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So now it’s the new year and we’re supposed to leave the old behind. But maybe I’m not ready. At the end of 09 the Toronto Star travel section published an article called Travel writers share their 2009 highlights.
The highlight I chose was a winter afternoon in the South of France when it was warm enough to sit outside:
And I quote: After being snowed in at a French ski resort I was helicoptered out to Nice. The next day, in St-Paul-de-Vence, the sun was strong enough for me to have lunch on the patio of the Colombe d’Or, a legendary restaurant where you might have once spied Picasso at the bar, or Yves Montand stopping in with Simone Signoret. A Léger mural was in the garden, the couple beside me wore straw boaters and my salad was smothered in truffles. Do people really live like this, I wondered? The answer was yes, other people do, just not me. That’s why this summer I’m determined to rent a villa in France.
Sure, the Colombe d’Or was a highlight, in a year of many highlights, but there were some lowlights, too. I started thinking about all the crappy things that have happened over the year, and how all my travel tribulations seemed to involve transportation. For example, flying from Newfoundland to PEI via Halifax with my boyfriend I had an, um, discussion with the woman at the check in desk.
The conversation went something like this.
Me: “Why is our flight delayed? We’re going to miss our connection!”
She: Looks at my boarding card. “You’re going to make your connection.”
Me: “No! That boarding pass is not for our connection. We’ve been put on a later connecting flight.”
She: Shrug. As in, what do I care?
Me: “Hmphh. Well, do you offer food vouchers?”
Me: “How about a telephone call so I can call the person I’m supposed to meet and tell them I’m on a later flight?” (Picture Boyfriend here cringing in embarrassment.)
Me: “Do you offer apologies?”
She: “I could apologize for the weather.”
Okay, so I’m not proud of this interchange. Especially when it got me nowhere. Then when we eventually landed in Halifax I discovered that our original connection to PEI was late, too, and it still hadn’t left. I really wanted to get on that flight but somehow, when I went up to the woman at the desk, I knew that it wasn’t going to be as easy as stepping onto the plane. Of course not. That’s too simple. She hemmed and hawed and finally told us to go to customer service. Customer service was at the other end of airport. I knew we’d never make it, since she was already announcing preboarding. But I didn’t have another fight in me. We set off for customer service when I heard the announcement for boarding. Sigh. I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. I had to introduce sexism into the airport environment. I look at Boyfriend, Mr I-do-labour-relations. Mr I-don’t-lose-my-temper-like-you-do-except-when-I’m-driving. “You’ll have to talk to her,” I said. “It’s sad but true. She’ll listen to you. You’re a man.”
Yes, I had to send a man in to do a woman’s job. While I stood in the endless line at customer service (and thanks to the couple who let me go ahead of them, and to all the other people in line who let me kvetch) he went back. Sure enough, just as the woman at customer service is telling me there’s no way I can get on the flight, my name is announced over the intercom and I didn’t even hear it. I was too busy complaining. A man in line tapped me on the shoulder. “Are you Carol? They just told Carol to go to the gate for the flight to PEI.”
“That’s me!” I raced off back down the airport and got there just in time. When Boyfriend had asked her politely if we could get on the flight, of course she let us on. I hope I learned something from this situation. That losing one’s temper will get you nowhere. That patience is a virtue. That one must be Machiavellian and crafty when dealing with airport politics. And that even if you can’t solve a problem yourself, you can still mastermind a solution. No wait. I mean, I hope I learned that tolerance and empathy will get you further than asking for a food voucher. And I’m serious. I really am.
While the whole airport thing left a bad taste in my mouth, getting caught by the transit inspectors in Bilbao, Spain, for riding the Monorail without a ticket was much more fun. I really thought I had a valid ticket. I’d bought a day pass for the metro so that I could head out of town to one of the beaches.
How was I supposed to know it wasn’t valid on the stupid Monorail? And embarrassing as it was to get caught by the traffic police in front of all the proper ticket holders on the train, the police were nice about it, and after telling me I had to get off, they changed their mind and let me stay on until my stop. As the doors were shutting, the woman inspector told me I had to buy a ticket at the machine.
“Sure,” I said, hovering by the machine until the train rode out of sight. Did I buy it? I’ll admit to nothing, except that I hope I learned from this experience that honesty is the best policy. And I’m serious. I really am.