The bosses said it was a really important trip and they needed “key” people to go. I was proud they picked me until I learned “key people” means fucking idiots.
It was two days before Thanksgiving, and we had to fly from Phoenix to Fredericton, New Brunswick (Canada for fuck’s sake). We thought of it as a wasteland where nothing interesting ever happens…
Flight from Phoenix to Toronto was long, but “normal” — then came the second leg on Air Canada. As the sun set, we got on some gerbil-powered tin can that rattled and roared like a garbage truck in reverse.
We kept going east and east and east. I had a mental concept a time zone east of “eastern” existed, but I had no fucking idea people “lived” there. In the darkness I assumed we were over the ocean, but holy shit we landed in the Atlantic (time zone).
I could hear the gerbils wheezing as the wheels got closer to the ground. We didn’t so much as land, as we skated in.
The tin can slalomed toward a small building. As we spun, we could see another plane pitched ass-up in a ditch.
“Yesterday’s flight skid off the runway,” the crew said. “Once the ground is fully frozen, we can pull it out.”
Leaving Phoenix I put my “winter jacket” in my checked bag. Planes and airports have heat right? Not in Frederickton. They “parked” the plane “sorta close”, and we got out to cross the tundra. The cold air bit into my skin and freeze dried my nostrils as I half-sprinted, half-skated over the “black ice.”
I went looking for baggage claim. Never found it. They just rolled our bags on a wagon toward the back of the building and everybody grabbed one.
I wondered 3 steps over to the only “rental car desk.”
“Mr. Richardson?” she said before I could even open my mouth.
There was only one folder on the desk and it had my name. It was clear she just needed to hand me the envelope and she could go home.
“Do you have a map of the airport,” I asked.
“Just go down the driveway and take a left,” she said.
What kind of an airport has a driveway? This isn’t my fucking garage… I kept insisting on a map to find my car and find my way out of the airport.
Exasperated, she came out from behind the desk and waved for me to follow. We walked 10 steps to the door. She pointed to the left.
“There’s your car.” She pointed to the right. “Go down this driveway and take a left.”
The “driveway” was maybe 50 feet long.
“Follow the river and you will see the big Sheraton sign. You can’t miss it — it’s the only hotel in town.”
It wasn’t frozen over yet, but it was the coldest looking river I have ever seen. It could have been Canada in November, or it could have been liquid nitrogen on a moon of Jupiter.
The next full day was sitting in a classroom learning how disabled people use computers and the internet. Actually useful information.
We came to Fredericton, because our big company bought a small internet company there. Fredericton had a university with a program in web development and coding.
The classroom was filled with what looked like Blacque Jacque Shellacque’s progeny of 20-something males.
Covered in flannel and claiming to speak English (that I absolutely could not understand). They spent the day ignoring the speaker, watching hockey on their computers or shopping for big screen TV’s and sound systems. Winter was coming to Fredericton, time to build a warm nest of screens, keyboards and controllers.
I told you this story, so I could show you another — more important — story (not just more of my bullshit.)
For nearly 20 years, I had this idyllic image of Fredericton as a simple and safe place with one flight a day, one car to rent and hockey teams of “coders”. But that’s not real. Maybe in this age, there are no simple and safe places left. Maybe they never really existed.
I can’t tell you the time Fredericton made the “news” as well as someone who lives there, so spend a few minutes with this:
My home town makes national and international news,
for the worst possible reason