Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birds enjoying Breakfast at the Nassau Sheraton

Sitting here Friday afternoon in the departures lounge at Nassau International Airport in the 46th hour of our trip home, feeling a combination of deja vu, frustration, resignation and hope. We left Harbour Island for Nassau on the Bahamas Fast Ferry on Wednesday at 4 p.m.. I thought this would be easier on my mom than taking a 7 a.m. flight on a very small plane, resulting in a 5 hour layover at this lackluster airport. After a 3 hour very scenic and relaxing ferry ride, we arrived at the Nassau dock, where we caught a cab to the Nassau Sheraton Beach Resort. This is when things started to come off the rails. At first blush, a seemingly lovely front desk manager, Ms. Major, was all smiles and charm until she realized that I had booked my room on Priceline. She then had the unfortunate task of having to tell me that there would be an additional $55 in fees, on top of the rate my good friend Bill Shatner had negotiated for me. She told me that this was normal practice in the Bahamas. This seemed quite unusual to me as Priceline states that their rate includes all taxes and service charges. After debating this point for 25 minutes with Ms. Major, she agreed to waive the extra charges. Feeling exhausted by the check-in ordeal, we went to our room to plan our evening. In the end the Sheraton. got their pound of flesh out of me as I used their casino and food concessions. Not to be outdone, my friends at the front desk slid a bill under the door in the wee hours of the night. Not only was I invoiced for the service charges that Ms. Major had agreed to waive, the hotel was also trying to charge me for the room even though I had already paid for it on Priceline. Off to the front desk I went, only to be told that I would have to wait for Ms. Major to come to work, as she was the only one who had the authority to make a decision on my case. She was due in at 9 a.m. By this time I was starting to get the distinct impression that I had a special code next to my name indicating that I was a troublesome guest. When Ms. Major finally arrived at 10:30, gone was the smile and charm. She curtly informed me that the error would be corrected in due time. Breakfast was another low point in customer service. Although the birds appeared to benefit from the lack of capable wait staff in the run down and poorly organized outdoor dining patio, trying to get an explanation as to the breakfast choices was like a scene out of faulty towers, but by this point I was starting to lose my sense of humour. I made a note to avoid this hotel in the future. In an effort to wash this whole experience off of us, we indulged in one last swim in the beautiful turquoise ocean, before setting out for the airport to catch our 2 p.m. flight. The flight was called for boarding on schedule, only to be halted after about half the passengers had left the departure lounge for the gate. About an hour later, the Captain appeared to deliver the news; an unresolvable mechanical failure had grounded our plane. Once Air Canada has decided what to do, we would be informed. Eventually, around 4 p.m. an announcement was made telling us that we would be issued food and hotel vouchers for the night to give Air Canada time to fly in parts and a qualified mechanic. I prayed that we wouldn't be sent back to the Sheraton. As it turned out, we were put up at the Wyndam, a hotel adjoining the Sheraton, connected underground by the casino. Despite an initial mix up our room, the difference between the Wyndam and the Sheraton was night and day, and it was entirely due to the people. Despite having about 200 unexpected guests arrive, the staff were calm, cool, collected, friendly and accommodating. The dining experience was also extraordinary. Now to be fair, I suppose some of what made this Wyndam experience so nice was the fact that Air Canada was picking up the $40,000 tab as a result of their mechanical oversight, and I did win back most of my casino losses from the night before. Now it is 2:30 on Friday, and Air Canada has just made the preliminary boarding call for our return flight, 24 1/2 hours late, the last hour a result of the crew showing up late, with no explanation offered from the ground crew. Around me tired babies are screaming, as fellow travellers regale each other with tales of misadventure on Air Canada, great travel bliss on WestJet. I only pray that the mechanic who made the repairs to our airplane is more thorough and competent than the waitress responsible for clearing the table pictured above.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Bahama

I'm not sure who this happy looking white couple are, I found them on Google while searching their image database using the words “Obama Bahama”, evidence of just how widespread this man's popularity has become . To commemorate and celebrate Obama's rise to power, a week ago today, I gathered a group of happy Americans, Canadians and Bahamians around a dinner table and a television as we discussed and witnessed the historic inauguration of the first African American man (Barack Obama) to the office of President of the United States, leader of the free world. At one point, I turned to my Bahamian-Canadian friend Ann and said, (tongue firmly planted in cheek), “Well, Ann, I guess this means we're finally equal”. She and I shared a heartly laugh at my little quip. We supped on a pot luck of dishes; peas and rice, fried fish, grilled beef, a multitude of salads and a "to die for" Key Lime Pie. As the night went on it brought back memories of the night a bunch of friends and neighbours gathered around a television at our local doctor - Peter Granger's house in Kleinburg while we watched Neil Armstrong proclaim “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he bounced onto the surface of the moon. It does seem a little strange that the election of an African American to the office of President should elicit the same feeling of accomplishment as the huge technological achievement, inspired by John F. Kennedy, of placing a man on the moon, and bringing him safely back to earth. In Obama's case I suppose, its a combination of celebrating the fact that we've come this far with the full realization of the fact that yes, all men are created equal, and the prospect of what we could accomplish now that we have cleared this hurdle under the leadership of such an inspirational and exceptional man. Maybe some of the elation that people feel around this event is that as a part of the human race, we all feel a little better about ourselves, even if we didn't actually get to vote. Here on Harbour Island, not much has changed a week after a black man has moved into the white house that slaves helped to build. But I sense that there is a hope for the future, a hope for the collective good we can all do if we will simply put aside our differences and focus on the task at hand. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As the sun set sets over the harbour, I can't help but feel as though I'm a bit of a hypocrite. On the one hand, I want people to believe that a trip to Ste. Anne's in the snow is just what the doctor ordered as the cure all for the stresses of modern living, while on the other hand I've snuck out the back door for a few weeks of R&R in the warm Bahamian sunshine. I do love winter, and have long since learned that the secret to enjoying winter is to dress for it and to embrace it. However, sometimes you just need to get away, and this is one of those times.
My dear sister Anne and her husband Paul left for home yesterday afternoon on the same airline and the same routing that recently landed a jet ever so gently on the Hudson River, and we are already missing them. This morning we awoke without hearing the sound of the microwave oven door closing as Paul heats up his cup of morning Java. (The roosters made sure of that). We'll miss Anne's thrifty ways and her sharp wit. As a child, I was probably closest to my sister Anne, as she was the oldest girl in a family of seven, and for a long time I was the baby in the family, she often assumed the role of surrogate mother when our real mother was facing down other challenges of family life. I love her dearly and miss her muchly, but truly value the time we've been able to spend here in this paradise, thanks to my oldest brother Bill and his wife Julie who reclaimed Harbour Island as an escape for our family and others when they built Seadream House. I would go on, and on, except that AOL is loaded on this computer, and it is interrupting every ten seconds - an annoying feature that I can't figure out how to turn off!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wanted: Computer geek

When I graduated from Woodbridge High School way back in 1977, the IBM Selectric Typewriter was considered a leading edge word processor. I either failed, or barely passed typing - I'm quite sure we were taught on your standard run of the mill "manual" typewriters. I was addicted to the smell of that white paint that was used to paint over your mistakes, and I could never wait for it to dry, so would end up making quite a mess. One of my first business ventures was a company called TaskMaster, the idea being that we would take care of day to day tasks like picking up the dry cleaning, shopping, etc. that busy, high paid executives didn't have time for. My partner and I thought that in order to be taken seriously by our prospective customers we needed to have an office, a phone and a typewriter. To try to generate some cash flow while we searched for customers, we took any kind of work, including house cleaning and essay typing. Because we were both pretty lousy typists, we found ourselves typing and retyping essays for our student clients, until we finally made an appointment with an IBM sales rep to talk about buying a Selectric with a mag card reader, one of the first real word processors on the market. It was the IBM sales rep who introduced me to micro-computers, and ultimately to a job selling them at a company called ComputerLand. Thus began my love affair with the Personal Computer. After eight years flogging personal computers the good Lord called me to the vocation of Innkeeper at Ste. Anne's Bed & Breakfast, and as it turned out, the computer skills I had developed at ComputerLand came in quite handy. For many years I was the I/T guy at Ste. Anne's, but eventually my computer skills became outdated and I passed the torch to another, younger computer guy. I guess like everything, enthusiasm for computers wanes after a while, and my replacement ultimately grew tired of technology and sought out more of a hands on vocation. Thus, I am once again looking for a techno-wizard to join the Ste. Anne's team. If you know anyone, or if you think you have what it takes, call me, or drop me an email. Computers can be fun, really! (NOTE: This position has been filled)