As the flight attendant began to make the “get ready to land” announcement in some accent I could not place, I watched the lights of Montréal grow closer and my anticipation grew to spend a weekend in a city I have neglected over the past several years. After all, I endured Hurricane Lee in New Orleans and flew three hours for that privilege. I could get to Montréal in almost one third that time, and they really speak French in Quebec. Je suis désolé, Montréal.
I loved the flight attendant, she was very, how do I say, fourteenth street chic [New Yorkers know what I am talking about]. As the plane was about to take off, she was shoveling large forkfulls of giant leafy lettuce into her red shiny lipstick-lined mouth. An incredible feat, given that her [at least] one inch nails [complete with nail sculpture] must have gotten in the way of her being fully adept at the action. What made the picture complete was her hair weave, carefully bound together like a bale of straw with the American Airlines-certified hair scrunchy-thing. Her need for an extreme makeover notwithstanding, I have to say she was very nice.
As the plane landed without drama, the crew opened the doors and I began the walk to eventual freedom to explore the city. This is where Pierre Trudeau airport faked me out. As I entered the terminal, it appeared as a ghost town – only those few people on our plane walking down the lonely corridors. Sweet! I thought – very soon I would be at my hotel and then out and about soon thereafter. As I turned the final corner to the passport control room, it was like one of those films in which time slows down and the drops of rain are suspended in mid-air.
Before me were no less than 500 people waiting in queue to get their passports checked in a scene that looked like they were waiting for Magic Mountain in Disney World. The hundreds of people were queued brilliantly and efficiently, thanks to the expert stanchioning techniques of the Canadian Border folks. They well understood the first rule of stanchioning: people are exactly like cattle, and they must be told exactly where to walk and how many of them should be standing side by side. If you stanchion them, they will obey.
The irony of my time in the quite multicultural queue was that it almost took me the same amount of time to get through passport control as it did to fly from New York to Montréal. Too bad the train takes eleven hours. In the end, and after a few specific questions about who I knew in Montréal and what I planned to do, I was in. A short taxi ride later and I was at my hotel on Saint Catherine near UQAM [Université du Québec à Montréal].
I headed out on Saint Catherine and, as I was starving from only having had a few almonds in a few hours, made a beeline to the closest restaurant to get my eat on. I noticed what looked like an authentic, cafeteria-style Lebanese restaurant not far from the university and I went in. After I entered and had ordered “la même chose” as the guy in front of me, I turned around and laughed. I told the proprietor that I’d like a bottle of water but that I’d be back in a moment.
I went outside and saw the large sign on the window: halal wifi. I had no idea that the Koran had something to say about wifi [!]. Il faut le voir pour le croire.
Je pense que l’expression est vrai: on ne resiste pas l’invasion des idées!