I have a love-hate relationship with the CBC. Right now, mostly hate.
Every since September 11 th , a recurring story on The National has been how crowded, constipated, and generally frustrating Canada?s major airports are. The stories usually open with interior airport shots reminiscent of Woodstock but without the mud, naked flesh and abundance of tie-dyed clothes. People mill around wall to wall looking like they?re moments away from breaking into full-fledged ground rage.
Accompanying commentary blames the general lack of movement on heightened security. Of course we all know the real reason is the incredibly inefficient computer system run by Air Canada, something hopefully on Smilin? Bob Milton?s lengthy list of things to fix when the government bails his ass out, a list I?m betting starts with the words "Big raise for me."
But if you?re anything like me, you?re at least willing to believe the crowds are real and not just generic crowd shots dubbed into airport backgrounds. I don?t know when that footage was shot but I?ve come to believe it must have been sometime around 3 p.m. on the 11 th . Here?s why.
Being naturally cautious and having a mild phobia about being late, missing my plane and ending up throwing myself on the mercy of an Air Canada ticket agent ? an act of desperation akin to yelling "Nice doggie" and hoping it will placate a foaming pit bull in full charge ? I tend to arrive early at airports anyway. But the CBC?s reports had me wondering if maybe I shouldn?t get there the day before my flight and hope I squeaked past security in time to make an OJ dash for the departure gate.
I compromised and got to the Vancouver airport three hours early.
Until that moment, I?d never seen an airport ticket corral with only one other person in it. I serpentined through the 47 switchbacks just to be ornery and give myself time to figure out what exactly was going on. By the time I got to the front of the "line," agents of United were ? I?m not kidding ? fighting amongst themselves to see who would actually get to help me. I paused a moment to see if any of them might throw a twenty in my direction to sway the decision their way but finally just chose the nearest counter. I swear I heard sobbing from the agent furthest away.
I dug out the e-ticket fax I?d finally cajoled Air Canada into sending me just one day before my flight, after several previous failed attempts to get any confirmation; I handed it to Mr. United, a proud member of the Star Alliance, whatever that is. Naturally, I wasn?t in the computer. Any other time in the modern history of commercial air travel, I?d have been sent packing, forced to go hat in hand to Air Canada to wait in line and let them try to figure out how they screwed up? again.