Dunedin Diaries, Day 1: Travels to Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training

The Bobby Mattick Training Facility in Dunedin, Florida

Day 1: March 13, 2019

It’s always good to be back in Dunedin. Not just because of the relentless snow in Toronto over the last month or so, but because Dunedin has come to feel like a second home. My annual excursion has me passing familiar sights and, of course, the sights, sounds and smells of baseball get the heart racing and longing for that long season to begin. But getting to Dunedin was probably more challenging this year than in years past.

It all starts with the tragic plane crash of an Ethiopan Boeing 737 MAX 8. The second such crash in just a few months caused airlines, aviation regulators and the public to doubt the safety of these aircraft, causing them to be grounded all over the world. While my flight to Dunedin wasn’t on a Max 8, the grounding caused chaos at Air Canada who was struggling to meet flight demands without some of those aircraft in their fleet.

I woke up to a text message alert saying that my flight was delayed an hour. The flight that was supposed to leave at almost 5:00 pm was now scheduled for 6:00. Good. I needed that extra time. I had a lesson to teach in the morning in the Beaches and then a webinar to attend online that ended at 1:30. While that wrapped up a little early, it gave me plenty of time to get lunch and get home to North York from where my dad was going to drive me to the airport. Now I had plenty of time and wouldn’t be stressed rushing through security and US customs.

I got to the airport shortly after 3:00 pm and got through security and customs easily. Thanks to my NEXUS card (which someone out there needs to remind me to renew this summer/fall), I was able to get through with shorter lines. Yay NEXUS!

I went to the gate where another flight was loading but shortly afterward our plane, a 767-300, in case you’re wondering, pulled up and we were getting ready to board. Except we didn’t. I was standing for a while to try to get on quickly to allow me to get my carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment but had sat down after they had announced that the flight would be delayed due to a maintenance issue and that there was no timeline to fix it.

The plane shuffle began. We were routed to another gate and I got in line, mainly because our departure was now 7:00 pm and it wasn’t going to be too much longer. We waited and waited. We saw the flight crew waiting. They finally boarded the plane and then we saw the passengers who needed assistance board the plane. And then came the kick in the pants. The passengers who needed assistance started coming back out the jetway into the terminal. There was another maintenance issue. The departure time was now 8:00 pm on the board. And then it was 8:30, but that was just over an hour away, so they should start boarding soon, right? Well, at least they were giving us a $10 voucher for food. And then another text alert came. Our 8:00 pm flight was now a 9:00pm flight . . . and it was back at the gate that we first started at.

It was now 7:30 and I went to get a salad. A $15 salad that I still had to pay $5 for since I could only get $10 on the voucher. Awesome. Gotta love those airport prices. Then, something different happened . . .they started boarding! And no one came off the plane after they had boarded! And I boarded! And no one asked me to get off the plane! We pushed back at around 9:15 pm and landed in Tampa around midnight.

So, without any checked baggage, off I went to the car rental zone. Where I found out that the compact car that I had reserved with Airmiles was nowhere to be found. There were no compact cars left. The only car at the same price was a Ford F150 pickup truck. I don’t drive pickup trucks, so I settled, after great bitterness and trying to explain the logic that I should be charged extra because of things I couldn’t control (ha, good luck trying that), for a Jeep Wrangler that was costing me a couple-hundred dollars more than I had expected to pay.

Seething, I left the rental car building (after finally figuring out how to turn on the headlights) and went to my Airbnb where, thankfully everything was clean, quiet and friendly.

Hello, Dunedin (well, ok, I had only seen Clearwater so far). Good to be back.

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