Oh, you just have to enjoy a good toll road - three dollars will open up the door to Canada, or at least it will open the door that leads to the door where the very intimidating border crossing agent, armed and wearing Kevlar, will step out of her booth and ask in a very severe voice: "Do you have anything to declare? Tobacco or alcohol? Firearms or other weapons?"
"Why?" my husband asked anxiously. "Will we need them?"
The border crossing guard permitted herself a very small smile, the kind that didn't push her cheeks up. "I sincerely hope not," she replied. "Could I have your passports, please? And please remove your sunglasses."
I whipped off my sunglasses and my husband pushed his to the top of his head. "She doesn't know that I'm much more handsome without them," he said to me in a low voice out of the corner of his mouth.
I was digging into my binder for the passports, which I had pulled out and touched every hour upon the hour for the past five hours, just to make sure they were still there. "She's terribly, terribly polite, which is somehow scarier than rudeness," I said with a slight quiver in my voice. "It makes you think she'd say, 'I'm so sorry I have to do this' just before she pulled her gun and nailed you right between the eyes."
The border guard carefully scrutinized our passports and then demanded that we open up the doors on the van so that she could look inside. Meelyn and Aisling, comfortably ensconced in their seats amid oceans of pillows, blankets and crinkly Jolly Rancher wrappers, looked abashed as the agent peered in at them.
"Hi," said Meelyn sheepishly. Aisling just stared with round eyes.
"Hello," the guard said smartly. "Having a good time, girls?"
"Yes," answered Meelyn in a small voice that indicated that her father and I were kidnappers who were preparing to sell her into white slavery in Toronto.
The guard closed the van door and went back to her booth. "Where are you going?"
My husband and I did this strange thing we've developed through nearly twenty years of marriage: We answered in unison, using nearly the same words. It only happens when we're nervous and probably makes us look as furtive and guilty as homemade sin, like we've rehearsed our story well in advance and got it down pat.
"The Stratford Shakespeare Festival," we chimed.
"How long are you staying?" she demanded.
"Until Saturday," we replied, looking at each other out of the corners of our eyes. Furtively. Guiltily.
"Have a good time," she barked at us. The two of us nodded like bobble-head dolls. Oh, we would have a good time, because the border guard gave the impression that if we should be so foolish as to have a bad time? She would personally hunt us down and beat the snot out of us.
We drove on across the gorgeous bridge, Lake Huron a perfect, ineffable blue under the sunny September sky. It was a wonderful trip. We stayed in the most hideous motel I've ever set foot in, went on two fabulous field trips, ate at some delightful restaurants, learned what peameal is, and saw two plays, one of which I loved and had to be pried out of my theater seat so that the theater could close for the evening and the other which I hated. Although don't get me wrong: Half the fun of watching Shakespeare, whether on DVD or onstage, is comparing it to other performances and stacking them up against one another, so it's all good.
We're back home, safe and sound, and feeling a teensy bit blue.
Next summer, the four of us hope to do a scouting trip to Stratford with the aim of finding, above all things, a different place for everyone to stay in 2012, because I firmly expect the place where we stayed this time will have crumbled to the ground under the weight of its own dirt and mold. Embarrassing, that was.
Oh, and we're hoping to see Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor, too. No sense in coming on an expedition and not seeing a couple of shows. They're just too good to miss, even the bad ones.
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