VICTORIA, British Columbia — I am here in one of the most beautiful cities in North America seeking asylum for political, economic and culinary reasons.
Until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police decide my fate, I will remain holed up on the fifth floor of the Empress Hotel overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbour, where I am forced to drink strong tea and munch raisin-laced scones every afternoon at precisely 4:30 p.m. in the Empress’ Tea Lobby.
While neatly trimmed cucumber sandwiches aren’t exactly my idea of finger food, they are good for my waistline as I ponder the many grievances that brought me and my family here in the first place.
While officials in my hometown continue to demand my immediate return to the People’s Republic of Davis to face charges stemming from an unpaid water bill — not to mention my fear of fluoride — my asylum petition raises issues much greater than that.
Here in Canada, water apparently is free. At least that’s what they told me at the front desk when I pointed to the size of our family and asked if there would be a “tiered” charge for water depending on how many showers we took during our stay or how many times we filled the ice bucket and hauled it back to our room. I was assured the water was “complimentary,” which is certainly more than the city of Davis ever promised me.
In addition to free water, American dollars here are actually worth a few pennies more than the stunningly beautiful Canadian dollars (the $50 bill is bright red, the $10 bill deep purple and the $5 bill sky blue). All of which means that the tea I’m drinking is a bit cheaper.
In the interest of accuracy, I should point out that there is no such thing as a Canadian dollar bill or two-dollar bill. No, the folks up here long ago gave up on any paper currency under $5 in favor of a dollar coin with a loon on the back (a loonie) and a slightly larger two-dollar coin (a toonie).
This, obviously, can create some unwanted extra weight rattling around the pocket of one’s jeans, a situation only slightly mitigated by the recent banishing of the penny, making the cute “beaver” nickel the least valuable coin in the Canadian realm.
If you buy an item that comes in at $1.12, the cash register immediately rounds it back to $1.10. If the item costs $1.13, it’s rounded up to $1.15. A clever merchant could quickly calculate how to game this system, but I’m sure the friendly Canadians wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.
When I fled Davis for my Canadian island hideout, swimming the last 20 miles through the whale-infested Straits of Juan de Fuca, there was more than water on my mind.
I mean, two of our five democratically elected leaders — King Joe and Prince Dan — had decided to abdicate their respective thrones in a bid for “higher” office, leaving us with a serious leadership void, to say the least.
Simple plastic bags are about to be banned, fireplaces soon may join the woolly mammoth on the list of things that mankind can no longer enjoy, and the price of gasoline continues to rise.
The first thing I noticed here in British Columbia is that virtually every gas station listed its price as $1.41.9. With the favorable exchange rate, that’s more like $1.37.9.
And never mind that the $1.41.9 is per liter, it’s the psychological effect that counts. Hey, gas is under a buck and a half, fill ‘er up, please.
Reminds me once again of why the city of Davis went to monthly water bills instead of every two months. It didn’t change the rate per gallon by even a penny, but it did convince some people their bills had just been cut in half.
The same with the temperature outside. The other day it was unusually hot for Victoria, but what would have been 86 degrees (F.) in Davis showed up as a positively chilly 30 degrees (C.) on the evening forecast. Suddenly I felt a sweater was in order as tea time approached.
Because I don’t wish to wear out my welcome, I plan tomorrow to seek gainful employment by visiting the local newspaper editor to see if the daily Times Colonist needs a daily Times Columnist.
I’ll keep you posted on how this asylum business is progressing, but for now I have a plateful of scones and a strong cup of Earl Grey to attend to.
— Entries to the Contest to Replace the Above-Pictured Columnist are due Tuesday, Sept. 3, at midnight. Entries may be about any subject and should be between 400 and 800 words in length. Entries — including daytime and evening phone numbers, a brief biography of the author, and a mug shot suitable for publication — can be emailed to [email protected]