07 September 2005

A Trip to Canada, Day Five

(Scant) pictures to go with this entry are here.

The IB seemed to help just a little -- I didn't feel "fevery," though I'm still hurting pretty bad. I wish I could explain this in a way that doesn't alarm readers -- it sounds miserable, and I *am* miserable, but it's more of a hay-fever miserable than a "there's no food to eat" miserable, you know what I mean?

My big mission today was to wind my way back to Pacific Central (the train station) and get thee hence to Seattle. I had previously had some ambitions to do a few touristy things today, and indeed clung to those notions with great fervor, but eventually the reality of the situation caught up to me. I was coming down with a cold on top of the Acid Reflux problems, and I needed as much downtime as possible to prepare for the looooong travel day that would be Sunday.

I slept in as long as I could at the Hampton, missing breakfast entirely (if it was anything like the breakfast at the previous Hampton, I didn't miss much). I checked out at noon, and wandered over to a nearby sandwich shop for a light lunch. Corned beef sandwich, nicely done. Got a cab and went down to Pacific Central, arriving around 2pm for a 6pm train. Hmmm, no place to comfortably relax around here ... I tried to find something that would occupy me long enough.

After a little souvenir shopping, and as I milled around learning about the history of the station via their old photos, I realised I had three options:
1. Park the bags someplace and tour Science World, but I'm in no shape for that.
2. Park the bags someplace and jump on the Skytrain for a while. Already did that.
3. Wait it out. Sigh.

Happily, the train started boarding at 4:30pm, a full 90 minutes before departure. I was very surprised about this until I realised that they meant to serve dinner in the train before we left. This particular train has an actual dining car with proper tables, napkins and a maitre'd, so I couldn't resist. I went, but my lack of appetite limited me to ordering just the salmon salad, basically a Ceasar Salad with smoked salmon and a few other niceties on it. I wish the salmon has been warm, but actually it worked pretty well -- I just wasn't well enough to fully enjoy it.

After dinner, I retired to my seat and we began our journey. Unlike last time, this time the train would be stopped by US Customs shortly after the border. US Customs Agents boarded the train and talked to every passenger, asking questions with an aggressive tone, checking our tickets and generally doing their jobs with a professionality that bordered on hostility.

I'm sure the agents are nice people off-duty, but they struck me as pushy and pointless -- there was nobody on the train who hadn't already been checked by Canadian Customs -- and their brusque manner reminded me more than a little of the Gestapo, though I want to make clear that I am not saying they were Nazi-like (it's a very over-used term, and while the US Customs people might be callous and forward, they are nowhere near evil). I'm not used to "seige mentality" type military people, and I hate to think what the Canadian-born first-time travelers on this train must have thought of this. Oh, I've seen the effect 9/11 had on the US before, but to basically say to the Canadian authorities "we're going to search the train again, we don't trust you" smacks of ludicrous paranoia to me. Kind of symbolic of the US's entire approach, but that's another story.

I grabbed a few last camera shots before it got too dark and then just zoned out till we got to Seattle. I took a cab straight to the Homewood Suites (thanks again, Tristan!) and arrived there about 11pm, which oddly brought me in just as some junior football (soccer) league was checking in. The lobby was quite chaotic, but the desk clerk was handling it all pretty well. I got to my (much quieter) floor and room, settled in a bit and made preparations for tomorrow. The first was setting a wake up call for ... 4AM!! Oh boy ...

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