Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14: Back to Maine, and Main Street. The food service industry is weird.

Another early morning and long day of driving. Denise has my car, and I have the truck. The truck, when empty, bounces all over the place.

We stop for gas and lunch in Oromocto. We go to Jungle Jim's restaurant for Pepsi and fries. They call them home fries, but they're really just fresh cut french fries. When we ask our waiter for napkins, he looks at us like we've got antennae.

I've heard Canadians are very fond of their ubiquitous Tim Hortons, although to me it's pretty much like Dunkin Donuts. We go to TH's for some coffee. I forgot to bring soymilk, so I ask for ice coffee. I get a glass of white liquid, handed to me by an elderly woman who is clearly a trainee. "I didn't want milk. Just iced coffee," I say. She stares at me. The cashier stares at me. "There's no milk in it," she tells me. "Then why is it white?" I ask. "It's just cream," I'm told.
"I'm allergic to dairy," I tell them. "I just want PLAIN coffee, with nothing in it." Now the trainee is holding the cup like it's toxic. At this point, they seem completely flummoxed, and the entire kitchen appears to empty out, and all of Tim Horton's visor-wearing employees are standing behind the cashier trying to figure out what to do. The cup is handed to another employee, who hold it at arms length. "I guess I'll just dump it out?" I hear her say. There's a conference with the trainee, who goes to make me another coffee. Denise and I crack up about the "It's not milk, just cream," comment. I see the trainee stirring the cup, but when she hands it to me, it is vaguely coffee colored and clear, so I take it. "It's just plain coffee, right?" I ask. She assures me it is just coffee.

Back in the truck, I taste my "just coffee." It must have about 4 tablespoons of sugar in it. Disgusting. It's like coffee-flavored candy, only sweeter. I can't drink it. Apparently "coffee" doesn't mean the same thing in Canada that it means in the USA.

The guy at the US border is kind of weird. He wants to know where I've been, where I'm going, why, what kind of job I have in Canada. He insists on looking inside the empty truck.

I must say, I've gotten pretty good at driving this truck. We get to Bangor with half an hour to spare, but I forgot to fill the tank with gas. Since Penske charges $5/gal to fill the tank, I take the truck back out to get gas. The woman at Penske directs me to some crazy gas station nearby, affiliated with some heating oil company, where, after we waste 15 minutes trying to pay for the gas, it turns out the pumps aren't working. A guy in the office overhears my tale of woe, and volunteers to show me where the nearest working gas station is. He takes us to the Irving station, on Main Street. Across the street from the Fireside Inn. I have to do some crazy maneuvering to get to a pump. We make it back to Penske five minutes late, but they're cool, and the truck is returned. Then we head to the airport to pick up Denise's rental car. Except the GPS has lost its satellite signal.

We have to wing it. We get back on the highway and follow the signs for the airport, which turns out to be pretty dinky. Denise gets double upgraded from a Hyundai to a cherry red Ford Mustang. Dang. When I was in Halifax last month to look for a house, I rented a Mustang, but then had to downgrade when I added another day to the rental.

We find our motel -- the Super 8. Then head for Taste of India, which has been voted Bangor's best vegetarian restaurant. We end up in the wrong town, on the wrong Main Street, AGAIN. We find the right Main Street, and drive past the Fireside Inn and the Irving. The place we couldn't find the first night, we now can't avoid. Dinner is good. I drive the Mustang. Not that great, really. A noisy car, and not as zippy as my trusty old Tercel. No wonder Detroit is sinking. My car doesn't qualify for Cash For Clunkers, but this boat might.

We drive back past the Fireside Inn on the way home, and decide to stop at the Hollywood Slots Casino, which is right next door. What a weird place. We are definitely the oddballs in this joint, and can't figure out where the casino is. Some guy standing outside the elevator points to an elderly woman and says "Just follow her. She's a gambling addict." We go up in the elevator, then back down, and find the casino. We wait until we're waved through. Apparently we're too old to need our ID checked. We head for the quarter slots. We can't find the slot to put our quarter in. A drunk guy at the next machine starts chatting up Denise.

We move on to different machines. Denise goes to look for help. An elderly woman sits next to me, mesmerized by the video slot machine, pushing a button again and again. Kyle, casino employee, explains that the machines take a minimum five dollar bill, but will give us a voucher with our change, which we can then use in a machine if we like. I make a mistake, push the wrong button and bet my whole five bucks in one go. I'm done.

Denise gives me ten bucks. We wander from penny to nickel slots. Realize that this is really boring and pointless, and leave. We crack ourselves up again recounting our difficulty in trying to feed quarters into the quarter slots. DUH. Why would that work?

Back to the motel. Another early morning ahead. Denise is going home to Rhode Island, and I'm going back to Canada.

When I call Rob and Zoƫ, they have discovered my helmet -- not my bike -- on the fence at the playground next door. Rob refuses to call the cops and tell them. There might be fingerprints on there!

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