Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cake or Death? - Part Deux

Last week, I had to leave town for a few days (no, the CIA wasn’t on to me, nor was the RCMP…yet). I took the train on the way out and the plane on the way back. Let’s compare the experiences.

I arrived at the train station 10 minutes before departure time, waited 10 minutes in line and boarded quickly by showing my pre-bought ticket (first class). Found my seat without any problem and started reading the plentiful papers and magazines that were thoughtfully displayed right at the entrance of my wagon. The train departed on time and two minutes later, somebody was pushing a cart along the aisle offering us (free) refreshments: wine, beer, juice, munchies, etc, along with a menu. On her way back, she took our orders. Fifteen minutes later, dinner was served: green beans and asparagus salad, grilled salmon served on a bed of couscous with roasted vegetables, three kinds of cheese, then a fruit mousse for dessert. Wine flowed freely during the meal, followed by brandy or Porto. On arrival, I quickly left the train and easily found my way to the taxi station where a cab took me to my hotel door in five minutes.

I had to leave for the airport two hours in advance of my flight: one hour to get to the airport (because my departure time coincided with the rush hour downtown) and one hour for security checks. My bag went through the x-ray machine, but I also had to show my boarding pass and an ID, take off my jacket (two passengers had to remove their shoes) and go through a metal detection gateway before walking for kilometres looking for the departure gate. There was some delay, so we had to wait for another half hour, sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs where a nervous passenger shook the whole row with his twitching legs. We eventually boarded, but not before showing our pass and our ID one more time. My seat? First row, right next to the emergency exit, of course, which meant: 1) no window, 2) no access to my handbag during the flight because there was no seat in front of me under which to place the bloody handbag so it had to be put away in the bin above the seats, 3) I was in charge of opening the door in case of a plane crash and 4) the bathrooms are way in the back, but I would have to climb over two other passengers’ laps anyway to go pee. There were no meal or any such nonsense, although we were offered coffee or soft drinks. After the plane landed, there were some curses or something that prevented the doors from being opened right away so we had to stand in the aisle for ten minutes with the air circulation turned off (but not the elevator music). Then, once we got into the terminal, we had to – again – wander aimlessly for kilometres, going up and down elevators, before reaching the luggage carrousels. More wait, then off to the taxi stations where I had to haggle the rate with the taxi driver. And finally, after half an hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic, home sweet home.

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