Clueless in America. Chapter 32

32. It’s all in a road sign.

Okay, back to the 10% of our freaking out on the ‘World’s Fastest Goat Track’. One of the things that we couldn’t help but notice were the road signs. American road signs were either written for the stupid or by the stupid which is odd because I did not meet any stupidĀ  Americans during our visit.

I could write a whole book on silly road signs, so I will endeavour to keep this short. American road signs do not like punctuation. Take for example this sign, ‘SLOW MEN WORKING’, so fire them if they are too slow and hire faster people. Or the really common one on the ‘Goat Track’, ‘KILL CONSTRUCTION WORKER $10 000 FINE’. Okay next time I run one over, I will make sure he lives. How about ‘BE PREPARED TO STOP’? Hello, if I am not prepared to stop, how the hang could I pass my licence? Isn’t every person behind the wheel of a car supposed to be prepared to stop? Or ‘SHOULDER WORK 500FT’: What? Is there a gymnasium ahead, and why is the verge so crappy? Let’s try ‘RESUME SAFE SPEED’. Why, dang this sucks, I was really enjoying driving like a dangerous maniac. Okay, just two more; ‘NO LITTER $50 FINE’. Quick kids, throw some trash out the window before we acquire a $50 fine. And lastly, ‘CAUTION CHILDREN’. Ah man, I do not have time to stop and tell them all to behave, they don’t listen anyhow.

How much money would it cost to stick a stinkin’ comma on a road sign? ‘SLOW MEN WORKING’ with the addition of a comma would move work-men from being thick to being safe. For example ‘SLOW, MEN WORKING’, or better still ‘SLOW DOWN, MEN WORKING ON THE ROAD’. I don’t know, is it too hard to read the four extra words and comma at fifty miles per hour, or is it too expensive to write the extra words?

Here is my plan. How about we hire an over-perky, service industry-trained and highly-skilled, smiling and slightly elusive KFC worker to write the signs? Then they would read something like, ‘HOW Y’ALL DOIN’? LOOK I DON’T WANT TO BE OFFENSIVE OR ANYTHING, BUT PLEASE SLOW DOWN, THERE ARE GOOD MEN WORKING ON THE ROAD AHEAD. WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES WITH THAT? HAVE A GOOD DAY, SEE Y’ALL NEXT TIME’. Then even dumb foreigners could understand. But don’t panic America, Europe’s not better. Our roads are full of signs that consist of pictures and numbers that merely allude to the possibility of an instruction.

And then before we knew it, we were approaching the Canadian border. Oh Canada, oh Canada, the closer we got to your border the more warm and fuzzy our emotions got. The Queen of New Zealand also happens to be the Queen of Canada, somehow that mere little fact makes Canada alright.

So here we were on the Blue Water Bridge with the beautiful Lake Huron to our left and St Clair river on our right. Traffic was at a standstill before we hit the almost two mile long bridge. This gave us plenty of time to watch Betsie’s temperature rise dangerously high and to find our passports etc. Amongst the documents we had to find Betsie’s insurance card. Betsie’s owner had very kindly purchased special insurance for our Canadian sortie. One of us somewhere along the line had placed it in the ashtray. Not a problem in itself, except that the ashtray seemed to be full of identical cards and we spent the next thirty minutes searching through them sorting them into dates, thus narrowing down the options until we were left with the two relevant cards. At the start of the ordeal, I jumped into the fastest lane, taking note of the car with which were parallel. We were in a hurry to have a cuppa(107) with Lizzie(108), but by the time we found our way to Canada, the parallel car, as expected, was long gone.

At the entry booth we were nervous as we were not totally convinced that we had all of the right insurance details. Not only that but I presented the dude in the immigration booth a British driver’s licence, Kiwi passport and American car ownership papers which belonged to someone else. I was expecting an ordeal and an ordeal is what I got. This gruff-looking and speaking Canadian dude in the booth looked at my passport and said, ‘So you are from New Zealand eh?’ I said ‘Yeah’. He replied, ‘New Zealand and Canada have a lot of similarities don’t they?’ Eh! Other than Canada being blessed with our Queen, my mind was drawing a blank. But I knew that that man holding my passport not only had a lot of power to make life hard for me, but like seemingly most other border patrol officers, had an over inflated sense of just what that power was. So I frantically tried to find some similarities. I fumbled out something like, ‘Yeah we both have mountains and our people are quite laid back’. And his reply was, and I quote you word for word, ‘Yeah unlike all of those pricks south of the border eh!’ And then without ever asking to see our insurance, he handed back our passports.

I was both flabbergasted and in hysterics! In fact I was laughing so much that I needed to stop at the border toilet. The gall of this guy, I was bewildered, bemused and totally beside and beyond myself with his comment. It was so out of context and so rude that it totally tickled my humour and slightly offended me. Welcome to Canada, the land of my Commonwealth cousins. It seemed to me that the polite ones were the ones that got away and all proudly live south of the border.

But this comment was such a Canadian thing to say and at that, such a Canadian male thing to say. If I had to put a sign at the border, it would read; ‘Welcome to Canada, the nation that defines itself by who it is not’. Or if I needed to be more specific for the sake of US citizens, the sign would read, ‘Welcome to Canada, we are not the USA’. But of course Canada could never endorse such a sign, because, and sorry if I offend you by saying this, because Canada is the ‘politically correct’ capital of the world.

In my totally humble opinion, Canada has some of the best cop and robber television shows in the world. And yes, I did mean to say Canada, not Hollywood. But the problem with Canadian television is that the people are always so predictable. I mean it only takes thirty seconds to work out who the really bad guy is. He is the one that does not say ‘Get ooout of my hooouse nooow’. Or in other words, the bad guy is always the US citizen. And if you want to work out who is the good, intelligent, sharp person in control, well start the narrowing down process by searching for the females. Canada, after all is blessed with being a matriarchal society. Then when you have singled out the females, search for the minorities, the chances are that the head honcho will be the best looking black woman on the set. I don’t have a problem with this, it just gets boring after while. And then the men, well Canadian television has that uncanny knack of making most of its men look slightly fumbly and cute. Even on the rare occasion when the bad guy is a Canadian man, he still manages to have a totally lovable and cute innocence about him.

Anyhow we had arrived in Point Edward. Oh, I am homesick already for Mother Commonwealth. Thirty seconds across the border and the Canadians have to throw such an English place name at you. It probably took a Canadian committee of public servants a few years to come up with such a simple, pleasant and politically correct place name which screams into your face, ‘This is not the USA’. I mean if Americans named it, it would have been something like Point Chuck or Point Randy.

Anyhow time to get off that subject and to make it perfectly clear that I do like Canada, though please don’t stone me for this, but it is kind of like the USA except laid back, without the intensity or brightness. It doesn’t hurt your eyes so much. Maybe it is the USA ten years ago and with good beer. But for the sake of my Canadian friends, IT IS NOT THE USA!!! Have you got it, IT IS NOT THE USA.

And it only took us about two miles to have this point totally rammed home at us. We went past a road sign on the autostrada. I read it out loud as we approached it. I wish I could remember what it said or had asked Sharon to write it down. But it was just too long for that. It had multiple, multiple-syllable words crammed into multiple sentences all on a little road sign. After I had finished reading it, Sharon and I looked at each other and said, ‘What did that mean?’ Then befuddled and confused, we looked at each other and said, ‘Welcome to Canada, this aint the USA’. Except Sharon would have said ‘This isn’t the USA’.

And at that, we were on the 402 heading towards London. Oh, isn’t it so cute having all of these English place names?

Tune in for the next issue and read about fish ‘n’ chips and other stuff that I have jet to

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

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