that was leaving before me, so she went to talk to the baggage people to see if they could help her locate her bags. She came back and told me they had radioed to try and get someone to find her bags so that they could get them onto her new flight and she recommended I do the same. When I tried to do the same, the guy who was supposed to be helping me was, well, less than helpful. Dude kept his arms crossed the entire time and just kept saying that he couldn't do anything for me. And when I couldn't point out which baggage customer service person had radioed to try and find the other person's bags he just gave me a look that said "you need to leave now". So I gave up and accepted that my bags were lost in the Toronto airport despite the fact that they hadn't left the airport. Awesome.

In case it hasn't come through yet, this whole experience was a fairly stressful one. I hate not knowing what's happening and it totally sucked to feel like people were booking me onto flights that they knew were cancelled just to get me out of their hair. Once I left the baggage claim area, though, my stress levels increased exponentially. Why, you ask? Well I saw the taxi line-up, that's why. It almost filled up the whole lobby. This is when I realized that leaving the airport, let alone finding a hotel, would not be easy if this flight got cancelled. I tried not to stress out, but I couldn't help it. I NEEDED this flight to go.

When I got upstairs to the check-in my stress level increased even more. The line-up was INSANE. And there were only 4 people working! After waiting for an hour I got moved to a priority line so that I wouldn't miss my plane. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. My flight was leaving in 30 minutes and still I waited. When I finally got to check-in the customer service person made a call, asking VERY NICELY if I could still get on the plane and I think the fact that I my baggage was "lost" actually saved my butt because as soon as she mentioned that I didn't have any checked baggage I had my boarding pass in my hand and I was running to security. I got to the gate with enough time to go to the bathroom, fill up my water bottle, and wait for a few minutes before boarding. I was in disbelief that we were actually boarding. I was trying not to get too excited, but I couldn't help it. Then things got better...I looked at my ticket and realized I had been bumped up to executive class. Oh yeah!

So, after a bit of a delay and tonnes of de-icing (which is super fun to watch from inside the plane, by the way), we were off! I had accepted that I would miss my connection, but didn't care at that point, as I was just happy to be out of Toronto. I also comforted myself with the free (and insanely delicious) executive class meal that I didn't know I'd be getting. This was a life-saver given that I had been so busy waiting in lines all day that I had forgotten to eat (or drink, for that matter). I didn't realize how hungry I was until the food was in front of me...I wolfed it down so fast I was finished before they came around with the buns. Oops! I also comforted myself watching various on-demand TV shows--so good. All in all, it was a great flight.

It got even better, though, when they announced that they were going to hold the Saskatoon connection for us in Winnipeg, despite the fact that we were over an hour late. How amazing is that?! We landed and walked right off the plane and into the line for the next plane, boarded, and then we left. Apparently the people on the Saskatoon flight were very upset over the delay (and I don't blame them), so the crew explained that they held the flight because the next available flight to Saskatoon would have been on Wednesday and they wanted us to all get home for the holidays. Yay for Air Canada actually being considerate for once!

I've never been happier to be in Saskatoon...I was so overjoyed when we landed I could hardly contain myself. When I got off the plane, I hugged my parents and then immediately got in line to report my lost luggage. Luckily I was at the front of the plane so I was first in line, because no one else who came from Toronto had any of their checked baggage either, so there was quite the line-up.

Anyway, despite all the craziness, I think I would still do it all over again. Why? Because of the people I met along the way. I definitely saw some people at their worst, but I saw (and spent significant amounts of time with--for an airport, anyway) more people at their best. There were the people who slowed down on the 401 to see if we needed help when we were pulled over, all the people who helped one another with flight information, the people who shared phones so that we could all re-book our flights faster, the guy who ran to where his daughter was doing homework to get a pen for me so I could write down my new flight information, the people who had been stranded at the airport since 2 am who bought donuts for everyone on the flight to brighten their day, the guy who was sorting the luggage so it would be easier for others to find their bags... Believe it or not, this whole thing kind of made me like people a little more...and that's pretty good for a Sunday...


Sweet corn! More excellent videos!

The poodle-people!

The crazy butt-shaking!

The faces (sweet corn, the faces!!)!

The English lesson!

The offensive comments!