On my last post (the Warrior Eli Hoax) I received a comment from an anonymous person who lives in Saskatchewan. I replied to her comment and told her how much I loved Canada. Posting that comment got me to thinking about my parents and our trips to and from Alaska.
After divorcing my first husband at the end of 2001 I started working as a travel nurse. I lived with Mama and Daddy at their home in Houston for a few months to save some money, and I decided that I wanted to take a job in Alaska. My company came through for me and booked me into a nursing job in Anchorage from mid-May thru mid-August. When you travel to Alaska your options are seriously limited. You either drive, take a ferry from Washington (you can put your car on the ferry for a major price), or you can fly. No buses. No trains. As my company didn’t offer a rental car or reimbursement for a car I had no choice but to take the ferry or drive. The ferry was way to expensive; it was actually cheaper to drive for 11 days and incur expenses for gas, food, and hotels. I approached my parents and explained my plan: I offered them a free trip to Alaska if they would ride with me. I’d cover it all, from food to lodging. Dad agreed to take 2 weeks of vacation in early May and drive up with me then fly home, and Mom agreed to fly up in August and drive with me to my next job (Las Vegas).
Until that point I had never left the US, and I was excited about going to Canada. Dad immigrated to the US in 1962, just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he has been accustomed to life in the US. Even though Canada is almost exactly like the US in many ways, Dad had the most awful time getting acclimated to it. It was hysterical to watch. Observe:
- When we crossed from Montana into Alberta we decided to stop at a bank and exchange some currency. In Canada they have no $1 bill; they have a $1 coin. They also have a $2 coin. The rest of the money is in denominations just like American money. Dad kept telling the bank teller, “I don’t want $1 coins. I’d rather have $1 bills please.” “Sir, we don’t have $1 bills, we have $1 coins.” “What kind of bank doesn’t have $1 bills? You’re telling me you’re completely out?” And this exchange went on for another minute or two. It made me chuckle.
- When we got to Lethbridge we stopped for gas. At the time of our trip, gas was about $1.50 in the US. We stopped, and the price for unleaded was 67 cents. “Holy shit, Sissy, look! Gas here is 67 cents a gallon!” “Dad, that’s Canadian money. Convert it to American money.” *pressing buttons on the calculator with the day’s exchange rate* “OMG, Sissy, gas is 48 cents a gallon! How damn awesome is that?” “Dad, Canada uses the metric system. The price listed is per liter. There are 4 liters in a gallon, so multiply that by 4.” *pressing buttons* “Jesus Christ! Gas is $1.92 a gallon! Fucking thieves!” And again I am consumed with giggles.
- We took turns driving, and more than once I looked up from the book I was reading to find Dad zipping through the center of a small town doing almost 60 mph. “Dad! Slow down! The speed limit is 50!” “Dammit, Sissy, I am doing 50. I know what I’m doing!” “Dad, 50 kilometers an hour! You’re doing double the speed limit!” I’m amazed the Mounties didn’t pull us over.
- The whole bilingual thing took some getting used to. We stopped for a bathroom break out in the middle of nowhere in Northern BC, and the little gas station wouldn’t let you use the bathroom unless you made a purchase. We decided just to buy a couple of sodas. I went to pee while Dad was choosing drinks, and I came out of the bathroom to find him with a scrunched up, disgusted look on his face. He grabbed my arm and whispered, “Sissy, look at this! They drink raisin soda. Raisin soda! God almighty that must taste like shit.” He was looking at the French side of the can. I turned it around so he could see the English side. “Oh, it’s just grape soda.”
- Dad loves buying scratch off lottery tickets. He bought some in Alberta, he bought some in BC, and he bought some up in the Yukon. We were getting ready to leave Whitehorse early in the morning and would be in Alaska by late afternoon; Dad decided that he needed to cash in his winning scratch tickets before we left Canada. He goes in the store and gives the clerk 5 or 6 tickets. The clerk gives Dad a quizzical look and says, “Sir, this one is from Alberta, and these are from BC. I can’t cash them. I can just cash the ones from the Yukon.” “Ma’am, they’re all from Canada. Why can’t you cash them?” “Sir, these tickets are from different provinces.” “I realize that, ma’am, but it’s all Canada.” “Sir, are you American?” “Yeah, why?” “Let me put it to you like this: our provinces are like your states. Pretend we are in California right now. You’ve handed me tickets from Louisiana, New York, and California. I can only cash the California tickets.” *stunning realization* “Awwwwwwwwww, man.” It wasn’t the fact that he was wrong that made Dad mad; it was the fact that he lost our on 10 or so dollars.