Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nothing ever happens in Blaine, WA

Last week, I traveled to Washington state with my family for a wedding.  I flew into the Seattle area and then journeyed across the Puget Sound to the small, seaside town of Port Townsend, where the wedding took place.  Have a map:

The pink square represents Port Townsend.
Had it been a gay wedding, I might have used a pink triangle.
On our first morning in Port Townsend, the day of the wedding, I was in a coffee shop with my dad and some of his friends.  On the wall above us was a framed map of the Pacific Northwest, stretching from Portland up past the top of Vancouver Island.  I stared at the map for a while, ignoring the conversation around me, and then at some point the conversation shifted to the map.  I pointed out Point Roberts, a tiny piece of the United States cut off from the rest of the country by the international border.  While the US made the concession that the boundary would curve around Vancouver Island leaving it to the British, no one knew at the time (1846) that the Tsawwassen Peninsula dipped below the 49th parallel, and by the time they realized it, it was too late (for bureaucracy, anyway).  I shared that there's no school in Point Roberts, so young residents of the forgotten piece of land commute 70 miles each way to attend classes in the United States.

The pink square remains Port Townsend for reference.
Point Roberts can be seen at the top of this map just below Tsawwassen, Canada.
My dad liked this little piece of trivia and it stayed with him up to the wedding reception, where he found himself sitting next to the uncle of the groom.  I was on the opposite side of the table, so I don't know how it came up, but it turned out the groom's uncle had worked in Point Roberts.  He lived in Blaine, WA, just south of the Canadian border across the bay from the Point, and he'd make the aforementioned 70 mile commute in the opposite direction of the school children.  It was a delightful coincidence that we'd been talking about the place earlier that day, and the serendipity continued when it was revealed that he'd been a postal worker in Point Roberts, and the man sitting on the other side of him (the uncle of the bride) was the brother of the former Postmaster General of the United States.

Blaine being so close to the border (literally flush with it), I asked him if he goes up to Canada often.  He said he hasn't crossed the border since he retired 18 years ago.  I then asked if he makes it down to Seattle on occasion and he said he does so as infrequently as he can manage.  If this makes him sound contrary, I can assure you he was indeed charming.