Err Canada (or How Our National Airline Nearly Stole Christmas)
Was the day after Christmas and in a corner at Pearson
My family faced threat from a small act of treason
Our bags were all packed, we’d been chanting ‘eureka!’
About a sun drenched vacation, in the place Costa Rica
But the flight was all full, seems they didn’t have seating
How could this be? We started to bleating
‘We paid you our money, we booked flights in May!’
The gate person looked stunned. She muttered “Oy Vey”
Vacations should reduce stress, right? That was our aim when we plunked down a small fortune for a fun in the sun holiday last Christmas. Day 1: Departure. We arrive at the airport with hours to spare, only to be told that three of the four of us had been placed on standby! It seems Air Canada had decided to treat our booking like it was some kind of corner store lottery game. I don’t remember any fine print to the effect of “for the princely sum of $3,967.88 we, Air Canada, shall have the right, but not the obligation, to convey you to your chosen destination on a particular date.”As you can imagine, this news did not sit well. Fortunately, by sheer luck, we were allotted the last three crew seats. So, I can’t scream ‘woe is me’ but I will issue a failing grade to this airline for its customer care. Next time I will pay the up charge for an assigned seat and avoid angina.
The experience that day inspired me to develop my own personal stress measurement tool. I call it the ‘Meg-O-Meter’ (or M-O-M) and it measures one’s anxiety level on a scale of 1 (relaxed) to 10 (fit to be tied). Here is how I measured up that morning at Pearson:
Not to Worry!
Anyway, we secure our seats and heave a collective sigh. My M-O-M reading starts to ease down. We buckle up and prepare for take-off. But wait! Pilot says there are…plumbing problems?!? Apparently these big rigs can fly on one engine, but not on one toilet. We disembark along with the other 149 disgruntled passengers while a soothing voice assured us that the best and brightest were working on the problem and NOT TO WORRY! Not to worry? When Air Canada says not to worry, it triggers an immediate and opposite response in the reptilian portion of my brain. Sure enough the M-O-M starts to spike back up. I fret about our rental car being driven away by someone else. I have visions of our VRBO condo unit being occupied by imposters. I speculate that every toilet store in Ontario is closed for the holiday, with the repairmen enjoying a well-deserved, odor free, day off.
But, lo, the repairs do get made, and a new crew is summoned, and the plane finally takes to the air…a mere 9 ½ hours behind schedule.
We arrive in Costa Rica around 11 PM. My worries about the rental car prove to be accurate. Budget says they had to give our car away despite my heads up call from Pearson…but NOT TO WORRY (oh oh!) as they have gone that extra mile just for us and found us a replacement vehicle all for a modest $15 per day up charge (can you detect a pattern?) from the original rate. “That’s funny” I said “the car you are now offering is exactly the same make and model we booked in the first place!” With lines now officially drawn, the stage is set for something of an international incident. As the attendant tried out some lame argument about our replacement car having a fully automatic transmission, and a nice stereo I feel my M-O-M reading going off the charts. The kids quickly back away from the scene hoping to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. I am not budging on principal. He is not budging because of the boss’s orders. We stare each other down. It is a stand-off. It is also edging past closing time. My next move was to cry. All the tension from the marathon excursion came out in heartfelt, authentic tears. They rolled down my cheeks and splashed onto the rental agreement. Finally he relents. It might have been the tears. I don’t really know. What I do know at that moment is I felt like I’d crawled through a 17 hour wind tunnel with my family in tow behind me.
As we drove away into the dark Costa Rican night, I conclude that whoever coined the phrase “Half the fun is getting there” never took a vacation that involved car rentals or air travel.