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The Brit enjoys travel (which is just as well, all things considered) but getting the Canadian out of Kingston, let alone out of Canada, is like pulling teeth without anaesthetic. However, the Canadian has a brother and sister-in-law who teach in Bogota, Colombia, and they had been urging us for some time to visit them. Imagine the Brit's delight and amazement when the invitation was eventually accepted!
Not without a little difficulty, arrangements were eventually made through a travel agent (who initially didn't know where Bogota was) and we were booked on a direct flight from Toronto on 29 November, returning overnight on 7 December. Copious lists were drawn up, suitcases unearthed and dusted off, currency obtained, plentiful supplies of cat food and litter purchased, a hotel booked in Toronto for the night before we left, and a wonderful cat-sitting service put in place.
We drove to Toronto on the 28th and settled into the hotel, which had recently been refurbished, both anticipating the sleeplessness that usually accompanies the first night in a strange bed. But within minutes of lying down on the new, firm, Kingsize bed the Brit and the Canadian were deep in slumbering bliss. It was the most comfortable bed in the world!
(The Travelodge on Dixon Road, for anyone who's interested).
We left the car at the hotel while we were away and took the courtesy bus to the airport the next morning.
There were no queues at the Air Canada check-in desk when we arrived at the airport and we felt rather pleased with ourselves for having got there a little ahead of time. The checker-inner stared long and hard at her computer screen. She stared long and hard at our tickets. She stared back at her screen. "I don't understand why your travel agent didn't assign you seats," she said, "but there aren't any left now. The plane's full. I'll have to put you on stand-by." She instructed us to go the departure lounge and wait for our names to be called; we'd get further instructions at that point. "But what if no seats become available?" we wailed. "Don't even think about it" she said. "When's the next flight?" we asked. "Don't even go there" she said, and handed us boarding passes with Stand By printed on them in ominously large red print.
I had a feeling that the Canadian's dislike of travelling was being reinforced.
We sat dejectedly in the departure lounge and watched as it slowly filled with people. People carrying valid boarding passes. People looking happy. A gimlet-eyed Air Canada staff person, with a smile as artificial as her tan, positioned herself behind the desk and started moving papers from one pile to another and back again. She fiddled with her computer screen. A few people walked up to her with questions and were waved imperiously back to their seats. "Should we tell her we're here?" wondered the Canadian. The Brit looked dubiously at the gimlet-eyes and reminded the Canadian that we'd been told to wait until called. The barrier was removed from the entrance to the aircraft access tunnel and travellers who needed assistance or who had young children were invited to board. The Canadian and the Brit looked nervously at each other. People in rows 1 - 8 were called. People in rows 9 - 20 were called. The departure lounge was emptying fast. The Canadian and the Brit exchanged another glance and made a decision. Gimlet-eyes would have to be approached. She took the proffered Stand By boarding passes, held on to them, and made the by now recognisable imperious wave back to a waiting seat. We waited. The lounge grew emptier. And then - she called our names! Was this going to be "you'll have to wait until Saturday" or was it going to be a happier outcome? We moved towards her. "I've issued you with new boarding passes, you can go through now" she said - and her smile almost looked real when she saw the obvious relief and delight on our faces.
A quick look at the treasured passes showed that not only did we have seats, but we were sitting beside each other. Triumphantly, we entered the plane. "Row 4" said the Canadian, as the Brit wasn't wearing her glasses and couldn't see a damned thing. We found row 4. "Can't be this one," said the Brit, "we'll have to move further up." There were no more row 4's. We came back. The Canadian spoke to the steward. The steward looked at the passes, looked at the row, smiled and nodded. The Brit's mouth dropped open. The Canadian beamed from ear to ear. We sat down. No, we sank down. We sank down into the luxury of a six-hour flight in First Class.
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