To Be a Writer

Recently I came upon a contest that Amazon is having. It involves writing a blog post that talks about the moment you knew – really knew – that you were a writer. I decided to give it a go, and before long I had surpassed the word limit that the contest set. I didn’t want to change anything, because what I wrote was truth, plain and simple, so I thought I’d just post it here anyway.

I've already used this, but I feel it still applies. :P
I’ve already used this, but I feel it still applies. πŸ˜›

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the third grade. That was a revelation in and of itself, but it isn’t the same as actually knowing that you are a writer. Many people talk about that moment when they knew, that singular event that caused them to realize “I AM A WRITER!”, but for me it’s a little more complicated than that. My “I AM A WRITER!” moment was less a moment and more a culmination of the passage of some 15 years of growth.

I knew I wanted to be a writer after a school assignment in the third grade. We were to write a short story, print it out neatly on white paper (this was before we had regular access to computers), draw a cover, and bind it all together with construction paper and string. I can’t recall the exact plot of my story (although I could probably locate it in my parents’ attic if I looked hard enough), but I remember that it was called “The Mystery of the Emerald-Eyed Cat”. My cover featured two glowing green cat eyes below the title, and it was all bound with green construction paper. I also recall that I signed the cover “by Tracey Lynn MARIE Clarke”, not because I had any sense of what a pen name was back then, but because I was a little gone in the head and often changed my name a bit to suit my childish whims. (My teachers just kinda…ignored me, I guess…lol)Β  I was very proud of that story, and my teacher at the time was a truly awesome man by the name of Mr Power who praised it and suggested that maybe I might consider writing as a career choice in the future. Though I was an avid reader, this was thought that had never really occurred to me before; but in that moment I knew for sure that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Around the same time that I made my startling future career revelation, I met my best friend Kelly for the first time. As chance would have it, she loved writing too, and over the course of the rest of our grade school career we wrote a series of stories called “The Game Masters”, an adventure tale of a group of kids (ourselves and a few friends) who could travel in and out of video games. What Kelly and I had was an odd kind of a beta-reader relationship. We each wrote our own versions of the story – similar in many ways, but different in quite a few as well – and whenever we had each finished a chapter or two we would swap notebooks and read what the other had written. We praised each other for how clever we were, marveled at the amazing ideas we came up with and how “great” our juvenile writing was. We taught each other very little because we were so in awe of ourselves and how awesome we were, but it was excellent practice none-the-less, and it taught me another one of the joys of writing. I would strive daily to write as much as I could so that Kelly could read it. Even if the writing wasn’t perfect, it was a great thrill for me to have her read it and tell me that she enjoyed it, and so with that rush of fun and reader-acceptance I continued on with the belief that I absolutely wanted to be a writer.

Junior high school marked the turning point when Kelly and I both began to dabble into more mature original fiction. I can’t remember much about those first original stories because I personally tended to jump from storyline to storyline; whenever I would get a new idea I would drop the old one and start anew. Even so, it was excellent practice in creating characters and worlds and coming up with compelling plot lines. This era also marked my first foray into fan fiction, although I hadn’t ever heard the term at this point. Kelly, her cousin Melissa, and I became enormous Star Wars nerds in these days, and part of the way I expressed my nerdiness was by writing my own little Star Wars stories. I read a lot of Star Wars novels, and I got it into my head that I was a big enough fan that I could write one as well. My story involved Luke Skywalker discovering another lost Jedi – a gorgeous young girl, of course – and training her while trying to keep her from going over to the dark side. It was incredibly geeky. In these days I began to discover that I really had quite a lot to learn. My grade 8 English teacher, Mr Reilly, was not shy about telling me exactly what I was doing wrong when I wrote, and I would regularly compare my writing style to Kelly’s, which always seemed much better to me. I learned a bit of humility, but I was still totally wanted to be a writer.

By the time Kelly and I hit high school writing time became significantly more scarce. There was more work to do, and our social lives (such as they were) became more important as well. We started dating boys, we had extracurricular activities and lots of other unrelated hobbies. Regardless, Kelly and I still found ourselves writing little stories, only now they were quickly-plucked-out mini-chapters that we would write on typewriters during our keyboarding class. This time, rather than writing two different versions of the same basic plot line, or writing our own personal original fiction, we would take turns writing chapters of the same story back and forth. The “story” was loosely called “The Day the Earth Blew Up” and featured ourselves and our friends in an ever-more-ridiculous plot of adventurous hyjinx and tomfoolery. For all intents and purposes, the point of the story was to keep trying to make it more and more foolish. At one point there was an invading army of flying mini-pizzas. Yeah, we were a little bit loopy. But this little exercise of ours taught me a few more things about writing, such as the art of collaboration, and how to keep your mind fresh and new, constantly churning out interesting ideas. Though there were now many other things in my life vying for attention, I was still certain that I wanted to be a writer.

High school graduation was a turn in the wrong direction. When it came to the desire to be a writer, I dropped the ball. I’ve mentioned it before, but in these days I made a conscious decision: I was going to put my focus into technology. I still wanted to be a writer – oh lord, how I wanted to be a writer – but I was scared of failure, scared of the financial implications, and so I made the decision to move into a field in which I knew I could still thrive, but in which I was significantly more likely to obtain gainful employment. My inner child, the little grade-3-aged girl who had just written her first story, was positively screaming at me. “You want to be a writer!” she shrieked. “What is wrong with you?!” I hold that the decision I made was a good one in the long run, but it definitely set me back several years on my true desires.

I wrote nothing for a long time. As many young people do I spent my university years cramming for exams at the last minute, ripping out assignments on the bus on the way to class, and drinking away the weekends. The work load was intense, and I had to work part-time jobs to help pay for it all. My long-time boyfriend broke up with me and I started dating the man who would become my husband. We moved out on our own and had to learn to feed and clothe ourselves while somehow paying for rent and taking what felt like hundreds of hours of classes a week. At one point, sometime during my fourth (and final) year of university, I had an extreme loss of confidence in my future. I had done fairly well in all of my courses – aside from Calculus (which we won’t talk about) I made 80s and 90s in most of them – but I had this moment when I looked at myself and thought, “What the hell am I doing?” I had no idea what kind of career I was going to end up with, I had no confidence that it was going to be something I actually enjoyed or was good at, and I’d already spent upwards of $40,000 to come to this conclusion. It was around this time that Kelly reintroduced me to what we now know is fan fiction. She’d been reading a ton of the stuff on FanFiction.net, and encouraged me to do the same. The result was somewhat different; I ended up writing on the website. I didn’t really have the time to be writing, but I became somewhat obsessed and did it anyway. The one story I managed to complete, a Harry Potter fan fic called “Cry of the Wolf”, became surprisingly popular on the website, and with that I remembered something: I still wanted to be a writer. I had put a lot of time and effort into becoming a technologist, and I was going to finish that journey for sure, but all the time, no matter what else I did, I still wanted to be a writer.

It’s been seven years since I completed my university degree. In that time I got a job, moved away from home for it, bought a car, married my husband, bought a house, gave birth to my daughter, lost my job, found a new one that required me to travel back and forth across the country, and recently got laid off from that one because the job is over. And throughout all that I kept writing whenever I could. I wrote more fan fiction, I participated in several NaNoWriMo‘s, I set daily word count goals for myself, and I started this blog. I did all of this because regardless of what else might be going on around me, of the turns my life had taken, I still wanted to be a writer. Notice that I keep using that phrasing, over and over again: wanted to be a writer. That’s the phrasing I always used in my head when I thought about myself. I always used a future tense.

“I want to be a writer.”

“I’m going to be a writer.”

“Someday I’ll be a writer.”

That has been my thought process since that first story back in the third grade.

That is, until about a year ago. I’d written a zombie apocalypse novel for the previous years’ NaNoWriMo, but over the course of the month-long challenge I’d only gotten about 2/3 of the way through the story. I desperately wanted to finish it, as I’d never finished an original piece of fiction (that wasn’t a school project). So I set myself a goal: I would write at least 1000 words a day until the novel was complete. I can’t honestly say that I stuck to it every single day – sometimes life gets in the way, after all – but in what seemed like no time at all, suddenly I had a finished story. Sure, it still has to be revised and edited, preferably beta-read as well, but I had it; I had a whole original story, from beginning to end. That was the moment, though it wasn’t as much a revelation as a slow realization. Looking at the last sentence of my novel, and thinking back to everything I’d done up to that point, that was when I realized “I AM A WRITER!”

I may never succeed in becoming traditionally published, and I may never gain financial compensation for my work, but I’ll always be able to look back on that little third-grade girl and say, “Hey, guess what? YouΒ are a writer, and you always will be.”

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 26

Two things to mention before I get to the heart of the matter today. First of all, it’s week number 26! That means I’m halfway through the year! And while I’m nowhere near where I would need to be to be on track with my million word goal, I’ve written more in the past six months than in the previous 2 years combined! But more on that later.

The other thing I want to mention is that as you are reading this I am packing up my last couple of bits and bobbles from the control room at work, chucking it all in a backpack, and awaiting the bus that will return me to camp where I’ll giddily await my plane home. My last plane home. That’s not to say that I won’t end up back out in Alberta for work in a few months or so, but for now I’m heading home with nothing on the horizon except spending quality time with my family and maybe enjoying a number of alcoholic beverages from the comfort of my back deck. Look upon me and be in awe, for I am officially ON VACATION!

Okay, that’s enough of that. πŸ™‚

Health and Body Image Goal

I’ve been a bit on the ins and outs with this goal, unfortunately, but I’m still not doing too badly. As I mentioned last week I did, in fact, drag myself to the gym and try running on the treadmill. It wasn’t ideal, but acceptable. I figured that’s what I’d do until my stomach felt better. But then my stomach felt worse. I don’t know if it’s the actual physical exertion that’s bothering me, or if it’s the camp food (which, thank god, I won’t be enjoying any more of any time soon), or if I’ve been suffering from some as-yet-diagnosed condition inherited from my sickly parents (love you guys, really :P), but I’ve hardly been able to stand leaving my room in the morning and suffering through the bus ride to work, never mind exercising on top of that. Luckily, about two days ago, my symptoms seemed to subside and I’ve felt halfway decent since then, so here’s hoping all will be well when I get home and try to run around my neighborhood again.

All that said, I’ve still been managing to eat pretty well. I’ve had a cookie here, some pop there, but for the most part I’ve been eating decent food (or as decent as it gets on camp) and not too much of it. I haven’t weighed or measured myself recently because I doubt I’ve lost anything during my refusal-to-exercise days, but I’ve recently had an unusual number of coworkers tell me that I look like I’ve lost weight, so I’m just going to go ahead and say, “Woohoo! I look like I’ve lost weight!”

Editing Goal

I have a stupid, STUPID confession to make. I did try to get some editing done this week, I swear, I really did. But when I finally took out my tablet and opened up the files I transferred there for editing purposes, I discovered something idiotic. Of the four different word-processor-ish apps I have on my tablet, none of them open rtf files. Guess what format all my files are in? After two days of searching for an Android program that DOES open rtf files (for free, because screw that, I’m not paying for an app that I only need for a week) I gave up and admitted defeat. Apparently the world of tablets and smartphones does not believe in the existence of rtf files. So the editing will have to wait for this coming week. Grr.

1,000,000 Word Goal

I have been writing like a maniac this week, mostly due to my rediscovery of 750Words.com. I don’t know what it is, but I love just typing and typing and typing and watching the word counter go up. It’s addictive. Over the course of the week I’ve written blog posts, typed out a few scenes for Returning Hope, did a couple of writing exercises, and did a little bit of free-writing (i.e. writing whatever came to my head as it came to my head). Through all of this combined I managed to once again beat my best week score with a total word count of 16556. In addition to that, I’m happy to announce that I’ve reached a yearly total so far of over 165,000. Again, it’s nowhere near where I need to be for my goal, but it’s a heck of a lot more than I normally would have written, so I’m proud. Revel in my pride! Only six months to go to try and boost that total up as high as I can!

And with that said, I plan to spend the next several hours in the lounge at camp, with my feet up, reading A Dance With Dragons, and waiting for my final flight home. See you soon, Cape Breton!

Accountability Tuesdays: Week 18

Man, the couches at Wapasu Lodge camp feel so cushy on the day you fly home. Why do you think that is?

So here I am again, plucking out an accountability post as I wait to travel. There have been worse ways to spend a day, let me tell you, and since this one results in my returning home to my baby girl and husband, I’m as happy as a pig.

(No feces necessary. Pigs just seem to be rather happy creatures overall.)

Health and Body Image Goal
I have to admit, I’ve waned on this one, but there is an up side. Starting about Wednesday I started shying away from the Body Revolution videos for two reasons. One, its really hard to get up in the morning to do them, especially when your camp neighbors ensure that you’re not asleep at night until a good two hours after you wanted to be. And two, I was finding that combined with the diet (or as close as I could get to the diet with what’s available at camp) I was feeling too god damn weak to do the exercises! I’m sorry Jillian, but my body seems to require significantly more calories than you think it does.

So anyway, I ditched the diet for the more enjoyable method of eating what I want while keeping a keen eye on my calorie and fat intake, and since the weather made a turn for the better, I traded Jillian for the Zombies! Run! app. I plan to continue Body Revolution at home (and possibly next shift if my neighbors are a little less ragingly inconsiderate), but for the past few days I’ve just been enjoying getting some fresh air and running from imaginary zombies. Win-win.

Editing Goal
This is another one that has waned, but mainly because I’ve run out of printed copy to edit. My manuscript is several hundred pages long, so I only printed out the first few chapters, and I think I’ve done all with them that I can. Next shift I’ll bring up the USB stick with my soft copy on it and print out some more. Until then, c’est la vie.

1,000,000 Word Goal
I wasn’t expecting this past week to add up to much because with layoffs happening all around me I’ve been about ten times busier at work than usual. Combine that with the nosy neighbors/loss of sleep issue and the fact that I’ve hit a roadblock on my work-in-progress, and I figured I wasn’t going to have anything to report. Imagine my surprise when I counted up all the blog posts I’ve been writing in advance this past week and found that they totaled 6769 words. Not too shabby, huh? I won’t complain, for sure, because I’ll be lucky to get that total over the next twoweeks.

Which is to say I plan to be terribly busy playing My Little Pony with my daughter. So long coworker suckers!

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 8

Okay, before we start with the tears and accusations accountability, I would like to take this moment to thank L. Palmer of The L. Palmer Chronicles, for the “High Five” she recently awarded me as per her recent Hello’s and High-Fives endevour. It was a very cute way to help bloggers interact and get to know each other, and as a result of both the initial post and the follow-up “awards”, I saw quite a lovely boost in visitors. So thanks again, L! We all enjoyed the chance to visit some new blogs and obtain some new visitors of our own. πŸ™‚

Now on to the tears and acc-, uh, I mean accountability.

Health and Body Image Goal

I can honestly say that this one is starting to get somewhere. As I’ve mentioned before I am not the best eater while I’m at home…I definitely took the chance to enjoy some foods I would have been better off without (oh garlic fingers, why do you haunt me so?). BUT, I can also report that I had an excellent week for exercise. I stuck with Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution and I am currently halfway through week 2 of the 12-week program. It has been much more difficult than I had originally anticipated – whether because it’s a tough program or because I just am that out of shape – but I’ve stuck with it so far and I fully intend to continue on with it during my time out West these next two weeks. It’s only a half hour a day…surely I can handle that, right? Right? Well anyway, hopefully I’ll eat a little better the next two weeks as well. I look forward to being able to report either some weight loss or size reduction by the time I get back home again.

Editing Goal

You saw nothing. You never saw the word “editing”. It’s all some vague dream-like memory in the back of your mind that is rapidly disappearing into the land of the forgotten. You will not flog me.

Moving on.

1,000,000 Word Goal

This week hasn’t been one of my best weeks for sure. I got lazy, no two ways about it. The only writing I did was for this blog, and the posts I wrote amounted to 2224 words. Wow. Pretty crappy, actually. But I defend my choices to roll around on the floor with my daughter and watch every episode of My Little Pony instead of writing. Screw you, I maybe a mediocre writer but I’m an awesome mom.

Anyway, in addition to returning to my new habit of scribbling out as many words as I can in between tasks at work, I hope to get a bit more writing done during travel and while hanging out at camp now that I’ve picked myself up a cheap bluetooth keyboard. I just can’t get used to typing large amounts of text on my tablet (even just these smaller blog posts are painful) but the keyboard works great, so I’ve got high hopes. Wish me luck!

Airport Rage

I used to tell people that I’d never travel anywhere far because you’d never get me on an airplane. I was terrified of the things. I figured you wouldn’t get me past the gate without landing yourself a large pile of vomit to clean up. I held on to that belief until my 28th year. My first ever trip on an airplane brought me out west for work. It wasn’t a choice to step on that plane; it was a financial necessity. Surprisingly I found that airplanes don’t bother me at all, at least not as far as my stomach is concerned. Traveling by plane, however, has brought to my attention a host of other issues that bother me a great deal, and because that’s the way I roll, I’m going to share some of them with you today.

Plane Peeve #1: The lack of space
I know that this is a common complaint amongst all airline customers who can’t afford first class, but until I began traveling via plane myself I never really understood the true insanity that is the lack of space in airplane seats. For those of you who may have never traveled via plane, let me paint you a picture. I am 5’1″ tall and approximately 155 lbs. A lot of my weight is also muscle, so the woman you are now imagining is probably thicker of body than I am in reality. I’m not saying I’m a skinny bitch (not by a long shot), but I am not a large woman. I’m short and small, and in other words I don’t take up much space. But when I’m in an airplane chair I feel like I’m obese. Even if people of similar size sit next to me, and we all try to take up as little room as possible, chances are our arms are going to be touching for most of the flight. And that doesn’t even consider the leg room, which for most people is effectively non-existent. I’ve had flights where I was getting kicked in the spine every ten minutes just because the person behind me was uncomfortable and needed to shift a bit. This kind of thing is annoying at best, but when your flight is several hours long it becomes a very difficult test of your patience.

Plane Peeve #2: The lack of food
Admittedly, this one depends on the airline, so for the sake of this post I’m going to talk about the worst offender: Air Canada. I’ve been on a lot of Air Canada planes over the past four months. And in those four months I’ve gotten exactly two free snacks, both tiny bags of pretzels that my toddler would have wolfed down in 2.4 seconds. And both of those were on flights from Sydney to Halifax, which for anyone who doesn’t know, is only a 45 minute flight. On my longer flights, the ones ranging from 2 hours to 5.5 hours, I received nothing and was expected to purchase food if I was hungry. I know, I know, some of you are probably saying, “Dear lord, you poor thing, having to pay for food” in a terribly sarcastic voice, but consider something for a moment: my flights are costing my company somewhere in the range of $1000 per one-way trip…..at $1000 a pop, you’d think Air Canada could afford a freakin’ candy bar or something.

Plane Peeve #3: Seat-Swappers
Okay, here’s the thing: if you’re booking a flight and you want to choose which seat you’re going to be sitting in, you have to pay a fee. I don’t know what the fee is with other airlines, but with Air Canada it’s something like $30. A silly fee, really, but if you’re already spending several hundred dollars on the plane ticket that extra $30 isn’t going to break the bank. And yet, on almost every plane I’ve been on thus far, there has been at least one parent with a kid who refused to pay the fee in order to ensure that the two of them would be sitting together, and then went around the crowd during boarding to try and convince some sucker to swap seats with them. I hate this. For one thing, if you want to make sure you and your child are sitting together, pay the damn fee like everyone else who wants to choose their seat ahead of time. For another thing, you’re holding up production, trying to convince strangers to do you a favor while a line of people behind you are trying to get to their seats. Oh, and one more thing…these parents always get PO’ed when the stranger says no, without considering the fact that this person probably paid the fee to choose the seat you’re asking them to leave. Just…just smarten up, people.

Plane Peeve #4: Overbooking
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand why or how this happens, but nearly every flight I’ve been on so far has been overbooked. First off, how the hell do you sell seats that don’t exist? There should be some kind of system put in place to stop this exact thing from happening. I know, I know, it’s probably the airline’s way of ensuring that as many seats as possible are filled if someone cancels or doesn’t show up, but it’s a sick and twisted way of going about such a thing, especially considering that most people don’t find out that they don’t actually have a seat until they show up for boarding. Just as bad as overbooking in the first place is how the airline goes about dealing with the issue if the person who doesn’t have a seat absolutely HAS to be on the plane…..that is, they ask for volunteers to give up their seat. The reward for giving up your seat and (maybe) leaving on a later flight? A $200 voucher for a later flight. Call me crazy if you wish, but I really don’t think $200 that you have to spend on the same airline is a fair exchange for giving up a seat that probably cost you three times that much in the first place, especially considering you have no real guarantee of getting on a later flight any time soon.

Plane Peeve #5: They just don’t give a rat’s backside
As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’ve had some pretty rotten luck with some of my flights thus far. I’ve had some pretty ungodly delays, missed connections because of delays in previous legs of a multi-segment flight, and I’ve had flights cancelled all together. And in each of these situations, Air Canada (oh look, them again) has given me the customer service equivalent of a shrug and a grunt. The most frustrating example I can give is when I was heading home on a re-booked flight after the night that my flight home from Alberta was cancelled due to thunderstorms. I had numerous issues with this particular excursion, but the most unbelievable was when my flight from Montreal to Halifax was delayed so long that I missed my connection from Halifax to Sydney. I asked an Air Canada representative what I should do and she told me to try to rebook on a later flight. I then explained that the next closest flight I could find would have me waiting in Halifax for over 24 hours, an amount of time during which I could easily drive the entire length of Nova Scotia three times. Obviously I wasn’t going to hang around in Halifax for over a day when I could rent a car and be home in 3-4 hours. The representative literally, and I mean literally shrugged at me. And that was the end of the conversation. She didn’t give a flying [expletive] whether I got to the end of my route or not, and felt no obligation to reimburse me in any way for the leg of the flight that I clearly wasn’t going to take. This is the exact same attitude I’ve dealt with every time I’ve had an issue (which has been all but one flight). I can’t speak for other airlines, but Air Canada couldn’t give two pinches of [expletive] about their customers, just so long as their seats have been paid for in full.

I’m not an angry person, I’m really not, but I feel that these are issues for which I am justified in feeling some level of rage. Disagree with me? Okay, whatever, I can’t make you see my point. But agree with me? Let me know! Share your horror stories! You know what they say: misery loves company. πŸ˜›

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 menΒ  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.

Time flies when…

I’ve been slacking off with the blog lately, not because I’m too lazy or don’t have anything to talk about, but because it seems like the days are getting away on me the past couple of weeks. Today, for example, it seemed like all I did was wake up and do a bit of housework, and all of a sudden it was lunch time. Then before I could sneeze, it was supper, and in about an hour and a half it’ll be the baby’s tub time. From there I pretty much go to bed, as the hubby and I like to pass our nights before bedtime watching movies. So for all intents and purposes, my day is already complete. I’m plucking this post out while the baby watches a cartoon (in other words, while I’ve got two seconds to myself).

I think this is a phenomenon that happens to everyone when there is a looming event on the horizon. The ‘event’ can take many forms, but in my case, this particular time, it’s the date of my flight out West. I recently got my itinerary for my flight out to the oil sands, and ever since it’s seemed like the days are just disappearing behind me.

Much like attempting to finish, edit, and publish a novel, starting a new job in a new province is an adventure, and as such I’m a mixture of nervous, excited, and curious. For one thing, my flight out to the work site will be my first ever time on a plane. Yes, that’s right, I’m 28 years old and have never been on an airplane before. So that’s pretty exciting (and nerve-wracking). In addition to that little tidbit, this will be my first time ever traveling alone. As I’m a full-grown adult that shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s an interesting concept to me. The only trips I’ve ever taken have been with family or friends by my side. I’ve never traveled more than a couple of hours drive without at least my husband, so flying three quarters of the way across the country all by myself is going to seem odd. All I can say is thank god I’m flying, because without my husband to keep me on track I’d probably drive to Texas or something.

Another thing that I’m anticipating (whether for good or for ill) is the camp I’m going to be living at. As funny as it may sound, I’m actually looking forward to this experience. I’ve been assured that the camp is clean and has good food, and all in all I think it’s going to seem like the college dorm experience that I never had. When I was in college I first lived with my parents, and then in an apartment with friends and my hubby (then boyfriend), followed by just my hubby (boyfriend) and I, and I always felt like I missed out on the dorm experience. It’s not exactly an ideal way to live, I know, but it’s still something I would have liked to try out, and now I’m getting a similar chance, albeit belatedly. I might end up hating it, but at least I’ll have tried it, you know?

Of course, there’s also the job itself. I’ve heard good things so far from colleagues I have out there, but I won’t really know until I get there. I’ve been out of work (that is, career work) since October, so it’s going to be strange to go back. Part of me thinks it’ll be like getting back on a bike, but another part of me can’t help thinking that I’m going to totally forget how to do any of the things I used to do. At the very least, it’s going to feel weird being back on a work site after all this time.

Finally, it’s going to be strange leaving my daughter behind for two weeks straight. Compared to other prospective western jobs and the position my husband recently left so I could take this one, two weeks at a time won’t be bad at all, but it will still be odd. So far, since she was born a year and a half ago, the longest I’ve been away from her at once was something like 36 hours or so. While I know she’ll be fine at home with her father, and I’m sure my two weeks will go by fast as I’ll be working 12-hour days, it’s still a pretty large stretch between 36 hours and 336 hours.

All in all, my life is speeding toward a pretty significant event. So, of course, you’ll excuse me if things like blog posts get temporarily pushed aside. Life will resume eventually, I promise. πŸ™‚