It’s a brand New Year and we’re all settling back into the doldrums of January: Paying off credit cards, considering diet and exercise plans, putting away Christmas lights and decorations, sorting through tax receipts, returning unwanted presents or just plain sobering up. I for one am glad the jolly season is over and we can get on with whatever each of us deems the ‘normal state of affairs.’ For Camp and myself that means we’re back to our weekly Thursday meeting over a couple of pints at our same old table on the closed-in terrace at ‘Gramma’s Pub’ in Gibsons, overlooking the harbour and the grey, wintry waters of Howe Sound with Keats Island in the near distance. Not such a bad spot to air your latest observations or complaints from the fools pulpit or just plain gripe about the latest ferry schedule or in my case the many wasted hours spent at airports trying to get somewhere.
Campbell or Camp as we Gibsonites know him as, was already comfortably seated in his usual chair. After exchanging happy New Year wishes Camp was grumbling about all the Christmas returns and exchanges at the bookstore. I listened patiently, nodding and commiserating and finally was able to vent my latest peeve: Flight cancellations and/or delays.
“Have you ever flown anywhere lately Camp?” Since this was a rhetorical question I didn’t expect a reply from my friend who just shook his head and looked at me with a raised eyebrow and the demeanor of someone who is being served up a stale, warm pint on a thirsty summer’s day.
“Can you make this quick, like in ten words or less?” he asked.
“Ok, I get it. How about ten sentences?”
“If you have to.”
“Alright here it comes: Our flight was delayed due to a flat tire. After an hour long wait we were informed that the tire was en route from Montreal. The flight was delayed for 24 hours, not cancelled, just delayed. Get it? That was last year.”
“That’s five sentences,” Camp quipped, taking a sip from his pint.
“On our next flight we couldn’t land because of smog and fog and were detoured to another city, parked on the tarmac for two hours then finally cleared for our destination where we missed our connection. Fourteen hours later, around midnight, we are re-booked, and arrive at our final destination at 3AM instead of at noon. Or how about after boarding we are informed that there was a scheduling issue with the pilots and the two guys in the cockpit will have to be replaced with two new guys who were en route on another delayed flight. We had to deplane with all our luggage, were handed a ten dollar voucher and had to wait for three hours for new pilots. Travelling can be hell Camp, not all fun and games. Herded like cattle, treated like inmates and then finally released into our vacations exhausted, unnerved and definitely late and yes, also relieved. That’s it in ten sentences.”
“You can’t possibly ask for my sympathy?” Camp said. “You jet around the planet, leaving a carbon footprint the size of a small island nation and then complain about the ordeals of airports and airlines. Meanwhile us landlubbers and stay-at-home-guys try to save the planet by walking and biking, recycling and promoting a green economy.”
“Ok, you got me but am I supposed to feel guilty, stay at home and bemoan the state of the world? From what I could find out air travel accounts for about 5% of total emissions and us staying at home is not going to improve that. I’m hoping that more climate friendly fuels like hydrogen will eventually be used as jet fuel. I’m sure the Germans and maybe even NASA is working on it.”
I was on the defensive end of a loosing argument and quenched my frustration with a healthy swallow of soothing beer while Camp, against our rules, was thumbing through his smart phone.
“One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates the equivalent to 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons a year; the average European, 10. So you fit right in there my friend, but between the two of us we’re below average if that makes you feel any better.”
“Not really, but I cannot row across oceans, nor walk across continents. And neither do Al Gore, Naomi Klein, David Suzuki or Richard Branson to name a few, all jetsetters and vigorous proponents of a greener world. I guess I’ll have to buy the next round and convince Clare to turn the heat down and wear a sweater instead, to offset some of our jetsetting.”
Camp laughed. “That’s called offsetting.”
Vicky arrived with two foaming mugs before I could even give her the usual victory sign. “You fellows had a nice holiday season?”
“Yes we did,” we both answered in stereo.