I’m supposed to be somewhere over the Atlantic now, heading to London before I make my final destination in Wales. Unfortunately, Canadian Affair (and yes it sounds like a bad soap opera, but is actually a charter) downsized our 5:15 pm flight tonight, so I’m sitting in a hotel across the street from the airport. It was a weird situation — 200 passengers, all with tickets and seats, being told there was no room on the plane.
I’ve never started a riot before, but was accused of that tonight. When the crack airline staff decided not to address the passengers and tell them what was going on, I eventually chimed up in my best big voice.
“Can someone tell us what is going on?” I said loudly. Suddenly the chaos became quiet. Heads turned, and one of the four police officers standing nearby came over quite quickly.
“Do you have a problem?” he asked.
“Yep, I think the staff of the airline should be telling us what is going on,” I replied, “instead of talking to customers on an individual basis. I’ve been in this line for almost two hours — the least they could do is explain what is going on.”
The cop, Constable Piper of the Peel Police, middle aged, thick of build, with short cropped greying hair,was now two inches from my nose. I could smell his breath. I thought of offering him a mint, but wasn’t sure how he’d take the suggestion.
“Well, SIR, I think you need to keep your voice down,” he said sternly. “Cause we have 300 people here and I think you’re trying to start something and if you start something and they follow you, I think we’ll have a riot.”
I was going to argue that the crowd wasn’t nearly that big, but I didn’t think he’d find my pathetic attempt at humor to be funny.
He continued to stand with his nose almost pressed against my face. At first I thought he was joking. I’m not the riot type, in my fake aged blue jeans and Shinnecock sweatshirt. I just didn’t want to miss my round at Burnham and Barrow, a links near Bristol. I also thought my seven-day trip done at that point and felt the staff should explain what had happened and what was going to happen. I looked around and thought the mix of older passengers, a few students and some tired parents with kids didn’t look like the riot types either. I may have been able to lead these people to a Tim Hortons, but that would be about it.
I told the cop as much, but he wasn’t about to go away.
“I could drag you out of here,” he whispered in a deep breath as I tried to step back. “Nothing would stick, and you’d win the war, but I’d win the battle. Is that what you want to do? I can make an example of you if that’s what you want.”
Wasn’t sure where he’d come up with the riot concept and since I wasn’t being aggressive, and I couldn’t figure out why he was going nose-to-nose with me. No, I replied, all I wanted to do was get some answers and be on my way — one way or another. A trip to the police department wasn’t in the cards. I looked around. Riot? The lady in the wheelchair and the pensioner behind me didn’t seem like they had it in them. But I guess I have leadership potential — or at least Officer Piper thought so. I stepped back, but he didn’t relent. I think the kids call this “getting up in your grill.” I thought I’d told him once again that I wasn’t trying to start anything — I’d said this several times by this point — but apparently it was either a) a tough week or b) he didn’t comprehend my point. Probably a combination of both. Or a power tripping police officer who struggled with basic concepts. Hard to say.
He then decided that my position wasn’t clear enough. So he threatened me with violence. My hands were still in my pockets, where they’d been when this whole affair started. I must admit I started to wonder where this was headed. Damn me for standing up for my rights as a consumer. Hate to see what this guy might be capable of if he dragged an aggitator away from a political rally. Telephone books anyone?
“I could put your arms behind your back and drag you out of here right now,” he said breathlessly, apparently getting angrier, though I couldn’t figure out why. I must have looked confused at this point — because I surely was.
“Nope, I don’t think that’s what I’m hoping for,” I said, trying to step back again, almost bumping into the wide-eyed older lady standing behind me, who later told me she was stunned by the “f***ing fascist.”
“I’m just hoping to get this flight issue straightened away,” I said calmly.
“Well I don’t want to hear anything more from you,” he said.
Anyway, there was no riot. Instead after an hour of confusion there were $25 in meal vouchers for a place where entrees were priced at $28, and a comfy room at the Sheraton across the street. And my flight is now scheduled to go at 6 a.m., not that I fully believe it. “I call bullshit on you,” said one angry Scottish fellow when the answers he received from the Canadian Affair staff were found lacking. In fact, it took them almost an hour to figure out what to say. I’ve seen poor customer service from airlines, but this was a new low.
He could still be right — which means tomorrow I’ll be at home, or off playing golf near Toronto. Or I could be in Wales getting ready to see the Celtic Manor and undertake an adventure up Wales west coast.
I say the odds are about even on which why it’ll go right now.
But I’m keeping my opinions to myself — my rioting days are over.
So I’m still destined for Wales — we’ll see whether I get there.