Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Last 2 Minutes: An Unexpected Trip to Ottawa in 31 Short Hours

It really was a jaw-dropping sense of I can do this that flooded my whole body just over a week ago. 
I got an email saying that my upcoming Wednesday class was going to be pretty bare-bones, so I didn't really have to be there. I had nothing happening on Tuesday... Could it happen? I think my heartbeat actually sped up as I contemplated flying to Ottawa to be part of the Ottawa International Animation Festival with my partner, to pitch our animated show, The Adventures of Little Ali Fox at the Pitch This! competition. He'd bought his ticket weeks ago, knowing that I couldn't come because of work. 
I checked available flights. They were expensive, but still available. I emailed my boss and impatiently waited for her response. 
The next day (finally!) it came, while I was at work. I could go! I bought the plane tickets on my phone, on a break, and then I waited impatiently (again) until the moment where I could call my boyfriend and say "So guess what..." 

And off to Ottawa we went. On borrowed money, on stolen time, we got on a plane on Tuesday afternoon and-

But wait. First of all, you've got to know that Jay's and my time-management styles are... pretty different. I like to get to airports EARLY...

Or wait. Back it up a few hours earlier, when we realized that neither of us had printed out the "pitch bible" we were supposed to bring with us to show to all those animation executives we'd be pitching to. And it was 1:30pm. And our flight was at 4:15. And we had No. Fucking. Printer. Paper. 

So instead of getting happily tanked at the airport waiting for our flight to be called, I'm rushing down the street to the little printing shop on Commercial Drive, grinding my teeth while an Italian grandmother mulls over the cost of getting a book printed. Finally I thrust the memory stick into the printer's hand and seethe visibly until the data on that stick is returned to me in printed form. I meet Jay outside Shoppers at 2:30 and we take transit to the airport. By the time we're through security it's after 3:30 and our flight is just boarding. 

Thank god for credit cards (gone are the days of free airline meals, unless you're on a long-haul flight I guess). Thank god for being on a fairly new airplane that has Westjet Connect so we can watch movies and even get on the internet for a while. Thank god for earplugs so I can turn those movies up LOUD and block out the noise of: 
The toddler in front of me
The toddler behind me
The 4-month-old baby beside me and
The small dogs in carry-on bags across the aisle from me (I am not even kidding.)
Actually, it was in all honesty not as bad as it sounds. Everyone was trying to be good, even the toddlers. Mostly. There was zero turbulence. Jay was 5 rows back but we waved and smiled every once in a while. The flight was shorter than advertised. 
So we tumble off the plane at ten to midnight and Jay actually finds us a bus that's still running (yay OC Transit!) so we save tons of money taking public transit into town. And as we near our stop, we see an appealing pub that begs to be visited and lo! They are still serving food at 12:30am, so it's double Jamesons and platters of brown, deep-fried things for us. And so to bed. 

But it's Wednesday where we really excel, because I don't think two humans have ever crammed quite so much into one day ever before. 
We manage to get to the Chateau Laurier and transfer the correct slide show presentation for our pitch two minutes before the cut-off time. 
We visit the Byward Market and nervously sip coffees.
We meet the man who mentored us over the past month as we prepared our pitch. Hi Phil! 
Getting ready to pitch our show.
We do a few final run-throughs of our pitch and then... the fastest ten minutes ever fly by as we do our presentation in front of 4 executives from various companies. It goes really well. 
We spend a relaxed 40 minutes exploring and having lunch, and a fraught 20 minutes where I run to buy more memory sticks for Jay to give out to other execs he's pitching our show to, and Jay gives up on me and heads back to the hotel and I catch up with him, furious and sweaty, to thrust the memory sticks into his hands minutes before his first pitch appointment. 
I go for a 6k run that takes me to the Rideau Canal, which is rich with childhood memories for me, and then over a bridge into Quebec and back over another bridge and back to the hotel to meet Jay. (Due to the last-minute nature of 
my trip I didn't actually buy a pass to the festival, and so it fell to Jay to do all the Fast-Track pitching events, which is basically like speed dating except instead of trying to sell yourself you're trying to sell your show. He did marvelously.) 
Rideau Canal! Home of many happy childhood adventures! 

Giant soup-contemplating pigeons in Quebec. 

My first-ever multi-provincial run! 

Some more decidedly odd public art. 

I meet up with Jay and we decide to rent bikes and ride down the canal to rent some kind of boat. We rent bikes two minutes before the place closes for the day (are you sensing a theme here?). This is magical. Ottawa is surprisingly warm, and very beautiful.We actually find a place that lets you keep boats out until 7:30 pm (which is nuts, because it is fully dark at 7:30 pm), so I persuade Jay that we need to rent stand-up paddleboards. It is now around 5:45. We spend a beautiful hour splashing around on Dow's Lake and the Rideau Canal before getting back on our bikes and going to a nice waterside restaurant where I am so tired that I start to weep gently into my meal, but it is nonetheless very nice. 
And so back to our pension, where we have to sneak our rental bikes into our room because we are keeping them overnight and there is NO WAY we are risking locking them up outside. And 6 hours of sleep. And then I kiss my lover at a bus stop at 5:20am and fly back home. 

Ottawa was amazing. I would actually love to go back there as a tourist. Jay has been hard at work schmoozing and pitching back at the festival, and although we did not win Pitch This! we have made some really great connections there, and learned that our little project has a lot of potential. Apparently it is a pretty big deal that we were one of ten semi-finalists there; we were so green that we didn't even know what a big deal it was until we got there. 
Even though we had some tense moments, Jay and I were in heaven the whole time we were there. It's the first time we've ever really had anything even remotely resembling a holiday, and we made the absolute most of our 31 hours together. It was very hard for me to unwind myself from his arms and get on a bus to the airport on Thursday, let me tell you. 

Now it's all a little bit like a dream. We'll see where things go from here with our show, but it's far from over. In fact, I think the adventure's really just beginning.