A funny thing happened on my way home

So last week, I was huddled with my mom back in Oakville, Ontario. No, I didn’t publicize this because — and utterly no offense meant to anyone — I didn’t want to see anyone but my Mom (and by extension, my sister and her family).

The story here isn’t the journey to Oakville, or even the events in Oakville. This is about my trip home to Calgary.

To maximize all the time I could get with Mom, I booked an early morning departure from Calgary, and the last possible flight home. The last possible flight departed from Toronto (as normally scheduled) at 21:45, via WestJet (I don’t fly Air Craptastic anymore, unless I have literally no other option). This meant I could do visiting, and have a (mostly) relaxing flight back.

Murphy, it seems, stowed away in my luggage.

First off, there was a heavy snowfall warning in Calgary yesterday. This normally leads to massive delays (and cancellations) at the airport — hell, even a good thunderstorm can screw things up for hours. So I started watching the (online) arrivals board constantly, looking for problems.

(Side note, airports and airlines: Honestly, get your mobile support for your websites figured out. I want to RELOAD a page frequently, not resubmit a [CENSORED] form. Also: checking a flight status should always be prominent on your mobile home page. ALWAYS. And yes, Calgaryairport.com, you need a mobile version. Badly.)

The day, however, seemed to go well in that respect, and the worst that happened was a posted 30 minute delay on my flight, because the equipment in use was inbound from Cancun (and presumably incurred a delay there). Half an hour is annoying, not brutal.

Cathy was very kind to drop me off at the airport (in lieu of a taxi); I had her drop me off early so I could get some more work done while waiting for the plane (I also knew she wanted to get home and relax herself, and the earlier she was home, the better). I had hoped to hang out in a bar, notably the Mill St. Brewery, which has a brewpub at Toronto Pearson.

Problem: Mill St.’s pub is in Terminal 1. WestJet flies from Terminal 3. I wasn’t keen on hopping terminals, just in case the flight got bumped to a different plane, and the times changed. That left Fionn McCool’s, an “Irish” pub just beyond security. I use the term “Irish” only in the sense that the term is what’s used to set expectations … every single one of which McCool’s missed. As I commented last night, the place was grossly lacking in authenticity.

The beer seemed half-strength in every possible meaning, and they somehow produced sweet potato fries without any discernible flavour whatsoever. Now, given, I was officially sick (exactly where I’d obtained said illness is a matter for pointless debate), so yes, I could chalk that up to dulled sense, I suppose. But I can’t, because I knew damn well I could taste the “spicy mayo”, which was … well, I dunno what was in it, and I’m not sure I want to. Saving grace, at least the staff there was so unorganized that I didn’t have to pay for the fries.

The plane for our flight didn’t arrive until nearly 20 minutes after time we were supposed to depart. It was another 40-45 minutes (honestly, I stopped keeping track) until we boarded (I half-expected WestJet to just cancel the flight and reschedule for the morning).

My highlight of the night? WestJet’s satellite TV. Discovery Channel. Three hours of MythBusters. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I passed out for about 30 minutes of one episode. (I’d been up since 6am; I was exhausted.)

We landed in Calgary just after 01:00 MT, taxied to the terminal, and headed down to get our bags. The moment I hit the baggage claim — the carousel hadn’t even started yet — I was on the phone with the Alberta Motor Association (our provincial branch of the CAA), to arrange for someone to come and unlock the car so I could go home.

Oh, right, I didn’t get to this part yet. Lemme rewind a couple days.

On Monday, it was realized that:

  1. Allen and Jean (who’d come out to help Alex with the kids while I was gone) needed a way to get to the airport.
  2. The process in which I’d driven to the airport, and deposited the keys with left luggage so Allen could pick up the car when he arrived in Calgary, had worked splendidly.
  3. It would cost about $120 for two taxi rides (Allen and Jean to the airport; myself home).
  4. Wouldn’t it make sense to do another car exchange? (Even with a $10/day parking fee.)

Well, there were some logistical issues. Notably: left luggage closes at 23:00, and I wasn’t (originally) due until midnight, thus making key exchange difficult to the point of impossible. (Well, without running fear of theft, anyway.)

The major problem was how to get into the car. I needed a key. After some back-and-forth, it was decided to mail the key to me in Oakville. Well, not so much “mail” as “least expensive couriered option possible”, since an overnight package for a mere car key would have been — wait for it — nearly $80. Which is a bit much. End result: two-day package with Canada Post, which — in theory — had enough time to arrive.

Now, I have to say “in theory” because that requires Canada Post to actually deliver the [CENSORED] thing. Which,three days later, they still haven’t. The tracking information says it’s only been accepted in Calgary. So far as we know, it still hasn’t left the [CENSORED] city of origin.


Realizing this at 13:00 MT on Wednesday, we started Plan B. Which, oddly enough, was not to just take a taxi (which was my original preference, as I figured I’d be dog tired by the time I got in, and struggling with a car wasn’t on my list of things I wanted to do). Instead, I figured this was an excellent time to do something I’d been seriously considering for a while (but hadn’t done), and sign up for AMA again. We’d let our old membership expire when we moved to Costa Rica, and driving around with two kids was starting to worry me about having a car problem. (I’d had one before — thankfully solo — which was my first regret for not having the membership.)

$90 later, I had a membership number, and a backup in case the key didn’t show. Which, as of 19:00 ET last night, it still hadn’t. (As of 09:30 MT today, it still hasn’t.)

I called AMA as soon as I could because I figured it’d be a long wait, especially with all the snow. The agent confirmed that: roughly an hour and a half, but they’d seen calls answered in as little as 55 minutes. Either way, I had a while to wait.

I got my bag, found a bench, and tried to occupy myself doing things that didn’t involve using my iPhone, because I needed the battery to hold its charge long enough to get the call and meet with the AMA truck.

(Side note #2: My iPhone’s battery went way longer in Oakville than it does in Calgary. What the [CENSORED] is up with that, Rogers??)

The call came 26 minutes later. I was actually shocked. It was an automated call saying the truck would arrive in 10 minutes. So I grabbed the bags, bundled up for the -14 degree weather, and went to go find the car. Which, as my father-in-law had stated, was pretty much where I’d left it a week earlier. (How’s that for good parking karma?)

The truck arrived about 10 minutes later, as promised. The first words out of the driver (whose name, regrettably, I don’t think I ever got) was: “Is that a 2003?”

We have a 2006 Jetta TDI. It’s a decent car. (Read: Not a “great” car. It works. I don’t think I’d recommend it as a purchase. I don’t think I’d buy another one.) But apparently, Jettas are some of the hardest cars to get into, notably because of the security systems and the electronic locks, and 2003’s are particularly dicey. The driver, conferring with his AMA experts (who seem to know damn near everything), determined that the 2006 shouldn’t be too bad, and we should be able to open it. So, yay, we’re off to the races.

Or so we thought…

Getting the jimmy in the door wasn’t too hard. After that … well, the driver was stumped as to why the locks weren’t disengaging. If you’ve never seen a door jimmy, these are pretty interesting things. It’s basically a sturdy steel wire shaped with a big U, with a bent end and a metal tab that looks not unlike a guitar pick. The U part lets the tab duck under the window (which is assumedly raised, ‘cuz why else would you need someone to open the damn door), and then with some deft twisting, you press the tab into the door lock button, and presto! the door opens.

Except that it didn’t.

And wouldn’t.

No matter what the guy did, the door just sat there, laughing at him. And worse, he had to get the door open, because he needed his tool back, and you can’t remove the tool if you can’t open the door.

Did I mention that it was well after 02:00, -14 C with a northerly wind, with lots of blowing snow? And this guy had frostbitten hands? (And my gloves were not meant for that cold.)

We huddled back in the truck, letting the blasting heat warm us up a bit. The guy hopped on the radio to discuss other options.

  1. Break the window. Thanks, but no thanks. I did not want to pay untold (large) sums of money for a new window. I’d rather wait for the key to be returned, and pay the extra days to get it out of the lot.
  2. Get a locksmith to break in. See above, but even moreso on the “no” side, merely for expense alone.
  3. Tow the car to a dealership and let them get into the car. Still involves a lock, see above notes for cost.
  4. Try the longer tool again?

In addition to the jimmy was a long (also very sturdy) metal rod that could be squeaked through the door (with an inflatable “jack” to move the door over a little), in hopes it could do a better job. The first one (he had two) hadn’t really done that great of a job, and had little effect. But after a pep talk, and a bit of hunting to find the “bigger” rod, we decided for one last shot before calling it a night. Early morning. Way too tired to really know which is better…


Bigger rod inserted (no euphemisms, please), and more fishing, pressing, hoping, and attempting to shine the light in the right place.


Two grown men, shouting like high school football players. That’s what you would have seen at 02:50 in the Economy Lot of the Calgary Airport Authority, just next to the #8 pole. Holy crap, were we ecstatic!

Swearing profusely, I managed to dig the key out of the trunk (I had to pull down one of the seats; the narrowest one, of course) and use the flashlight app on my phone (so glad I have one, and why isn’t this a built-in feature?) to retrieve the key that was, of course, as far away as it could possibly be from me. The car, realizing that the game was finally up and there was no more point in resisting, started without complaint.

The tool was removed, hands shook, bags loaded, car scraped (mostly) clean of the snow and ice, and home headed towards.


I titled this “A funny thing…”, didn’t I?

Oh well…