In my last posting I described an escalator accident that led me into the bizarre world of computer interpreted nursery rhymes. However, in that item I said “… the whole episode escalated (forgive the term) into quite an intriguing tale that I may tell when it is not quite so painful to use a keyboard.”
Well, it‛s still painful but if I take it easy, and maybe also take a shot of rye, I‛ll get this tale into the open where it deserves to be. After all, it’s not every day an old skeptic like me meets an angel. But to ensure belief I must give a little more detail than I did last week.
Fast rewind to:
The Time: January 17th, 2013, circa 5:45 p.m.
The scene: Toronto‛s Pearson Airport, Terminal 3.
I, along with a couple of hundred other passengers, have just disembarked from a flight arriving from the States and we are all scurrying for Immigration and Customs.
Now I‛ve always figured that the designers of Terminal 3 must have been in league with Canada‛s old fitness Participaction programme because you get channeled onto a lengthy upward rising escalator, then take a long walk, and then have the joy of a second escalator ride taking you down to the level at which you first arrived. Sort of a representation in concrete and metal of your recent flight path. (But come to think of it, there may be more symbolism than I thought. Escalator One, stairway to heaven – Canadian Immigration. Escalator Two, stairway to hell – Canadian Customs. But I digress.)
Anyway, here I am, a light suitcase in one hand and a duty free bag in the other and I find myself inadvertently climbing Escalator One – yes, climbing. The damned thing is stopped. No warning sign. No uniformed guardian saying “Watch your step,” or indicating that there is an elevator around the corner.
Now if a contractor builds a stairway, whether in your house or in the local 5 Star hotel, I believe he‛ll find the stair risers are regulated by law to be no higher than 7 7/8 inches (200 mm). But a non-functioning escalator begins with zero riser and the height of each step gradually increases until some of them become as high as 12″ (350 mm). I can‛t say how high the risers of this particular stairway to heaven grow as I clamber upward – I‛m not taking notes – but eventually one is a fraction too high for this senior and I trip, fall, and am instantly into mind focusing shoulder and leg pain.
BUT – and here we come to it – a very soothing male voice immediately behind me says, “It‛s okay. Take it easy. We‛ve got your stuff.” And he‛s correct. Someone has my luggage. I only have to get myself to the top. But whooo-ee, it‛s painful! Every move is agony. But that gentle male voice encourages me — “Easy now. Take your own time. Nobody‛s pushing.”
I get to the top and am assisted to a row of chairs. I‛m vaguely aware of the helpful male vanishing onward through automatic doors. Other passengers stream by but an angel sits down beside me.
Yes, that‛s what I said – an angel. So okay — no wings, no halo, and what‛s more I‛ve never believed in all that angel nonsense and even as a Sunday School teacher away back in a previous life I vigorously denied their existence. Even now I have a full length play headed for production and the protagonist is a famous 19th century orator who was known in his own time as the Great Agnostic. Angels? Bah!
But wait a minute – what‛s this one saying?
“My husband has gone for help but I‛m staying with you.”
The idea of help and company is very welcome. There‛s not a uniform in sight. And I’m in agony.
She is calm and reassuring. “I‛m here until help arrives.”
Time goes by and no help arrives, but this angel chats. (Surely a traditional one simply makes an announcement or issues a brusque directive, then vanishes?)
“Are you from here, Toronto?” I ask, rather hesitantly. It‛s a fair question since we have arrived from the States and some of us are just returning home. But Toronto doesn’t strike me as an angelic domicile.
“Oh no, we‛re from Los Angeles.” Well of course,The City of Angels. “In fact,” she says, “I‛ve never been here before. This is my first visit.”
Good grief, she‛s probably got friends anxiously waiting to greet her and here she is calmly consoling me. But no, that‛s not the case.
“We‛re heading on about 200 miles north of here. Tonight.”
The name of her destination escapes her but she explains that her husband is a guitarist on tour with a band.
Wait a minute! She‛s a stranger up here for the first time — from sunny southern California – in mid-January – heading on north into deeply frozen Ontario – to a place with no name – her husband has vanished on a quest for help – and she‛s sitting here quietly talking me through my pain and general discombobulation ? This lady is something else. Most wives arriving in a big air terminal in a strange country would be nervous losing sight of their partner. This one simply chats.
“Do you live in Toronto?” she asks.
“No, Peterborough – an hour northeast. My son is meeting me.”
Hey, that‛s right, my son is probably sitting out in the cell phone parking lot wondering what‛s keeping the old man. My cell phone decides not to work. The angel’s phone isn’t programmed for Canada (a disturbing thought) but a uniformed Service Air employee happens by. He‛s off duty and happily heading home, but stops to help. He phones my son, tells him to sit tight and then makes a couple of other calls. He‛s not an angel but certainly a Good Samaritan.
My companion keeps chatting. “Are you retired?”
“I never know,” I say. “I‛m a freelance writer.”
She seems delighted. “So am I.”
Hey, we‛ve something in common! Certainly not age. She could be my daughter.
“What do you write?” I ask.
“Oh, ” she shrugs, “Historical Romances.”
I love historical novels. “What‛s your period?”
Wow. I particularly enjoy historical novels set in the Middle Ages.
“Mine are romances, “she says, with an inflection that sounds like a caution.
I ask if she writes under her own name.
“Yes. Glynnis. Glynnis Campbell.”
The paramedics arrive. An armed security lady appears along with a wheelchair attendant. I‛m obviously in good hands. My angel departs before I can even thank her let alone learn more, but just as she vanishes she gestures at the little zippered convenience pocket built into my suitcase. In there, later, I find that she has transported a neatly professional bookmark complete with an e-mail address. I can think of some Biblical angels who could have prevented a lot of speculation if they‛d been half as thoughtful. Or even half as useful.
Later still, thanks to e-mail, I express my thanks and ask a few questions, such as, “Where north were you headed?”
The answer is North Bay. Yep, 200 miles and more. To me, next stop James Bay.
“What was the band Richard was with?”
“Richard’s band is ‘America.‛ Your kids would recognize the name–they were big in the ’70s.”
I tell one “kid” and his wife. They burst into song. I tell Glynnis.
” ‘Horse with no name,’ no doubt.”
I check. By golly she‛s right.
I say how deeply touched I was, and am, by their act of kindness. The answer is quite forthright.
“Richard and I were pleased to be of assistance. First, perhaps it will assure you and your Canadian brethren that there are a few brave socialist-minded souls remaining in America. Second, it’s actually rather karmic. Last month, Richard managed to survive a deadly parasite he picked up in the Philippines, mostly due to the serendipitous, kind interventions of strangers. We owed the universe. Consider our helping you a ‘paying it forward‛ arrangement!”
Now we‛re each reading one of the other‛s books. Glynnis has a genre and she‛s enchantingly good at it. Me, I never did find a genre. As for Richard, it‛s odd but I never met him face to face but remember him as a soothing presence.
Hey, wait a minute. “A soothing presence?” That’s a classic description of an — Well I’ll be a — I met two angels!