I met him at the Montreal airport bus stop._ _I never learned his name, but for the next five hours we were friends.
"Oh you're going to Ottawa too? Cool!"
"Yeah, looks like the bus is running a bit late. How come you're taking a bus from the airport anyway?"
He was from Poland, visiting Canada for a telecoms training programme. We didn't really go into the details. For the next few hours our conversations revolved around wondering where the bus might be, whether we're waiting for the previous bus or already for the next one. And how cold Canada is.
We quickly established we both flew in from Munich on the same flight. Lufthansa 474, a lovely modern airplane with cheap transatlantic wi-fi, surprisingly comfortable seats and USB ports in the arm rests so you don't have to worry about your phone running out of charge.
It really was a very lovely flight and the seven and a half hours passed before you can say "Maybe I should watch a movie or something"
Or maybe Escape from Camp 14 was just that interesting a book (it was)
And now, we were both waiting for a bus that wasn't showing up. Standing out in the cold Canadian winds of early Spring. At least it wasn't snowing like I'm told it did last week.
At the border we both made the same fatal mistake - telling the truth. You always say you're a tourist. They let you through quickly if you are. Instead the border guards told us simply "Please step that way to immigration".
Very scary words when you're connecting flight is in an hour, you have to re-do check-in, security and everything else just like it was a completely new flight. Madening.
The line wasn't moving anywhere and my restlessness grew. I think I remember the Polish guy being up slightly before me. I think the guards loudly said "Ok so you're 19 and you're here to do training? Really?"
Imagine being 19 years old, about to miss your next flight, talking to a very indifferent immigration officer.
When I came up everything went smoothly, but I didn't have any information printed. Why would I print my itinerary? That's just silly. The iPad mail search was very slow, the wi-fi wasn't running nearly quickly enough and as I frantically switched between Mail.app and Safari to see which would be faster in finding my email the immigration guard was growing impatient.
_"What, you can't find it?", _she said. Her voice starting to smell of calling me a liar and thinking I want to stay here forever and ever without a proper permit.
When I was finally let through I ended up standing in the wrong line for too long. If I had run like a madman, done everything correctly, I might, just might, catch my next flight. When I finally realized my error and located the proper counter for check-in to my next flight the nice lady just scoffed.
"Haha, no you can't check-in to that flight anymore."
As if I was telling her the funniest joke ever. I knew it was laughable, but worth a try right?
She actually ended up being quite nice. Told me that the two flights still available for last night are fully booked and I should go talk to Lufthansa. She was Air Canada because Lufthansa told me just moments ago they don't really have flights from Montreal to Ottawa and I should ask Air Canada.
The Lufthansa lady told me that I'm shit out of luck. Because it's not their fault I missed my plane they can rebook me, but can't pay for a hotel or reimburse me in any way. Immigration's fault is not their mess to clean up and everyone else made the flight.
Not everyone. Remember the Polish kid?
Air Canada told me they can put me on standby for the 10:30 flight, but out of 37 passengers 32 had already checked in and one was on standby. Not much of a chance of making it, I should try the bus lest I become stuck at the airport overnight.
Bouncing from two information desks I finally made it to the bus stop. Waiting for the 8:25 bus.
A bus came, but it was for Quebec. This was when I met the Polish kid. For the next few hours we were inseparable. It's strange how quickly people can make temporary friends. There's a feeling of safety in a pair. Much better than being alone even if both of you are confused, lost, and have no idea how or when they're making it to their destination.
It's comforting just to have someone standing next to you who is in the same mess.
By 9pm the bus was nowhere to be found. Information desk assured us it was on the way. In either case, there was another bus at 10:55. It should be at the stop by 10:40.
At 10:55 there was still no bus.
There were many other buses. Quebec. Nothing for Ottawa.
Just as we were both coming to terms with the idea of having to take a cab all the way to Ottawa or waiting for a new plane next morning a bus showed up. 10:59.
It was a rundown Greyhound bus, but it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The bus driver was a grumpy person doing a night shift on Easter. He didn't seem very happy about having to deal with us. But at least he would take us to Ottawa.
Two hours later, Greyhound terminal in Ottawa.
In the middle of the night it looked liek I was in the middle of nowhere. There were no people to be seen. A bunch of buses waiting around. I think I saw a group of travelers sleeping around their suitcases inside, but to be honest everything was a haze by now.
Google Maps said it was just a few minutes walk to my hotel. I couldn't be bothered, I just wanted to be done with this. Collapsed into the first cab that pulled up and told the driver to take me to Les Suites.
Despite this ordeal and everyone's indifference and frenchness at the airport Canada turned out to be very nice. This morning I got free drinks at Starbucks because none of my cards would work.
Continue reading about Why you don't have a flight transfer in North America
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