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.