It doesn’t take long for Canada to feel just like home, especially after you get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, and of course that funny feeling in the back of your mind that you’re walking upside down on the bottom of the world. Then, at the most unexpected times, little things jump out and remind you that we ain’t in Kansas now Toto (well, we’ve never actually been to Kansas, but you know what I mean.)
Like the other day. It’s really hot, so we find ourselves at the nearby recreation centre. A sign in the lobby announces, “Summer Swim and Skate camp now on!” I have visions of kiddies in wet Speedos stuck to the floor of the ice rink. Nah, surely not. Anyways (as they say here), we elect to just ‘stick’ to the pool today.
Even though I know that at least 50% of the three million kids in the pool will choose to get out again if they need a bathroom break, I elect to sit this one out.
The place has that familiar chlorine smell that I remember from my school days, and, there are swim classes in progress. This surprises me, as swimming isn’t exactly a national sport over here. I mean to say, when have you ever seen a headline “Famous Canadian surfer punches Orca!!” Anyways, like I said, it all feels pretty familiar until I hear one teacher asking her collected group of five year olds “So class, who remembers what you do when you’re in the middle of the lake and you see a bear?” Twenty little hands shoot up and the kids chorus in unison “Run real fast and don’t over slip on the ice.”
Then there’s that incident at Redwood Park. We’ve heard this is a great place to take kids on a hot summer’s day. The park once belonged to a couple of eccentric twin brothers who thought it would be pretty neat to plant a forest of trees imported from all over the world, and even neater to live in a tree house in the middle of that forest (as you do.) That, surprisingly enough, isn’t the odd bit.
We arrive at the park late morning. Plenty of time to amble the shady paths between giant sequoias and assorted fir trees, then find a quiet spot for lunch. We take inventory – food, check – drinks for the kids, check – coffee – coffee? Oops. Knew we forgot something. I volunteer to make an emergency dash to the nearest Tim Hortons. No biggie, there’s practically one on every corner. Kirsty suggests she saw what looks like a strip mall just a bit further on from our turn-off on the main road. No worries. I jump in the Dodge, and take a quick left back onto the arterial (which is actually no mean feat). A couple of minutes later I reach the ‘strip mall’. Wow, look at all those cars lining up at the drive-thru.
“Passport sir?” What? Surely you don’t need ID to buy coffee?? “This is the US border Sir. Passport please!” Ok, so I’m fifteen minutes from home (and my passport) and about to leave the country. I have visions of being taken to ‘secondary’ for interrogation. They say the truth will set you free, so I explain I’m actually on a ‘Timmies run’. Fortunately, the guard is a Canadian. My explanation sounds perfectly natural to him, and in no time flat I’m not only heading back the way I came, but I have detailed directions to the right place, and an order for three double doubles for the border guards.
That’s Canada Eh?