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If You See Something…

Even things that should be normal take a strange turn on an extended road trip

I woke up this morning and stared at the unfamiliar ceiling hovering above me. In my twenties it was not that unusual for me to awaken in a foreign bed, couch or backyard. At 51, I find it a bit unsettling.

It did not help that when I finally remembered my locale the answer was…Oregon. The day before the answer was Packwood, WA–and the prior week featured two different spots in Victoria, BC, proceeded by a one night at a Toronto airport hotel and, of course, Costa Rica.

The looks I get from people when they ask where I’m from/why I’m before them are, at best, concerning. I have tried the long, exhaustive version where I explain that we’re US citizens who’ve spent four years in Costa Rica before, for various reasons, we decided to move to Canada–but could only stay for a week before having to return to the US for nearly two months while we waited for a date closer to when my bride begins graduate studies at the University of Victoria so Canadian immigration won’t reject us. That explanation only made the recipient clutch their children closer and remember that they desperately needed to be elsewhere.

I’ve also tried abbreviated versions of the tale but experienced similar results. None of our new Canadian neighbors understand why we’ve rented a house but won’t be back until nearly August, and no one we’ve met on our US travels understands why someone with a Costa Rican driver’s license and a US passport is traveling through the Pacific Northwest before they head to Canada.

The fact that I’m using a walking stick, sport a heavily braced knee, wield several cell phones linked to multiple countries, and occasionally need directions to where I can refill my prescription for anticoagulants does not help. I am, I think, the living embodiment of “something” in the context of “if you see something, say something.”

I suspect this is only going to get worse as my reluctance to answer any questions about our origin or intent makes me that much more suspicious. It also does not help that, courtesy of the blood thinners, my hair is falling out about as quickly as our equally unsettled dog is blowing his coat. In his case, the supply seems inexhaustible. In mine, it’s clear that my choice will soon be a reprisal of the Captain of the Love Boat look or, more likely, go Telly Savalas. I remember all-too-well what happened when I shaved my head for charity a few years back and people I’d known for years crossed the street to avoid that apparently scary version of me. Those that did dare to tread the same sidewalk still avoided eye-contact as they instead stared at what appeared to be cancerous lesions on my bare head (my bride forced me to go to the dermatologist, who said that they were benign–and encouraged me to grow back my hair as quickly as possible).

And so, my family and I will continue to wander WA, OR and CA until enough time has passed that we can, hopefully, enter Canada and add yet another driver’s license to my arsenal (I should probably strike that word from my vocabulary). I have many more places to sleep before it’s over, which means I have an equal number of places to lose my keys, multiple cell phones, and my wallet. I still retain the faculties to understand what I’m searching for when I enter a room but, as someone who is very much a creature of habit, I’ve learned that the fact that I remember that I’m looking for my wallet does not improve my odds of finding it in these foreign lands.

Should you happen to see a gimpy, balding man with pockets full of cell phones and a dazed look on his face rest assured that he means you no harm–and please don’t report him to anyone.