Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lake Superior, Ontario, by Margaret Ullrich, part 11, Transplanting

After the rain, the heat broke a bit.
We walked to the Winnipeg Free Press Building to pick up a few copies of their weekly community newspapers.
Paul is their editorial cartoonist.
He likes to see how they re-designed his cartoon in the six weeklies.
It all depends on how much copy there is from the editor or columnist.
He also keeps a few copies for his portfolio.


Forty years ago it was also a hot sunny day.
We'd slept in a bit after our late movie night.
We didn't want to drive in the dark, so we decided to try something new: have a huge breakfast and just drive through to the next campsite. 
Hash browns, eggs and spam.
Breakfast of trailerites.
We didn't get on the road until 11:30 a.m.

Lake Superior is one big lake.
Beautiful, clear and so blue.
But so big.
We were starting to wonder if we were ever going to get out of Ontario.

The beautiful scenery was making us think about life in the wilds of Canada.
Paul said, since the roads were so uncongested and the scenery was so beautiful, 
he wouldn't mind a 2 hour commute.
Yes, he was enjoying the drive and scenery that much.


In New York we'd had to commute almost 2 hours each way to go to Manhattan.
Commuting wasn't something glamorous like in Sex and the City.
Those girls taxied everywhere.
Taxies DID NOT go from Manhattan to Brooklyn or Queens.
Don't even ask.
We lived in Queens.
We were part of the bridge and tunnel crowd.
I'll explain...

I'd had a job writing knitting instruction at Columbia Minerva in Manhattan.
I lived in College Point.
College Point didn't have a subway stop.
For that I had to take a bus to Flushing.
Okay, first a run to the bus stop, hoping the driver hadn't come and gone early.
Commute part 1 - a half hour.

Then a run down a couple of flights of stairs.
There I'd be standing with a few hundred other people.
We all had to get into Manhattan at the same time.
Staggered work hours hadn't come into fashion yet.
The express train would come, the doors would open.
Then we'd all shove and push to squeeze into a car.

A seat for a one hour morning commute?
Forget about it, as the New York expression goes.
You grabbed an overhead strap or the pole and stood.

These were the now quaintly described "nostalgia cars".
The seats were woven, with a strange hard plastic.
They were about 40 years old then.
The plastic had cracked.
It was like sitting on broken glass.
Women at that time sat carefully.
One wrong move and one's pantyhose was shredded.
It was less dangerous to stand.

There was no air conditioning.
Sometimes there was a heat inversion.
Because of the skyscrapers, the air, which one could see and taste,
had no place to circulate.
There'd be warnings in the newspaper and on the radio and television.
Simple translation: you breathe, you get sick.

Sometimes someone would barf or fart.
Sometimes someone would commit suicide by jumping in front of a train.
The first few times one felt pity.
After a while it was Jeez, he had to pick my train?

Finally... Manhattan... Fifth Avenue. 
A walk from the stop near the 42nd Street library (yes, the same library Carrie wanted to be the site of her wedding in Sex and the City) to 32nd Street.
Ten blocks.  And they're long blocks.
Commute part 2 - an hour and a half.

Through the door and up the elevator for a fun-filled 8 hour work day.

At 5:00 p.m. the same routine, in reverse.
Home by 7:00 p.m.
If there wasn't a blackout.
Or another suicide.


Okay... back to Lake Superior.
We passed a moose crossing area.
Definitely something we didn't see in Manhattan.

On the radio we heard Mongo Jerry's In the Summertime.
My sister had gone to Europe and returned raving about this great song.
Too bad we wouldn't be able hear it in North America, she had said.
Yeah, right.

As New York commuters, our rear ends weren't exactly tough.
Paul asked me to slip a pillow under his butt.
I pictured the car swaying and diving into the lake and said no.
Paul said, Yeah, figured it wouldn't work.

The curving road around Lake Superior was a two laner.
There was a double line.  
No passing.

After our accident near Kingston, New York, we stuck to 50 miles per hour.
We were creating a train of our own.
From the side mirrors we could see about 20 cars behind us.
When we managed to pull over to let them pass, drivers shook their fists.
Yeah, just like the angry crowd Lucy and Ricky had when they'd started driving 


Finally, White River Trailer Park.
Paul napped while I cooked.
We were both queasy.
Maybe the two meals idea wasn't one of our best.
After we ate we converted the dinette set into our bed.

We went to the pay phone for our usual on-the-road calls to our parents.
Mosquitoes were everywhere.
Ma was sore because she hadn't received the June 28 letter yet.
I was really tired.
I cut short the call.


The first few days I'd felt sympathy for her concern about us on the road.
But now we'd been traveling and on our own for over a week.
The calls home were an extra chore.
I had one thought... Forget about it.

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