A to Z Challenge Day 22: Victoria MacKinnon (the Lost Princess)

V
Most of my characters for this month have been pretty recognizable, even if you haven’t read their respective books, watched their respective shows/movies, or played their respective games. Most of them are based in pop culture, or come from things that a lot of us grew up with, or are characters that are currently beloved by the masses. But right now you’re likely reading the title of this post and thinking to yourself, “Who the hell is Victoria MacKinnon? What is she from?”

And so we come to another confession: Victoria MacKinnon, or “Tori” for short, is not a character that you will have ever come across because her story was never published. You see, Ms Tori MacKinnon is my character.

I’ve talked before about my story tentatively known as Parallels, a story that I’ve been writing for a decade, that has changed and been rewritten numerous times, and is only now coming into its own with new plans to rewrite it as a series. Victoria MacKinnon is the main character of that story, a young woman who is transported to an alternate Universe where she discovers that she must save the world from evil in order to return home. I love her because if you go back and read through all the different iterations that her story has taken over the past decade, she shows you exactly how I’ve changed and grown as a person and a writer. Victoria began her existence as a whiny, pathetic, self-absorbed loser who had no concept of what the real important things in life are…because she was based on myself. I wrote the character for me, and her personality and background – though they made perfect sense to me at the time – really showed how ridiculous I could be at that age. I was a young adult, but I was still a kid when it came to emotions and opinions.

But as I grew, so too did Victoria. Her thoughts and opinions changed, her reason for living advanced, and her hopes and dreams mutated into something more. Most of all, as my writing ability grew and I began to be able to think more about what the reader would enjoy rather than just what I felt like writing, Victoria became a very different person. These days Victoria is nothing like me at all, really, and that’s just the way I like it, because she is not me. Victoria MacKinnon is her own person with her own troubles and her own adventure to go on, and I’m just happy to be the one who gets to tell her story for her.

Getting to Know Yourself

The third week of The Artist’s Way is about “recovering a sense of power”. This week looks into several concepts. One of these is anger, and how we should use angry feelings toward ourselves (“Oh my god, I’ve gotten so fat!”) to reveal those things in our lives which we need to be focusing on.

Another of the topics is “synchronicity”, which basically refers to great things that happen to us (coincidences, most of us call them) that help us work toward our goals. Most of us ignore these things, (“Sure, I met this awesome writer agent who is really friendly and helpful, but it’s totally a coincidence and she won’t want to read my manuscript.”) because we’re more scared of actually achieving our goals than never achieving them.

And the third topic is shame, which most of us have way too much of. We think poorly of ourselves because of concepts that society forces on us (“Artist’s are just lazy people who don’t want to get a real job.”) and that keeps us from following our dreams and goals for ourselves.

As of the writing of this post I haven’t been able to find the time to work on any of the tasks for this week, but there is one exercise that was in the bulk of the chapter itself that I thought I could share. It’s a series of “finish this sentence” lines that are meant to evoke some thought and emotion into who you are and what is important to you, as well as your feelings about certain concerns and issues that might be blocking your creativity.

destructionThe bold part of the sentence is the prompt, and the normal font is my response.

1. My favorite childhood toy was…probably my Super Nintendo. I can think of dozens of other toys that I absolutely loved, but the SNES holds a special place in my heart, along with such games as Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III(VI), and Uniracers (yes, Uniracers…shut up!).

2. My favorite childhood game was…Jailbreak. It goes by other names in different areas, so for clarification it’s basically hide-and-seek in the dark, where “it” sends people to “jail”. If one of the hiding kids is able to get to the “jail” without “it” catching them, he/she can yell “JAILBREAK!” and everyone runs off to hide again.

3. The best movie I ever saw as a kid was…probably the first live-action Ninja Turtles movie. I saw tons of movies as a kid, but I can specifically remember waiting in line at the theater to see this one and I was definitely not disappointed.

4. I don’t do it much but I enjoy…reading. I read more than most people I know, but still not much considering that it’s one of my favorite things to do. I love reading, but it takes up so much time that I don’t have.

5. If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself…attend a “Write-In” during National Novel Writing Month. “Write-In”s are basically when a group of writers were are participating in NaNoWriMo get together and hang out at a cafe or at someone’s house and just enjoy each others company while trying to write as much as possible. There are a couple in the next town over every year but I never go because it feels like a very un-adult thing to do for some reason.

6. If it weren’t too late, I’d…go away for college. The degree I got has served me well, so the university I attended was fine, but I always regretted not going away just to experience the whole “dorm life” thing.

7. My favorite musical instrument is…the guitar. It has always been a little difficult for me to play since my fingers are so short, but it’s more fun than the piano, and I just love the sound of a good acoustic guitar.

8. The amount of money I spend on treating myself to entertainment each month is…almost non-existent. In the past couple of months I’ve spent a bit of money on video games for the Vita my husband bought me, but normally I don’t really spending anything at all. If you work it out monthly over the course of a year it’s probably less than $10.

9. If I weren’t so stingy with my artist I’d buy her…some craft courses. There are lots of awesome-sounding writing courses on WANA International and Writer’s Digest, but I just can’t bring myself to spend money on my writing when I have no way of knowing if I’ll ever make any back.

10. Taking time out for myself is…almost impossible. When I was working out West I was accounted for 23-hours of the day, and when I’m home I can’t even sneak away for two minutes without the baby hunting me down and wanting something.

11. I am afraid that if I start dreaming…I’ll crash and burn. I’ve been allowing myself a hope and prayer for the past while, but it’s a tenuous grasp. I worry that I’ll put all this effort into something that I never get anything back out of.

12. I secretly enjoy reading…all these cheesy sexy-vampire-novels-that-are-marketed-toward-teenagers that are out these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still like my vampires to be scary-ass monsters that will rip your throat out, but there’s also an inherent charm to the sexy ones, especially if they’re sexy and dangerous.

13. If I had had a perfect childhood I’d have grown up to be…a writer, for sure. It’s what I’ve wanted since the third grade, so if everything had fallen into place perfectly, that’s definitely what I’d be doing today.

14. If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d write or make a…series of novels based on all of my favorite video games from my childhood. Games like the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, the Breath of Fire series, and Secret of Mana all had such amazing story lines, I’ve always thought they deserved to be fleshed out and paid more attention to. I’d love to put 100% of my attention into these things, IF I had any belief that the respective copyright holders would ever allow me to publish them. For now, I’m just spending some of my writing time on the Final Fantasy VI one (a girl’s gotta dream).

15. My parents think artists are…artists? I really don’t know how to answer this one, since I’ve never really asked them. My parents are supportive; whether that reflects their actual attitudes toward artist or not, that’s all I really know.

16. My God thinks artists are…non-existent? I don’t have a God, so I doubt he thinks very much about anything at all.

17. What makes me feel weird about this recovery is…just an overall sense that it’s silly and pointless. I can honestly say that some of the tasks have prompted some “Ah-ha!” moments, but overall I just feel like it’s going to turn out to have been a huge waste of time.

18. Learning to trust myself is probably…one of the harder things I’ve ever tried to do. I might seem confident sometimes, but inwardly I’m pretty sure that I have no real talent and will never succeed in my goals.

19. My most cheer-me-up music is…mostly alternative rock from my younger years. Oddly, even when the lyrics are the exact opposite of “cheer-me-up”, things like the Offspring, GreenDay, and Blink 182 give me a little burst inside. That’s why I have tons of their songs on my phone.

20. My favorite way to dress is…jeans and a tank top. I don’t really like dresses because I hate having to sit properly, and I’m not a huge fan of shorts because I’m not a huge fan of my legs. I prefer tank tops to any other kind of top because they’re cooler (I get overheated strangely easy) and they show off some of the qualities I actually like about my body, like my shoulders and upper back.

So there’s a little piece of me, as per The Artist’s Way’s exercises. Did you learn anything?

What about you? Care to share your answers to some or all of these questions? 🙂

Difficulty Level: Hard

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

85. The most difficult scene or piece you’ve ever written.

This prompt could be looked at in a couple of different ways depending on your definition of “difficult”. The first thought that came into my head was difficult in the emotional sense, in that it was difficult to write because of some personal issue. Then I thought about difficulty in the sense of being hard to write because the words won’t come or you can’t figure out how to explain what you’re imagining.

So in my typical, indecisive manner, I decided to write about both. Lucky you, hmm?

First, emotional difficulty:
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve done some of my best writing while I was depressed, so you would expect that there would be lots of examples of this, but there actually aren’t. I’ve written a lot while depressed, but I’ve rarely written something that made me depressed.

There is one scene, however, that I found very difficult to write emotionally. It wasn’t difficult because of any personal issues; it was difficult because it involved the death of a character. Now call me crazy if you wish (I know some of you are thinking it, don’t lie!) but I know there are lots of writers out there who have my back on this one. I had a very, very difficult time writing the scene because it genuinely hurt. I had invested a lot in this character, had created a person who I cared about. And then, for the good of the story, I had to write about life leaving this character as their friends looked on in horror. I’m not proud…I got a little choked up. It was like choosing to kill a friend. That might seem a little ridiculous to some, but I look at it as a good sign. After all, how can I expect my readers to be touched by the scene if it doesn’t even affect me?

As for literal difficulty, the hardest scene I ever had to write was definitely the first battle scene I ever wrote. It was very difficult because I could visualize what I wanted to be happening, but I couldn’t determine the words I needed to convey that scene. I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about weaponry, swordplay, fighting stances, and so on, so my descriptions boiled down to oversimplified sentences such as, “the swords clashed against one another” and “he dodged and slashed out his own attack”. It drove me mad because as I was writing it I knew that anyone who read it would be imaging something tame and boring, while I had this epic battle raging through my head.

Since that first scene I’ve gotten much more practice writing fights and battles. I’ve made a point of attempting to retain the information I glean from others’ books, as well as from movies and other sources, and I’ve found that it has helped a great deal. To this day I still find battles very difficult, but they are much easier than they used to be, which hopefully means I’m learning. No pain, no gain!

Beliefs In and Out of Writing

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

83. How your faith or beliefs have impacted your writing.

A few days ago I read a piece of advice online: “If you want people to like you, don’t talk about your religious or political beliefs.” I admit, I let out a little chuckle. “Too true,” I thought. “Nothing will make people dislike you faster than hearing about how you don’t believe the same things as them.”

This is a constant consideration in writing, and I find that to be rather unfortunate. I have made no attempts on this blog to hide the fact that I am atheist, and it saddens me to think that I may have lost readers because of that fact, because I personally pride myself on being tolerant. I may not believe what you believe, but I accept that it’s your own business what you believe and it would be nice to think that others extend me the same courtesy and don’t judge my writing based on this one small detail of my personal life. And while I know that there are definitely people out there who do extend me this courtesy, I’m not naive enough to think that everyone does.

Faith and beliefs are loaded topics because of the emotion involved in discussing them. People simply don’t like it when other people believe different things. It’s one of the reasons that American-made movies have American heroes and the bad guys are always from other countries, specifically ones that America has been at war with. People naturally like to think of those with different beliefs as being “bad guys”. That can make infusing your own beliefs into your writing quite difficult because you don’t want to destroy your reader base just because your hero happens to have a faith or certain beliefs that clashes with the majority of your potential readers.

Personally, I try to keep my own beliefs out of my fiction. I don’t hide it on this blog because I don’t believe in hiding my beliefs (if you dislike me because of that, that’s your problem, not mine) but I see no reason to carry that over into my fiction. I’m not trying to make any statements, I’m just trying to write an enjoyable story. In order to do that my characters may occasionally share my beliefs or they might believe the exact opposite of what I believe. What matters is that those choices impact the story in a positive way.

So I suppose, in general, my “faith and beliefs” haven’t affected my writing much at all because I actively try not to let them do so.

The World Won’t Stop…Keep Writing

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

81. Writing through difficult / stressful situations

Two words: use it.

Of course it’s not always going to be as easy as all that…there are going to be difficult or stressful situations that are so difficult or stressful that you can hardly function as a human being, never mind forcing yourself to write. But when you are able to pick yourself back up enough to do some work again, I think the best thing you can do is to use that stress to produce something a little different from what you’re used to.

The thing is, emotion absolutely affects the way you write, so writing under different stresses can produce different results, and that might turn out to be a good thing. A death scene, for instance, might not come out so hot if you write it while in the best mood of your life, but it might be the best piece of literature you’ve ever written if you happen to write it after suffering a loss of your own. That might sound a little cold and callous, but why not put some use to these emotions if you’re going to be stuck with them anyway?

I’ll be honest: some of the best writing I’ve produced has been stuff I wrote while depressed. I’m not talking about angsty emo poems or anything like that…I’m not even necessarily talking about sad scenes. Some of the stuff I’m talking about was downright cheerful. It’s just that for some reason being down in the dumps makes me write better. I consider the words more closely, put myself in the character’s shoes more fully. I know I can’t be the only writer who reacts this way, and I actually think this phenomenon might be part of what makes writers tend toward being so eclectic. We need to be able to put ourselves in our characters’ shoes, so we use our own emotions to foster them, and inversely our emotions are affected by our characters.

I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but the point is that if you can grin and bear it and force yourself to write through a difficult situation you just might be surprised by what you accomplish.

Taking Lucid Dreams to a New Level

As long as I can remember, I’ve had very vivid dreams. Where some people can tell me the general plot of their dream and who was present, I could tell you what the characters were wearing, the layout of the room we were in, the exact emotions I was feeling, and any other number of finite details. I kept a dream journal once, out of a curiosity of whether I might be able to interpret some of them, but it was ridiculously time consuming. I could wake up from a dream and start scribbling in a notebook, and my arm would get sore before I’d finished. I have dreams in that journal that take up more than ten letter-sized pages, front and back. I don’t have dreams, you see, so much as subconscious full-length motion pictures.

But last night’s dream took the cake in a way that compels me to write about it. I’m going to give you a basic outline of how the dream panned out, and at the end I’ll explain why this one in particular freaked me out a bit.

So the dream took place in the area of the Kearl Lake plant where I used to work. There’s an area set aside from the actual plant where that area’s workers have trailers set up for lunch rooms, changing rooms, offices, and so on. That’s where I was. I was wearing all my outdoor work gear; boots, coveralls, outerwear, toque, etc, and I was wearing a backpack. As near as I could figure, I’d just arrived for my shift, but I couldn’t seem to recall how I’d gotten there. Additionally, it was nighttime, even though I work day shifts.

So I’m wandering around the trailers, and there seems to be some kind of party going on. For a while I was just wandering around confused and couldn’t figure out what was happening, but after a while I realized that PCL (one of the construction companies that works on the site) was throwing some kind of festival or something. I could go into great detail, but suffice it to say that there were parades going up and down the streets, carnival rides in between the site equipment, and food stands around the trailers.

Aside from the crazy carnival stuff occurring, there were a few things that differentiated this dream from reality. For one thing, one of my cousins was there, even though he works at a Sobeys store in Nova Scotia. I remember him trying to tell me something about the woods outside the site, and he began sinking into some kind of quicksand. It turned out to be a joke he was playing on me. Ha ha, very funny. Then my husband’s cousin, who is working on becoming a continuing care assistant (also in Nova Scotia) appeared, and she started dragging me in and out of the trailers, snagging treats and things for me, which I stuffed in my backpack. At one point we were guarding some kind of large signature board, which, evidently, everyone who visited the carnival was supposed to sign. Sometime after this I went looking for my coworkers, but every trailer I went into looked the same, that is, a lunch trailer with no appliances and three people I didn’t know sitting there looking at me like I was nuts. I kept leaving and moving to another trailer, and it kept being the same trailer with those same three people. Eventually, at some point, I realized that people were lining up for the bus to take us back to camp, and I wanted to go join the line but my boots had disappeared and I couldn’t find them.

I really could go into a lot more detail, but for the purposes of this story, this is all you need to know: the dream made very little sense. It wasn’t an outrageously insane dream with purple elephants and giant plants trying to eat people, but it was definitely removed from reality. There were people there who shouldn’t have been, things happening that shouldn’t have been happening, and all in all nothing made any sense.

So here’s the weird thing…I was absolutely convinced it was real. Remember at the beginning when I said that I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten there? I was genuinely freaking out throughout the entire dream because of that fact. I could remember falling asleep in my own bed at home after spending the day with my husband and daughter, and then all of a sudden I was at the work site, wearing my work clothes. Throughout the dream I kept trying to find my supervisor to tell him that I thought I was losing my mind because I couldn’t remember anything from the past 6 days and I had no idea how I’d managed to get on a plane and show up at site without recalling any of it. And yes, I’ve had dreams before that I would have sworn were real while I was dreaming them, but this one was truly intense. I can actually remember thinking, “The only way this would make sense is if its a dream, which I know it isn’t!” I can vividly recall paying particular attention to the way my legs felt when I walked, the way the wind cut at my face, the way my fingertips burned from the cold, and thinking, “I can feel everything, so I have to be awake!”

Needless to say, by the time I woke up I was pretty freaked out. I’ve never had a dream quite that vivid before, one in which I was actually desperate to prove that it was a dream, but every instinct and physical sense I have was telling me otherwise. It was a new level of weird, that’s for sure, which is why I felt the need to share it.

So how about it? Have you ever had a dream like this, that was so unbelievably vivid you were actually starting to think you were losing your mind? Please share, so I don’t feel like the only lunatic here!

The Incredible Journey

Alternate title: Why Air Canada should be burned to the ground.

I have no more of a temper than the average person. I may even be inclined to say that my temper is a little more tempered (see what I did there?) than the average person’s. I’ve been known to let my emotions fly, but if you could see inside my brain you’d also see that a large percentage of my most violent rages were kept safely inside my imagination where they could do no one any harm (except possibly myself).

This past week can not be counted amongst that ‘large percentage’. This past week my rage grew in leaps and bounds, and those who were near me at the time got to hear some rather imaginative strings of profanity. It was all the result of the actions of a major airline that evidently enjoys seeing just how much they can cheese their customers off.

Air Canada: herein after known as The Devil’s Own Airline.

For those who don’t know, or who are just stumbling across this blog entry while surfing the web, expressing their own hatred for The Devil’s Own Airline, I currently work in the oil sands of Alberta, while still living back home in Nova Scotia. My shift is two weeks on, two weeks off, so every two weeks I’m flying 3/4 of the way across Canada, either heading out to work, or heading home. On the date in question, Tuesday July 31st, I was to head home, along with some 40 of my coworkers.

Now, the thing about “heading home” day is that the only flight we Eastern Canadians can get out of Fort McMurrary, that also coincides with bus schedules and the like, leaves Fort M at 12:20 am. If you’re like me and you sometimes screw up your am and pm when it comes to the 12s on the clock, that’s 20 minutes after midnight. While not nearly as big an issue as the others that would arise later, this is my first strike against Air Canada. I have it on good authority that many companies, my own included, have asked Air Canada to put more flights on out of Fort M, as these companies are shipping thousands of people back and forth across the country every week. Air Canada said…no. That was pretty much it. No. No, we evidently don’t want any extra business, thanks, we’re fine.

Whatever. I’m no business person, but…yeah. I’m not going to get into it.

Anyway, our flight leaves at 20 minutes past midnight. This is doubly unfortunate because the buses that ship us from camp to the airport (a 2 hour trip if the traffic is good) don’t run past 7 pm or so, so we are generally dropped off at the airport at about 6 pm. You math geniuses out there have figured it out, but for the rest of you that means my coworkers and I have a 6 hour wait before our plane leaves. Because of this extended wait, it has become a custom for many to travel down the road to the Nova hotel to hang out in their lounge, or else catch a taxi into town to find some food and/or drink. It’s a completely reasonable thing to do with a 6-hour wait time, but on this particular day it would prove to exacerbate our upcoming torments.

You see, only a few of my coworkers and I decided to stay at the airport…but those of us who did had decided to sit in the airport bar, have a bite to eat, and watch the London 2012 Olympics on their tvs. From this area of the airport we could neither see the Arrivals/Departures screen, nor could we hear any of the announcements being made over the loudspeakers. By the time one of the men  happened to be walking to the washroom and glanced up at the flights screen it had been approximately two hours since our 12:20 am flight had been cancelled.

The next little while was, of course, panic. The man who’d noticed the cancellation immediately began calling everyone back from the hotel/restaurants/bars/etc that they’d run off to and very soon the airport was full of panicked and upset oil sands workers. My buddy ran back to the airport bar to get me and tell me what had happened, and for a moment I thought he was screwing with me. I generally fall for these sorts of things, you see, but I was in fine form tonight…until I looked up at the screen and saw the big red “Cancelled” for myself. Then my stomach dropped like a bag of bricks. I spent several minutes after that texting my husband while the wings I’d been eating worked black magic on my stomach and my coworkers tried to work out what the hell we were going to do.

As it turned out, Toronto airport (which was our first of several layovers) was experiencing some pretty nasty thunderstorms and everything had shut down. May I note here, for anyone who is not from Canada or has never flown before, that this is probably the worst airport that could have shut down. Toronto International is a major hub and I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that more than half of cross-country flights go through there. So it wasn’t just we lowly oil sands workers who had been caught with our pants down…it was half the country.

Now, thunderstorms aren’t exactly something an airport can control. No one is blaming The Devil’s Own Airline (or any other airline for that matter) for an “act of God”, as that would be foolish. No no…the blaming comes as a result of the series of events that occurred in relation to the thunderstorm issue.

First and foremost, as I imagine many of you would also do, my coworkers and I ran to the Devil’s Own Airline desk in the Fort M airport. Surely these people would be able to give us a few answers, tell us what we should be doing. Oh, how naive. Before we’d even found out that our flight (along with many, many others) had been cancelled, these nice ladies had had their computers locked out. Let me impress that point on you a little further: The Devil’s Own Airline actually blocked their own employees from being able to help paying customers whose flights had been cancelled. Literally, their computers would not let them do anything. The reasoning they gave had something to do with not knowing how long the storms would last, whether or not the planes would eventually be able to fly, and not wanting every customer to change their flight (thus possibly ending up with some empty planes). In other words, it was a financial decision. People all over the country were kept from obtaining any help with their cancelled flights because The Devil’s Own Airline didn’t want to inadvertently waste fuel on a not-full plane. Look at the tears I’m crying for them. ._.

So anyway, the desk ladies couldn’t help us. The only suggestion they could give was to either go to the “cancelled flights” page of the company’s website, or call the hotline. I checked the website immediately, via my iPhone, but when I gave my booking reference number the site quickly informed me that it had, like the desk attendants, been blocked. It began to seem to me, at this point, that The Devil’s Own Airline actually wanted us to all just sit around patiently and wait like good little paying drones. I am not patient. Just saying.

So it was now approximately 10:30 pm, and my 40+ coworkers and I were gathered in the airport, utilizing the only method left to us. That is, calling the hotline…along with the rest of the goddamn country. The first guy to get through – after approximately two hours on hold – was immediately swarmed by the rest of the crew, the idea being that he would pass the phone on after he got his flight re-booked. We were soon stymied again, however, as the call center attendants refused to let him do this. Their argument was that it was unfair to all the other people who were calling in and waiting on hold. Now, while I understand the reasoning behind this decision, it ignores a certain issue…this being that not all of us had cellphones. We were a two hour drive from camp, stuck in an airport with only one public phone, and approximately 20% of our crew didn’t have a cellphone. This meant that those without a phone would have to wait until those with a phone were done. Since the wait time on the hotline was approximately 2 hours, that meant that some of our crew had to wait 4 or even 6 hours before able to speak to a representative, by which time there were simply no possible flights left. How exactly is that fair?

By the end of the night (approximately 1 in the morning), about a third of our crew had weaseled their way onto a flight heading to Calgary (from where they had no idea where they were going to head next), about another third had managed to get new flights leaving the next day, and the other third were unable to get anything until Thursday evening or sometime Friday. Let me reiterate that: we had been driven to the airport on Tuesday evening and some of our crew had no chance of leaving Fort McMurray until Friday. All the time while on their days off.

My buddy and I were two of the lucky ones to get flights the next day, Wednesday. Our original flight would have been from Fort M to Toronto, then to Halifax, and for me to Sydney. Our new flight had us going from Fort M to Calgary, then to Montreal, and after an extended wait we’d be on to Halifax and Sydney. The new bookings would take us twice as long as our original ones, but by the time our 2:30 pm flight was drawing near we had heard a million and one worse horror stories. The boys who had flown to Calgary the night before had gotten stuck there. A few boys were getting home to New Brunswick that day, but were landing on the wrong side of the province and would have to drive a rental several hours just to get to their vehicles, after which they’d have to drive several more hours to get home. And some terribly, terribly unlucky guys had decided to stay at the Nova hotel and try calling the hotline in the morning…their laid-back attitude got them stuck in Fort McMurray until Saturday. Saturday. So all in all, my buddy and I were feeling pretty lucky as we made a beeline for our 2:30 flight.

As we were boarding our flight to Calgary, however, I heard the first of what would turn out to be a number of vexing situations: our flight had been overbooked…by ten people. This amazes me still. How do you sell 10 seats that have already been sold? Needless to say, 10 people didn’t make it onto the plane. I can only imagine how those people must have felt, especially if they had been one of the many people who had already had to rebook their flight due to the thunderstorms. But the best part? Even if they’d been sitting in the airport all day, waiting for the flight, these people only found out they weren’t getting on their plane when the plane started boarding. They didn’t tell them until the last possible minute. The only thing I can figure is that The Devil’s Own Airline was hoping that 10 people simply wouldn’t show up, allowing these people to fill the plane…I doubt that train of thought comforts the 10 people who didn’t get on the flight that they paid for and were waiting all day to get on.

So my buddy and I made it to Calgary. Calgary was fairly uneventful, but I will say this: after a three-hour wait for our connecting flight, not only was the plane delayed by almost an hour because the flight attendants hadn’t shown up yet, but the plane was goddamn overbooked by 8 people! Now I was starting to be amazed. Again, I ask, how the hell do you sell seats that are already sold?! If this is common business practice, I want to spit on the face of The Devil’s Own Airline’s CEO. Flying standby is one thing, but you can’t sell people tickets showing that they’re getting on a damn plane and then tell them that they can’t get on the damn plane because you sold them non-existent tickets!

On to Montreal we went, and a 7 hour wait through the middle of the night. Fun times, those. Trying to sleep in airport seats is an amazing experience, really. You should all try it. [/sarcasm]

As a quick side note that has nothing to do with The Devil’s Own Airline, the security check employees in the Montreal airport take their jobs way too seriously. The girl at the front of the baggage scanner gave me the most evil eye I’d ever experienced when I asked her to speak English. The guy at the end of the baggage scanner opened every single pocket on my purse and laptop bag and rifled through every single item, bending up all my boarding passes and knocking a couple of makeup items to the floor, without so much as a grunt at me. Finally, the “random-check” guy grabbed my buddy and practically shoved him in the full-body x-ray, without ever explaining to him that he has the right to be patted down instead. All in all, we felt rather abused by the time we got to our gate.

Moving on with the exploits of The Devil’s Own Airline: after having a 7 hour wait, during which our gate was unexpectedly changed to be as far away from where we were as humanly possible, our plane was delayed by an hour because the pilot hadn’t shown up. Okay, sure, whatever, par for the course. But then it was delayed for another hour because the pilot still hadn’t shown up. Okay, now we’re starting to wonder how a pilot just doesn’t show up for his flight. But okay, we’re waiting, we’re waiting. I’m starting to get concerned because it’s going to be tight to catch my connection to Sydney, but we’re waiting.

Then our flight was delayed for three more hours. Because a new pilot was being flown in from halfway across the country. At this point the rage was palpable. Almost no one on that flight was actually going to Halifax. Almost everyone had connections to different places, most notably a couple who were heading to a wedding in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, and now had absolutely no chance of making it in time for the nuptials. Myself, I was now officially going to miss my connection flight from Halifax to Sydney. When I mentioned this to the lady at the gate desk her reaction was to shrug a little and tell me that I’d have to rebook that flight. As I’d already had to do this once, and it had required a two hour wait on hold, I decided to check the airline’s website to see if there were even any flights available. What I found was that the next flight I could get, that actually had some seats left, didn’t leave Halifax until approximately 28 hours after I would get there. For those who don’t know, you can drive the entire length of Nova Scotia in about 8-9 hours. I could have driven from Halifax to Sydney and back again twice and would still have a couple of hours to wait for my flight. As it turns out, my buddy had a van waiting in Halifax and was driving most of the way toward where I live, so he offered to drive me. I accepted and all was well, but that doesn’t make it better. For all intents and purposes, The Devil’s Own Airline stole money from my company by forcing me to miss my connection and being both unable and unwilling to help me get a new flight in a reasonable amount of time.

After that most recent delay, the gate attendant started handing out meal vouchers “for our trouble”. Guess how much money was on them? Ten bucks. Ten bucks, for being delayed half the waking day and missing our connecting flights during a time when it’s impossible to book new ones. Thanks guys. We really appreciated it, seriously.

By the time we finally got on our flight from Montreal to Halifax we had been delayed twice more (making the total delay time approximately 6 hours), moved to another gate again, and at the last possible minute the desk attendants announced (guess what?!) that the flight was overbooked by 8 people and they were hoping some volunteers would come forward to take a later flight. That is so wrong for several reasons. For one thing, everyone on that flight (presumably) paid for that flight, making it ridiculous to request that they not take it. For another thing, we’d been delayed SIX HOURS. Why are you just now bringing this up?! Clearly they were hoping that some people would, like…just give up and go home or something, but that is the most awful business ethic I’ve ever heard. For a final thing, why would anyone give up their seat on the plane, knowing that all flights for the next several days are completely screwed up and they’d be lucky to get on another flight in less than 48 hours?

And finally, to add insult to injury, as we finally stepped off the plan in Halifax, an attendant was waiting at the gate to offer us discount vouchers for our next flight. The vouchers gave no indication as to how much the discount might be, but did indicate that we had no more than 30 days to use them. One particularly angry customer (I believe he may have been heading to that wedding I mentioned earlier) snatched a handful of them out of the attendants hand, tore them into a hundred pieces, and scattered them all over the floor at her feet. Not one other customer so much as cracked a smile at the outburst, as we were all feeling that it was the calmest thing he could have done.

So, to reiterate, Air Canada workers were not only unhelpful during this entire ordeal, but they were regularly (and seemingly deliberately) obstructive. Every step of the way it seemed as though they were actually trying to screw up our flights, trying to make us as angry as possible. And I was one of the lucky ones who still managed to get where I was going less than 48 hours late!

And that, my friends, is why I think Air Canada should be burned to the ground. They clearly have no sense of business ethic or customer satisfaction at all. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Air Canada. Thanks for making me lose a full day home with my daughter after being out West for two weeks straight.