Boston, 2000

I'd been having a string of bad luck. People not showing up to see my apartment here, waiting 2 hours for a guy to come over to give a quote on moving my furniture, not finding the studio that I was invited to for a CD wrap party due to non existent directions, sitting alone at a pub and a bar on two nights waiting for friends to show up. The worst was having my car break down twice as I tried to get the bank letter to show to prospective land lords - the distributor was siezing up, the first time it melted the rotor arm and the mechanics had no idea of the root cause. The second time the knocking began, I took it to Canadian tire and they charged me $20 to tell me it was the distributor, so I took it to a mechanic I trusted to get the distributor replaced. He was able to find a used part, but it still took about 7 hours to finish, so I went off, had my friend over for dinner, and he dropped me off to get my car so I could go to the concert I was attending that night, and then would be able to drive to Boston the next day, Sunday. I was turned back at the border (for the first time ever) when I applied for my TN visa, which threw off my plans to go apartment hunting then to stop off in NYC to see a friend's comedy troupe. I finally received word that I could try again and set out Thursday morning in an attempt to get to NYC first and then go on to Boston and see apartments Friday afternoon. I would have to cross at the Peace Bridge again since that's where they'd talked to the officers for me.

The best laid plans...


Thur Mar 16, 2000

AKA the day from hell.

I got up at 6:20am, planning a nice early start so that I could get to NYC by 5pm to catch supper before the show. I'd received confirmation emails that Siobhan would look after my cat, and that Carla could put me up again. I rushed through breakfast, put out lots of food and water for the cat, washed the left over dishes, packed up my car and headed up to the 7-11 at the head of my street to get gas, just past 7am so I would have to detour around the closest entrance to the Gardiner (they close it for rush hour). The pumps were off since they were filling the tanks, so I headed out onto the Queensway to the next station on my way. I then proceeded to get stuck in rush hour traffic and didn't get out of Mississauga until after 8am. The free trade officer that I was to speak to started work at 8am and I'd hoped to be at the border just after then, but I didn't arrive until 9. At the gates where they usually ask you where you're going etc., it turned out that the woman working my lane was the same one who'd denied by visa application a few days previously. She remembered me too, but took my passport (the guy at the gate the last time had forgotten to take my passport when he passed me to apply) directed me to park and go in and apply again. Of course, there were no parking spaces, and one minivan was double parked, and another car parked past the end of the spaces. I tucked mine in past that last one and grabbed my stuff, but as I was heading into the offices, I saw three groups exit and head towards their cars. So, thinking to avoid leaving my car illegally parked, I trotted back to it, and backed it out, but there were no spaces, no one moved their cars at all, they were just sitting in them. So, I put my car back in it's illegal spot and went in anyway.

By this point, I was worried that they'd called me in already and I'd missed my chance, but I had lots of time to listen to a guy and his attorney abuse his cell phone trying to get his application cleared. You'd think people could go where their every word wouldn't be over heard, but nope. I sat and stared at the posters of the missing kids, then got out my book and began to read. I'd brought a nice thick library book with me, and it did make the time pass a lot faster. A very snippy lady called me in and I shamelessly invoked the name of the free trade officer and my attorney, but she wasn't impressed that the latter wasn't with me (like he'd come out all the way from Boston). (yes, I'm ranting, don't mind me, it was a hard day, and the best is yet to come) I left the documents with her and went back to reading and trying to ignore the pacing of the other applicants. The general feel was that they really didn't want anyone coming to work in the USA, everyone was fighting an uphill battle. After about an hour of waiting total, I was called in again and they charged my credit card for the visa and the I94 and I was on my way around 10am.

I managed to get through Buffalo on the I190 south to the I90 and took my toll ticket. As I was driving towards Rochester, a transport was merging in and threw up a rock that gave me a small star like crack on my windshield, passenger side and out of the sweep of the wipers at least. Then the wiper stopped actually clearing the windscreen. I stopped and put the old one back on, luckily I'd kept it in the trunk. I decided to avoid the tolls on the I90 and turned south at Rochester to take 17 across towards NYC. Coming down a hill and around a corner, I was caught in a speed trap and cited for doing 80 in a 65 zone. The good part was that I'm pretty sure I was going faster than that, but he was nice to me, plus I can mail in my plea instead of having to pay at the road side.

I stopped for gas just before Binghamton, broke out the sandwiches I'd made that morning and decided to switch from tapes to my portable CD player. It didn't work, no power was getting to it from the lighter jack, though I didn't figure that out until the next stop, I just threw in another tape. I turned south on 81 to head down through PA and NJ to get to NYC, and just inside Scranton PA my car started losing power. I was able to coast it off the interstate but the light at the first intersection was red and I was dead when I stopped. Luckily, other cars were able to get past me and my warning flashers worked, plus there was a phone just outside the building on the corner. I ran over to call for a tow, and the Canadian operator told me I had the wrong number for help in the States and then I was cut off. I ran inside and got two staff members to help me push my car into the parking lot, out of the way of traffic, then tried the auto club again. This time I was told I had the right number and they'd send a truck for me. I was able to call the operator and get the number of the payphone and called them back to give it to them in case the tow truck driver needed more directions. They assured me he was on his way, though it might still take an hour. I wandered around a bit, poked and prodded at the engine, checked the oil, but couldn't figure out what was wrong. A gentleman asked if he could help, but he couldn't figure out what was wrong either, but he was nice beyond the call of duty to give me his home phone number and assured me that his wife and he could put me up for the night if I was stranded. He also suggested that I take it to Burne Honda to get the experts to look at it. I managed to get in touch with Carla after a wrong number, luckily the phone had a 25 cents per minute to anywhere in the US deal, though granted I had to pay for 3 minutes up front.

The tow truck finally arrived and it turned out to be one that drove past right after I broke down. *sigh* He hooked me up and agreed to take me to the Honda service centre. By this point it was close to 4 and by the time we got there it was 4:15 and the service centre was closing in 15 minutes. They assured me that they'd look at it first thing in the morning, and they drove me to a hotel. I was able to get a room, made some tea and had my last sandwich. I started to feel a bit woozy and realised that I was running a temperature, so after calling and ranting at my Dad for a bit, I got to sleep early, confident that I'd at least be able to get to my 5pm apartment viewing appointment. Hah. The fates weren't quite done with me yet.

Fri Mar 17, 2000

I woke up at 8:30 and they called soon after with the diagnosis - the timing belt. It would take a while to fix, until 1pm or so. I was of course 2 hours away from NYC, and it was 4.5 hours from Boston, I'd never make it by 5. I asked them to hurry if they could and they said they'd try for noon. I had my 'free' breakfast at a plywood table covered with crumbs but only half covered with a table cloth then went back to my room to wait it out. The card key wouldn't open my door, so I went back down and had it re-keyed. I grabbed a orange for the road from the breakfast buffet, but when they hadn't called for a while, and I'd killed time reading, I had my last bagel and ate the orange for my lunch. They ended up calling at 11:30 so I ran down and checked out then sat and waited for them to pick me up. It turned out that the phone calls I'd made hadn't been charged to the room bill, and I felt justified in not insisting that I pay for them. I abused my credit card some more (the labour charge was the killer, it took a lot of time to get at the belts and change them), loaded up the car and took note of the directions to get back to the highway. I had to replan my route to avoid NYC, so was going to just go south on 380 to 84 and take that across to the I90 in MA.

Of course the weather was miserable, a winter storm system had moved in after nice warm weather, and my old wiper decided to give up the ghost, not even touching the wind screen with more than 10% of it's length. I stopped at a gas station and bought a new wiper blade and installed it after ripping off the old one. I bent the arm a bit more towards the screen and it seemed to work better after that. I managed to bypass NYC easily. I went through Connetticut for the first time, it was pretty and the snow pretty much covered everything, making it a picturesque if nerve wracking drive. I stopped just before Hartford to call Nearlife and the guy who's apartment I was to see to let them know I was running late and to check on my hotel reservation. I hoped to make Boston by 6, things were moving well and I was apparently only 1.5 hours away and it was about 4pm. Then I got stuck in rush hour traffic through Hartford. Then got stuck in rush hour traffic paying the tolls on I90 just before Boston (I95, which I'd have taken up to my hotel was nice and clear, but I figured that it was 20 to 6, I'd make it maybe just a bit late to Revere), and again at the end of the I90 where I was going to turn north on 1 (the big dig, construction around Logan, lots of fun). I watched my gas gauge approach empty and then fall below it before I could get off the highway and find gas. I drove in a few circles before I found a station and filled up. At this point I was lost, so asked the clerk if he had a good map of Boston. He shrugged and sold me a map, then couldn't point out our current location to me on it and it didn't show Revere at all. *sigh* Luckily there were a couple of customers who were willing to direct me and one tow truck driver heading up to NH said I could follow him back to highway 1. I snagged a refund on the map, since I had one from the autoclub that was just as good, and I managed to get in behind him, find 1 and get over the Tobin bridge, but lost him in traffic after that. I ended up taking the wrong exit direction, turned around, then couldn't read any street signs in Revere. I stopped at a McDonalds and ended up asking a customer what the cross street was since the manager working the cash was very surly. I called the guy about the apartment and he said that I was close and he'd come get me and I could follow him to the place. I decided to wander around to stretch my legs, and knocked the salt and snow and ice encrustations off of my car. I was quite cold by the time he showed up and glad to get back in the car. Of course a delivery semi was parked behind me now so I had to maneouver myself around it and then up the slippery slope out of the parking lot. I managed to stick with him and we got to his house. He showed me the place and I said I'd call him back the next day after seeing a few more. He was quite nice about me being hideously late, it was after 8pm at this point. I managed to get back on 1 and find highway 16 and follow it to Cambridge and my hotel, though making one wrong turn onto 2 instead of Alewife Brook. I got to the hotel and found I'd just missed Gillian's call - she was going to meet up with me and give me some apartment hunting tips. Then the company's credit card that was supposed to pay for my room was denied and I had to put it on my own card. I staggered over to the 99 restaurant next door (Bread and Circus was closed by now, it was 9:30 or so) and managed to get down some clam chowder and a salad. Gillian called when I was back in my room and we made plans to meet the next day at 10am. I read for a bit, tossed, turned, sneezed, coughed, and was annoyed by the giggling girls in the hallway (who, it turned out, stole my "do not disturb" sign from my door handle).

Sat Mar 18, 2000

I found out when I woke up at 8:30 that there was one foam pillow amoung the four that came with the room, and I could have avoided the allergy pains inflicted by sleeping on a feather pillow. Gillian was a bit late, I had time to get my free breakfast downstairs and read for a bit until she arrived. We went over to Bread and Circus and bought fruit smoothies then sat at the tables to look at the Boston Globe that I'd bought and to check out the online listings on her laptop. I circled lots and we decided to go to the office to use the phones there. I drove us over, and we made lots of appointments to see apartments and to talk to realtors. I was hoping to avoid paying the one month's rent fee the realtors all charged by renting direct. We were able to get to one immediately, a two bedroom with parking that we were considering sharing, but I didn't want to take the first one I saw. We went to a realtors and avoided him trying to push me into a room in a mansion that I think he was going to get a good commission on. We saw a few near Davis Square that were small for the price and not possibly ready by Apr 1 (lots of renovations). The 'eclectic' one was locked and we couldn't get in, though it did look neat, there was an enclosed courtyard/work space before you got to the door. By then I decided that the first one I saw would do, so we went back there, but it was rented already. Gillian was disheartened but I tried to cheer here up. We tried to find on off Brattle street but the realtor was gone by the time we found the building. We did find a private rental, but it was a first floor with no parking nor laundry and not quite right, though I took an application. We hit Century 21 Realty on Mass Ave but we were getting hungry by then. The realtor we'd spoken to, Craig, didn't show up for an hour after our appointment so I said I'd try and get in tomorrow at 10am to see him again. At this point Gillian had to leave so she directed me to the last realtor's of the day then caught a taxi. Gabrielle showed me a few places, but again they were a bit small and too expensive, though the location was good. They wanted first and last month's rent plus a security deposit of one month's rent, all on top of the one month's rent realtors fee. She told me that she was basically paying off her huge photography school debt by working as a realtor. If I ever decide to change jobs, I'm going to work in Boston as a realtor.

She dropped me off and I managed to get back to my hotel fairly easily. I talked to Ron for a bit, but he was busy that night too, and I was feeling bushed. I walked over to Bread and Circus and grabbed some sushi, set myself up with my book and had a good dinner in my hotel room. I ended up finishing my book, then watching White Squall on TV - it wasn't quite as good as I'd expected from the previews I'd seen, I'd hoped for more sailing scenes to bring back memories of my experiences with Toronto Brigantine. I was very discouraged and not feeling all that well due to my lack of food and fluids over the day. I grabbed an iced tea from the machine and turned off the heat in hopes that the room wouldn't dry out so much then went to sleep on the one foam pillow, hoping that I'd be able to find a place in the morning and be on the road home in the afternoon.

Sun Mar 19, 2000

I had set the wake up call to 8:30 again and braved the common eating room for the breakfast. I stuck with dairy this morning, cereal and yoghurt. I packed up my stuff in anticipation of checking out, threw my papers in the car and made my way over to Mass. Ave again, finding the realtors with little problem. Craig was there at 10am and gathered up his papers on apartments and we set out in his car, which had a recently broken door handle, so each time we got in I had to reach over and open his door for him.

The first place was in East Cambridge, near Central Square. The land lords met us at the door and let us in. It was on the second floor, the tenant wasn't in, but not really big enough for my stuff. The current tenant didn't really have much furniture, mine would have overstuffed the place. The natural wood frame around the glass panes in the French door leading to the bed room was nice though. We thanked the landlords and trooped down again. The next place was in the same area, but he didn't have the key to the front door - the side door was screwed shut for the ongoing renovations and we were to go through the front apartment and then up to the second floor. I assured him that I probably wouldn't take it anyway, it was too much, $1300 I think.

Not daunted, Craig took me back to the office to see if he had any other options to show me. He found two, but the one that the owner had to let us in to see wouldn't be available until 11:30. I went across the street and picked up a Phoenix, got a tea and a muffin and browsed the room mate wanted ads. I circled a few, and called one to set up an appointment to see it at 1pm. By that point it was time to head over, so I went back to the offices and we drove for a bit over to a street that faced a park with a cool stone tower. The owner had woken up and was there to let us in. She was very talkative and had tons of suggestions, but her place was laid out oddly, the middle foyer taking up too much space and having no windows. There was work to be done on it and she couldn't guarantee an Apr 1 move in date in any case. We thanked her and managed to make our escape back to East Cambridge.

Craig let us in and we walked up to the second floor, and I was in love. Bright, airy, new windows, a claw foot bathtub, two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and pantry gave me lots of room for my stuff. Utilities extra, laundry down the street and I'd have to get a street parking permit, but the space made up for it. The owner wasn't answering her door or phone and I would have to meet her before she agreed to rent it to me, so we went back to the office to begin the paper work. I called to cancel the 1pm viewing, and the hotel to warn then that I'd be back a bit late to check out.

I had to get one of my coworkers to drop off a cheque to hold the apartment for me until I could open a bank account and get my money transfered, she agreed to drop it off that afternoon. I went back to my hotel to wait to hear from Craig as to when I could meet the owner and to eat. I called my parents first to let then know I had a place, and then Siobhan to let her know that I'd be a day late coming back, since I would have to stay a while Monday morning to sort things out. I grabbed some pizza and found a message waiting when I got back that I'd meet with the owner at 9am Monday. The maid service was attempting to clean my room while I was popping in and out, since I'd been supposed the check out that day they were thrown off by my stay's extension by a day. I finally went out to find a book to read and maybe some munchies to while away the afternoon. The drug store had a poor selection, but I found a discounted book eventually as well as a jumbo chocolate bar to celebrate with. My room was clean when I got back. Ron called and Gillian and I shared the good news. I finished the book and then turned to TV at 7:30 to watch Fox's Sunday night programming (X Files pretty much sucked) then got to sleep by 11 so I could face the early appointment the next day.

Mon Mar 20, 2000

The wake up call rang at 7:30 and I almost didn't catch it. I finally managed to crawl out of bed and grab a shower, packing up my stuff yet again. I only had a muffin for breakfast, along with a large thing of tea and one of orange juice. No idea why they keep the small cups next to the pitchers when you can get large ones for coffee. Anyway, grabbed my notes and drove over to Century 21 and fed the metre (Canadian quarters still worked), giving myself two hours in anticipation of a long interview. Craig then said that I'd follow him in my car since he was just going to drop me off. *sigh* I managed to make the U-turn and come up behind him, and didn't lose him on the drive over.

The owner was there and Craig left me to the interview. She went over the rules of the house, all common sense things, and she got me phone numbers for the utilities (which I called and had turned over to my name for Apr 1) and lent me the parking pass and found info on how I could get a temp one when I arrived. I called Craig to warn him I was on my way and she gave me the keys on the way out. She recommended a bank to open an account with, so I headed over to Central Square to open it. Cambridgeport bank staff were very friendly, though they did say that I would have to wire the money from Toronto. Luckily I had a ten to put in the account to open it right then, and they gave me a cheque book (no, I'm not going to give up proper spelling just because I move to an uncivilised country :) ). I drove back to Century 21 and grabbed a parking spot on a side street, then went in and signed my life away, three cheques for a month's rent each, appropriately post dated so I could get the money in there when I got home.

By this time I was late checking out of the hotel, it was 12:30 and I was supposed to be out for noon, so I raced back towards Alewife. The front door clerk knocked on my door as I was throwing things together and I reassured her that I was going now. My dad had called to confirm he'd been able to wire the money to me in Toronto, though I wish I'd been able to find a phone and call him so he could have wired it direct to Boston. Ah well. I checked out and did a bit of a dance with the clerk since they were still confused as to which credit card it was supposed to be billed to. I'd gotten the cheque from my coworker back from the realtors, so I dropped in at Nearlife to return it. They were all quite happy to see me, Gillian let me know I could get a SS number w/o being a citizen and they showed me my desk, giving me a left over cookie for the drive home. I decided to get on the road as soon as possible and they gave me directions to the I90. Got there no problems, but had to stop at a service center to throw out the leaking bag of ice that I'd put in my little insulated cooler to keep the left over pizza cool. I ate the pizza then anyway since I was starving. The cookie was good too.

What a contrast to my drive to Boston. It was nice and sunny, warm, only occasional patches of snow visible on the fields, and traffic was light. I didn't get on the road until close to 2, so I pushed it a bit, though never really going much above the speed limit. I stopped in Utica for gas and to get some hot water for my travel tea mug, and to clean the windows of the salt encrustations from the drive up. The hood refused to open so I assumed that the oil was still okay and there was no pressing need to top up the wind shield washer fluid reservoir. The sun was setting as I drove through western NY and were were some nice vistas opening out as the trees were silohetted against the darkening sky. 300 or so kms after Utica, I hit Buffalo and stopped at the Duty Free for a quick washroom break. I breezed past the border and made it back to Toronto with no problems, despite being very very very tired by now, and semi's seeming to pick me to cut off especially. I hit my house at 11pm, not a bad trip over all. Read most of my email and reassured everyone that I was home safe.


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