Past Deadline: Captain Who and His Trusty Sidekicks?

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Past Deadline, Perth Courier, Stephanie Gray, Stephanie Gray Communications
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Here is Past Deadline from the Aug. 21/14 issue of The Perth Courier. (Still catching up….)

Captain who and his trusty sidekicks?

We spent an August weekend in Toronto visiting some great friends and some cool fish. As usual, the car journey represented some opportunities for column fodder.

We tend to make an annual summer trek to the Big Smoke, and it seems that at some point during the weekend, every year, Groom-boy’s car gets very excited about it. Last year on the Gardiner Expressway he accelerated quickly to get into another lane, and his car took the opportunity to purge a giant cloud of black exhaust.

The first time it happened, it scared the pants off of us – not to mention the cars behind us, which backed off considerably. There was no backfire sound, but enough smoke to make us wonder if we should pull over and do a circle check or drive to the nearest garage. We’re not sure why it does it since it’s a fairly new car.

This year we were travelling on the winding road between Westport and Kingston en route to Toronto. We were stuck behind a slow guy who had an alarming tendency to ride the centre line, and we were anxious to get around him. There aren’t many opportunities to pass on that road, so when one finally came along, Groom-boy tromped on the gas.

You guessed it – enormous cloud of black smoke. The annual blow-out. “Engage smokescreen,” we hooted, because we are a family of owls.

We giggled for miles. It didn’t affect the slow guy we had passed, but the car that had been directly behind us dropped way back. We have that effect on people once a year.

It also earned Groom-boy a new nickname by Girlchild: Captain Carfart. (Am I allowed to say that word in a family newspaper? Heehee. Feel free to call him that if you see him.)

By the time we’d stopped laughing and reached the 401, we had moved on to licence plates. I’ve mentioned before (at least once or 35 times), that when I was a kid and we went on family road trips, I would write down every licence plate I saw. There weren’t many personalized plates back then, but I recorded an abundance of American and out-of-province plates. Pretty colours! That was before you needed to sell your first-born child to afford gas. People travelled far. (You’re in luck, Boychild. Toronto is close.)

Girlchild has picked up the tradition, except she records hers electronically. Times change.

So we were moving along nicely, managing to avoid engaging the smokescreen, when we spied a car with the licence plate AUG 14 04.

Interesting, especially since it happened to be Aug. 14, 2014. It was a young couple – perhaps the date marked their wedding anniversary? Maybe a birthday? Birth of a child? Day someone got a driver’s licence or bought the car? Day they had successful surgery? First job? First communion?

We were tempted to roll down the window and honk and holler something generically congratulatory, but what if the date was marking something terrible? Or what if they were angry maniacs who would have thought our congratulatory gestures were something aggressive and road ragey?

So we kept driving. It also occurred to us they might have had the licence plate so long that they forgot they even had it. Maybe they had been driving along all day, people pointing at them, getting friendly waves and thumbs up and big smiles from the optimistic people and averted eyes from the pessimistic ones. Maybe they were getting totally creeped out by the whole thing.

“Why is everyone pointing and staring today, honey?” the man would say.

“I don’t know,” the woman would answer, “but don’t forget we need to get some catnip to celebrate Fluffy’s 10th birthday today.”

“Good memory!” he would say. “I really need to write that down somewhere.”

“Yeah,” she would say. “Umm, stay back from that grey sedan. The people keep looking at us and I think they might be axe murderers.”

“Good heavens! That’s Captain Carfart, Legend of the Gardiner Expressway!” he would exclaim, dropping back. “You just never know when he might engage his smokescreen. Very unpredictable guy.”

Next year I think we should travel in costume. Oh, and we’ll have to work on names for all of his trusty sidekicks. Hmmmm…..

car fart


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