Vancouver to Paris: Door #1 or Door #2

As predicted, I only dozed on the flight from Vancouver and Toronto. I just don’t seem to be able to sleep on airplanes. However once in Toronto I got my second wind. My brother and nephew met me, and off we went in search of some lunch. We ended up at a Chinese noodle/dumpling restaurant that had some wonderful beef noodle soup. Then it was back to the airport and on to Paris.

Flying from Vancouver to Toronto and on to Europe, I felt a bit like a character in those novels that provide alternate endings. Or perhaps a contestant on a game show, being asked if I wanted to choose door #1 or door #2. Here`s why:

On my flight to Toronto, I was assigned seat 19C. It was an emergency exit aisle, meaning I had extra leg room. I was pleasantly surprized at this stroke of good luck, since I believe you now have to request these seats and pay an additional fee for the extra room.

The people seated directly ahead of me were also in an emergency exit row, but in their case their seats didn`t recline (so that they wouldn’t block the emergency exit in my row). The couple were making a great commotion over the fact that their seats wouldn`t go back, complaining loudly and at great length to the stewardess. While I didn`t say anything, I was thinking to myself, `For God`s sake, get a life!`

Then on the flight from Toronto to Paris, I was again assigned seat 19C, and again it was an emergency exit row with extra room. Hmm, how strange, I thought to myself. I hadn`t even sat down however before the man in the seat next to me said loudly, `Did you pay extra for that seat?` No hello, no how are you, just an angry glare.

`Pardon me?`I asked him.

`Did you pay extra for that seat?`he asked a second time, even more loudly.

`Well, I`m not sure,`I said. I was not about to tell him that I had paid nothing for the seat since I had booked it on points.

`You have to request these seats special and pay $50 extra for them,`he grumbled. He went on to complain that he didn`t think there was any extra leg room in his seat. Obviously there was, which the people behind us were quick to point out. But he was not to be placated. He called the stewardess over, telling her he didn`t feel he was getting his $50 worth and he wanted his money back. He pointed to me, saying, `SHE didn`t pay extra!`The stewardess presented him with a phone number to call. He continued his rant to no one in particular, since none of us was interested in paying any attention to his ridiculous behaviour.

Then, the people just in front of me started complaining – almost word for word as the couple on my earlier flight – about the fact that their seat backs wouldn`t recline. What is wrong with these people?

Unlike the first scenario, this time I spoke up and volunteered to change seats with one of them…in part because it didn`t matter to me whether my seat reclined and also to get away from the raving lunatic beside me. We made the switch, but since both of them chose to find alternate seats (the man giving up his extra leg room just so his seat would recline) I now had both seats all to myself. It meant I could stretch out and hopefully grab a bit of a nap on the way over.

As I was switching seats, I said to the stewardess, `Boy, there sure are a lot of grumpy people on board!`She thanked me for noticing, and from then on I was the airline`s best friend. One steward brought me free alcohol, whispering in my ear as he slipped me a brandy and a kahlua, `You are our favourite passenger today.` As I was getting off the plane in Paris, the same steward gave me a package of airline goodies. It`s amazing what showing a tiny bit of empathy will do! 

It seems I was not even on the Camino yet and it was already teaching me lessons.

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