By no means have I traveled to the most exotic places in the world. Yet at the same time, I can easily relate to the traveler with a terrible travel story. I myself have had unfavorable experiences all the way from Florida to Tokyo. This particular story took place on a trip to Toronto Canada for a TEDx conference for the IB program (in case you don’t know, IB is a snazzy new way of teaching in schools and TED is a nonprofit organization that sets up conferences around the world where speakers speak about whatever).
Anyway, it was the first night of our stay at a reasonably hospitable Comfort Inn in one of the shadier areas of Toronto-shady to the point where we found ourselves staying across a strip club that called itself “The Brass Rail.” Then, after our bodies were tired from a brisk walk around town, we arrived back at the hotel just in time to hear the fire alarm go off. I waited with my group as everyone in the hotel began filing down from their rooms.
This all happened at around eleven thirty.
By twelve we heard the alarms turned off and the firemen make an announcement about a disturbance on the fifth floor.
Finally at about twelve thirty we saw a thin man being carted out of the elevator and saddled to a stretcher. Later I found out that the man was running around naked on the fifth floor, chanting the Lord’s Prayer and knocking wildly on doors. Needless to say, the authorities were forced to subdue him with pepper spray.
We waited another half hour for the stench of the pepper spray to clear out while the hotel management worked to reset the fire alarms. For the next half hour the alarms would suddenly beginning ringing intermittently. By the time I crawled into bed, it was after one in the morning. To be in time for the conference, we had to wake up at six.
Fast forward to the way back home on Friday, where everyone was tired and eager to go home. I had friends to chat with, family to see, and homework to do.
For hours I sat in the back seat of our cramped white van, attempting to get some work done but mostly falling asleep against the ridiculously hard headrests. At one point we got gas and I overheard our driver tell the other chaperone riding with us that he had poured just enough gas into the tank to get us over the border. Apparently the price of gas in Canada is a killer. I barely caught this but I didn’t care at the moment because I was already dozing off again.
At some point we pulled up to the customs station, just ahead of the bridge that links Canada to the United States. A palpable sigh radiated through the van when we saw a gigantic cloud of vehicles backed up as far as the eye could see. No one needed to say anything; we were all worrying about the amount of gasoline left in the tank.
We waited for what felt like a lifetime, moving forward at the rate of a snail. Our chaperones broke into a heated argument over getting more gas than “just enough.” I couldn’t pick sides because I probably would have done the same thing as our driver, yet at that point I realized that it was the worst idea in the world.
Suddenly, like a sign from God, the hold-up at the front of the line disappeared. The line of vehicles begins rushing forward and, not to be outdone, the van shot out of our lane like a horse out of a stall.
The entire way over the bridge I felt like we were in some kind of glorified taxi as we weaved our way in and out of lanes of cars, speeding up or slowing down as we made our way to the front. I remember hearing the worried voices from the front seats that told us we would have to push if the van ran out of gas. Halfway across the bridge, just before the sign proclaiming the border, we hit another traffic snag. This time there was an audible sigh throughout the entire van. The low fuel warning light blinked on.
Teeth-biting moments passed and tensions flared but we managed to make it down the bridge and to a gas station. Just as we pulled into our space the tank rat out and we stalled-right there in the space. With a triumphant grin, our intrepid driver jumped out of his seat and filled up the tank so we could get back home. After I was able to get my heart beat down, I forgave him and headed back to sleep.