It’s been a while since I’ve found a second to write the numerous reviews I had planned for the past two weeks but, in retrospect, I found this hiatus quite refreshing and necessary if one is to even embrace the core concept of a “vacation” properly. Although I’m actually only halfway through my vacation, I have arrived at what I like to call our “central headquarters” in the south of France. Having already visited these beautiful lands in 2019, it is now the land of respite under the scorching European heat (which I actively avoid when I can). But that is not the talking point of this sort-of little article today. In fact, before I could actually arrive in Europe, I went through an incredible trial that I never ever could’ve fancied to my worst of enemies.
With a departure date set for the 19th of June, 2022, I had applied for a new passport months ahead, well beyond the mentioned delays for Passport Canada to deal with my application. What no one could have known is that Passport Canada did not see the massive wave of applications pouring into their offices as every citizen now looks for an escape with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic lessened with vaccination and health measures. With an important labor shortage and inadequate processing methods to handle all these applications, the result was an absence of follow-up on millions of applications which led many of us to queue up in person at one of three passport centers in the city.
Having informed myself on what was going on in the wild, news outlets were relaying images of insane line-ups at these centers where people had to wait in the middle of the night and sometimes even two full days to finally enter these facilities and, hopefully, get an answer regarding their passport applications. Arriving on Thursday night, at around 2 in the morning, with rain pouring over us, I find a line with over 200 people, geared up as if they were on an epic camping expedition. And you bet that hopelessness was gaining traction and almost dominating my soul at the thought of what was waiting for me in the next hours. Thankfully, although alone in this crazy adventure with everyone else unavailable or at work, I was surrounded by kind individuals who were living through the same ordeal and managed to extract key information about how everything worked to get myself onto a special line-up discretely formed at the entrance. You have no idea the amount of resilience and patience you’d need for these kinds of expeditions. While I didn’t get my passport on that day, I was given a “golden ticket” to come back the next day, because of how close I was to talking with someone inside, so that I could be prioritized and be among the first ones to enter and that was how I survived this ridiculous adventure to obtain my passport.
Now, you’d think that that was it. That, with this beautiful little document, everything would be just wonderful. Think again. With my flight on Sunday, it is only the day before that I learn about a sudden change in my flight. No, it wasn’t delayed. Originally supposed to arrive in Belgium by lunchtime, all passengers were put on a new flight heading to Paris with a four-hour bus ride to get us to Brussels. All this because, of all days in the year, it was on the day I was arriving in Brussels that 90% of the airport workers were going to be on strike. What luck! What you also need to know is that the flight time does not change, whether you’re heading to Brussels or Paris, which means that I was condemned to a longer journey that sort of killed my plans for the first day. What can you do, anyway? I told myself that it was way better than getting the whole thing canceled, right?
Arriving three-four hours in advance to the airport, which seems to be a good standard most of the time, I find myself discovering another disaster: yes… another insane line-up for my airplane company that barely moved forward at a reasonable pace to give me any hope of entering my plane in time. With very little information even communicated to passengers, I find myself drowned among countless others, working my way forward, watching the clock tick, believing more and more, despite trying to understand what’s going on, that I was screwed, that the airplane was bound to take off without me. You won’t believe how defeated everyone was since, on top of this first line-up, there was another one building up, longer than anything I’ve ever seen, to get past all the scanners, regardless of what company you were with.
And, boy, this line was maybe 1500-2000 people long! It was as serpentine as it could get and it was quite saddening to be in it. You had the impression that you were just walking in circles at some point but one thing was for sure: almost all flights were gradually getting OFFICIALLY delayed but you only figured that out once the departure time of your flight was seconds away. It was a couple of hours after the originally-planned departure time, once finally seated in my airplane after having sprinted the last miles, still believing I was royally screwed, that the captain of the airplane informed us that this day was unusual, that it was a concoction of countless factors, including meteorological threats and an F1 event in Montreal, that delays were inevitable. This is when I realized that I just had no luck whatsoever when it comes to flying off to Europe. But hey, this was still way better than getting everything canceled, unable to join my significant other, who, by the way, had absolutely zero issues heading to Brussels just a couple of days before me!
Funnily, I had just recently finished reading A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. I decided that my vacation read would thus be The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. 1) just because I was in the mood for some historical life lessons that would put my own life in perspective… And how right I was. While it might have sounded like I was complaining about all this chaos I went through, I promise that it does not compare to anything some people have lived through during and after WWII. And, yes, I must be some kind of masochist because this is one heavy read, despite all the warnings in the world by fellow friends in the blogosphere. In some twisted way, it is still a quite appropriate pick for my adventures so far. Rest assured, since arriving in Europe on the 20th, I’ve been having a blast and I’ll certainly write up some quick posts to summarize my adventures soon! Until then, I hope you’ve all been having a blast and staying safe! 🙂