February 23, 2024 — Back in the Saddle

Jeff Powell
4 min readFeb 23, 2024
Photo by Adam Khan on Unsplash

Greetings fellow humanoids!

I’m back home after my Chicago trip. I think everything my mom needed is done, and now I am catching up on my inbox. It’s amazing how much a week away can put me behind. I’ve got the next monthly email to work on (in a hurry… February is a short month), taxes to continue to prepare for, and a bunch of other things that need doing as well.

At least I’m not bored.

There isn’t all that much to share this week, but I do have two stories from the trip.

First, if you travel to and from either Canada or Mexico regularly, you should look into getting a NEXUS card. It helps so much getting through the border. The flight from Chicago to Vancouver departs from a domestic terminal, which means that all of customs and border control is handled in the Vancouver airport, and that’s where the NEXUS card really shined.

On arrival we taxied the usual 17 km from the runway to the gate. Once off the plane, we walked the expected 4.5 km to the customs and border control area. As I descended the escalator I noted the very long line of people waiting to enter the “passport control” section, but off to one side there was a single, empty line with a NEXUS sign overhead. I made my way there and about four others approached it with me. We walked to a long row of terminals, most of which were unused. I picked one and scanned my NEXUS card, had my photo taken (for facial recognition and possibly a retina scan), answered a few questions, and took the slip of paper it printed out. The last stop was a border agent who asked if I had anything to declare. When I said “nope” she gestured to continue on my way. I was done with all of customs and border control in less than three minutes.

Well, not really. Once I had collected my bag (brought in from the plane on the usual dog sled, after the huskies had all been flown in from Saskatchewan) I exited the baggage area and handed the page the NEXUS terminal had printed to a final agent.

That was it. Really.

While waiting for the bag to appear, I heard many announcements directing passengers from at least three flights that had arrived at about the same time to various lines. I’m sure those without NEXUS cards had waits of 20 minutes or more to see a border agent, and those wait times would have been much longer if the airport was busier.

So consider a NEXUS card if it works for you. Or, if your travel goes to more countries, there’s another program called Global Entry that should provide similar services, I think. The general idea is that you provide enough information up front — when you apply — that they can easily identify you at the airport and already know you aren’t a risk. Thus you only need to prove you are who you’re supposed to be and you’re essentially done.

There are fees associated with these things, and you have to renew every five years, but avoiding the long lines is worth it if you ask me.

Finally, here’s the take off story:

When I left Vancouver, it was the first flight of the day for this route. The plane wasn’t at the gate yet when I arrived. It wound up being towed in late enough that we were definitely going to be more than a few minutes late taking off.

And that turned out to be the case. In fact, we pushed back from the gate at least 20 minutes late. Then we taxied a bit and the pilot announced we had to be deiced, and that would take a few minutes. (It was sunny and dry outside at the time, so I don’t really understand why we needed deicing, but better safe than sorry.)

After deicing, we taxied a bit more — the gates and the runways at YVR are separated by three different international borders, six fences with gates and armed guards, and a minefield, so it takes some time to get there — and then came to a rest for a while.

We sat there long enough that people were starting to get a tiny bit anxious when the pilot got on the PA system once again. This time he said something like:

For those who’ve noted the flashing lights off to our left, there’s a plane coming in with a technical problem, and the emergency vehicles are out to deal with that if needed. We’re going to wait until that plane lands. It’ll be a few more minutes.

That put a twist on my delay concerns.

But apparently the incoming plane landed uneventfully. We waited only a few more minutes and then took off. In total we were perhaps 35 minutes late getting into the air, but we made up a lot of time during the flight and were only something like 10 minutes late when we landed in Chicago.

I’m not a fan of flying these days. The planes are entirely full, and packed so tightly that I have to take my glasses off if the person in the seat in front of me reclines it. And four hours of sitting in a seat made out of something that feels like plywood and rusty nails isn’t my idea of a good time. But at least we weren’t too late this time, and what choice do you have when your mother’s WiFi isn’t working?

Have a great day. May all your tech support calls be local!



Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.