Chris is my oldest friend. Well, the person I’ve known the longest. We played hockey when we were little kids, we liked the same girl once we decided that girls were worth liking. Her name was Leanne, and she was on our hockey team (which was kind of a big deal, back then).
He has a blog too, and a story that is way better than anything I could ask him about here. So rather than ask him any more questions about it, I’m going to steal it word for word. That’s what friends are for. Here goes:
“The overnight emergency travel agent was very understanding as I tried to explain – in halting, panic striken tones – that even though it was 1:30 in the morning I needed to get from Moncton to Ottawa. RIGHT EFFING NOW.
I’d only been awake 10 minutes, but had lived a lifetime in those moments. I was still asleep when I’d answered my cellphone and heard the words ” I don’t want to alarm you, but I think my water just broke” (the equivalent of about 4,000 buckets of ice water dumped on your head), had hung up the phone, spun around in circles for 5 minutes trying to think of what to do (I wish I was joking), and then in a moment of clarity located the number of the emergency amex travel service.
In hindsight I never should have gone to Moncton. Sure it was three plus weeks before the due date, the last pregnancy had gone 11 days over, and there were absolutely no indications that this baby would be making an appearance any time soon, but still, I should have known better. I’d arrived in town on Monday for a series of meetings culminating in a public consultation on Tuesday night. Every meeting I was involved in began with the disclaimer that my cellphone would remain on and regardless of what was happening in the room I would be answering that phone should it ring. Many chuckles and bad jokes about early deliveries ensued. Fate had officially been tempted.
On Tuesday night after my event, I’d actually gone to the hotel bar with some colleagues to have a beer and watch a playoff game on TV. I was scheduled to fly home early the next afternoon, and we actually raised a glass to my having made it through the trip unscathed. Fate, I’d learn, is a vindictive bitch when double tempted.
A highly idealized version of Moncton.
The travel agent assured me that she could get me home to Ottawa, but that there were no flights leaving for…anywhere…until 6 am, and no direct flight to Ottawa until 2pm – the flight that I was already booked on. My best options were through Montreal at 6:00 or through Toronto at 6:30. Both flights had space available, but would incure a ludicrous $900 fee if I booked it through the agent. Frankly, I didn’t care. It was going on a corporate travel card, and I needed to get home. She recommended that I go to the airport and camp out in front of Air Canada and try to switch it myself when an agent arrived. If that worked it would only cost $75. If there was a problem I could always call back and book it on the phone. I was told an agent was scheduled to arrive at the airport at 4:30 am.
At this point I had a few options. I could try to sleep for a couple of hours (ha), I could continue to spin around in panicky circles, or I could pack my stuff and hop in a cab for the airport. Since sleep was absolutely out of the question, and I’d already done panicky circles, I opted for panicky packing and headed out. At this point I had also placed approximately 72 phone calls home to make sure that a) I was not having some odd hallucination brought on by that salty Atlantic air, or b) the baby had not come hurtling out the birth canal like a Japanese bullet train already. I was assured that neither was the case.
The cabbie dropped me at the gate just after 3 am, and I acquainted myself with the unpadded bench in front of the check-in area. And proceeded to rock back and forth like an overly medicated mental patient for the next 90 minutes.
An agent finally arrived, and I found myself booked on the flight through Toronto. She swore that even though it left half an hour after the Montreal flight it would definitely get me home the fastest. Again, I REALLY should have known better.
I landed in Toronto around 7:30 local time, giving me plenty of time to make the connecting flight to Ottawa at 8:15. I even had time to listen to the 12 messages on my cellphone, most of which went something like this: “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU!”
No, mostly they were updates on contractions, dilation and pain levels, with the occassional “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU” thrown in for spice. And, because we had not yet had the opportunity to have our hospital orientation (it was actually scheduled for that night), we were under the impression that hospitals were still in the stone age and that cellphones were banned (for future reference, this is no longer the case), so I had no way of reaching anyone to get an actual real time update.
Spoiler alert - don't look at this photo or you'll know how the story ends!
But it didn’t matter, I was on the plane, takeoff was imminent, and I’d be home just after 9. It was all going to be fine right? Right?
No. Fate hadn’t quite finished messing with me yet.
As the clock struck 8:15, I was sitting on the plane looking at my watch and wondering why we’re still sitting at the gate revving the engines. The pilot came on and said something about a malfunctioning sensor. I had my ninth heart attack of the morning.
At 8:30 they came back and announced that the sensor in question couldn’t be fixed and that our flight was being cancelled. But that there was room on the 9 am and that we should just get off the plane, grab a new ticket and be off.
For some inexplicable reason though they decided to reissue all the tickets. For all 260 of us who has been bumped. So, we all gathered at the gate, and listened as the agent took the microphone, read out “Chang, party of 2″….waited for Chang to arrive, “Johnson, party of 1”, and so on.
Transcript of an actual conversation that took place in the waiting area:
Guy 1: This is ridiculous, I’ve got meetings all morning and I’m already late!
Guy 2: I know, I have a new business pitch to deliver at 10!
Woman 1: I’ve got a golf tournament to be at!
Me: My wife went into labour 8 hours ago, and I can’t reach her so I have no idea what’s going on. My daughter might have already been born…
Them: Oh. Err…good luck?
Eventually we all made it on to the plane, and at 9:45 they announced that we were almost ready to go (45 minutes late, I might add). I turned my head and watched the 10 am flight to Ottawa taxi past us on its way to the runway. Damnit.
Eventually I did make it home, and arrived at the hospital around 11:30. As it turned out, I made it with 5 and a half hours to spare.
My ordeal was nothing compared to the wife’s of course, but well, I wasn’t here to write about that part. She came through it like a champ (like there was ever any doubt), and just after 5pm our daughter’s first cry announced her arrival in the world. And with the first squeeze of my finger in her tiny little hand, she made all the chaos and insanity of the previous 18 hours melt away.
I still have the newspaper from Moncton tucked away safely in my suitcase though. A little reminder of a day that started off with such panic and ended with such happiness.”