Escape from Pearson: A Snowbird’s Odyssey

Isn’t it always the most trying travel experiences that make for the best stories? The so-called live to tell moments we’ll recount over a few glasses of wine, some day in the not-too-distant future; the moments that when we’re in them, our humanity (sanity) is tested beyond comfortable limits. Well, my boyfriend and I found ourselves in such a moment(s) as we made our way down to Palm Springs last week.

If Odysseus had flown United, this would be his story.

No, there weren’t enchanting sirens or a battle of suitors for my hand, but there were many boarding passes, missed flights and luggages held hostage. An overnight in a faraway land called the outskirts of Denver Airport and not one, not two, but three snowstorms.

It all started at Pearson Airport. As we embarked on our journey we thought to ourselves, OK, getting through this customs lineup, the huge security line and a freakish hour-long wait at Tim Horton’s is our only struggle this morning, after which, we will be sitting poolside in Palm Desert by 2pm.

The gods had other plans for Alexander and Justine that day.

You see, our entire itinerary (not going to lie, my boyfriend planned this one) hinged on a 45-min connection in Hades’ Tartarus, also known as Chicago O’Hare, that we were destined to miss from the start. That is, if our incoming vessel ever made it to Pearson in the first place, which it didn’t. And so, we had to figure out another way to get across the Mid-Western United States as Persephone’s winter storm made haste towards Terminal 1.

That’s when we encountered two fellow travellers, clad in Stella McCartney and Panama hats, as though Zeus himself had placed them at our feet. They, too, were trying to get to Palm Desert that fateful afternoon. Eva and Len, like two characters out of a J.D. Salinger book, instantly became our travel companions. For better or for worse, we were now in this together.

“There’s a flight leaving for Denver in two hours, with a few hours to spare before connecting to Palm Springs in the early evening,” our United Airlines soothsayer suggested.

“Let’s do it.”

Well, dear readers, guess what? That flight never made it to Pearson, either. By this time a white blanket of fog, precipitation and bad omens descended upon our beloved YYZ. As we waited aimlessly for a solution, we heard of another flight to Denver leaving in a few hours. Closing our connection time to Palm Springs down to precisely 43 minutes. Could we do it? We weren’t confident. But one thing was for sure: we were not turning around to go back home now.

A quick stop at the Maple Leaf Lounge wherein I consumed three bowls of pasta salad and two goblets of Chardonnay, I was now pronounced drunk enough not to care if I ever saw tomorrow. It was a low point, for sure, and as I ravaged a bread roll with my bare hands and teeth, I felt Spartan. Let the executive class travellers using forks stare at me. They don’t know what I’ve been through. They knoweth not the struggle.

5:18pm. Boarding time for flight AC 666 to Denver. Never mind that we flew right into the eye of the storm and I thought, here we go, Malaysia Airlines. We had already missed our Palm Springs connection before take-off. Of course, de-icing delayed us precisely 43 minutes.

If you know any mathematics, you would have by now calculated that we were screwed. Pulling into Denver Airport we had no suitcases, no hotel, no flight to Palm Springs, and frankly, no hope. With Eva and Len as our guiding constellation, we decided to book a flight to Los Angeles at 8 am and then drive to the desert instead.

The plan was settled. Two airport-courtesy toothbrushes in hand, we booked a larger-than-life suite at the Hyatt House, Denver Airport; we ordered two Ruby Tuesday turkey burgers to our room and tried to get some sleep. The night was filled with howls and sounds, all sorts of creatures were out. We awoke to find another beautiful winter storm – but luckily the people of Denver were well-equipped to deal with Poseidon’s wrath.

A half-eaten omelette and two cups of coffee later it was 6:15 am and we were on a shuttle bus to salvation.

As if by premonition, as soon as we got to the airport, we decided to first check on our luggage to make sure it was also headed to LAX.

“You know, eight seats just opened up on the Palm Springs flight leaving in one hour,” said an angelic voice behind the baggage claim desk.

And just like that, we were saved. We called our travel companions, elated. For the first time in 24 hours there appeared a glimmer of hope; a light at the end of the tunnel. As though Virgil was leading us out of hell, we kissed Denver goodbye and never looked back. That is, until our flight had to delay boarding by one hour because of engine maintenance. Len rolled his eyes and said, “but, of course.”

Flying over the Grand Canyon I had a comforting feeling that everything in life is connected. How was it that this vast, empty land was carved out of the earth by a river? Imagine it completely covered by an ice age? It is millions of years old. I couldn’t comprehend such a concept, with human lifespan averaging about 70 years how could we be so self-involved when thingsĀ like The Grand Canyon exist, and will continue to exist even beyond our own extinction?

How could we even be mad that it took us two days to get to our destination when to experience even one day on earth is a precious gift from the gods (whoever they are). I vowed to complain less about minutiae and stop being so narrow-minded. The world wasn’t going to end if I didn’t check my email 50 times a day. Palm Springs, when we finally arrived, was the perfect place to go hiking and reflect on our Odyssey.

As I gazed over the Coachella Valley Vista Point on Hwy 74 I closed the book with two thoughts: We made two new friends along the way and we had a great story to tell.

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4 Comments

  1. Mirella
    March 15, 2015 / 3:41 pm

    Beautiful photos! Awesome story!!!!

  2. Rowena
    March 16, 2015 / 2:08 am

    Great story.

  3. February 9, 2016 / 1:58 am

    This makes evnyhtrieg so completely painless.

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