I didn’t expect my letter to get to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s desk, but like the letter I’d written to LBJ several years earlier that had redeemed my butt during basic training at Fort Ord,my plea to the top produced magic!
The rhetoric of my letter was simple, straightforward and, I thought, quite compelling. I pointed out that Canada was missing a good bet with me! In fact that country would be getting quite a sizable bargain! After all I was a young man with an untarnished civic and military record, no debts, experienced in US/German affairs, a graduate of one of the world’s great universities and just getting started for rough and tumble real life in life. What more could a country want?
The reply to my letter came from Immigration Canada informing me that they’d reviewed my file and I was to report to their consulate in San Francisco a few days following. “Ah hah!” I figured excitedly, “the fix is in!”
Indeed the fix was in. When I arrived at the consulate an immigration executive escorted me into his plush office with a startling view of the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge and the Berkeley Hills. The sky was a cobalt blue in which puffs of white cloud looked like giant punctuation marks. On his desk sat a binder the size of the New York City telephone book. He politely explained to me that Canada’s rules regarding immigration required that immigrants be employable, and that they had no need for a young man with a B.A. in English and no defined future plans.
“However, perhaps among your inventory of skills there is something useful. So, let’s begin” he continued, “pray, what exactly can you do?”
“Well,” I replied after giving the matter thoughtful consideration, “I can type.”
The kindly bureaucrat thumbed through the weighty tome, “Nope. No openings for typists.”
“Hmmm, I can tune car engines and repair flats!” I recalled my days working for Jim Fox at his Chevron Gas Station in Vallejo.
“I see. Hmmm, well we have no need for either in Canada. However, your letter states you were in the US Army? Perhaps you acquired a skill of some merchantable quality from that experience. What work did you do in the army?” he inquired.
“I was in the Signal Corps, attached to the German Third Corps in Koblenz,” I responded.
“Well did you work with radio equipment then?” he asked.
“Why yes I did! Yes, indeed I did!” I replied.
“Well did you learn how to repair radios?” he followed-up.
“Yes, of course! I was trained in trouble-shooting and quick repairs of radio equipment!” I answered triumphantly!
“Well, that’ll do then!” the official replied officially … and I was forthwith given permission to enter Canada as a radio repairman with as a Landed Immigrant!
“Now please understand that you won’t be required to work as a radio repairman once you arrive in the country,” the good fellow made clear, and with just the hint of a wry smile crossed his lips as he said “but we do need to follow protocols, you know. And, by the way, all best of luck to you in Canada son. All the best!” and he offered me his hand that sealed the deal!
As I left his office I mused that I must be a bit eccentric, the guy who gets things upside down and backwards. After all, I’d served my time in the army before going to Canada, while most young men headed north did so to avoid going into the army and fighting in one of our Southeast Asian wars.
But it was a confused, troubling, conflicted and disturbing time for which I didn’t have any more patience or energy. I’d heard my starting pistol fire and it was time to get on with real life … which it looked like I’d begin guided by the North Star Polaris to Vancouver, B.C.!
That’s when it crossed my mind … “What I wonder what kind of city Vancouver is? I wonder if I’ll like it. Perhaps I should have visited the place before all this?” Only time would tell, … but in the meantime I had to pack!
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