Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Curious questions from Niagara Falls tourists

Curious questions from Niagara Falls tourists

In his book, Neither Here Nor There, Bill Bryson captures the quirky behaviour of those of us who love to travel: "You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile attempt to recapture the comforts you wouldn't have lost if you hadn't left home in the first place."

If I had a nickel for every American who stopped me while backpacking across Europe in the 1970s and asked me where they could get a decent hamburger, 1 could have stopped sleeping in fields.

Maybe that's why, at the informa­tion booths around Niagara Falls, the tourists ask some strange questions. Maybe they're just trying to surround themselves with all the creature com­forts of home. Like:

Question: Are we able to bring our guns to Canada?

Answer: Hell, yes. It's the firing pins and ammo you need to leave with me.

Each tourist season, staff members who operate the information booths around the Falls collect the oddest questions asked of them, in hopes I can come up with the answers. Actual questions, 1 might add.

Question: Isn't there anything interesting here?

Answer: Please, madam, do not let your encounter with the weather spoil your visit.

Question: Can you tell me what type of money you have in Canada?

Answer: Funny money. It's all dif­ferent colours, the two-dollar bill is now made of brass, the one-dollar coin is named after a silly bird, the hardware store takes Canadian Tire money. Look, give me all that cash and use this Air Miles card to pay for everything until you leave the coun­try.

Question: Is your electricity the same as ours?

Answer: It looks the same as yours in that it's invisible, but it's twice as powerful. You could use a blow-dryer from across the room. No, I'm seri­ous. You could mow the lawn of your motel with an electric razor.

Question: Do the whales at Marineland come from the Falls?

Answer: Yes. We catch them in the spring when they're spawning. They swim up river, then jump over the falls to lay their eggs in Chippawa. We pay students $50 each to stand at the brink of the falls and catch them before they hit the water.

Question: Can you tell me how to get to Niagara Falls from here?

Answer: OK, you go back down the QEW to Fort Erie and cross into Buf­falo. You take the New York Thruway to the Skyway Exit, which puts you on Highway 5 headed for Erie, Pa. About 10 miles down on your right is a fruit stand with a sign that reads: "Niagara Falls Information." They sell maps.

Question: What is Canadian food?

Answer: It's really just American food at twice the price.

Question: I'm here on a one-day hike. Where can I see the moose?

Answer: OK, you follow the Nia­gara River north until you come to Queenston. You cross the bridge over to Lewiston, N.Y., and go to 120 Water St. No guarantees you'll spot one, but that's the lodge where they hang out.

Question: Is my birth certificate valid here? I now have a different last name.

Answer: Welcome to the Honey­moon Capital of the World. We're tol­erant people here in Canada. Just because you got married, we see no reason to deny you were ever born. To be safe, take this marker and write your new last name over your birth name and change "seven pounds, five ounces" to - what? - 150, 160 pounds?

Question: Do you pay in the public toilets here?

Answer: No, you pee in the public toilets here. Some things are more important than capitalism.

Question: When do you shut everything down?

Answer: I figure one more victory by the Harper government oughta do it. Oh, you mean the Falls? I'm clos­ing up now, but when you're ready to leave, just hit that secret button on the side of any of those pay tele­scopes. That will shut off the water, the lights and the mist. Whatever you do, don't press twice. That activates the nuclear option on the power gen­erating plant.

Niagara Falls' tourist slogan is "One Wonder After Another."



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