Vancouver

by Jonah

So sleepy. I got almost two hours of sleep last night. I’d hoped I would sleep on the plane, but we boarded right as the sun came up. My body reacted by waking up.

Berck got back from his check ride at 1 in the morning. I’d stayed up, and we went down to the Foggy Dew, the Irish Pub attached to the hotel, to celebrate. At 1 in the morning on a Saturday night, the pub was packed, and a cover band was doing a pretty good job of the most popular rock songs of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Everyone was gathered around the bar, leaving the private tables in the back corner empty. We sat at one, and Cindy came to wait on us, just as Berck was thinking he had better just serve himself at the bar. He ordered a Harp and I a Ricker’s White, which I ordered by asking Cindy, “What’s the white that comes with an orange?” I’d been watching commercials for it on TV while waiting for Berck to come back.

Berck knows the names of all the waitresses in the pub and which ones will give him good service. He’s also had everything that has interested him on the food menu and has started creating his own special orders. “Can I get the burger but instead of the burger get the steak instead?” Last call was at quarter to 2, and Berck started getting antsy that Cindy hadn’t reappeared. At ten till, she dashed up to our table and announced hurriedly, “Last call! Two more?” I’d actually wanted to try something else, but we both just quickly nodded in relief. She dashed off to fill our orders.

We were celebrating Berck passing his check ride. He’d misread one of his approach plates, mixing up a bolded line for a non-bolded one, that meant something important about altitude, but first officers are allowed three mistakes on a check ride. Captains aren’t allowed any. Berck didn’t know he was allowed three on his very first check ride, and he’s been much more relaxed about them since then. He’s got one more lesson tonight, and then he comes home tomorrow morning.

I arrived in Vancouver on a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, and you could see the mountains. I was sitting the front row right behind first class, so I didn’t have to wait for everyone else to get off the plane. I took the stairs whenever I could and got in front of the rest of my fellow passengers, as well as the passengers of a flight that was just letting out at the same time. Our captain had proudly announced that we were 13 minutes early, and it was probably a good thing. After racing to immigration, I then had to wait in the snaking line toward the border agents. Our flight landed at 1:20. I didn’t get outside to wait for the hotel van until 2:40. Waiting in line with my heavy backpack was miserable, but at least I had a good book. I made it till I was almost outside and then started looking for a phone to call the hotel to tell them to send the van. There was a big information desk nearby with several people sitting idly at it, so I went over to ask where I could find a phone. The girl I asked glanced down at the phone at her desk and said, “Well, you can use this one. Let me just dial the number for you.” Canadians are awfully nice. There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Robin, a Canadian, is feeling homesick and finds a Canadian bar in New York City. She tests to see if the patrons are really Canadian by bumping into one who is just standing there with his beer. He turns around and says, “Oh, excuse me!”

On the van along with me was a flight crew, and then we stopped by the simulator training facility and picked up what I later learned were Berck’s fellow students and an instructor. Berck came and found me when I got to the lobby and suggested we head over to the Flying Beaver. This is a restaurant and airport all in one. You walk in and have to step over people’s luggage as they wait by the airline gate with the gate agents in their ties and blazers. Then you walk by the crowded bar and out into the dining area, where a fire crackles in a huge fireplace. There’s a glassed in room tacked on where you can sit and watch the planes. If you’re feeling really adventurous, or need a smoke, you can sit at the tables outside. There are glass barriers set up to block most of the wind, but we bundled up anyway. We ordered the local beer that was on special (I don’t remember what it was, but it was very good), and Berck suggested we try the pyrogi topped with chili sauce, sour cream, and chorizo. Yes, pyrogi and chorizo. I love it when Berck is culinarily adventurous. It was actually really good. We ordered a couple more delicious local beers that I don’t remember the names of and tucked into an order of chicken fingers and fries. When the fries were running out, I put the ketchup bottle in the basket to keep it from flying away in the wind.

We were eating in a corner of the patio that seem to escape the brunt of the wind, sitting on couch by a coffee table. A guy came and sat at the end of the coffee table and struck up a conversation with us. Canadians are so informal. He is fascinated by airplanes too, but instead of getting a pilot’s license like Berck, he got a job assembling airplanes for Viking. They now make some of the airplanes that De Havilland made. De Havilland made the Dashes that Berck will fly, though Bombardier makes the newer versions. The guy said making Dash parts is hard. Making Beaver parts is easy.

The Flying Beaver juts out over the water and has stairs down to the docks below where the seaplanes pull up. The planes land and take off along the harbor pretty much constantly. Whenever one took off, Berck and our dinner guest stopped quizzing each other about their jobs, grew silent, and turned to watch. Berck described it as an aircraft strip show.

The guy finished his food and bade us goodbye. He had just come over during a layover at the airport. We finished and then walked back to the hotel. It was very windy but warm enough if you weren’t right on the water. The sea planes fly directly over the street where the hotel is, so we could watch them all the way back.

We got back to the hotel right as the phone rang. It was one of Berck’s classmates, who he invited over from across the hall. As soon as she walked in, Berck looked up from his e-mail and said, “We’re furloughing. 100.” She’s about 80 from the bottom. Berck is above the cutoff. She was very distraught, and Berck offered for us to accompany her down to the pub so she didn’t have to drown her sorrows alone. She doesn’t look like a typical pilot at all, 22, petite, with trendy jeans, cute top, and dark brown hair with heavily highlighted strips. But she kept wondering what kind of flying job she could possibly get. True pilots can’t imagine doing anything else. The instructors came in later and sat at a different table, but we managed to get them to join us eventually. We finally left around 1 when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. The pub has a 15% discount for airline crews, which is nice. Unfortunately, we had Molly for most of the night, and she gives terrible service.

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