New Brunswick. The province everyone drives through on their way to Halifax. The province everyone forgets on elementary school geography tests. The province with the capital city nobody can spell (why spell it Fred-eric-ton when you say it Fred-ric-ton?). The province where I spent my wonderful university years. The province I love above all others. And finally, the province I went back to a few weekends ago.
I had also forgotten just how friendly everyone is. I stopped at a coffee shop on my first day, and I think by the time my latte was made, I was anticipating the barista’s upcoming nuptials almost as much as she was.
The amazingly chipper 77-year old owner of my quaint B&B and I started off every morning watching home improvement shows, and discussing her upcoming operations for her blockage (what sort she didn’t say and I didn’t ask!), and whether her son would marry the scandalous young woman he’d brought with him the last time he visited (I was unsure if the woman herself was scandalous or it was her age that was causing the upset).
After four days of basking in the wonders of old friends and Maritime hospitality, I began to feel as I’d come home.
And then I went to the airport to catch my flight back to Ottawa, and realized that perhaps I’d spent too much time in much, much larger places. While I knew I didn’t need to arrive as far in advance as I would have in say, Seoul, I was unprepared for the Fredericton airport. (I’d flown in at night.)
The parking lot was empty, and so was the departures area. Had I mistaken the time?
“I’m going to…” I began, as I placed my bag on the scale.
“Halifax,” the check-in man announced, smiling. “You must be Carrie.”
“I … um…. yes,” I said, handing him my passport as ID.
“Oh, no need, dear,” he replied, pushing it back across the counter. “You’re the only one on the flight I didn’t know.”
He attached the luggage tag, and directed me to carry my bag down the hall, and around the corner.
Right. Normally this is where the conveyor belt whisks my bag off to go who knows where, until we meet up again at our destination. This carrying thing was a little perturbing.
I followed his directions, and went down the hall and around the corner. There I found a large X-ray machine that looked like it was out of 1950’s spy movie. The gentleman in front of me was loading his oddly-shaped baggage onto the conveyor belt, and I gathered from his conversation with the security guy that his checked baggage consisted of several rifles and a dead deer.
“You can check things like that??” I asked in amazement.
“Oh sure,” they both replied, smiling at me as if I was the weird one. “As long as the carcass doesn’t leak, it’s fine.”
I had meant the guns but I suppose leakage would be a bit of a problem as well.
On my way to the departure lounge, I stopped again at the check-in counter to ask about my seat. I am not so keen on heights and prefer aisle seats. My boarding pass was unclear so I thought I’d ask.
“It’s all the same, Carrie! Have a great flight!”
Right. What did that mean? I decided to buy a muffin.
“My cousin made these this morning,” the cafe lady informed proudly. “Eggs from her own hens.”
My boarding pass said Gate 3 but when I consulted the sign, I was startled to see that the gate options at the Fredericton International Airport consisted of Gate 3, 4, and 5. What happened to Gates 1 and 2? And why have 3 gates when all flights went out to the tarmac through the same door?
I had been sitting in the departure lounge for a few minutes when the friendly check-in guy came in.
“Everybody is here for the flight. Why don’t you all just get on the plane and leave a bit early?”
Everybody was here? I counted quickly. 14 people. Who were all getting to their feet. What did he mean, leave early? Weren’t there flight plans to be followed or something?
Bemused, I followed everyone out on to the tarmac to our plane. Or rather our paper towel tube with wings. There was one seat on each side of the aisle, no overhead bins, no reading lights, and the air vent was by my elbow. Oh dear.
Perhaps I would feel better if I had quick pee. No bathroom. My bladder immediately started clamouring for attention. I opened the air vent as far as it would go; perhaps I just needed some more air on my elbow. I hoped the air wasn’t recycled throughout the plane, especially if the deer corpse was in the luggage hold.
“Calm down, calm down, calm down,” I was muttering to myself when a man in uniform boarded the plane.
“Hey Bill!” the gentleman across the aisle called out.
“Bob! Nice to see you!” he replied, stuffing something under an empty seat. “Gary! Brenda!! Long time, no see!”
“So I’m the captain,” he announced looking directly at me.
Was I the only person on the plane who didn’t know anyone else??!
“If you have any questions, or need anything, just let me know.’
Pardon??? Dude, if I have a question, and you answer it, who will be FLYING THE PLANE??? That’s when I noticed that there was no door to the cockpit.
The flight was thankfully relatively short (40 min) and calm, until we got to Halifax (where they apparently didn’t care that we were almost 30 min early). The weather in Halifax was unexpectedly windy. I know this because as we were landing (which is super awesome when you can see out the front of the plane), a large gust knocked us rather violently off course.
“Woah-ho! That was unexpected!!” the pilot called back cheerfully. “I’ll just line us back up with the runway.”
And that is why cockpits have doors.
As I boarded my flight from Halifax to Ottawa (which seemed astonishingly spacious- 2 seats on either side of the aisle, and two bathrooms!) I thought about what a lovely weekend I’d had. And I decided that the next time I go to Fredericton, I will take the train.