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Headshot of me wearing red lipstick Kara Babcock

Travelling is not my favourite thing

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What a week, or to be more precise, three days!

Last month my former boss asked my current boss if I could travel to Guelph to present some Office365 training to teachers at a workshop. I don’t like travelling, nor do I think I bring much unique to the table in terms of doing training. But I was flattered that he had requested me, and I want to stay in his good books, so I said yes. The workshop itself was two days, but I committed to coming for the second day only; this week was the last week of the session, and I didn’t want to miss two of the last three days of classes while my students were completing culminating tasks.

Travelling from Thunder Bay is always an interesting experience. We have an “international” airport because we have direct flights to the States and places like Cuba. But pretty much any other destination involves going through a connection in Winnipeg (west) or Toronto (east). So to get to Guelph, I had to fly to Toronto, then take a shuttle to Guelph. The realities of scheduling—finding a flight in the evening with enough time between the end of the school day and the flight to make it to the airport, and then waiting until the shuttle will take you to your destination—make for long hours of travelling both there and back.

So on Wednesday afternoon I show up at the airport at an appropriate time, head through security … and my flight is delayed. Pearson Airport in Toronto is experiencing all kinds of delays, so our plane was delayed taking off from there. It isn’t arriving in Thunder Bay until near 7 pm, when my flight was supposed to leave Thunder Bay at 5! I am stuck, then, for two hours in the departure lounge of the airport (not really enough time to leave, go anywhere, and come back and get through security again). Our airport’s departure lounge is sparse. We’ve got a little Tim Hortons kiosk thing, and that’s it. The kiosk was closed at first, but eventually the attendant came back on duty; I snagged the very last sandwich available. It was turkey … but then I discovered it had mayonnaise, and I felt betrayed. Still, I came to appreciate that sandwich, because it was a long time indeed until my next meal.

Fast forward to Guelph. The flight to Toronto was fine after the delay, and I had no problems with the shuttle service despite being two hours late (as the service agent said, everyone was running late that day). I’m the last person being dropped off in Guelph. It’s around 11:30 pm now. The driver is a nice guy; he tells me all about the places near the hotel where I can grab a very late meal. He even pulls into a nearby parking lot and runs out into a restaurant to check if its kitchen is still serving (it wasn’t) before dropping me off at the hotel.

The hotel did not have a room for me.

When I heard this from the person at the front desk, I felt an urge to both laugh and cry at the same time. Because of course the hotel didn’t have room! Of course I’m going to arrive at nearly midnight only to find I have nowhere to sleep! This is what happens when I travel.

Just goes to show that watching a Monty Python sketch is a lot more fun than actually being in one.

I was happy to Eeyore it up while the front desk person dual-wielded phones trying to sort things out (I was not the only person affected by this). The hotel was sold out that night, then four of their rooms had flooded after a pipe burst. So as one of the lucky guests to arrive late and last, I was out a room. Ergo, I had to go elsewhere. At first they wanted to send me to a sister hotel in St. Jacobs—about 20 to 30 minutes’ drive away—which would be ridiculous given that my conference centre was a 10 minute walk from this hotel. Eventually they found a room for me in another hotel that was closed for renovations and reopening on Thursday. Well, technically it was Thursday by that time, so … yay?

I have to tell you about my cab driver, though. This is by far the best part of the story.

Denys holding up a T-shirt that says 'Happy Cab 15' with a cartoon version of himself and a disco ball in his cab

My cab driver, Denys, is 72 years old. He has been driving his cab for 26 years. He calls his cab “Happy Cab 15”. He is a relentlessly positive, upbeat guy who was happy to tell me all about his philosophy and how he has toured the world to spread that message. And he has a disco ball that he plugs into the roof of his cab—he did this for me after we arrived at the hotel. Every time I said something, he thanked me for sharing; when he learned I’m a teacher and that I teach adults, he thanked me profusely for “all that you do, you’re bridging the gap”. And he has T-shirts.

So seldom do I meet someone so unyielding in their happy-go-lucky attitude. Denys brightened my spirits. By that time I was tired and not looking forward to having to get up early to go to this conference and do my thing. And while I won’t say that the whole ordeal was worth it just to meet Denys, he was definitely the best-case cabbie scenario. If you search on YouTube you can see a few videos posted by other passengers of Happy Cab 15.

New hotel was fine, I guess. No breakfast service yet (no staff whatsoever, really, in the morning—I stood around awkwardly as construction people moved around in the lobby, waiting for a manager or someone to come take my money). They did find me some cereal and fruit, though, which was good of them.

The workshop itself was fine. It was a nice, small group of people, so I didn’t feel too overwhelmed about presenting to them. I don’t know if I used my time as effectively as I could have, but I hope I encouraged some of them to continue experimenting with Office365 and try some new things. My former boss then gave me a ride back to Pearson so I didn’t have to wait in the lobby of a hotel I wasn’t allowed to stay at.

Waiting at Pearson for four hours is not ideal, but I’ve done longer. It’s so busy, and there are so many people—but at the same time, it is nice because it has so many things to do. I personally enjoy camping out at David’s Tea; I can just get a pot or a few cups of something and sit and negotiate with the terrible WiFi (also I figured out how to download Netflix shows to my phone for offline viewing, so I was a happy camper).

My flight back home was delayed, only by about 45 minutes this time. After arriving at the gate, I ran into my neighbour from across the street—and we were sitting together. Coincidences abound! So I stretched my comfort zone a little by making conversation. After the plane took off, I was glad I had figured out the Netflix thing. The overhead reading lights at our seats, in particular, did not work, so reading or knitting was ruled out. I watched a few episodes and tried to relax.

After we landed, I didn’t get to sleep right away, because I had to visit a friend’s house to feed and cuddle her cat while her parents are out of town. So it was well after 2 am by the time I arrived home, changed, and relaxed enough to fall asleep.

Then I had to get up and go to work in 5 hours later for the last day of class….

I recognize that these kinds of ordeals are relatively rare when it comes to travelling. Most of my travel has been pretty routine. But I dislike the entire process even when it does go smoothly, so when something like the Wednesday night saga happens to me, I’m quite displeased. And it just amplifies my near-constant drumbeat of wanting to turtle up and stay home and not see anyone.

Except you, Internet. I will always have time to talk to you.