Category Archives: Detours

Over the course of my travels, I often take detours which take me to places I otherwise never would have explored.

Unusual Reason You Can Be Denied Boarding a Flight

gateagent

It is with great sadness that one of my loved ones was unable to make it back home to Canada for Christmas.

Why was he unable to?

Because he was denied boarding. 

Why was he denied boarding?

Not because the flight was overbooked.

Not because the flight was cancelled.

Not because he didn’t have a seat.

Not because he was drunk and unruly.

Not because he was on the no-fly list or any other obvious reason.

DamagedPassport

He was denied because his passport was damaged.

Most of us take good care of our important documents but we are only human and it is so easy to have an accident and damage those documents.  Unfortunately most of us don’t even realize what small “damage” to a passport can cause you to be denied boarding a flight and hence the reason I am writing this post. The worst part is, in Canada if you have to replace a damaged passport, you must complete a comprehensive general application and will not be able to simply renew it and this process can take weeks if not longer.

According to the Canadian Passport Office a passport is considered damaged if it:

  • impedes the identification of the holder;
  • appears to have been altered or falsified; or
  • could potentially cause problems or has been denied by an airline or at a point of entry due to perceived damage.

Examples of damage to a passport:

  • has been exposed to water or humidity
  • has a tear in one or more pages
  • contains unauthorized markings
  • the information and/or photo have been altered or made less identifiable
  • pages have been removed or torn out
  • the cover and inside pages have come apart
  • has been chewed by a child or pet
  • other forms of damage that are not listed here

A few years ago when I was in Grenada, I was almost denied boarding a flight back to Toronto because of my passport photo.

The officer looked at my passport then looked at me and asked, “Where is your beauty mark?”

I told him I didn’t have one to which he replied, “You have a beauty mark in your passport photo.  Come with me please.”

Wow! Was I ever sweating!! My heart sank right into my stomach because I had no idea what he was talking about.

I was taken into an interrogation room for a more detailed search of my belongings and asked many questions.

Fortunately they let me have a look at my passport so I could see what they were talking about…

PassportPhoto

As it turned out when I was entering Grenada, the officer stamping my passport accidentally put pen marks on my passport photo page AND on my face in my photo! Fortunately, the pen mark was in blue, there were multiple other pen marks on the page and I had several other pieces of photo ID so they let me pass.

I was sure to renew my passport well in advance of my next trip because I didn’t want to risk getting stuck anywhere again over something so silly.

There are a multitude of reasons that a traveller may be refused boarding or entry/exit into a country but don’t be one of those people.  Be sure to add “check the condition of your passport “ to your pre-travel checklist and do this well in advance of travelling.  If you are unsure about the condition of your passport, visit a local passport office or contact your airline.

Safe travels my friends. I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season without hiccups such as these.

Cheers,

TSW

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Road Woes: Getting Help en Route in a Foreign Language

Last week I wrote about my experiences cold calling in a foreign language.  As you can imagine, that entire experience was immensely difficult and intimidating however, trying to get help when you run into trouble en route is equally difficult, if not more frustrating.

womancartrouble

Every year I worked in the French-only speaking province of Quebec, something came up where I needed help and it was nearly impossible to do so because of the language barrier. This is something we all take for granted on our home turf.   These are some of my worst experiences:

 

Flat Tire

TIRE leaking-air-causes-the-liquid-to-bubble-at-the-hole

When I arrived at my hotel in Quebec City and got out of my car, I noticed that I had a flat tire. I called CAA and they informed me that they could not guarantee that they could send a tow truck driver who spoke English.

In preparation, I had prepared some soapy water in my hotel room and put it into a squirt bottle so that I could spray it onto the tire to clearly demonstrate where the leak was coming from (it will bubble where the leak is as shown in the photo).  I also did a quick Google Translate search for “flat tire” which came up as “pneu à plat”.

When the driver arrived, not only didn’t he speak a lick of English when I pointed to the soap covered tire which was clearly bubbling where the leak was present while saying “pneu à plat!”, he just gave me a blank stare as though I was completely insane! After a few minutes passed he just shook his head in a “no” direction. Great.  So I ran inside the hotel, gave the front desk girl $50 cash to be my translator which she did.   But the guy informed her that he didn’t have the proper tools to put a spare tire on so he left!!!

This left me no choice but to fill my tire up with air every 2 hours overnight at a nearby gas station so the tire wouldn’t be completely flat and damage my rim and then I drove it to a VW dealership the next morning where they fixed it.  At least somehow they understood me!

I later learned that in Quebec French, instead of “plat” they use the word cassé which directly translates to “broken”.  Lesson learned!!! But I still think that guy was being an @$$hole.

Car Accident

crash4

Naturally I was in the middle of absolutely nowhere Quebec when I got into a car accident and of course, the guy who smashed into me didn’t speak any English.  Fortunately, the day before when I got violently stung by wasps while I was driving (Check out the full story “The Busy Bee Gets Stung”), I had asked a hotel concierge if the 911 operators speak English and learned that they do!

Since this accident was clearly this man’s fault and not mine, I called 911 immediately and with confidence knowing that they spoke English.  They told me that they would do their best to send a bilingual police officer which they did.  The only problem was when the other guy was explaining his version of the accident, I had no idea what he was saying.  In general, Quebecers hate people from Ontario!!! So, I was certain that he was blaming everything on me and that the police officer would side with him.  Regardless, in the end I got lucky because the guy didn’t have his insurance with him and he failed to provide it to my insurance company which resulted in not only him being deemed 100% at fault for the accident but also fined for failing to provide insurance.

Sickness

womansleepingincarNear the end of my two week working trip in Quebec a few years ago, I contracted a nasty respiratory infection and I required antibiotics.  This is when I learned that Quebec has the poorest healthcare system in all of Canada. To see how the other provinces rank, be sure to read my previous article on Canadian Healthcare: “Free” but Certainly Not Consistent.

I went to 5 different walk-in clinics and every single one told me that I needed to show up at 7am the following day to register and then it would be a 2-3 day wait to see a doctor!  In spite of my attempt to explain that I just need a prescription and I’m in and out the door, it didn’t matter.

Each clinic informed me that if I required more prompt treatment that I should go to the hospital emergency department where I would likely be seen within 36 hours. When I told them that I could be dead from pneumonia by then, their advice to me was, “Well just go back to Ontario or drive to the US if you need to see a doctor today.”.   So that’s exactly what I did. I cancelled the rest of my appointments and went back to my home province where I got in to see a doctor right away and got the meds I needed.

TIP: If you have found yourself in one of these scenarios, all I can suggest is to try and use body language as much as possible.  It’s amazing how much information can be relayed using simple gestures.  If that fails and you happen to have a piece of paper and a pen handy, try to draw a diagram.  That can go a long way as well.

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure in a foreign country, try to do your best in advance of your trip to determine what the healthcare system is like and to learn some quick phrases that may get you the help you need. Most people just spend time focusing on how to ask for food or drinks at a restaurant but based on my experiences, I learned that I needed to know how to say:

  • “I need help”
  • “My tire is flat”
  • “I am sick and need to see a doctor”
  • “I have an emergency and require assistance”
  • “Do you speak [YOUR LANGUAGE]? Or ‘’Can I speak with someone who speaks [YOUR LANGUAGE]?’

…and I’m sure there are many, many more!!!

I would love to hear your experiences trying to get assistance in a foreign language.

Travel safe my friends and always do your best to be prepared.  You never know what’s lurking on the road ahead of you.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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When the Four Elements Destroy Your Road Trip Plans

four elements

Because Sometimes Mother Nature Can Be A Bitch!

Now that its summer time, we generally don’t think of how the weather could interrupt our travel plans or at least I never did.  Here in Canada and in the northern US, snowstorms would be the most likely culprit to force us to put our plans to the way side. But interestingly, the only times I have had to make serious changes to my road trip plans have been during the summer months.

In this article, I’m going to share with you some instances where Mother Nature has lashed out with vengeance and no, I’m not referring to inclement weather like snow or rain.  Below are four instances where each of the 4 elements has grinded my travel plans to an absolute halt.  You can’t make up these excuses!

1. Earth: The Sinkhole that Swallowed My Car

stuckcar

While en route in central Ontario, I parked my car on a gravel country road and just as I put it into park, I felt the car shift downwards slightly to the right.  I stepped out of my car and noticed that the passenger side wheels were a few inches deep into the gravel so I got back in my car and attempted to drive out of that spot but unfortunately, I was stuck.  As I exited my vehicle, I noticed that it was sinking and quite rapidly so I reached for my phone to call CAA and low and behold, there was no cellular reception.  Within 15 minutes, two wheels on the driver’s side were up in the air and my car was rapidly sinking.   I had no choice but to knock on a stranger’s door and ask them to use their phone.  Luckily they were home and as fate would have it, they recognized me from a store we both shopped at over 2 hours away! They informed me that CAA would take in excess of 2 hours to come out there so they offered to pull my car out with their pick-up truck and some chains.  By the time they got to my car with the pick-up truck, my car was completely on one side and in the ground up to the top of the passenger side window!!! Fortunately they were able to pull my car out and were even nice enough to rinse off all of the stones in the undercarriage and wheel wells for me before I went on my way.

2. Air: The Tornado that Almost Swept My Car Away

funnelcloud

A few years ago, I was driving through a small country town in Southwestern Ontario that had just been hit by a tornado a few days prior when the weather took a turn for the worst.  The wind, rain and hail was so intense that I couldn’t see anything so I pulled over and called my office to ask them to check if there was a tornado watch in the area.  The gal at my office informed me that there was a tornado warning for the area and that the radar map showed that one was likely occurring not too far away on my intended route.  With that information I decided to take an immediate detour but it was too late.  There was a deafening silence in the air and my ears began to pop.  I looked to my left and saw a funnel cloud touching the ground 80-100 yards away and it was approaching me.  I pressed my foot down on the gas pedal as far as it would go, but my car would not go faster than 120km/hr! I kept shouting to myself (well more like the car) “Come on! Come on! Go! Go! Go!!” It felt like I was barely moving and this funnel cloud was rapidly approaching, 50 yards….40 yards…It was terrifying but also an adrenaline rush like no other.  Fortunately I was able to beat the funnel cloud but only by a matter of a few yards before I would have been sucked into it or tossed around, whatever! That was a close call.  At that point I decided to just stop at the next town and cancel the rest of my day.  I was seriously off route and didn’t want to risk encountering another one of these beasts!

3. Fire: Forest Fires

kelownafireLast year when I was on a road trip in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, a series of severe forest fires broke out and several areas were being evacuated.  The first ones I could see were in western Kelowna.  I could see them from my hotel room and knowing that I had meetings with clients in that area the next day, I called them to ask them if they were ok and if they were under evacuation alert.  Needless to say, if you have to call your client and ask them if their property is on fire and if they are being evacuated, it might be best to cancel that meeting! Although my clients weren’t being evacuated (just their neighbors!), I offered to bring by some emergency supplies and help as needed since they no longer had power.  Obviously no sales happened on this call!

Later in my travels to the southern Okanagan, I had to completely cancel the rest of my trip and fly out of a different airport because there were two forest fires; one on each side of the ONLY highway going into the mountains where I was supposed to go.  It was quite an expense and inconvenience to have to cancel the rest of my trip, but it was far too dangerous to risk driving on a highway surrounded by fires. What if the highway gets closed? What if I run out of fuel? Then what? In cases like that, my safety takes priority over making a sale.  After all, if you aren’t around to collect that commission, what’s the point?

4. Water: Massive Flooding

calgaryflood

Two years ago I had flown to Calgary for a conference and had planned to cover southern Alberta which I normally do in the spring but this particular year I had to cancel my plans because heavy snowstorms caused the closure of all primary highways to the south. I suppose as fate would have it, I was not going to be seeing any clients in southern Alberta that year because when I flew in, southern Calgary and all areas south experienced massive flooding and many of my clients even lost their homes. In speaking with some other sales reps and the conference, I was shocked that some of them actually had the nerve to try and see these clients.  I’m sorry but if your client just experienced some major natural disaster and suffered extreme damages or lost their home, I don’t think it is at all appropriate to try and make a sales call!!!  Have some respect and common sense people!

In my position, I cover all of Canada so I only get to see my clients once per year. I spend a significant amount of money travelling and invest a lot of effort into arranging these meetings, so I will do anything to avoid cancelling a meeting. I absolutely HATE having to cancel meetings! Sometimes however, instances like these arise that make it physically impossible to make to a meeting or an entire leg of my trip and  you just have to put your safety first and be cognizant of others’ situations.

So travel safe my fellow road warriors!

Cheers,

TSW

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Why Salespeople Are Suckers For A Good Sales Pitch

Today is National Hot dog Day here in Canada.  To most of you, this may seem like quite the random statement coming from yours truly but it reminded me of a time when I got “sold” on these giant 2 feet long sausages at a pit-stop while I was en route and it got me thinking, “Am I more easily sold than a non-salesperson?”.

Last year while I was working my way between cities in Western Canada, I stopped at a roadside  café/market for a pit-stop.  My only intent was to grab a bite to eat and use the facilities. However, somehow I walked out of there with a $36 package of 2 foot long sausages.  I had no need for such a thing at all.  I couldn’t even cook them because I was away from home and flying back the following day.

So how did a seasoned saleswoman like myself get sold on such a ridiculous purchase?

Well for starters, the guy was really cute which helped get my attention in the first place.

Secondly, he had a great story about how these sausages were prepared and how amazing they are.

Lastly, he was able to overcome all of my objections, including the fact that I couldn’t even prepare them at my hotel and would have to leave them behind.  He asked me if I had ice packs in my car (which I did) and if I did, it would be easy for me to freeze them overnight and store them with the sausages in my checked bag and bring them back across the country with me on a 5.5h flight and they would be fine for me to eat once I return home (a whole day’s trip).

As ludicrous as this idea was, I did just that.  Then when I returned home, I realized that I didn’t have the slightest clue as to how I was going to prepare them. Unfortunately, they ended up going to waste which was a complete shame given their cross-country adventure.

Why did I make such a ridiculous purchase?

Because I could appreciate this man’s sales pitch.  It was bulletproof and I would have felt bad not to give him the sale because he just did such a good job!

This isn’t the first time either.  The last time I was at a gas station and got “sold” some sort of special car wax.  This was ridiculous because I NEVER wax my car!

In speaking with other sales reps, I have discovered that I am not alone.  On average, 9 out of 10 sales reps that I have discussed this with have admitted to making purchases for something that they will never need or use simply because the salesperson pitched the product so well. 

Why are salespeople suckers for a good pitch?

1. We know how to recognize a good pitch. After all, this is what we do for a living. Consider it our specialty.  Just like if a skilled writer admired another skilled writer, they would buy their books.

2. We can empathize with them.  We know if someone is trying really hard to make a sale and experience that on a daily basis. In a perfect world, an A+ for effort would equate to an A+ for achievement but that isn’t always the case. We have been there and know the struggle, so why not be nice and make their day and give them the sale?

3. We enjoy being on the other side of the table for a change. All day we are “selling” others, so it’s refreshing to be on the other side of the table for a change.  That can also be good practice for us to remember what the experience is like for the buyer. Heck, we might even learn a new sales tactic!

I must point out that this article is focused on small purchases.  When I am making a large purchase (i.e. vehicle), I will be the most difficult client on the planet, pushing the salesperson to their absolute limit and negotiate until I get what I want or I walk.  That can be quite fun too!

If you’re in sales, I would love to hear your stories about a time when you got “sold” on some ridiculous purchase.

Until then, happy sales my friends.

 

Cheers,

TSW

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Canadian Healthcare: “Free” but Certainly Not Consistent

Canada Map

When you travel as much as I do, it is pretty much inevitable that at some point, you will succumb to illness.  Regardless of how much effort I put into eating healthy, working out, washing or sanitizing my hands at every opportunity I get while I’m on the road, I occasionally get sick and require medical treatment.

Since my territory is the entire country of Canada, I often get sick while away from home and therefore am unable to see my family doctor.  Over the years, I have noticed a significant variance in the healthcare treatment we have in Canada, in particular the difference between provinces.

For my American readers, in Canada we have provinces (not providences) which are equivalent to individual states.  Most of you are aware that in Canada,  our healthcare is “free” and covered by our government.  I say “free” in quotations because we do pay for it in the form of taxes which are automatically deducted from our income.  The most common misconception about our healthcare system here in Canada is that all Canadians have full and equal access to all healthcare professionals.  In my travels, I have discovered that this is clearly not the case.

Fortunately, I have not required medical treatment in all of the provinces, however I would like share a combination of my personal experiences and those of my associates in this post to illustrate the gross inequality of our healthcare system.

Below I have ranked the provinces in terms of the quality of healthcare they provide and the average wait times for a “walk-in” to see a doctor.  Note that I have only listed provinces for which I have had direct experience in or have heard feedback on.  I cannot comment on the others.

Best: BRITISH COLUMBIA “We sincerely apologize for the wait.”

Approximate wait time to see a doctor: <1 hour

To date, I have sought treatment in this province 4 times and I have never spent more than 1 hour in total from checking in to walking out with a prescription as a walk-in from out of province.  Two times I had eye infections and the others I was sick and required antibiotics.  Every time, yes 4/4 times, the nurse or receptionist apologized to me saying “We are so sorry that you have to wait to see a doctor! I promise it won’t be much longer.” This is unheard of in my home province of Ontario.

NEW BRUNSWICK “Well come on in and I’ll wrangle up a doctor for ya!”

Approximate wait time to see a doctor: <1h hour

This province is one of the most sparsely populated provinces in Canada which might explain the exceptional treatment that I have seen.  My friend had completely severed his biceps tendon while trying to push a car out of the snow.  We walked into the hospital emergency department, spoke with a triage nurse in less than 15 minutes, were in to see a general physician within 30 minutes and an orthopedic surgeon within an hour.  If I recall correctly, I think the triage nurse said something to the effect that “Relax, take a seat and I’ll wrangle up a doctor for ya!  I think you’ll end up seeing Dr. Y. who is here today and he did a great job on me and lots of my coworkers.” Maritimers are an exceptionally friendly bunch.  At the 2 hour point, my friend was having an MRI and he was out the door with a sling and a promise for a call back with the results by the day’s end.  By the end of the day, he had a surgery date scheduled for less than two weeks later.  This is completely unheard of anywhere else in Canada.

ONTARIO “Know where to go for appropriate care or wait and rot.”

Approximate wait time to see a doctor: 2-4 hours

Ontario is the most populated province in Canada..  In order to receive the appropriate care, you must know where to go.  We have a service called TeleHealth Ontario which is a toll free number that anyone can call and speak to a nurse and they will advise you as to whether or not you should see your family doctor,  go to a walk-in clinic, the emergency department or to call 911.  Generally speaking, Ontario is quite good for healthcare if you go to the appropriate place for your particular ailment.  If you have a legitimate emergency and go to the hospital, you will be seen immediately and receive excellent care.  If you have a non-urgent condition, you can expect to wait approximately 2-6 hours (depending on the condition) to receive treatment.  You may have to wait but, you will receive excellent medical care.  Going back to my friends’ experience with getting an MRI in New Brunswick; I was particularly impressed with the speediness of his diagnostics because when I had a bad concussion and was experiencing olfactory hallucinations (smelling things that are not there), I saw my family doctor and had to wait 8 months for a CT scan.  I thought that was completely unacceptable.  Needless to say, by then my brain had healed, or at least I’d like to think so.

SASKATCHEWAN “You’re close enough to a nurse.”

Approximate wait time to see a doctor: 3-6 hours, or maybe never!

Fortunately, I have never required medical treatment in this province.  Although I do not have any direct experience here, one of my clients told me this story.  She had to take her mother into the hospital for an impacted colon.  Her mother had a history of bowel problems and had prior surgery so she was well aware of what symptoms would qualify her condition as an emergency.  At the hospital, the intake nurse decided that this was not an emergency or a typical non-urgent condition, which meant that she was in some sort of grey area where she was not going to see a doctor, period.  My client was with her mother at the time and made a big fuss over this, as anyone in their right mind should do.  Ultimately, the nurse decided that since my client was a veterinary technician, that she was “close enough to being a nurse”, so she gave my client medications and verbal instructions on what to do if her mother’s condition worsens.  None of the medications were labelled nor were any written instructions provided.  This is something I would expect from a third world country! Fortunately, the impaction passed and she did not require further treatment.

The Worst: QUEBEC “You’re better off going back to Ontario or go to the US.”   

Approximate wait time to see a doctor: 36-72 hours

Yes, it gets worse!  Quebec is by far the worst province in Canada to receive healthcare.  On one trip, I had a very severe bacterial infection in my chest and in required antibiotics ASAP so that I didn’t develop pneumonia.  In the late evening when my condition worsened, I called around including the emergency department and they informed me that my best bet was to simply show up at a walk-in clinic at 7am when they opened and I might be able to see a doctor in the next day or two.  So, that’s exactly what I did.  When I showed up at 7am the walk-in clinic was fully booked for the next 2 days! Is it just me or do they have some deluded idea of what a walk-in clinic is??? They told me that I could either show up at another clinic tomorrow morning to book an appointment, or go to the emergency department and wait a guaranteed 36 hours minimum! I lividly told the nurses, “I could be dead of pneumonia by then!!” and then they told me, “You’re better off going back to Ontario or go to the US”.  So, I cancelled the rest of my business trip and drove home to Ontario where I saw a doctor right away and got the medication I needed.  Sometimes you just have to do things like that.  If you don’t have your health, there isn’t much you can do in life.  Know your priorities.

Ironically, Quebecers pay the highest income taxes in Canada.

I would love to hear from you about your experiences with healthcare.  In particular, to my fellow Canadians, I am interested in hearing your experiences with our healthcare system in each province.  I would also like to hear from my American readers about your experience with the promptness of healthcare in the USA and if it varies by state.

Travel Safe and Keep Healthy fellow Travellers.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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