It makes me laugh when the ironies of my life are thrown in my face.
Since arriving here in Vancouver 6 or so weeks ago, I’ve been sensitive about my car. For the first week I was illegally parked in a permit-only zone. Then we paid $5 per week to obtain a blue card to stick in the dash for a few weeks while we thought of something else to do with the car situation. There’s another car (uninsured; can’t park on the street) and an underground garage space (with one uninsured car presently occupying) but for now it’s my car collecting bird shit and tree sap at the curb, jockeying for position with the neighbors and their cars. Cars that have a right to be here.
I can feel the eyes looking at me.
Pennsylvania. When is she going to move that car? Taking up space. OUR space. Canadian space. Hmph.
The imagined indignant snorts are what get to me the most.
Whenever I drive, I find myself continually
- getting in the wrong lane and inadvertantly cutting someone off
- stopping too long at stop signs
- not stopping long enough at stop signs
- driving too slowly
- driving too fast
- parking awkwardly
And all the time I know they’re looking at the Pennsylvania plates and gritting their white Canadian teeth and wishing bricks would fall out of the sky onto my car, completely crushing me and my PA license plates.
I can feel the vibration of those teeth gritting at night when everything is quiet. I can’t breathe because the weight of a million imagined bricks is piled on my chest.
I am in the wrong country.
I don’t belong here.
Once in awhile I have a moment when the breathtaking beauty of this city sends shards of glass from thousands of high-rise condo windows right into my heart.
I want this to be my city.
Tonight we went to a free talk at the library downtown and when we got back it was dark and the usual spaces at the curb were filled. I drove around the block and found a space in the middle of the line of cars. Parallel parking. Ugh.
It would have been fine except for the couple standing taking outside her car. His car? One of them was going home, and one was staying. I wished the ground would swallow them up rather than have them witness my awkward parking.
I park and park and park. Forward, back, forward, back. I am too far from the curb, but her car is right behind mine and if I nudge it they will hate me and call the border guards, I know it.
Filthy American. I can hear them swearing under their polite Canadian breath. Go home! You suck! You…don’t recycle!
Forward, back. I gave up. Still 20 feet away from the curb. Whatever. Now I will have to walk past this couple, their Canadian eyes of belonging on me while I hold my American head in shame.
“Are you from Pennsylvania?”
OMG. It’s starting. The jeering, the namecalling, the black looks, everything I have been imagining. I clutch my imaginary passport a little more tightly.
I answer reluctantly. “Yes.” Dumbanswerdumbanswer.
“What’s the capitol city called? We have a bet going.”
What? WTF? Where are the border guards? The dogs? The sneering? Why, they’re … smiling. Friendly!
“Harrisburg? Thanks!” They were still smiling..
Dumb Canuck. Anybody knows that.* I swore slightly under my breath, gritting my American teeth.
* Not really. Most Americans don’t know it unless they live in PA or south Jersey. But that’s not saying much.
** Nor have I ever actually used the word “Canuck” until now. It sort of makes my eyelids want to turn inside out.