Soggily into the soaking city

You can see through the mist and rain, you can spot the cultural differences out in Vancouver.

Peter Warland

“There is no inclement weather, only inappropriate apparel.”

Daughter Jill

This past Christmas I ventured into the chaos of the Wet Coast. I flew to Vancouver and ran into all sorts of oddities. I wanted adventure and so asked not to be picked up at the airport; I decided to take The Canada Line and then the ferry across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, where I’d be rescued.

I needed a drink before I launched myself into the city so I went to an outlet where, I was told, they served coffee. Unfortunately, when I looked at the products that were on display, I didn’t recognize a single item. Walking despondently away, I recalled enjoying an Ice Cap one day somewhere so I ventured back and ordered one.

It’s a possibility that Vancouverites are monetarily illiterate. As in the case at the coffee outlet, whenever I tried to use real money, people looked at me askance. If I hadn’t been carrying cards, I would have been out of luck and standing soggily in the rain. I believe that city people can’t do advanced mathematics like subtracting a dollar fifty eight from a fiver. If they attempt this manoeuver, they go raving mad. I saw a teller in one store kick some loose change from underfoot because, I should imagine, she didn’t know what it was. In the city, all money, like the penny, is becoming defunct.

When I ventured to ride the Canada Line railroad, I again ran into trouble. I felt like a real country bumpkin when faced with a machine where, I assumed, I would have to pay my fare. I missed at least one train before a gentleman stepped forward and explained (probably in Hindi, Urdu or Mandarin) the intricacies of said machine. I think I used my credit card; I’ll find out when the bill comes in.

The ride was smooth and efficient. I found myself a seat and watched the other passengers talking to their ipods or other infernal machines. Nobody took the slightest interest in anyone else. This must be city life.

My daughter Jill and her son met me at Burrard Inlet and we rode the ferry together over to the North Shore. I’d always fancied that voyage but, that day, just before Christmas, it was socked in and raining like mad, so I couldn’t see a thing.

We landed at Lonsdale Quay where we dumped my luggage and had lunch with Jill’s daughter, who, when not at university, sells bicycles that cost more than the recently assessed value of my house. In fact, most of my family’s friends are ‘jocks’. Everyone was introduced by name and by sport. Each was a yachtsman, a ski racer, a swimmer or something really exotic. Not one, it seems, was constructing or selling things in order to support their expensive hobbies; they were all consultants.

Jill realizes that her old dog and even older father need to be exercised frequently. We sloshed along miles of saturated beaches where everyone we saw was swathed in waterproofs, as we were. We tottered in the drizzle up Lynn Canyon, across the dissolving slush in Capilano Canyon, where I learned that I am not the oldest living fossil and that most tourists speak ‘foreign’ and wear the oddest shoes for visiting the famous Rain Forest, which you can have, as far as I’m concerned.

It didn’t actually rain inside the buildings on The Wet Coast, I noted, but it often felt as if it did. To me it was like living again in soggy England; I felt damp and chilled, and I wasn’t one bit nostalgic about that.

I was invited to several parties and dinners and met some fascinating people, some of whom put down their cell phones momentarily in order to speak to me. I met quite a few South Africans who, I am positive, were missing the warm dry atmosphere of The Cape as much as I was missing dry Cranbrook.

I am home now and have managed to remove the mildew from my undies; I feel almost human again.