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Archive for December, 2010

Wishes for you

Happy New Year to all!

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I am home now and really happy to be back in my own surroundings, although the cold and snow leaves a lot to be desired.  It could be worse.  The weather is actually better than when we left.  It is Christmas eve but there is enough snow to get Santa across the world.  I have asked old St. Nick to give this house a pass if someone more needy can get a bit extra.  I will give him a helping hand today.

When I left Jamaica yesterday, the young man who checked me in was the same one who had been responsible for helping passengers to complete and process their missing luggage form.  He smiled in recognition as I approached the check in counter.  I thanked him again for being so polite and respectful on the day we arrived.  Just as he did then, the booking-in details were done quickly and efficiently.  I would not have expected less.  My original seat was moved to allow me to have a row all to myself as the aircraft wasn’t full.  That was a bonus courtesy of the young man.  I slept for 2/3’s of the flight, undisturbed.   

Before we took off, and I don’t know if this is by design,  I was seated over the hatch door which takes in luggage.  Through my window, I could clearly see both of my two cases being loaded.  The sight of them was reassuring.  How often does that happen?

 It wasn’t busy in Toronto when we arrived.  I got through customs and immigration quickly.  I made my way to the carousel to collect my luggage.  It hadn’t come up yet.  We were that quick.  Of the first four bags to come out of the shoot, both of mine were included.  Divine intervention or help on the ground?  I don’t know.  For me at least, alls well that ends well.

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As one would expect, the arrival of the luggage was frought with anxiety and disappointment. I received the long awaited call early on Friday. ‘Your luggage has arrived in Kingston.’  What sweeter words could there be?  I didn’t even want to think about the journey the suitcase had undertaken. The caller gave me a range from today or  tomorrow. I stated unequivocally, tonight please.
Since I had already discovered that the office closes early, I was waiting until the 5 o’clock hour before allowing anxiety to set in.  If the luggage didn’t arrive, there would be no one to call. As the evening wore on, hope faded along with the setting sun. No one does business after dark and driving around the Island with luggage from abroad seemed to be almost asking to be hijacked. By nine, all hope had gone and I resigned myself to a surety on Saturday. Not long after the release of my last sigh, the phone rang. In a house with two women having the same first initial and last name, the call taken by the youngster of the house was precariously handed to the elder. She was probably the best person to answer anyway. The driver was lost. Could he get directions?
We stood at the metal grill, which protects most homes on the island from predators, and waited for the van to arrive. Indeed, he was not long. The young man stood in the pouring rain and unloaded quite a few suitcases in the dark, using a simple flashlight to search for the missing case among many others. Our own special markers helped him to find it quickly.
He was clearly wet and hungry.  He admitted to having many miles to go before he would get his own rest, but we were grateful for his efficiency and good manners.
This is the end of my saga. A happy ending to be sure. Others may not have such luck but in everything I found the manners to be respectful and outstanding, something I miss in the easy going cultural climate of the north.

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One thing I hope to do, this visit, is to be re-acquainted with the area where a part of my story takes place. In book two, “In the Shadow of the Blackbird”, our heroine travels to the island to recoup. It has been quite a few years since I have actually been on the north coast in St. Ann’s Bay. The area has history and is dear to me. Part of my mother’s family originated there and I have had two of the most wonderful vacations in the area.
I hope tobe able to write another story at some future time which will feature the island and its seductive beauty. In the meantime, we are under water and still without luggage.

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Day 5

You guessed it. We are still without luggage on day five.  I have been in touch with so many people in the region that it is getting ridiculous.  I will say that all have been respectful and as helpful as they can be considering that we are all at the mercy of space.  The situation is a failure to plan efficiently.  Just ensuing adequate room for all the luggage or conversely restricting travellers to an amount commensurate with the size of the plane would have solved the problem.  Neither were done by the carrier.  I am sure the long term consequences of a this failure will not bring about any resolution.  The regional director informs me by email that all too often his employees have to endure the abuse of irate clients.  what a sad indictment for a company of that size. 

No wonder that ‘Jetblue’ employee, Steve pulled the string on his career.  Failure to plan effectively has got to be the single biggest cause of the demise of large corporation.

So I wait for the delivery of a suitcase which was taken to the airport at 5:15 am on monday morning.  Today is Friday.  As a labour and delivery nurse, I can say almost unequivocally that this has been the longest wait for the arrival of anything in my life.

So?

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Status Grrrrrrr……

OK, it is now day two ‘post-landing’ without luggage.  Amazing how many places one phone call can take you.  We know all about outsourcing services.  I don’t care, as long as you speak my English.  Yesterday, I was in Mexico with a very nice lady. I had to call back several times before one connection held.  We were old friends by the end of 8 calls. 

Here’s what I know today.  The global 1-800 number for Air Canada luggage does not work although I was given the number on several occasions by different people.  Everything here closes at 5 p.m. even though planes are still coming in.  There is a small window between 4 and 5 p.m. when all uncollected luggage is checked and sorted.  If you don’t get someone at that point, it’s another day of waiting.  Most people are polite and I try to respond in kind despite seething anger below the surface. 

The logic of the whole thing escapes me.  Even if no other criteria exist for safe passage of luggage, how about first come, first served?  Pack the plane with who and what is there.  If you’re late…you wait!

More to come.

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For the first time in a long time, we travelled to Jamaica via Air Canada. The service personnel were respectful and kind to us. My husband needs wheelchair assistance and this was provided adequately.   I can’t say with conviction that anyone who transported him around Pearson had anything near the sense of humour evident in Jamaica.  However I have a lingering complaint to get off my chest.
Over the years, as we have travelled back and forth to Jamaica, we have heard numerous complaints about the service, the lateness, the luggage hassles, ad nauseum, but the truth is that in all those years I found their service exemplary.
Last year when my husband was barely recovered from his accident, we travelled down for a funeral and the help and support was outstanding. They have never lost our luggage, nor been anything less than respectful.
Yesterday, we arrived early for our flight. Forget delays due to weather.  We slept close to the airport to avoid the possibility of being caught by slippery, snowy roads.  What was the point of getting there early, only to have one suitcase left behind? In my opinion customers arriving late to the airport should have to wait for their luggage not those who get there early.

The flight was crowded.  I was surprised because it seemed so early in the season for a lot of Christmas travellers.  Everything had to be paid for by credit card.  When did cash get to be a dirty word?  Suppose you don’t have a credit card?  Much of the travelling public is woefully uninformed about modern travel.  Diabetics were fainting by the end of the flight.  Be at the airport by 5am, landing at 1.30 p.m.  Seems that even a sandwich could be included in the cost of the flight. 

The double dip landing was uncomfortable but there was a wicked wind out there. (Did you know that Jamaicans always applaud the pilot when he or she lands the plane? No standing ovation for this guy though) After long lineups for immigration things got ugly when we realized that our luggage did not arrive.

After checking in at Toronto, no luggage tags were placed on our boarding pass, so when I went to fill out the forms I had no numbers to guide the attendant. So Air Canada, not only left luggage behind for the passengers who arrived the earliest but failed to ensure that if luggage was lost, it would be twice as difficult to find the missing suitcases.

Jamaica was mercifully cooler than on my last visit.  Cooler heads also prevailed at lost luggage counter at the airport.  The tedious process of filling out the forms manually was done by a young man who kept his own cool in the face of some very angry passengers, many of them wheelchair bound and some semi-literate or unable to see.  He asked me why I didn’t complain.  We don’t.  We wait our turn in line expecting to be served in order of arrival, where I come from.  My disappointment was not directed at him or anything in the Kingston Port authority.  They screwed up in Toronto.  Maybe when the pilot had to make the turn to land, more than once, our luggage fell out. 

After three hours waiting in a wheel chair, his gluts numb from sitting, my husband and I were finally sprung from the airport.  The young lady who was assigned to push my husband was a lovely girl, who hugged us, an unusual circumstance for staff at the airport but she was fun and helpful.  She delivered us safely into the hands of our brother in law.

So we are now waiting the arrival of luggage left behind.  Am I seeing the ghost of Christmas future?  I hope not but Air Jamaica is no more.

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Thanks to people who recently read my book. I thank you for taking the time and also for giving me feedback.  My favourite and most overwhelming comment is ‘I couldn’t put it down’.  Those words please me a lot.

Everyone’s reading style is different. I like a fast paced book, full of information, teeming with activity and scenes with lively and intense dialogue. This is not for everyone. Writing long passages of descriptive scenery feels as if I am usurping a reader’s right to extend their own imagination.  Occasionally, I find that the beauty of the world around me was worth the space if I could do justice to it.
One of the lovely things about a blog is an opportunity to find those words in a shortened format.
I would love to write about all this snow which has come our way this past week. However, an aching back and sore shoulders prevent me from finding anything beautiful just yet.  I doubt that anyone will be interested in dialogue born out of my discomfort and frustration. I will be going away for a few days to a much kinder, gentler climate.  Let me see what the warmth of the sun can generate as  inspiration.

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