Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 13 - A Rollicking Trip Home

It was 1:00 in the afternoon, and I was sitting in the lobby of our Best Western, surrounded by our luggage. I suddenly flushed, and my breath became ragged. Unnoticed by others, my heart raced, and my thoughts went wild. I was checking our boarding tickets again and realized I had made a mistake. We weren't leaving Nanaimo at 3:00; the flight from Vancouver was leaving at 3:00. The flight from Nanaimo had left at ten that morning. We were going to miss our connecting flight.

I quickly worked out our options as I waited for Art to return. I thought, perhaps, if we were lucky, we could take a sea plane (twenty minute flight) to Vancouver and catch up with that connecting flight. I alternately scolded and pleaded with Art to hurry, as we trundled our luggage to the harbor to get our tickets. I usually appreciate his easy-going pace. Not this day. 

As I sat impatiently in the Harbour Air waiting room, my neighbour touched my arm. Her mother is deaf, and she was wondering if I might watch out for her to make sure she caught her shuttle at the other end. At the word "deaf", my focus instantly shifted. I don't have as much opportunity to practice my ASL these days, and I delight in the opportunity to practice. As the daughter talked, I signed to the mother. The mother signalled to her daughter. The woman asked, "My mother says you can sign".

"That's right," I say, "aren't we lucky?" Then rushed down the ramp with the mother to the waiting plane. Art followed.

The flight was as much adventure as Art and I would dare, dipping in the air pockets, bobbing and weaving in a most queasy way. Art is white-knuckled on such trips, and this was no exception, great views notwithstanding. I was wonderfully distracted, chatting away in a combination of lip-reading and sign with my companion. Noisy little airplanes are no obstacle for the deaf. I translated the pilot's instructions. The mother chatted happily with me, and every time we dipped, she joked we could swim the rest of the way. This mother, deaf from birth, was not introduced to sign until she was in her forties, so she is not fluent. Nevertheless, she is very skilled at communicating in a hearing world, lip-reading where sign failed. She is the mother of seven children, from South Africa and travelling to London next to visit one of her other children. She lost her husband of many years to cancer, I think. I could see that without her companion, finding people to chat to, to connect, is an ongoing challenge. The hearing can be so blind. 

She let me know that our finding each other was the work of the Lord. I can barely argue. What should have been an anxiety-filled trip quickly evaporated. Her daughter should not have worried. The mother found the shuttle driver and had her luggage in order before Art and I were fully out of the plane.

Despite our best efforts, we were still ten minutes late for the connecting flight. This meant another interminable line-up, a grim-faced Air Canada worker doing more than she needed to, rearranging our flights. Instead of leaving at 3:00 that afternoon, we left at 10:30 that evening. I took the opportunity to set myself up at a wi-fi bar and marked papers. Art watched the hockey game.

The flight was hot, close. We dragged our luggage (with some practiced ease, I must say) to the final cab ride to my friends' house in Northeast Calgary. Art and I whispered our way to the ready guest beds, and crashed.

P.S. Guess where our luggage is stored on the sea-plane? In the floats!