Monday, August 6, 2012

Cinematic-like Canadian Drama

I flew to Montreal yesterday. The 6 a.m. flight from Champaign to Chicago was no big deal, per usual. And then I sat from 7 a.m. until 10:30 for my flight for Montreal. It was one of those waits where the people sitting across from you, who you don't speak a word to, start to look familiar. The people next to me were a grandma, son and grandson, who was the son's nephew. They were traveling to Texas on the flight at our gate before the flight to Montreal. The 16 year old was reading a book on his summer reading list for school and hating it. The woman next to me (who was also going to Texas) and I picked up our heads. "I have to know what book it is now," I said to him after he said, "This book sucks. I can't read any more of it."

Yeah, Lord of the Flies. Typical sophomore literature. He'll have to endure it the way I endured Catcher in the Rye and the Bronte sisters (in which, by the way Jane Eyre blows the water out of Wuthering Heights, but they're both still annoying).

Anyway, I get to Montreal and my brain kicks in. I get off the plane without having to wait for any carryon items that were too large for the overhead compartments of the regional jet. I take the stairs rather than the escalator in a mad dash to get to customs. If it's busy... you want to be the first out of your plane. As it was -- there was NO ONE there. It was odd. I'd never seen it so empty, unless I was coming in super late at night.

I breezed past the people waiting for family members and down to the taxi line. I waited patiently while the guys ahead of me freaked out that the taxi man was telling them to get in a limo (he wasn't). He was simply pointing to the post where they were to wait while a taxi drove up.

I got in my taxi and rolled off my tongue in perfect anglo-french the name and address of my hotel. I'd been practicing all week. :-)

He looked confused. I took out the paper and handed it to him. He STILL looked confused. So I'm taking that not as a strike against my language skills but of the fact that he had, indeed, never dropped anyone off at Le Petit Hotel before and was kind of surprised that I was introducing a new place for him to go, since he'd been driving a cab for over a decade.

"Those small hotels are always changing their names!" he exclaimed. But indeed, he had a master list of every hotel he'd ever been there with an address cross-listed. He had one for 106 Rue St-Paul Ouest instead of 168 (where I was staying) so, he followed some chicken scratch instructions he'd left for himself about the best way to get there.

Then he said, "You from Toronto?" It was a stab to my heart. I'd once ordered a sandwich from a guy on the Plateau who said to me in English after I ordered in French. "You're too friendly to be from Toronto. So you've got to be from the States." I had encountered similar anti-Toronto-ness in Halifax and Calgary and other parts of Quebec. So it was then that I learned that to come from the States was actually much better when I visited Montreal. There was some kind of acceptance there. Now, that said, I know some folks from Toronto who are very friendly. But I also have witnessed this kind of urban snobbery when I've been there. So I get what the stereotype is about. In the states, it's often applied to New Yorkers.

Not a surprise Le Petit is so small that he missed the door the first time and circled back around the block. It was pouring rain and windy and hot outside. There were storm warnings in the area with 90km wind warnings (read the km Americans). So I paid him, bailed, picked up my bags and opened the first set of doors to the hotel. Then I realized I was missing my backpack with my laptop.

I threw the bags down and took off down the street in my flip flops in the rain screaming, "Arrete le Taxi! Stop the Taxi! Please!" I ran for 8 blocks. Someone in a car speed through an intersection and got to the taxi behind mine. I caught up 30 seconds later, thanked the car driver, and looked at this poor cab driver who wasn't mine and it was like Bart Simpson when he visited France. Words just flew out of my breathlessness in French, almost like I knew what I was doing. He was able to do two things that my brain couldn't do as I was screaming and running, give me the cab company name AND the taxi number.

Now, in my run through the pouring rain, I'd also lost two other things. My shoes. I had been wearing flip flops and I ran right out of them. Ironically, on the plane, I had been finally finishing, "Born to Run" a book I started almost two years ago, but only got halfway through. When they came off my feet, a family screamed, "Your Shoes!" I had only answered, "It's okay, I gotta go faster!" And I did, my bare feet pushing against the cobblestone streets as I ignored stop signs and moving cars like a crazy woman.

On my job back to the hotel, where my purse and suitcase were left in the doors, the family gave me back my shoes. "Do you need a phone?" They were Canadian tourists. It was so sweet. I thanked them, and kept moving. A restaurant worker who had been having a smoke on the sidewalk when I whizzed by asked me if I was okay, if he could do anything. I thanked him.

When I got to my hotel, I was drenched, sad and crazy. I spit out the cab information and the car information and what my bag looked like to the two concierges and they went to work on the phones immediately. They explained that the cab dispatcher at the airport was on it and I'd know if it was coming back by noon tomorrow.

Then I went upstairs to my hotel room and cried in a very hot shower. I also got lucky that the iHome dock in the room charged my iPhone. So I didn't have to wander out to buy any charge cords, which had also been in the bag. And that I had the mental acuity to keep my passport and my wallet actually on me. Because this is the kind of crazy shit that happens to me when I'm tired. I am not a good traveler, and I'm really not good at days that start at 4 a.m.

Afterwards, I got to resetting all of the passwords on all of my mail accounts and tried to figure out the best way to explain to the Tolono Public Library that I had lost a book that I had checked out via the WorldCat program. No one likes to lose a library book, but you really don't want to lose one from ANOTHER library that lent it to your library. That's just embarrassing.

After my shower, I sat in a depressed state in a robe watching the Olympics. It was still storming outside, so I ate some Pringles and water for dinner, and then I started to drift off to sleep, early. At 9 p.m., I was awoken by the hotel phone ringing. I said a silent prayer to the powers that be and picked up the phone. "Madam, your cab driver is here with a package you were looking for."

I pulled on my wet clothes from earlier today and ran down to the elevator. And there was my awesomely petit cab driver with my bag. "I had three riders after you. I hope everything is still there. No one said there was a bag in the back with them."

And it was. Laptop, library book, cords. I tipped him $40 and hugged him. Then I went upstairs, happy, happy, happy.

Only in Canada would it have been returned. Only in Canada.

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