It was a happy accident that found me in Waiting Area Q at 10:57 p.m. on Thursday, May 30.
Let me preface this by saying my flight from London Heathrow had landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport an hour-and-a-half earlier, and I had determined I was far too cheap to pay for a hotel room for the time remaining between then and my 10:15 a.m. flight to Sudbury. I was not alone. My giant backpack had come through the luggage claim in need of rechecking in the morning. For one hour I lugged it across Terminal 1 like a scrawny waterboy carrying an entire hockey team’s gear, my pride turning grimace to smile when someone gently hinted I get a luggage cart (spoiler alert: I did).
After trying to recheck my bag for my Friday morning flight, the Air Canada representative confirmed my suspicions: no bags could be checked until the morning. (This is when I gave in and got a cart, feeling as though I was Atlas unloading the weight of the world from my shoulders)
Settling into one of those comfortable-at-the-outset-but-awful-once-you-realize-they-have-high-metal-arm-rests chairs, I slung my legs over the bar and welcomed my fate: 12 hours of complete discomfort and body contortion. I bought a Fudgesicle to console myself (because I’m five-years-old), and continued reading Game of Thrones on my iPad.
Then, as if out of nowhere (or maybe from behind the flight check-in counter, I was distracted by Jon Snow’s exploits beyond the wall), the Air Canada baggage clerk reappeared, a kindly-looking gentleman who had chuckled and clucked his tongue at me when I had tried to rid myself of my backpack earlier.
“Do you know about Waiting Area Q?” he asked me.
“No,” I replied, for earlier walks had only brought me so far as the Popsicle purchase, some two floors below the departures area.
“Well,” he said with a small grin, “if you follow these letters all the way down to the Q section (he gestured at the tall platforms with neon yellow lettering), they have seats without the arm rest barriers. They even have televisions.
It’s like he could sense my anxiety over the metal bars.
I nodded my thanks, trying to not outwardly display my compulsion to toss down my Fudgesicle and push my cart to Waiting Area Q as fast as I could. After all, how many people was he telling about seating area? I would not have it be full.
I finished my snacks and bolted.
As any sensible person who didn’t just come off an eight hour flight from a place where it was now 2 a.m. would have realized, Area Q was close to abandoned. A man sat sleeping by the floor-to-ceiling window at the end of the hangar-like terminal, and there were a few others scattered around the 100 metre by 100 metre area.
Unlike the other parts of the airport with those screwed down, arm rested seats, Waiting Area Q had gone rogue. Banks of pleather seats had been moved everywhere, creating contained two-row “beds” and benches with spectacular window views. I initially settled in the kids play area, attracted by not only the prospect of a long row of seats, but moveable foot rests/pseudo-playthings and a squishy surface under foot, a pleasant thing that seemed to utter “liability-free” with every step. I watched old Spiderman cartoons on the flat screen television.
My iPhone bleeped at me. “Charge me!!” it wailed. I relocated my stuff 20 metres over next to a window and a small Xbox stand.
I quickly realized that in the land of stiff limbs and low volume oldies that monetary currency of any nationality is null. Waiting Area Q is a place where electricity – or more specifically the outlets that provide it – make you the area overlord. It’s a battle for power, in the most literal sense, and my overnight fortress was been primely positioned. I was sitting in a corner with not one, but two power sockets. Simply put, my stuff was safeguarded by new friends throughout the night in exchange for the use of just one sweet socket.
It’s now 2:51 a.m. and I’m half writing this story in my Moleskine and half people watching. The aforementioned kids section across from me is now full of adults, some splayed out under a plastic tree structure, as though it were the Tree of Life. A cleaning woman makes her rounds, dusting and cleaning up after phantom passengers. To my right, a number of Air Canada employees are dozing off while facing out the window.
In the transience of our journeys, we have all ended up here, in Waiting Area Q, united by convenience and the human need to sleep. As the sun rose, phone alarms jingled like handheld music boxes, and people dispersed. The atrium of Area Q was awash with morning light, the brightness acting as a magic eraser, inviting people to rise and move on. Tomorrow night I’m sure these seats will be filled and rearranged once more, and that temporary shared bond between strangers will start again, at this far end of Terminal 1.
(“You Can Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac just came on. How appropriate. Now, I sleep.)