Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Particularly with the way it had been planned. Military precision. 2 adults, 5 children, 9 large suitcases, 7 pieces of hand-luggage, 1 laptop, 1 pram and 1 handbag. Air Canada all the way, so that we wouldn’t have to deal with checking in luggage again in Toronto. What could possibly go wrong? The best-laid plans…..
We followed Eddie in convoy to the airport and spent an eternity checking in. Onwards then to breakfast with family, lots of forced jollity and careful ignoring of the fact of departure. Eventually, when all the children starting behaving like savages, we moved on the Departure Gates, sobbed a lot and headed on to Security, all blotchy-cheeked and red-eyed. I had moved a toiletries bag to hand-luggage and forgotten about it, so we had to deal with that being discovered, given back, re-bagged, re-sent through the machine etc. I was fit to be tied, and we hadn’t even got to the boarding gate yet. We sat down and regrouped, and then moved on to the Gate to discover that we were going to be delayed by half-an-hour. Once they called everyone to board, there was a mad scrummage, so we waited till the end, and then found our seats, which were right in front of the TV screen, beside the galley and had a good bit of leg room. I haven’t flown since forever, so take-off was horrendous for me, but then the usual admin and maintenance aspect of having kids kicked in, and the flight was busy, busy, busy. By the time we landed though, we were two hours later than expected.
The distance from the plane to Immigration was UNFATHOMABLE! The hand-luggage was too heavy for Nicholas and Rebecca, so he couldn’t carry his, and she insisted on carrying hers, plodding along with the weight of the world on her shoulders. The Air Canada rep who was supposed to meet us never materialised (surprise, surprise), so we struggled on to Immigration and then waited for ages while the very silent and very inscrutable officer examined every inch of the pile of documentation. At this stage, Michael knew we were going to miss the Saskatoon connection, but I was in the throes of Ostrich Syndrome. We got the permits, scooted down to the carousels and discovered we needed two dollar coins to get a luggage trolley. Cue panicked rooting around on my part, while Michael and kids pulled the cases off the carousel. After much swearing I changed a 10 dollar note, we loaded up the trolleys and galloped on to what turned out to be a VERY lengthy Connections queue. It was our flight time at this stage, and my head was well and truly out of the sand. We wound our way through the endless barriers and eventually got to the Air Canada desk, to a wonderful lady called Rose. The kids were loopy by now so I took the path of least resistance, and sobbed all over her. She booked us into a Toronto hotel, gave us the vouchers, booked the shuttle bus, gave me a phone card and pat-patted me on my way.
No shuttle bus arrived. I dragged myself back into the airport and used a courtesy phone to ring the hotel. “He’s 10 minutes away, Ma’am”, I was assured, so we sat there hopefully scanning every approaching bus. 40 minutes later, he arrived, and they stowed the luggage. Half the kids were asleep before he got going, but they woke up quickly enough when he pulled away without Michael who was putting the trolleys back. “Stop the bus!”, I shrieked and he jammed on. Michael appeared at the door and heroically managed not to use any inappropriate language.
We got the hotel, checked into our adjoining rooms, and nobody appeared to help us the luggage. So we hauled all the kids, cases, hand-luggage, laptop etc. up to the seventh floor, dragged them into our room and momentarily collapsed. Then I realised there was no door. No interconnecting door. FFS. I rang reception. “This isn’t an interconnecting room”. “Yes it is, Ma’am”. “No. It’s not”. “Are you sure, Ma’am?” “Well, unless the fucking door is under an Invisibility Spell, yes, I am sure”. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I will relocate you now”. “Seriously? Relocate me, the kids, the cases, the hand-luggage etc. to ANOTHER ROOM?” Are they mental? “No thanks, it will have to do”. Michael and I looked at each other, at the melting-down kids, the oceans of luggage…..and decided it was better not to speak. At all. We got room service and crashed.
Woke up at 5am. 12 noon Irish time. I thought the time difference was supposed to be worse going in the other direction? Sitting at breakfast at 6.30am, bleary-eyed, hot, cranky and facing another days of airports, flights and luggage. Welcome to Toronto.
Luckily, breakfast was gorgeous. Loads of gorgeous fruit and pastries as well as the usual fry-up. The kids hated the sausages, but loved the pancakes with maple syrup. We ate, repacked, reparked ourselves on the bus, and headed back to the airport. The relief of checking in the bloody luggage was indescribable. We headed off to Security and were directed to the Family Line. The hand-luggage went through, piece-by-piece. So did the kids. I was so smug, with my plastic bags of toiletries all ready, and my phone etc. placed into the nice little tray. So I get to the other end. To a big Canadian lady with white gloves on. What is it with white latex gloves? They strike fear into the heart, particularly if you’re a woman (or a man at the prostate stage of life, I suppose). She had a face of stone.
“Ma’am, I need you to show me something in your luggage”. “Oh, ok, sure, what is it?” said I, lunging at the open case. “STEP AWAY from the bag Ma’am!” “Oh, ok, em…” “Ma’am, I need to know if there is anything in your luggage that could harm me?” HARM her? Like what? A rabid document? An infectious toothbrush? A furious packet of baby wipes? “Em, nooooooooo? Nothing could harm you?” “Are you sure Ma’am? I need you to indicate to me where the knife is please?” The knife? What fucking knife? I eyeballed her firmly. “There isn’t a knife in my luggage”, I declared assertively. “The knife, fork and spoon, Ma’am?”, she shot back. I’m sure the penny dropping over my head was visible to the entire population of Toronto. “OHHHHHHHHHHH. THAT knife. Sorry, I forgot about that one. How silly. Hold on till I just get it out”. “STEP AWAY FROM THE BAG, MA’AM“. Jeez. “Please INDICATE where it is in the bag”. “In the zip” I meekly whispered. “Wrapped in kitchen roll”. “Tissue”. “White stuff. Like paper”. Sweating now. She carefully pulls it out and unwraps it. One tiny, pink-handled blunt knife. One miniscule fork. One baby spoon. All pink and shiny. “They’re Rebecca’s” I mumble, attempting a smile. A stony glare. Ok. “I’ll have to dispose of the knife, Ma’am”. Ok. Sure. Whatever it takes to get us onto the next bloody flight. I smile sweetly, utter an ingratiating “sorry” and move away. “I WANT MY KNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE”, shrieks the littlest one. We gag her and run. Thank God they hadn’t spotted the Kalashnikov in the other bag.
The next flight was a dream. A television each. Lovely air hostesses. Headphones. Leonard Cohen on tap. The only problem was that we couldn’t get seats together. Michael sat with Christopher, Isabel and Benjamin half-way down the plane, and Rebecca, Nicholas and I sat at the very back. Close to the toilet, which was lucky for Nicholas, who apparently had a “peeing infection”. Or “a drank too much juice infection” in adult terms. I corralled Rebecca on the inside and kept Nicholas across the aisle from me, beside a very nice and very unsuspecting man. God help him. Anyone who knows Nicholas will be aware that he’d talk the teeth out of a saw. He kept asking questions. The man kept politely removing his earphones, answering the question, answering the next question, and plugging back in his headphones. Nicholas offered him a sip of his ginger ale. He removed the headphones, smiled, declined, replugged. He waved Pringles under his nose. Same routine. Asked more questions. Told him more stories.
It came to landing time. The commentary started about 20 minutes before touchdown. “Are we landing? we’re landing now, aren’t we? is it yet? is it landing yet? have we landed? when will we land? are we landing? how long more? have we landed?”
“Has the landing gear come down?” the lovely air hostess asked me. Me. The nervous flier. I looked at her, aghast. “The LANDING GEAR?”, I squeaked. “Has it COME DOWN?” Am I supposed to know that? Am I in charge of it? Jesus wept.
There was a large THUNK, almost drowned out by the running commentary on my left. The guy beside Nicholas was busy sticking pins in his eyes. The air hostess caught my eye and smiled reassuringly. “The landing gear”, she mouthed. Thank God for that. We hit the ground, to be met with a shriek of “We’ve LANDED” from Nicholas. The guy with no ears now stood up and smiled at him. “Best of luck now”, he said. “Thanks for your (endless, unbelievable, bottomless) patience”, I smiled back. “It was a pleasure” he said, gallantly. What a great liar. He’d aged about 10 years.
We waited till everyone was off, gathered the kids and baggage and headed out to Arrivals. Saskatoon Airport is great, nice and small, so we ended up walking out to the Arrivals Hall without having to hit the luggage carousels first. We were met by the amazing Jo Ann, our City in a Box relocation lady, Jackie, who works for her, and Tom, Michael’s new boss. Hugs and kisses all round. Lots of lovely help with hauling off the luggage. Walked out of the airport to a wall of sunny heat. Wow. Welcome to Saskatoon, you guys.