Friday, December 26, 2008

Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Part Three

The British High Commission in Ottawa couldn’t help. Can’t remember why now. A couple too many G&Ts and a bottle of Ridge Chardonnay with my mussels had left me with Monday morning fuzzy head. They suggested I call the British Consulate in Vancouver.

Gillian answered. “Just need to take a few details from you. Full name? Date of birth? We can issue emergency documents under exceptional circumstances. Let me call you back shortly.” 84 minutes later she called with the good news. They would be willing to grant me a passport. All I needed to do was get to the consulate the next day and I would be able to travel.

One small problem. The consulate is in Vancouver. That’s OK, I can fly there. Pause for realization. Not without a passport I can’t. And being a non-driving type, I don’t have any other form of picture ID that would allow me to board a plane. I don’t even have two forms of government issued ID without pictures that would allow me to travel.

I am about to type something that people who know me very well won’t be able to believe. I checked out the Greyhound bus schedule. The idea of Suzi on public transport is a little…unusual. In truth, I had managed to live in Calgary since August and had taken the bus for the very first time on Friday. The day I probably lost my passport. I don’t wish to sound sensationalist, but bad things happen when you take the bus. More on this later.

I've been told the flight from Calgary to Vancouver takes 54 minutes. The journey time by bus? 15 hours. There was just one seat left on the 6.30pm bus. Dear reader, I booked it. It would get me into Vancouver at 8.30am, allowing me to pick up my passport and then fly at 6pm from Vancouver to LA. Overnight in LA and then, on Christmas Eve, LA to Buenos Aires with a five and half hour gap in Washington to make the connecting flight.

Of course I had to try a little Plan B in the middle of it. I gathered together a dossier designed to convince an airline employee to allow me to fly. It contains my completed passport application, my work permit, my Australian Medicare card, my police report about the loss of my passport, an old expired passport that I found in a drawer (why I brought that with me to Canada and not my birth certificate, I’ll never know), photocopy of the photo page of my lost passport and a letter from my junior school headmaster saying I was morally upstanding. I was probably pushing it with the Medicare card but it was the only other government issued ID I could find. Man, I’m basically living off the grid.

Vancouver had 30cms of snow on Sunday 21st December. People kept talking about this like it was somehow significant. I just kept thinking “Erm, hello? This is Canada. We appear to be at the start of the next Ice Age so stop your whinging and warm my feet”. What this meant though, was that some flights got canceled. Now if the UK had 30cms of snow, the country would grind to a halt and we’d all kill and panic eat our neighbours. In Canada, a few flights got canceled and people talked even more about how lucky we were that it was a dry cold in Calgary. Not that wet cold snow they’re having in Vancouver. Oh no. Let’s pause for a second and count our blessings.

Of course the airport was like Picasso’s slightly over-wrought early attempts at Guernica and after an hour in line I was told that there were no seats left on flights to Vancouver. Not even if I told them that it was my birthday today.

When I said that bad things happen on buses, I was being serious. A man was recently stabbed to death, beheaded and parts of him eaten on a Greyhound bus from Edmonton to Manitoba. The killer was found with a ziplock bag of bits including an ear. You know, a little something for later. I would soon come to understand the significance of this detail.

That said, the Greyhound website made the whole thing sound like a real adventure. They show movies, make a big deal of the reclining seats and serve refreshments. I thought it might be quite romantic and was just wishing that I could journey through the day because I knew the scenery was going to be outstanding.

Then I arrived at the Greyhound station and the realization hit me. It was going to be a very long journey.

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Blogger The Glynja said...

I know why you couldn't get the flight - you didn't bring your 20-metre swimming certificate.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely it doesn't end there. Part 4 please?!

6:31 PM  

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