Flying Through a Fuckstorm of Ass Bats
Trying to get from South Korea to Boston amidst coronavirus-mania was a goddamn nightmare.
Two weeks ago, I had a feeling: I am going to die.
I'd been bought, sold, fucked, re-packaged, torn open, re-fucked, sleep-starved, and stuffed into a little tube 33,000 feet in the air before, as a single tear peeled down my tortured face, I thought: I am going to die.
I thought: Surely, no universe would work this hard to keep me off this flight unless it was doomed.
I thought: I am going to die, and as we plummet, I'll think: Oh, holy shit! I'm a prophet.
And that'll be that.
Well, bad news: not a prophet.
Good news: not dead.
3 Days Earlier
I downloaded the Air Canada app, plugged in my confirmation code from Expedia, and noticed something odd. My flight was scheduled to leave Seoul at the original time I’d booked: 6:25 PM on Saturday, December 18th.
For months, Expedia had been telling me it was delayed until 7:20 PM.
So, I went to Incheon Airport's website.
6:25 PM it was.
In the pre-fucked world, this wouldn’t have been too big a deal. What's an hour? But now—in our ultra-modern, virus-soaked, totally fucked world, an hour meant I'd scheduled my Covid test too late.
Not like I had much of a choice. With Omicron-mania in full swing, I needed an antigen test within 24 hours of flying. There is only one place to get one and get the results within 24 hours of my flight: the airport (2.5 hours from my home). So—as you might imagine—appointments fill up fast.
I called the testing center. The conversation went like this:
"Hi, I'm sorry, Expedia had the wrong flight time for me, so I am leaving at 6:25, not 7:20 this Saturday. And I want to check to make sure I can still get my results in time."
"When is your test for?"
"Probably not. You'd better change it."
"Is there one earlier in the day?"
"No. How about the day before at 10:00 AM?"
"That's more than 24 hours before my flight, though."
"Yes, but for the United States, I think it can be any time the day before."
I booked it—keeping the Saturday appointment as a backup.
Bullet dodged! I sat back and thought: Hey, wait a minute!
3 Months Earlier
I hadn't seen my family in nearly three years. My mom was getting married the day after Christmas this year, and so—with Covid restrictions easing up—I bought a ticket home. A week later, I got an email from Expedia.
The flight I'd booked, from Seoul to Boston, with an hour connection in Toronto, at 6:25 PM on the 18th, was now leaving at 7:20 PM.
What's one hour?
One hour meant that I'd miss my connecting flight in Toronto.
Your new flight from Toronto to Boston leaves at 9:00 AM on the 19th.
Surprise! My one-hour layover became a fifteen-hour layover.
To Expedia's credit, they gave me a couple options:
[GO FUCK MYSELF]
See—in all the ruckus of the pandemic, travel agencies just up and misplaced all the fucks they had to give. Especially Expedia because they are an evil swarm of blood-sucking ass bats that drink exclusively from sphincters.
Anyway—yeah, I confirmed. I decided to book a hotel room in Toronto at the airport hotel because "It is conveniently located inside Terminal 3!"
3 Days Before Departure (again)
Air Canada's app informs me that if I wish to explore Toronto, I'll need to have a PCR test. America only requires an antigen test.
I thought: I should check whether that hotel is before or after border control because I won’t be able to enter Canada…
…shit—yeah, it's after border control.
It turned out that 'conveniently located' is an antiquated term from our distant, pre-fucked reality.
So I canceled, resigning myself to fifteen hours in the Toronto Terminal.
And, while I was connected to Expedia's nifty little chat window, I thought: Maybe I should let Expedia know their flight times are wrong.
I asked the app to connect me with one of Expedia's real-life blood-sucking ass bats—and that's when the real fun began.
Her name was Angelmae. I began to tell Angelmae that their flight times were wrong—then stopped. I realized: if Expedia was wrong about the flight being delayed to 7:20 PM, I could now make my one-hour layover in Toronto.
I told Angelmae.
She told me that I was wrong—the flight time was 7:20 PM.
I told her it was not and sent a screenshot of Incheon Airport's departure times.
She double-checked, realized her mistake, and gave me a cookie.
No—of course not. No, for an hour, I had to repeat myself, send more screenshots, and explain how time works.
Finally, she agreed.
Me: Great! So, I can catch that connecting flight, right?
Angelmae: Sure! For $95.
Me: So, I'm paying to have my flight changed back to the original flight I booked?
(Whatever. I was so thrilled not to spend fifteen hours in an airport, I paid.)
Angelmae: Anything else I can help you with?
Me: Nope. *Sighs with relief*
Angelmae: You have a great day, sir. *Swoops off into the night*
…Ten Minutes Later
Confirmation Email: Your new flight details have been confirmed.
Flight from Seoul to Toronto:
Departs: 6:25 PM on December 18th.
Arrives: 5:05 PM on December 18th
Flight from Toronto to Boston:
Departs: 6:35 PM on December 19th.
Arrives: 8:00 PM on December 19th
Would you like to learn more about what there is to do in Toronto?
For your twenty-five-hour layover.
Yeah—she changed my second flight to the following day. Because of course she did. Because she's a blood-sucking ass bat.
I logged back onto Expedia's page and got Rana.
Rana said she'd be happy to send me another confirmation email for my flight leaving on December 19th at 6:35 PM. She then told me that I hadn't changed my second flight but that I'd changed my first flight from 7:20 PM to 6:25 PM. This was when I had to explain—all over again—that the 7:20 PM flight does not exist. It was the 6:25 PM flight in disguise!
Then, Rana just straight-up vanished—as hellbeasts tend to do.
Ten minutes later, Annet logged on.
Annet, it turns out, knew how to read.
She found the right flights, confirmed them with me twice in the chat, and sent me a confirmation email.
Annet–I’d soon learn–was a Trojan horse full of ass bats.
48 Hours to Departure
My flights disappeared from both my Expedia and Air Canada itinerary.
Worse—as if to mock me, the only flight remaining on my Expedia app was the 6:35 flight from Toronto to Boston, leaving on the 19th.
A computer error, surely.
What was I to do?
Yeah. Back to Expedia's "Help" chat.
Now, you might be asking why I didn't just call. See, you can't just call Expedia. Well, you can, but it costs a fortune from abroad, and they just schedule a callback for hours later. So off to the chatbox I went.
I explained my situation to Sagar.
Sagar: Thank you for staying connected I would really appreciate your time and patience. As checked you have a flight departing on 31st from Boston to Seoul?
I explained my situation again and sent screenshots of my confirmation email.
Sagar: Thank you for staying connected as checked you only have a flight that is departing on 31st Dec and there is no flight for 18th Dec.
I asked him to scroll up to where Annet, that crafty Trojan horse, had confirmed my flights.
Sagar: Thank you for staying connected I would really appreciate your time and patience. As checked I am able to find the flight details that I have shared with you.
I started to think that maybe I was crazy—that I was not saying the things I thought I was saying—like, maybe a Fight Club moment was about to come where the camera swirls around me, and I have these realizations that all of the screenshots I was sending were just pictures of my armpit, and whenever I thought I was clearly explaining my situation I was actually telling a needlessly complex story about my favorite baby carrot that has been rotting in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator and THAT, THAT is why no one understood. That moment would be my moment to grasp both sides of my head and scream at the realization that no, the world is not totally fucked, it's fine, I'VE JUST LOST MY GODDAMN MIND.
I asked Sagar if he could please connect me with a manager.
Sagar: Sure—no problem. Give me your number and a manager will contact you in three hours.
At this point, it was 9:00 PM. I had to be up at 7:00 AM the next morning to go to the airport to get a Covid test that might be valid for the flight I might be taking the next day. I gave him my number and waited and waited, and two hours later I received this:
Thanks for contacting Expedia.
We have received your request for a call back with regards to your booking with Expedia.
Due to it being non business hours now, we will attempt to contact you on your registered phone number during the day to assist with your booking concern.
Apologies for the inconvenience caused.
Thanks for choosing Expedia.
Expedia Customer Support Team
36 Hours to Departure
I flopped myself out of bed at 6:00 AM and made the long trek to the airport. At 9:15 AM, I hopped in line for my Covid test.
They told me they'd text me when the results were in. I went into the airport to try to track down the Air Canada offices.
I decided I'd try to give Expedia one last call while I was there. I got all the way to the point where the robot said, "Press one to confirm your callback in two hours." And then the line went dead because I'd run out of minutes on my phone.
Because, of course.
So, off to the Air Canada offices I went, where I explained my situation to a real-life human who went away for five minutes, came back, and told me, "Expedia canceled your flight."
"They can do that?"
She flipped through some papers and said, "I guess so. It looks like they tried to change your flight and then—just canceled it."
"But…but I have the confirmation email!" I moaned, like a petulant child unable to grasp why my alcoholic father hadn't kept his promise not to piss in my Lego bucket again.
"I don't know what to tell you," the woman told me.
"Can you fix it?" I asked.
And, bless her, she did.
I asked if Expedia could cancel them again.
She assured me that, "I'm not sure."
As I was standing there, I got a text telling me I could pick up my negative Covid test result.
I told the woman and she said, "But your flight is at 6:25. Is that within twenty-four hours?"
"I think it's one calendar day," I told her.
And I thought so—until 6:30 PM when I tried to check in early, and my Air Canada app told me my test was invalid.
10 Hours to Departure
In a pre-fucked world, I have trouble sleeping and insist on arriving at airports 3-5 hours before a flight.
But now that we're all rocking dystopian vibes, I only managed a couple hours of limp sleep and hitched a ride with a friend back to the airport eight hours early.
Surely, I thought, in eight hours, I can suck enough dicks to get me onto that flight.
Thankfully, the only thing I'd have to suck on that day would be a bag of cough drops. I gave my paperwork to the check-in desk. No trouble. I got through security, got some lunch, and finally felt like nothing could go wrong. I was through. Smooth sailing ahead!
Welcome to Canada!
(Current sleep totals: 2 out of 47 hours.)
Knowing that I was due to arrive in America around 8:00 PM, I decided it would be best to force myself to stay awake for the whole thirteen-hour flight and crash when I made it home.
We landed in Toronto at 5:00 PM—perfect, more than enough time to make my way over to my next flight!
And that’s when I discovered that my second flight from Toronto to Boston was canceled.
Well, shit. I was herded into a line leading to a desk manned by a single young female Air Canada employee where I waited for over an hour while she and the two girls who were first in line chatted away until an old Korean woman beside me walked up and said, "Excuse me, this is taking a long time, and there are many people waiting. Is there anyone else coming to help us?"
At which point, the young woman behind the counter said, "Ma'am, you need to wait."
And one of the girls said to the Air Canada employee, "Oh, don't you worry. You're doing a great job. No—really, you're so sweet. Don't listen to her."
The Air Canada employee blushed as the older Korean woman started muttering something under her breath that I can only assume was a spell to make all three women sterile.
Welcome to Canada! (No, really)
(Current sleep totals: 2 out of 49 hours.)
Another hour later, a second woman came to the desk who set me up with—you guessed it—the flight from Toronto to Boston at 9:00 AM the next day.
And—just like that—I got my fifteen-hour layover back.
When I asked how to get to the terminal where I could sleep, she sent me down a hall where security told me that the terminal was closed. The man who walked me back to the desk wisely noted, "Air Canada is fucking useless."
"Go through border control," the woman at the Air Canada desk told me.
"I have an antigen test, though—I can't go through the border. Canada requires a PCR."
She looked exhausted—must not have fed on the blood of innocents in a while—and told me to just sit in that chair over there, then.
"For fifteen hours?"
She threw up her arms at me. While I empathized that she must be frustrated by not knowing what the fuck was going on, in our little relationship, she was one hundred percent the one who was supposed to know what the fuck was going on.
So, like a mouse in a maze of mostly dead ends, I took the only path available. As I stood in line at border control, I was sure I would be turned away. Surely, I thought, with all of the severe restrictions around COVID-19, with the convoluted mandatory tests, they wouldn't just let me into a country without the proper test.
That would defeat the whole purpose.
My turn. The officer asked, "Flight canceled?"
"Yes," I told him.
"Alright." He took out a slip of paper, wrote "FLIGHT CANCELLED" on it, stamped it, and sent me the fuck outside.
Before leaving, I asked, "What about my test? It is only good for twenty-four hours, right? Will it still be valid to get me into the states tomorrow?"
And he just gave me this look—like he was a hobo baffled as to why I'd be asking him for a dollar.
"There's a testing center in the terminal," he said and waved me on.
I went out into the arrival terminal, turned left, and found myself standing, swaying, staring at the entrance to the hotel I'd booked, then canceled just two days earlier, and I realized:
No one has a goddamn clue what is going on anymore.
At that point of exhaustion, my vision was starting to collapse, and I couldn't walk straight. I wobbled my way to a terminal shop, downed a massive Red Bull, and sat down next to a couple frantically scrolling through their phones.
"Okay—,” the man said, “Okay, I think with flight delays, we have twenty-four more hours—so we don't need another test."
"You think?" his wife asked.
"I think," he said.
"Where are we going to sleep?"
"I DON'T KNOW, BABE!"
They weren't the only ones—the arrival board showed that Air Canada had canceled around a dozen flights. Passengers were scattered throughout the terminal—red-eyed, confused—like the contents of a spilled orphanage.
I spoke to a few passengers and learned that Air Canada had gifted some folks a hotel room. So, I went up to the departure area to ask. I quickly learned that I was not the only one to have this idea. I found an Air Canada employee cornered by haggard passengers. She kept yelling, "Air Canada doesn't have to give you a hotel room for bad weather! Air Canada is not required to give you a hotel room!"
She might as well have been surrounded by a swarm of zombies, screaming, "I DON'T HAVE ANY BRAINS!"
I found a less molested employee off in a corner who told me that I could go pick up "The White Phone" if I wanted to complain.
"The White Phone" is a phone in the Air Canada terminal that passengers can pick up to fight for their fundamental human rights. I thanked him but said I would figure it out. I was not going to pick up “The White Phone.” I already knew what was on the other end: a swarm of blood-sucking ass bats.
Welcome to Canada (Wait, really?)
(Current sleep totals: 2 out of 50 hours.)
I had a friend in Toronto, so I called, explained my situation, and they said I could come crash for a few hours. I got an UBER from the airport and, as we rode through downtown Toronto, I still couldn't believe Canada had let me through their borders. With each person we passed on the streets, I thought: I could spit in your mouth, and your mouth, and yours. I could spit in all of your mouths.
I made it to my friend's place. She found me in the lobby, floating on my last strip of dignity, gave me a beer, and heard my story. Halfway through, as I was waving a screenshot of my confirmation email around in her face, she stopped me and said, "Ben, that is just a picture of your armpit; you should get some sleep."
And I tried to sleep, I really did. I laid there with my eyes closed while all of those usual nighttime voices—of doubt, retrospect, regret, anxiety, fear, worry—were all saying the same thing:
(Current sleep totals: 2 out of 54 hours.)
By three in the morning, I knew it wasn't happening. For some reason—even when I managed to almost drift off—I started having to go to the bathroom. Like even my own shit didn't want to put up with this situation any longer.
I knew the airport testing center opened at four. So, I took an UBER back to the airport in case I was told my test wasn't valid. I had, after all, gone out into Canada where, and I can’t stress this enough, I could've spit in everyone's mouths.
(Current sleep totals: 2 out of 59 hours.)
At 5:00 am—in line for security—I was taken aside, had my ticket placed in a red envelope, and was directed over to a table away from other passengers. This is it, I thought; I will be trapped in Canada forever.
Two security personnel came over and started turning all of my belongings inside out. One explained to the other as he went through the process.
"You see, he touches here more than here, so we brush the chemical swabs here, and here, and here!"
She must've been a trainee. She looked enthusiastic, determined. She glanced at me. I wanted to smile encouragingly—to let her know that, despite my misery, I empathized with the stress of learning a new job. But I'd forgotten how to smile. I knew it had something to do with teeth.
Since all of the heroin was safely tucked up my anus, they let me through to border control because—see—in Toronto, you go through American border control in their airport to avoid delays when arriving in the states.
This—I knew—was when they'd get me. I pulled out all of my paperwork, mentally preparing myself to be turned back, to be told I'd have to go get another test before coming through.
The border control guard took my passport—leaving the paperwork just lying on the counter.
He nodded, tapped a few things on his computer, and held up my passport.
I reached out.
Then: "What did you do in Canada?"
"Uh—my flight was canceled…"
"Yes," he narrowed his eyes, "but what did you do?"
"I stayed with a friend," I admitted.
He stared at me for a long moment, holding my passport just out of reach. I could see what he was thinking—he was thinking: This guy could've gone out and spit in everyone's mouths. I felt sick to my stomach—I geared up to start crying, start rambling about my favorite baby carrot and how I—for the love of God—just wanted to see my family.
Then, he sighed and held out my passport.
(Current sleep totals: 2 out of 62 hours.)
I sat near my gate—not moving, not listening to music or watching something on my iPad, just waiting.
9:00 AM rolled around, and an announcement came:
"The 9:00 AM flight from Toronto to Boston has been delayed 30 minutes."
And at 9:30 AM:
"The flight from Boston to Toronto has been delayed another 15 minutes."
At 9:45 AM, the flight was delayed again, and again at 10:00 AM. And then I cried. Not sobbed or sniffled—just, for a moment, let two streams of tears fall down my face like a child watching their first dog get put down. The man sitting across watched me uncomfortably—and I wondered what he thought. Maybe he thought a loved one of mine had just died—or that I'd just found out I had cancer—or, I guess, at my age now, he might’ve assumed I was going through a difficult divorce. But no—it wasn't that—it was that cry that happens in childhood on and off as you learn over and over that the world makes no sense, and no one knows what to do about it.
And, at 10:45 AM, I got on that plane, sat down, and thought: I am going to die.
I thought it all the way until the plane landed in Boston. And it wasn't until I made it safely into my mother's car that I stopped looking up, flinching at the sky, waiting for a swarm of ass bats to swoop down and suck the last bit of life out of me.