Let the journey begin.
In order to give an accurate portrayal of how the adventure started, I have to go back to Sunday. After arriving at Rogers Centre before eight o’clock in the morning for the afternoon Toronto Blue Jays game against the Detroit Tigers, I found myself hoping for a quick game. I had a lot of driving to do post-game, and I needed to pack for the month-long trip, and I was hoping to get some sleep.
I thought I had a chance, too. With Mark Buehrle, the fastest pitcher in the majors, matched up against David Price, a strike-throwing ace, I figured the game was my best bet to allow me some extra time before flying out first thing Monday morning.
Cue the longest game in Blue Jays history. Both teams went through each and every one of their position players, altogether they used 18 different pitchers, and Jose Baustista mercifully put an end to the madness after 19 innings, six hours and 37 minutes later. I didn’t leave early.
So more than 12 hours after I had arrived, I left the stadium. It was a little weird knowing that I wouldn’t be back for the next homestand, missing the first one in my five seasons with the Toronto club while I am in Japan. Hopefully it won’t be the same for the rest of the crew in the control room without me there, because who doesn’t want to be missed?
I headed out on the highway en route to London, for a brief stop to pack up my belongings at my mom’s house and leave my car there for the month. Along the way, I called my brother Michael and begged him to change my oil while I am away. I am overdue for the change, as per usual. I started the conversation attempting to convince Michael to feel sorry for me because of all the driving and all the baseball. I was unsuccessful, which makes sense since it’s not really a tough task to sit and watch baseball all day long. And this time I really mean it when I say ALL DAY LONG. But for whatever reason, he agreed to deal with my car and I love him for it. He doesn’t read anything I write, and certainly won’t read this, so don’t tell him. I don’t want it to go to his head.
After arriving in London, I struggled through the packing process. As I mentioned in an earlier post here, I am terrible at living out of a suitcase, even though I have done a lot of exactly that. I did manage to get everything that I thought I needed – I am sure there will be plenty of items that will never make it out of my suitcase and I’m positive that I will have to purchase something along the way – into one suitcase, one carryon, and my backpack. I actually made a packing list in an attempt to be prepared, and I completely forgot about it. I also knew my large piece of luggage was overweight, and I didn’t care. I was ready.
So at midnight, it was time to head back to Toronto. After a solid two-and-a-half hours sleep, I made it to the airport ready to really start the journey.
Pearson Airport was abuzz with people, and many more than I’m used to seeing since I usually fly out of Buffalo or Detroit to go anywhere. I fought through the crowd (not really) to find an empty luggage scale. I had to figure out how many items I might have to rearrange or discard after learning just how overweight my luggage was. A flight attendant was near the scale I went to and she ever-so-kindly answered my questions about Air Canada’s specific restrictions. After mistakenly telling me the limit was 23 pounds – yes, a mini panic attack ensued – and then informing me she meant 52-and-a-half pounds, I managed to get my heavy bag on the machine.
My luggage weighed EXACTLY 52-and-a-half pounds It was a Christmas miracle!
So, basically my day was made. That’s important to note here because it is about to turn into a little bit of an uphill climb.
Security lines were long and I was redirected to one on a lower level, so that’s where I went next. I waited and fidgeted around on my phone until I was finally close to the point of inspection. As a part of the pre-screening process, a security agent used some sort of magic wand to do a preliminary test for explosives on my person.
The results came back positive.
Of course they did. And it was my waistband that tested positive. The waistband of my Lululemon leggings that I could not possibly hide anything in if I ever wanted to. It actually didn’t seem so bad at first, because they pulled me and my bags out of the line and moved them right to the conveyor belt to go through the x-ray machine. I had jumped the line. Then they stopped me and gave me a choice of two ways to be inspected. I don’t know what the second option was, but I took a groping. A young woman felt me up and down, from going through my hair to picking over the bottom of my shoes, before she sent me to another young security officer, who had my bags in front of him. He went through every pocket of every item I brought while asking me questions about my vocation, if I was on any medication, my plans and what I had touched lately.
My answers sufficed, and they let me continue on my way.
I then had another minor panic attack when I went to Starbucks at the airport and couldn’t find my credit card. I had other methods of payment, but losing a credit card, especially before leaving for a month, is probably not ideal for anyone. I thought I might have left it in the pocket of the jacket I had worn the day before (which seemed like years ago at that point), but upon further inspection, I found it. It was right where I left it the entire time. That was fun.
It wasn’t long before we started boarding the plane and rolled my carryon past the awesome seats, through the less awesome sections, and then even further, all the way to the back corner, but not before putting on a great public display of stupidity.
I arrived at my assigned seat, D39, and someone else was sitting in it. The lovely man and I both pulled out our boarding passes and confirmed that we had both been given the same seat number. How silly of the airline. We called over the closest flight attendant, who in retrospect probably had a lot of better things to do, and she patiently informed us that we were both actually looking at the gate number, not our seat assignments. As nonchalantly as possible, though clearly embarrassed, I proceeded to my seat on the aisle of the middle row at the back. The guy who had made the same mistake I had, whom I named Guillermo in my mind because he reminded me of the guy from Jimmy Kimmel Live, arrived to his actual seat to find someone in that one as well. It was their bad, this time.
With everyone clearly aware of my ignorance, both on the plane and reading this post currently, I would like to try to defend my actions by saying that I probably slept about 10 hours combined over the three nights of the weekend, and point out that the gate number was circled on the boarding pass, just shouting out at me. I just couldn’t think outside the circle.
I had aspirations – as I often do – to get work done on the flight, transcribe some interviews, write some stories, and even to make an attempt at starting this post. But sleep deprivation takes precedence. I had my headrest pillow provided by Air Canada, plus a nice little blanket they offered. It reminded me of my flights to Australia, and then made me wish that I was going to Australia. But I was in the middle row, so that’s not my favourite.
Then, I couldn’t get my seat to lean back and I seriously thought there was a problem with it. I asked a flight attendant for help and he proved, for the second time that flight, that I am just an idiot.
At this point in the day it is only seven-thirty in the morning eastern time and I am this far into this post, so be prepared to continue reading. Also know that each post will not be so long or specifically detailed. Naptime on the plane provided a break, and less for me to write about.
Having the aisle seat in the middle row of three rows at the back of the plane has advantages and disadvantages. I always prefer the window seat because I can control the light and lean my pillow against it to sleep on. I am a big travel sleeper, and a big leaner. One time when I had an aisle seat, I made friends with the guy sitting next to me pretty much just so I could lean on him and sleep. It worked. I get my ability to sleep anywhere and everywhere from my father.
For the purpose of sleeping, my greatest need on this flight after getting to my destination, my seat was less than ideal. But because there were aisles on both sides, the guy in the middle of the row – who wore a Yankees cap because of the “iconic logo” and strongly disliked the sport of baseball – never bothered me to get up. Maybe it was the uncomfortable sleeping position I was in, with my body twisted so my head could rest underneath the headrest, because I am not tall enough to fit normally, or maybe it was the intimidation factor from my snoring, because I know I did some of that. I’m not proud, but I’m not embarrassed either. I might have even been drooling too, who really knows?
All in all, I got a little bit of uncomfortable sleep and was not bothered by the passenger next to me. I’ll take both of those as wins.
After waking up for the umpteenth time and realizing that there was probably no going back that last time, I checked the flight status on the monitor. It’s something I probably should never do because I am too often disappointed, but I didn’t learn my lesson on those long flights to and from Australia. The screen informed me that we had travelled over 1100 miles – I have no idea why they would forego the metric system on a domestic Air Canada flight, but whatever – and we still had almost 600 miles to go. Great.
I actually did get the slightest bit of work done before landing, enough to say that I did, so that was a plus. Then I had to meet my mother, who also flew into Vancouver – with a first-class upgrade that I don’t want to talk about – and will be vacationing with me around Seattle and Vancouver while I try to get work done. She had already picked up the rental car so we were on our way quickly.
We arrived at my mother’s cousin’s house to open arms and a welcome greeting. And plans for the day. We quickly went on our way to a couple of scenic Vancouver places, first heading to Granville Island and the market there, then to False Creek, and finally to the totem poles at Stanley Park, which apparently have no name other than what they are. Everything was awesome and beautiful and I killed my phone with all the pictures I took and the few that I posted on various social media sites.
Then I had the opportunity to meet up with a former Brisbane Bandits colleague and my favourite Australian umpire, Tom West. He is currently working in the Northwest League and just so happened to be behind the plate for the Vancouver Canadians game on Monday night. So he and his umpiring partner Derek were in town and we got to have lunch and catch up about all things Australia. Derek didn’t really get much in, but he did hear a lot of great Australia stories and catch up on his Brisbane Bandits follows.
Tom also tried poutine for the first time, and got to see curling on television. You’ll see it in the background of our photo, for proof. I learned more about umpiring and asked questions mostly about the relationships umps build with catchers and then found out that the men in blue behind the plate and on the bases get warnings about the Famous San Diego Chicken. It’s interesting stuff.
When Tom and Derek had to head back to their hotel to get ready for the game, I met up with a few friends from home in London, also where the Famous Chicken is from. My very-pregnant friend Allyson moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago with her husband Ryan and this summer our friend Amanda came out to visit and to try and get a job in her field of study. The four of us had dinner – event though I was all messed up from the time travel and late lunch – and then headed to Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium. Big shout out here to the people at the Old Spaghetti Factory of downtown Vancouver for charging my phone while we ate.
My first visit to the historic Canadian stadium was great. I loved every bit of it. The Canadians took an early lead over the Tri-City Dust Devils, lost it, came back, and held on. The atmosphere was great, with a crowd of more than five thousand people for a Monday night game. I don’t know how much you know about minor league baseball, but that is amazing. Take my word for it.
I spent some time talking to Tim Raines, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, former Montreal Expo, and current Blue Jays outfield and baserunning coordinator, and that was great. I almost got him killed by two foul balls but I love talking the game with him and haven’t been able to do so since spring training.
When the bleacher-style seats became too uncomfortable for eight-month-pregnant Allyson late in the game, I decided to ask one of the stadium ushers if we might be able to move from the benches into the slightly-more-comfortable seats. We weren’t trying to be annoying or make other people mad with the move, and it was already the eighth inning, so take it easy if this makes you upset. But the usher was wonderful and she asked someone with more authority to see if they could do anything. They did, and I have to say the Canadians were more than accommodating to our request and wonderful will helping my friend and making her stay at the ballpark more comfortable. Extra points for customer service.
Vancouver won the game and I introduced my friends to Raines before they headed out. Post-game, I got a chance to see Tom and Derek once more before I left to head to bed just to leave for Seattle in the morning.
So, if it isn’t obvious, the first day of the journey was pretty solid, as long as you don’t count the Jays and Tigers game that tried to hold up the whole thing. Rogers Centre was just giving me back all the baseball that I will be missing when Toronto returns home.
Off to a great start, and can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.