This past Sunday the O-Dog had a doubleheader of birthday parties. Unfortunately, the first one was one that the Fletchmonster had to sit out. His heartbreaking cries of "I want to go with mommy and O.D." made the daddy-tears well up.
"Don't worry, Fletch. We'll hang out like gentlemen."
"I don't want to hang out like gentlemen. I want to go with mommy. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
As Mrs. P and the O-Dog left, I was left with a wailing two year-old.
Any parent knows that the quickest way to stop a kid from crying is to put him in the car and tell him you're going to buy him something. I thought I'd take a quick jaunt to Ft. Erie in Canada to buy myself some hockey elbow pads (the cheap, sh*tty pair I currently own did little to protect me from a weak-ass shot from the point). Also, the Fountain Plaza ice rink should be opening any day and it's time to throw the Fletch into the size 7 Bauer skates. I figured I'd get him a helmet while I was there.
For the geographically impaired, Ft. Erie is on the other side of the Niagara River from Buffalo, NY. We live five minutes from the Peace Bridge and the Canadian Tire store is about another 8 minutes away. Going through Canadian customs is usually a breeze, so I figured the whole trip might take an hour or less...
I turned to take the bridge and got an eye-full of Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhk!
There was a back up of about two to three miles of what my Canuck brother-in-law calls "cheap-ass Canadians" coming into the U.S. to take advantage of our crappy Crap-mas sales over the holiday weekend.
I felt like that Flick kid in "A Christmas Story" as soon as he put his tongue on the lamp post.
"Stuck? Stuck! Waah-hah haaaaaaaW! (painful wails continue).
Short of making an international incident causing u-turn in the middle of the bridge (brown people like me get shot first and get questions asked later when doing anything unusual), I bit my lip and headed into Ontario.
Customs Official: Purpose of your visit.
Prego: Well, I was just going to take a quick trip over to Canadian Tire, but...(Customs Official winces and grimaces...) I think I picked a bad day...
Customs Official: Yeah. I'd say so.
Prego: ... so I'm probably going to pay a visit to my sister in Thorold, ON.
Customs Official: Yeah. You might want to extend your stay a little. Go ahead.
I drove the 20 minutes to Thorold, short of breath... suffocating from feeling trapped in the land of hosers, curling and (shudder...) politesse.
In the meanwhile, the Fletch was chatting me up from the back seat.
"You getting me a hockey helmet? Where's the store, daddy? Am I going to see my cousins, daddy?"
"Yes, buddy. We're close. Yes, buddy."
I pulled into Canadian tire and browsed the aisles for hockey gear. Bingo. On sale, $16 cdn for a pair of elbow pads. Sweet. Now where are those helmets?
I located them in the next aisle. $50 cdn? Jesus! I put one on the Fletch's head, at his request. The vision of my handsome toddler behind the facemask evoked fantasies of the Fletch-Master General leading the Maple Leafs to their first Stanley Cup win since 1967... or becoming a stalwart defenceman for the Edmonton Oilers...
Sh*t like that? 50 scoots is a baaaahr-gain. In the end, it was almost worth getting stuck in Canada, eh?
For the record, I paid my sister and her family a 40 minute visit before I decided to head back to the U.S. I managed to spend an hour and a half in Niagara Falls, inching my way towards and across the Rainbow Bridge, trying to maintain my composure. Remember, brown people like me get shot and get asked questions later.