Wherever the Road Leads

Being Late for Wilma…

… Part Deux.

My mother is truly an amazing woman. Single and at age ninety, she plans and travels the world, although in more recent years her traveling has been cut back from visiting Africa every second year and Great Britain more often, to cruising the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. She makes many of her travel arrangements on her own and makes sure her bills are paid while she is gone, but does so through phone calls and personal contact. She has never embraced the computer.

I made her flight arrangements for her this flight down to Atlanta on AirCanada.ca, being issued an electronic ticket. To me, this is perfectly natural, I haven’t had a paper ticket in twenty years, simply pushing a driver’s license, Frequent Flier card or passport across the counter to a ticket agent, or in recent years, using the self-serve Check-In kiosks in the lobby. However my mother likes the reassurance of physical proof that she has the right to board the plane, not trusting a computer to guarantee her a seat.

What we take for granted as being able to do on the computer… online banking, booking flights, research and reading Blogs… she does not take advantage of as she does not have internet service. She recently scolded one of the plethora of Canadian cell phone providers as they were offering an “land-line” service at what appeared to be a very attractive price. Interested, my mother got talking to a salesperson only to find out that the land-line service was V.O.I.P… Voice Over Internet… and required home internet service. That fact was not made obvious in their advertising and while many of us internet-dependent and smartphone-addicted souls would assume that, it was not obvious to her.

She has never read this Blog – perhaps a good thing – but I read my previous post to her (off my Android phone) regarding being late – and texting – to pick her up. She reminded me that there was an additional time. Ooops… she’s right.

I have been in Atlanta airport hundreds of times. Servicing ninety-five million passengers in 2012, Atlanta is the world’s busiest airport. And it is huge. Beyond the North and South Terminal, there are five concourses averaging forty gates each, all connected by an underground train. As a contractor living in Huntsville, Alabama, I used to fly through Atlanta once a week, traveling to Dallas, Chicago and Cincinnati to catch flights to my final destination, or directly to Puerto Rico or Mexico.


I know Atlanta airport very well. Or, like the Burlington GO Train station, thought I knew it well.

I had stood and waited in the same spot for my mother’s flight to arrive many times. Watching the monitors, I could tell that her flight had landed, then watching the procession of people come up the escalator into the main Arrivals and Baggage Claim area, it was fairly easy to tell when her flight was being processed. When you know what to look for, a group of Canadians is easy to spot.

Firstly, they are carrying coats and sporting hats, with many proud to display the fact that they are NOT American by wearing maple leafs, Toronto’s city hall or an Argo’s logo on the sweatshirt that is forcing them to carry, not wear, their overcoat.

Secondly, Canadians are diverse but distinct. From few other arriving flights will there be such a concentration of Indians and Pakistanis, from the turban-and-sari-wearing grandparents to the modern generations.

Penelope-McQuade-600Additionally, no one travels like a group of French-Canadians… happy, loud and talking in rapid-fire, heavily-accented French.

I have never understood the habits of most airplane passengers. As SOON as they hear the “ding” that the airplane has been properly parked and the door is open, some thirty rows and 120 passengers away, stand up and reach for their overhead luggage.

Is this their first time on an airplane? Can they not figure out how long it takes to process 120 people ahead of them up a narrow aisle and through a tiny doorway? But there they stand, impatiently, for the ten minutes that it takes before they finally move. Then they get aggravated at me because I’ve been sitting the whole time, stand up and march down the aisle immediately.

The WORST group I have ever seen didn’t even wait for the plane to land. I was flying home to Atlanta from Montreal on a Friday morning. These women had been exuberantly chatting away in their native parlez-vous le ding-dong while the rest of the plane quietly read le Montréal Matin.

As soon as the pilot announced our final APPROACH to Atlanta… approach… as in still in the air and five miles away from the runway… these women were on their feet and opening the overhead bins.

They may have been excited in French but they understood enough English to sit back down right quick when the Delta Airlines hostess scolded them. That was a very unsafe move on their part. But had there been a disaster, there wasn’t a one of them that I wouldn’t have gladly given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

However… Scottish mothers… the monitor indicated that her flight had long-ago landed but not a Little Scottish Mother, a maple-leaf-sporting Pakistani nor a gleeful Québécoise had come up the escalator. I walked over to the baggage claim carousels and couldn’t find one listing a flight from Toronto. Matter of fact, I couldn’t find one with ANY foreign city listed.

Over a half-hour had passed since her flight would have landed and there was not a Canadian in sight. I decided to walk over to where the Air Canada ticket counters are.

Oops, where the Air Canada ticket counters had been. Abandoned counters and covered-over logos.

I spotted a door with an Air Canada logo painted on it that had a notice taped to it. I walked over to read that the Air Canada ticket counters were now located in the International Terminal. WHAT International Terminal??

I found an Airport Information kiosk where the lady proudly explained that the airport had a new International Terminal that had opened six months ago, and showed me the quickest way to get my sorry butt from the Main Terminal to the new International Terminal.

I scurried back to the parking deck and had just paid the cashier $4.00 for waiting at the wrong place when my cell phone rang. It was the lady pushing the wheelchair that my mother requested take her from the plane to the Arrivals area. She wondered where I was. Quickly, I explained that I did not know about the new International terminal, but that I was on my way from the Main Terminal and would be there in a few minutes.

I’m sure this was not the first time she had heard a similar story and was able to calm my mother that she had not been forgotten or abandoned. Additionally – fortunately – her plane had been late in arriving, giving me an extra few minutes grace.

Before long, we were on the road to Bethlehem and she was happily chattering away, I think one of the main reasons she comes down to visit.

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  1. Alistair  June 11, 2013

    Great Stuff. She is amazing.

  2. Mike G  June 11, 2013

    Haha, Gordon. Even when you were early, you were late!
    Good stuff. I love seeing new posts, especially when I am at work 🙂


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