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COLUMN: Best way to ride the bus is by air
Everyone has a “Christmas Story.” That one tale you pull out year after year to share with family and friends.
It can be a great adventure, a perfect holiday, a horrendous experience — whatever — as long as it’s entertaining and contains a little humour or a “feel good” ending.
For years, my personal Christmas story involved my older brother, his night in jail, a trip across the border with my dad and tearing open presents under our tree trying to find bail money.
That one always gets people laughing, except for my brother.
But enough said about that.
This year, my first in Nelson, I experienced a new adventure. While it won’t usurp the “Let’s Bail Shaun Out Of Jail on Christmas Eve” story, it is a nice back up to tell in case everyone has heard the other one before.
This year, my wife and I decided to go back to Abbotsford for Christmas. Having only been in Nelson for two months, it made sense to travel back to the Fraser Valley to spend the holiday with our three children and our parents.
Pearl decided to drive down, taking our two dogs with her. That left me to find my own way back, on a Greyhound, on Christmas Eve, for nine and a half hours.
Happy holidays to me.
Still it was a good plan. The bus leaves at 9 a.m. and arrives at about 7 to 7:30 p.m. That allows me to get to my wife’s family’s Christmas Eve. party and I get to see my grandson for a little while.
Then Christmas Day with my parents, Boxing Day with my son (the one that couldn’t make it to Christmas Eve,) then drive back to Nelson with my wife and dogs on the 27th.
Piece of cake!
That is until I arrived at the Nelson bus depot. That’s where the adventure begins.
Having had little experience dealing with travel in the Kootenays, I just assumed everything runs as planned.
The bus, I was informed, was three hours late — at least! There was something about snowfall and the driver needing a certain amount of sleep and safety concerns — blah, blah, blah.
The fact is the nice Greyhound employee was being very helpful, but all I could hear was “you aren’t going to make it home in time for one-third of your holiday plan.”
Add to that the fact that I wouldn’t see my grandson or my wife’s family. Okay, I wasn’t too upset about that — but my grandson!
More importantly I had to tell my wife I wasn’t going to make it. Bah Humbug!
A quick phone conversation convinced me that failure was not an option. My wife has a unique way of talking that hints that she’s crying, although she says she’s not. It’s a certain tone and just the right pause on certain words that tells me, 800 kilometres away, that she’s upset by the news.
Now I’m not sure if that’s part of every women’s DNA, but that voice may have told me things were all right, but it meant get here any way you can.
She may not be able to work the TV remote, but she can play me like a pro.
Cue the Mission Impossible music.
I decided to take a risk and jumped into my truck and drove to the Castlegar airport.
If the bus can’t get me there, maybe a plane can! I knew my chances were bleak, it was Christmas Eve morning after all.
And a quick conversation with the ticket agent confirmed it. The next flight to Vancouver was at 2 p.m. and seats were hard to come by.
No Christmas miracle for me, I thought to myself. But I was wrong again.
There were some empty seats on the 9 a.m. flight she told me. I wasn’t sure how that helped considering it was after 10. However, that flight, like my bus, was delayed and leaving Castlegar in three minutes. All passengers had already been sent through security.
Tragically she said she couldn’t sell me a ticket because it was too late to board.
That’s when the begging began.
It didn’t take much to convince her and once she cleared it with security, I was good to go. Except for one problem.
My truck was sitting in the parking lot and I had not purchased any kind of ticket. I was willing to pay the tow charges and thought I’d just leave it there and get on the plane.
But again I was taken back by the friendliness of the people in this area.
The security guard at the airport asked me for my licence plate number and told me to get on the plane. He said I could pay what I owe when I got back.
I’m from the Lower Mainland. That kind of trust, generosity and kindness is pretty much foreign to me.
Long story short (I know too late for that) I was in Vancouver by 12:30. A quick Skytrain ride to Surrey and a car ride to Abbotsford and I was there hours earlier than if I had taken the bus. All thanks to what I call Kootenay Kindness. The trip went perfectly, if not how it was planned.
My wife getting sick all the way back to Nelson, well, that’s an after Christmas story.