Sunday, June 21, 2015

No Problems At All

Oh, it all started so innocently.

Lying in my bed one golden Vietnamese morning, texts from my first-born began to ring in.

Wanna go to a soccer game in Vancouver?
FIFA Women's World Cup.
USA versus Nigeria.
It's an afternoon match so we can make a quick day trip.

Yes! Of course! Sign me up! That should be no problem at all. 

All things seem easy when you are on the opposite side of the planet.

So this week, the day of our trip rolled around.

Well. We planned to leave at noon for the 5 p.m. kickoff. With the drive time calculated as 2.5 hours, our timetable seemed prudent. But when we actually backed down the driveway at 12:10 and my daughter expressed concern that we were 'late,' I should have taken that as a sign.

I also should have seen the writing on the wall when we caught sight of the first border crossing reader board. Here in western Washington, there are a handful of different ports of entry into Canada so we have options. Since the main checkpoint at the Peace Arch often suffers multi-hour back-ups, the transportation agencies have thoughtfully placed signs on incoming highways to allow travelers to see the wait times at the various crossings, and adjust their travel plans accordingly.

Our first glimpse showed us a 2+ hour back up at Peace Arch, and one-hour waits at the smaller stations. Boldly, we headed to Sumas, the easternmost crossing, and congratulated ourselves on our clever tactics.

This giant gold miner loomed over us as we waited to cross. Sadly, he did not prevent a snobby SUV with BC plates from cutting me in line. 

And when we ended up waiting for almost 90 minutes to cross in Sumas, well, I should have known my day was cursed. But no, when we finally crossed the border and hopped onto Canada 1, westbound for Vancouver, I assumed that all of my problems were over.

Gorgeous bridge but no time to dilly dally. I've got a Suburban to follow.

We did ride smoothly into the city. I spied a Washington mom at the helm of a Suburban full of teenagers in red, white and blue jerseys; she seemed to know where she was going so I cruised along in her wake, far above posted limits. The kilometers flew by and with still a full hour before game time, we were caught up in the predictable traffic jam outside the stadium.

No problem, I optimistically reasoned. We are just backed up as we move into the parking lots. Surely this stream of cars is all headed in the same direction, and the police officers directing traffic will shoo us right into a parking place.

Except no. That is not what happened at all. As we reached the head of the back-up, cars wandered off in every direction and we could see no sign of a place to park. Before we could say Bob's your uncle, we were spit out onto a useless side street and found ourselves looking down on the acres of stadium parking, within our sight but far beyond our grasp.


Round and round we went, circling the stadium and her precious parking lots, Time was quickly ticking by. Finally, ignoring our map apps and just using our eyeballs to navigate the best route, we worked our way to Carrall Street and landed on an entrance, only to find a "full" sign, enforced by a parking lot attendant who clearly meant business.

"We're full," she barked unhelpfully as we pulled up.

"Yes, we see that," my daughter patiently replied. "But can you tell us where we might find some open parking?"

Again with the optimism.

Our new friend was blunt. "You're not going to find any parking left in the city. You're too late."

Well. Let me just tell you that our jaws dropped to the floor. As my youngest later remarked, this was how the people in the Titanic must have felt when they went looking for a lifeboat.

And in that the same moment, I felt my eldest's calm break apart like a capsizing ocean liner. With just 20 minutes till kickoff, I made a snap decision.

"Get out," I commanded.

My daughters did not hesitate.

As they scrambled to the curb, I hollered, "Leave me a ticket and turn on your phone. I'll call you when I figure this out."

Under the glaring eye of the parking attendant, I quickly turned the car around, headed back up the street, and took stock of my situation.

I was alone in a car in an unfamiliar city.
My map app was off. So was my cellular data.
The congested downtown streets allowed me no place to pull over to assess my situation.
The hectic pace of traffic compelled me to move further and further away from my destination.

And I was NOT about to miss a soccer game that I had come so far to see.

I imagined showing this photo to a full-on Canadian Mounty  and begging, 
"Please help me find my car!"

Well. I carefully proceeded down Carrall Street, my new Ground Zero, making as few turns as possible, till my eyes mercifully fell upon a random parking place on a side street. I pulled in, read the meter, and thrilled to discover I had landed on a two-hour spot.

Then I remembered I had no Canadian coin to feed said meter.
Then I realized I could pay via an app, as noted on the meter.
Then I sat down in the car to fiddle with my phone settings in order to get internet and load said app.
THEN my eyes fell on the handful of Canadian coins that my eldest had thoughtfully brought along.


Then I hopped out of the car, loaded two hours' worth of Loonies and Toonies into the meter, gathered my belongings and set on up the street.

Now, for a normal person, remembering where one parks one's car is not usually a big deal.

But I am not a normal person.

I have a bad habit of forgetting. Certainly, I could justify this memory problem with a long and convincing story about my gift of focusing on the big picture, centering my emotions in the here and now, being present to the moment. But the truth is this simple: I often forget where I put my car.

Burned into my memory forever. 

So the gravity of this moment was not lost on me. I shouldered the full responsibility of tracking myself back to this very side street, in the middle of this strange and literally foreign city, and if I lost my daughter's car on the same week that she finally paid the darn thing off, well, she would kill me.

I stopped.
I studied.
I took photos of the car's immediate surroundings. From several angles.
I stepped up to the nearest cross street and I took more photos of the street signs.

And as I made my way back to the stadium, I recorded on my phone a careful list of directions, noting each turn and each street I crossed along the way.

I felt like Magellan, charting my course among the vast unknown. Though I suppose he didn't have as many signs to go by.

And I made it in time to see the game's only goal. Yay, USA!

Sat behind a row of cute little patriots in tutus. 

My reward.

Well. I'm happy to say I made it to the stadium without further incident. In a mere twenty minutes, I was squeezing my way down the row of seats to my daughters, who were clearly impressed to see me so soon.

"Did you have any problems?" they asked me.

"Nope," I replied. "No problems at all."

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