Sunday, September 21, 2014

Defcon Chatty Grandma





Day 1 - Thursday July 17th, 2014

Now, no Las Vegas trip report is complete without an agonizing series of posts about the trip out there, complete with fuckups, delays, aggravation, and various other forms of air torture which, although may seem like punishment to me, add vast amounts of merriment to your day upon reading same.

But not this time. This trip was the first trip in about 15 years that I was totally prepared well ahead. I was completely packed up by about 7:00pm the night before.

With a 5:40am flight out of Flusherville Regional Aerodrome, I’d need to get up at 3:30 in the morning. Everything was ready and the trip was going to be smooth as silk. I was on the 8:50am Air Fuck You Rouge Canada flight out of Pearson to Vegas and I’d arrive fresh as a daisy with the whole day still in front of me. Much better than those late evening flights we’ve taken.

I set my knock-off smart phone to play “Viva Las Vegas” at exactly 3:30am sharp and like a champ, my knock-off piPhone 3.14 emitted the tinny broken up voice of what might have been Elvis starting at 3:32.

Ablutions done and coffee chugged, the Quad Queen ferried me, as it were, to the F.R. Aerodrome. All was well, if dark, and the plane was there and ready to limp into the air. I gazed with some degree of confidence at the recently restored and overhauled Reapertech Airstream II Cannonball Express Bi-Motor Switchcraft 44A (a variant of the Zwillingsbiber DHC-2ZB Twin Beaver), with two Prattfall and Whipley Leftan-Write twin cylinder Carbonair engines, outfitted with the latest semi-flame retardant Safe-T-Blanket (™) spray coating (made by the manufacturers of ‘Silly String’) to quasi-protect the 1mm thick cast iron fuel cells mounted directly behind the engine’s 3000 degree exhaust ports. Safety first!

Refurbed Air Canada Reapertech Airstream II Cannonball Express Bi-Motor Switchcraft 44A
The Reapertech Airstream II Cannonball Express Bi-Motor Switchcraft 44A is a capable little four-seater with a range of 199 nautical miles... 215 if you are willing to deadstick it in.
Sunrise at Flusherville Regional Aerodrome
Toronto over the port engine of the little Reapertech Airstream II.
In my spare time, I’d been brushing up on my short-order ‘lingo’, in preparation for the counter at the Cal, or any other breakfast place in Vegas, for that matter.

With my short order lingo sorted, I was ready for any kind of restaurant ordering activity, particularly if it involved eggs.
Cackleberries and dicks, shingles and Irish Cubes.
After eating, I drifted down to the gate, (not losing any $300 key fobs this time). There was a foofarah going on. What had happened was that the normal Rouge 767 had crapped out, and they’d replaced it with Air Canada metal. (That’s short-order airline lingo for ‘airplane’. And lingo is slang for talk that you think makes you sound smarter, but really doesn't.)

Here’s the rub - the Air Canada 767 holds a civilized 53 less passengers than the Rouge model. (That should tell you how comfy cozy Rouge flights are. Flyer, meet your kneecaps. Kneecaps, meet flyer’s nose and chin.)

The announcements indicated that bumped passengers were getting $800 in compensation, and would be sent to Vegas on connecting flights through Montreal or Calgary. Some would not go until the next day. I considered - briefly - volunteering for bumpitude, but quickly rejected the idea. My vacation would start in just a few short hours and nobody was going to get in the way of that.

So, boarding was slightly delayed, but before long, I’d settled in to a window seat. I’d checked my bag this time, so as to avoid the incredible ‘bin wars’ hassle - the bins on the 767s Rouge uses are notoriously small.

A little old lady asked if she could sit next to me - she’d switched with someone at the back.

“I’m not young, I’m not as pretty as all of them, so I hope you don’t mind.”

I let out a protective grunt.

“And I’ll just tell you my one story and then I’ll be quiet and leave you in peace.”

I grunted. My inner travel alarm system went to Defcon Chatty Grandma Level 600 billion.

I was then treated to a fascinating story about how imperative it was the Defcon Chatty Grandma be seated “close to the washroom”. And how she’d tried to book online and how expensive it was and how she couldn’t use points because she always ended up on redeyes.

At this point, I did a little *perk* and titled my head sideways a little bit. Defcon Chatty Grandma was talking my language, a little bit.

The story ended with her swapping seats with a member of a bachelorette party, so she could sit next to me, in row 20, right near the head. I cried, inwardly, a little bit and then asked the fatal question.

“So, are you going to Vegas on vacation, or bachelorette party or…”

Defcon Chatty Grandma was off and running.

It turned out that she was a lovely, smart, Swiss-born woman who was a competitive bridge player. I told her that she could clean up at blackjack, but gambling didn’t interest her.

We chatted away for the longest time… and then I realized that we weren’t actually flying or anything. We weren’t even moving or taxiing. Then came the dreaded announcement from someone in the cockpit, doing his best Captain Aerostud voice. You know that low, emotionally detached, slightly relaxed yet gravelly, uber confident voice that they learn in Flight School? That one.

“Gooooood morning ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Aerostud up on the flight deck ......blah blah blah… fifteen minute delay while we check a... hydraulic gauge…”

Time passed.

Captain Aerostud: “...blah blah blah… twenty minute delay while we get a mechanic to seal a minor hydraulic leak…blah blah... keep us from exploding in mid-air...blah blah”.

More time passed. We’d been sitting on the plane about an hour.

Captain Aerostud: “...blah blah blah… thirty minute delay while weee... somehow try to staunch the torrent .... precious hydraulic fluid coursing onto the tarmac... before the very life-blood of this of this doomed aircraft drains out of it annnnd... blah blah....Lake Ontario…”

More time passed. There was the tell-tale clunking and thunking of the hold being opened up.

Captain Aerostud: “...blah blah blah… get the hell... off of my airplane ...blah blah blah new gate number… and you can all use your boarding pass as a $10 voucher for something to eat. We know you have many choices of carrier… thank you for choosing to sit on your duffs going nowhere fast, aboard Air FU Canada.”

As we shuffled off the plane, we were informed of the new gate, and new departure time - 11:25. I didn’t believe that for a minute. Sure enough, ten minutes later it had quietly changed to 1:15pm.

Poor Defcon Chatty Grandma didn’t quite know what was going on, so I took her under my wing, explained things, and got her to the new gate. She hadn’t eaten much and thought maybe we would get a hamburger.

After about 15 minutes, I went to ‘look at something’. In fact, I buttonholed an AC employee with a walkie talkie and other officious looking airline equipment.

They were trying to get crew for us. The old maximum shift length time limit snafu. And we were waiting for yet another airplane - a 767 currently enroute from Bogata. So not only would we be late, we would likely have bugs the size of your palm hiding under the seats, frightened, hungry, and fresh from South America, where such insects are legend.

Then I said I had to use the men’s - which was true. And I wandered off for a while. I talked to some people. I made nicey nicey. And I made an ‘arrangement’ with which I was pleased.
The Bumped
When you trust your life to a company,
you appreciate their attention to detail!
I walked all the way back to the gate, feeling smug. I had spied an actual burger joint in the terminal, but Defcon Chatty Grandma was nowhere to be seen. So no hamburger date was in the offing.

I’d just placed my order and was watching and listening to CNN on the TV over the bar when the ‘Breaking News’ thing came on - the same one they use when there is a missing person, a slow speed car chase, a wildfire in the middle of nowhere.

A Malaysian Airlines passenger jet had just crashed - yes another one - with all aboard presumed to have perished. Everyone stopped talking and just watched. I was thinking about the lost souls. About the fact that it was Malaysian Airlines - again. And then they said it might have been shot down. Would this lead to a huge security shutdown across North America?

If not, I was about to climb aboard the ‘third time’s a charm’ Air Canada 767, fresh from flying 11 straight hours from Bogata.

Somehow the ‘arrangement’ I’d made for a complimentary upgrade to business class on my return leg didn’t seem like such a big deal.

Rest in Peace



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