2022.09.19: Toronto, Here I Come (Or I might just be making popcorn)!

First time flying anywhere since pre-covid. Heading to a team meeting in Toronto with mixed feelings, as always: on the one hand, I’m looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in close to three years; on the other, I don’t really like traveling all that much.

It’s not so much the traveling, but the crap around it: booking; getting to and from airports; the whole security hassle; our company’s (explitive) expense system and its requirement that we use the corporate credit card for everything that they’ll eventually question you charging; and now, apparently, dealing with multiple apps.

Travel to Canada now requires you to use their ArriveCAN app where you scan your passport and vaccination record and answer all those annoying questions about carrying large amounts of cash and visiting farm areas. You have to show the app to the person when getting the boarding pass, again at the gate getting on the plane and again at Canada customs. The American Airlines app, when you try to check in, now requires yet another app: VeriFLY. I had no idea about this app, had to download it and was such a pain in the ass trying to figure out how to add my personal and flight information that I gave it up I got my boarding pass from a real person (NOTE: I did try the self-service kiosk, first, which showed me ‘we’re processing your request’ for five minutes before crapping out).


APPS IN USE FOR THIS TRIP:


CHECKING IN WITH A REAL PERSON:

Real Person: Where are you going?
Me: Toronto
RP: what time is your flight?
Me: 10:05
RP: so, that’s the 8:40 flight to Toronto.
Me: no, 10:05
RP: …(gives me a look and types furiously)

Self-service iosks and apps never give you a look. That’s the only thing I like about them.


Left the house too early to stop at my favorite place for coffee, so waited in an interminable line at Beecher’s (LGA, Terminal B) to get something, having first stopped at Bar Veloce only to discover that, even at 7:30 AM, they only serve alcohol (I actually considered it but, no).

The coffee Line. When you’re almost through the line, you’ll find a sign with a QR code that tells you that you can use it to order on line and avoid waiting in line. Very useful place to have that.

MENU BOARS AT BEECHER’S: Ice Tea – $2.49

Me: I’ll have an iced tea, please.
Counter Guy: we don’t make any iced beverages, only hot.
Me: … (giving him a look) I’ll have a black coffee, then, thanks.

Online ordering apps don’t give counter guys a look. That’s the only thing they like about them.


On board. We are on an EmbraAir E170 or 171 (seat card is for both.) My assigned seat was 20D, but I was, fortunately, able to jump the aisle to 20A, away from the pleasant, but malodorous, young man in 20F and with two seats to myself.

Boarding, a woman, expressed several times that she couldn’t believe that she had the ‘last seat in the plane! The very last seat!’ (21 C).. By several times I’m thinking that if I heard it only six times it’s because I must have missed two others while trying to fasten my seatbelt. She was incredulous and not a bit happy about it. One of the flight attendants was kind enough to find her a seat closer to the front.

I don’t understand airplane seat numbers. My side of a four-seat row they are 20A and 20C, across the aisle are 20D and 20F. It’s like someone forgot how the alphabet works. I might understand going from A and B to E and F, leaving a space for an invisible C and D, but missing letter in the middle of a sequence of adjoining seats is beyond me.

Unhappily sitting in the very last seat on the plane.

Something fun to do while flying: almost everyone takes in-flight picture or videos out the window. Using my iPhone, I wanted to try using the panoramic feature while resting the top of the phone against the window, the body angled slightly so that the phone was, roughly, at an 80° angle. Took a few pictures like this over New York City and a couple more above some clouds. They came out unexpectedly well! This technique worked well in the air, but not so well on the ground.


There was a drip above my seat I could never find the source of. I checked the air nozzles, the area around the lights and the seams around the panels: noting – no moisture and nothing dripped as I held my hand under the area and above where I had felt drops falling on my head. By the end of the flight, I began to suspect the flight attendants were spitting at me from the galley, two rows back. Perhaps turning the tables on the current spate of nasty passengers and becoming, themselves, unruly. And who could blame them? Why shouldn’t I be happy to oblige by giving them a target for their pent up hostilities.

The galley – the mischievous flight attendants were to the right and out of sight.

It was supposed to be raining in Toronto and, from the turbulence during the approach, I expected a monsoon, but, once on the ground, it was only partly cloudy.


As it goes, customs was easy. Worst part of the ordeal was walking there from the gate. It might have been a half mile but seemed longer carrying my duffle and a backpack with the world’s heaviest laptop and a power supply that looks like a black brick with cables coming out. (I would have opted for a MacBook, but that would require doing all my dev work on VMs since nothing we do do we do on MacOS (liked all the ‘do’s in that last sentence?).)

Another schlep (second favorite word, only because I feel there has to be a first favorite I have yet to come upon) was from customs to find the train to terminal 1 to catch the train to the city.


As I said earlier, the company wants us to use the corporate card for all purchases. If you don’t, you have to write a nicely worded letter of explanation stating why you didn’t. Otherwise, it has been my experience, you’ll be given a hard time even for a minor expense, such as a twelve dollar ticket for the train from Pearson Intl to Union Station, downtown. So, like a good soldier, I attempt to use that card which was, of course, declined.

I figured it had to do with my never having used the card since it was issued – I haven’t traveled, right? So, I call Bank of America Global Bullshit Services (number on the back) and the very nice woman on the other end of a ten minute hold and five verification questions tells me: no, no, the card is fine. It’s the vendor code. Your company has approved certain vendor codes and this one, 4131, is specifically denied.

Fine, I say, I’ll use another card, then asked if she could send an email (to an email address she just verified was mine) to that effect so that I can rub my company’s nose in it. Oh, sorry, no, she says. It’s against policy and some bullshit privacy policy (hence my calling it Bank of America Global Bullshit Services before). I ask for that vendor code again, write it on the palm of my hand, and verify that the card is okay for future use.

(NOTE: We have people coming to the Toronto office all the time! Why has this not been a problem before? I Teams-text a coworker who said he had the same problem. He said he just kept trying and it eventually went through, he said, by entering it as a new credit card. Really? Ok, next time.)


Walk from Union Station to the hotel (about 15 minutes) was hot, but not bad. Wished I had packed lighter, though – or brought a rolling suitcase.

Hotel checkin was smooth. Was expecting the corporate card to give me another headache, but no! I even remembered my PIN number from three years ago!

Not sure if the people in the room above me are having sex or making popcorn. There are sounds coming from upstairs that could be either. Hopefully it’s popcorn.

At the hotel I unpacked my stuff – hung up pants, shirts, jacket; put away shoes, underwear and socks (I’m staying five days but, oddly, I brought ten days worth of socks! Wonder what was going through my mind.)

Now going to take a quick walk to the office, camera in hand, and see what’s up for tomorrow.

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