And that’s it. The shuttle bus turns up and the driver helps a very knackered Stan on to his bus. Within 5 minutes I am deposited at my Toronto hotel for the night and I sign in with another very friendly Canadian lady receptionist. She smiles and tells me breakfast is served from 06:30. Fat chance I think tiredly. I will be gone by then.
The room is great. It has a bed about as big as my bedroom back in the UK. It is 4 pillows wide and to this tired guy looks like nirvana. I just have enough strength to set my cell phone alarms and chuck my clothes off. I make a cup of coffee (decaf) before Raven calls.
All is sadness as we talk. If it weren’t for the US border patrol we would be enjoying our reunion now but we are so close and yet so far. Even in the same time zone but instead of laying in her arms I have a lonesome night on my own in Toronto. I am all in and fall into bed. Even the shower I promised myself is forgotten as I intend to catch some solid zees before 05:45 when my alarm goes off.
I suppose I get into bed about midnight. Lights out and the bed is so comfy. But I cannot sleep. I wake every half hour through the night. Argggh. I give up at 5am and putting my coffee on to brew I jump into the shower. The only thing I can’t do is clean my teeth as my toothbrush is buried deep inside the luggage and I have no toothpaste anyway. I make do with some Trebor’s Extra Strong mints and drink my coffee after the refreshing shower.
Dressing takes about 2 minutes and packing takes even less. I am ready to hit the road by 05:30 but I relax and pour more coffee. I’ll get the 06:15 bus I suppose. But I leave early as … yes I need a smoke. There is a large warning sign on the table telling me that $75 dollars will be charged for smoking in the rooms and I daren’t take the chance of getting my baby charged extra because I have one fag.
I am still in a state of dazed disbelief from yesterdays refused entry into the USA as I wheel my luggage into the impossibly small lift. Remember I have two large suitcases weighing fifty pounds each and those stupid little plastic wheels on them don’t work too well. I also have my hand luggage with a heavy laptop draped over one shoulder. Progress is slow to say the least but eventually I fight the elevator doors into submission and hit the Ground Floor button. “Ding.” The narrow doors open and I struggle from the lift cursing as my two suitcases appear to want to go in different directions. I nod at the guy who takes my place in the lift. …
I head right towards where I believe Reception is located and my checkout. It’s gone! Just a load more rooms. WTF I swear? Then I realise that I have exited on the bloody third floor. The guy getting in was on his way down too. Oh shit. I turn around and head back to the lift cursing the hotel, luggage and my life in general. “Fecking Ding” go the doors again and I re-enter the lift for the final descent… again.
Checkout is swift and I head outside to gratefully inhale lungfuls of smoke. Toronto is still dark. I think I am doomed to never see it in the daylight but at least it isn’t too cold. I even snap a crap pic. The bus turns up on time and I board. The bus driver is a jovial black guy and he helps me on with the ‘luggage’. He grunts with the weight and I think I’ll tip him when I get off. I soon change my mind though as we make our way to the terminal. 06:15am and the dude has some christian radio station on the bus radio. That’s all I need now. Daniel chapter whatever and my redemption. Bollux I think as I listen to the early morning preacher.
The driver deposits me outside the terminal and struggles again with my ‘luggage’. I give him a tip. “Don’t play me religion at 06:15 in the morning ass hole.” I think he calls me worse as I grab a trolley and load the bags on to it. And I head to the check in. Another 50 bucks for my extra suitcase but at last I am free of the luggage till London. And now … coffee. Real stuff, not the hotel excuse. I head to Starbucks. I actually have a bit of hunger and I order a croissant with my cappuccino.
Outside the terminal again for the only true accompaniment with coffee. A full strength Camel. I only have the laptop now so manoeuvrability is easier and I park my butt on a seat to enjoy the moment. I take a fuzzy shot with my phone as I sip coffee and inhale smoke. Mmmmm croissant time. Shit I nearly break my teeth on the bugger. This pastry is so hard it should be classified as a lethal weapon. I bin it and have another smoke. I look forward to breakfast on the plane.
Time passes quickly and I go through security. Yep…same story. Belt off, laptop out, phones out and. That’s a change. They rub my fingers with some device. An explosives detector. I pray that the rock hard Starbucks croissant I had a while earlier wasn’t harbouring gunpowder. I must admit I wouldn’t be surprised but nothing beeps so I suppose I have passed. I do notice that I am the only one they check though. What is it? Do I look like a bloody terrorist or something? Maybe it’s the hat?
I get to the departure lounge and join the shared gate with a bunch of happy yanks on their way to Cuba. They have to do it via Canada. I think flights to Cuba are illegal direct from the USA. Something about them just gives away the fact that they are American. Yep. It must be the shorts (even though it’s about 45 degrees F out. And Oh yeah the multicoloured Hawaiian style shirts) Also they seem to have plundered the duty free shop for it’s entire stock of Bacardi. Do they not realize that it’s probably a tenth of the price in Cuba? Oh well at least they are enjoying themselves. I look dubiously at the Air Cuba plane pulling up outside. I admire the twin propellers and the goat the crew sacrifice over the starboard wing before jumping down and crossing themselves. I smile. I don’t care. They are happy.
And that reminds me. I still have about 25 Canadian Dollars. There is a duty free emporium in front of me. I explore. I might as well spend them. I get a half bottle of Canadian Club and 2 half bottles of Canadian wine … hmmm that should be an experience although I would never get around to drinking them until my return to the UK. I still have 3 mini bottles of malt whisky and I sit and wonder why I have no fear of my forthcoming flight? I must be getting used to this flying lark.
We board and omg it’s an old Boeing 767. At least I am seated right next to the emergency exit on row 14. The flight is half empty and I am sitting next to a rather pleasant Canadian lady who is as nervous of take off as I am. The stewardess shows us how to open the door in an emergency. I pray we don’t get one and joke about opening it mid flight if I need fresh air. Not advisable she tells me and we settle in for take off.
Airborne. Breakfast. I am so hungry that it almost tastes edible. Omelette with chips. Coffee (I add whiskey) and all is well with the world. The in-flight time clock is wrong and I’ve seen the films yesterday so I listen to music. The flight is smooth and in 7 hours we reach the UK. We do some elaborate squiggles according to the vid screen on account of waiting for a landing slot. And Southampton looks pretty all lit up. I even admire the M25 as we fly over it…. twice. But at last we land and I am back in bloody benighted England less than 32 hours since I left.
And here I am. Back in the UK. Another 3 months before I can return. And why? Why should two people that love each other be separated so cruelly? Why this stupid bureaucracy? I have no answer. All I know is that I love my Raven and bugger the border patrol. Soon I will be with this lovely lady. She did ask me if I might give up after all this hassle? Of course I won’t. It takes more than this to make this guy give up. When you love someone this much you will make one hundred trips like this just to be with them….
© 2010 Stan Rogers. All rights reserved.