Taking Time to Wander
I returned to Canada – Toronto – to attend a funeral. Even worse than being in Toronto… for a funeral… at this time of year… was returning to Savannah via JFK… JFK Airport in New York City.
New York City has been on my Bucket List for quite some time: as a place to never visit. Some might say, ahh… New York – the Financial District, the Garment District, Broadway, the Museums, the Louvre. My impression is – the accents, the attitudes, the muggings, the prices, the robberies. Although in fairness, after paying 13% Sales Tax in Canada, I should be used to those.
I flew into and out of Buffalo Airport, renting a car from there. On the way up, I went through Atlanta, an airport I am very familiar with and a usually reliable one. I had flown in to Atlanta from Savannah, a very pretty airport that had an orchestra playing Christmas Carols. Landing in Atlanta then going to the gate with the Buffalo-bound passengers, what a difference. Sour-looking Bills’ fans with grizzled faces who had spent too many winters hunkered down away from the winds blowing off Lake Erie.
Even the plane didn’t want to go. The equipment we were to fly on was coming in from Nashville. It had been struck by lightening, so was removed from service. Delta was very quick in finding us another plane, but we were now out of the schedule for the refreshments carts, so we boarded but sat by the gate.
The Captain came on the intercom to explain away what many of us were thinking: who cares about some pretzels and a Pepsi? Let’s get going. He explained that we couldn’t fly without the carts in place for structural reasons. We could fly with empty carts, but we couldn’t fly with no carts. Eventually we got our cookies and Cokes loaded and we made it to Buffalo about two hours later than scheduled, in the dark.
It’s been a LONG time since I was at Buffalo Airport. I had packed my GPS and hooked it up in the rental car. After putting in my destination in Toronto, it wanted to take me to a bridge that I didn’t want to cross at. I was afraid that the Niagara Falls bridges might be backed up with Canadians returning from a day of bargain shopping in the US, and that’s the way the GPS was pointing.
Reaching into my way-back memory I managed to get myself almost-lost enough to remember that the Interstate I was looking for did indeed run east and west, not the north/south that I would have sworn. Sort-of fortunately, I was sitting in stop-and-go Buffalo Rush Hour traffic, in the dark, giving me the chance to get my bearings and figure out where the forward and reverse levers were in this little Korean rental car as I flashed my hi-beams while trying to master the windshield wipers and the heater. I should have chosen the Chevy.
I was the second car in line at the Customs booth at my bridge of choice, one or two quick questions and I was on my way.
Playing with the knobs, I managed to tune in a couple of radio stations that I used to listen to thirty-plus years ago. I was taken by surprise at the number of familiar voices. I have thought this before… the work in the radio and television industry is extremely portable. It seems to me that it’s just as easy to be an announcer in Buffalo as it is in a city that doesn’t have such crappy weather, so why not seek out a radio or television station in Tucson, or Tampa, in Baton Rouge or Bakersfield, Atlanta or Albuquerque… why would anyone stay in Buffalo or (insert cold-winter city here) for thirty-plus years?
I’m reminded of the conversation with the security guard at a plant in Maine. Every winter morning he would complain about the cold. I asked him why he didn’t move south if he didn’t like the cold winters. “Aw, in Florida they have those palmetto bugs. I can’t stand them.” Reasoning with logic like that is a lost cause.
Driving to the outskirts of Toronto went fine. The closer that I got, I read on one of the overhead, early-warning signs, “Travel time to (the cut off I wanted) is 25 minutes.” That didn’t seem right, it shouldn’t have been more than ten minutes. But sure enough, traffic soon turned into a sea of brake lights and stop-and-go traffic. This is at 8:00pm, long after rush hour and in the opposite direction to where rush hour would have been.
None the less, we crept along for five miles then for no vehicular reason, we all sped up again. No wreck, no road construction. However, there is a large multi-purpose sports stadium beside the highway. There was a soccer game being played and the stadium was very brightly lit. So, we all had to slow down, look at the bright lights of BMO Field then resume the normal speed limit.
Toronto. If I never have to visit there again it will be four days too soon.
I was definitely NOT looking forward to JFK. I imagined it to be a cold, antiquated airport – a larger version of EWR, the Newark rathole – with uncivil people telling me to board a freezing cold bus to get to another antiquated terminal, probably getting mugged along the way. I was completely wrong.
The Delta Terminal that I flew in and out of was modern, bright and well laid out. I had time to kill so walked a ways, finding a “Shake Shack” and a cheeseburger much more reasonably priced than I would have found at the traffic-halting BMO Field. “BMO Field” for those who may not know, is named for a Canadian bank. No, it is not the ‘Bank of Missouri’, which one would first think; it is the ‘Bank of Montreal’. Heretofore, the short form for ‘Montreal’ has always been ‘MTL’, the airline code is ‘YUL’, so how the Bank of Montreal got shortened to ‘BMO’ will have to remain a Canadian mystery, eh? (Would that be a ‘CMY’?)
In short order I was on my way back to short sleeves and Savannah, y’all. Home, sweet home.