The Genie granted three wishes. Three wishes every day for four days. Reed and I get to choose three fast-passes per day during our trip with his daughters to Walt Disney World. The passes allow us to avoid long lines to the most popular attractions in each Theme Park. We have conferred, consulted others, and checked out a virtual tour of the Magic Kingdom. Our day-one selections include the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride. Plus, over the four days we have access to all the water parks and any other rides we are willing to wait for. What a privilege to have such an opportunity.
During the past seven years, passes of one kind or another have played a key role in my life. After Reed moved to Ontario, Paul and I traveled the New York Thruway regularly, the fifth busiest toll road in the United States. A trip to and from Ontario took us through a dozen toll plazas. Near Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse the lines of vehicles often halted as each driver stopped to hand over cash to the collector. Even in the lanes in which coins were tossed into a basket, delays occurred as the travelers searched for exact change.
For a year or so, I looked to the E-ZPass lanes with envy. No lines or stopping, an electronic eye scanned a device mounted on windshields. Once I signed up for our own E-ZPass account, we sailed through those toll booths with glee. It’s a heady feeling to cruise past the vehicles inching toward a lowered gate, when ours lifts magically, a green signal for go-ahead.
Now residing on Wellesley Island, accessible only by bridge (or boat), we keep a Bridge Pass in each vehicle. The discount card is scanned at a booth on the U.S. or Canadian mainland when crossing to the island. In 2018 we crossed the St. Lawrence by bridge 576 times, the card saving us almost $1,000. Of all the gatekeepers, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority Staff provide the most welcome greeting. Aside from the required fee, no restrictions apply to the number of passengers, citizenship, destination, or possessions on board. Just a friendly “Have a great day.”
To us, the most vital pass we hold is our U. S. Passport. Those we love and hold dear, our son and his daughters are only accessible with that document. In stark contrast to the cheerful welcome ambassadors at the T.I. Bridge, the customs officers at the Canadian border assume a solemn martial demeanor.
We pull up to the customs booth with all windows down to reveal what goods we carry. We state the destination, purpose, and length of our Canadian visit without hesitation. If asked, we explain Reed’s status and employment in Canada. We give direct eye-contact as we respond to the following:
Do you have any alcohol or tobacco?
Do you have any weapons or self-defense items, such as mace?
Do you have any gifts?
Do you have any meat or produce?
Do you have cash in the amount of $10,000 or more?
An affirmative answer to any of the above could result in a complete vehicle inspection. Every single time we are approved for entry, I emit a sigh of relief.
In the microcosm of my life I observe how guards, gatekeepers, and exclusive groups wield power to admit or bar. Often, money grants access to privileges some forty-million impoverished Americans will never have. Seldom am I openly restricted because of ethnicity, gender, age, or beliefs. Not so for all or in other places.
If only a benevolent Genie existed to award the passes each individual deserves for a full-privileged, unrestricted life-experience.