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The Yankee Express

A memorable night with a Canadian thermostat


Yes, of course, I remember those wonderful teenage years of not having to worry about paying bills, having a job, or wondering where my next meal was coming from. Wasn’t that awesome?  
One of the best summers of my life was when I turned 14 and my dear Aunt Genevieve and Uncle John asked me to join them on a four-week vacation through three Canadian Provinces beginning with a world’s fair expo in Montreal, Quebec. We then drove through New Brunswick and down to the tip of Nova Scotia visiting my aunt’s relatives. From there we took the Blue Nose Ferry to Bar Harbor, Maine and then back home to Massachusetts and Connecticut. This would be the first time I’d ever been away from my immediate family for an extended vacation. My mom cried when I left and my dad and brother happily wove as I gazed through the car’s back window as it transported me down the street to a most wonderful adventure. We drove north through Vermont stopping in Rutland for two nights and a little sightseeing at some of the well-known Vermont rock quarries (hooray, if you know what I mean).  
During the rest of the long drive to Montreal, I became acutely aware of my aunt & uncle’s most minute behaviors and their tendency to be part of that infamous couple known as The Bickersons and wow, did they bicker. As they took turns driving, I learned that my aunt didn’t know how to drive worth two cents according to my uncle and my uncle always tail-gated way too close for my aunt’s comfort. I tried to ignore their very personal and stressful behavior but their loud disagreements always intruded on whatever book or magazine I buried my nose in as I sat in the backseat wondering if the nausea I was experiencing was that carsickness that everyone always talked about when trying to read in a moving vehicle. Looking out the windows soon became tiring and I had no backseat companion to cast knowing glances to while snickering about the front seat behavior. I sure could have used a portable DVD player, an iPod, or even a cellphone, but those wonderful electronics were unavailable then.  (Hey! Am I showing my age or what?!)
Montreal came & went, however, and we all enjoyed ourselves to the max. The Expo was amazing and filled with new and exciting sights and sounds much like Walt Disney’s EPCOT. My uncle always travelled with a lot of cash which he had neatly folded into a money belt (a new item I had never seen before). What an awesome accessory. Very finely-detailed leather and it surely would’ve looked cool as a regular belt. My uncle also enjoyed a nightly cocktail, a fat cigar or two, and took his own brand of cocktail nightcap with him. He and my aunt dined top-shelf as well. She delighted in lobster Newberg and he frequently had a porterhouse steak or filet mignon. They always instructed me to “please order whatever you’d like” from whatever restaurant’s menu I was awestruck with. I tried many new foods but came to realize that a good cheeseburger or a gourmet hot dog was right up my alley. My own family was not one to dine out very frequently so I learned much about liquor types, wines, and gourmet dining that summer even though I never was allowed to sip anything stronger than a coke but did partake of a tasty filet mignon or two.  
My learning that summer also included how not to use a motel room thermostat. As we drove north through Quebec and then the notable Riviere-du-Loup which is where the Trans-Canadian Highway turns officially south into the Maritime Provinces, we passed into the Province of New Brunswick. There, in Moncton, we stopped at a small but very cozy motel. And it was a very cool July evening. After dining at a small restaurant, we returned to our motel, took showers, and I jumped into my bed to get warm as my relatives watched a little TV before retiring to their own bed. I could never seem to warm up so I waited for them to turn in and when I heard my uncle’s soft snoring, I rose from my bed and tip-toed over to the thermostat thinking if I turned that device all the way to the right (to the high-temp reading) I would be the hero of the evening. After turning that thermostat to the right and imagining my hero status in the morning, I slipped back into bed and soon became warm and comfortable falling asleep shortly thereafter. About 2 a.m. I was rudely awakened by my uncle’s loud shouting to my aunt asking her why is it so darned HOT in here?!? (Actually, his words were much more profane.) The man turned the lights on and in three long strides was in front of the wall thermostat adjusting his glasses as sweat poured down his sideburns. He yelled out: “Who turned this up to 85 degrees?” I quickly threw the covers over my head and, at this point, my uncle muttered something about how I would never be allowed to touch another thermostat again as long as he lived. He threw open the room door and the cool night air rushed in, relieving us of our sauna. After a quick five-minute cool-down, my aunt came to my rescue, as always, calming my uncle until we all fell asleep once again. My uncle never let me forget that day and, obviously, I haven’t forgotten that heat-filled evening either ... .
 Since those many long years ago, I have become the proud owner of my own programmable thermostat, use it to my budget’s acceptance, and wonder frequently what I was truly thinking on that cool summer night in Canada ... .
Contact Janet: [email protected]