Prescription Margarita Oct04

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Prescription Margarita

Sunday August 11, 2013 – 3 nights in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: We were driving from the Detroit area up to Ontario to visit Niagara Falls and Toronto. We picked an RV park in Hamilton because it was in the middle and a little over an hour from each. Toronto is a gorgeous city, but I’m going relegate it to mere eye-diversion here, sprinkling photos into the juicier story. They’ll remind both you and me that we came through the other end of that long drive day just fine and went on to have a great visit.

After a careful extraction of Lucy from my aunt’s driveway and a watery-eyed goodbye, we were on the road just before 11am. An hour and a half later we rolled up to the end of a very long line of cars. It was halfway across the Blue Water Bridge that spans Lake Huron and there we sat for a half-hour waiting to cross the border into Canada.

The single lane we were stuck in, for cars and RV’s, finally fanned out into 12 lines, each leading to a customs agent in a booth. We chose the far left lane, number 12, and that choice was to be our first piece of bad luck that day. We’re usually fairly skilled at picking good lines, fast lines, say in a grocery store or freeway traffic, but the RV’s girth and lack of maneuverability were a mitigating factor here. We couldn’t really fender-joust our way toward the middle. Not only did our line move glacially, but we noticed that several of the cars were sent over to the inspection area. All the other lines were moving at twice the speed, sending happy visitors zooming out into Ontario.

Inside the Harbor Place shopping center

Inside the Harbor Place shopping center

When we finally made it up to our very stern customs agent, he began grilling us about the contents of our vehicle. Did we have any fire arms, tobacco, alcohol, pets, where were we going in Canada, how long would we be staying, who owned the vehicle, what was the license number, where were we from, what was our relationship to one another, what did we do for a living – insert sound of a needle being pulled off the record here.

All during the five minute interview with Mr. Stern, he had been writing down notes about us on a yellow form. He finally handed it to me and requested that we pull over to the inspection area. I glanced at the paper quickly before passing it to Ali and there, like an obscenely long, ugly worm next to a group of short, fuzzy caterpillars was the word UNEMPLOYED. It was spelled out completely, every letter, in loud caps, while the rest of the potentially incriminating scribbles were little abbreviations.

Beautiful statue outside a bank in Toronoto

Beautiful statue outside a bank in Toronoto

Apparently our joblessness was a red flag. I can only guess that they felt threatened. We might have been coming to Canada to stay, get jobs and move in. Ali and I grumbled about all of it while we aimed the RV across the eleven lanes to our right of unchallenged, freely moving visitors and made our way to the inspection station. Two fully armed, bullet-proof vested, border patrol agents flagged us over to a spot that was big enough for our RV. I rolled down the window, handed them the yellow form and our passports. They, in turn, invited us to get out, unlock every door and cabinet on the RV and stand on the sidewalk while they performed an inspection.

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Not that we had lied or had anything illegal onboard, but the idea of two people going through all our stuff was strange and slightly unnerving. They rummaged around for five minutes and then a face appeared at the side door. He was struggling to get it open. It is a little confusing if you don’t know how it works. There’s a plastic slider that covers the main door handle and then handle lifts up to open. Before I could get over there to help, the face disappeared and the officers decided to crawl out the front driver’s side door.

Sculpture on the side of a TV station building

Sculpture on the side of a TV station building

They came over to us with small grins on their faces. I mentioned that the door handle pulls up and the officer smiled a bit bigger and said, “Yea, we decided to give up and crawl out the front instead of asking you to come let us out.” That was the first sign of pleasantness. I suppose their job is very serious and they need to maintain an air of professionalism or maybe even intimidation to be effective, but it sure was nice to share a smile at that point.

However, we were not free to go just yet. Our wormy yellow form indicated that after inspection we were to talk to an immigration agent, so we were directed inside the building where we took a number. While we waited our turn, we watched several other cars, even a big bus, get the same inspection treatment, so we didn’t feel alone in the process. There were easily 20 or so agents, both men and women, walking around doing inspections, taking and returning yellow forms. Our number 90 kept us waiting for another 20 minutes before we were finally called up to the big desk.

China Town

China Town

Once again a fully armed, vested, young woman asked for our yellow form and passports. She started right in on the questions that related to our residence and employment. “No we don’t own a home anymore, we’re using our dad’s address as a mailing address while we travel for a year.” “Yes, we actually quit our jobs, it’s not a sabbatical type thing.” “Could we get our old jobs back if we wanted to?” Hmm. How should we answer that? Ali and I looked at each other for a quick moment, searching for a hint in each other’s eyes. “I don’t think either of us will have a problem finding work again, we have lots of contacts,” Ali said. Then the agent asked where we’d been so far and what was next, a lighter line of questions. Phew!

Parliment

Parliment

Our nerves were further soothed when the neighboring agent, one booth over, leaned in and whispered loud enough for us to hear, “I’m so jealous.” There were more questions about misdemeanors and jail time. She asked if we’d ever been fingerprinted. Both of us had, Allison for her job in finance, me for my first job in day care, so she was able to find us in the system and verify our clean records. We couldn’t provide a formal confirmation for the campground since one wasn’t sent to us, but the last hoop she wanted us to jump through was to prove that we had enough cash in the bank to fund our stay in Canada.

Victoria University

Victoria University

Having just left Michigan 300 yards ago, both our phones were straining to stay connected to our US-based cellular providers, one bar only, but we started to log into our online accounts. As spinning icons twirled on our phones waiting for servers to respond, we overheard the agent on the other side of ours ask the man next to us, “So you forgot that you were in prison for two years?” To which the man replied, “Yes”. Followed by her reply, “Why don’t you take a seat over there.” I don’t often use this term, but sometimes it’s perfect for the situation – DUDE!?! Really? Sadly, I think there was a chance he really did forget he was in prison. We don’t know what happened to that guy – he was still there when we left.

With plenty of dollars in our bank accounts, another set of shared smiles and a wish for luck, our agent sent us back outside, but still we had the yellow worm form. We just needed to hand it, one more time, to one of the other agents and then we could be on our way. I was never so glad to be rid of a piece of paper. After an hour of waiting, watching, inspection and interrogation, we were finally rolling again toward Hamilton, Ontario along the 403, blasting some 80’s music and enjoying the Canadian countryside.

Victoria University

Victoria University

Just as Prince was crooning about “Pop Life”, we heard our own pop, more like a boom actually followed by that, I wish it weren’t so familiar, laka, laka, laka. We’d lost another tire. Having just experienced a blow out a couple weeks earlier, Ali knew exactly what to do. She slowed, put on her hazards and began moving toward the shoulder. I swore, unlatched my seat belt and turned off Prince. Even though there was an exit about a hundred yards ahead, a man in a pickup truck had pulled over in front of us to help, so we rolled to a stop as far off the road as we could. He’d seen the tire tread fly out from behind us and smack the front fender of the SUV and he also saw that our sewer door was dangling down underneath. We had a dingleberry.

He helped us examine the damage. The flapping tire tread had bent the crap out of the metal cabinet floor beneath the sewer system, but luckily none of the tanks or vital tubes were damaged. Ali was able to bend the metal back enough to close the trap door again. The front fender on the SUV was loose, but just in one corner and it was in no danger of falling off or anything. So we followed our good samaritan off the freeway slowly to the nearest gas station. Once he knew that someone from Good Sam Roadside Assistance was on their way, he left us with a hand shake and a wish for luck.

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At this point, with nothing to do but wait for the tow truck to come put on the spare, I decided to explode. I don’t often explode, so it was equal parts stress-relieving and also riveting, as if I were watching myself from above. First, I scream-growled like a monster. Nothing sci-fi, or sea-fairing, more like something from the woods, a Big Foot, maybe. Then I yelled at the top of my lungs, “I am so f**king pissed off!” That was all Allison needed to realize that her best option was to step away, move far away from angry Sasquatch.

I continued ranting up the stairs and into the RV, slammed the door, moved down the hallway and did a dramatic torso-face-slam onto the foot of the bed. “Bravo”, the Lin up in the audience thought, “you never do this. Go! Let it out!” I growled some more, pounded my fists, then paced the 15 feet between our bedroom and living room, crying those pinched, tiny tears that come with anger.

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You might wonder why Sasquatch Lin showed up at this tire blow out, when the last blow out was handled by the calm, princess Lin in the air-conditioned SUV. Well, it has to do with “avoid-ability”. There is nothing in this world so irritating to me as experiencing a mistake that I had an opportunity to avoid. When we were in Chicago we’d taken the RV to a shop and asked them to check out all the tires and do an alignment. They immediately recommended we buy all new tires which created distrust. We already had one brand new tire in the mix, so we knew they never really inspected the tires. There was a compelling argument to buy two new front tires at least, otherwise the alignment would be worthless, so we chose to do that. Meanwhile, a sun-baked, cracked, 7 year old tire was waiting on the rear left-inside for us to cross into Canada.

There were so many reasons I should have known about that tire and so much more I should have expected, no, demanded from the mechanic. I also should have picked safety over budget, but I don’t even want to go into all that. I’m already growling under my breath as I type. Suffice to say, I was furious with myself, the situation was explosion worthy. But finally I was able to regain humanness, the world around me reappeared and I knew I needed to go find Ali. She was sitting on a curb at the far end of the gas station parking lot, having her own tears. I felt terrible. Bad Sasquatch! I sat down next to her and we huddled together until the tow truck arrived.

A view of Toronto from a roof top restaurant

A view of Toronto from a roof top restaurant

By the time we made it to the RV park that evening, 8 hours after we’d left Michigan, the sun was low in the sky and we were emotionally exhausted. That morning we had decided to start a new eating plan. After enjoying severals weeks of local beers, wines, pizzas and more, lots of eating out, along with limited exercise, we wanted a healthy kick start. We thought we’d give up cocktails for a while.

Well, F**K that. Any relationship doctor on the planet would have prescribed a cocktail for us after the day we’d had. We made an enormous pitcher of margaritas, got out the big bag of chips and watched the movie, “The Hangover”. By morning, we were both cured.