I stand in line for U.S. immigration at Vancouver airport, beside a sign warning that maple syrup is among prohibited items in hand baggage, and entertain myself with syrupy sweet plans to wreak havoc and destruction on an unsuspecting world.
I smirk at my sticky schemes and an elegant East European woman moves away from me. Twenty minutes later, we haven’t moved an inch, and she is forced to talk to me out of sheer boredom. She hears my accent and says,
“You are Scottish. Will you get independence?” Suddenly I am catapulted into the position of spokesperson for my people.
“We will do our best,” I inform her gravely.
I eventually find myself on board a rickety, 70s-colour schemed, 50-seater plane. It looks like a prop left over from an early disaster movie. It’s the kind of hulking antique they still use on routes that don’t matter, such as Dublin to non-Dublin parts of Ireland and most places to Portland, Oregon. To really underline the point that this is not a priority route, the gate for Portland flights is hidden away at the butt-end of the airport, alongside last chance airlines, such as Scotland’s own Globespan. I shudder on sight of a Globespan tail and wonder whether their planes are kept out of sight to spare airport staff post-traumatic stress after dealing with ever increasing numbers of irate, delayed Globespan passengers.
We’re all aboard, crosschecked, and nestled in our expansive, cracked, fake leather seats, when Horizon’s Maitre D’ cabin cheerfully pipes up,
“Wellllll…. it’s time for the safety demo, folks. All eyes on Feather up at the front of the cabin.”
Feather? Did he really say Feather? It appears so. Feather swipes the air grimly in what could have been an attempt at a wave or a vain effort to block out the site of our cursed, attentive faces. A perfunctory smile briefly rumples across her face. It doesn’t reach her eyes. I continue staring at her, saying over and over in my head, “You’re called Feather!” Her eyes skim over me and I hastily drop for cover behind the seat in front.
I imagine going through life called Feather: those teenage years of cursing cruel parents for inflicting such a fate upon you, the decades of having to state over and over again, “No, not Heather…” Luckily Feather looks quite light on her feet. If she weren’t so fortunate, the name would be an even heavier burden to bear. If she didn’t strike fear into my heart, I might feel some empathy for her. After all, I spent my teenage years telling the boys at Tiffany’s Rollerdisco in Glasgow that my name was Ann.
I am distracted from my contemplation by three animated 20-somethings in the row behind me who shriek “jazz hands” and throw their palms oxygen mask storage place-wards every time they see an Air Canada Jazz plane. We’re in Air Canada’s main western hub. There are a lot of Air Canada Jazz planes. By the time we lurch to the end of the runway, their enthusiasm has become decidedly less endearing.
One of the hipster guys behind me is describing a dream, a movie or a vision attained with the assistance of hallucinogenics. His sentences all sound like questions, lurching upwards at the end?
“Weird, whale-like creatures that could, like, fly? Like weird bug-like creatures that lived in the, like, mud? It was like,” he pauses to search for a word capable of conveying maximum effect and finishes triumphantly, “Weird?”
Below, thousands of logs are tied in the waters around the fringes of the University of British Columbia campus and Pacific Spirit Regional Park. By the time we’re out over the Gulf Islands, the threesome behind is lamenting the loss of the Portland contender on TV game show, Rockstar Supernova. All three sigh dramatically, only perking up when whale-bug guy suggests they amuse themselves by picking drinks off a well-stocked, imaginary in-flights drinks cart.
“It’s got whatever you want? It’s got it all? Banana lassi with rum?” he queries, and the others tumble quizzically into the conversation with their orders.
I’m just contemplating my own fantasy drinks when Feather’s superior bounds back behind the mic and chirps up again to tell us again how glad he is to be here. I’m about to tune him out when he mentions the happy fact that Feather is about to come through the cabin offering, as well as the usual run of the mill beverages, complimentary Pinot Gris from Firesteed Cellars, Oregon, and Hefeweizen Ale from Pyramid Breweries, Seattle. I am impressed. There’s nothing quite like a refreshing plastic beaker of wine for breakfast. Horizon is my kind of airline.