Monday, November 9, 2009

The Trip Home

We’re back in Canada again, having arrived in Toronto this past Saturday afternoon. Our trip was an interesting one in that we experienced a few firsts.

First of all, we had the good fortune to meet the friendliest and most helpful taxi driver in all of New York City on Saturday morning. We reserved a taxi on-line a couple of days before (isn’t that cool?) and went downstairs on Saturday morning to find him already waiting for us, playing a game of chess on his laptop. He cheerily greeted us, immediately got out and loaded our luggage for us, and then took us on our way. Quite a difference from the other taxi drivers we’d had to date, all of whom were the grunting, monosyllabic type.

He told us that he was from India and had already been in the States for quite some time. When I asked him if he ever went back to visit family in India, he said no. At $2,000 per ticket per person, the sum for him, his wife and their two teenage daughters is rather prohibitive. In addition, his family and relatives all expect him to bring back lots of expensive gifts for them. He said that his brother recently asked him for a new 3G phone. After all, money grows on trees in America, doesn’t it?

Once at the airport and through security, we looked for and found a Starbucks for our morning coffee. Here we experienced another first: service with an attitude. The girl behind the counter was anything but friendly. She didn’t smile, wouldn’t respond to my hello, told me that they didn’t have what I wanted, and then gave me something else without even waiting for my response! It’s amazing what you’ll put up with when you want a good cup of coffee, though.

For breakfast, we went to an airport diner that had bacon and eggs on the menu, made with fresh eggs. That sounded good! Real bacon & eggs is something we really can’t get in Burkina, so we try to enjoy it here while we can. However, when we asked for fried eggs, the waiter told us that they couldn’t make fried eggs, only scrambled eggs. So what was this about “fresh eggs” on the menu? Turns out that they make their breakfasts with a scrambled egg mix, which is made from fresh eggs. Okay. Sounds like they’re playing loosey-goosey with their definitions if you ask me.

We had some interesting experiences with the airline too. When we went to check in, the staff were not friendly or very helpful at all. Serving customers seemed like some distasteful task they had to do. No smiles, no hellos, nothing. How do these people stay in business? Maybe it’s the same thing as me and my coffee. It’s amazing what people will put up with to get a good deal on airfare, including lousy service.

Kathy remembers something about free luggage on their website. We ended up having to pay $20 for our one bag. Then there were signs all over the airport, touting the superior service offered by Continental Airlines (yeah, right!), like free meals on flights at mealtimes. They must have a different definition of mealtime or of a meal than we do. Our flight was over the lunch hour and all we got was a complimentary drink and a little bag of pretzels. But that’s okay. I’ve got to watch my weight anyway.

But we did get to fly in a plane with propellers instead of turbofans this time (a DeHavilland Dash 8), another first (not counting the small, private airplanes we’ve flown in a couple of times). We sat right under the wing and got to see the propeller on our side start up and go into action. That was kind of interesting. Definitely noisier than a turbofan, though.

And it was an opportunity to appreciate the speed with which a camera can take pictures. With the naked eye, you couldn't see the propeller at all. It was just a faint blur.  Even when I took photos of it at full speed, it hardly looked like it was turning in the picture.

Got a cool shot of Niagara Falls on the way too.

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