Going left

For various work reasons I found myself in Vancouver for three days this week. Never a bad thing, I says. In between meetings I found a few opportunities to entertain my taste buds.

Tuesday

I used my last AC upgrade to get myself into business class, so I was well-fed on the flight from Toronto to Vancouver. A little spicy chicken, a little basmati rice, a little white whine. Actually, a lot of white wine, and terribly oak-ridden at that. I struggled through though, whilst watching Jason Bourne (meh), Ghostbusters (fun), and The Wrath Of Khan (which was under the Classics section, naturally).

I landed at YVR, checked into my modest little hotel (the St. Regis), grabbed a capp from Caffè Artigiano, did some work, and had a killer steak dinner at Gotham:

  • dungeness crab cake w/ lemon dill mayonnaise, paired with Pascal Bouchard ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Chardonnay 2014
  • New York strip steak w/ steamed broccoli, paired with Casa Silva ‘Quinta Generacion’ Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2011
  • 16-year-old Lagavulin

Not surprisingly I fell asleep on my hotel bed, trying to watch Netflix.

Wednesday

Giant breakfast downstairs, a coffee meeting with my work friend William, lunch at the spectacular Hawksworth restaurant (a burger and glass of Freemark Abbey Cab Sauv), an espresso at a different Artigiano, a meeting at our Vancouver office, and then more work and more coffee back in my hotel room.

That evening I had drinks at Chambar with my old friend Amy. At first we tried the Reflections pop-up at the top of the Hotel Georgia, but it was about seven different kinds of awful. Luckily I know and love Chambar (or the previous incarnation, at least); I had a Timmermans gueuze and a Grimsbergen dubbel and we shared some charcuterie and over-truffle-oiled bison carpaccio, and got caught up on…I don’t know, seven years?

Thursday

All-day meeting. Flight was delayed; I killed at time at Vino Volo wine bar in YVR and then got home in the middle of the night.

"Everybody loses the thing that made them. The brave men stay and watch it happen. They don't run."

One of the best parts about transatlantic flights is a chance to catch up on some movies. And for all the grief I give Air Canada, their in-flight entertainment and magazine are pretty good ways to kill long flights. On my recent flights to London and back I saw six new ones:

  • 12 Angry Men (imdb | rotten tomatoes), a classic I’d somehow managed not to see before. Deserving of the “classic” status.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was a waste of time. Emma Stone was the sole bright spot in this entirely unnecessary re(re?)boot.
  • Away We Go (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was better than I thought it was going to be. It always seemed like it was going to be too slow. It was certainly precious, but man, what cool leads. And there was a scene where I laughed so hard I scared the guy next to me.
  • Beasts Of The Southern Wild (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was an art piece, to be sure, but beautiful and somehow adorably  inspirational. Or inspirationally adorable. Not sure.
  • Safety Not Guaranteed (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was just fun. And I have a bigger crush on Aubrey Plaza than I thought.
  • Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (imdb | rotten tomatoes) carries a bad rating, and I guess I can see why, but I kind of liked it. I mean, based purely on the likeability of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, you smile at least a few times. So yeah, kind of a perfect airplane movie.

I also watched Casino Royale (imdb | rotten tomatoes) on the flight there, mainly because I will always always happily watch that movie.

.:.

Photo by thomas lieser, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by bobolink, user under Creative Commons license

How Porter might have blown it

Oh Porter. I loved you. Like, a lot. For those of us who travel a fair amount and dislike most airline experiences, you were a breath of fresh air. I talked you up every chance I got. I always chose you over Air Canada if possible, even after AC began flying off the Toronto island airport. But Thursday’s experience — albeit it at Dulles, not your YTZ home — may have cost you a die-hard customer.

I was already booked on PD728 to Toronto at 8:45PM. As luck would have it I was able to end my day early so I thought I’d see if I could catch an earlier flight. My assistant called Porter, who told her it would be much cheaper to switch to PD726 (leaving IAD at 4:20PM) in person at the airport. So, after my presentation I jumped in a cab and arrived at IAD at 3:15. By 3:20 I was in a line of three people waiting to be checked in at the Porter desk. There were two people working the desk, so I figured I was in good shape.

I was wrong.

One of the two employees working the desk was new, and unable to process new check-ins. The other wasn’t at the counter, but rather in the room behind the desk making phone calls on behalf of a customer having Visa problems. Now, I do not begrudge her this; the customer needed help, and she was trying to provide it. But was there no way to have the other employee — who couldn’t process new check-ins — handle the phone call? Was there no way to call for additional staff? Was there no way to prioritize people like myself, and the passenger in front of me, as we rushed to make an earlier flight?

However, like good Canadians, the two of us waited patiently while the newly-returned Porter employee checked in the first passenger in line (and her family) and finished with the customer experiencing Visa problems. This took twenty minutes. TWENTY MINUTES. By the time the customer in front of me, also trying to get on the 4:20PM flight, got to the desk he was told that he was too late, and that the flight was boarding in just ten minutes. I had been standing in line for twenty minutes; the customer in front of me had clearly been waiting longer than that. If the counter had been properly staffed, or had the staff allocated work correctly, or had they prioritized in some way, we both could have made it easily, even at an airport as complicated as Dulles.

What made the experience even more frustrating was what followed: the poor passenger in front of me was told to return at 6:45 — more than three hours later — to check in for the next flight. He, being a nice guy and aware that I was also trying to make the flight, turned and told me the situation — that he’d have to wait three hours in the departures area just to check in to PD728, and then proceed to the gates. I felt sorry for him, but also felt relieved that I already had a seat confirmed on PD728 — Porter had emailed me 24 hours before — and assumed the staff would check me in so I could at least proceed to the terminal A gates, which are infinitely nicer than the departures level at Dulles. However, before I had a chance to do so, the two staff members put out a sign saying the counter was closed and disappeared into the back. I called to them; no answer. I waited a few moments; they did not return. I was incredulous. They didn’t even speak to me; they simply assumed I was in the exact situation as the passenger in front of me (who I didn’t know) and closed up shop.

About an hour later I realized my email from Porter actually contained the boarding pass and barcode I’d need to get through security. Luckily I could now kill three hours in a better part of town than Dulles departures. I should have realized that sooner, but I also shouldn’t have had to figure it out on my own…I should have already been sitting in an airside lounge, having been checked in by an agent.

I realize I was asking a lot to move my flight up, and that extenuating circumstances (a passenger wrestling with visa issues) made it difficult, but never in my experience has a challenging thrown a Porter employee. If Porter had lived up to my expectations of them — well-deserved expectations, I must say — I’d have been on the 4:20PM flight and home in Toronto by 6:00PM, instead of sitting in a Dulles airport bar for three hours.

I’ve been a long and loyal Porter advocate, but on Thursday my faith was shaken. I’m not sure how long it will be before my trust is restored. What I do know is that I will not defend as loudly, nor promote as proudly, the Porter service as I have in the past. And that’s a shame.

.:.

Photo by bobolink, user under Creative Commons license

Photo by kata rokkar, used under Creative Commons license

Multifarious

The best music I’ve bought lately, in no particular order:

  • Japandroids . Celebration Rock
  • Shearwater . Animal Joy
  • Sharon Van Etten . Tramp
  • Beth Jeans Houghton And The Hooves Of Destiny . Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
  • Cannon Bros . Firecracker Cloudglow
  • Jack White . Blunderbuss
  • The Kills . Blood Pressures
  • Perfume Genius . Put Your Back N 2 It

OK, I may have fibbed just now. There was a tiny bit of order: the new Japandroids was at the top of that list because in sheer rawk-awesomeness it outshines the others on the list.

.:.

Austerity pushers and vaccination kooks are giving kids in Washington State whooping cough. Or something. Warning: contains the eye-meltingly great line, “I hope there’s a hot place in Dumbass Hell for Jenny McCarthy.”

.:.

Recent movies we’ve watched:

  • Here’s how to tell when Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment has run out of movies I’m willing to watch: I watch Contraband (imdb | rotten tomatoes). It was rubbish.
  • The Guard (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was superb. Fun, and funny. It didn’t disguise the fact that it was a standard cop movie trope (big crimes in small towns, kooky townspeople, fish out of water big shot from the FBI, etc.) and it took me a few minutes to understand anything anyone said, but once it got going Brendan Gleeson was terrific and people like Don Cheadle and Liam Cunningham filled in the rest nicely.
  • Triangle (imdb | rotten tomatoes) came out of nowhere. I don’t remember where I heard about it, but it sat on my hard drive for more than two years before we finally watched it. And it was pretty good…a decent little thriller that worked just fine as long as you didn’t think too hard about the sequencing (and sequencing, and sequencing) of events.

.:.

I’ve been sending this article to just about every extrovert I know. Specifically the ones who think introversion is something they think they can help people “get over” by forcing them into social situations. Which is to say, all of them.

.:.

OK, so…the Eaton Centre shooting yesterday. Brutal. Tragic, obviously. Stupid.Worrying, sure, due to the premeditated gun violence carried out by multiple attackers on someone who is probably, at least according to early signals given by the police, directly or indirectly linked to a gang…worrying in the same way the Jane Creba shooting was. But not scary. Not to me, at least.

We know the questions will come about whether we’re worried about living five minutes away from the Eaton Centre (well, ten minutes from the end of the mall where this happened), but honestly it doesn’t feel that close. To be honest, I don’t even consider the Eaton Centre to be part of Toronto. It’s like this weird suburban amusement park wedged between the tackiest corridor of Yonge and ugliest stretch of Bay, in which no non-teenager valuing their sanity would set foot for more than a few moments, and into which no actual Torontonian would walk of their own volition. So that underground food court where the shooting took place seems to me like a far-flung, unknown corner of the city.

As it happened, Nellie and I walked through the mall (straight through, actually…there’s a shortcut from Yonge to the Mercatto abutting Trinity Square) about five hours before the shooting. Had we chosen to eat dinner there instead of a late lunch we would have been there for the shots (albeit two levels up) and would have rushed out with the rest. But even knowing that, there’s no feeling of fear due to proximity. It happened somewhere else.

.:.

Featured image by kata rokkar, used under Creative Commons license

One more reason to switch

Well, that was good timing. The reservation desk at Porter called me today to suggest I catch an earlier flight back to Toronto because of the impending storm. They changed my flight over the phone, and I left about an hour an a half before my original flight time. The weather was fine for the entire flight, if quite windy in Toronto which made for a bumpy landing. I hopped in a cab and arrived home around 7:30. Ten minutes later I looked outside: snowstorm. 10-15 cm tonight, supposedly.

Would Air Canada have called me to reschedule because I might have weather problems later on that evening? I think not.

.:.

A study in duality: Starbucks vs Wal-Mart. [via Richard Florida]

[tags]porter air, air canada, starbucks, wal-mart[/tags]