Sunday, August 5, 2018

Bad Omens, Good Outcomes (Philadelphia to Halifax)

I'd not one for signs and portents, but if I were, I'd never have traveled on August 4, 2018. The whole week prior I'd seen a dead bird nearly every day, culminating in a giant dead crow on my travel day. Add in nearly constant fear of dying in two ways ("Am I having a heart attack or just stressing out?" "Is that a lump or do my nuts normally feel like that?") and waking up to a giant rain storm and I'm surprised I even got out of bed.

But I did.

I ran my last few errands (mail, credit union, ominous last meal) and boarded the MFL to Jefferson Station to catch the train to the airport. Waiting for my train, I realized that in my packing spree I'd never actually checked in for my flight. Air Canada gave me a seat assignment of "GTE" - as in, see the gate agent as there's a distinct possibility that I could be bumped from my flight. Don't gooooo...

It turned out there was something wrong with the train to the airport and, after waiting twenty minutes to board, we went two stops and had to switch to a shuttle bus at 30th Street (had I known, I would have taken the MFL straight there). A shuttle bus pulled away just as a group of us got to it - several people started loudly complaining, but all I heard was Don't gooooo...

We all packed together when we finally got on the bus - I grabbed a seat near the front (just behind the "reserved for those in need" seats). As we pulled away, I remembered my manners and offered my seat to two different older women - one of whom had offered me her seat earlier in Jefferson Station when she saw my enormous backpack. While neither took me up on my offer, one praised me for being "such a nice young man whose mom must have raised him right". This was the start of fortune's turn around - I am a nice young man whose mom did raise right.

On the bus to the airport, I started to consolidate all the "bad omens" I'd seen / felt over the past few days and pushed them into a narrative. My Bad Luck Vacation. My Ill-Fated Adventure. How Simon Died: A Travel Story. As the narrative formed, I began to take control again. Hell, if Air Canada bumped me, I'll just skip Halifax. Or I'll make them fly me to Montreal from Halifax (as I'd miss my train). Or I'll just cancel a couple stays and make things work - it would be okay.

We arrived at the airport around the time we would have had the train been working and security / getting to the gate was easy enough. The gate agent came around and gave everyone gate-check tickets - the first outside sign my luck was changing. Not because I had the ticket, but because my ticket ended in 828 - my lucky numbers (a.k.a. my birthday, August 28). The plane was late, but that was okay - compared to my imminent death, a late plane was nothing.

Bad luck and good luck crossed over the next few hours. I had bad luck with a seatmate on my first flight - he couldn't stay on his side of the arm rest - and the door that the gate-checked baggage wouldn't open. I made it to Montreal alive though, so that was a start. I got through customs in time (though there was a frantic man yelling "I have to get through - my plane's in fifteen minutes!" as if we weren't all in the same boat). My gate was at the furthest reaches of the airport, so I used my "city walk" to plow through dozens of mouth-agape tourists whose idea of catching a flight was apparently "mill about in the middle of foot traffic".

My first real human interaction came while I waited for the plane to Halifax. Julie and I had a delightful chat about all sorts of things - she was headed out to meet some friends and see a ZZ Top concert. I also had better luck with my seatmate this time around - Donna was headed home after a two-month stint in Nunavut. She expressed an interest in doing the Wacky Rally ( someday (which she totally should!).

I was a bit impatient when I finally got to Halifax and ended up splitting a cab to get to the downtown area (ugh, that's the price of a day's stay wasted). I checked into my AirBnB, did an 11:00pm walk around the block, and found myself a bar with local beer (Freeman's) and some delightful company (Shay, bartender, who didn't like the newspaper I also found disappointing; Colin[?] who gave me some great advice about finding my way to the train station in the morning and who passed up a once-in-a-lifetime free rail trip on board a famous rail car; and Matt, who was doing a similar thing to me, though he is job-hopping instead of... well... whatever I'm doing).

I'm writing this in a quaint little cafe ("Dilly Dally" - very appropriate as I look at the clock creeps closer to my departure time). To pull back the curtain a bit, I have a bunch of blog questions. Should I publish this now or should I wait until I get on the train (and have seen a bit more of Halifax)? I don't have any good pictures - should I wait to publish until after I take a few? I haven't hand-written any bit of this (a HUGE surprise to me - normally I hand-write these then type them up later) - should I get this on paper at all?

I think I'll push this out as-is. I'll just have a Halifax post later. Apologies for typos - this keyboard introduces twice as many as I normally make and I'm not always good at catching my normal amount!

[edit] Reading List: Finished Franklin's Autobiography, started Christie's The Secret Adversary

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