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Greetings from Vancouver airport where I await my very long flight back to Ontario. Yes, I’ve managed to get some work done, but am still behind, of course. Will I use this brief and valuable airport down time to catch up… or will I use it to surf Facebook and write a blog post? I think we all know the answer to that.
Many thanks tomy host Gale for showing me around Rossland, BC. It’s a stunningly gorgeous piece of the countrywith world-class ski runs, surprisingly good cuisine and remarkable mountainous scenery. I even managed to learn something… While touring the gold mine museum, we discovered that the tour guide was a geology student who had previously worked for Canadian miining companies. According to him, the mining industry is a leading indicator of economic downturns. Since exploration requires heavy upfront financial investment, it depends on speculative money to keep it going. When speculation decreases, mining exploration suffers, and the core mining business is not that far behind.
I’ve been here several times before, but each time I conveniently forget how ridiculous the drivers here are. Yeah, I said. I’ve famously written that Toronto drivers are skilled but discourteous; Ottawa drivers are unskilled but courteous; and Montreal drivers are unskilled assholes. Let’s add Vancouver to that list. Vancouver drivers are… how shall I put it? Distracted. Yes, they are distracted. Their speeds are random, their timing is poor and many don’t seem to know the rules of the road. Now, I will say that they all seem to be quite courteous; road rage appears to be missing in this town. Maybe it’s the prevalent pot smoking, but a lot of people here seem to forget what they’re doing at any given moment.
I won’t bash Vancouver anymore. I actually like it here. The scenery is great, the people are goodlooking and friendly and the food is excellent. It’s just that the flake factor is dialed a bit too high (emphasis on the “high”) for a cynical Easterner like me. In the course of half an hour I passed dancing middle-aged white Hare Krishnas, a stoned girl standing on a box and giving away “free hugs”, a “healer” accepting money in exchange for healing you by waving his hands in front of your face (he’d heal me of the affliction of too much spare change, I imagine), and of course the ubiquitous unbathed white chicks with dreadlocks, biceps Om tattoos, lip rings and tribal drums slung over their shoulders. Nothing like trying to stand out… by looking like everyone else.
I had a lovely time staying in the UBC residence (called “The Pacific Spirit Hostel” in summertime). It’s a cheap way to stay in an otherwise expensive city, and you get to wake up everyday on the most gorgeous university campus in North America. But in a moment of weakness, I allowed the dude at the car rental place to sell me on all the unnecessary options. Thus my three day car rental was three times more expensive than my total accommodation cost.
Oh well. Thanks to Anju, Ram, Cam and Jen for hanging out with me in the ‘Couver.
Hopefully the plane will board soon and I can watch my many downloaded cheesy movies and TV shows. Air Canada now has satellite TV on many of its flights, which is how I usually get to watch Ricky Gervais’ Extras. Here’s a compilation of several scenes from the fake TV show featured on Extras, called When The Whistle Blows:
I will say one last thing before I sign off: one would think that with a struggling economy and rising joblessness rates, customer service might improve, as business are desperate to keep their customers and workers are desperate to keep their jobs. But I observe a continuous decline in service across all sectors.
Air Canada is an interesting case. Never the best provider of service, they’ve made some odd choices of late. In Vancouver airport, all passengers are now required to check themselves in, print out their own baggage tags and load their own bags onto the belt. I watched a single mother of 3 wrestle with her bags and toddlers. (No, I didn’t hellp because I”m an unfeeling bastard.)
So to summarize: flight prices are going up, but service is declining in every measurable way.