Wednesday 10-Dec-2003

Note: the following account is rather long, so if you'd prefer
click here
to drop down to a Condensed version in song form...

The Canada-Boston Saga

Well, I've finally been to Montreal. I'm sure it's a lovely place, but as with Toronto all I've seen of it is the airport...

I was in London, Ontario Nov. 30th to Dec. 6th for the final Marion Woodman leadership seminar. Joann called me Tuesday night to report that weather predictions were not looking good for the weekend - a Nor'easter was forecast. So I kept an eye on the Boston weather updates (handily, the Station Park Hotel had high speed Internet service in the room).

By Thursday predictions were definitely at the "Not Good" stage: storm beginning overnight Friday, intensifying Saturday night into Sunday. So I had to start considering my options: the seminar did not end until noon Saturday, I had a flight from London at 4pm, then Toronto-Boston at 7:15pm; I had agreed to play a gig with an orchestra at 3pm Sunday in Boston, plus was playing with Paula Kelley's band Monday at 10pm. My Air Canada ticket had been booked using accumulated Aeroplan miles, so could not be rebooked, but I could apply to fly standby on earlier flights. If I left before the official closing ritual my seminar friends would be very disappointed.

Balancing all of this, I chose a middle course of action. I explained my dilemma to the seminar staff, who arranged to have the final ritual at the end of the day Friday. While leaving Friday night would have been best, I stayed for the ritual, then got to the airport at 5am Saturday to go on the 6am shuttle to Toronto and catch the 8:45am to Boston, hoping that the storm had not developed enough at that point to close Logan airport.

And it might have worked, except that the Toronto flight crew went MIA and finally showed up half an hour late. So we were actually taxiing toward the runway for takeoff when the tower called us to return to the gate due to conditions in Boston.

Thus began my weekend of travel hell. First a constant re-calling the Reservations line to rebook as later flights turned from "on time" to "cancelled" on the monitors. Then when the next rebook was for 6pm Sunday (due to my non-priority from holding a "free" ticket) I asked for other options (and I must say that all of the Air Canada workers with whom I talked were amazingly helpful under the stress of having most East Coast flights cancelled). They recommended that I ask for an involuntary re-routing to Montreal, in order to get on a Montreal-Boston flight with available seats at 8:30am Sunday.

Since I was going to have to spend the night somewhere (at my own expense - weather is an "Act of God", so the airline does not pay for the hotel, at least not for low-level passengers like me), I opted to try the Montreal gambit. I still had to spend another 8 hours in Toronto because there was a limit on how long before the morning flight I could be scheduled for Montreal Saturday night, which meant not until 8pm. I occupied myself with reserving a room in Montreal with shuttle service to/from the airport, calling people I knew near there in case they could put me up (unfortunately the available folks were not close enough for that to work), reading a 300-page book I found in an airport store that was actually the newest in a series I'm following, and being thankful I had recorded some extended-play minidisks and recharged the MD player.

After only a slight delay in Montreal (the plane's cargo door had frozen shut and had to be de-iced) I crashed at the hotel, got online to check the morning flight's status... and found it had been cancelled! More calling, got rebooked on a 6pm flight, cancelled my morning wakeup call, and emailed my Sunday gig people to say I wasn't going to make it. At this point I was doubtful the concert would happen anyway, and that turned out to be the case.

So back to the airport at 3pm Sunday, yet more Security screenings and Customs check-through (I half-expect to get a call or visit from the government wanting to know why I crossed the border three times in one weekend). Sitting in the gate area at 5pm. Suddenly the departure information disappears from the screen...

On my analog cell phone (can't wait to see the bill on that...) rebooking again for Monday morning while walking down corridors, back through Customs, pick up the unloaded luggage again, call the hotel to get another room, back on the shuttle bus (hey, at least I got to practice my French with the drivers) to the hotel...

Now I was beginning to worry about making my gig with Paula Monday night. I had confirmed with a shuttle driver that there was a bus to Boston, so rather than checking in on arrival, I headed to the payphones (thanking the gods for my 7 cent/minute Net2Phone Direct account). After confirming that the bus was actually running to Boston, I called Joann and tried to assess how likely it would be that I'd really get off the ground in the morning. Since the airport had not actually been closed for a while, but still had hours-long delays, I decided the only safe route was to stay on the ground. So after a light meal and a drink (I don't ever really NEED a drink, but felt I had earned a small one!) and catching the end of the Patriots game at the hotel bar, I took a taxi to the bus terminal (could have got a bus from the airport for much less, but I'd been dragging a 55-lb suitcase, a violin, and a carry-on bag around for far too long and was tired of wrestling with them).

The bus departed at 11:30pm, and fortunately had only about 10 passengers. Hit the border around 1am, waited 45 minutes for the Customs people to deign to wait on us, stopped at Burlington and White River Junction VT. We were delayed just enough to hit the morning commuter traffic on 93 South, so rolled into South Station at 8am. Fortunately I was able to snag a taxi almost immediately, and arrived home about 9am. I don't know if the morning plane from Montreal ever took off (it was still scheduled at 7:30am when I called the airline to say I wouldn't be on it), but I didn't really care!

So if you looked at the above mass of text and decided to skip right to the summary, here we go:

The Seven Circles of Travel Hell
(to the tune of "The 12 Days of Xmas")

On my way back from Canada
The blizzard gave to me:

  • Seven flight rebookings
  • Six cancellations
  • Five trips through Customs
  • Four X-ray screenings
  • Three random wandings
  • Two days in transit
And a Montreal-to-Boston bus ride!


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