How I got stuck in an airport for 11.5 hours

Dec 03, 2020 12:13 pm

Last weekend I travelled to Canada from outside Portland, Oregon.

My parents live in southern Nova Scotia and had found a deal on a property we just couldn't pass up.

Kari and I used our hustle and project-management skills to somehow manage to get our house on the market in 4 days, sold in 14 days, and closed in 40 days. We also gave away almost everything we own, keeping only a 7' x 7' "pod" and 3 suitcases worth of things.

Giving away all your worldly possessions is pretty liberating, but that's a story for another day.

We did all the paperwork we could find, we even used a Canadian Immigration Lawyer to help us get it all organized. I am a Canadian Citizen, Kari is a US Citizen and Faith, our 4-year-old, is dual.

Everything went smoothly.

We got everything packed that we had planned to keep. Shannon Rose did her realtoring and got the deal done on time. Subin from Royalty Trips was early to take us from our hotel to the airport. Check-in went great with Air Canada. We got through security in a breeze... it was all going so smoothly.

Even the border people at Customs and Immigration were fine, we handed them the paperwork and showed them a few documents and he sent us off to customs.

This is where things went off the rails.


Customs wasn't properly labelled with any signage except a poorly printed paper printout on a giant poster stand. The lanes to get up the counter were all roped off. We had to ask the information-lady and she sent us back to the same place.

Once we got in there we waited in line until we were called.

It was not the right place. This was customs for people with work permits only. Why that's separate from normal customs, I have no idea.

They directed us to another room off from the main airport, another which was not marked or easy to find. Once we got in there, we waited in line again. When we were called up, we showed them our paperwork and were asked to go sit down.

All the while, we're carrying 6 carry-ons and trying to entertain a 4-year-old.

We had another 30 minute wait there, all the while our time to get on our connecting flight was ticking away.

After this, the customs officer told us we had missed a piece of paperwork. I mentioned that we were told they would fill out that paperwork, and he said something along the lines of, "well we could, but we don't have the information we need to fill it out."

"Well guess what, if you told us that when we looked on the Customs & Immigration website, we'd have filled it out."

That's what I wanted to say, but you don't talk to border-patrol, customs, or immigration people in anything but a positive, thankful tone... unless you want to sit in border purgatory, which happened to me a long time ago - but that's also another story.

We can do the paperwork again later, it'll just be an expensive pain in the ass, so they direct us to the exit with direction to go around the corner and up the escalator to our flight.

Every exit is literally roped off.

After circling the giant room a couple times trying to leave, we flag down a customs officer who then apologizes and removes the security barrier so that we can leave.

"Around the corner and up the escalator," was actually a 4-5 minute walk through what seemed like the entire rest of the Vancouver, BC, airport. And just to top it all off, we now have to go through security again - for no reason, since we went through security to get here in the first place.

Finally at security, we have 10 minutes left to make our flight, and the line is short. But wait, there's only one security station open. It's taking forever.

I ask the guy running the security line if we can get through because our flight is leaving right away and we were stuck in customs through no fault of our own.

He does nothing.

The lady in front of us let's us cut ahead of her in line. That drops into a new line, and at the rate it's going, we're not going to make it. Not even close.

Then to add insult to injury, the lady who let us past her in line gets some kind of "random screening" which only takes a couple minutes and they let her past the line through security. Something they could have done for us, but they didn't.

Instead, we left the line and found a nice man at Air Canada who booked us a new flight and called to get our bags taken off for us in Halifax since we wouldn't be there until the following day.

Then we spend 11.5 hours masked-up and trying to avoid people in Canada's second largest international airport, while entertaining a child when the kid's play places aren't open and neither are any of the stores.

All in all, we managed to keep her entertained and hopefully COVID-free, and we boarded our red-eye to Montreal, followed by a 6-hour layover there, and on to Halifax.

We're now happily in our mandatory 14-day quarantine in Port Royal, Nova Scotia, happily no where near an airport.

Roll With the Punches

In travel, like in business, you have got to roll with the punches.

Things are gonna get messy. Bad timing, bad luck, unexpected events (pandemic?) are going to happen.

If you do your best to prepare but know, deep-down inside, that no matter how much you prepare, something will still likely go wrong, you'll be adaptable.

You will understand that when challenges arise, you are not a victim, you are an entrepreneur and you can handle it. You take care of business. You get shit done.

Now go out there and be profitable.


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