Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oh Canada!

A negative person could say that if there's a way to screw up, I'll find it. A person who sees the cup as half full, on the other hand, could say that if I had stayed indoors today, safely and unadventurously, this post would never have been written. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen!
The first order of business was to wash the OB's shirts, #1. because they needed washing; #2. because he's leaving on a business trip tonight; and #3. because I'm going home tomorrow. And so, a pot of coffee, a pile of shirts, "and thou beside me, singing in the wilderness."....but I digress! I started early. Washed, dried, ironed, folded, and drained the coffee pot. Mission accomplished.

But I had another mission in mind---to visit a quilt shop in Niagara Falls and be back by three thirty to kiss him goodbye. Maps in hand, I headed for the door. Hwy 90 North to 290 West to 190 North. Seemed easy enough on the map. Until you get out there. Then you discover that 90 gives you a choice of East or West---no sign of North. And when it's finally looking like you lucked out and got on the right road they start calling it by a different name. Are they trying to confuse you? And the drivers! Where are their manners? Is this how their mothers taught them to treat visitors? Honking and shaking their fists? How about a little compassion for a stray from the south where the air is warmer and the pace more leisurely? They drive like bats out of hell here. Maybe it's because they know where they're going ? But we're not all so fortunate. Patient they're not. Nor shy with their horns.

It seems like there's a conspiracy to distract me. I can get lost all by myself, no conspiracy needed. The signs fly at me. "Lodging exits-1/4 mile". Don't need 'em, don't plan to lodge. "Camping exits-1 mile". Don't plan to camp. Fleetingly speculate on lack of camping over the years, even with five children. Organising such a band of gypsies would probably have made the man lose his mind, but wouldn't it have been fun, wistfully, all of us together, bonding in the wilderness....Niagara Falls, straight ahead, proclaims the next sign as I blur happily by --- I made it Ma! I didn't get lost. [She's up there somewhere, looking out for me, she and my Dad, otherwise my explorations over the years would have gotten me lost permanently, long before now.]

My Niagara Falls map, courtesy of the car rental company , is sketchy at best. So, even though I have an address, I know not how to find it. Only later does it occur to the addled brain that I could have called on the cell phone, but right now the circuits are overloaded and logic isn't getting much of a look in. I circle through some very dodgy looking parts of town until, just as I am about to give up, I stumble upon it. My bladder is about to explode. All that coffee. The lady smiles and looks ready for a chat. I explain how I've been circling, and that I will be much more coherent if I can first use the bathroom. When push comes to shove my needs are simple. "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou ," I mean a chamberpot, "beside me, singing in the wilderness.........".

I spend a blissful hour nosing around the shop, looking at patterns, fondling fabrics, picking out a few, and chatting with the owner. Then back to my chariot, armed with directions to the American Falls. I couldn't come to Niagara all the way from Florida and only go to a quilt shop! Followed the directions slavishly. Came to the end and turned right, as instructed. Vaguely registered a sign that said Rainbow Falls. Completely missed the one that said Exit to Canada! So here I am, in no-man's-land, with two choices. Choice number one: Drive back out the entrance and risk ripping my tires to shreds, or choice number two: Keep moving forward, which will land me in Canada! But I don't have my passport! Oh please God, I only wanted to have a quick gander at the Falls, I don't want to go to Canada! Mild panic is setting in. And, when panic comes in the door, logic flies out the window. Take a deep breath. Enter the duty free shop. Wait in line F.O.R.E.V.E.R. behind a group of confused Asian tourists [I can sympathise]. The cashier tells me if I buy a token I can proceed across the bridge, turn around on the other side and come back. At this point I would have traded in my grandmother. A $2:50 token sounds like a bargain indeed. But one thing is still bothering me. "Will they let me back, even though I don't have my passport?" "Yes," the cashier assures me. "You're absolutely sure?" I badger her. "I'm 200% sure," she says, giving me a withering look. "You're not the first [moron], and I'm sure you won't be the last." As I drive across the bridge, the knowledge that I am now a member of a brotherhood of idiotic ninnies doesn't do much to comfort me.

"What country are you a citizen of?" the burly young woman at the customs booth asks me disinterestedly.

"Ireland," I answer, feeling ashamed to be letting the side down.

"May I see your green card?"

Momentary panic, as I fumble to find it. Relieved, I hand it to her, jabbering about my mistake. Softening a little, she hands it back and comes out of her booth to show me where to go to turn around. Gratefully, I bestow on her my very best SEG.

As I drive back across the bridge I have a glorious view of the Falls. I'd be able to tell the OB that I'd seen them again [omitting, of course, the detail that this time I saw them from the Canadian side!]

My humiliation is not yet complete. Before I'm home free I have to stop at the American customs booth.

"What country are you a citizen of?"

"Ireland,"I reply.

"How long did you spend in Canada?" he asks, taking my green card.

"Almost five minutes." Without even blinking he continues his interrogation.

"And what was the purpose of your visit?"

Once again, for his edification, I explain my idiotic mistake. He gives me a look much like the one the cashier at the duty free shop had given me, and waves me through. I can just imagine him telling his wife tonight about his day at work. "Didn't catch any terrorists today hon, but we did have another member of the brotherhood come through.....sigh...."

So, screw up or glass half full? For myself, I'm an optimist. Had I not sallied forth and gone adventuring, I wouldn't have had that fleeting but glorious view of the Falls from the Canadian side. Nor would I have some lovely pieces of fabric to add to my quilting "stash". Next time I will bring my passport, just in case, and read the signs more carefully. Of course, to do that I will have to ride my bicycle or take shank's mare, as my brain cannot compute at bat-out-of-hell speed. .


Lily said...

Can I say I am so glad I wasn't with you? Love you!

Anonymous said...

just for future reference--all US highways and freeways are numbered according to whether they travel a north-southbound route or a west-eastbound route. All odd-numbered highways travel north/south, while all even-numbered highways travel east-west. And why don't they teach this stuff in social studies class? /unowho

molly said...

Just goes to show I'm not too old yet to learn something new every day!What numbers do they put on roads that lead you into Canada and don't allow u-turns?!

Becky in FL said...

What a grand adventure!! I'll travel with you any day. It would be much more fun than actually arriving anywhere.

meggie said...

Haha. I ejoyed your Canadian sojourn. I wonder why Customs people never seem to have a sense of humour!
I went to check out Lukey Barklow, only to find no one was home!!?

meggie said...

And I see I have added a K to Barlow! How a slip the key can change things!