Return To Canada Part One

Posted: September 3, 2010 in The Roper Files
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Thursday the 19th 2010 was a busy day for me. Maybe not quite as frantic as the Friday the 13th that preceded it. That was the day my truck battery craps out on the last Friday I have before leaving town and I start losing it because I had SO MUCH to do at the last minute. Got a new battery and the next thing I know I spend all day driving to the bank, getting my hair cut, buying gifts to take with me etc. But Thursday the 19th got off to an almost equally-frantic start

Because I got up at 4am the day before and went to work I was able to get a few hours of knock-down, drug-out gotta-have-it sleep. But I woke up before the alarm because alarms were already sounding in my head.

 Get up and start trying to do a million things at once; and I hadn’t even had that first cup of coffee yet. Went through the whole ritual the night before of packing, then re-packing. Realizing Plan Number Two wouldn’t work either and pull everything out and start over…

And yet I am drawing blanks over what I did and didn’t pack just a few hours later. Passport? Shorts? Undies? Socks? Beach stuff. Warm clothes for whale-watching. Do I have enough shirts?

I spent no less than four hours packing one suitcase and one backpack which I decided was going to be my limit to have to carry. Replaced my vintage “fanny pack” with a Swiss Army over-the-shoulder sling bag I found at Target for $26. Pretty “Metro-sexual”-looking but it proved invaluable during the next two weeks since I found I could cram a LOT of items into it. It had a pocket just the right size for my passport, wallet, sunglasses, camera etc and kept everything within reach.

 Start going through everything again as I debate making coffee at all; what if the shuttle guy shows up early?

Did I remember to bring everything? I AM spending two weeks on an island; start digging out my “desert island” CDs and DVDs to take with me. A trip like this will re-define those labels after the first trip. Dig out the 36-disc carrying case and make sure it’s full this year. Did I bring enough this? Did I bring enough that? Start rooting through that suitcase I spent the entire previous evening packing over and over. Gave up on the idea of two weeks worth of clothes and broke it down to one; two pairs of wear-one/wash-one jeans, seven pairs of socks and undies and seven shirts. One sweater, one hooded jacket. The suitcase is heavy but light enough to not kill me in the process of lugging it 4000 miles. The back-pack full of used books I have purchased as both gifts and reading material for the four and a half hour flight I find later is much akin to carrying a load of bricks but proves invaluable to preserving my sanity during the flight.

 I pack granola bars and bags of trail mix so I’m not tempted to stop at the airport kiosks. Pack a roll of American quarters into my backpack inside a 35mm film can. Got $400 in Canadian cash, $250 in American, a credit card, an ATM card and a $50 gift card my brother and his wife gave me. After going through everything one last time, even I have had enough of this game and put the suitcase and the backpack by the door. When the shuttle guy gets here I will be ready. In the meantime I’m making a half-pot of coffee…

 As I do so I remember doing this the previous year. Forgot to rinse the pot and came home two weeks later to find mold growing in it. Make a mental note to rinse that damn thing this year before I leave as the coffee brews. I think about how hard I have been working the previous twelve months for this day, about how it’s finally arrived. For the next two weeks I am not going to be just another anonymous cog in a ugly machine. For two weeks I am going to live like well…not a real person which is what I was fixing to say but those people you see on TV sitcoms. You know; the ones that never seem to be in school or working to pay rent and bills. The ones who seem to be spending every waking minutes conversing and laughing with their friends in some Cafe or coffee shop. Speaking of coffee…

I inhale the first cup with the same ease as breathing. That was good; pour the second one. Look out the front door; no shuttle yet.

 Cups number two and three (the last one for a half pot of coffee) become recent history with the same ease Cup Number one disappeared. Look out the door after rinsing the pot; the shuttle van goes racing past my place and down the hill. Wonder how long it will take him to figure it out?

Whip around and give the place one quick final once-over; AC set at 80, stereo off, computer off, TV, DVD player and home theater all off, coffee pot off….everything looks okay. Turn around to see the blue shuttle van pull up. Time to go! Duck into the washroom one last time and squeeze out a quick Number One after drinking all of that coffee, wash my hands and bolt out the front door with my bags before the shuttle guy even opens his door.

 Hate using these f***ing shuttle vans; I can rarely understand the drivers (whose name tags have no vowels) and the drivers all seem to drive like they’ve been up for a few days. If all of that isn’t scary enough I don’t like their billboard-like van pulling up in front of my house to tell the world: “This guys going out of town!” with their very presence. But I have a covered carport here for my truck so I leave it here and take the shuttle. Maybe the truck in the carport will deter burglars and taking the shuttle costs half as much as parking at the airport.

 I used to have a “gopher” job back in the 70s that involved me having to drive out to the airport a lot and either pick people up or drop them off. It sucked back then and the only thing that seems to have changed besides the cost of gas going up is the traffic between my place and there has just gotten immeasurably worse. The bad traffic doesn’t seem to deter my driver who zips in and out of the gridlock as if all the other cars just weren’t there. We pull through the gates and he soon drops me off at my terminal fifty bucks lighter.

 Jump the hoops of checking in my suitcase, getting my boarding pass and the security bs and finally get into the terminal and find my way to the restroom because I am about to explode by this point. Afterward I locate my gate and take a seat and read. Many other passengers flock around me; this is going to be a sardine flight I can tell already. Soon they begin boarding and I take my place in line. After presenting my passport one last time at the gate I am led to one of those plastic hamster tubes where we walk to the plane door. I can feel the 100+ temperature outside if I press my hand to the wall of the tube.


Inside the jet I put my backpack under the seat in front of me and put on my safety belt. Outside the window the sun is sending bright white beams of light at me. I close the plastic window lid like an eye. The plane rolls slowly then faster then the enormous aluminum bird rattles and shakes and we lift off into the clouds. Good bye Texas; see you again in two weeks…



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