I had barely settled in the regular hum, click and rotation of my brain functioning exclusively in readings and lectures (with my body struggling to keep up) when I found myself once again flying home to be with my family in Edmonton and St. Albert.
Due to the circumstances of my visit home, the flight was booked last-minute which resulted in a layover at the Regina airport. Despite the fact that I have experienced over 16 different takeoff and landings in the past 12 months, I was unfamiliar with the Regina airport, and accidentally walked into the baggage claim area before I was sent in the right direction by the helpful airport security.
Back at the gate area, I looked at my ticket for the gate number of my flight to Edmonton. It was blank, and my eyes were weary from studying for the entirety of the previous flight. "What gate should I be at?" I asked one of the airline employees. "Back at this one," she told me cheerily, "your flight is in about and hour and a half, so be sure to be back here by 8 o'clock."
I became kind of excited at the prospect of a new airport to explore, until I realized that returning to the gate by 8:00 p.m., wouldn't be an issue. . .
. . .because I couldn't walk away from it. The departures area of the Regina airport was limited to say the least, and I couldn't walk more than 100 feet without hitting a wall.
In fact, this was about the most exciting thing in the airport. This chair, that is, not that guy's cowboy hat. (My flight from Regina to Edmonton was on a plane that seated about 50 people. I was one of only two females on the flight, the rest being middle-aged white men. Three men on the flight were wearing cowboy hats. For the record, the correct way to place a cowboy hat in an airplane storage compartment is with the brim facing upwards.)
In case I got confused and lost in the airport, and became so weak and parched in the strenuous search to find my way again, there was this handy map that highlighted all the water fountains within the massive airport. Helpful!
There was also this outdated picture depicting the typical Saskatchewan census population: old, senile people, and sketchy guys with moustaches.
Regina was not the kind of place to kill an hour and a half late at night. I was not impressed.
And then a rash started to develop and itch on my wrist. I blamed it on Regina.
I wandered to the small coffee area, where I ordered from a girl maybe a couple of years older than me. She had bags under her eyes, and her hair was in a sloppy ponytail. She reminded me of the cliched characters you only see in made-for-tv movies. "She would be the single mom character who works in a diner to pay her bills," I thought to myself. All that was missing was the checkered uniform and nurse shoes.
Waiting for the coffee to brew (the girl had insisted on putting on a fresh pot for me), I sat and watched the few other people also waiting for their flights, and started scratching my wrist, and continued hating Regina.
And then it hit me. My cynacism and snobbery towards the Regina airport were distinctly Torontonian in nature. Five years ago, the airport wouldn't have seemed boring or empty to me--I would have just been captivated and excited by the prospect of flying somewhere.
My bad mood started to dissipate, and I took comfort while I listened to the coffee shop girl talk on the phone in a distinctly Prairie accent. "How was school today?" she inquisitively asked the caller.
This is home. This is what I know. And for a moment, I didn't feel like an Albertan, and I didn't feel like a Torontonian. For the first time, I felt both.
I suddenly felt very Canadian.
"Coffee's ready!" the girl called out.
I went up to fill my cup and asked her offhandly, "Are you from Regina?"
"Yah. I'm from a little hamlet right outside of Regina."
"Oh," I said. "That explains it."
"What?" she asked.
"You have a rural accent," I told her, walking back to my table, fresh coffee in hand.
A smile spread across her face. "You seem like a talker," she said, grabbing a photo album from behind the counter
She sat down at the table with me, and we began looking through her scrapbook of Saskatchewan together. "I put this together because people always ask me questions about Saskatchewan, and I wanted to show people that's it's not just being able to see your dog running away for 5 days." She told me about uranium and the dinosaur beds, and about potassium. With each word and picture, the pride spilled out from her lips, but even more shockingly, so did the information and facts. The pictures were rich and colourful and carefully taken. "That's my daughter," she told me, pointing at an elementary-aged school girl.
Jen told me that she had been working at the airport to save up money to go to university. "It's strange how people think you're stupid just because you work in a job like this," she said. Jen has the capital of every state committed to memory, in addition to the historical succession of every Canadian Prime Minister. It wouldn't surprise me if, in addition to knowing the history of Canadian brick-making (which she does), she also knew the chemical properties of uranium.
"Some people look at this job at just a way to earn money and complain that it doesn't pay very much and it makes them miserable," she explained. "But I figure, why not talk to people while you're here? You meet so many different people from all over working here. I play games with the businessmen who come through here while they're waiting. I challenge them to name all the states. I memorized all the state capitals because people like it when you know something about their home. It makes them feel good."
Jen made me feel very Canadian.
After spending the weekend with my family in St. Albert, Alex Dodd and I spent Sunday shopping. After I bought a $30 dress and complained incessently of hunger, he decided that we should go out for an early dinner. "But only if you wear the dress," he told me.
Dressed to the nines, me in my new flimsy black dress and heels, and Alex in his suit, we went to the Blue Willow restaurant, cribbage board in hand. All our fellow diners (all of whom were over the age of 65, which is part of the thing that makes the Blue Willow so awesome because listening to 70 year-olds talking about spam e-mail is unbeatable entertainment*) were clearly jealous of our card game.
Full and happy, we went to Whyte Ave. to pick up some vegan chocolate cake from Mosaics. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations. Even more unfortunate, we ran out of gas.
While Alex ran to get gas (sans jacket, mainly because he hadn't brought one apart from his suit jacket) I sat in the car, sitting on my feet to keep warm, and text messaging my cousin for entertainment.
She somehow thought it was funny.
Not even close to funny, I assure you.
Me= Not Impressed.
Alex had been missing for nearly an hour, so I started making up rhyming songs that involved a lot of profanity. Mainly about being cold. And hating Alex for forgetting to put gas in the car. (In his defense, the gas gauge is broken, and I also forgot to remind him. And
he ran to get gas while I sat on my ass in the car.)
Alex finally returned, poured gas into the car (sopping it all over himself and his suit) and then we discovered the battery was, in fact, dead.** He tried to wave someone down to help, but they actually spun their tires in the snow in an effort to get away from us faster. I also discovered my AMA membership has been cancelled.
With no other easy solution, his uncle came to boost us and we finally made it home by around 8:30.
The moral of the story?
Don't trust Alex Dodd to remember anything, ever. But do know that he'll keep you warm and even lend you a jacket to cover your bare legs even though he's cold, too.
Or maybe the moral is to not have broken gas gauges in your car.
I'm not really sure.
*The second best thing about the Blue Willow is that when you're done your meal, they bring you these hot towels. But they get you to stick out your index finger, and then they spin
them onto your finger!
Alex has to take notes for his cabbage roll restaurant in Radway. And the third best thing about the Blue Willow is that they have vegetarian spring rolls and vegan meals. Yes!
**There was foreshadowing to this earlier in the day, too, when I got into a fight with Alex about how to properly boost a car. I explained that the proper way to boost a car is to show some cleavage, approached a male, and simulatenously look really pathetic but in a cute way.