California, Here I Come

This story took place in Canada.  It’s about the east coast, not the west, and it happened to my parents, not me.  Other than that, it’s exactly like the title.

My parents wanted to see and enjoy as much of Canada as they could, while they were still strong enough to make the trips.  The year after they made the trip out to B.C., they decided to drive to the east coast.  They got as far as Montreal the first day and stayed at an inexpensive hotel.

After supper, dad thought they might have a drink.  He found a vending machine where he could buy Coke, as mix, but couldn’t seem to locate an ice machine.  On his way back to the room, he encountered a man with a bucket of ice, and asked him where he had got it.  The guy said he had to ask a hotel employee, who got it for him.  Dad complained that he had asked two different employees.  They had mumbled something in French and walked away.  The guy told him to wave American money.  If they think you’re a Yankee, they’ll fall all over themselves.

There was no bridge over to Prince Edward Island at that time and Dad didn’t want to take the ferry to see a whole Province that’s smaller than Southern Ontario.  They drove through New Brunswick and on into Nova Scotia.  They drove north and followed the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton.  On a whim, Dad decided that they would take the ferry over to Newfoundland. There is actually a legal Canada Post outlet on the ferry.  You can buy postcards and stamps and deposit mail in a receptacle.  At the end of the ferry’s day, the Canada Post employee gathers all mail and takes it ashore for sorting and shipping.

They bought several postcards and began addressing them, one to Mom’s younger brother, one to my half-sister, one to my brother, and then the problem struck.  They knew my name, of course.  They knew the name of my city.  They even knew my house number, but, do you think either one of them could remember the name of the street I lived on?  Now that I’m almost their age, I understand the mental block.  They pondered and thought, then Dad got up and wandered away.  Mom was thinking, Oh sure, leave it to me while you go socialize.  A couple of minutes later, Dad came back.  Frederick Street, he says.  Oh, you remembered.  No, I asked that kid over there.  Mom wanted to know how some teenager on a ferry to The Rock, knows where her son lives, four Provinces west.  Simple, Dad says.  He’s wearing a U of Waterloo (our twin city) jacket, so I described where the street started and where it went, and he knew.

They landed and drove off the ferry, and north to Corner Brook.  They’d been living and showering in hotels/motels for over two weeks.  My mother used to have her hair done at a salon every Friday, so she told Dad to keep an eye out for a hairdresser.  As you enter the city, you do so on a one-way street.  About a block ahead, Dad saw a car pull out of a parking space on the left hand side.  He pulled into the recently vacated spot and looked toward the businesses.  They were parked right in front of a nice hair salon.  Mom went on in to see if they could take her, and how soon.  Dad would have put money in the parking meter, but it still had time on it.  The ladies inside weren’t busy at that moment, and took her immediately.  An hour later they climbed back in the car, and there were still a couple of minutes left on the meter.  The word is synchronicity, a collision of possibles, so unlikely, that it almost seems to imply Divine intervention.

Having come this far, they decided to drive across the Province to St John’s.  They drove and drove, and drove, and drove.  The views were breath-taking, but Dad used the term, boringly beautiful.  Oh look, another mountain.  Newfoundland is the end of the Appalachian Chain.  It’s not The Rockies, but it’s still mountains.  They climbed one long hill, and, just over the ridge was a garage/diner/rest area.  Dad gassed up, and then they went into the restaurant, for a stretch and some lunch.

As they came out Dad said, he could hear a car laboring up the long hill just over the ridge.  Just as it reached the top, there was a bang and a lot of smoke.  The car had thrown a piston rod down through the oil pan.  The driver managed to coast it into the garage area.  The attendant examined it and gave him the bad news.  Can you fix it, the owner wanted to know.  Oh yeah.  No problem.  How long would it take?  “Well,” said the mechanic, “If I can get the parts from St John’s, two to three days.  If I have to wait for parts from Halifax, it’ll be two to three weeks.”

Fun’s fun, but, being stuck on this rock for two or three weeks isn’t it.  Or, hire a ride to the airport, fly home, fly back when the car’s repaired and hire another ride out to the middle of nowhere.  The cost would be more than the car was worth.  Discretion being the better part of sanity, Dad turned around and headed back toward the ferry dock.  There’s a reason life moves a little slower on Newfoundland.  If they’d had friends and family to help, it would have been a different situation.  Dad just wanted to get back to civilization the mainland.


6 thoughts on “California, Here I Come

  1. Jim Wheeler says:

    Excellent memoir, Archon. Your writing style is the same as the one in fiction that attracts me, a moving assessment of the protagonist’s thought process and opinions. Your dad was a student of human nature too – you come by it honestly I think.

    The story reminds me of your peculiar situation up there, the one wherein you have one province speaking a different language. I see by Wikipedia that Quebec’s 1995 referendum came within an eyelash of severing it from the rest, and that would have been very interesting I think. We down here got our shorts in a serious knot in 1861 over a similar situation, but then that was different because of the slavery issue. Up there, seems to me the main difference is in how people talk. Is there more to it?

    I wonder if the world isn’t backsliding, politically, drifting back into smaller tribes. We seem to be doing so down here. We’ve got Democrat states and Republican states and they mix about as well as oil and water.


    • Archon's Den says:

      You ask insightful questions that are not easily or concisely answered. There is far more to it. The language question is not the problem, but both a symptom of the real trouble and a blunt instrument used to coerce financial and social concessions. It might be worth a blog of its own, even if Emergency Services think sleeping gas has been released by terrorists.


  2. whiteladyinthehood says:

    It just sounds like such a beautiful place. I love the mountains…


    • Archon's Den says:

      I’d love to move there, but financial and family constraints prevent that. I’d love to take KayJai up on her invitation for a visit, but again, money intrudes. It’s as far from here to KayJai as it is from here to Key West. We will splurge on a weekend in Detroit, later this month. Perhaps in a couple of years, when the wife starts getting Govenment pension.


      • whiteladyinthehood says:

        I’ve never been to Detroit – I hope you enjoy your weekend there…Stay outta trouble, Archon.


  3. kayjai says:

    Very brave of your parents to venture to parts unknown and of course, you’re right. Had they had the inclination to call upon anybody around them, it could have made the trip a tad more bearable. I understand their lack of enthusiasm to impose on the community, but really. That’s what Newfoundland is. It would not have made any more of a difference to a Newfoundlander had your father knocked on the door and explained his situation. They (the Newfs) would have insisted they help him…it’s just the way it is here.


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