It was a perfect late-spring afternoon when I pulled up to the August First bakery just off of lower Main Street to hook up with my customer, Maria Hatami. She was sitting in front at one of the open-air tables, looking tanned and pretty in her shorts and cotton blouse. Gosh, I love women, I thought.
She waved to me and smiled, and I got out to help her with her luggage. I would be driving her to another country — our neighbor to the north, the land of poutine and hockey.
"Thanks so much for doing this," Maria said as we got under way. "If I had to postpone the flight until tomorrow, the airline was going to charge me a thousand pounds."
"Yeah, you were telling me. What was it — you left your passport at the resort?"
"Exactly. How stupid is that? The one thing I absolutely needed. I was at the Basin Harbor Club for a friend's wedding, and I was dropped off at Burlington Airport to catch the Greyhound bus to Montréal's Trudeau Airport. Luckily, somebody was able to bring my passport up to Burlington. So, here I am. And that's my story."
Maria laughed, which I thought showed resilience given her screwup. Half the time when I drive folks to an airport, they realize they've forgotten something. But this might have been the first time the forgotten item was an actual passport. That is a biggie.
"So, you've got to be an Englishwoman, or that is one believable accent you've perfected," I joked.
"Yes, we live just outside of London — my husband and our two daughters, ages 1 and 4. Oh, I so miss my girls! This is by far the longest we've been separated. They're all on vacation in Spain."
"Well, I'm sure you miss them," I said, chuckling, "but isn't the freedom delicious?"
"It is delicious!" she said with a laugh. "I admit it. No mommy duty is a rare luxury."
"Are you pursuing a career in England, or are you at home with the kids?"
"Well, I pursued an acting career in my youth — it feels so grown-up to speak of my 'youth' — but, over the last few years, I've developed a small business creating bespoke window treatments. It's a one-woman show, but I enjoy it."
"Acting, wow — that must have been an adventure. Were you cast in stuff? Like TV or movies?"
"Yes, I had a few roles and a commercial or two. This is all in England, of course. I was always, like, the lead character's best friend, never the lead. Often, I would be cast as a teenager because I looked so young. But, after about five years, I realized I would never achieve the career I was looking for, and I gave it up. It just wasn't in the cards."
"And now you have the window business. That must be a creative outlet for you, I imagine."
"It is. I need to have that creativity in my life or I would just wither up, I believe."
We reached the border and breezed through with no line. That was nice, but I knew we'd be hitting major congestion as we approached Montréal, to say nothing of the Champlain Bridge, Québec's floating traffic jam. Luckily, Maria's flight was hours away, so there was no pressure to make time.
"What about hubby?" I asked. "Is he bringing home the bacon?"
"He is, bless his heart," Maria replied. "He's in a financial tech firm."
"Is he of Mideastern heritage? I ask because you don't look much like a 'Hatami,' ethnically speaking."
"Yes, Massoud is Iranian."
"How did your folks handle that? Was it an issue for them?"
"No, my mother and father were both entirely accepting. My 96-year-old grandfather would have been another story, so we just never told him. He actually passed away before our wedding, which was probably a blessing."
"How was your wedding? Did you blend traditions?"
"We actually had two ceremonies. It was lovely. The reception was a sight to behold. Iranians, you see, love to drink and dance — a very, very expressive culture. My English family, not so much so." Maria paused to let out a hearty laugh with the memory. "All these reserved Brits with the dancing Iranians, it was beautiful. Eventually, my people actually loosened up."
Pont Champlain lived up to its nefarious reputation for gridlock. It was heartening to see the replacement bridge well under construction, just 100 yards east of the existing structure. The website calls it the "largest construction project of the last 40 years in Québec," with a completion date of "late 2018." I can't wait.
As we approached Trudeau, Maria was buzzing with excitement. "When I get back to London," she said, "I'll still have two days before my family returns. My friends are encouraging me to go out clubbing with them."
"Why not?" I said. "Play the single gal while you can."
"It sounds tempting, but I just want to spend the time working on designs for my clients. In a quiet house!"
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.