Wednesday, January 31, 2007

damn you, murphy!

Today's my birthday. My "Champagne" birthday, to be exact. Yep, I'm 31 on the 31st.

I've been looking forward to this birthday (or at least the novelty of it) for a while. I'm not exactly sure why, as the only thing that that sets this birthday apart from all the others is that one is supposed to drink champagne to mark this once-in-a-lifetime event. I'll even admit to smugly bragging about how lucky I am to be celebrating my champagne birthday so late in the month, since I'm now at an age where I can actually enjoy the implications of the day. Really, don't you kinda feel sorry for anyone born between the 1st and, say, the 15th of the month? I bet not too many were indulging in some birthday bubbly at the ripe old age of four. I digress...

I did indeed get to ring in my 31st birthday with some champagne (Thanks, *W*!), albeit a day early because I would be spending my actual birthday travelling on business. Boo. Add to the mix a lovely birthday cold and you've got the makings of a disaster.

I arrive at the airport this morning with plenty of time to spare. Call me neurotic, but I need to be at the airport and all checked in ridiculously early for fear of missing my flight. That, and I like to poke around the airport stores with a high-priced fancy coffee while I wait to board.

Thanks to all the new-fangled technology, I'd actually checked in online the day before, so I needed only to drop off my luggage. At the counter, the agent informs me that there is a direct flight to Vancouver departing an hour and a half after my scheduled flight and would I like to switch? Mildly annoyed at not having had this option when I initially booked, mourning the loss of a couple extra hours of sleep and not wanting to sit around in the airport lounge any longer than necessary, I decline the offer and keep my original booking.

The first leg of my trip is uneventful. The flight gets in late (surprise, surprise), but still allows me just enough time to catch my connection in Toronto. The flight to Vancouver was long and cramped, but predictable as far as flights go. I de-plane and make my way to the baggage carousel to pick up my bag. My bag that never came. The baggage agent said that the quick connection in Toronto did not allow for my bag to be loaded, but assured me that my luggage would arrive on one of the half-dozen incoming flights and they would arrange to have my bag delivered to the hotel. I'm provided with a tracking reference number to check the status of my bag online and a toll free number to call if I want to check the status old skool. Surprisingly, I managed to take it all in stride. I figure that as long as it shows up some time this afternoon, all is not lost. Besides, the baggage tracking form the airline gave me states that 95% of all lost luggage is returned to its owner within 24 hours. Comforting.

I get to the hotel, check in and set up for the next day's trade show, which takes all of about half an hour. I've got the rest of the day to myself, so I try to beat the jetlag and have a nap, but after lying around unable to sleep I decide that a birthday beer in the hotel bar is a better idea. Now I know why they say you should never drink alone. So. Depressing. Here I was, sitting by myself in a practically empty hotel bar on a Wednesday afternoon drinking a beer on my birthday all the way across the country in the most un-fun part of Vancouver (Richmond, for all you Vancouver-savvy people). Turns out, unbeknownst to me, there was a huge mall spitting distance away that I could've been exploring instead of sitting here. Boo-urns. Think of all of the wonderful items that went un-perused and un-bought!

The afternoon wears on and I check on the status of my lost bag online periodically. Still nothing. I become a little more frantic around 6pm, so I call the baggage claims hotline in hopes that a real live person might be privy to some more details, but alas, no help there, either. In fact, the baggage claims reps I spoke to on two separate occasions made me even more nervous because they seemed to be generally clueless and as it turns out, the call centre is located somewhere in India, which makes me question their abilities altogether. Really, how can you track baggage effectively from the other side of the planet? Damn outsourcing! Well, at least I've got the $50 (USD, no less) that the airline has given me to spend on incidentals: I should have no problem buying enough toiletries and clothing to see me though the trip! Sigh.

It's 10 pm and I'm in full-on panic mode. Still no news about my bag and I'm fully convinced I'm one of the unlucky 5% of poor souls never to be reunited with their precious belongings again. Ever the planner, I start researching my options if my bag is not recovered. There is a claim form that needs to be completed and submitted, along with the receipts for every item claimed on the form. No problem, I have every receipt for every item I've ever purchased neatly filed away specifically for this kind of situation. Come on! Seriously, who does this?! I'm lucky if I have the receipt for something I bought last week, nevermind three years ago, as in the case of my favourite boots currently in luggage limbo along with all of my other favourite, irreplaceable things. Inconsolable and cranky, I went to bed without (birthday) dinner, wondering how I was going to get through the rest of the trip.

The next morning, I wake up in yesterday's clothes to find a message on my phone from the front desk - my luggage had been delivered and was waiting for me! My eternal gratitude to the powers that be for returning to me my meagre, yet prized belongings.


Despite the lost luggage drama, the rest of my trip went surprisingly well: I did not die of boredom at the trade show, I had a wonderfully decadent birthday facial at an Aveda concept spa (compliments of *K* and *S*) and I went for a lovely meal at Steamworks Brewing Company in historic Gastown. The trip home was not so pleasant: an almost missed connection in Calgary, more incompetency on the part of airline and airport staff and an unbearably loud and annoying passenger sitting behind me who rambled incessantly for 4 hours to anyone who'd listen were all highlights of the journey back.

Although my trip somewhat marred my expectations for my champagne birthday, I shall try to let it all go and keep the good stuff (because there was a lot of that, too).

I'll end my epic post with the always-hilarious annual birthday poem my girlfriend *D* composes and sends me every year:

A Birthday Poem for the Beautiful *L*

Another year has passed and you find yourself at 31,
You look in the mirror and notice your face has been wrinkled by the sun.

You remember when skinny jeans were in the first time,
And you realize squeezing into them now would surely be a fashion crime.

You scoff at teenagers and mock their fun,
Then you realize you're old enough that one could be your son.

Happy Birthday sweet *L*, I hope you have a great day,
31 isn't so bad, if you believe what I say!

Thanks, *D*. I love you - you made my day!