Thursday Tidbits

Posted on April 15, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments

Feeling rather small amongst these towering trees

Pete MacDonald photo

 

“There is only one way to avoid criticism. Do nothing. Say nothing and be nothing.” Aristotle.

I am guessing that Ari, the esteemed Greek philosopher, never attempted to travel in the middle of a global pandemic. I know I shouldn’t write this post. It will only fuel the wrath of some people who think that people like me are selfish and thoughtless for ignoring the travel advisories. I am not going to once again try and rationalize my decision to get out of the north for spring break.

I am guessing that there are some of you who are mildly curious to understand what is actually happening out there. There are some of us foolish or brave enough to tell you.

I have done my share of travelling over the years and honestly, during this pandemic, travel has never been easier. Yes, there are strict Covid protocols but compared to the usual chaos in the big airports, getting around is simple. I am old fashioned and always comply with the suggestion of showing up two hours before my flight. Truthfully, on most of my flights, I could have shown up 45 minutes before and had plenty of time to check in, go through security and get to my gate. I have never seen so many bored airport staff in all my life. They seemed genuinely happy to see customers which isn’t always the case!

The biggest thing I noticed was the silence. Other than the odd clickety clack of someone pulling their luggage behind them, there was virtually no noise. People are spread out in waiting areas and no one seems interested in engaging in meaningful conversation with their neighbor. Masks and electronic devices add to the slumber party. It feels more like a mausoleum.

I don’t know how the stores, restaurants, and bars are managing to survive in the airports… or anywhere else. Obviously, many of them are not, evidenced by a large percentage of these establishments not being open in big airports like Montreal and Vancouver. While waiting for my flight back to the north on Monday morning, I decided to load up with a big (and not particularly healthy!) breakfast. This was a strategic move. Travel in the north is unpredictable mainly because of the weather. I normally try and fill my ample belly with lots of protein before embarking as one can never be sure when they will get their next meal. And now that airlines have discontinued meals on their flights (even the 5- hour flight from Montreal to Vancouver), this is even more important. Tip. If you must travel these days, pack some food to take with you.

The large restaurant was deserted. I was the only patron. Staffing consisted of one cook and one waiter. The waiter told me that normally, they would have seven wait staff on duty for breakfast. There are no more physical menus in many restaurants these days. In this one, there was a small bar coaster on the table with a QR code on it. You simply hold your iPhone camera over it and the menu appears on your screen. There is another similar coaster used to make your payment. The pleasant 50+ male waiter seemed happy to chat. He works for a food company. Only 50 people of a total of 550 employees are currently working. The economy is in shambles as we all know. It’s rather scary and disconcerting to witness this firsthand.

When preparing to board a flight, there is no herding of cattle as is the norm. First of all, the herd has been thinned. Most flights were two thirds empty. People are safely distanced at the gate check. At the big airports, you must remove your mask and have it replaced by a fresh one provided by the airline. You can keep the custom one you’re wearing made by grandma, but you must wear the airline issued mask for the duration of the flight. Of course, they douse you with hand sanitizer at every turn. With the exception of the flights to and from the north, there is never anyone sitting in the seat (or row) next to you. The “treat bags” provided by the airlines, that are now the norm, contain more hand sanitizer, wipes, another fresh mask and a small bag of pretzels. I have enough of these on hand to open my own pandemic dispensary. I could call it PD’s PD! For those of you new to my site, my family moniker is PD which are the initials of our father, Peter Donald.

Speaking of hand sanitizer, I am convinced that I am about to lose my middle finger, also known as “digitus medius”, digitus tertius”, or “digitus 111”. I can’t say with 100% certainty that this condition was brought on by hand sanitizers, but I have had a serious rash on my middle finger for the better part of a year. I have tried several remedies including a brew of plants and roots boiled in a pot, prescribed by a Russian friend. None of them have worked. I have thought about the consequences of losing this particular digit. It would make playing guitar more difficult. I don’t play particularly well with all of my fingers intact. As an old hippie, making the peace sign would be awkward. Go ahead and try it. Most of all, the loss of the middle finger would prevent me from, you guessed it, giving someone the middle finger. How could life go on not being able to express your dissatisfaction (rage) when someone rides the ass of your car or jumps the queue in a massive lineup? I don’t play Rock, Paper, Scissors but that might be tricky too.

In order for me to come back up north, I had to complete a detailed questionnaire for the health authority in Nunavik and get a Covid test 72 hours before getting on a plane. I booked the Covid test several weeks ago at a private clinic in Victoria. You can only imagine the safety protocols in place at this site. First of all, you have to come to the door of the clinic and call them on your phone to let them know you’ve arrived. A staff person comes outside and stands 2 meters (more actually) and asks you a barrage of questions. You are then instructed to come inside to pay for the service ($245). You are escorted back outside where you sit in a chair like a recalcitrant school child and wait for the nurse. There is a separate door to the testing facility which leads you to the testing room. The nurse is dressed in a hazmat suit and enough masks to embarrass Zorro. I was wearing a ball cap and thought I would be polite and set it down on her table. That was a definite no no. Every move and every gesture is closely monitored, obviously for the safety of the nurse. She was a great lady and I managed to get a few chuckles out of her.

Less than 24 hours later, as promised by the clinic, I had my test results. 74! I’m only joking. Even though I was pretty sure I didn’t have Covid, it was still a relief to get the results. I was very impressed with the entire process.

The night before I left Victoria, Peter and I had a great feed of Thai food. They didn’t have a patio, so we ordered takeout and took it back to our hotel room (where we were watching The Masters). When I went inside the restaurant to pick up our food, the young woman who handed me my order expressed sincere gratitude for the business. These establishments are getting hammered. I encourage those who are able, to support small, local businesses. They desperately need your help in order to survive. Remember, many of these businesses support your sports’ teams, cultural activities and charitable causes.

Hang in there. I’m almost done.

Montreal is the hub for travel to northern Quebec. As I approached the check in counter for Canadian North airlines, there was a long table with a phalanx of health care workers. It was pretty obvious that you weren’t going to get on a plane for the north unless you had the proper documentation in hand. (The aforementioned health questionnaire approved by Nunavik Health and a negative Covid test). The staff were pleasant and professional. I felt really good about getting on a plane after this careful screening. Part of the return protocol (in addition to a 14 day quarantine) is that I have to get another Covid test here at the clinic next Monday. Let’s face it, everyone is taking this business very seriously.

I was the last one off the plane when it arrived in Kangiqsujuaq. I know most of the people who work at the airport. Most of the people who manually handle all the bags and cargo are young men, a few of them secondary students at our school. They work very hard, often in brutal conditions. They are invariably in good cheer. As I walked down the steps from the plane, I could hear a chorus of “Welcome back, Len”. Can you tell me one other airport in the world where you would receive this type of homecoming? When the time comes, it will be difficult to leave the north.

I’ve come clean.

I’m sticking with Aristotle.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. The photo at the top of the page was taken by my talented son, Peter, during a hike through an old growth forest outside Victoria (Francis King Park). I had the same feeling in this forest as I have had many times walking on the tundra. It makes you feel small and insignificant in the annals of time when you see 800 -year old trees and mountains that have been around for millions of years. Towering Trees and Timeless Tundra. As the band Kansas sang “All we are is dust in the wind”.

 

 

 

 

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