an idiot on the move

March 2001

Thursday, 1st March 2001.
Border crossing

Mary, Noelle's mum, collected me from Noelle's flat to take me to the ferry for Vancouver. But on the way we had to make an important detour - to Roger's Chocolate Factory!

Who is Roger? I don't know, and it's not important. Roger's Chocolate is something of an institution in Victoria. I had called in at their shop in Government Street every day to see if they were giving out samples, but I didn't score even one! After Mary bought a frightening amount of chocolate, she drove me down to the pier and threw me off the end.

From the Vancouver ferry terminal I took the bus to the bus station, and caught a bus from there to Seattle.

The bus ride on the Canadian side of the border was uneventful, but as soon as we crossed into the USA things became interesting. We had reboarded after clearing customs and immigration at the border, and I struck up a conversation with an Australian girl that was sitting near me. (Real smooth too: "What part of Australia are ya from?") She was from Melbourne, and had spent a year working in the USA. We were talking about this and that, then I asked her if she had driven on the right-hand side of the road. The bloke sitting in front of me was taking a great interest in our conversation.
"Where are you guys from?" he asked.
"Australia," she replied. (I must confess that I have no idea what her name was, I didn't ask, and besides, it doesn't matter what her name was.)
"What side of the road do you drive on in Australia?" he asked. Now, I would've thought it obvious from our conversation that Australia drives on the left-hand side, but instead of making some smart-arse remark I held my tongue.
"The left-hand side," she patiently answered.
"Oh," he said. He paused for a moment, then asked: "What side of the road do they drive on in Canada?"
I somehow maintained my composure. Bear in mind that we had all been on this bus since Vancouver, which was quite obviously in Canada. And he was asking which side of the road they drive on in Canada.
"The right-hand side," I said.

Eventually we shook off the attentions of our American friend, and had a general chinwag on the ride into Seattle. The bus stopped at a couple of tiny towns along the way and picked up a few hicks at each stop. It was quite frightening. Hell I'm a country hick from Tasmania, so I can't say much, but some of these folks looked like card-carrying hillbillies.

One of these hicks was a complete loon. He sat down the back of the bus and babbled on at great length about the FBI and conspiracy theories and the damn CIA and the government and taxes and this that and the other. He didn't need any encouragement - he was a self-starter.

The bus arrived in Seattle under cover of darkness, and we were greeted by a skyline straight out of Frasier. I took yet another bus out to the airport to catch my flight on the red-eye special to Chicago.