I planned a summer kayak trip out of range of cellphones and far away from cities. And that part of the strategy really worked. He was nowhere to be seen in the Broken Group or even the Tiny Group of offshore islands in Barkley Sound off British Columbia’s west coast.
You see, he’s just not that sort of guy. In fact, it’s hard to think of a less pleasing activity for him to participate in, given that it’s all about wilderness exercise, teamwork with old pals, healthy eating and bathing in the surf.
We didn’t cross paths until we hauled the kayaks out of the water, strapped them to the truck rack and headed in to Tofino on the last day of the trip.
I parked next to a wonderful seafood restaurant, and my wife and I strolled about the town looking at art galleries and craft beer emporia. She eventually went into a jewelry shop while I wandered back to the truck to check on the gear. Standing beside it was a fit younger couple with broad smiles.
“Wow, where have you guys been kayaking?” asked a smiling woman with an engaging manner. “We really want to get into this sport. You see, we’re from Colorado and this is our first time out exploring your Canadian coast. What a magnificent part of the world!”
And so began a lovely curb-side conversation.
I could tell by their enthusiasm that Tofino and the surrounding open Pacific beaches were effortlessly working their charm. I responded in kind and was profusely thanked when our tete-a-tete came to an end.
“One more thing,” remarked the woman before she and her husband headed off up the street. “Thank you for being so Canadian and genuine with us both. It was so nice to have a conversation without the ‘T’ word.”
I reached out, shook their hands and said, “That’s the Canadian way, eh.”
Funny how the bugger somehow insinuated himself into the most genuine of local discussions.
And then it happened again.
My wife and I were escorting some guest artists from our community’s annual Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy’s (PRISMA) festival around Desolation Sound, easily the most visited part of B.C.’s magnificent Inside Passage waterway between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
Our guide in the six-passenger Zodiac was enthusiastically interpreting every inch of our trip with historic anecdotes and scientific data. She was doing a brilliant job as we entered a narrow tidal passage between two rocky headlands on either side of our path of travel.
“Last week, right here, I had to intervene to stop a heated argument between two American clients on my tour. Just as we entered this tidal narrows they started yelling at each other about Trump. I have no idea why it started and it was so out of character for this beautiful place. Imagine how my other Canadian clients felt?”
Our Zodiac was full of Korean, Canadian, Swedish – and, yes, one American – symphony musicians. We simply looked at one another somewhat incredulously. It was a beautiful, blue-sky day in Prideaux Haven.
Our guide continued her thoughtful interpretive comments and politics were left as a topic more suited to somewhere else. Hopefully far away.
My next visit with our uninvited guest is yet to happen. Later this summer we expect some longtime American pals to arrive for a multi-day visit. We eagerly await their arrival – but for one thing. It turns out they’re ardent Donald Trump supporters.
So how does one handle this over a period of days in rather close quarters?
Many folks are wrestling with this question. Responses range from “Cut them off,” to “Chill out and accommodate with grace.”
So what are the duties of hosts in such situations?
In the spirit of cultivating middle ground, and in the knowledge that old friendships are treasures, I shall studiously retell old stories, fondly remember our shared student days, revisit the ups and downs of nearly seven decades of life, and find humour wherever it lurks.
With any luck, the visit will be a great success and positively add to the storehouse of shared coastal memories. I shall be counting on my diplomatic genes.