For more years than I care to own up to I spent Christmas Eve at Ottawa Airport. Oh I wasn’t going anywhere and in some cases I had to convey the same message to holiday travellers. It was never a good feeling to tell people that they weren’t going to get home for Christmas – yeah go figure I really didn’t like ruining their holiday plans. Yes I know I was personally responsible for the blowing snow/pea-soup fog/unsafe conditions that I thought up as a flimsy reason to cancel or delay their flights but honestly I didn’t go behind the counter and laugh and call them names. And you know what I never did enjoy was being verbally abused or threatened with violence – it just didn’t seem to fit in with the Joy to the World message being broadcast non-stop over the Airport muzak from Halloween onward. But I understood their frustration and my colleagues and I honestly tried to do our damnedest to make things better – with a pretty good success rate.
So what triggered this trip down a less than Holly Jolly Christmas memory lane you ask? I heard this little ditty on the radio this afternoon and the unbidden Ghosts of Christmases Past came flooding back. Apparently Nick Lowe is well-known in the pub-rock and new wave scene though he and his Christmas airport lament are new to me.
I think the worst thing I ever had to do on a Christmas Eve was to go on board a flight that went from Ottawa to Halifax and then on to St John’s Newfoundland. St John’s was fogged in and there were no hotels available in Halifax – where I swear the airport is closer to Ottawa than the city it purports to serve. So the job of telling people that they wouldn’t be going home to Newfoundland for Christmas fell to me. I asked them to deplane and advised that there would not be another flight until later on Christmas Day. To this day I remember that there were 28 passengers, including a few families with children, and I felt bad for ever darn one of them. But the ones I felt the most for were the single-types who were up here working and heading home to their families. But not one of those people complained. No one yelled or carried on abusing my birthright or blaming me. But a few did cry and made me wish they had let loose about my parent’s marital status. When it was over most thanked me and wished me a Merry Christmas. One older woman gave me a hug and said, “That’s all right love, you did what you could.” And that was the night I swore I’d never work Christmas Eve again.
On this day in 1800: The Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise fails to kill Napoleon Bonaparte.