I met Pierre at a Software QA conference in Orlando - sometime in the early 90’s. He attended my tutorial, and afterward invited me to go to dinner with him and three of his friends from Montreal. He told me he was the leader of a Software Testing and QA group in Montreal. He invited me to give a one-day tutorial to his group. I accepted. A few months later - in February - I was flying north from Logan Airport in a Northwest Express 11-passenger plane. I did not have to worry about getting an aisle or window seat because there was only one seat on each side of the aisle.
The only other passenger was an elderly woman, and the co-pilot told us exactly which row to sit in – each of us on opposite sides of the plane. The co-pilot said this was to “ balance the plane ”.
My Own Airport
An hour later we landed at Montreal’s Mirabel Airport – about 19 miles northwest of downtown Montreal. It was a beautiful, sunny, day and the airport was buzzing. Several jumbo planes flying in or flying out, all of them coming from or going to Europe or Japan. It was a big, very new airport, built in 1975.
At Pierre’s advice I picked up my bag and bought a ticket on the right bus. It took me into the city and dropped me off right-across the street from my hotel. On the ride into the city I noticed that there was a lot of snow piled up on the sidewalks. This surprised me. I had assumed that Montreal would have the best snow removal capability anywhere? But, no.
My Own Airport
At 7:00, Pierre met me in the lobby of my hotel and took me to dinner. We walked across the street, then down some stairs, into a massive underground city. Now I understood why they do not remove the snow from their streets and sidewalks – they live underground. The tutorial went fine the next day. A great group, and lots of lively discussion. We wrapped up around 4:00 and I walked across the street again to get the bus to take me back to Mirabel. My flight left at 6, and I was worried I might miss it because it was snowing heavily. The bus was going very slowly, Again I wondered about the poor snow plowing in such a major northern city.
My Own Airport
Back at the restaurant the next morning I found it a bit more crowed – this time there were two other occupied table. After a nice free breakfast, I grabbed my bag and walked back to the airport terminal. I was early, and there was no one behind the check-in booth. Ten minutes later the same girl who was there the night before appeared. Marie . She took my bag. She said that the flight in from Boston was running about a half-hour late and that I should go to Gate 15 in about one hour. I wanted another cup of coffee, but that was not going to happen. There were dozens of shops – coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops, newsstands, etc. But not one was open.
There were more than 15 gates, but not one was occupied. There were no travelers waiting at any of them. In a terminal at least as big as Providence’s Green Airport I was the only passenger. It was oddly weird. I had My Own Airport . After wandering up and down the entire airport it was finally time to go to Gate 15. When I got there the only person there was Marie . She stamped my ticket and told me to go down the stairs and wait for a bus that would take me out to my plane when it got in. I walked down the stairs and there was no bus. So, I sat on a bench and waited – but not long. Five minutes later the bus arrived. I immediately recognized the driver – Marie .
My Own Airport
Waiting for my plane to arrive, Marie told me the story of Mirabel. It had been built 15 years ago to replace an older airport. But, businesspeople traveling to and from the U.S. did not like Mirabel – it was too far out of the city. So, for several years the main traffic was only international flights in the afternoon. She told me I probably had seen Mirabel in a movie. I could not recall ever seeing it. She said that’s because they make it look like another airport. Mirabel had several hangers filled with movie props that transformed Mirabel into JFK, LAX, Logan, O’Hare, etc. Often large groups of movie people – actors, stagehands, directors – and crowds of people looking like crowds of people – worked from
midnight to noon at Mirabel shooting airport scenes. Where else could they get a real, large, airport with no one in it for 12 hours at a time?
My plane came in. Six businessmen departed. I said goodbye to my new best friend Marie . I was the only passenger on the flight back to Logan. The co-pilot told me to sit at the very back of the plane. He said it was to “ balance the plane .”