That morning I went to the airport.
I had no idea how far away the airport was, and needed to save money. So I planned to take the airport shuttle bus. Unfortunately it came nowhere near my hotel.
Lugging my huge duffle bag (bulging and at least 50 pounds), I hopped onto a crowded bus. It was an uncomfortable trip, people don't appreciate having their legs crushed as my duffle bag kept trying to fall on them. Finally we stopped at the shuttle bus stop.
The shuttle bus finally came. I must have gotten on near the start, because it was nearly an hour before we got to the airport.
After finally arriving at the airport, I proceeded to do what I had heard about on tv, and online. I went to information, and asked where I could wait to hear about missed tickets, and empty seats that just had to be filled.
Now everything I had heard said that airlines hate flying with empty seats. It also said that frequently passengers missed their flights, or cancelled at the last minute. If you don't mind a bit of uncertainty, you can pick up these seats for at least 20% off, frequently 50% off. This seemed like a good idea for me, a poor traveler. So I planned accordingly, not dreaming of contacting the airport to make sure they did this.
Mistake number one.
They don't do this in Canada. At least not in Vancouver. At least not in the airport I was flying out of.
I was at the airport waiting to head overseas, with no ticket.
Ok, I could deal with this. I had also heard that tickets were sometimes cheaper if you order them right at the airport, because theres no commissions for travel agents.
Mistake number 2
Not with Canadian Airlines.
Apparently to enter China you need to have a round trip ticket. This would cost more money.
The helpful lady did inform me I could head over, then send the second ticket back, and get a refund. That would take at least a month.
And all of this at the low, low price of 3500 dollars.
I had seen one way tickets to China for $700, online. I was not going to be ripped off.
Time to call in reinforcements.
I pulled out my laptop ready to find a low cost ticket online for anytime in the next three days. I didn't have to be in China for 2 weeks, so I could be picky, but I didn't really want to spend a week at the airport. Then I would phone my parents, asking them to buy it for me with their credit card.
I don't own a credit card, but I could transfer the money to them quickly through online banking.
Mistake Number 3.
You had to be a member of Telus to use the wireless connection there. I could connect, but without a password, I could do nada, zip, zero.
TO THE PAYPHONES!
I called home collect, listed off the various problems, stated what I needed done, and said I'd phone back in two hours.
It's awesome having good parents.
So I waited.
I also had lunch, I had kind of forgotten to eat.
There are two main eating areas in the airport, I found them eventually, and after a few hours of looking I could even get from one to the other with only 2 wrong turns.
The few times I had eaten at an airport before, it had been undercooked and not very tasty pizza. Here I was pleasantly surprised. The food was good, the staff professional, and it was filling. Best of all, if I avoided a few key hours, it wasn't crowded either.
Back to the payphones.
Called my Mom again, and she had gotten me a ticket with China Air. $775 for the next day, in the afternoon.
Only problem, I had to head off to their office in Vancouver to get it.
I dropped my luggage off at a lay away station (it was heavy), hopped into a cab, and through the use of a very handy GPS that is apparently now standard in Vancouver cabs, got to the travel agent.
Problem, there were two offices, one downstairs, one upstairs. The address I had was no help, it just showed the address, and the outside door number.
I looked in the first office on the bottom floor, didn't see anyone. I went up to the second floor, and looked in to see two Chinese ladies there.
So I walked in, and explained that I had a ticket waiting for me.
They said they had it.
So I went in, and answered a bunch of questions. It seemed strange they should have already known the answers, from my Mom.
Finally it came to the price. $850 payable by me, did I have a credit card.
Mistake number 4
At this point I had a serious problem. No credit card, the ticket was a hundred dollars more expensive thean promised, and my Mom had said she had paid them with her credit card already.
I asked if I could borrow the phone.
Got my Mom, and told her the problem. She and the travel agent talked. It was discovered by my Mom and I, that I should have gone downstairs instead of up.
I went, and found the right agent.
Less questions, more paper.
But I was told again that I had to pay. But this time I found out that they had only needed my Mom's credit card number to confirm the ticket, not to actually pay for it.
After confirming, numerous times, that my Mom wouldn't be charged, I pulled out my bankcard and paid.
Huzzah!!!! I had my ticket.
Now to get back to the airport.
Easier said then done.
The area had mostly warehouses and small businesses that didn't have much of a walk in clientele.
I started walking.
I grabbed a pizza at Quizno's, and kept half of it to take to the airport with me for a late night snack. Technically supper since I had had breakfast at about 12.
I also asked them to call me a cab, no one there knew the number.
So I kept walking. No payphones, and no telephone books anywhere for at least a mile.
No cab's either, at least none willing to stop.
I finally hopped on a bus. I swear it said "Airport" on it. So I assumed it would drive me to the airport.
It went two blocks did a wierd turn, dropping me off at an open air bus terminal, that was a mile and a freeway away from the airport. Apparently I had to get on another bus.
I hadn't thought to ask for a transfer.
At $3.25 per bus ride, it would have been only slightly more expensive to have gotten a cab at the travel agent.
Finally I got back to the airport. I phoned my Mom again to let her know I now had everything, and was already to go.
Then I wandered the airport.
After exploring I didn't have much to do. I found a comfortable chair and read a book I had picked up the day before.
Later I started looking around for a place to sleep. A really comfortable bench I had found to sit on was too slanted and wooden to sleep on comfortably.
I wasn't about to sleep on the floor, I didn't have a pillow, my electronics were in the only bag I was currently carrying. So the whole sleeping thing was going to require some work.
All the chairs I found were too near noisy crowds, too bright, and too uncomfortable.
Finally I found a dark corner that was being partially renovated, but was still open to the public, in the US terminal. The seats were comfortable, and there was only a single armrest on the row of four seats.
I put my pack right in front of the armrest, threw my legs over the bag and armrest, put my novel under my head for a pillow and fell asleep.
I woke up way too early the next day, but no one had come near my bag.
I did have one scary moment, while I tried to find my glasses. They had come off in my sleep. Fortunately they had landed safely on the floor between the chair and the wall.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. Until I went to get my ticket at 12.
I met a guy who told me that he was going to Shanghai on business and loved the place.
He told me a few interesting things. Some I knew, some I didn't. When I told him my plans though, he looked very concerned. Apparently travelling to China without having reservations, with no one waiting for me, and not knowing where I was going is a bad idea.
He told me how most cab drivers didn't speak English, and I would end up basically lost and confused.
Surprisingly this news did not make me feel better.
He wished me good luck, and from the way he said it, he didn't seem to think luck would be nearly enough.
I got my ticket, I had to sign a form saying I had enough money to leave China when my visa expired. They didn't care how, so long as I was gone. So my cheap, one way ticket was sufficient, and I didn't need the 3000 dollar monstrosity that Air Canada had led me to believe.
I had a few hours before my flight.
At that point I was seriously tempted just to leave the airport and run away. I had been on four airplanes in my life. From Thunder Bay to Florida via Toronto, and back again. About 6 hours total.
Now I was going on a 12 hour flight over the largest ocean in the world, to a new land, a huge city, with no quickly available support net, and very little money at this point.
The shakes came back.
I didn't run away though. I patiently walked through security, bought a bottle of water, a magazine, and a notepad. Then I waited with the other passangers at the terminal.
There were 6 other white people there. All of them were busy talking amongst themselves, and I couldn't see a way to get involved in any conversations.
There were pay internet terminals scattered throughout the airport, I had already used them earlier. So when I saw some in the terminal I went over hoping to calm my nerves. They weren't hooked up yet.
I sat down in a chair, and did what I had done on the bus ride across Canada, I cleared my mind, and basically entered a fugue state. I knew what was happening around me, I could react fairly normally, but my mind was cleared of any thoughts, or boredom.
This wasn't meditative, at least not planned meditation. It was simply a case of my mind had so many fears and concerns, it shoved them all away into a corner, and went blank.
I would have been worried, but I didn't care at the time.
Finally I got to enter the plane.
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