A Different Interrogation

Landing in Dublin we are feeling a little shite, covered in shite, deep fried in more shite and then stuffed with shite. The upthrust: the 787MAX8 is shite.

I know this well as the flight attendants have played video games on the back of my seat for several hours. But we land none the same and after thinking about and preparing for the Customs and Immigration we are ready for their questions. A small bonus, the plane will empty from both ends and since we are flying “‘rewards” points we are at the far end and get to exit early.

Into the airport of a foreign land we wander looking for the Baggage and Customs. We are Canadian. We are braced for what comes in Customs; a questioning practice started by the Nazis and continued by the supremacy movement in the US. As we exit there is a sign that points to Customs and Exits and we start the march to the exit. Will our brothers from the same mother let us in?  Is there something we forgot? I think, got the prescriptions in the bottles, no large amount of money, no drugs I must declare.

I think on this as we march from where we land to Custom and Exit. Legs barely working from the wonderful Air Canada flight on the 737 MAX HATE. As we continue I curse more though silently, this was my plan and at this point I hate it, thanks to our number one airline. After what seems like a forced march for the entrants into the Airborne we reach the Customs agents.  The questions;

  • Why are you here?
  • How long are you staying?
  • Isn’t that 737 Max 800 just shite?
  • Why haven’t you visited before?

The last with the most force, a wonderful example of the people we will meet. After assuring the young lady will we be spending some time in Dublin we are left to look for an exit and our bags. The bags are easily located, Air Canada being deprived the ability to lose them by being a direct flight. And for Customs, the first lady being only the Immigrations. We find the doors to custom guarded by a couple of lads that should be playing rugby. There are two sets of doors, one blue and one green – inquiring as Dave is a smoker with more than 200 smokes as to the path –  we are sent through the green doors. Where we  merge with the folks through the blue doors. Why?

I can only hope that it is for the sheer fun of it, I am hoping the Irish are a fun and wonderful bunch and if this is an indication I won’t be disappointed.

The 737 Max-8

Boeing’s much vaunted 737-800 Max is a delightful aircraft.  Air Canada touts it as the most efficient, most comfortable, most delightful, yadda, yadda, yadda.  We’re certain the airlines love it, because it’s good on gas, the major expense for airlines.

We were on one for our flight to Dublin, out of Montreal and discovered something Air Canada doesn’t mention in the brochures:  You must be only 5’ 8” and a max of 120 pounds to actually fit on the damn aircraft. Anything larger or taller and you don’t fit.  Scrim is 6’ 2” and I’m a 6-footer, which means our thigh bones are more than 30 inches long. The seat pitch on the aircraft? 30 inches.  Exactly long enough to wedge your legs into place and cut off the circulation on a ten minute flight. For a five and half hour flight you are risking permanent paralysis, pulverized kneecaps and/or the lower four vertebrae in your back compressing up into your kidneys to make room for your skeleton.

You try using the lavatory with two vertebrae pressing a kidney up into your liver.

Seat width is 18”  Scrim width is 24” For the math-impaired that is 6 inches less than is required for Scrim-width.  Fortunately there were only two of us in a row of 3. Had there been one other person seated in the row, there could have been charges of adultery brought.

Seat recline?  It does. About as much as an old-school Voyageur Colonial Intercity Bus, which is exactly not enough to either be comfortable, or bolt-upright.  Just enough to strain your neck and cause you to wriggle around to find that extra 1/8” recline that would actually feel acceptable. But you can’t wriggle around because your thighs are locked into place and you can’t feel your feet anymore.

The party line is the passengers love it because the screen on the in-flight entertainment is so big, the aircraft smells new and it has a ceiling like a 787 Dreamliner.  If we’re playing “mine’s bigger” sure, the screen is big. Yes, the aircraft smells newish. Ceiling like a Dreamliner? Who gives a dancing damn as long as it doesn’t have a ceiling like my parent’s recreation room from 1971 and the ceiling keeps the pressure in the cabin at flight level 34.  We don’t want to be trying to suck air through the combination aquarium hose and empty margarine container that is supposed to drop down in front of your face.

We checked with those who are truly in the know, crew.  The general consensus is the aircraft was not designed by anyone with any flight attendant experience.  You get a counter about big enough to set down one (not two or more) boxes of in flight service orange juice.  There isn’t enough room for cabin crew to sit and the lavatories (two at the back) are exactly wide enough for nobody.  Much like the Concorde, you decide if it’s a standing or sitting performance and move into the lav pointing the right way.  You can’t change your mind once the door is locked.

There are benefits to the aircraft.  The Thwates seat-back entertainment unit has a remarkable air route display that you can shrink or change perspective on so you can see a cartoon icon of your flight going over Sodomy Bay in Newfoundland.  There are musical choices, movie choices and even an entire channel devoted to “Hinterland Who’s Who” documentaries from 1965 (“The loon is a native bird to Canada…”) but all this falls to the wayside because your entire body from the nipples down has been so compressed by the shitty seats that you can’t even tell if you’ve soiled yourself until you stand up.  Then you fall over because your knees are suffering from hypoxia.

Five hours later we descend into Dublin

The Trouble With Via 1

So the journey is about to begin and we are meeting at the train station. For reasons I can’t even remember, but possibly tied to some ancient Scottish blood, I’ve book us economy to Dorval rather than VIA 1. As the missus and I arrive as the station we find Marylou and greet her, David is off in the distance picking up the tickets. This confuses me as I’ve already printed the tickets and have this covered – only to discover as David appears that he has upgraded us to VIA 1; all of the Europe travel I’ve booked is first class and this inequality seems disturbed his sense of balance and well being.

Bidding the ladies farewell the two adventures fight the madding jungle of peasants to reach the safety of the first class lounge. Brief struggles and we are in, hoping for coffee and perhaps some nectar of the golden fruit, alas we are beckoned to the adventure, of getting from Ottawa to Dorval in moderate comfort. Boarding the train we settle into our seats. New seats on VIA 1 that make it nearly impossible to have a discussion with the person beside you. We sojourn on with grave reserve; eventually our grand patience is reward with a drink, one beer each.

Serving staff do what they can, but the true horror has yet to be revealed. We finish our drinks, faster perhaps then was planned as it takes some time before the announcement of the feast – chicken tikka or a cheese plate are the options (weren’t there three before). Slowly the meal is served front to back ladies first as it should be. As the cart finally rolls up to us and the ladies opposite in the aisle and facing us, it is our turn. Having now seen both of the meal options there is a sense of dread – neither option looks edible. Gone I guess are the days where train travel, nay, VIA 1 meant you were well fed and well liquored for the extra money.

Bravely we choose the chicken dish. The chicken cooked so dry it probably came off an Air Canada flight as a rejected meal, the vegetables near mush, flavourless. The tikka flavouring an insult to the companies that make imitation tikka flavours for women’s prisons. The chicken is accompanied by a spiced carrot cake the has no really flavour and a mushy sticky texture. There is also a bag of “Sun Chips”, chips designed for the infirm and insane on the basis the the infirm don’t have a choice and the insane will either assume this to be a sign of the apocalypse and kill themselves or try and determine exactly what the flavour is and this will tip them over the each to a fully to a catatonic state.

This is at least accompanied by a glass or two (not more) of wine. All of this leaves you wondering if the VIA 1 is worth the extra cost and if VIA itself understands the term service. All of this reinforced by a formula one style driver in the shuttle bus dropping us in the far end of the terminal leaving us to walk the mile or so back the international end of the terminal. Where we meet Air Canada’s 737 MAX 8.