Sunday Morning ~ Montreal
Pita uko si kuyenda, kuyenda n’tiye kuno. ~ To say “Go there” is not the right way of traveling, but it is to say, “Let us go together”.
~ Chewa proverb
September 25, 2022
Having had five children within six years, it was rare any of them got to spend one on one time with a parent. It was always a big mob and now that all are grown, the times together are often family gatherings. So it was a rare treat to spend a whole week with just one of my offspring.
My second son, Jake, works a lot. When I was in New York in May we had a conversation about why he hasn’t taken a vacation in three years. Always suffering from wanderlust, I encouraged him to go somewhere, anywhere except his apartment, arguing that some change of scenery gives perspective. He told me he didn’t like to travel alone, which, triggered me to offer my unasked-for companionship. I gave him a list of places I’d like to go and asked if any appealed to him. I’m happy to have company when traveling, too, though I’d rather be alone than be with someone incompatible or whiny. I like to walk a lot. My kids know this and are superb walkers themselves, so I like to think I passed on one of life’s simple pleasures. Yes, I’ve been known to take it to extremes, but I’m older, wiser, am not pressed for time, and wanted this to be fun. Limited miles was fine with me.
One destination on the list was Montreal. I had been as a kid for the World’s Fair in 1967, and on a ski trip that same year, but not since then. I wanted to spend some time there, not in a frenetic whirl of museums and sights, but in a relaxed, walk the city, see what we want, eat good food, sort of way. He was on board with this idea and we booked the trip. He’d be flying in from New York and I’d drive. I planned to pick him up at the airport then find the apartment I’d rented. I’d been busy the previous week with guests, so packing and departure was hurried. I didn’t take time to call him before I left, just figured he’d let me know if there was a delay or problem. I’d told him to meet me outside at arrivals and I’d be there when his flight arrived. Did I have his flight information or know what airline he was on? No. Never crossed my mind to ask. I only knew he landed at 5:15. What more did I need?
I have GPS on my phone and planned to punch in the airport when I got to the border. Slight problem; I had no service. The customs agent told me there would be good service in about 25 kilometers so without concern I headed west. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t check out whether my cheap phone plan worked in Canada. It does not. Very stupid. Ok, I thought, there will be airport signs I’m sure. I went on my way, thinking I had gobs of time to get there. The well-marked long straight road from Coburn Gore to Montreal was simple enough, but by Sherbrooke the rain had started hard. The windshield wipers could hardly keep up and I had to slow way down. I hate driving in that kind of rain. Was it getting dark already, I wondered? It was only four in the afternoon but it seemed like it was getting dark. I started getting anxious. I don’t like driving on strange roads where I have to read the signs to find my way when it is pouring rain and getting dark. Each exit offered the possibility of getting on the wrong road. It was raining so hard I couldn’t tell where the travel lanes were. Approaching the city of Montreal, I started seeing a little airplane above the exit sign and thought, Phew! So glad to see the airport is on this side of the city! It was getting close to his arrival time by then and I didn’t want to be late. Then I passed a sign that said, Montreal 40 Km and thought, I know the airport isn’t that far from the city, so wait, is there more than one airport? Uh oh. I passed that exit and got more anxious as traffic fire-hosed water onto my little car, I thought I should have done a little more research. It was raining so hard I had to concentrate to tell if I went over a very large bridge, which I knew I needed to do. Not even sure if I was in Montreal, I saw another little airplane sign and relieved, I headed toward that exit, which took me to another highway, not the airport. I felt like I was passing the city, then saw two airplanes on signs with different names. Oh fuck! There is more than one airport in this city? I looked at the time and saw his flight landed ten minutes before. No worries, I thought, it will take him a bit to get though immigration. I’ll be there shortly. I hope. But I didn’t know which airport! Neither of them said “International” only the names, PE Trudeau, or Mirabel. I had to think fast. Trudeau was prime minister so they probably named the international airport after him, right? Who was Mirabel? Maybe he was a prime minister, too. Shit. I went with the exit closest to me and it was Trudeau. Still another highway. Shit! Where the hell was the airport? Tons of traffic, pouring rain, and I hit a pothole that made me think I’d blow out a tire. Why was there a pot hole on a highway in September? Maybe it wasn’t a pothole, the water on the road was too deep to tell what I hit. I listened for the noise of the car falling apart. Tires seemed ok, though it felt like I could have broken something underneath. Does triple A work here, I started wondering? Wouldn’t matter because I can’t call them! I’d have been killed in that traffic if my car stopped, and cognizant of that I stopped caring which airport held my son; I just needed to get off the highway. I figured I’d call him when I got into an airport when I could get wifi. My phone lit up. I glanced at the text, “Through immigration!” Shit. I couldn’t answer it. He’d have no idea where I was and how long I’d be. Ugh. I should have left earlier. Should have checked with AT&T about my phone plan. I felt like I’d lost my travel chops.
Finally the exit for the airport was ahead. I got into the right lane and saw miles of red tail lights from the exit well onto the highway. The line of cars going into the airport was visible, I’m sure, from outer space. Oh my God. I inched forward, now with plenty of time to look at texts, reading, “Where are you?” and “I’m here in area C!” then a half hour later, “Ok, I’m going to get a drink.” I had a few conflicting feelings reading these: Relief he’d arrived. Panic I wouldn’t be able to find him. I tried texting back, “Which airport????” but the little blue line just sat there not moving until I got the notice “unable to send”. Ok, no service. I’ll try to call. Beep beep! then dead. Can’t call either. Ok, I told myself, he’s ok, I’m ok, the car did not fall apart when I hit that whatever, and did not go underwater in those puddles so don’t decompensate. We’ll find each other eventually.
It took an hour to get from the exit ramp to the entrance of the airport and I wasn’t even sure it was the right airport. I could see getting around to arrivals would be another hour so I pulled off where it said “Long Term Parking”, found a spot, jumped out into the rain, and ran to the sign saying “Terminal”. About a mile later, and six hundred stairs, I crossed the street into Area C (miracle). I ran through the doors and saw a bar! Right there by the doors! And there was Jake (miracle) sitting on a bar stool examining his phone. I have never been so glad to see him. I ran up and grabbed his shoulder, which was not smart since he didn’t see me coming and was in a strange airport. He jumped and said, “Jesus! I was getting worried about you!” Oh my god, I started blubbering about the multiple airports, the rain, how I thought I’d never find him, and the bartender handed me a glass of ice water, and said, “Here m’am. Take this.” I stopped in my tracks and thought, Yup, I’m in Canada.
I don’t want to promote stereotypes, but honestly, our northern neighbors are just so nice. We had a great week.
Love to all,