Sunday, September 06, 2009

Notes from a Near but Far Place

I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ck! I am writing from the office of my friends in Port Townsend, Washington. We went to the local hardware store today and bought an extra cable, so that I could plug into their computer network (they don't have wireless set up).

I caught the 10:30 bus from Nanaimo yesterday morning. Because I like to sit in the front-most right-hand seat - the seat with the view, I arrived at the bus station a full hour before the bus was scheduled to leave. When it pulled into its appointed spot, I walked right up and stood beside the door. Another woman came up behind me. The driver got out of the bus.

"The bus doesn't leave until 10:30."
"I know. I want to make sure to get the front seat."
"Well, you can't. It's reserved. I like to keep that seat empty."

I thought he was kidding, but when we finally boarded, there were various objects placed on all the front seats, and the right-hand seat had a Reserved sign on it. For some reason, the driver felt he needed his own seat and four passenger seats. I was ever so slightly annoyed. There was nothing I could do about it, so I set about making up a story to explain the driver's action. A long time ago, I said to myself, he was assaulted by a passenger who was seated right behind him. Ever since then, he has felt very nervous about having passengers sit too close to him. Once I had the back story in place, I could sympathize with the driver, rather than complain.

When we got to Duncan (about the halfway point), the rain came. It was a heavy enough downpour that I regretted having left my umbrella at home. We drove up over the Malahat Pass, and as we got to the top, suddenly the rain disappeared and the sun came out. Consequently, I had a lovely stopover in Victoria.

I went to Sam's Deli for lunch. I think Sam's was the first place that I ever ate in Victoria, and I loved it right away. They build fabulous sandwiches. Yesterday, I had a turkey and cranberry sandwich on multi-grain bread, with oodles of fixin's. On the side, I had a ramekin of clam chowder. Delicious, all of it. As I ate my lunch, I glanced across Government Street, and there he was. Darth Vader. Playing the violin.

When I had finished eating, I walked over to listen - because you never know - it might have been Joshua Bell under that hood. But no. I put a little money in his violin case anyway, because he had made me smile. Then I walked around the Inner Harbour to where the Coho was docked. I passed a group of blond young men who spoke a language I didn't recognize - Polish, maybe? It seemed to have lots of Ms in it. As I passed the piper who performs at the corner, he was just setting up. I didn't linger, because I was afraid I would forget to leave, and I did have a boat to catch. As I walked on, he started playing Scotland the Brave.

Robin and I had talked about my ferry ride to the Olympic Peninsula. He was worried that the crossing might be a little rough - and it doesn't take much for my stomach to consider it "a little rough" - but as it turned out, the only rough bit was about 2/3 of the way across, where the water always gets a little confused. I had a very pleasant crossing. For most of the trip, I read my book, though I did make a note at the beginning of the trip, when a very new baby was making a lot of noise and things didn't look promising:

The baby's strangled cry sounds like cats mating. My seatmates and I, codgers all, grimace and exchange long-suffering looks. It occurs to me that we've sat here for nearly half an hour, and we haven't left the dock yet. Four minutes to departure, then an hour and a half's voyage. Perhaps the sea's motion will calm the fretful child.

Apparently I was right. The baby calmed down soon after I wrote my note, and I was able to read in peace.

Later, an older woman (considerably older than I, even) sat down across from me. We chatted a bit about inconsequential matters during the voyage, but as we neared Port Angeles, she suddenly started telling me some pretty intimate details of her early life. She told me about being sexually abused by her father and running away from home, some more stories about her coming of age. It occurred to me that this stranger felt free to talk to me because the chances of our ever meeting again were very slim. I gave her a little of my own history in exchange, and we parted ways as the ferry docked.

There's something special about traveling alone. It can be a lonely experience, and if problems arise, it can be scary, but it has its moments.


John Hayes said...

Kind of an amazing story about the stranger on your crossing. On a lighter note, you don't always see a violin-playing busker dressed as Darth Vader.

T. Clear said...

I'm going to be in Port Townsend on Saturday the 12th....I suppose you'll be back home by then?

Sandra Leigh said...

John, I think I have mentioned before (No!) that I love Victoria. One of the things I love is the possibility of extraordinary sightings like Darth Vader on Government Street.

T - Yes, I'll be back at home by then. I'm leaving here on Wednesday. How annoying. I hope the sun shines for you, though, and that you have a great time here. Are you familiar with the William James Bookselle, big used bookstore on the main street? That's one of my favourite places to visit here. I hope they're open tomorrow.

The Unbreakable Child said...

Glad you are enjoying your journey!
Darth Vader -- how interesting!

Debbie said...

You always have the best stories and tell them so well!

Sandra Leigh said...

Hi, Kimmi - Hi, Debbie - Thanks for stopping by and saying such lovely things.

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