Looking out the window of the hostel lobby in Banff this morning I am having a bit of a chuckle about the events of yesterday. Events that could have had such a different ending but they didn’t, and so I am here, still enjoying my own self-deprecating sense of humour and getting ready to head off into the Canadian Rockies to explore.
Normally my travels are filled with cock-ups, low level drama and plenty of disappearing acts up my own arse, as I try and navigate my way around parts unknown. I am the Health and Safety advocate at my day job these days so I know a fair bit about “near misses”. My life seems to be a total near miss at times but this trip has been relatively tame by comparison to some others I have taken on my own. Viv and I parted ways yesterday for a few days and will meet later in the week in Portland before flying on to scare the hell out of folks lurking in the Grand Canyon area.
I flew from Vancouver to Calgary yesterday – a domestic flight within Canada that usually takes just over an hour. It was plagued with problems from the start and there were some irate passengers before we had even boarded. It must have been the connecting flight for passengers on an international flight that was travelling on to London so we had to wait on 7 passengers to board from that late connection. The transit flight they were meeting on the ground in Calgary was being held for them so when we finally did land, they we rushed off to board it and everyone else had to remain for a further 30 minutes on the tarmac before disembarking.
It’s very rare that passengers on domestic flights enter at the International terminal in Calgary, so everyone seemed to be confused to find themselves there after disembarking. There was plenty of grumblings and confusion about the whole thing and while I don’t mean any disrespect to the average American woman, I have come across some whiney, loud and opinionated ones in recent days. There was a fair bit of bleating going on around me about the events so far.
Linda Buckner is a staff member for WestJet there. I am not sure of her official title but she roams around with a radio, sorting things out for everybody it would seem. She was as confused as the passengers at the sudden arrival of all these extra domestic passengers. Apparently, there are laws in place regarding the mixing of domestic and international passengers at terminals on arrival at the terminals. I expect it has something to do with the fact that domestic passengers have not cleared customs and this would make it an ideal trafficking situation for contraband, so even she was scratching her head about all these domestic passengers in the international terminal while trying to assist the pretty blonde whinge bucket and her very thin friend in directing them to the correct luggage carousel . Amid all the confusion , she was on the radio to a higher power. Communication is everything I say, that’s why I decided to wait with the group and find out first hand where to go to pick my bag up.
As the four of us continued to make the long walk down the corridor, there was a marked presence of police everywhere. Groups of them were in huddles, a couple were seen holding large army assault weapons clearly visible to the public, and there was a couple of handlers with dogs. Linda radioed someone to ask if there was something we should be aware of going on in the airport and before her contact could reply, there was an announcement over the loud speaker. “Please evacuate the terminal immediately, there is an active shooter in the terminal. “
Linda and I headed for the exit, blondie was worried about her Dolce & Gabana luggage! Once we were outside crouched behind a concrete wall on the edge of the parking lot and only then did I get brave enough to say to the still whining blonde waif ,“ for Christ’s sake, you are no good dead holding onto your flash bag are you?” Her friend was busy saying “this is the reason we should all carry guns – to protect ourselves” in an animated tone. I was thinking thank goodness I had buggered up and brought two lots of travel insurance before leaving home and I am so glad I didn't eat that peach on the plane in case this goes on for a bit!
Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Linda was a tower of stability and strength on that radio, checking in to a higher power with her very cool “Buckner here” as she pressed the recall button. You have to trust those folk, they are trained to deal with this sort of episode and they know the joint and I never once felt seriously in danger because the whole operation was pretty slick. That said, if there had been gunshots ringing out in that car-park, I would have been the first to be lining up for new undies.
We made our way back into the terminal after the all clear came on the radio to locate the lost luggage which eventually did turn up. Apparently, it was a false alarm, some dick had made a prank call to the airport, but the swarms of police both inside and outside the building did have the power to unnerve you somewhat even knowing that afterwards.
I gave Linda a hug, she was a bloody super star throughout the whole exercise and there isn’t anybody at that moment I would sooner have been crouched behind a concrete wall at that particular moment.
A big thumbs up to WestJet and their very cool Buckner!