Tuesday, November 29, 2005
What IS IT with me and airports??
Congratulations Air France, you have now taken first place from KLM as the airline I hate the most! Yes, I am home folks, and no it wasn't a pleasant flight in any way, shape or form.

It all started at about 5am at Heathrow airport in London England, Saturday morning. I had elected to stay up all night since I would be leaving at 3am to head to the airport. Who needs sleep, right? Maybe this would be my lucky trip and for once I would be able to sleep on the plane. I was feeling optimistic.

After waiting in the longest of airport lines I finally got to the baggage/check-in counter where I proceeded to disagree with the woman behind the counter about how much my over weight luggage would cost me. The ticket I bought was based on the information I was told by Air France over the phone; $35 a piece, if my luggage was over the 23kg limit but under 30kg. I had been militant about not buying, and therefore packing, anything more during my stay in London. This meant no presents for anyone back home. However, when I got to the counter I was being told 22 GBP (British Pounds) for every kilo over weight. I was 7 kilos, or just over 14lbs over. That meant that my luggage was going to cost me another $240(CAN) for the 14lbs extra in my luggage. Whatever. Long story short, I took out the weight, let her weigh my carry on bag and then stuffed it all in there when she wasn't looking. This would be the only win I would have against Air France....

After mulling around the airport and trying to exchange currencies (Israeli, Hungarian, European and British money) I decided to wait by my gate for the flight. When we finally boarded the plane we were made to sit on the tarmac for an hour and half before we finally took off. I know not the reasons and frankly my bladder didn't care. When the little seatbelt light was finally turned off I was out of my seat and running for the little girls room faster than a kid to his presents on Christmas morning. When I got to the back the first bathroom was already occupied and the other was blocked by the food/beverage cart. With a pleading look in my eyes and firm but polite words I got the guy at the back to move the cart. Never have I been so happy to see a bathroom. A full bladder is not a good thing on take off, this much I have learned.

A flight that should have taken an hour and a half to France ended up taking 3 hours. That left me a mere 15 mins before my next flight was to take off. Sprinting like a track star I ran through the airport to find my gate. When I got there I saw that the board above the gate listed an entirely different flight. I asked the guy at the counter and was informed that my gate had been moved.. to the other side of the airport (where I had just been). Goodtimes! So I sprinted back and arrived out of breath only to find my flight had been delayed; it looked like I had another 2 hours before we would board because of the snowstorm lashing Paris. No problem, I thought as I sat down on the floor and pulled out a magazine to read. 5 minutes later I glanced up at the board and found that suddenly the flight was being boarded, and there was a long lineup at the gate. Oh. So much for the 2 hours! I let the line die down a bit and then went through the gate and waited for the shuttlebus to take me to the plane.

Boarding the plane I made nice with the sweet guy I was sitting next to, named Jan. Jan was from Bosnia. We talked until we both kept nodding off so we said we'd talk over the meal. This is when things started to really go wrong. This is when we waited. And waited and WAITED to take off. At the 3 hour mark we moved to get in line for de-icing. And then after 4, yes count them, FOUR hours of sitting in the plane on the tarmac we were finally allowed to take off. This would be the fist time I had ever heard a plane load of people applaud when the plane took off, instead of when it landed.

8 hours later we arrived in Toronto. Ever happy I dug out my cell phone and called my mom to let her know that I had landed and just had to clear customs and grab my luggage. It was when I got to the passport control guy that the fact that I had not had sleep in nearly 48 hours finally became acutely obvious. He looked at my passport and asked me the purpose of my trip. Thinking he was a moron because DUH it's a Canadian passport, this was no trip to Canada for me, I said "Uh.. I live here". He then looked at me with the greatest of disdain and said, "No. Your trip from before". Realizing that it is in fact *me* who is the moron I giggled a little, apologized for the dumb answer but that I was tired and told him I was visiting a friend in London. Dumb dumb dumb.

Then the good fun really started.. baggage claim. I stood with all the other hapless fools around the conveyor belt waiting for that glimmer of hope that the trip is over. Waiting for the liberating feeling of spotting your luggage among a sea of others. As I jockeyed for a good position I kept my eyes peeled for my luggage (I picked the most hideously loud pattern I could so that I would be able to spot it on no sleep, just like at this particular moment). It was at this point that things would once again take a wrong turn. An announcement came over the speakers "Excuse me. Could passengers Blah, Blah, Blah and Blah please come to the Air France desk. Thank You". I, of course, was the last Blah in that list. When I got to the counter the girl asked me if I had received one of my two bags yet to which I said no. She informed me that one of my bags would be coming on a later flight and that I needed to fill out some paperwork. Furious and seething with rage I filled out the paperwork, mumbling that 4 hours on the tarmac should really have given them enough time to get ALL the baggage on the plane.

After filling out the paperwork I went back over to the conveyor belt to get my other piece of luggage. Hey, at least I would get *some* clean clothes out of this, I thought. And there I stood until everyone else was gone.... and I still had no luggage. I went storming back over to the counter where the woman and I exchanged barbed words once again and she told me my luggage would be delivered to my home tomorrow evening around 9:30-10pm. I took the piece of paper she handed me and crumpled it up into my jacket and walked towards customs. Just get me out of here.

I got to the customs lady and handed her the customs form I filled out on the plane but told her I had no luggage to go with what I wrote on the form. She asked where my luggage was. Through GRITTED teeth I said I didn't know. I was instructed to walk over to this other area and to hand the form to the man there. As instructed I walked to the customs check and waited in line. When I was called I walked up to the man, oozing attitude, and told him I had no luggage for him to check. He asked for my forms and I handed him my customs paper and the baggage claim form. He gave me a disapproving look and asked why it was all crumpled up and I told him it was because I had shoved it into my jacket (in a fit of rage, but I think he figured that much). He asked what was in my luggage to which I said, in my most snotty teenager voice, CLOTHES, and he gave me another look that said not to test him. He asked me how much it was worth and I look at him incredulously and said I had no idea. He said that I had written down $20 on my customs forms and I said that yes, what I was returning with was $20 (not what the contents of my luggage was worth) and why the hell was he asking if he had the answer right there??

Things are a blur after that. I know I raised my voice to great heights and I was vaguely aware that everyone around us had stopped to look. I also remember saying something about not having slept in 42 hours and he said something about just trying to do his job. I remember sensing that I could get myself arrested if I didn't pull back and I believe I ended it by screaming "Just do whatever it is you need to do so I can leave." I am just *so* charming when I've had no sleep and my luggage gets lost.

Anyway, the luggage eventually showed up at my home at 11pm the next day. I came down with a cold immediately upon my return home and I feel lousy. But I am here, I am warm and I am happy to be home. And if it's one thing this trip has taught me, it's appreciation for good plumbing. :-)

I don't currently have internet, or even a home, so my ability to get online over the next while will be impaired, hopefully not for too long. I am printing up my resume today and then heading out to get a job, any job, asap.

Thanks for all your support and concern for me, everyone. As always you guys rock. I'll find an internet cafe nearby and post again soon.