Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grooming Air Canada For Honesty

I'm sinking into my seat in the Robert Stanfield International Airport in Halifax. My underwear, creeping northbound, are flying higher than my Jazzy Air Canada plane which sits motionless and empty at the gate. I make an adjustment to my personal passengers, those living in what I affectionately refer to as the southern hemisphere. The pleasure derived from escaping planet wedgie was short lived because my ears were still bleeding from the announcement Air Canada made at 11:16 a.m.

My flight, AC 8902, was scheduled to depart at 11:25 a.m., but at 11:16 a.m. an announcement came over the PA informing the would be passengers that "the groomers were finishing up some grooming" on the plane and our departure would be delayed.

Groomers? I thought for a moment about what a groomer might do on an airplane. Golf greens at Augusta National are groomed, as are metrosexual men and poodles, but how do you groom an airplane? Something began to stink about this announcement, and it smelled like vomit. I've had Air Canada lie to me before, so I was prepared for the worst. Grooming an airplane reminded me of the term 'ethnic cleansing', just another way to avoid talking about the dirty truth in terms that reflect the severity of the situation.

At 11:35 a.m. the illuminated sign above the counter at gate 27 says 'AC 8902...On Time'. The sign in the departure lounge which list all U.S. bound departures proudly stated, under the 'Status' column, that flight 8902 had 'Departed'. I appreciate honesty in those close to me and I expect it from those with whom I choose to do business. I'm beyond looking for honesty from Air Canada, so now I rejoice in their escapades. I actually smile and laugh to myself because I'm beyond anger at this's an emotion that was depleted a long time ago.

My happy thoughts were massaged by the sounds of chirping sparrows which apparently call the departure lounge home. I was enjoying watching them flitting about. I have no idea if they were desperately trying to escape, or basking in the bright and airy lounge as I was. I felt sorry for the boringly brown little sparrows because I wasn't sure they'd get enough to eat, so I bought a package of sunflower seeds from the Hudson News kiosk and spread them throughout the lounge.

I didn't actually do that, but I was tempted. If the sparrows were clever enough to sneak past the bird brains at airport security, then they deserved a reward. It's not very nice of me to refer to airport security as bird brains, so I'll officially the sparrows.

Next time I fly out of the Robert Stanfield Tighty Whitey Airport, I'm going to smuggle a couple of canaries through security...just for fun (mine, not the birds). Don't ask where I'll hide them, the very thought of telling you cracks me up. I'll release them once inside the lounge and the sparrows will have some colourful playmates. If this goes well, I may try to introduce penguins into the lounge, because everyone loves penguins.

By 11:40 a.m. the grooming was complete and my southern hemisphere was now sitting comfortably in seat 5A. There was no one sitting next to me on this flight which made me very happy. There's nothing worse than having a snorer, drooler, farter or jibberjabber sitting next to you on a flight. I was still reeling from the poo-breathed man I sat next to when I flew to New Zealand in February. Fourteen hours of Mister Potty Mouth. Yeesh.

The flight attendant apologized for the delay, explaining that a passenger on the previous flight had been "violently ill". I appreciated his frankness. I should have been paying attention to the flight attendant's instructions regarding the subtle nuances of seat belt engagement, but my eyes were scanning my row, and the three in front of me, for any signs of projectile vomiting. There were none, and I quietly paid homage to the brave men and women who make their living grooming.

I wondered what had happened on the previous flight.

Did they order the pasta or the chicken...I'll bet it was the chicken!

There's a big difference between 'being ill', and being 'violently ill'. Violently ill implies something flying, more than just the plane itself. I was hopeful that the violent illness had occurred in the washroom, which I purposely avoided during the one hour and fifty-five minute flight to New York City. The plane smelled good, or at least not fowl.

My plane, a CRJ 100/200 or, as I like to call them, a CRJ .5 (you do the math) taxied onto the tarmac quickly and we were in the air in no time at all. I could see the bays east of Dartmouth where the surfers play. I had an eagle's view of Halifax's impressive harbour. St.Margaret's Bay and Mahone Bay beckoned to me in the distance, dotted with islands full of adventure and untold treasures. Nova Scotia looked magnificent from the air. My plane gave me a Google Earth worthy look at Brier Island, convincing me that I must go there someday.

The scenery was obscured by clouds once we got fully over the Bay of Fundy (fancy that!) so I lowered my tray and placed my head on the table. When I awoke we were descending into New York City. As often happens, LaGuardia airport was busy so our pilot was instructed to take us on a scenic flight around the city. We passed directly overhead of LaGuardia airport which was, for lack of a better word, cool!

I had a great view of the Citi Field Stadium, where twenty year old multi-millionaires catch pop flies. I also had a nice look at Flushing Meadows, home to the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Crossing the island of Manhattan I could have reached out and pricked my finger on the tip of the Empire State Building, though the flight attendant told me, in no uncertain terms, to roll my window back up and return my tray table to the upright position. He then offered me 14 more grams of pretzels and patted me on the head.

Our scenic flight took us down the Hudson River and I was lucky enough to have a window seat offering an unobstructed view of Manhattan. The port of New York was bustling with ships from godknowswhere waiting to offload their riches (baggy ass home-boy jeans). We looped around Staten Island and I dutifully scanned the sandy beaches for surfable waves. We then passed over Brooklyn (see image above), offering views of Manhattan to the west. The tour of New York City was worth the price of my ticket. The pilot even cracked a joke which gave me hope for Air Canada, though I suspected he had been trained by those wisecrackers over at West Jet.

We landed at LaGuardia. I was happy to be in New York more adventure in the game of life. I rolled the dice and hopped into a cab, instructing the cabby to deliver me to the Upper West Side, which he did for $31.

So here I sit on the eighth floor of a high rise apartment building, just two large blocks away from the Metropolitan Opera. I can hear the buzz of the street below, it never stops to take a breath. I hear the sounds of construction, of clanging metal. I hear the beeping of lives in reverse, or was that a delivery van backing up? The roar of city buses comes and goes, but never leaves. A horn is blown, another retaliates. Someone shouts. It's a far cry from Nova Scotia's lovely wave lapped shores, or the tranquility found on my Cambridge-Narrows property.

I used to hate New York City, but now I'm intrigued by it. I could never live here because I need space...waves and water. NYC still imprisons my soul, but what tooth rotting eye candy it offers! They call New York City the 'big apple', though I now refer to it as the 'big wedgie'. Either it's going to devour me or I'm going to make adjustments. So far I've adjusted well. I'm still smiling and I'm looking forward to exploring the city. Sure, it's noisy and dirty, but I've yet to see anything that a little grooming couldn't fix.

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