Thursday, May 6, 2010

Walking Dude

I am a terrible traveler. Why would I make such a self-loathing remark? Because right now, I'm updating this blog from the comfort of my home, instead of using Via Rail's complimentary wireless service, because I, like the Mensa candidate I am, forgot my passport in my desk drawer.

I'm visiting a friend in America this weekend. The dudes in my family do an annual sojourn around one of the great lakes, and I guess this year, Lake Michigan won the battle, and there will be much grunting and consideration of baseball. I'm tagging along for the first leg of the trip, then flying back to Toronto on Monday, with a layover in Philadelphia, because that makes no sense. The itinerary seems pretty low-key: driving, playing mixed CDs and leafing through magazines. My job is dozing in the backseat.

The traveling, on the other hand, isn't really off to a great start. I'm not a bad traveler - I don't get airsick or make stupid jokes in airport security lineups, and I'm polite to the oft-harassed employees of various transportation companies. On the other hand, I'm consistently late for everything, all the time, and departures are no exception.

Two years ago, my sister and I flew down to New York City for a concert. Ignoring my father's advice (more on that later) to leave at nine a.m. for a four-thirty o'clock flight, I meandered onto the subway heading to Pearson around two. This was a mistake. The subway was slow, the shuttle to the airport took forever (and, sidebar for anyone who's ridden the 192 bus out there: what is the deal with that one bus stop? It's seriously in the center median of the 427. I have no clue how people actually get there, because anyone trying to wait for a bus would have been killed by one of the six lanes of traffic), the lineup for security was a nightmare, I had no idea how to fill out the customs form, and the departure gate was located in, I swear, a different area code. It was the furthest one down. When I got to the gate, after sprinting for 15 minutes, it said it was boarding for Paris. As in France. I found that they had changed the boarding location, got there, and promptly burst into tears. My sister, who had gotten sick on her connection flight, joined me.

Not a great story for anyone involved, but it illustrates just how bad I am at the whole timing thing while traveling. My dad, who is afraid of the border police and practically salaams the customs people, is always nagging me to show up earlier when there's a deadline to make. I pshaw him - fathers are so adorable! - and continue to be the very last person on the train/bus/plane/ferry/whatever, because that is just how I roll. His preference is to get there comically early. Like, if we leave at noon, we start moving at dawn. It's just his way. It makes the rest of the family totally nuts.

Because, let's face it, travel can be mega-boring. The waiting spaces generally suck. They're airless and grimy and uncomfortable, with bolted-down chairs and silent television sets. Airports are harried and anxiety-provoking, especially in the States (Canadian airports are just repositories of embarrassing Canuck tchotchkes and ugly mid-1980s vintage lighting fixtures). Getting there late means spending the least amount of time in those spaces. Granted, I'm woozy from the stress of getting there with thirteen seconds before they shit the doors, but it sort of beats hanging out in places like the Kitchener Waterloo bus station.

I like traveling, and have a bunch of destinations in mind for the next few months. But I dislike actually traveling, as in the act of moving my stupid body from one place to another. The romance of the train is long dead for me, and the bus is kind of embarrassing, and flying is smelly and annoying. My future dreams include a teleporter that doesn't kill you, because getting around is such a drag.

Will I enjoy my weekend away? Oh, absolutely. Chicago is great, and I'm stoked to see my pal. And I'm glad I'm flying back, even though I'll inevitably screw it up somehow and end up in, like, Regina by accident, due to some complicated machinations with passports and stopovers and airline food and customs. Wish me luck. At this point, even the subway might be tricky.

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