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Tales from the Dump: Let’s make winter travel more tolerable

Well, here we are entering 2023.
Nice to have a photo of your luggage as you never know if it’s the last time you’ll ever see it. Winter travel, particularly over the Christmas holidays, means chaos. Photo courtesy of Walt Humphries

Well, here we are entering 2023.

It would probably be prudent for people to keep their seat belts on and their tables in an upright position because I expect there will be a bit of turbulence, now and then. It might also be a good idea to have some Gravol or ginger pills handy. You just never know when a little motion sickness may kick in. Or you could have an attack of lack of motion sickness and added anxiety.

Walt Humphries

Imagine that you are a traveller from a far-off land. Maybe even from a different galaxy. You have come to the planet to observe the mid-winter solstice activities of humans. Maybe it’s an essay assignment you were given, and you selected Canada to observe. How would you describe what goes on mid-winter to the folks back home?

Starting in mid-December, a significant portion of the Canadian population suddenly decides that they need to travel, either domestically or to a blazingly hot tourist destination. You have no idea why. It could be some sort of religious ritual or a form of youthful rebellion, but suddenly hordes of people all want to go travelling. In some areas the population numbers dramatically deflate, while in other places they inflate.

Thousands of people rush to and congregate in the airports, where they shuffle very slowly through long lines, dragging their luggage with them. All to get to the inner sanctum — the so-called secure area. This is where people mill around or sit in uncomfortable seats, waiting to board their plane. Some claim the seats were designed by old fashion Puritans as a form of penance, because most are less than comfortable.

Some sit for hours. Some for days. The airports have these big boards that people periodically scan to see if their flight is theoretically on time, endlessly delayed or eventually cancelled when the rebooking roulette on cellphones begins. Some even have to sleep at the airport. It is a sort of rite of passage for Canadians. When exhaustion sets in, they stretch out on the less-than-hygienic floor and try to sleep — no mattress, no pillow, no blankets, just you and the floor. Plus, hundreds of other people wandering around dazed and confused.

This chaos and confusion can go on for days and even weeks. It is truly amazing. At least this year in Vancouver they brought in the Red Cross to provide a little comfort, but not in Toronto or other airports across the land.

It might be time for the government to step in and put some rules and guidelines in place for air travel, ones that actually get enforced. This is Canada after all, so winter snow and storms do happen periodically. Maybe all airports should have a supply of cots on hand, just in case, along with a few blankets and other comforts for passengers.

Also, as many have pointed out, trying to get any information or clarity on what is going on can be next to impossible. This travel chaos seems to hit people at the solstice and at March break when once again hordes of people, particularly students, want to escape the North again.

Someone should make travel logbooks where you get to earn badges or rewards. Have you ever slept on an airport floor? Has your luggage ever been delayed, lost or destroyed? How many hours have you spent waiting for a flight or sat on your phone on hold to dreadful music because “they are experiencing more than the normal number of calls.” Which is entirely normal and predictable when a storm blows in. Run a yearly contest to see who has suffered the most.

It’s not just Canada that has to deal with weather delays, of course. It just seems that human beings, as a theoretically intelligent species, need to redesign the system, procedures and airports to handle them better. Let’s put the happy back into holidays.