A Tale of Travel Gone Good.....I think

Unlike most people, my travel experiences, especially flying, have been of the positive variety. Every so often I have something disturbing or inconvenient happen, but rarely have they caused problems or too much angst. This week I was out in the Mecca of western Canadian civilization, Winnipeg. My flight there was uneventful and even could be rated good as I met an old college roommate that I hadn’t seen in 10 years. The story really starts today with my flight back to Edmonton.

When I initially booked my flights I realized that I was going to have to be in the office for the vast majority of the day today and thus a later flight was going to be required. As direct flights to anywhere other than Flin Flon and Moose Factory are rare, I decided that I was okay with traveling through Calgary with a short layover. So I had mentally prepared myself for this set of flights and was quite comfortable with them.

I left work and arrived, like a good little traveler, at the Winnipeg (International?? and no D’Arcy, Brandon doesn’t qualify it for international status) Airport about 1hr and 45min before my departure time. This was going to be great for me. I’d sit in the departures lounge, decompress from an intense week and work on some mindless tasks that I had outstanding before I boarded. As I entered the airport I heard the following announcement over the public address system:

This is a final boarding call for passengers on WestJet flight XXX to Edmonton.

I know that I’m not on this flight as I figured there was no way I was going to make it to the airport in time to catch it. Because of that, I have no worries. I just wander up to the self check-in kiosk and push in my credit card so I can get my boarding passes. They system gives the card back along with the onscreen message “Your credit card could not be read. Please try again.” So I try again. Same message. I tried four more time, each time changing the location of the magnetic stripe just in case the complete lack of a diagram showing which location is correct was sick attempt at humor by the gate agents. Each time I get the same error. So I move over to the wicket and head up to the counter (no line up) to get my boarding passes. I tell the agent which flight I was on and she says “Well, your plane to Calgary is running about 1 hour late”. I immediately say “I guess that means I won’t make my connection then right?” This agent didn’t even hesitate when she responded with “Yes, you won’t be able to make that connection and I don’t have another flight to put you on in it’s place”. I’m thinking that this is fantastic. I’ve gotten the one agent who actually isn’t going to jerk my chain, will tell me straight up what the situation is and will probably work hard to get me home.

Here’s where it starts getting really interesting.

This agent (I really wish I had her name ‘cause she deserves all the thanks in the world) decides to run off and grab the 2-way radio from one of her co-workers. She calls off somewhere and asks if the direct flight to Edmonton has pushed back yet. When they tell her no, she hammers the shit out of her keyboard, grabs a boarding pass and says “Follow me…and run!” At this point I’ve been in the airport for about 10 minutes since hearing the “final” boarding call for the direct flight to Edmonton.

Off we go. The two of us running up and escalator and over to the security clearance line. This lovely little lass heads through some top secret employee only door and says she’ll meet me on the other side of security, but hurry. So I hit the line at a dead run, pulling my laptop and liquid & gels out for a separate tray. I turn the corner and what do you know, there’s a line of about 20 people. I ask the security dude if I can cut up front as I’m in a rush only to hear this over the public address system:

If there is a Mr. Donald Belcham in the terminal please make your way immediately to Gate H for the on time departure of your aircraft.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard my name called of the airport public address system and it jacks my heart rate up another 10 beats per minute (now totally somewhere between 700 and a bajillion per minute). This security guy (very nice and polite by the way) says, “I can’t help you cut the line, but if you can convince the other people in the line to let you cut places then go ahead.” So I start by asking people individually if they mind (we Canadians are very polite in stressful situations). All of them are kind enough to say yes….then the stress hits and I just start asking one person in each part of the line, skipping 5 or more people each time. Apparently my progress was too slow for the WestJet agent and she sends another security guard into the line to pull me out and shove me through the line. So I’m up at the X-ray machine, stuff gets in the trays in record time and I’m into the metal detector.

Well folks, if you didn’t know it already I’ve had a few wrecks in my life. Needless to say, those wrecks have it so I always set off the metal detector. So I walk through the detector, straight to the wanding station and assume the standing-spread-eagle pose that they request. Wand lady (not so talkative, unlike the rest of the people I ran by on my way to this point in the airport) starts going over my body and sure enough the resounding beep starts popping up in different places. “Yep, that’s a metal plate from a rodeo wreck in ‘97”….”That’s a screw from a wreck in ‘98”….”That’s a plate from my time in the astronaut service”….okay…that one isn’t true.

Anyways, while I’m explaining all the beeps there are 2 WestJet agents trying to determine what is mine on the X-ray out belt and get it packed up and ready for more running. Wand lady hits my midsection and the wand goes off…”Are you wearing a belt sir?”…”Yes”…”Please undo it”….so I do and thankfully these pants don’t immediately succumb to gravity. Wand lady gives me the green light to leave and the WestJet agents head off at a run. So picture this. Two very attractive, blonde WestJet agents running through a mostly empty airport with a computer programmer, belt undone, appearing to be chasing them at top speed. I’m sure it looked far worse than it was….really….I was trying to catch the plane this time.

We hit the gate, they check my photo id against the boarding pass just incase I’m not the same person that has been chasing them through the airport all the way from the point I got the boarding pass. Off I go down the jetway to board the plane, which is still waiting at what must be 15-20 minutes after I heard that first “Final Boarding” call on may way into the building.

I get on the plane and am saved the indignity of having to walk to the back past all the people who are thinking “We made it here on time, why didn’t his fuckwad leave enough time like we did? Some people are so unprepared and inconsiderate.” My seat is in row one and, of course, there is no under-seat storage so the flight attendants walk up and down the aisle looking for any place to put my carryon luggage.

After that it was a good trip, the guy next to me just about cried he was laughing so hard when I told him what had happened. All I have to say is that I owe one WestJet agent in Winnipeg a huge thank you. I wish I could remember her name so that I could write a formal thank you and commendation for her supervisor.