The other day I drove up to Ottawa. Bytown. The nation’s capital. The home of some of the worst-designed roads and highways on the continent. (But that’s only my opinion. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, after all.)
There is some background to this (that you probably don’t care about but I’m going to give it to you anyway). In particular, there are two basic (not) routes between here and there. The first one involves a modern, award-winning (so clearly not designed in Ottawa), high-speed, four-lane-all-the-way route which is fast and generally fairly efficient. It’s also a little boring and can be stressful. (Because it’s modern and efficient, traffic levels are often quite high. So I usually take the other route.)
The other one is a little shorter (roughly 20k — about ten percent) but is not nearly as modern, is a little slower, goes through multiple small communities and is not nearly as straight. (Of course, winding roads plus an insanely overpowered vehicle plus a capriform playing guitar equals fun, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.)
Anyway, I left a little after 9 in the morning and had… problems. In particular, Highway 15 was Under Construction. It was slow at Joyceville. It was down to one lane at that-place-where-I-almost-had-a-fatal-motorcycle-accident-in-1985. It was completely torn up at Elgin. It was blocked at Crosby. And where the construction had finished, where you might hope to make speedy progress, well, those bits had trucks painting lines. And when that happens on a windy road you have to follow them for miles at a walking pace before the school buses in front of you can get by them. Good thing it was a nice day.
(All things considered, this is actually a good thing. Roads need maintenance, after all. And that road is an old design and practically screams for the odd modern amenity. It’s good to see it happen.)
But all this meant that it was slow going. So slow that I arrived at the midpoint (more or less) of my trip at almost exactly 11.
11:00 is important to the story because that’s when a burger joint along the route (I was going to include a link, but the corporate website got the restaurant location completely wrong. Good going, faceless corporate drones.) opens for lunch. Being a burger restaurant, they wouldn’t do a whole lot of breakfast business but lunch is another matter. And right then lunch seemed like a decent idea. So I stopped.
This is where I digress a bit and talk about stereotypes.
Stereotypes, by themselves, are neither good nor bad. We consciously and unconsciously make assumptions and generalizations as a sort of mental shorthand to help make sense out of a complex world. Of course, having said that, a lot of stereotypes come with, um, let’s just call it ‘baggage‘. Sometimes that baggage is positive. (“Canadians are polite.“) Sometimes it’s negative. (“Canadians love Celine Dion.“) Often it’s neutral. (“Canadians like hockey.”) So when I stopped at a roadside burger joint at opening time I wound up thinking “What kind of people would I expect to be the first ones through the door of a burger joint at opening time?” Several stereotypes popped to mind. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I half expected to see blue-collar working types, there for an early lunch after a long morning of hard work. I was more or less correct — the third vehicle in the parking lot was a pickup truck, full of brush-clearing equipment and two tall, fit-looking guys in chainsaw-resistant pants who practically reeked of testosterone. Check.
I expected to see harried-looking travellers who, having run the gauntlet of road construction and line painting, wanted nothing more than something to eat, something to drink and someplace to pee. Well, there was me. Check. Sort of.
But the first car into the parking lot? The people waiting impatiently at the door for the employee to unlock it? Well, that was two little old ladies.
I wasn’t expecting that.
So I learned three things:
- I learned that Highway 15 is getting better.
- I learned the Wi-Fi password for a burger place that is not (whatever Corporate may think) in a field.
- I learned that some little old ladies can eat more burgers than I can.
Clearly some of my mental stereotypes need a little fine-tuning.