Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Travelling

Monday, July 18

We did a lot of trip preparation, including packing our clothes and toiletries, stopping the mail, arranging with the neighbor kid (for a small wage of $5) to pick up those obnoxious free papers that get thrown on our driveway or attached to our mailbox, and generally preparing the house for an extended absence.

Friend Marcot Ravenswatch agreed to take us to the airport on his way to work, which really worked out for us, and we arranged with Neighbor Rusty to pick us up when we returned. In the past, we've parked in the Itchy Lot at the airport, but due to recent "improvements" at Capital City International Aeroport and Shoe Shiners, the daily rate for parking has increased by about 100%, so treating Marcot to snacks and Rusty to lunch was a much better deal all around, except that we were failing in our patriotic duty as part of a consumer economy.

Tuesday, July 19

We awoke fairly early. We needed to be at the airport around 8:30, so we allowed for plenty of time for the three SH'es, as my late great-grandfather would say, even though he died several years before I was born, so I only have the word of my mother as evidence. What are the SH'es? "Sh!+, Shower, and Shave." From what I hear, Great-Grandpa also was a booze runner during Prohibition. Also from what I hear, about 95% of the country did the same thing back then.

Marcot picked us up exactly at 7:45, according to prophecy plan. We had a nice leisurely ride into the airport, and we arrived about 10 minutes ahead of schedule, which is what I usually aim for, in order to account for heavy traffic. When we approached the head of the line for boarding passes, we found that coach class passengers are pushed into using the self-serve kiosks to print the paperwork. GPop scowled enough that we managed to get a real human. The kiosks didn't appear to have the appropriate configuration to be helpful for international travellers.

Capital City International Aeroport and Shoe Shiners is one of the lucky winners in the Full Body Scanner Lottery. You may recall the hubbub a few months back when these rolled out into production. People were worried about TSA pervs seeing their junk or the scanners causing immediate and terminal cancer. I have fewer concerns about that than I do about the pervasive culture of fear these scanners imply. In any case, the most immediate concern was as follows.

  1. Belts needed to be removed in order not to trip the metal detector, and
  2. Arms go up in the air, which
  3. Stretches out the trunk and slightly narrows the waist, so
  4. Pants are in danger of falling down.

(Click to embiggen)

After a brief flight on a turboprop plane (thank the FSM for noise-cancelling headphones), we arrived in Toronto Pearson airport, a.k.a. YYZ. The Canadians seem very proud that it has recently won the Most Improved Airport award from some body that gives out such awards. The international terminal was quite spacious and decked out with restaurants and duty-free (heh, "duty") shops.

Before we could sample the wares therein, however, we had to pass by Officious Customs Guy. He was probably in his late 30s/early 40s, and his Uniform and Badge made him a Very Important Person. We had our passports out and ready, and we had on the appropriate open and calm faces. He interrogated us about our travel plans in Canada ("here for 6 hours until our connecting flight leaves"), what we were bringing into the country ("clothes and toiletries that will leave with us when we leave on our connecting flight in 6 hours"), then he got irritated and suspicious of our identities. "WHICH ONE OF YOU IS GPOP?" Of course, GPop's picture is right there on the open page of the passport in his hand, but he needed to establish his alpha role. Then he jammed Son's passport at Son's face with a curt, "Take this, Bob." Son's name is not "Bob."

After passing the Challenge of Doom, we picked up some sandwiches and poutine. The barely-post-high-school kids that were working there were still tickled that Americans don't really know about poutine. We told them that since our Canadian vacation last year, we had been wanting to try it again when we next visited Canada. They asked whence we came, and when we told them Midwest State, one of the lads asked, "What food is specific to Midwest State?" Advice to travellers: come prepared to answer off-the-wall questions like this from the natives. All we could come up with was a litany of generic midwestern food.

After six hours of cooling our heels in YYZ, we hopped on the flight to London. If ever you need to fly to the UK, I can recommend Air Canada without reservation, although you'll probably need reservations (rim shot. sound of crickets.) They had on-demand video, a very nice in-flight meal, and seats that were ever so slightly less uncomfortable than most other planes I'd been on.

At some point on the flight, we passed midnight.

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