Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gaskets and biddies

It was with some apprehension that I stepped off the plane in Toronto and headed towards border control. Three things were bothering me:

The first was that I wasn't at all convinced my luggage would have made the journey from Santiago. Since my flight involved a change in Atlanta, I had expected a brief, emotional reunion with my case where the tears would have been due to being dog tired after queueing through USA border control after a 9 hour flight, only to have to carry my three-week-trip backpack through customs to drop it back onto the checked luggage conveyor belt.

Instead I had been handed a small purple tag at Santiago, which I completely ignored until I was standing in line at the USA border and literally driven by boredom to read it. It stated that I was participating in an international to international (ITI) checked baggage transfer and that I wouldn't have access to my bag until my destination. Of course, there was absolutely no need to go through American customs if the bag wasn't staying in the country, so this sounded both convenient and entirely reasonable.

It therefore didn't sound remotely likely.

In all other countries, bags are always checked through to your final destination regardless of where you make your connections. The difference in the US came in the wake of 9/11 and perhaps, nearly ten years down the line, it was time to reconsider this time consuming process. However, the fact the tag phrasing suggested you were undergoing some type of clinical trial did not help my confidence level.

My second concern was that I wouldn't be able to find my car in the airport car park. I had received an email while I was away that had said the university had been closed, suggesting a snowpocalypse had struck Hamilton in my absence. Having a bright yellow car is only helpful if it isn't under a giant snow drift.

Lastly, I was worried that even if I found my car and dug it out, it would then fail to start. Since it had been decidedly reluctant to move on my way out to the airport, I couldn't see that three weeks parked outside would have improved its condition.

As it turned out, all my fears were for nothing. My bag was ready and waiting by the time I cleared Canadian border control, my car was free of snow and started first time. Why, it was great to be home!

Once I reached my house, I parked on the road so that I could dig my driveway clear of the accumulated snow. This was quite a job, especially since hard blocks of ice had formed between the sidewalk and road. I chipped away at them with my metal tipped shovel and scooped the driveway clear. It was pretty good exercise after spending all night on a plane. Pleased with that day's efforts, I left to collect my cat from the boarding cattery in the early evening.

As the sun set, the temperature dropped. The thin layer of snow and water left on my driveway turned to ice.

I tried to pull back up to my house ... and got stuck. My driveway is inclined and the ice on its surface caused my tyres to spin uselessly. Worse, the chunks of ice still on the edge of the road meant that I couldn't go backwards either. I was off the road, but blocking the sidewalk. After repeated tries I gave up, snapped my hazard lights on and took the cat inside. Then I called the CAA.

The CAA promised to send around a tow truck and told me they would be there within half an hour. Feeling I ought to stay with my car, I sat in the driver's seat and waited. After about fifteen minutes, a woman approached and rapped on my window. I rolled it down.

"You're blocking the sidewalk," she shot angrily at me. "and I'm a senior!"

I blinked. Did she honestly think this was my idea of a fun Monday night? To sit in a car with all the lights flashing?

"I'm very sorry," I said politely. "but as you can see my hazards are on." I gestured to the front and back of the car where all the lights were flashing widely. "I've broken down."

"What?!" the woman didn't seem to find this either acceptable or believable.

"My hazard lights," I explained patiently. "I can't move my car. I've had to call for a tow truck."

She gave me a look of total disbelieve and marched off without another word. I stared after her. The temptation to leap out of my car and confront her was rather high. I strongly desired to point out that the polite response in such a situation would be to ask if I needed help, especially since I was clearly by myself and she had no way of knowing the house in front of us was my own. I consoled myself with images of meeting her once I was back on the road and simply mowing her down.

Sadistic? No. She had totally asked for it.

The truck from the CAA rolled up with its unphased driver. A tow wasn't necessary; he just gave the car a push as I reversed, letting it drop back onto the road. I thanked him and scooted away.

Now, to find that woman....

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