Vancouver is a city in the province of Canada known as British Columbia. It’s on the west coast, making it geographically speaking Canada’s San Francisco, with Toronto, Ontario serving as New York, New York. That is, if you have to make clumsy comparisons between the two countries, which I do. Vancouver is also the location of the 2017 Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics, which is why I started my journey here.
My flight started with the TSA shouting at us “Don’t take off your shoes!” and “Leave your liquids and laptops in your carry-on bags!” Then they got frustrated when people removed their shoes and took out their liquids and laptops from their carry-on bags anyway. “You’re not listening to us!” whined a TSA guard with her hair in a tight bun as I fought a fog of befuddlement and more than a decade and a half of TSA training and shoved my laptop back into its carrying case.
All of the seats on the plane were apparently first-come-first serve. I received a very tangible benefit for coming the airport so early when I was awarded comfort class seating on my flight to LA. On my six hour flight I watched the first episode of 11-22-63, the breakneck-speed television adaptation of the thirty-hour audiobook of the same name. What had been a detailed few hours of suspense, character building, and exposition in the book took twenty minutes and mostly consisted of Chris Cooper berating James Franco for being too much of a selfish jerk to go back in time to stop the JFK assassination. Then I watched Lego Batman, which, true to the standard set by the new “Lego Movie” franchise, served fast-paced Lego action along with tongue-in-cheek self-aware commentary on Batman’s nearly century-long tenure as American cultural icon. In the words of Lego Bruce Wayne, “I have aged so well.” In that same vein, despite my every attempt to tell it not to, Google’s “smart” notifications continue to insist that I watch the Emoji movie, but it doesn’t take much digging to see that it’s no Lego Movie. Vox puts it succinctly – “Do not see the Emoji movie”
Then I was in seat 2A on my connecting flight. Right at the front of the plane. This was not first class, though, only “Plus” class, whatever that means. It wasn’t until the hostess brought me a wet towel to wash my face that I understood. Plus class is first class. What’s more, where I was sitting, everything on the menu, including alcohol, is free. I got a can of pringles, a ham and swiss croissant, a “tapas box” with eight items, including red pepper bruschetta and a snack pack of manzanilla olives, and a screwdriver. At first I thought the hostess was just going to give me a can of orange juice, but then she came back with a little airline vodka container to go with it. Then I asked for a bag of beef jerky in case I got hungry in the night in Vancouver. The Dutch bodyguard sitting next to me (there was a tray with drinks in the center seat so we got to have personal space) ordered a sandwich and tried to pay, even after I had mentioned to him we were exempt in Plus class, which earned him a tongue-clucking “I told you so,” which I was more than happy to provide. Like me, it was more than clear that he had also ended up in the lap of luxury entirely due to chance. My first sight of British Columbia was scattered islands cropping up, rising from the ocean like the backs of enormous sea creatures with lush coats of coniferous fur.
Now I’ve completed my travel. I’m enjoying a private room on the twelfth story of a Vancouver high-rise, thanks to Airbnb. There’s a nest of seagulls on a nearby rooftop. I pointed it out to my hosts, who said they had been there for four months. They had watched the parents court, build a nest, conceive and then lay the eggs, and raise the children. “It takes forever” they complained. I’m loving it here already.