Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Alarmed Americans

I woke up Saturday morning with the sun spilling through gauzy curtains,  seagulls singing their seaside songs and the oddly pleasant baritone bellowing of a barge's horn. I don't know why the moment hit me so profoundly, but the serenity of the moment juxtaposed by the bustling in the harbor was something I don't want to forget. I took this picture from my bed. 

The day before, when we checked in, our room wasn't ready so the hotel gifted us free "appys" (that's what Canadians call Appetizers) and drinks in the lounge. They also upgraded the room to the 17th floor and gave us a room with an impressive view.

The view was worth the inconvenience of waiting for our room the day before. Kerri and I both stood at the window, facing the harbor with our binoculars in hand watching the activities in the water. There were barges, cargo ships, some sort of military boats and cruise ships. The sun glistened across the bay. The weather was phenomenal. We opened our windows and sat on the sofa enjoying the morning....and passing the time waiting for our friend Lisa to join us. Lisa lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. She was a hop and skip by float plane or a few hours by ferry.
She was coming in by plane and meeting us to get our main adventure started.

Kerri and I walked the city looking for coffee and breakfast. The homelessness in Vancouver was painfully evident; according to reports I've read, the main factors contributing to the rising number of homeless in the Glass City is the cost of housing and lack of job opportunities. The third contributing factor to homelessness and crime levels rising is the Opioid epidemic. We saw several people sleeping in doorways and on sidewalks. The homeless population has increased by 30% in two years in the downtown metro area of Vancouver. 

The realization that where we had stood laughing with our friends in front of the Top of Vancouver rotating restaurant (the night before) there was now a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. The contrast was hard to ignore. 

The weather was amazing. We couldn't go 10 feet without commenting on the glorious weather. In the south the humidity weigns on you like a suffocating blanket of misery; the air in Vancouver felt so light, crisp and perfect. I know I said something about it at least 25 times in the first few blocks we covered. We walked West towards Howe Street and found a little restaurant with a sidewalk cafe. 

We walked in and the owner introduced himself from behind the counter, his name was Michael, and he made his way over to Kerri and I to hug us and he kissed me. On the cheek. A stranger.

He left you no choice but to love him instantaneously and without reserve; And so we did.

He was seating us by the kitchen and then noticed the matching cruise shirts we both wearing, "Your peoples are here! Let me seat you with your peoples!"  The cruise shirts were an idea of  Derek, our cruise event planner. The red shirts were called "FIRST DAY SHIRTS".  The idea is to for all 800+ cruise participants to wear matching shirts so that we could spot each other in hotels, airport terminals, taxis and so forth on our trip to the cruise terminal. I met people on the plane in Phoenix, AZ from St. Louis, MO whom  I would have never met nor spoke to if it wasn't for the shirt. Kerri met people from Nashville on her flight and now, we were going to meet fellow Cruisers in this Greek restaurant during breakfast in Vancouver.

Micheal led us to our table and comfy seats. We introduced ourselves to the large table of Amy Grant fans, who were wearing their red FIRST DAY shirts. What a fun ice-breaker the shirts turned out to be! Another couple across from the aisle from us (not wearing t shirts and not part of our cruise) ended up being Amy Grant fans and asking us about our cruise, t shirts and how to sign up for the Facebook page. We were walking, enthusiastic billboards!

We received a text from Lisa, her float plane had landed and she was at our hotel. We each hugged Michael goodbye. He kissed us each goodbye. I reached for my hand sanitizer. I can't help it, I'm not rude; I'm conscientious.

We got to our hotel and couldn't find Lisa.

She texted us again. She was at our room.

We got to our room and still couldn't find Lisa. Kerri said, they're nice here, but surely they wouldn't just let someone into our room? We opened the door to find out. Lisa wasn't there.

We text her back. She was at the wrong hotel.

At the time, this was funny. Now it's HILARIOUS, because, you see, this perfectly introduces Lisa. Things just happen and you love her because of it.

Lisa came to our room and introduced us to her Canadian money and the dollar coins,  Loonies and Toonies, giving us each a coin. Kerri and I were packing up our stuff to go to the Ship Terminal, we were to board at noon. The reunion was fun! The excitement was tangible. And apparently combustible....because all of a sudden, our fire alarm went off.

Kerri looked right at me and narrowed her eyebrows, "WHAT did you DO?!"

Why am I always the guilty one?  I was just standing there. Innocently.

The sound was deafening. Being on the 17th floor all of a sudden wasn't as great of a treat as it was earlier that morning. We scrambled to the hallway, lugging our combined 5 suitcases and 3 backpacks, my pillow (I didn't have time to pack it before the "fire").  We debated in the hallway about taking the stairs or the elevator. We stood there for a moment waiting on the elevator (although I firmly voted NOT to take an elevator in a burning building) when I noticed no one else was running for their lives. There were no flashing exit signs or sprinklers. No fireman in masks or people escaping their rooms. No people jumping from windows. In fact, we were the only ones in a panic.

I started putting my ear on doors as I passed was as I had suspected, our room was the only one with an alarm blaring. Of course it was, because that's how we roll, or how the dice rolled...all I know is I was ready, if necessary,  to Stop. Drop and Roll.

We took the elevator. We went into the lobby. No one was alarmed, in a panic or even noticing us. We told the concierge that our room's alarm was sounding. She looked at a panel of lights on a screen. She politely called someone on her walkie-talkie. She rang up the room, gave a receipt and dismissed us. Clearly, Canadians don't get excited about things like fire alarms sounding on the 17th floor.

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