Road Rage - Athlete Journal by Clara Hughes

Traveling as a team is complicated business. Most often we’re seen in airports, train stations and hotel lobbies throughout the world blocking the way while waiting for our coaches to tell us our next move. We are like sheep and completely dependent on our leaders. Throughout the years traveled, I’ve witnessed curious reactions to our cluster of Canadiana, represented by piles of bike boxes, luggage and bodies strewn in the way of passer-byes. Some are nice, friendly ‘Oh, Canada!’ and others are outright rage. Travel rage, that is, and it seems to be at its most vicious here in Europe.

Last year the rage emerged when Steve Elm (who for reasons yet to be known seems to be a magnet for angry old men in airports) crossed paths with an angry traveler in the Amsterdam airport. The suspect was approximately 60 years old, with gray hair and a trim physique. He cut directly into Steve’s path when Steve wandered over to our baggage carousal. Sarcastically, and quietly (I was there witnessing this) Steve thanked the elder man for cutting him off. Seconds later the man was back, whispering in Steve’s ear how he was going to ‘Cut his_____off’, and that he was a ‘disrespectful punk’ and should ‘respect his elders’.

Steve and I made our way back to the team, laughing and retelling the story to our audience of teammates. Next thing we knew our friend was back in action, moving closer, threatening more. We laughed and thanked him for his kindness but inside were afraid for Steve, knowing he soon would have to leave the confines of airport security.

Three weeks ago, when arriving in Oslo, Norway, jet-lagged and giddy, we waited while coach Neal purchased tickets for the train to Hamar. We stood, off to the side, feeling we were out of the way, when an even older man approached. We smelt him before we saw him, the booze seeping through his pores in his drunken state. He pushed his cart almost directly into Cindy Klassen, one of the nicest people gracing this earth, and demanded ‘MOVE’. Cindy laughed, we all laughed, thinking he was joking. His cart moved forward, closer to ramming Cindy, and he bellowed ‘MOVE’ again. Cindy laughed and then realized this dude was serious. We cheered him on as he moved past, swearing at us under his breath. We were feeling a bit unwelcome in Norway at this point.

In Berlin last week, while unloading the large tour bus transporting us from hotel to airport, carts were loaded as we readied to head over to the check-in. After piling my bike bag, suitcase, rollers, carry-on, etc, etc, I was approached by, yes, another old man. He rammed my cart with his, snarling words in German, yelling at me in hostile tones. I was in a state of disbelief that this complete stranger could direct this magnitude of anger towards me- a complete stranger! That a person could be so ready to snap was terrifying. And I had nowhere to move! There were carts all around. So, I did the only thing I could muster in this situation, smiled, thanked him for being such a nice, nice man, and stood in place. ‘Have a great day, sir!’ Unbelievable!!

For all of the meanness we experience, I must balance with kind words of appreciation for all the kind souls who have helped us when we are lost, overloaded or just plain delirious with fatigue and jet lag in so many countries. Also, I remain ever grateful for the (and I feel safe to generalize here from many years of experience…) patience of most travelers in North America. Fortunately for us, and sadly for the airport workers of all levels, this rage is saved for employees.

Go, Canada!

Clara Hughes.