Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fancy Room, Fancy S'mores, Fancy Meeting Everyone Marlaine Knows On A Plane!


I slowly open my eyes, stretch like a baby, and smile as my mind slowly clears and the crazy day I had the day before suddenly all comes back to me.  I blink a bit and look around at my fancy pants hotel room.  Out the window I see the tarmac and planes slowly lining up with boarding bridges.  Between me and the window is a table of empty dishes and a teapot - a happy reminder of the extremely fancy dinner that I enjoyed last night.  To the right of the bed is a gorgeous bathroom that features the weirdest lighting system I've ever encountered.  It took me a looooong time in the middle of the night to figure out how to turn the lights on to use the facilities!  But once those lights were on.... what a bathroom it was!  I felt like one of the Real Housewives of Vancouver... the awesome rich part, not the gag-inducing self-centredness part.

And how did I end up in this lovely room?  Let's pick up where I left off... the day before.  I had flown to Whitehorse to take a quick bird's eye view of the place, and then had just deplaned back in Vancouver, and powered up my phone to see how my host Marlaine was coping with this unexpected turn of events up north.

As my phone powered up, I started hearing, "Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding."  I laughed out loud as I walked through the terminal reading the onslaught of texts - as predicted, Marlaine was in full go-mode.  Here are the screen shots of the series of texts that started spilling onto my phone from Marlaine as soon as my phone was on:


I love Marlaine.  :-)

Of course, she was right about all of the details.  I smiled as I read that she had contacted my parents.  I sometimes swear that she missed her calling as a personal attaché, but her real-life career truly suits her and she is passionate about her work.  Lucky for me, she is also passionate about our friendship and she had updated me WAAAYYY before WestJet had.  WestJet hadn't even given me my luggage back by the time Marlaine had equipped me with all the info I needed for the next 24 hours!

As I waited at the baggage carousel, I amused myself by listening to the growing swell of conspiracy theories that were emerging from my fellow passengers as we waited for our belongings.  I heard person after person on their cell phone speaking to family or friends in Whitehorse and then relaying to those of us standing close by that mere minutes after our flight headed back to Vancouver, not only did the Air Canada flight to Whitehorse land successfully, but so did the Air North flight!!  I heard whispers about some mysterious WestJet fog protocols.  I heard complaints about lack of fog landing terminology in Whitehorse.  I even heard one woman say that our plane had traveled far into Alaska while we were in a holding pattern waiting to land, and she declared that, "there must be some reason that they flew us so far into Alaska.  GPS does NOT lie!  I saw our little plane on the screen over Fairbanks and I want to know what they were avoiding in Whitehorse!"

Clearly we all react to the unexpected in different ways, but I really hadn't expected that the reactions of the other passengers would provide me with a steady stream of entertainment all afternoon.  We all made our way up to the WestJet customer service counter, where we lined up to meet our fate.  We were a tired looking bunch.  A porter came along with free water for us all, but it seemed that we were all just too defeated to even care anymore about hydration. 

As our line slowly moved along, a man ahead of me in line struck up a conversation with me.  He told me the amusing tale of the woman sitting in front of him on the plane who was convinced that our flight's pilot was a rookie who was too scared to land in the fog.  She was apparently an expert on all things WestJet, and repeatedly cited their "two-attempts-only" policy, as she insisted that the rookie pilot had wasted his two attempts and that someone should have stepped in to land the plane. Incidentally, I have no idea if this is a real policy or not.  In fact, I'm still not clear on why we couldn't land in the fog!

THEN, he told me that he was sitting beside a woman who claimed to have special healing powers.  He recalled the grand gestures she was making with her hands in the direction of the Whitehorse airport on our second attempt, and how she declared after the captain informed us we were heading back to Vancouver that she had saved everyone on our flight with her powers.  What really made me grin was his description of how even after saving our flight, she insisted on complaining heartily about the man sitting a few rows back, coughing and hacking from a cold, and she was continually whispering comments like, "Boy, is that guy ever sick!"  Both my new friend and I agreed that if it bothered her so much, she could have mustered up some healing for the sick passenger, rather than complaining and wasting time saving our flight from the fog!

Finally, I made it through the line up at customer service and spoke with an agent.  To my delight, WestJet had booked me a room at the poshy posh posh Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel and provided me with a fistful of food vouchers that could be used at the hotel or anywhere else in the airport.  I didn't even need to leave the airport!  All I had to do was walk to the other end of the terminal and check in. Woo hoo!

Well, as I joked with Marlaine later, although we weren't able to do our 3km hike that we had planned to do when I got off the plane in Whitehorse, not all was lost.  Turns out that Vancouver's airport terminal is AT LEAST 50km long.  Well... maybe it only felt that long, but I am convinced that I would have racked up 3km on a pedometer, had I been wearing one that day.  WestJet's customer service was at the very, very furthest end of the building from the Fairmont Hotel.  I was sweaty, tired, my muscles were all sore from sitting on an airplane all day, I was carrying all sorts of crap, I was thirsty and hungry, and I was getting really, really annoyed with having to swerve around lost people.  It's funny.  I normally have a very even temperament, and not much can rattle me.  But... if I'm tired and thirsty, I can go from zero to exasperated in a heartbeat over the stupidest things.  The very same statues and artwork that I was thrilled to stop and look at that very morning were making me mutter under my breath as I made my way through the terminal to the hotel.  "Stupid statue... making people stop and admire it.  Stupid tourists.  Stupid lost tourists.  Grumble, grumble, moan."

Finally I saw it!  The escalator to the hotel!  It looked golden and shiny and full of hope!  I savoured my 15 second rest while I glided up to the second level.  I finally made my way under the chandeliers that lined the bridge to the hotel, and dragged my butt into the hotel lobby and made my way to the counter.  As I made my grand entrance, the front desk clerk smiled and said, "Another victim of WestJet, I presume?"  I must have looked pretty dishevelled, but it also reassured me that I must not have been the only one from that flight feeling exhausted and "done".

I checked in and headed up to my room.  It was the perfect oasis for rest after a really weird day.  It's funny how sitting down all day can exhaust you.  I guess I should be kinder to myself, though - for someone afraid to fly who twice in one day thought she had brought down a plane all by herself, I was actually in pretty good shape!  The bed was soooo fluffy!  The bathroom was sooo spa-like!  And I could look out onto the airport tarmac and watch the planes come and go.  It was more like a suite than a room... it was awesome.  I was suddenly in love with WestJet and it's mysterious fog policies!

First thing was first.  I called Marlaine and we touched base and re-jigged our plans for the next day.  We had a few laughs about it all, and then I declared I was going to have dinner and then take a nice relaxing bath.  Then I ordered room service in a big, bad way.  I cashed in every single voucher WestJet gave me and chipped in $26 of my own and had a fantastic gourmet meal.  It wasn't one of those meals where all of the parts "went together", but rather, it was a Frankenstein meal of all of my favourite menu items.  I got a smoothie.  I got a breast of chicken.  I got a Caesar salad.  I got a pot of Earl Grey tea.  I got some toast and jam.  And.... the topper.... Fairmont's interpretation of the S'more.  Oh man, was that a good S'more!

After I had enjoyed my dinner, I slumped back in the wingback chair (which I totally sat in while I ate dinner - I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to do that when you are as prone to spills as I am, but I was feeling like a badass) and debated whether my bath plan was still a good idea.

  • I felt gross. 
  • When would I ever get a chance to bathe in a clean tub again?
  • The soaps and lotions at Fairmont are top shelf.
  • The towels didn't have princesses and super heros on them.
  • The tub had jets in it.
  • I would probably feel amazing afterwards.

  • I didn't feel like getting up.
  • Saved by the Bell was on.
So, my choice was clear.  I stayed in my comfy wingback chair and watched bad TV for about an hour and a half until I realized I was falling asleep. 

Fortunately, when I arrived in my room, I'd had the presence of mind to get into my PJs, so all I had to do was a lame-o 2 step stumble from the chair to my bed, and I slid under the duvet and let out an audible, "yessssss!"  I was asleep before I even took my glasses off!

So, after a nice long sleep, and the added advantage that my 7am wake up call felt like 10am due to the time zone difference, I got up and had a refreshing shower.  I used every scrap of their bath products and used every single towel in the place - because I COULD!  I leisurely blow-dried my hair (decadence!), and straightened it, despite Marlaine's warnings that I would stand out like a sore thumb in Whitehorse if I looked too put together.  Look at me, throwing caution to the wind!

I packed up my things, checked out of the hotel like a completely new human being and skipped through the terminal like a 5 year old on her way to a birthday party.  I took pictures of the very statues I had cursed the day before.  I smiled at tourists.  I even helped a poor lost soul!

I made it to the baggage check counter, checked my suitcase, tra-la-la'd through security and thought, "Let's try this again!"

I grabbed a juice and a muffin and headed to my boarding gate.  There, I saw many of the passengers from our ill-fated flight the day before.  It was like a class reunion - everyone smiling and waving, swapping stories about hotel rooms and food vouchers.  We might as well have been clinking sloshy beer steins too for all the lovey-doveyness and reminiscing that was going on.

I struck up a conversation with a woman who was toting around the super large bouquet of flowers that I had noticed she had carried onto the plane the day before.  I thought she was bringing it to someone in Whitehorse, but as it turns out, she lives in Whitehorse, but had been in Oregon for a week helping a friend of hers start up a gluten free flour business, and the flowers were a thank you gift from her friend. 

We chatted easily as we boarded the plane and settled into our seats.  She asked about my plans in Whitehorse, and I mentioned visiting Marlaine and her one-year stint in the city.  Well, after revealing a bit about her profession, this woman suddenly says, "Well she must work with my neighbour, John!"  Well, I could still use my phone at this point, so I texted Marlaine, and sure enough, Marlaine knew of this John!  We had a good laugh about this on the plane and chatted some more about my trip and my friendship with Mar, although I never mentioned her name.  Suddenly, a woman in a red top a few seats over said, "Is your friend's name Marlaine?"  to which, I burst out laughing and said that yes, it was.  Soon, about three rows of people were giggling, and the woman who just sat down beside me joined in and said, "That's Whitehorse for ya!" 

Anyway, I won't go into another lengthy summary of the flight, but thankfully, this flight took off and landed in Whitehorse without incident.  I texted Mar the second we could use our phones and excitedly announced my arrival.  She texted back, "Get ready to be serenaded!"  I had forgotten that she had filled me in on a singing and drumming welcome that had been prepared by a group in Whitehorse to welcome members of a Māori tribe from New Zealand who had been on my flight.  Unfortunately, they had to do the sad-face shuffle back home the day before when our flight never arrived, but they were up and ready to go again when we finally did make it! 

As I came up the boarding bridge and rounded the corner, I could hear singing and drumming - it felt so celebratory!  Even though the welcome wasn't for me, it was the PERFECT way to arrive in Whitehorse after all of the troubles I'd had actually getting there!  here is a picture of the group:

As I walked past this amazing welcome, I almost burst into happy tears when I saw Marlaine.  We have been friends since elementary school and have bore witness to many versions of each other, have celebrated many wonderful times together, and have been there to hold each other's hand for the heartbreaking times for almost 30 years.  I think that there is something to delaying gratification, because the hug I finally got 24 hours after I was expecting it was so worth the wait.  And so were the Starbucks Tazo chai latte and breakfast wrap that she had waiting for me!  Can't think of many other moments as great as that one.  :-)

Next post:  What does this taxidermy exhibit at the Whitehorse Airport have to do with our first outing after I arrived in Whitehorse? 


1 comment:

  1. God planned it exactly right when he put you two together as friends.