Working for CELCAT in Sales for more years than I care to remember and having the privilege of looking after our ex-pat cousins across the pond I thought for my first CELCAT blog post it may be interesting just to reflect on a couple of experiences I’ve had when visiting the USA and Canada.

The most amusing must be my very first trip to the USA when I flew Aer Lingus from Dublin to Chicago, and remember here was I “…an Englishman in New York Chicago”. The reason for flying from Dublin was to be able to clear immigration at Dublin airport as I’d heard that immigration queues at Chicago were often horrendous. It proved true as when I got to the arrivals hall I could just pass through immigration like a US citizen and saw the huge crowds on the other side of the glass. At this point I was feeling very pleased with myself.

My next task was to find the car rental place. One of my colleagues had booked the rental for me and given me a printout for Now I’d heard of Avis, Hertz, Enterprise etc. so just assumed Carhire3000 was a US rental firm. Logical? Anyway, walking through the airport, I saw signs for Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Budget etc. but no sign of Carhire3000. Still I thought they’ve all got to be in the same place so I carried on walking until I was just outside the terminal. What to do? I saw a man who looked like an airport official so started crossing the road to go and ask for help when suddenly this voice booms out in deepest Chicago drawl “HEY BUDDY! GET BACK ON THE SIDEWALK!” I nearly jumped out of my skin, quickly stepped back on to the pavement and turned to see this huge African American guy storming towards me (think Mr T from the A-Team). What an introduction to the US! Anyway, pointing at the Walk/Don’t Walk beacon, the guy comes right up to me and says “… buddy, you don’t walk until the sign tells you to walk, okay!” I quickly apologised and said “It’s my first time here. Can you help me? I’m trying to find the Carhire3000 rental.” The guy looks down at me and says, “Are you from Mars man, there ain’t no Carhire3000?” “There is.” I replied, bravely disagreeing with him, and handed him the piece of paper. He looked at it and said, “Man that ain’t no carhire3000 it’s Dollar rental, cross the slab and go left (or right I can’t remember now), you have a nice day now spaceman” and off he went, just like that.

I will never forget my first trip to Chicago. Within about 5 minutes of arriving I had been smug, been yelled at, reminded of the Illinois pedestrian laws, given directions and wished a nice-day, where else would that happen?

Equally alarming was one of my visits to University College of the North in The Pas Manitoba, Canada back in January 2015. Living in Scotland, I thought it got rather cold and do find it quite amusing when going down to the Coventry Head Office for meetings I’m sitting there in a T-shirt whilst some colleagues are freezing (especially my French ones)! But now I know what cold is. I had arrived in Winnipeg for a stopover night with my colleague before heading up to The Pas the following morning. I had gotten off the plane, walked through a heated tunnel to the customs area, cleared immigration, walked 3-miles (or so it seemed) along the concourse and in to the cosy baggage hall, picked up my bags and, sweating slightly in thermal fleece, hat and gloves, in to the main terminal building. I was prepared.

Searching for the hotel’s transport, I followed the signs towards “courtesy buses” and stepped outside. One step through the door and I almost collapsed. I could not breathe, the bitterly cold air just seemed to freeze my throat as it passed in to my lungs and my lungs were having none of it - that cold air is not coming in here! I coughed a couple of times, tried to put my gloved hand across my mouth to stop the airflow before giving up and rapidly turning back in to the terminal gasping for breath. Within only a few seconds there was a sliver of ice between my forehead and hat where the sweat had instantly frozen. My, was that cold! And as one of the locals pointed out later, that night was ONLY minus 20.

Thankfully at the second attempt I was better prepared and managed to protect all key body parts when heading outside to find the bus. Now when people complain about it being cold, I think – cold, you don’t know the meaning of it. Try Manitoba, Canada in January. That is cold!