Yesterday I found the loveliest gem in the inbox of my old email account: a description of my very first trip to Toronto nine years ago. I’ve pretty much recycled all my papers from high school so finding it was a rare treat, and aside from reminding me of my love of random capitalisation, awkward semicolons, big words and exclamation marks, it was a great reminder that I’ve thankfully grown heaps since then, and though I have butterflies in my stomach about leaving in a few (!) days, it is only by undergoing new experiences that we increase our capacity to act and do more. (Clearly I haven’t gotten rid of my love of run on sentences quite yet though). Enjoy this window into August 4th 2001, it definitely gave me a much needed laugh. =)
Today is the first day of my memorable trip to Toronto! I awoke at around 3:30, got ready, and then in great excitement we departed at five. I had this dreadful fear this morning that I would do something stupid like miss my flight; and there was actually a moment while we were searching for the suitcase key that I was nearly positive we would… but luckily, we arrived at the airport in good time. The whole way there I felt full of anxious anticipation, and I just kept praying that my baggage would arrive in Toronto still in one piece! Finally, we reached the airport, stood in a seemingly endless line in order to check in, said our last goodbyes, and I walked through the departure gate. Before we left, Dad had told me that the previous day; a girl from Vancouver had tried to fly to Toronto to meet her parents, but went through the wrong gate and ended up in Whitehorse! I was determined not to have the same thing happen to me. When I walked through the departure gate, I kept repeating a prayer in my head, while simultaneously repeating Dad’s instructions to me over and over again as well. (Keep well watered, well fed, get lots of sleep and be ATTENTIVE!) Anyway, once I was confronted with security, I seemed to lose all confidence. They honestly must have thought I had never seen an airport before! They had to tell me exactly what to do, (now PICK up your bag, miss) and then I got confused exactly where the boarding lounge was. I eventually asked a friendly looking passerby, who pointed me in the right direction, and once again a felt a familiar sigh of relief.
When I finally boarded the plane, (holding the heavy winter jacket I had somehow been convinced in bringing) I saw with a feeling of dismay that I in fact did not get the window seat I had requested. Instead I had gotten a seat in the middle section of the plane, and the middle seat of the 3 -seat row I was in. Quite possibly the worst seat in the plane! My first reaction was; “this is what you get when you book with travel cuts!” I couldn’t see the movie screen from my seat, but the audio-visual equipment ended up breaking down about 45 minutes into the flight anyway, so that part didn’t end up mattering at all. The seat was so uncomfortable, and with so little legroom, that sleep was practically impossible. I did actually manage to catch a little sleep here and there, but it was by no means restful! My flight partners were extremely interesting people though, so that made up for the minimal flight discomfort. On my left there was a woman flying to Portugal from Vancouver, and so the only reason she was actually going to Toronto was to catch another connecting flight. She was extremely friendly, chatty, and helpful, and showed me the different fashions and articles in the magazines she had brought on the plane. There was also a point during the flight when I wanted to switch my vegetarian meal to a fruit platter, and she kept encouraging me to talk to the flight attendants, and continually gave me tips on how to approach them. She definitely added a unique flavour to the flight dynamics! 🙂
Definitely the highlight of the plane journey though, was heading up to the cockpit to visit the pilots. This actually happened completely by accident. I heard the gentleman beside me ask his daughter how visiting the pilot was; and then I thought, “Hey, I want to do that!” At first I waited patiently for someone to come and ask me, but as soon as it became glaringly apparent that nobody intended to, I very casually asked the flight attendant whether or not it would be possible to go up to the cockpit. I reminded her a few times afterwards as well, and finally, I was escorted to the very front of the plane! Meeting the pilots was absolutely exhilarating. They looked like very sturdy, reliable people, and after meeting them, I could say I honestly felt much more comfortable simply knowing that they were at the helm. After I got over my initial shyness, I asked lots of questions relating to how the plane worked, how it landed, how it operated, the autopilot, I learnt a lot about the pilots themselves, and we also discussed the leadership academy at length as well.
My other flight partner was an extremely sharp gentleman whom for the majority of the flight didn’t say a word. After I came back from visiting the pilots though, he opened up considerably, and our conversation became extremely interesting. From him, I heard a tremendous amount about the politics of pilots, (airplane manufacturers believe planes could be operated solely by computer, and they would be safer that way, but the unions argue the human element of flying makes people feel more at ease) the landscape and nature of Ontario, (mostly flat, farming country, and the majority of it is small towns, with about 2% of land used for industrial purposes) and we also discussed the leadership conference and the nature of leadership itself at length as well. He told me that he was going to Windsor for 6 days (takes 6 hrs to drive there!) with his wife and kids, to visit his parents and his in-laws. When we flew down in order to prepare for landing, he explained the landscape of Ontario to me, (from the air, all the farms look like a beautiful patchwork quilt!) and he explained the weather patterns of Ontario as well. (the plane moved up and down a lot while we were trying to land because of all the wind up-drafts that exist near the airport)
Once we touched down in Toronto, I was completely on my own, and I hadn’t the faintest idea in which direction to head into. Pearson International is so large and active; that it is extremely easy to become lost and disoriented within, which is exactly what my first impulse was to do. I decided the safest/most logical thing to do was just to follow everyone else, but within five minutes, the passengers from my flight had mingled in with all the other passengers in the terminal, and I became confused again! I must have asked about 3 different airport personnel which way to go, which is probably the only reason I actually ended up at the right place. (That and my uncanny ability to BE ATTENTIVE!) Once I arrived at the luggage carousel, I was confronted with another hurdle. I already had had the sinking feeling that my baggage wouldn’t arrive for some reason beforehand, and so in order to combat my worrying, I kept walking to different parts of the conveyer to see if my luggage was coming or had actually already come through. After several minutes, my luggage still hadn’t arrived, and I was having a lot of trouble retrieving a trolley from the mass of trolleys as well. For some reason, the trolley would start to come out perfectly normally, then become completely stuck, and no amount of pulling would pry it loose. After several crazed minutes of racing between the luggage belt to see if my bags had come, and wrestling with the trolleys in order to pry one loose, I was abruptly rescued by the appearance of my cousin.
What I didn’t realize was that the whole time I had been struggling, my struggles were being watched from behind the glass doors. I think he finally lost hope that I would figure out what I was doing, so he tried to come inside and explain to me that I actually needed to insert a dollar in order to get the trolley out. Once I had that figured out, the bags arrived within 2 or 3 minutes after that, we walked down to the underground parking, he returned the trolley, and after that, we truly were on our way.
The whole ride downtown, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was actually in Toronto! The Caribana parade was in full force while we were trying to get home, so although the traffic was inching along, I was having a blast just soaking everything in. At first I thought; “Wow! Toronto is just like Vancouver!” but after a few minutes, that illusion quickly dissipated. For one thing, there aren’t any mountains, and there are far fewer trees. There is however, Lake Ontario, but it doesn’t resemble anything we have in Vancouver even remotely! Toronto is also a lot more active than Vancouver. Even out of the city, while we were driving back downtown, I could see so much traffic, and there were also so many people walking, sightseeing, and just generally doing things. I could also sense that generally speaking, a far greater vibrancy permeates the city of Toronto. In addition, there are far more billboards in Toronto. One could actually go so far as to say that the city is plastered with ads, but they almost seem to blend right in! The Caribana parade was something very interesting to observe as well. Caribbean music is very pleasant, and so as we drove, I opened my window a crack, and the music filtered right through.