Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Canadian Snow Shoveler in Cancún's Airport

My wife and I just recently returned from a vacation in Mexico, only to be greeted by a major blizzard that swept across the eastern portion of the U.S. and into Southern Ontario. The news on the radio said that we missed the brunt of the storm and received only 10 centimeters of the expected 30.

Well, if you grabbed a ruler and measured in some arbitrary spot on the driveway, you might come up with a measurement of 10 centimeters. The drifts were more like half a meter; and HEAVY. Holy mackerel, that stuff felt as if I were shoveling lead pellets.

One of my favorite parts of a vacation is that tradition known as "the packing of the luggage". My wife — like all wives — gets to use the largest suitcase. It's amazing how much stuff she can cram into that thing, and yet she somehow manages to keep it under the allowable weight limit by just a few micrograms. I swear all women must take a course — Suitcase Cramming 101. Her carry-on bag alone contains enough goods to fill a small department store. If she were to pack my needs for a vacation, she'd be able to fit it all into a clutch purse.

The first delightful moment of our trip took place upon our arrival at Toronto's Pearson International Airport at 3am. We were advised that our flight would be delayed by twelve hours. This brought much glee to our hearts since we could think of no better way to start our vacation than by spending the day in Toronto in -20C weather. And our airline was great about what they perceived to be an inconvenience to us. They booked rooms for all of the out-of-town passengers at a nearby hotel and gave us a voucher for one meal (and that was only right; for who needs more than one meal over a twelve hour period?)

A bit of a problem arose however when the woman at the airline check-in wrote on the hotel vouchers that we were to stay at the Quality Holiday Best Westin, or something like that. A mob of us scrambled down to where the hotel shuttles were and harassed every driver until we found one that was willing to take us all to a Best Western. After a nice eight minute sleep and one meal, we were quite refreshed and raring to get back to the airport.

Airport security is, of course, a highlight of any travel destination. Scanners, pat-downs, metal detectors, the third degree — it's all good. After sufficient probing, prodding, pestering and poking we were allowed to board our plane.

The flight was great fun also, what with all the commotion in the cramped aisle next to my seat — people brushing their butts against my shoulder while I'm trying to do a crossword or eat my gourmet airline food.

Once that four hours of pure joy ended, it was on to phase two of the pleasurable airport experience — immigration. One thing I didn't expect though was to have our luggage scanned by Mexican security as we were coming off the aircraft. But, when you think of it, this makes perfect sense. One of the passengers could be a MacGyver-like character who could have fashioned some sort of weapon out of items gleaned from the plane: plastic cutlery, magazines, left-over cole slaw and a couple of barf bags. However, I can't think of a reason why anyone would want to bring a weapon to an all-inclusive resort on the Mayan Riviera, unless it was used to ward off some of those pushy timeshare sales people.

We then spent a week in the sun at our resort, but the winds were so heavy that pelicans were being blown all over the palm-tree-lined Mexican sky. Otherwise the stay was uneventful, unless you count the incident where our beach towels were stolen. Of course it was my pleasure to pay $30 per towel for this person's much needed yen for thievery. And if I may, I'd like to now publicly thank him or her for their thoughtful act (you know who you are, you unscrupulous sleazeball).

The mirth continued on our return to Cancún airport for our journey home. Security singled us out to have our carry-on luggage rummaged through. This was understandable as my wife and I look like your typically boring, mid-fifties, middle-class, terrorist touristas. The agent showed us his badge before mistreating our belongings. This was done lest we took him for an airport washroom attendant with a fetish for fondling baggage.

We agreed to have him take a look but he wanted us to open the bags. I believe this is the same policy that is used if you happen to find yourself being strip searched and having the exit area of your anatomy examined — it's up to you to open your cheeks.

The flight home was the usual delight, but it was Canadian customs that really brightened my day. We had no problem with the stern young man who gave us a card verifying that we were OK to go-ahead. But for some reason we had to show this card at several checkpoints beyond him. Perhaps all these people were doing the exact same job, but each person we subsequently encountered had more job experience than the last. The first guy was probably a first day or first week trainee.

Anyway, we made it home safe and sound after a relaxing two hour drive down the peaceful Highway 401. But you know, in retrospect, air travel to foreign countries is a mite tiresome. Perhaps next year our winter getaway will be a land journey to Moose Factory.

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