Monday, March 30, 2009
Questions of Travel
On the spur, Maeve, Eloise and I went to Montreal. Although our route, against all the dictates of geographical logic, took us through D.C. (making the one-hour trip, four) in the moment it somehow seemed to all of us infinitely preferable to be in motion.
Much more on the trip later - much more! - but for now the ride home, sadly, needs its own entry.
The unpleasantness began right away at the Montreal airport, and as usual was entirely my own fault. A few years ago I lost my passport and got a new one. Then the old one turned up. I seem to have picked up the old, expired one which, naturally, didn't sit well with various Canadian border folk, who said there was nothing for it but for me to wait around in a series of rooms while people looked very much askance at my story and ultimately allowed me through, but not without much unpleasant sternness and an enormous red "CANCELLED" across the front page. To add insult to injury, the very officious security agent confiscated my tub of maple butter.
We would have been cutting it close - had the flight not been delayed an hour and then an additional on the runway. Storms, or so we were told. Having reached the capital, the stewardess announced nervously that our plane had been "randomly selected" for additional security checks in the "federal terminal" - this despite the fact that we were already two hours late and literally everyone on the plane had a connection to make. Lest we try to make a run for it, the plane's exit led us directly onto some sort of shuttle bus. I was convinced the whole security uproar was due to my faulty passport, and was in agonies of guilt. I took the precaution of removing the moccasins and coonskin cap I'd donned for the flight, as they made me look both suspicious and insane. Maeve, for her part, was sure the culprit was a student type looking around nervously and chomping rapidly on some gum - although we both admitted that it was possible he just needed a cigarette.
We pulled up and ran a gauntlet of sniffing dogs and stern agents. Obviously, as soon as my passport made its appearance, I was ushered into the "special room." Maeve, being my accomplice, was too. The agent was very kind.
"I'm so stupid," I said bitterly.
"Aw, you're okay," he said nicely. He liked to hike and I kind of fell in love with him.
There was another security checkpoint then, but to everyone's disgust - especially the agents responsible for cleaning - human excrement had somehow gotten smeared all over the conveyor belt, so that all took a long time. Maeve and I switched to a standby flight and she had a cigarette in the glassed-in lounge, where a manifest young ass in a German army coat was smoking with a cigarette holder. There was an extremely crummy wine bar, of which we took full advantage. The nervous kid hadn't resurfaced; Maeve was convinced he'd been arrested. I speculated that, even were he not the mule they were looking for, he'd probably had the ill fortune to be carrying a little weed or something, and now they were probably going extra hard on him to justify the song-and-dance of the security checkpoint and attendant excrement. The wine was crummy, the oldies station first-rate.
"I must admit," said Maeve, "I'm really enjoying this."
"Me too!" I said. "Do you know, I don't think I'm constitutionally capable of boredom? I love everything!"
"I know!" said Maeve. "That smoking lounge was objectively the most depressing place I've ever been. And I loved it! I laughed out loud with glee."
We had three glasses of wine each and as a result almost missed our flight.
Once onboard, being tipsy, I for some reason took it upon myself to translate all the captain's announcements in completely inadequate French to a Canadian couple in the next row. And, au lit, as we say in Quebec.