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  • Jane Wheeler

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the best time of the year....


Holiday vacations, a time of rest, relaxation and joy, we can close our eyes and see the blue water, envision ourselves on the beach basking in the sun. Glorious not to have to fight the minus 20, 30 and 40 degree cold, snow and gusty winds that resemble a hurricane here at home.


Have you ever done yourself the favour of watching the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with Steve Martin and John Candy or the original movie “Out of Towners” with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis. Holiday movies about everything that could go wrong on a holiday especially at Christmas. Deemed classics, these movies really tickle the funny bone.


Reality is a bit different …..I cannot imagine the degree of frustration and confusion that the Canadians in Mexico are having right now not knowing if and when they will be able to fly back to Canada. Starting last week Sunwing vacations has cancelled their flights and the information getting to the people has been not valid and often false. It seems some are stuck still at their hotels, which would be costly, and hundreds of people are stuck at the airports and no one is saying when they can get home. Apparently getting vouchers for food or water is not happening and whole families are camped out inside the airports.


There have been 2 flights that have taken off and come back and reportedly more to be leaving this week, but not enough to take the crux of the people. Sunwing cites that the weather has been the culprit and truly in Canada we have been having some of that. Except that Vancouver’s storm was not at the same time as Toronto’s or back east. We too here felt the fall out of the huge Vancouver snowstorm last week and yes it was a chain reaction of moving, shifting and cancelling flights here as well.


The problem is not the weather, we Canadians understand our winters – they can be brutal and we can get quickly buried under the snow. The problem is the lack of information and care that people are being treated with. All they want is to know what is going on and perhaps a bit of food and water. Canadians are a hardy breed for the most part, we usually band together and help each other through the tough stuff. But all people do not do well when they are left in the dark and are not given any information or help to figure out what is going on. Things start to get interesting from there….


It reminds me of the time I was flying back to Newfoundland with my mother-in-law to bury Brians’ father. It was in January, you know the most wonderful time of the year and there had been a huge snow storm that had closed Pearson airport in Toronto… neat.


Flights got cancelled and basically it was one of the worst times of my life. What should have taken 3 flights to get there took 6 and even then the pilot was not sure he could land at our destination he would give us a couple alternatives. Basically we had no idea where we would end up. A wing and a prayer is literally what we went on.


I was close to pulling a Steve Martin or a Jack Lemmon because you know human emotions can only handle so much. We were waiting at one of the airports and they announced that 2 people could get on the next plane. I had been standing in line for a while and was number 3 to be talked to next, the 2 people in front of me had more than 2 in their party so they declined. Out of the corner of my eye, this man in a cowboy hat sauntered up and tried to butt in in front of me. Now I was tired, I was cranky and I was in no mood for Mr. Cowboy to try to take over plus the red in my hair is natural - "fiery".


He announced to the very nice airport lady, that he should be next to get on the plane, in spite of the line of people waiting behind me in line for their turn. I slowly turned to face him head on and waiting for him to give us his version of why he should be able to claim these spots. I waited patiently and then began.


It went something like this:

I am travelling with my mother-in-law who just lost her husband so she is grieving. He is being shipped via plane and the rest of the family is travelling through this storm by car. I am not well and could not have managed the car trip so someone gifted me this flight, I have been scheduled for surgery as soon as I get back home. My mother-in-law is not well and I am her care giver. We have been waiting here for the same length of time as you and if you think that you should butt in line in front of all these nice people because you do not feel like waiting anymore…..well bud, I really think you need to get to the back of the line.


Something about my tone or perhaps my facial expressions convinced the man to move away from me and wouldn’t you know it we got the seats! In fact they upgraded us to first class and we flew in style that stretch! Now the rest of the trip was not as smooth and even when we landed at the wrong airport in the middle of a 50 year record blizzard and discovered we were in the wrong province we still held it together enough to go with the flow.


At one point Brian called me and proceeded to try to tell me how awful his trip was going… I excused myself from my mother-in-law and went to a quiet corner of the airport and hissed at him so he would know in very clear terms that this was not my idea of a great trip either but what where we going to do…. We had to go with it and keep ourselves together until we got there.


Sidenote: when we eventually got to Newfoundland, I spoke to the funeral home and they informed me that the body had not arrived and no one seemed to know where it was. She assured me that it could take up to 3 weeks to find it and get it there and then told me that no one should have travelled over until the body had safely made it. Now, I had just landed after 6 flights, snowstorms, more turbulence that I ever care to see again, threat of being stuck in Montreal, having landed in the wrong province in a blizzard in St. John, New Brunswick, not St. John’s, Newfoundland and I was some tired and even crankier than before. I assured this little lady, that I would indeed find the body and it would be arriving because I was not staying for 3 weeks, and you know it took many phone calls and the knowledge that Pearson airport had closed to discover where he was and then a few more phone calls to get him back on a flight and he landed in Newfoundland in 2 days. We had the funeral the end of the week.


Without these kinds of stories we would not have the classic movies I mentioned at the top and they would not have become classics if no one could relate to them. I reckon if you ask people, most of us have “a story” about a certain trip and not wanting to ever do that again and those movies reinforce that all of us really do have “a story to tell.”

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