Posted by: bkivey | 16 September 2015

Canada Vacation Pt. 1

My annual vacation blog series. This year I took off to the Great White North, the vacation I’d originally planned for 2013. I had to go a week early this year to try and hit the weather window. Also packed the laptop this time, so I won’t have to wait a week to post.

14 September 2015

AKA ‘The Longest Day’

My flight to Vancouver wasn’t scheduled to depart until 1550, but there was considerable work to do prior. I’d been looking for a company truck for some time, and finally applied for, and received, a line of credit from my bank. Flush with funds, I located a suitable vehicle, but required the dealer to do some repairs before accepting delivery. This pushed the sale date back until my departure date. I don’t like managing a lot of moving parts in a compressed time frame: my experience is that problems increase geometrically.

Due to the nature of the financing, the sale went more smoothly than expected, but the clock was ticking. I went and got a haircut so I’d look good for TSA, and procured some Canadian money. I’d packed the night before, and arranged to have someone drive me to the airport. I could have taken light rail, but that’s a 1 1/2 hour trip from the house. It was worth a few bucks to get a ride.

I’m well familiar with Portland traffic, but realized that I should have allowed another 1/2 hour to get to the airport. Arrived 50 minutes before takeoff, which didn’t particularly concern me as I figured I’d check in at the kiosk, get the boarding pass, and get to the gate while boarding was taking place. Unlike many airports, Portland International is fairly compact.

My carrier was Air Canada, and they are the flag carrier for Canada. As such, they have 1) airplanes, 2) crews to operate them, 3) airport facilities, 4) check-in kiosks . .  wait, they totally don’t have those. Heart, meet floor. There wasn’t a ticket agent at the counter, but there was one of those ‘we’ll be in at’ clocks set to 1520. OK, very tight, but makeable. I asked the only couple in line if they’d mind if I went first, and they were amenable. Air Canada was supposed to text me a boarding pass the previous night, but that never happened. On the phone to Air Canada. On hold with Air Canada. I asked the United agent if they had an internet-connected computer with a printer so I could access the site and print my pass. No, they did not. They suggested I pick up the white courtesy phone and request an Air Canada rep to the counter. For the first time in my life, I used the white courtesy phone. By this time 1520 had come and gone, and I realized I was going to miss the flight. Into damage control mode.

The Air Canada rep showed up and explained that the company used the same people to man the ticket counter and the gate, because they only have three flights daily from PDX. He set the  clock ahead to 1605. Now I’m checking airlines to see if anyone had a same-day flight to YVR. Uh, no. There were flights aplenty for Tuesday, and the cheapest was about $150.

Some readers may wonder why I didn’t print the boarding pass the night before. I’ve done this before, and it works as intended. However, when I printed my itinerary, the QR code didn’t print. I was concerned that the boarding pass would have the same problem, and again, kiosks.

The Air Canada agents showed up after seeing my flight off. By this time I’d reached a customer rep who assured me I could fly stand-by on the last flight to Vancouver that day for $75.  ‘Plenty of seats left on that flight’. I was at the counter so I asked the agent if this was in fact true. No, it was not. It would cost $150 if I wanted see Vancouver that day. What the hell, it’s only money. There was a line, and I was seriously tying up one of two agents (at one point, three simultaneously). I turned to the line and apologized, saying it was my day to be ‘that guy’. Got the damned boarding pass for the 1920 flight.

I had three hours to get through security (a breeze), get something to eat, and get to the gate. One silver lining was I got to watch some football.

The flight was the easiest part of the day.

Landed at YVR at 2035, and I didn’t anticipate much of a problem at customs. I had a valid passport, a return ticket, and valid credit cards. However, it appears Canada doesn’t like foreign nationals arriving without hotel reservations. I didn’t think it was a big deal for the aforementioned reasons. I hadn’t made reservations because my experience is that you can sometimes negotiate a better-than-advertised rate if the hotelier is motivated to sell a room. Canada thinks otherwise. I was shunted to Line B, or the full-on take-your-luggage-apart and interrogate you line.

The agent was fairly confrontational, but I realized that his job is to provoke a response and goad you into inconsistencies. ‘Passports pretty empty, eh’ (actual quote). ‘Yes, it’s a new passport’. H kept asking why I was visiting  Canada. ‘Never been here before’. ‘OK, but why are you here?” ‘I’ve never been here before’. To me, not having been somewhere is reason enough to visit. Apparently not in the Brave New Security World. The part I really didn’t like was when he took my electronics after demanding my laptop password, and disappeared for 20 minutes. By this time I was fed up with the process, so I packed my bag, pulled out a magazine, and made myself comfortable while they did God-knows-what with my phone and computer. Probably installed spy software.  The officer reappeared with my electronics and stamped my passport. He offered a half-hearted ‘Welcome to Canada’. I shook his hand; he’s doing a job, but, really? I’m in the lowest possible decile as a threat to Canada”s citizenry; something any El-Al officer could have figured out in ten minutes.

I’d told the rental car company I was going to be delayed while I was in Portland, so getting a shuttle and the car was straightforward. But it was 2300 now, and I was dead tired. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a hotel, and I discovered that despite assurances from my phone company, my mobile data wasn’t working. No GPS or Google maps. I asked the rental agent for a referral, and she recommended the Sandman Hotel down the street. The Sandman had a room, but at nearly the price of the airline change fee, Fuck it. I’d deal with getting a more budget-friendly place later. For the moment I just wanted a place to crash. I got dinner at the hotel restaurant, and went to bed. However, I knew that vacation wouldn’t begin the next day.





  1. Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got
    the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx!

    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

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