Nanaimo Welcome Wagon, Locking Keys in the Car

I’d always thought that the “Welcome Wagon” was a euphemism for a group of well-natured people who would come to the door of folks new the the neighbourhood and welcome them into the community. Little did I know that Welcome Wagon is actually the name of a corporation that organises events and earns a profit (or so I assume … why else would a company have “Ltd.” as part of its name?).

Welcome Wagon Ltd. organised a bridal show in Nanaimo on Sunday, and Allison’s mom thought it would be a good idea if we went over to see the show. Not so much to make arrangements (we’re still working on an actual date), but to get ideas for the ceremony and for the following reception.

This meant we had to catch the 8:30 ferry from Horseshoe Bay, which meant we had to be up no later than 7:15. I crawled out of bed at 7:13. Allison followed at about 7:16. We were out of the apartment by 7:28, and the car had hit the road by 7:32. We arrived in Horseshoe Bay just after 8:00, where our next little fiasco took place — finding a place to park. This is the single hardest thing to do there, because parking is at an absolute minimum.

The BC Ferries lot was full, that I expected. However, the nearby Impark yard was also full. I started to worry a little. But Allison knew of a lot over by the Boathouse. It was for Sewall’s Marina (it allowed no overnight parking as a result), but you could get a spot for the day, which it what we did. After I parked the car, I ran down to the machine to get a ticket. It was one of the older machines, which spat out a ticket at a time (for each $2.50 inserted). Ideally, it would do the same as the other machines I’ve used and let me pop in my VISA card.


So I ran back to the car. I had made the mistake of wearing pants that morning, without dumping the financial contents of my shorts pocket first. (In other words, I had no change.) I got some change from Allison (which was a relief), bolted back down to the machine (the parking lot was on a hill), and tried to purchase three tickets. Except the stupid machine would only sell them using specific combinations of coins. I had only enough for two. So I had to run back up to the car, get another quarter, run back down to get a third ticket, and then run back up again. By this time, I was almost out of wind, and worried that if we didn’t hurry we’d miss the boat.

Having not enough cash was a minor problem, so I ended up having to buy tickets with my VISA card. (At least that time it worked.) When we boarded the ship, we made a beeline for the cafeteria lineup. We were starving. BC Ferry food has a tremendous reputation for being horribly awful. We opted for the safest (and cheapest) thing on the menu that would see us through the day — a western croissant. The egg was at best egg-like, the croissant was like plastic … at least the hashbrowns were edible.

Arriving in Nanaimo just after 10:00, I came to notice something … my keys weren’t in my pocket. In fact, I couldn’t find them anywhere. Suddenly, I had a flash — in all that running back and forth to the machine, I had forgotten my car keys in my ignition. In my car. In Horseshoe Bay. On the other side of the Georgia Strait.

I was suddenly not feeling so well. At some point, I need to sell my car. It’s costing me too much money to keep around, and if I can get a few thousand for it, then I can pay off most of my debt. But if someone stole it because I had mistakenly left my car keys in the ignition, then I would be severely screwed. Living away from home is sometimes not at all what it’s cracked up to be.

Arriving at the Collins’, I made a hasty call to the West Vancouver Police, hoping that they might be able to do something — it would, after all, be crime prevention (not to mention idiot protection). But the constable I was speaking with suggested I call BCAA (the British Columbia Automobile Association). I thought it was a great idea. So I dialed the number, and explained it this way:

BCAA: BCCA, how can I help you?

Me: Hi! I did something really dumb — I just realised I locked my keys in the car.

BCAA: No problem, we can get them out. Where’s your car?

Me: Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.

BCAA: Great! And are you with the car?

Me: Well, there’s the problem.

BCAA: Why?

Me: I’m in Nanaimo. I just came in on the ferry.

BCAA: And your keys are on the mainland…

Me: Right.

BCAA: Oh boy…

There was the problem. BCAA required someone to be at the other end to hand the keys to (BCAA was not allowed to hang onto the keys). There’s a problem living here — I haven’t met many people, certainly a very small number whom I’d consider friends, and no-one I would consider good enough to drive all the way out to Horseshoe Bay to collect them. (Sometimes I really hate the fact that I left all my friends behind at home.) However, the BCAA operator thought that maybe the BCAA attendant could put the keys under the front seat. This was a great idea, in my opinion — Allison had a spare key we could get into the car with, and we’d be able to drive off with no problems. This was assuming, of course, that they could find my car. You see, I couldn’t tell them my license plate number — I didn’t know what it was. I knew my Ontario plate, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember my BC plate. So I had to give them a detailed description of the car. Luckily, there aren’t many cars in BC that look exactly like mine. That issue resolved, we sat down to eat before heading off to the bridal show.

The show was at Beban Park, not far from the Collins’. Almost the entire show was arranged around the brides — there was almost no acknowledgement whatsoever of the fact that men even existed and were part of the process. Allison and I had a long discussion about this later on. It boils down to the wedding industry (and believe me, there is a very strong industry out there) brainwashing women to having extravagant weddings costing thousands of dollars. Allison had originally hoped to do the whole thing for $500. I knew that it would cost us about $2,000 and that’s about where we’re budgetting.

We were there for research. Each table added another idea to the pot of things that we had to consider for our wedding. The biggest thing on my list was decoration. Although it is wonderful that we can get a hall in Nanaimo for a very low price (i.e. nothing), it’s not exactly the most attractive place. So I took the time to look at photographs and look at the displays to determine what we could do. That’s not to say that I wasn’t looking at anything else — I scribbled about three pages worth of notes, varying from wedding invitations to colour schemes.

I was feeling horrible during most of the show. I’m convinced the eggs I ate on the ferry were making me feel ill. Allison wasn’t feeling all that great either. And two fashion shows of women’s gowns was putting me out like a light. Even the overly-loud music wasn’t doing me any good.

During the various raffles, Allison won a ring-bearer’s pillow. This little event changed our plans a little, and we thought we might end up using it. However, it would necessitate a few changes to our plans. At first, we thought having one of Allison’s little cousins would be a neat idea … then we scrapped it, remembering the financial input required for such a detail. The pillow would remain unused.

I had thought that after the show, we’d head back to the ferry and we’d go home. But the Collins wanted to have dinner with us, especially since the Vailettes (Mrs. Collins’ parents) wanted to see us. (They had expected us the day before and had a small reception waiting for our arrival.) We dined on vegetarian lasagna (quite tasty, mushrooms aside), with a delightful cake for dessert. Allison and I had to then run for the ferry.

Most of the way back, I kept hoping that my car would still be there when we arrived. I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of having to deal with the police and ICBC to report a stolen car. As we entered the parking lot, I couldn’t see where my car was — a large white van blocked my view. But as I rounded the van, I was ecstatic to see my car in place. As expected, the keys were under the front seat.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why you should get a BCAA membership — for those times when you’re hopelessly screwed, and you desperately need help. If you never use it, you might curse the expense … but the moment you need it, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you bought it. I consider mine well paid for.

I grabbed my keys, popped them in the ignition, and … nothing happened. In all the running around, I had forgotten to also turn off my headlights. The battery was stone dead. Off I went again, running around to find someone with jumper cables or who could let me borrow their phone to raise BCAA again (the stupid 800 number doesn’t work in the lower mainland and I didn’t have a quarter to make the call).

I lucked out with The Boathouse, a seafood restaurant at the foot of the parking lot. There I found a very kind waitress (originally from Saskatchewan) who offered to give us a boost. I was appreciative beyond words. A few minutes later, the car was running and we were on our way home.