The cell phone rang while my Jeep sat idling two vehicles away from Canadian customs. It was Starling, explaining that I couldn’t reach her apartment in Vancouver using the instructions I’d been given. She’d just learned that streets were being blocked off for a fireworks display. I hastily scribbled down the new directions as I inched closer to the international border, then had to hang up so I could speak to the border agent. Normally, Canadian guards pepper me with trick questions, asking repetitive queries in the hopes that I will contradict myself. This time, due to heavy traffic, they let me off easy.
Safely in Canada, I reached for the phone again so I could reconnect with Starling and clarify the instructions. Zero bars. My budget-priced, sorry excuse for a cell phone plan was refusing to function outside of my home country. I glanced at the new directions, written in sloppy handwriting, and noticed I had street names, but not enough indicators like “turn right” or “left” to help me navigate through a metropolitan area of two million people. This was going to be problematic.
I survived my journey thanks to the help of several patient pedestrians who volunteered their advice and their cell phones, although I admittedly crossed bridges over the same body of water three times before I found Starling’s neighborhood. Hordes of Vancouverites flocking to the waterfront to see fireworks made progression through the urban landscape increasingly difficult, and police manned several checkpoints to keep unnecessary traffic away from the west side of the city.