Page 2 - Locked Out of Canada

Locked Out of Canada — Page 2
By Gillian Kendall

Vancouver airport travel

My dinner reservations (at groovy Prestons!) heavy on my mind, I carried my also very heavy bag back down the ice-block stairs and considered my options: I could walk back onto the dark runway to try to find human assistance, or could spend the rest of my life in the stairwell.

My plane was still there, valiant propellers still spinning, so I started towards it, hoping to find some cleaning crew still aboard. At worst I could wait in the warmth of the plane till another human being showed up. I crunched across the frost-studded black tarmac, and the Canadian wind howled unpropitiously, but then above the noises of the north I heard a little truck. I stepped into its path and waved with both arms. The driver didn't stop, but slowed down long enough to point into the distance towards another human being, so distant and small I hadn't seen it earlier. I turned and trudged towards the figure. I was hungry, shivering, and beginning to dislike the airline that had brought me here. What airline delivered passengers to a no-man's land and then abandoned them? My dislike spread to the airport, and I was getting mad at the city of Vancouver, and in fact the whole province. I was working up to a resentment of all things Canadian when I reached shouting distance of the other person.

The second man, wearing headphones, looked surprised to see a female passenger hauling a large overstuffed bag, but he didn't even speak to me to see what I wanted: I guess it was obvious. He mumbled something into an electronic device, and shouted something to me I couldn't understand, and then pointed back at the buildings. I started marching where I was told, and as I got closer, someone cracked open the locked doors and held one ajar for me. I was allowed in, and instantly was back into a normal airport experience: it was bright and overheated, noisy, and packed with people. I had never been so relieved to be in a busy terminal.

Vancouver skyline
© Tim Shields

My fingers and toes thawed out as I travelled into the city, but my arrival at my hotel in downtown Vancouver was eerily similar. I arrived without incident at the Opus located on Davie Street, at the intersection of Cool and Hip and right opposite the Yaletown-Roundhouse train station, but the lobby door was locked. It was another surreal moment in travel: through the inviting and decorated glass door could see into a carpeted, cozy foyer, and to one side was what seemed like a comfortable bar, but there was nobody in sight and I couldn't get in.

Opus Hotel
© OPUS Hotel

I was searching for a doorbell — do hotels have doorbells? — or a passerby with a working cell phone, when someone opened the hotel doors, apologizing and ushering me in as if I were family. There had been a small fire in the kitchen, the man said, and the fire alarm went off. I didn't understand why a fire alarm would include locking the means of egress, but I couldn't see or smell any signs of fire, and once inside I was made warm and welcome.

Opus hotel

The receptionist gave me a glass of Prosecco, and my flower-bedecked room was a refreshing sorbet orange. The welcome snacks included sensational banana chips that served as supper (I rescheduled Preston's) while I put up my sore feet. Soon, thawing out in a big tub of clean, hot, Canadian water, I was balancing my wineglass and walk-around-Vancouver guide on the edge of the tub, and congratulating myself on making it into the country. I decided to call someone back home, and talk about what we'd had for dinner.

Gillian Kendall is the author of Mr Ding's Chicken Feet, which the New York Times Review of Books considered one of the "notable" travel books of 2006. She also edited the anthology Something to Declare: Good Lesbian Travel Writing. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Glamour, Curve, Girlfriends, and many other magazines, and she's won a number of obscure awards. See more at

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Related Features:
Waikiki Love and Hate on Oahu Island by Gillian Kendall
A Different State of Mine in Canada's Yukon Territory by Bruce Northam
Thai Voluntourism for All the Wrong Reasons by Gillian Kendall
Western Canada Through the Eyes of a Child by Tim Leffel

See other United States and Canada travel stories from the archives

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Mr Ding's Chicken Feet

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Something to Declare

Buy Something to Declare at your local bookstore, or get it online here:
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