February 12, 2010

The 2010 Games: Where Is Everyone?

I live just south of the Canadian/American border, a woman with dual citizenship, and with family who live and work on both sides of the Peace Arch. Today, driving home from the gym where I work out at the senior center in Blaine, WA, I drove through the strangely deserted border town, puzzled by the lack of traffic that's been predicted for the Games. Which everyone knows is to be held in Vancouver--a city very few know I was born in. But considering the fact that the games begin today, I am wondering, "Where in the world are all these people who are to be storming this border?"

In Blaine and the surrounding area, we've gone through quite the uproar, getting ready for these hordes of people. The border has been expanded, more lanes put in, security beefed up, extra guards hired, the community disrupted, invasion of privacy accelerated. Heat-sensitive cameras look right into the houses that line the 49th parallel, and a student of mine at the community college said her father's complaints about having to pee and brush his teeth for an audience being a gross violation of his privacy were summarily dismissed for the "greater good." So what's this all about? This no show on the day the entire world chants "Let the games begin"? Is my student's father taking a pee in public for no good reason?

Puzzled, I drove out on the Drayton Harbor spit to see if any cars were lined up to go through into Vancouver. Amazing. There were cars piled up going into the States, but all lanes going into Canada? All green, a first in my personal history. I've been through this border a thousand times and have never seen all lanes lit to "go," with guards on duty and ready to pass people into the land of my birth. More astonishing, half of the lanes were empty--no lineup of any kind. Believe me, I can count on one hand and have fingers left over, and still give you an accurate count of how many times I've actually driven up and had my chat at the gate without have to wait my turn idling in line. Where in the world is everyone?

I'm going to assume traffic will pick up. A shame to be the prettiest city in the world and have no one show. And in case anyone's interested, the map below and to your left is the map of my family's connection to 2010's Olympic Games--and by working my way down the page you can see that I'm probably in pretty good position to tell you something of an insider's view. I can give you some background that I doubt NBC, ABC, or even CTV can share. Leave all the important stuff to them--like who wins the gold--and the trivia no one cares about to me. I begin at the map's top: Whistler and Squamish.

First, Squamish is headquarters to one of the four First Nations groups being represented at the Olympics. It's also temporary home for my youngest son Blake. He is finishing his MA in Theology at Regent College in Vancouver but will be putting a small dent in his student loans by driving a bus for the Olympic athletes. He writes from Squamish, where he and his buddies are housed in the old Love Boat and are being fed like paying customers: "My job is to go to the athlete's village in Whistler every morning and pick up athletes going to the slide center. That means I drive skeletoners, lugers, and bobsledders. Cool, huh?"

If that isn't enough fun, he writes: "Last night the Olympic torch came through Squamish so we went to the festival. They had the torch, music, a logging show, and lots of free coke (liquid type). I even got to hold the torch! So things are fun, I'm getting to know the other drivers from our company, and I'm practicing my French with all the French speakers on the ship."

Moving to the south end of the map... My daughter and her family live in Ferndale (near me in Birch Bay), but Heather actually works in Langley just over the border. She writes: "I cheered the torch on as it went by my office today- I'm excited!"

In between the bottom end of the map and the top you'll find Vancouver. I was born here, and went to the dentist here, but I grew up in Pt. Coquitlam, 18 miles up the Fraser River. The "Bay House" (two blocks from the border) is where I was taken right out of the hospital, just three days old, the summer my father built my grandfather a cottage on the bay. I consider this home, for after leaving Pt. Coquitlam when I was nine I became a vagabond, criss-crossing the continent on both sides of the border. The Bay House, torn down and rebuilt by my Aunt Thelma, remains the only consistent spot on the map of my life.

Currently, my immediate family (less one sister) lives near me south of the border (though two of my three children go to school or work north of the line). All of my extended family and big sister, however, live throughout the greater Vancouver area--and my lucky McMillin cousins also have a condo at Whistler. It has seemed very strange to me that people from all around the world will be converging on my turf, when I have spent a life time living everywhere but.

And yet, today, February 12, 2010,  official start of the games, I see no one going "home."  Really, where are they all?