Eastern Pas­sages

We like to think that we’re get­ting some­where when it comes to drink­ing and driv­ing

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Eastern Pas­sages Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Media’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc.

Ev­i­dence of drink­ing and driv­ing is all around us, says colum­nist Rus­sell Wanger­sky.

I stopped to fish for trout on a by­pass road just out­side St. John’s at a stream hope­fully named the Big River. It’s a stream that’s been in­vaded by im­ported, non-na­tive rain­bow trout.

Fur­ther down, Fla­trock is bet­ter known for its swimming holes and al­most-an­nual neardrown­ings and div­ing ac­ci­dents.

But up where I was fish­ing it is, at first glance, a bu­colic spot: the river bends around the edge of a newly cut hay­field, and the river it­self — rarely more than thigh- deep and most of­ten, knee-deep — skirts a cliff and curls through low-hedged bushes and small stands of blue-flag irises.

Trout? There were a few, but I’ve be­come a lazy fish­er­man. Younger me would be hor­ri­fied, but I fish now mainly for the ex­cuse to wade.

Walk­ing back, I liked the view from the high­way, too; the curve of the land, the piled- up cloud, the guardrail, the few pen­cil- lines it would all take to draw.

The view’s not the same as you climb down from the road: the edge of the field is a deep­green drifted sea of sting­ing net­tles, their gen­tle mo­tion in the wind hid­ing the fury of their sting. And down be­low the shoul­der, there on the gravel, were two empty 26ounce bot­tles of Smirnoff Vodka, less than 50 feet sep­a­rat­ing them from each other.

Also this week­end, I watched a man with a sack mak­ing his way down the me­dian of the Trans-Canada High­way, fill­ing a blue re­cy­cling bag with bot­tles to cash in. He wouldn’t be do­ing it if it didn’t pay, and liquor bot­tles pay bet­ter than any­thing else. I watched him put two flasks in the bag, pick up a hub­cap, drop it back into the brush.

I’ve found empty minia­ture bot­tles in liquor store park­ing lots, drained and run over, and even a short walk down any smaller high­way will find you more beer cans and bot­tles that you can count on your fin­gers and toes.

Each day in the St. John’s po­lice re­port, there are drunk­driv­ing ar­rests. Many are younger peo­ple, well aware of the haz­ards of drink­ing and driv­ing.

A cou­ple of weeks ago on P. E. I., I was on a side road to Mor­rell, Route 321, not long be­fore the road takes a big jink to the right and then heads straight again. I’d stopped to look at the field of young potato plants ( I found the field again on Google Maps, and when the Google car had gone by, the field was late wheat, all out in bris­tled heads), and I’d pulled onto the grass shoul­der and walked the few steps down to the field.

Head­ing back to the car, I looked at my feet, and there it was: a small plas­tic bot­tle of Fire­ball Cin­na­mon Whisky, drained and re­capped and tossed in the ditch, the tall grass bent over it as if ex­am­in­ing the fad­ing la­bel. I’d al­ready passed an empty case of beer on the same road, yawn­ing open and tilted on one side, there for a short enough time that the card­board was still stiff and new.

Nova Sco­tia’s Route No. 8, the long empty run from An­napo­lis Royal to Liver­pool across the spine of the province, was no bet­ter. I stopped near Har­mony Mills for just a mo­ment, only to find a cheer­ful Cap­tain Mor­gan grin­ning up at me from where his flask was do­ing a gen­tle back­stroke among the wa­ter­weeds in the ditch.

We like to think that we’re get­ting some­where when it comes to drink­ing and driv­ing, and maybe we are, slowly.

The po­lice blotters and the ditches say there’s still a very long road ahead.

Liquor bot­tle found in a high­way ditch near Mor­rell, P.E.I., Route 231.

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