The first leg would be a five hour flight to Vancouver, B.C., where I would have about an hour stopover, and then I would hop on a plane to Whitehorse, Yukon. All in all, I was expecting to be in the air for about 7 hours total. My plan of attack was to keep myself distracted.
One of the flight attendants started walking up the aisle selling earbuds for watching the inflight satellite TV or movies. They had a special promotion on where you could purchase pink "I CARE" earbuds and all proceeds went to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Being a former employee of the Foundation, I was excited to buy them, so I waved Jay over. If you are wondering why we were on a first name basis, the truth is that we weren't. I had simply memorized his name from the safety demonstration because he looked the strongest and calmest person on the crew, and I wanted to have at least one name memorized in case I needed to scream over the chaos, "Jay! I can't do this... you need to push me down the yellow slide!" Jay sat down beside me, and asked if I'd like to start a tab for the flight.
I totally felt like I was a high roller in first class! I excitedly asked him what else I could put on my tab. Movies? Blankets? Pillows? Souvenirs?
Turns out that Jay jumped the gun on the tab situation a wee bit. Turns out that I just swipe my credit card along the screen in front of me to watch a movie, and as for anything else that I could purchase on the flight, there really wasn't anything. All of my food and drinks were free, and as Jay annoyingly murmured aloud, they wouldn't be serving alcoholic beverages until after 10am - long after I would have de-planed in Vancouver.
I immediately started looking for a replacement for Jay. He was far too indecisive and uninformed to hold the responsibility for pushing me off a plane in an emergency. At least he seemed to know how to work the in-flight movies, so I sent him off, opened up my new fancy earbuds and started perusing the movie selection.
Success! Star Trek: Into Darkness was playing! I had missed a perfectly good chance to see it on the big screen, and had been regretting it ever since. I swiped my card like the high roller I had been hoping to be, and settled in to kill 2 hours of my flight.
In hindsight, Star Trek was kind of a stupid idea. Every single flipping Star Trek movie features several heart stopping incidents where the Enterprise has either been under attack and is falling to pieces, or drifting into a black hole, or crashing into San Francisco Bay or what have you. I should have known that the likelihood of the Enterprise burning up or crashing into Earth was pretty high - not a very good distraction from my fear of flying! I reminded myself that that the WestJet crew were not there to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; or to boldly go where no man has gone before. They were just trying to get us to Vancouver International Airport. That seemed to help, and I lost myself in the rest of the movie (which was awesome, by the way).
When the movie was over, I forced myself to look outside for a bit. I thought maybe a little bit of old timey systematic desensitization might do the trick and calm my nerves. The longer I looked out the window, though, the more things I could think up that could go wrong. Why, oh why hadn't I taken everyone's advice and grabbed some Gravol for the plane? I decided that if there wasn't any wine available to me (thanks for nothing, Jay), that I would just calmly eat the entire bag of Hershey's Drops I had brought with me. Sure, it was supposed to last me the entire week, but desperate times call for stupid measures.
So, turns out a whole bag of chocolate makes one mighty thirsty. On top of the coffee and water they gave me at the beginning of the flight, I added another juice and 2 more waters to the mix. So much for my plan to stay safely strapped to the plane for 5 hours. There was no denying anymore that a trip to the bathroom could not be avoided.
So, I took a deep breath, muttered a swift prayer to prevent turbulence, unbuckled myself and made my way to the bathroom. Yes, I am still here to tell the tale, but I must say, I was never so happy to get out of that broom closet. First of all, no one told me that flushing the toilet sounds EXACTLY like the door being ripped off the plane and sucked into the atmosphere. That was scary. Second, only I could mistake this button for a person holding garbage and looking for a place to put it.
The toilet and the sink and everything else were pretty high tech... I just naturally ASSUMED that there was a special button to magically open up and reveal to me a waste bin. Turns out that, no, this wasn't a magic button for your garbage. Nope, this button magically makes the flight attendants make fun of you when you come out wondering if that "bing bong" noise means you broke the plane and we all need to evacuate.
So, once I gathered up my dignity and went back to my seat, and read and re-read every magazine I had brought, and had checked my seatbelt a few more times, I felt it would be shameful if I didn't start looking for the Rockies. I figured we would be crossing them soon, and in addition to likely being beautiful from the air, they would also be a welcome signal that the flight was almost over.
I looked out the window and saw clouds in every direction. I tried to let my mind wander as I lazily gazed out over the horizon. I wondered what it would be like if it were physically possible to jump out onto the clouds and just roll around in the cushiness of it all. But of course, I couldn't QUITE lose myself... I suddenly saw a gap in the clouds and pictured my happy little romp in the clouds coming to a startling end as I tumbled off the edge of the puffiness and fell 40,000 ft to the ground. So much for my moment of zen!
And then, off in the distance, I saw them! The snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains piercing the downy blanket of clouds. They made me thrilled and fearful all at once. We couldn't get to them fast enough for me. I was suddenly obsessed. Memories of our family vacation out west flooded my mind, and images of my nose pressed up against our van window while I strained my eyes upwards to see the tops of the mountains around us as we drove through the valleys. This also brought back the painful memory of my prized Jordache purse being absent mindedly left behind in a public bathroom somewhere in the mountains, never to be seen again, but that's another story.
Happily, I was blissed out on mountains and similes when I felt the plane descend ever so slightly, and heard the captain give us our final chance to use the washroom before we made our approach into Vancouver's YVR. I had a goofy grin on my face as we made our descent, and my eyes widened in awe as I saw only the tops of the tallest towers of Vancouver eerily peeking out from a layer of fog that stretched from the bottoms of the mountains out into the ocean. It was like nothing I had ever seen and it was so beautiful. We soared down into the fog, and I remember myself looking out the window into the whiteness of it all and wondering, "I wonder just how low to the ground this fog is?" when we broke through the fog just in time to hit the runway. I guess the fog was pretty low! :-)
I whispered a quick thank you for a safe landing, grabbed my things and headed off to find my next boarding gate. Getting to Vancouver had gone pretty smoothly... I had no idea that the next 5 hours were going to be some of the strangest hours of my life. Stay tuned!