Sixty Degrees of Separation

A nice morning for flying.  Sadly, the only flying for me on this day was by plane.

A nice morning for flying. Sadly, the only flying for me on this day was by plane.

First world problems. Many of life’s problems fall into this category. That’s not to say those problems aren’t legitimate – after all, that’s the world we live in – however, it does help put things in perspective when things don’t go entirely (or remotely) as desired or planned. When I think back about my return to Toronto, it’s clear that there were a few first world problems involved. In hindsight, putting the day into that context puts much needed perspective on things. At the time though, it was not the most pleasant day of air travel I’ve had.

The mere notion of leaving Colombia for Toronto meant there was really nowhere good the day could have gone. But in this case, getting there was not half the fun. Despite the fact that I knew I would be returning to Toronto, the day actually started out quite pleasantly. I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. A sunny morning that was accompanied by a temperature of 23 C. I had a shower – an outdoor shower, I might add – had breakfast, and bantered with the other pilots. With some recent new arrivals, the group was now up to six. If not for the fact that I would soon be leaving all this, it was a great way to start the day. I later headed back over to the launch site to pack up my glider for the last time.

Taxi-cam.

Taxi-cam.

As scheduled, my taxi arrived at 10:00 am and moments later the 30 minute journey to the airport was on its way. I didn’t think about where I was going but rather just enjoyed the final minutes I was going to have in Colombia. The driver didn’t speak English (Inglés) and my lack of Spanish has been somewhat well documented so it was a quiet ride – except for the Spanish music coming from the CD. Despite the lack of conversation, the driver was very friendly, and even made an unprompted stop along the highway for a photo of the view of Bucaramanga. With the windows down, the music up, and the mountains passing by, I felt like I was home. It was a feeling that wouldn’t last much longer.

I’m not one to believe in “powers-that-be” but, if I was, I might believe said powers wanted me to stay in Colombia. I’m also not one to believe in Karma but, if I was, maybe today’s travels were the result of Karma balancing things out after my slightly-less-than-factual previous update.

DSC08702_Flight1Today’s flight plan had two segments. 1. Bucaramanga to Bogota. 2. Bogota to Toronto. The domestic flight to Bogota was uneventful – after a minor issue with my boarding pass (or lack thereof) was straightened out. Well, I guess it wasn’t ENTIRELY uneventful. The boarding process went as one would expect but after everyone was seated several security people came in and proceeded to re-open all of the overhead compartments. They then began a process of checking the majority of the bags to confirm that each bag had a rightful owner. It was a bit strange as they didn’t check every bag so clearly they were looking for something specific. As far as I could tell, they didn’t find anything.

The impromptu security check meant we were delayed leaving, which meant my connection in Bogota just got a bit tighter. Although, the thought of missing my connecting flight didn’t sound like a terrible option. As it turned out, the tight connection wouldn’t be as tight as thought.

Upon arriving in Bogota and working my way through customs, I arrived at the gate of my connecting flight only to find it had been delayed 90 minutes. The time lost with the extra security check in Bucaramanga was being given back to me several times over. I now had time for lunch – airport lunch, but it was better than nothing (barely).

Fast forward 90 minutes and the plane had arrived and the boarding process began. Once on the plane, there was another delay as we waited for our turn to takeoff. By 6:00 we were on our way to Toronto.

Such a sad sign.

Such a sad sign.

I’m not going to say it was the worst flight on which I’ve ever been but … well … actually … yes, I think it was the worst flight on which I’ve been. I don’t do a lot of flying, and my expectations for any flight are generally pretty low. If the plane goes up and stays up and lands where it’s supposed to and does so in one piece I generally consider that to be a good flight. So, in that regard it was a good flight. And just to be clear, the fact that this was the worst flight on which I’ve ever been is no reflection on the airline. The airline service was more than satisfactory. The number of wailing babies on the flight was significantly less than satisfactory. And one baby specifically seemed determined to demonstrate its wailing ability for about nine hours. I used the word “seemed” because the flight was only six hours. With generous (and perhaps abusive) use of the volume controls on my noise-cancelling headphones, I did my best to drown out the noise. For those that might wonder if noise-cancelling headphones can actually cancel out a wailing baby, the answer is no. A very definitive no.

Danny's about to have a bad day.

Danny’s about to have a bad day.

The highlight of the flight actually came in my movie viewing – not really surprising since I kind of like movies. Sadly, the selection of movies to watch was somewhat less appealing than the selection on the flight to Colombia – partially because I had already watched most of those that were of interest to me. Although, for the record, I had consulted the airlines website to see what my movie options would be and the list shown online did not exactly match the actual options. As such, I ended up selecting a couple of older movies that I hadn’t seen in a while. In doing so, I think I created one of the more bizarre double-features I’ve ever seen – The Shining followed by The Princess Bride. For what it’s worth, both are still great. (Red Rum! Red Rum! RED RUM!!)

The flight finally came to rest in Toronto around 12:30 am. The baby stopped wailing at about 12:28 am. The funniest part of the flight (although, not really “ha ha” funny) probably came in the announcement welcoming everyone to Toronto. It was done it English, Spanish, and French. The Spanish-only passengers clearly made up a large number of passengers as they let out a noticeable gasp upon hearing the current temperature was -40C. That’s a drop of more than 60 degrees on the day.

I missed the final GO Transit bus into the city so I had to take the TTC (public transit) where I barely caught the last two subways of the night. Having spent two weeks in Colombia, I wasn’t particularly well attired for the final 15 minute walk to the house. By the time I got there I had no feeling in my hands and my head was numb (some might say the lack of feelings and numb head are somewhat normal for me!).

As I reflect back on the day, there really weren’t a LOT of problems (first world, or otherwise) – certainly not as many as it felt at the time. It was really just the wailing baby. The nine hours of wailing baby. Ok, yes … I know … I already admitted that the flight was only six hours. But it FELT like nine hours!

Ah, the difference 24 hours makes. There would be no outdoor shower this morning. I mean, with a temperature of -40 C, it would be less of a shower and more of a sleet storm. An painful thought to be sure. There would be no 25 C temperatures. There would be no mountains at which to gaze – or fly off. There would be no empanadas or papayas or FRESH pineapple. No more chatting with pilots. No more greetings of “hola” and “buenos días”. And no more feeling like a millionaire – the exchange rate made my bank balance look very impressive!

Yes, there is little doubt. I miss Colombia.

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