by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
December 16, 2004
A SHOT OF CANADIAN
SEATTLE, Wash. -- "Victoria Clipper" is the name for four vessels that ply the route from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia - a trip that, on a good day, takes two and a half hours.
That is the time it took yesterday when I made the trip to Victoria and back. I'd paid the navigation company for two things: 1) the round trip, and 2) a flu shot in Canada.
For someone like your correspondent, who now lives as if he had invented the term "stay-at-home," such a voyage seems to be something straight from the pages of Jules Verne.
But when your local grocer claims to have plenty of cabbage but no more anti-viral serum to inject, what is an SEP (susceptible elderly person) to do?
You would not expect a clipper to be full on a bad wet day in early December, and it was not. There were plenty of good seats, most of them with small tables in front.
I took one on the starboard side, in front, with a good view of the water and of the small tv monitor showing the exact location of the boat at all times.
A large lump filled the throat of the Birdman of Shillshole as we zipped past the Bay of that name.
I pulled my cap down over my face lest any of my pigeons see me and think I was defecting.
The lump gave way to a laugh as we passed Point No Point, the actual name of a place on Whidbey Island.
And to a giggle when we entered the last large bit of open water, the Juan de Fuca Strait. The hero of a local crime novelist, G.M. Ford, is named Leo Waterman, who regularly picks up a crew of drunks to help him on a case. One of them asks the question that furnishes the title, "Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?"
Once we'd landed in the Inner Harbor of Victoria, beneath the always disapproving gaze of the Fairmont Empress, one of the world's great hotels, the passengers disembarked in two streams: No Flu Shot, to the left, and Flu Shot, to the right.
The right wingers accounted for nearly all the passengers, who were greeted by S.J. Connelly, RN, with her needle at the ready. She took us in groups of three, the number of chairs in her cubicle.
One of my triad was a young black woman wearing a tight knit cap that came down to her eyes. Those eyes, however, clinched so tightly in pain that one wondered whether she could ever open them again.
She also screamed. Nurse Connelly looked at her reprovingly and said, "Take off that cap and let some air get to your brain." We all laughed dutifully.
When she had finally despaired of my rolling my sleeve any higher on my arm, she stabbed me. To the young woman I said, with a smile, "You notice I was allowed to keep my cap on."
"Your brain is already too ventilated," said this merciless young person.
In lieu of my expired passport, I'd brought along a photocopy of my birth certificate, my driver's license, and my Ballard Health Club card. It turned out that the Canadians were perfectly happy with the license, though none could resist inspecting the ancient document issued 75 years ago in Anderson, S.C. The barely visible prints of two tiny feet (the same feet now giving me such agony) were several times pronounced adorable. Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.