Monday, December 31, 2007

Old men have their uses

We spent the Christmas week in Seattle, Washington State, joining the many other Canadians lured south by the remarkable strength of the Canadian dollar. We duly deposited some of our money in an ‘outlet’ along the way. The word ‘outlet’ really does no justice at all to the scale of what’s available. It’s more like a small well-maintained village but with all the inhabitants being shop-keepers. The clothes on sale are supposedly cheaper than in regular ‘stores’ but it seems hard to tell. Anyway, Marcel and I had a good time, jumping into a puddle to see who could raise the greatest splash. This activity was not regarded with amusement by some of the other shoppers. But their tight little 'tolerant' smiles made us jump all the more. Just for the heck of it!

We visited all the attractions in Seattle that a five-year old could possibly imagine, with the Children’s Museum getting the best reviews (ie the subject could hardly be dragged away, despite bribes and other lures). In fact, it's not really a museum at all but a great set of interactive exhibits. Best of all, there are thoughtfully placed benches so that the adult supposedly in charge (aka ‘care-giver’) can rest for a few precious minutes while the child ‘engages’ in the ‘activity’. Gosh, I love all these new words!

For me, the best part of the trip was a visit to the Museum of Flight, about half an hour out of Seattle, and near the Boeing Company’s site. First, I managed to get there without either crashing or getting lost. Second, it was enormous, spacious and beautifully designed. Third, it was staffed almost entirely be men of my own advanced age. All these men are retirees from the aerospace industry, who simply can’t tear themselves away and donate their time and amassed considerable knowledge. We took advantage of this when Marcel was working on a paper model aeroplane at one of the kid’s ‘activity centers’. Somehow, despite best efforts, the thing just kept nose-diving. A small nutty-brown gentleman stepped in and said ‘May I?’. He twiddled with a wing for three seconds and then asked Marcel to throw the plane. It flew beautifully around and around before coming to a graceful landing. It turned out that our helper had been a chief engineer at Boeing for stress in wing design, had worked on the Space Shuttle, etc. Marcel was enthralled and we still have the plane.

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