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Montreal 2003: Day Seven
Added: August 18 2004

Tuesday, August 19, 2003.

Okay, so Tuesday is supposed to be the day of my uneventful return home.

I get up and have some breakfast at the apartment. Peeking out the porch, I see there's a nice blue sky overhead.

Since I'm there and able to help, the TD wants me to help her return the tents, the tables, and the truck. It's early, so we figure we have plenty of time to make the round trip, come back and grab my stuff, and hit the airport.

The drive out to return the tents is pretty easy. The place is off the western end of the island. The drive seems surprisingly long to me, but is nicely scenic. We struggle briefly to find the place, so the TD makes a phone call. It's in an industrial park, and most of the buildings look the same. Finally, we pull up to the appropriate garage door, and a couple of guys haul the tents out of the truck. Stage one complete. It's about 9:30am.

So we start the drive back to Montreal. The truck place (Budget) isn't far from the TD's apartment, so we're looking good.

That is, until we hit a solid block of traffic on Autoroute 40.

We are crawling, and I begin to feel a mite uneasy as the minutes tick past 10:00am. My flight's not until 1:40pm, so I'm not overly concerned. But I'd like to be at the airport by 11:30am to have time to check in and do some shopping.

Just then, a truck driver pulls up beside us. He's motioning for me to roll down my window. He yells: "Hey, you've got a flat!!"

The TD queries for more info. "There's a big chunk missing out of one of your back tires!! Just thought you'd like to know!" She thanks him, and we start to ponder what this means. The truck isn't driving any differently, but it's worth checking out.

We pull off at the next exit, and enter into the parking lot of Ikea. Nice, the closest I've ever been to an Ikea store.

I hop out of the truck and walk around back. Lo and behold, one of the back tires has a giant hole probably a foot long and four inches wide. Looking at it, I can't believe the tire is still attached.

The TD and I panic a little and we discuss options. She calls the Budget closest to us (at Dorval airport), who says they can't do anything. She tries the Ford road assistance people, who tell her the truck is out of its service contract, so they can't do anything. She finally tries the other Budget (the one closest to her apartment), who tells her that since it's an inner tire (the back axle has four tires), it's still safe to drive.

She calls the head tournament director and gives him all of the details. She's hoping he'll be able to meet us at the Budget and help get me to the airport.

We hop back onto Autoroute 40 and proceed to sit in more traffic. It's now past 11:00am, and I'm getting seriously antsy. At this point, I'm ready to bail out of this mess, head back to the apartment, and get to the airport. But the truck's due today, and the table place is near the Budget, so she figures we might as well stick to the plan.

We finally reach the table place about 11:45am. Yep, I wanted to be at the airport fifteen minutes ago. Some guys come out and unload the tables, and we're on our way.

One more hitch: the truck has to be returned with a full tank of gas. Sitting at the gas station, I'm just shy of complete meltdown. It's now 12:00pm.

We reach the Budget rental place at 12:20pm. The head tournament director is there. We head inside to hand over the keys and everything. Granted what's happened, the head tournament director is hoping for some kind of refund for some of the insurance they paid for. The guy says what happened couldn't be helped and isn't covered, but agrees to deduct one of the fees. (The old adage proves true: complaining can sometimes get you something for free.)

While they're talking, I remember that my pictures are still at the Pharmaprix. I mention it to the TD, and she offers to pick them up and mail them to me. I pull out all of the Canadian currency I have left (save for one two-dollar coin so I can buy a drink at the airport) and hand it to the TD. The best part: I won't have to spend any time worrying about how to convert my remaining Canadian currency.

We climb into his car and head back to the apartment. Fortunately, her place is right around the corner. We scramble inside, I grab my gear (which I luckily have already packed), scramble back downstairs, and I climb back into his car. I say a quick goodbye to the TD, and we're off. Time: 12:30pm.

I relate to him our traffic issues during the morning, so he decides to take an alternate route. Um, and we're hauling ass.

During the ride, we discuss tournament stuff, observer issues, and the like.

It turns out that the Board had a meeting the previous night and discussed "the incident" from Day Two. They tried to figure out a punishment for the player who confronted me, and even considered banning him from future Nationals. I tell him that I think that's more than I would ask - that I would prefer a red card, which would suspend him for one game, or, at most, a one-day suspension. He tells me that if they decide they need a statement, he'll email me.

About my flight, he mentions that he thinks he holds the record for clearing customs to make a flight. Granted, he didn't check any baggage. I've got one bag to check. But he says he made it in under fifteen minutes.

We arrive at the airport at 12:55pm. To my surprise, he pulls into the drop-off zone and jumps out of the car as I do. I grab my gear, and he runs with me into Dorval. (This is an extra surprise, granted that only a few weeks earlier, I watch a guy get a ticket for simply stepping out of his car in the drop-off zone at Hartsfield.)

We run inside, and I scan the Departures board. My flight's not there. At all.

We run over to the counter and ask the guy at the desk about my flight. He says it's closed: all international flights close an hour before their departure.

The HTD asks him if there's anything we can do: ie, if there's a later flight. The guy checks the later flights and realizes what I already know from when I booked it: the later flights are all commuter planes, and are full. This is the last large aircraft flight of the day. And, as I already know, it has plenty of open seats.

The guy at the counter pauses and picks up the phone. Customs. How long is the line?

He picks up his radio. Baggage. Can we get baggage onto the flight?

He sets down the radio and starts tapping at his computer. He hands me a ticket and says: "Grab your stuff and run."

I very quickly say goodbye to the HTD, who immediately runs out to rescue his car. I start running down the hallway.

First stop: customs. There are three people in line. I ask them if I can skip ahead, and all agree without hesitation. Thirty seconds later, the clerk summons the next in line. I hand over my customs form. She scans it over, stamps it, and I'm on my way.

Next stop: baggage. I throw my bag on the belt and head over to the screeners. I've got a little bit of adrenaline running through me, which makes the wait short of unbearable. Gracefully, I clear through pretty quickly.

I start running toward the gate, pausing only to figure out which way I'm going. Before I know it, I'm there, and I check in. Time: 1:05pm. Ten minutes from ticket counter to gate.

For the previous two hours, it's been panic, panic, panic, rush, rush, rush. Suddenly, it's over. I've got fifteen minutes to wait before boarding starts.

I wander back toward where I came from, hoping to find a souvenir shop or something, but come up empty. I'm hoping for a Coke machine to buy a drink, but the only one I find is unplugged. In the end, no gifts for the family, no drink for me. But I get to keep the two-dollar coin as a souvenir.

I spend the rest of the short time before boarding staring out the window. Finally, the sadness of leaving has a chance to catch up to me. I stare off at the buildings on the horizon, not unlike how I did on Day One, wishing I could go out and see what else is out there.

Boarding goes smoothly. Since I was marked as standby, I've been reassigned the last seat in the plane. Before we take off, one of the flight attendants tells me I don't have to sit there, so I opt to move back to the seat I was originally assigned (the same seat I flew up in).

The flight to Atlanta is uneventful. I arrive at Hartsfield, wait for my bags, hop on Marta, and head back north.

I always hate the return trip on Marta. The South line runs through really crappy-looking parts of town, and is just generally not a welcome sight.

Things improve once I climb into my mother's car. From there, I can start relating the story of this amazing weekend. And a smile creeps across my face.

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Montreal 2003: Day Six
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Montreal 2003: Epilogue