I have been in many airports. This is the biggest airport I have ever walked into. It’s dark. There seems to be five or more floors. I can’t locate or read any signs. I’m being bumped into left and right. I feel really nervous and even scared in this airport because I’m alone and lost.Having just cleared customs after my flight from Rio, I’m standing in the Sao Paulo airport trying to find Air Canada check-in. I make my way around in circles, always ending up in front of the same McDonald’s. Clearly, I can’t figure out where I need to go on my own so I try and ask one of those people wearing yellow “ASK ME” vests. He informs me of where I need to go, and I end up right back at that same McDonald’s again.
I try asking somebody else and wind up in the complete opposite end of the airport and I still can’t locate Air Canada, Terminal B. I begin to walk around in quicker circles until I eventually find myself locking eyes with the glowing Air Canada trademark. Finally.
While waiting in the long lineup, I felt myself begin to relax. Soon, I can check-in, get my boarding pass, and sit down and relax while waiting for my flight.
Wrong.Within no time, I receive the oh-so-familiar lengthy check-in procedure: the attendant avoiding eye contact with me, typing ferociously, failing to fill the awkward silences, giving a phone call to someone for “confirmation”, pointing to the screen confusedly to a fellow employee, peering at me perplexed, supervisor hovering over their shoulder examining the screen. . .
“Is there a problem?” I always decide to ask at the moment I feel the lineup growing behind me.
The response is generally somewhere along the lines of: “Just one moment, please.”
Because it was established on my way to Peru that I was on “The Black List,” I knew what was going on here. I always had my suspicions from many other flights, but now it has been confirmed. I probed a little more, inquiring why there was an issue. Once again, I received the explanation of my name being similar to a name of someone who is blocked. I don’t even want to know which name they might think I am. It gives me the shudders. This is my least favourite thing about traveling. Being stopped, blocked from the kiosks, selected for a “random” check . . . it’s happened more times than I can count. It looks like I just have to anticipate going through it every time I travel. It can really suck the fun out of being in an airport, though. Maybe one day, after so many check-ins, I will be removed. I can only hope.
As I make my way through security, I was stopped by a guard. He spoke hardly any English and I was at a loss of what he was trying to communicate to me. Since he ripped my duty-free bags from my hands I bought in the airport in Rio, I assumed it had something to do with duty-free. He looked over my receipts and shook his head. I asked for my bags back, which was full of souvenirs for my mom, dad, and sister. He wouldn’t give them to me, and kept pointing at the receipts like I had done something wrong or had committed some significant crime. The only way he would let me pass was without my bags, so off I went without my things.
I placed my travel satchel on the security belt and walked through the scanner. Having previously been able to go through security with water in Peru and Argentina, I thought Brazil would be no different. My giant water bottle was ripped from my grasp. I had become pretty attached to that water bottle, in particular because of its colourful knit holder I bought along the Inca Trail. Having all my things taken from me, my spirits were way down. I went to the flight gate which seemed to be in the basement. It was packed with people and there were no available seats. So, I stood and waited for two hours until we boarded.
Flight was delayed an hour, so I stood and waited for three hours.
Finally, boarding time arrived.
At least I’ll be the first one to board since I’m the first one in line, I thought.
A separate shuttle that took its sweet time to the plane and back came for the pilots, then the flight attendants, and then the handicapped. Why they couldn’t all board the same freaking shuttle I will never know. After standing and watching the giant shuttle slowly go to and from the plane with a maximum of ten people on it each – the most brutal thing to watch ever – an announcement came on in Portuguese I couldn’t understand. Needless to say, I was being pushed and shoved over the railings by old Portuguese people. A fellow Canadian from Toronto I was waiting in line with had lost his patience long ago, and demanded to know why he was being pushed aside to board.
“Portuguese board first, sir.”
And with that, he lost his head. He yelled that this was discrimination, and “this would never happen where I come from, my friend.”
“You have to wait, sir.”
This made his head pop off. “MY BACK HURTS RIGHT HERE!” he yelled and points to his lower spine.
While I appreciated his efforts in trying to board before the herds of old Portuguese people diminished, I simply gave up and deflated against the railing.
I was the first one in line out of hundreds of passengers.
I was the very last one to board the plane.