Whenever I fly, people invariably ask me “How was your flight?”. And, I always respond the same way with “It was uneventful.”. That’s usually the case. I board, take my seat, take off, read a book (or work on my laptop), land, pick up my luggage (if I have any), and carry on to my destination. Uneventful. Pleasant. Enjoyable. I like the time alone. But it’s uneventful.
This flight was different.
First, it was early. I had to be at the airport by 5:15 AM which meant I was out of bed at 4 AM. Now, I’m an early riser but this is ridiculous. I barely function at that time of day. It felt like a dream making coffee and preparing cereal. It was not an enjoyable start to the day. Despite being excited about returning to the cottage, I was in a bad mood.
Then I checked my bike case. Chas’s travel bed. Despite being overweight, the airline agent didn’t charge me extra. I said to myself, “Things are looking up. This may not be a bad day after all.”.
That was short lived.
I didn’t have to pay extra but I did have to open it for inspection. The airline does not have a scanner large enough for a box this size so they use a small hand scanner instead. You wouldn’t think opening a case would be a problem. Well, it is. This bike case is on its last legs. The four fastening clips on the sides of the case have broken off. All that secures the case is a small, flimsy combination lock that occasionally pops open, and a well worn velcro strap. I put another strap on as well just to make certain, as certain as I can be, that the case won’t break open in transit spewing Chas and his parts all over the tarmac. A horrible thought. Opening it is not a problem. It is almost open to begin with. It is closing and locking it again that is a problem. The latch doesn’t always work. It’s awkward. After a incident free scan, I fumbled with the case for another 15 minutes trying to get is closed and secured properly. It’s a good thing I got up at 4 AM. I needed the extra time to get myself through security.
When it was time to board, I said to myself, “Now you can relax. It’s a 4 hour flight. You can lean back, read the novel you are enjoying, and relax.”. I always choose an isle seat. I like to be able to get up, walk around, and visit the washroom without having to disturb people sitting beside me.
I arrived at isle 8 before the other 2 passengers. I settled in, got my book and reading glasses out, and loosened my shoes. I was set. Or, so I thought. A large gentleman stopped to my right, looked at the window seat next to me, and said “Excuse me.”. I got up and let him in. When he was seated, he leaned over and said “My wife will be along shortly. She got held up at the gate.”. “No problem.” I said hoping she wasn’t as large as he was.
You guessed it.
She was much larger. Too large for the seat. Too large for the airplane. I thought, “Will this plane even get off the ground with these 2 aboard?”.
She was big. I mean big. When she sat in the middle seat next to me, she flopped over the arm rest and gushing out beneath it. The circumference of her arms were the size of my waist. The drop down table hinged to the seat in front of her would not go done. She was protruding too far. I was so squished I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t get comfortable. For 4 hours I had to lean as far to my right as possible.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to sit between the 2 of them. Otherwise, I doubt I’d be here talking about it.
I thought this was bad enough but the worse was yet to come.
I was relieved to deplane. At last I had room to move. Room to breath. I strolled slowly to the baggage area knowing my bike case would be the last to appear. I know from experience that regular baggage is unloaded first, and then the oversize bags follow.
Well, I waited. And waited. And waited. No bag. No Chas. What had happened to my beloved bike. This had never happened before. I have frequently flown with Chas, and Lou, and they have always been fine. Where was Chas?
I sped to the Customer Service desk, presented my baggage claim, and asked the young woman if she could help. She turned to her computer, tapped the keyboard a few times, and then said, “No problem. Your bag did not make the flight.”
“What do you mean my bag didn’t make the flight?”, I said. It checked in with me. We arrived at the airport at the same time.
“It was mistakenly left in Vancouver. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but it will be on the next flight and you will have it tomorrow.”, she said.
“I’m not staying here. I’m heading north to cottage country.” I said.
“No problem. We will have a courier get it to you.”, she said.
Right. I don’t even have an address at the cottage. No problem.
“You’ll get a call in the morning.”, she said trying to calm me down.
Well, I did get a call about 10 AM the next morning to say the case would arrive between 2:30 – 6:00 PM.
“Fine.”, I said.
At 6 PM I get a call from the driver. I can’t understand a word he is saying. I think it may be the connection so I move outside. I still have difficulty hearing and begin shouting. No. Screaming is more like it. I’m frustrated and worried. Really worried. Finally, I make out some of what he is saying.
“I’m a new immigrant and don’t speak English well but I understand you.” Right.
‘Where are you?”, I ask.
“Toronto. Where are you?”, he asks.
“Bolsover.”, I say.
“Where is that?”, he asks.
Right. Give me a break.
“No problem.”, he says. I’ll be there in and hour.
It is a 2 hour drive. I know. I have driven it thousands of times.
An hour later, a small van without any markings pulls into the drive and a very nice looking, young man gets out, opens the side door, picks up my bike case and starts walking to the door. His English was broken but understandable. We must have had a bad connection. He proceeds to tell me he recently arrived from Syria, works 10 hour days, 6 days a week, driving literally anywhere, to support himself and his wife. And, on his day off, he likes to cycle with his wife. That’s right. He was a competitive road cyclist back home.
We exchanged pleasantries, and I told him that if he was ever in the area to drop by, and I would be pleased to take he and his wife for a ride.
“How was your flight?”, you ask.