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The most expensive lunch I’ve ever had

April 6, 2017

A few days ago I realised I haven’t been off the island since I went car shopping with my mate back in early January. So I got in touch with a friend who lives in Comox (about an hour’s drive up the highway on the big island. (Yes, that’s what Gulf Islanders call Vancouver Island.) I suggested I come up and see her for lunch. A nice little outing, which also gave me a chance to stop in town en route to pick up some things I just can’t get here.

Yesterday morning I got the ferry, stopped to pick up my favourite bread flour (unavailable here), a new Moleskine journal and a couple of other things, before stopping at the Body Shop, only to discover that once again the bloody store has discontinued one of my favourite products. Grr.

Headed up Highway 19. It was a funny old day. Despite the sunshine on the road, there was rain falling. At one point there was an actual downpour, which, combined with the sunshine, made visibility very difficult. I slowed down in the slow lane, while wankers shot by me in the passing lane. Shades of Boxing Day, which made me more nervous behind the wheel than I’d been since then. I am not a superstitious person, but it did give me a jolt when I spotted a sign on the side of the road: Thames Creek. Yes, this bloody downpour was happening at exactly the spot on the highway where my beloved old Echo was murdered. Absolutely no consolation to know that there must be a rainbow somewhere.

The rain eventually let up and I sped up, knowing I was now going to be late for lunch.

Just south of the turn off for Courtenay and Comox I could see two police cars on the shoulder with their lights flashing. I slowed down from the speed limit (120kph) to under 100. As I passed, I could see a car in front of the police cars, wondered what sort of traffic violation required two police vehicles.

A moment after I passed, the rear police car pulled out and came up behind me, lights flashing. Okay, I thought, I guess I better pull over. I did. I was asked if I knew I was required by law, when sighting an emergency vehicle on the side of the road to pull into the passing lane and slow down to 70kph. I confessed I did not know this and apologised. The cop informed me that there were signs posted regularly on the side of the highway warning motorists about this. I told him I had no recollection of seeing such a sign. I of course know I should pull over (onto the shoulder if necessary) if there is an emergency vehicle coming up behind me, but this really was news to me. The cop took my licence, went back to his patrol car, sat in it for a couple of minutes, then returned. I honestly thought he was going to let me off with a warning, but no. He presented me with a ticket for $173. I would say this was just my bad luck, but while I was parked on the shoulder I could clearly see the other police car up ahead writing a similar ticket for some other shmuck. This really looked like a little leap frogging fundraising sting. Oh, well. I guess it was a fair cop.

I got to Comox, had a lovely lunch with my friend, who kindly insisted on paying, given my involuntary contribution to the coffers of the RCMP. On the drive back to Nanaimo I kept my eyes peeled.  Nope, not a single sign advising motorists about what they must do if there was an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. So much for regularly posted highway warnings.

I got to the ferry terminal and handed over my Experience card. For those not in the know, these are cards offered to residents of or people who travel frequently to the Gulf Islands. In return for pre-paying BC Ferries a minimum of $115, ferry riders get a reasonably substantial discount on the regular, ridiculously exorbitant fares. As I feared when I left the island in the morning, there wasn’t enough money on the card to cover the fare. Oh, goodie. One hundred and fifteen dollars, please.

So, to recap, yesterday’s lunch (for which I did not pay) cost me $288.

I am never leaving the island again. I simply cannot afford it.


PS: I’ve just done a Google search. The sign does apparently exist.


I am almost certain I have never seen one. Even if I had, I doubt “move over” would have meant “get into the passing lane” to me.

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