Friday, January 30, 2015

Bridgetown, Barbados to Halifax, Nova Scotia - The Long Journey Home

I timed the shuttle to pick me up at Angler with enough time to get to the airport, check-in, go through security and have a minimal wait to board. But, of course, as often happens when dealing with air travel, it didn’t quite work out that way. At check-in, the agent advised me that my flight was several hours behind schedule. So I tried my best to make use of the extra time I had and found a little café where I bought a slice of pizza and a coffee.

I tried to kill some time by accessing the elusive airport WiFi which was still being quite elusive to me. Everyone around me seemed to be tinkering away on Facebook and checking emails but I was still unable to connect. I killed about an hour in the coffee shop…and killed the rest of the time browsing the duty-free shops. I found myself a couple of keychains, a nice beachbag for only ten dollars and a couple of pieces of stylish handmade beach jewelry. Sometimes I think this is why flights are delayed; people who would not normally shop in the airport resort to shopping in airports when they have nothing else to do while waiting for a delayed flight.

I wasn’t too upset by this surprise delay. After all, my trip home was to take more than 24 hours. 6.5-hour flight from Barbados to Toronto with a 10-hour layover at Pearson followed by another 2-hour flight to Halifax, a 3-hour wait there and a 5-hour shuttle drive to Cape Breton. An extra few hours wasn’t going to make much a difference.

It was close to ten o’clock when I arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Unfortunately, because my flight wasn’t departing until the next day, I had to retrieve my luggage and lug around with me all night and recheck it in the morning. I know that doesn’t really sound like a big deal but consider the fact that since waiting passengers are to keep their eyes on their luggage at all times (or risk having them confiscated by security) that means my luggage has to go everywhere with me. Everywhere. Have you ever tried maneuvering a suitcase around those small washroom stalls? Now that’s a challenge! Or how about trying to lug it through a narrow lineup to get your morning coffee at an airport café? At least as long as my luggage was with me, I knew it was safe…at least for the time being!
I was famished after that long flight so once I had my luggage in hand, I looked for something to eat. After spending 7 days on vacation, I was pretty near broke so I couldn’t really settle for more than a bagel and a cookie at Tim Horton’s. I skipped the coffee out of fear the caffeine would keep me awake and it was hard enough trying to get some rest in a busy airport.

I wandered around for a bit trying to kill some time and tire myself out (I am usually wound up after a long flight for some reason) before actively seeking out a somewhat quiet area to set up camp for the night. I found a decent spot in a corner near some windows. I unfolded my travel blanket and refolded it in two so that I was lying on one half of it and the rest was covering me. With myself, my travel pillow, my cell phone (for an alarm) and my wallet (to prevent being robbed while I slept) securely inside the blanket, I positioned myself facing my luggage which I had strategically placed with the zippers facing me. I always feel a little unsecure when sleeping in the main area of any airport. Inside a gate, everyone has already been through security but in the main area, anyone can walk in off the street and that’s a little unnerving especially in these tense times. It gives me a very vulnerable feeling.

Within seconds of my head hitting the pillow, the airport suddenly seemed louder. Vacuum cleaners were going, shops were closing, people were coming and going, a man sleeping a few feet away from me was snoring loudly and car doors were being slammed just outside that window. But amidst all that racket, I managed to pick out one sound that finally drowned out all the rest and that’s the sound that rocked me to sleep….almost quite literally. Someone was tuning a guitar. It sounded faint at first and than it got louder. I took my head out from the warmth and darkness of my blanket and looked around. Across the hall, seated in another waiting area was a young man strumming a guitar. I tried not to let him see me so he wouldn’t think he was being too loud and stop. I just lay my head back down on my pillow and listened and in the midst of all the hustle and bustle that is Pearson International Airport, I fell asleep to the beautiful sounds of a guitar being strummed.

I awoke a few hours later to my cell phone vibrating and proceeded to check-in for my flight. This time, my flight was on time and I made it to Halifax long before the next shuttle to Cape Breton. I grabbed a Starbucks latte and took a seat in the long corridor between the check-in area and baggage pickup and patiently waited for my ride. By the time the shuttle arrived, I was exhausted…and disappointed to see that there was quite the crowd already onboard. But I was lucky this time because there were no seats in the back so I got to sit in the front and much to the disappointment of my friendly and chatty driver who wanted to hear more about my trip down south, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until Antigonish. It wasn’t until we reached the Canso Causeway that that dreadful after-vacation feeling set in. Every time I make that drive from the Halifax Airport to Cape Breton, that same feeling hits me at that exact same place in the trip. The Causeway always signifies home even though my house is still another 2 hours away. That feeling I am talking about? The one where the realization hits that the vacation is over and it’s time to re-enter the real world. No more palm trees and sand. Just sub-zero temperatures and snow.

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