With a start, I realized that the fire I had felt had suddenly died off. No longer did I feel the burning from within and outside. I was cool once more, and I was clear headed. Once again, I was on a beach. Exactly where, I couldn’t tell, but it was warm wherever I was. Looking around me, I could see huge expanses of beach to the left of me and to the right of me. Behind were dense thickets of palm trees. All I could hear was the roar of the sea, and a faint mandolin that played an all too familiar tune, yet unnameable.
The thickets moved for a moment, and I was joined by my friends. Chris, Hil, Kathryn, James, Linda, J, Ali, Stuart and Therese. They came and sat down next to me, and said not a word. We faced the west, for that was where the sun sets. Silently, we gazed into the horizon, to the disc of sinking gold. The orange glow illuminated in the front, casting long, dark shadows behind.
The music grew gradually louder, to the point where it played softly from all around. No-one made move to determine from where the music came from. We all knew the song now, no-one cared where it came from. Everything was peaceful, we were together. Then, off to our right, a male voice said:
James’ alarm was almost immediately disconnected. It was 4:00, and none of us had enough sleep to keep us going for any length of time. We had to be on the bus for 5:15, instruments and all, so we could get to the airport for our flight at 10:05 that morning. Seem a little early to get up to catch a plane? It is if you’re leaving from Orlando, but not if you’ve got to travel to the west coast of Florida and leave from St. Petersburg / Clearwater.
The last of our packing was done, and then we proceeded to clean the room up. That took some time. We had taken great care to keep the room from looking like a pig-sty (though we had successfully trashed the room about ten minutes after getting into the room on the first day), but still managed to make a mess. Because we had taken some care, clean-up didn’t take too long. At about 5:00, Suzi appeared at our door (finally), ready to inspect our home away from home. Agreeing with its condition after making a final clean in a couple of places, we gave her the key, hauled our stuff down to Dick who was waiting below.
While we were packing and cleaning, Stuart was doodling. But he had a purpose. His doodle was a picture of “Bus From Hell” (Bus One). It was a gift to Dick for his thankless job, and all the help he had been during the past five days. It would later be supplemented with donations.
Once the bus had been loaded, luggage, instruments and equipment all, we hopped on. Then things began to go awry. Murphy’s Law (or at least one of them) states that the chances of a bus malfunction are directly proportional to the necessity of that bus, and where you have to be in a certain amount of time. English translation: the damn thing wouldn’t start.
I’m by no means a mechanical whiz, but I do know when an engine doesn’t turn over. Yes, we had a problem. So while Dick fiddled around with the battery, James began action, passing a sheet that everyone on the bus was to sign their name on, and an envelope to donate money to the “Fund for Dick’s Children’s Education”. After the second try to start the bus (which failed), people began to leave as it was getting a little warm in there. James blocked the way out, and wouldn’t let anyone leave until they had at least signed their names.
The populace of Bus One gathered together on the sidewalk that surrounded the first parking lot. Dick had to use Bus Two’s radio to contact help (Warren was gone by then), but we didn’t know how long we had to wait. James continued collecting cash. Chris and I quickly noticed that we stood a chance of being stranded in Florida. Oh bummer! I guess we have to go to Daytona after all! I returned to the bus for a moment for three things: my camera, Stothart’s camera and my journal. I took a photo, Stothart took two or three, and I wrote the following:
Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40791.06
Right now we should be about a half hour to St. Petersburg. However, Bus #1 experienced technical difficulties and we’re still at the Days Inn. Crewe and Stothart were going to judge the success of the trip by the number of couples formed. Hil and Shawn formed one. I can safely say that I did not get any closer to a relationship than I was before I left. Oh yeah,
At around 6:05 that morning, a half hour after we were supposed to have left, the repair truck appeared on the scene. Two minutes later, Bus One roared to life. We immediately hauled aboard, not wasting any time. But we didn’t leave right away. First we had to make presentations. So James got to the front of the bus, was given the mike to the p.a. system and presented Dick with Stuart’s drawing, and over $100.
Dick was pleased, to use an understatement. He wasn’t exuberant, but he was delighted to have driven us around. Then he told us about his “I Love Me Wall”, which had all his pictures, trophies and whatnot, dating from his days in the navy. Dick added that Stuart’s picture was destined for that wall. I’ll tell ya, that’s an honour – and I mean it too! Then Dick swore to have us in St. Pete’s in time for our flight.
By 6:25, we were on the highway, heading west. It was still dark outside, but you could just see the patchy fog hugging the ground through the breaks in the trees. I listened to AC/DC for the umpteenth time, to keep myself from falling asleep. I like to experience life whenever possible. Besides, I hate sleeping in road vehicles – it’s annoying.
Over the course of a couple hours, the country side got brighter and brighter, the sun was slowly rising behind us as we streaked across the panhandle. I tried to take a picture of the rising sun, but I missed it both times I tried. The first time it disappeared behind a building; the second into the clouds. We wouldn’t see the sun again until we were in the air.
While I was looking towards the back of the bus, trying to take that picture, I caught sight of Therese and Stuart sleeping on each other. Normally, it would have bothered me. For some reason, I knew it to be the right thing. For a few moments, I stared for no reason. Then I smiled inwardly, and returned to my view forward.
After passing more hotels and fast food restaurants than an elephant could remember, we arrived in St. Petersburg, in more than enough time to catch our plane. Dick maneuvered the bus like an expert (waiting for some yahoo to get out of our way), stopped and wished us safe passage as we disembarked. Then we unloaded our stuff from Dick’s bus for the last time. I think I cried.
Dumping our bags on the curb as instructed, we took the remainder of our stuff and did our best to line up in alphabetical order. We were told that this was the way we were going to receive our tickets (oh joy!), but it turned out that it was so they could easily check off our names at “check-in”. We basically showed them our passports and moved on.
Instructed to meet at Gate 6 for 9:30, we moved on to do what we wanted until such time. Chris and I landed in a group of chairs and slacked off for a while. Chris was asked to take one of the seven trophies on as carry-on, and had to lug that around as well. Before long, we were watching most of the trophies and a motherlode of bags. The owners were upstairs eating breakfast. I was waiting for the in-flight, I didn’t want to break another traveler’s check.
Observer’s Log: Supplemental
We made it, loads o’ time to spare. Dick has told us that he’ll mount Stuart’s picture & the signature sheet on his “I Love Me” wall. Now we get to wait about an hour for our friggin’ flight.
When I’m tired, my brain has a nasty habit of not storing small details. That’s why it may seem that parts of this day may be moving faster than usual. Chris and I sat there for most of the time up to about 9:15, when people gave us our tickets. Chris and I wanted to sit together if it was possible, so Chris went back to Stothart to see if we could get our exchanged. While Chris was doing that, I collected our stuff (the only stuff left by that point) and brought it up to the gate, where Stothart was surrounded by a swarm of students.
Chris emerged from the swarm, wielding our tickets home. Then he started down the hall to where we sat. Chris was tired, he hadn’t noticed that I had his stuff. After whistling him back, we got into line for the x-ray machine. Over the p.a., we could hear the airline calling our rows to board. Soon, we knew that final boarding call would be sounded.
After dumping my crap on the conveyor, I passed through the metal detector (and for the first time in my life, didn’t set it off!) and await my stuff to come. Chris however, got nailed. He had to make a couple of passes through the contraption, each time having to take something else off. It was beginning to look more like a strip search. He finally passed through (I had picked up his stuff again) and were on our way out when Chris noticed that he didn’t have his jean jacket. I hadn’t realized that he had sent it through the x-ray machine too.
Then we left the building. St. Petersburg / Clearwater is the birthplace of modern air travel (at least, according to the plaque they had near one of the doors), and had no terminal boarding, we had to get on from the tarmac. It was probably for the better, we got a last breath of Florida air. It was also my last picture.
After climbing into our Canada 3000 757 aircraft, we found our seats, took the barf bags, and prepared for the flight out. I considered sleeping during the flight, but two and bit hours isn’t worth it. At about 10:00 (give or take ten minutes), the hatches were closed and the engines brought up to speed. This interrupted the safety speech (darn!) for a few moments, but then we were on a roll.
A few minutes later, we hit the airways for home. Jess was seated with Chris and I, on the window side, Chris between us. Jess was deeply engrossed in her homework, I was engrossed in the in-flight movie… until I found out what it was. “Three Men And A Little Lady” is something I can’t take before 18:00, it won’t settle with my stomach, though there are a few funny parts.
Within moments of the film starting, the trolley of drinks came around. Because it wasn’t a breakfast flight, we also got those teeny bags of nuts. I want to know who the moron is who designed those little packages. I can almost inhale the contents there’s so little. How ’bout a small ziplock bag eh? That would be a little more like it!
Anyway, the nuts and the beverage went quickly. Next to come was lunch. Jess, being a vegetarian, was asked to identify herself so that she wouldn’t get one of the normal lunches, and would receive and vegetarian-approved meal. After seeing hers, I was glad to be an omnivore.
We omnivores had a chicken-something dish with pasta salad, carrots, rice, a bun and a cheesecake dessert (which I donated to Chris as I rather dislike cheesecake). By the time I was done, there wasn’t a lot left on my tray. When I’m hungry, I’ll eat most airplane food given to me. I can’t understand why some people hate airplane food. I think it’s rather well made, and in general, Canadian airlines have good meals (though I’m told USAir also has good meals, my previous experience with them has told me otherwise).
Observer’s Log: Second Supplemental
We’re now on our friggin’ flight, headed for home. Unlike the in-flight movie on the way down (which was Home Alone), I’m not going to even bother with this one (aside from the commercial clip scenes).Lunch was tasty, I can’t understand why people say airplane food is tasteless. I rather like it myself. Mind you, it’s probably full of MSG.
Once my tray was removed, I leaned my chair back and drifted into the tunes from my walkman. I became so relaxed, time blitzed right by me. I might have even fallen asleep. Before I knew it, Chris was jarring me awake, taking my earphone plug and putting it into the airplane’s jack in the armrest. It was Paul Simon’s “Obvious Child” from “Rhythm Of The Saints”. I love that song, so I tried to sing it in my head. Then I remembered that Therese still had my CD of “Rhythm Of The Saints”, not to mention my alarm clock. I made a mental note to get them back,
Pressure in my ears led me to believe that we were descending, meaning we weren’t far off from Toronto, from home. In the back of my head, I began to play one of Phil Collins’ greatest hits, Take Me Home. Ever since the Soviet Union trip in the summer of 1989, I always think of the song when I return home.
The plane banked and passed over Toronto out towards Pickering. Then the plane banked again, turning back towards Toronto. We got lower and lower, the flaps extended fully on the wings. People soon became visible as individuals; the wheels lowered and the rushing air roared in the compartments below us. We shot over the 427 and Airport Road, over to the runway. The wheels finally hit, we were bounced a fair bit, but we were down.
Ten minutes later, we arrived at our Terminal One docking bay, and prepared to disembark. Because we were so far back in the plane, we knew that it was going to be some time before we got off. I didn’t realize just how slow. But soon, the line began to move, the three of us rose to take our positions in line, butting just in front of Bird and Crewe (not my fault if they take too long).
Then came the maze of stairs and hallways that eventually got us to Immigration and Customs Canada. There were only two lines open when we got there, but a third opened quickly. I immediately rushed over to the new line so I could get through and get our bags. Chris was not so expedient and was a bit further back. I told him that I would retrieve his.
Ahead of me, I heard the clerk as the person ahead of me what they had bought, and mentioned receipts. My heart stopped a moment. I had receipts for some of the stuff, but it would add up to over the limit I was allowed (yeah, I smuggled stuff in – name someone who didn’t). When my turn came, I had an excuse. When I was asked the question, I spilled my guts (excuse only), and got passed through.
Next was baggage claim. Stuart and Therese had already snagged Chris’ and my bags (how nice of them!), I plopped them both on the cart I had taken from the rack. We were now waiting for all the instruments to come out, so we could collect them and pass through to the outside.
In the meantime, I made a collect phone call (phoning out of Pearson is long distance, yet phoning in isn’t – go figure!) to home to let my parents know that we were alive and the plane hadn’t been blown up by terrorists. Oh yeah, and to get a lift home. At first I thought we would only be about two hours, but I was wrong.
After we had finally received all the pieces once more, we carted them outside, to Canada as we knew it. The swarm of us hovered there for a while until we were told to take all the stuff to the loading area outside of the building. Like willing slaves, we followed orders.
Before long, the line of luggage and instruments had taken up most of the island in the middle of the pick-up road. We were waiting for two buses and a truck to carry our luggage and instruments. A half hour passed without show, and I made another call to home, setting pick-up back about an hour.
Ten minutes or so after that, the truck and buses appeared from out of the blue. Loading began almost instantly. When the truck had been about three-quarters filled, those who weren’t loading were told to get on the buses for head count. By that time, it was a case of “the sooner we get home, the better!”
The buses revved up, and moved out. After stopping to replace the antennae on the buses (they smash the overhead lights when they’re on), we hit the highway. It didn’t take long to lose the truck, which couldn’t go very fast because of the delicate cargo. Forty-five minutes passed before we saw the familiar sights of home, and school. None of us could take off as of yet though, we had to unload the truck first.
Most of the parents were already there. Therese’s parents were happy to see her and Danica, as Stuart’s parents were glad to see Stuart. Then the two families began talking. I watched from a distance, and tried to think of what they’d be taking about. That’s when I learned that I shouldn’t think of those kinds of things when I’m tired… I got depressed again.
It only took ten minutes to get all the instruments off the bus and back to their positions in the music room. My parents had arrived by then, Chris and I wasted no time in leaving. Naturally, we were hit with several questions dealing with out activities in the past five days, and we answered as best we could.
My parents pulled into our driveway, where they got out. I took the keys, and drove Chris home. When we pulled into Chris’ driveway a few minutes later, his father was waiting on the front porch.
“I hate to disappoint you, but I brought him home!”
Chris and I talked for a few more minutes, and discussed what we would do for the remainder of the day. I was hoping to get some sleep, and I really needed a shower. But first I wanted to get home. So I bid Chris farewell until school the next day, and returned to my humble abode.
After relieving myself, I began to unpack. That only took fifteen minutes (almost as long as it took me to get it all in there!). I was happy to see that my parents hadn’t tried clean my room in my absence, it was exactly as I had left it… in a state of perfect disorganization. Yessir, I was home again.
But I didn’t go to sleep. I wish I had, I might have even beat Kathryn’s record of fourteen hours of sleep. Instead, I began to write this story, so I wouldn’t forget it easily. I did have that shower too, which made me feel a lot better. I watched a little tv, cleaned out the fridge (I was a bit peckish) and checked on my bike (I had sent it in to be fixed – too expensive for me so I found).
I went to bed early that night, the week’s events had completely worn me out. As I lay there in my own bed, staring at a dark ceiling, I thought of all that we had done in the past week. And I thought: “Was it worth the $714?” I could only come up with one answer…
Every damn cent of it!
Observer’s Log: Final Supplemental
I haven’t done any of my homework, I’ve either been too busy or I just haven’t been bothered to do it. As for physics however, I ain’t luggin’ a twenty pound text around Florida. The temp here is warm, comparable to that of Florida. It’s nice to be home, yet I still wish I was back in an area of Florida where the tourist population is low (i.e. Riviera Beach) for the next month. Tonight, we’re all going to sleep well, for tomorrow, we’re back in Hell!