Saturday, 13 July 2013
Two Kinds of Fire In the Sky: Or, I'm glad to be grounded for awhile
I am very glad to be done with flying, for the next three and a half weeks, anyway.
I arrived at the airport early, sacrificing my last precious hours in London because there was an issue with my online check in and they couldn't guarantee me a seat. So after talking to a ticket agent on the phone who told me I was flying stand-by on a packed flight (despite having booked months in advance), I got to Heathrow in some panic.
I found British Airways' most charming agent to help me:
"You're not asking me anything," he says, after I explain my situation.
"I'm asking if I can get a seat on this plane," I say.
"Why wouldn't you?" he says, staring blankly at me and his keyboard.
I say, "Because the ticket agent on the phone told me there was an issue with the reservation."
He says, "I still don't know what you're asking me."
"CAN I GET A SEAT ON THIS PLANE?" I say, enunciating carefully.
He types three words and hands me my boarding pass. "Yes, here."
"Thank you," I say with a sunny smile I don't feel.
So, I got a seat on the plane, which is all very well for a couple of hours, waiting in Heathrow, until the departure information boards freeze. There is a sudden flurry of activity from airport staff, and much hushed conversation. A post from my friend on Facebook confirms the strange behaviour. There is a plane on fire somewhere at Heathrow and all of the runways are shut down.
Suddenly it's a flashback of SFO. But in this instance, fortunately no one was on board Ethiopian Air's 787 Dreamliner, the fire was quickly put out, and the runways were open again within the hour.
But it still meant hundreds of delays - we were delayed by about an hour and a half, but we made up for it in the air.
In the air, I had a lovely chat with a young Norwegian girl, Ana, who was headed to Cape Town, also to volunteer. She was a bit nervous, as she had never been so far away on her own before. I confessed I was too, and we bonded over shared love of Facebook and murder mysteries, and the fact we both come from winter climates.
"Our winter is very long," she says. "Seven months, so very cold." I told her I could relate.
"I really love winter," she says. "I love being in the cold, you feel so alive."
She was worried though, that younger kids in her town weren't making the most of the beautiful outdoors year-round. "Can you believe that I work with thirteen-year-old kids, and many of them don't know the difference between trees with leaves and trees with needles? They need to get out more."
I told her how car-centric our communities are in Edmonton, how we feel the need to inure ourselves from the weather. She admitted they had a similar problem, although people still gathered in the town square for coffee, no matter the weather. And to watch the northern lights.
"We have northern lights viewing parties," she says. "The town turns out the the centre lights, and we all bring blankets and watch the sky dance. It's wonderful."
How about it, Edmonton?