Monday, October 20, 2014

trying to go on vacation

I needed to go on vacation. I have been having a month. A busy month where I for some reason decided to release a new full length album with my band, write an in-depth investigative newspaper feature, try to lose some weight all while working on a bunch of files at work. I was tired, burning out even. I needed to go on my vacation. It wasn’t even a fancy or exotic vacation; just a week in Ottawa, in time for a wedding, to spend a few days relaxing and unwinding.

But of course there were the flights.

Who actually loves flying? I don’t. I’m not a nervous flyer – I’ve sat through mechanical failures while mid-air and apparently was quite prepared to meet my end. No, instead, I may be an angry flyer.  Tired of waiting. Tired of sitting. Tired of things going wrong.

Because so many things could go wrong. In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I scanned the news anxiously to follow the developments of the labour dispute that Air North was having with its flight attendants. At first, the flight attendants weren’t serving alcohol or food on the flights. Then they were showing up in t-shirts and being sent up.  Would the situation escalate to cancelled flights?

Luckily, the parties were able to struck a deal, and I heaved a sigh of relief. Prematurely, apparently.

Before I even left the office to pick up my bags and get to the airport, I received a call. The plane we were supposed to board was experiencing mechanical difficulties and was delayed. I knew what that could mean. “Delayed” could easily mean “cancelled”. Canadian North would automatically re-book us to the next trip, which would be the next day, but by then we would have missed our connecting Air North flight.  I called First Air, the other airline, to find out if they had any flights that would be leaving later that day, in case our Canadian North flight never came in. Yes, the First Air lady told me, there was a flight that evening.  But that plane was experiencing mechanical difficulties and was also delayed….

At this point, as a precaution, I called my insurance company to find out if they would compensate us for a missed flight, and I had to purchase a new plane ticket that would probably cost us $1000 each.  Unfortunately, the insurance representative on the phone was a rude gentleman who belongs working at the back of a McDonalds restaurant making French fries far away from customers, rather than dealing with real live people on the phone. He kept insisting that I might incur charges if I cancelled my flight.  I tried to explain to him that I was not inquiring about cancelling my flight, but rather the possibility that the airline might cancel the flight, but this concept was too much for his Neanderthal mind and he continued to rudely ask my why I kept asking him questions.

He did point out, however, quite correctly that the policy date for my insurance had the wrong start date, so I might not be covered after all. No, I couldn’t change the date.

Thanks for the great customer service.

Thankfully our flight was delayed but not cancelled, and we made it to Yellowknife that evening. I treated myself to a cold pint at the bar of the Explorer Hotel, hugely relieved that we had made it out and now my vacation could start.

Kugluktuk airport

But then there was the second flight to go through.

The person I was having drinks with casually mentioned that she knew someone who would be going on the same Yellowknife to Ottawa flight on Air North the next day, at five o’clock. “Five o’clock?” I said. “But my flight is at eleven. Could there possibly be two different flights?” But of course there wasn’t . This flight only went out twice a week.

No, instead,  as I found out when I called Air North first thing the next morning, it turns out that Air North had changed both of my flights, to Ottawa and back, and just “forgot” to tell me.  Having our flight moved back five hours wasn’t a terrible issue, other than the fact that I was dragging my poor parents out to the airport at midnight to pick me up .  The problem was that on the way back, they had changed the date of our return flight so that we would be missing our connecting flight with Canadian North  from Yellowknife to Cambridge Bay.

I told Air North this, and they said, “Oh no!” And that was it.

I called Canadian North and they said, “You booked these flights with Aeroplan. You’re going to have to go through them. NOT MY PROBLEM, BIATCH.” ß-they didn’t actually say that.

I called Aeroplan and they said, “Sorry there are no more Aeroplan seats left for the next day.” Ugh.  What about two days later? I suppose we could spend an extra night in Yellowknife. “Yes, there are seats available left for that day,” they responded.

I called the insurance company again, luckily I didn’t get Mr. Deep Fryer again. I explained my situation and they agreed that the best plan would be just to book the next available Aeroplan seats for two days later, and I could file a claim with the insurance company. Oh well.

Then I called Aeroplan back to book the seats, and they said, “Sorry, there are no more seats available for that date.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m talking about two days later,” I corrected them.

“There are no seats left for two days later either.”

WHAT. But I just called half an hour ago to check.

“Well, they’re gone now. We do have seats available for a week later.”

For a moment I fantasized about taking another week off work and extending my vacation.  But no, I knew that the pile on my office desk would just grow.

I hung up on Aeroplan and called Canadian North. “How much would it cost to buy airplane tickets for flights on the next day?” I asked them,

Two thousand dollars, they answered sweetly.

I called the insurance company again, a phone number that I was starting to memorize. “I’m screwed,” I basically told them.

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” said Not-Mr. Deep Fryer.  Thanks, I wish you had my back yesterday too.

So I booked it.  I had spent the entire first morning of my vacation arguing on the phone, which is more or less what I do for a living with my day job. Heck, why not also check my work email and send out a few court documents as well?

This vacation wasn’t very relaxing.

It’s okay though. Once I had rescheduled the flights and the hotels and whatever else had to be done, I walked into an art gallery and proceeded to buy almost the entire supply of WOOLLY FREAKING MAMMOTH IVORY that the store had in stock. Because apparently you can do that. Because retail therapy is soothing to me, but not, like, shopping for handbags or shoes, but more precisely buying quantities of fossils made from extinct animals.  Also, a necklace made from a shotgun shell.

I continued to force myself to unwind with a latte at the local coffee shop Javaroma. Then I went for the better relaxation option, which was a scotch at the local pub The Black Knight, which turned out to be $16 because apparently booze in Yellowknife can be expensive.

As I waited to board my final plane to Ottawa, I thought to myself, THIS IS SO NOT PUNK ROCK. There is nothing cool or bad ass about spending the day discussing “insurance expense claims” or “sixteen dollar fourteen-year-old single malt scotch” or coffee shop lattes. It’s just so horribly grownup and boring, and not a vacation thing.  There was, however, something slightly rock and roll about extinct mastodon ivory though.  And shotgun shell necklaces.

At any rate, I was out. Let the vacation begin. 

 view from the Kugluktuk airport