Flash in the Can, Part 1: Outwitting Fate

Awoke at 3:00am from a restless three hours to get a jump on the day. Left Grand Rapids around 3:30 in rental car (a Mazda) made necessary by the sudden death of my Saturn (stabbed in the back with an SUV). Hit the highway out of town and headed East.

First part of the trip was uneventful. Saw many interesting things, such as tail-lights, head-lights and…pavement. Passed within a few miles of the Ryan Lee ancestral home. Learned many interesting things about Ryan. Drank coffee concentrate to stay awake.

I-69 turned into I-94, and I-94 turned into 401 as we crossed the border. Passed USA-side toll gate with no difficulty. Bridge over the border was beautiful, with a false dawn turning the eastern horizon a opalescent gray. Stopped to present bona-fides at Canadian bridge.

Canadian gate was guarded by something much like a Marine, complete with buzz-cut, piercing blue eyes, and a bullet-proof vest. Proof of American citizenship was demanded. We each handed over our Michigan drivers’ licenses. Dialogue follows:

Guard: I need to see proof of American Citizenship.
Me: Like what?
Guard: Birth Certificate or Passport
Me: Here’s my passport.
Ryan: Here’s my social security card.
Guard: That does me no good.
Ryan: That’s all I have.
Guard: Where are you going?
Me: Toronto.
Guard: Why?
Me: Conference for work.
Guard: For how long?
Me: Until Tuesday.
Guard: Pretty long for a conference. What kind of conference?
Me: Web development.
Guard: What’s that?
Ryan: You ever look at the internet and see animations and —
Guard No! Do you have any alcohol or firearms?
Me: No —
Guard: Dead bodies in the trunk or weapons of Mass Destruction.
Me. Um… no.
Guard: Where did you say you were going?
Me Toron —
Guard: For what?
Ryan: A conf —
Me: …
Guard: I need to see proof of American Citizenship.
Ryan: But —
Guard: I can order you to turn around and not come back until you have proof.
Me: b-b-b-but—
Ryan: Why—?
Guard: All right. Go ahead. If I see you again, I’ll kill you.
Me. Thank you sir.

Silenced reigned for the next few miles. The eastern sky slowly turned blue.

A word about the stretch of 401/402/whatever between the Michigan border and the ‘burbs of Toronto: Nothing there

7:00am: We are below a quarter tank. Time to think about refueling. Take the first exit with a “petrol” sign. Find the gas station. Closed. Hit the highway again. Find another exit promising “petrol”. Find, I kid you not, an “Esso” station with old-style, static-electricity generating metal pumps. Closed. Hit the road again. Realize that we haven’t seen a living human being since crossing the border. Suspect zombie activity. Hit yet another exit. Find yet another gas station closed. Notice that the highway is kind of a pink, fleshy color. Voice hypothesis that the highway is made out of zombies. Realize I am working on three hours of sleep in the last 48 and no food in the last 12.

7:45am: Heading into a glowing ball of fire the apparent size of a prize-winning pumpkin. Ryan has been pushing the car for the last several miles. We see a sign for London and make jokes about a wrong turn. Find (finally!) a working gas station and real live humans! We re-fill the car and warn them of encroaching horde of zombies. When asked what they look like, we reply that we didn’t actually see them, so they must be Ninja zombies.

Back on the road. Hit the outskirts of human civilization. Make the mistake of not placing blind faith in Google Maps and end up back in zombie territory. Retrace our steps and rediscover civilization. Enter Toronto. Again fall from grace with Google maps and find ourselves in a Grand Rapids-esque endless loop of one-way streets. Increase speed to build up centrifugal force necessary to fling us in the right direction. Finally find the Hilton. Find a spot in the bottom of the parking garage, among the rats and albino alligators. Head to exit. Door is locked. Walk up ramp. Find another exit. Door is locked. Walk up another level. Find another exit. Open.

At this point the fates relented and the day achieved a semblance of normality. We were about an hour and a half late, so upon throwing stuff in our hotel rooms we headed for our respective seminars.

Notes on the conference itself will come later.