“Oh, don’tcha know it’s 104 degrees, eh!” the retired mountain biker mentioned as we stood beside my broken-down Jeep. I knew it was hot, but that hot? My cell phone was rendered useless so I was wondering if she meant Celsius? I thought I was in the “Great White North” of Canada, eh? I was beginning to wonder if this was some kind of nightmare and then…
Whoa, Nellie! I think I got a bit ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
I booked a shoot with a luxury American trade publication called “Hearth and Home” and was asked to go to Canada to photograph the owners of a store in Leamington, Ontario, that sells lovely fireplaces, hearth ovens and barbecues. Sounded simple enough to me. Fireplaces and barbecues and hearth ovens, I got this!
The photo gods of Canada must have been thinking, “Why did they not hire a Canadian photographer, eh? Let’s play!”
Play they did.
There are two ways to reach Canada from the United States border in Detroit: the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge. Hmmm … if I choose the tunnel, which goes under the Detroit River, there is not much to see and I start to get a little loopy from the exhaust fumes and then I realize that water is no longer my favorite thing to play in. Hence, I chose to cross on the Ambassador Bridge. I highly recommend this way to travel to Canada as you can see a wonderful view of the skyscrapers of Detroit — if you’re not swerving into on coming traffic while Facebooking or texting.
After crossing the bridge and swerving around a couple hundred semi trucks, I finally was on Highway 3 and heading toward Leamington. It was a sweltering September day so I cranked up the AC, and tuned in 89X. I was thoroughly enjoying the landscape of corn and bean fields and feeling quite relaxed when suddenly I hear ding, ding, DING! HUH? I never heard my Jeep make that noise! I check out the instrument panel. Sure enough: The temperature gauge is past the letter H for overheating. OH, SHIT! Really?
Of course, the moment you see that you pull over as soon as you can. So I did, on a dirt road surrounded by cornfields and a leveled factory of some kind. I popped the hood and noticed that nothing was shooting coolant or leaking. I grabbed the hose from the radiator; it was bloated and making a gurgling sound. CLOSE THE HOOD, DUMMY! If you are overheating and have not yet sprung a leak, at any moment the engine could and you risk having boiling water shooting at your face and body. I realized I needed to call a tow truck and get my Jeep to a garage. At this point the photo gods of Canada were laughing out loud.
I reached in my pocket for my iPhone and realized I didn’t have service. Oh, no! I forgot I never added Canada to my calling plan! No phone, no email, no FACEBOOK? OMG!
Next thing I know these lovely ladies on mountain bikes were returning to their cars parked near my broken-down Jeep after a long ride along some trails around the factory. They allowed me to use their phone to call a tow and to contact the client to say basically, “Well, shit, I overheated and it’s 104 degrees, ya know, and I won’t be on time and we’re in Canada so can’t we just watch some hockey and hit the BEER store and call it a day?”
And this is the moment I thought: “Am I gonna deliver on this shoot or not? Has this ever happened before? WHY NOW?” I closed my eyes, thought really hard about the UNIVERSE and said, “NO WAY.”
The client just so happened to have a store in Windsor, Ontario, as well. They offered to pick me up at the garage where my Jeep would be repaired, grab my gear, and make this shoot happen.
The amazing ladies that helped me went on their way and now I was in the company of myself, my Jeep, the 104-degree heat and the bugs that surround cornfields. I took off my shirt, got a bitchin’ tan and a few bug bites and awaited the arrival of the tow.
It took two hours.
During that time of being alone without a connection to the people of the world made me realize that life is what we make it. I no longer could rely on technology, but only on the goodness of people that I may or may not run into.
In Canada, good people are a commodity. That is the only reason my luck changed.
Another group of mountain bike riders came along and gave me some water, called to confirm my tow, and made me feel better than I do sometimes in the land I call my home.
The Canadian photo gods were like: OK, I’m bored; let’s find something else to do.
Once the tow truck driver arrived, he began to tell me about how the city of Leamington was on lockdown because there was a shooting and the perpetrator was at large. REALLY? “First time ever such a thing happened in Leamington,” he said. After these words, I thought of the American song, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm?”
Next thing I know Canadian Tire is taking care of my Jeep, Tom (the client) took me to his store with my photo gear, and we knocked out a stellar shoot of his family and fireplaces.
When we were done, Tom dropped me off at Canadian Tire to get my Jeep and I proceeded to head back to the States. JOB WELL DONE, I thought as I drove back across the Ambassador Bridge. I could not help but feel a tug on my heartstrings as I left my new Canadian friends behind. Then I thought of the words Tom said as we departed at his store: “Next time you are in Canada, be sure to see me. I owe you a beer and you owe me one, too, on a night when you do not have to hit customs after the brew.”
That is one beer promise I aim to keep.