I may have mentioned this before: I’m not good with water. I got seasick watching The Perfect Storm. I can’t even get in the bathtub with getting a little green around the gills. Transatlantic flights over dark oceans elicit eight to ten hours of white knuckles and flop sweat. Yes, this from a Newfoundlander who now makes her home on Vancouver Island. Plus, I’m a Pisces, shameful for sure.
So imagine my reaction when I discovered that a work project in nearby Vancouver involved a very special mode of transport…
Sweet Jaysus. The thing is I like being employed, and my continued employment required me to suck it up. I put one foot on the first step and the whole plane tipped toward me. Turns out float planes actually float. Two steps more and I was in, bent over like a giant pretzel. I poured myself into the nearest seat, all the cheery, seasoned commuters breezing past me, oblivious to the risks that only I could envision.
Then came the pilot. “G’day!” he said, smiling from ear to ear like most Australians tend to do. All I could manage to squeak out was, “This is the smallest plane on the planet.” Either he clearly recognized me as a woman who enjoys the finer things in life or a lunatic who needed handling because he said, “You sit up front.” He grabbed my bags and I did a crab crawl to the front of the ‘plane’.
I sat in the first seat and he yelled out, “No, right up front you go, right up.” Well now, who am I to turn down an upgrade to first class. I plopped my sorry arse down and took it all in.
My main concern was blowing my breakfast all over the cockpit and causing some sort of electrical catastrophe. But even being paralyzed by fear couldn’t diminish the impact of the sun dappled Pacific, the stunning view of snow capped mountains just beyond Victoria Harbour, and the friendly face of Mick, who I now refer to as my personal pilot.
He chatted with me about how he found his way from Australia to Canada, his kids, how much he enjoyed his job, deftly keeping me distracted as we approached the big city.
He flies for Harbour Air and he’s a gem. He laughed when I splayed out like a giant spider, one hand on the roof, the other on the window, my foot pumping an imaginary brake as he made a sharp turn into Vancouver Harbour. “Crikey, I took it in easy for you today!” He forgot to warn me that seaplanes land nose down, and after I regained consciousness, I decided they should include that little nugget on your boarding pass.
The next day, I boarded another Harbour Air flight back the way I came. And while I didn’t get to sit up front, this time I was as cool as an organic B.C. cucumber. Two adorable young Australian tourists were across the ‘aisle’ (5 inches of metal) from me. They were excited and nervous, hanging on for dear life. They apologized for being so new to the whole experience and marvelled at how lucky I was to be able to do this all the time. “Of sure,” I said with a casual shrug, “this is just the way we roll out here on the West Coast.” I told them all about how I practically flew the plane over the day before and asked them if they happened to know my buddy Mick from down under. They didn’t, but they were right. I am lucky.
If there’s a more spectacular commute on this earth, I’ve never heard of it. Once you get used to bouncing across the ocean top speed to take off and then hurdling toward the ocean like a meteor to land, it’s a breeze. I bet it’s amazing if you open your eyes. Next time.