As a former teacher and a current father and husband, I know that anything I say is neither listened to nor taken seriously. And there’s a certain freedom in that. Like heading out to Montreal for a weekend road trip without the family.
Granted, it won’t be as exciting as just another normal day in, say, your life. I am over fifty-five years old, after all. And hopefully I won’t be making the same kind of dumb mistakes I’ve made in the past on these weekends away, when I did things like set a hotel mattress on fire while smoking a Colt cigar, watching t.v. and carrying on a conversation. That was back in the early eighties before we all became such efficient multi-taskers. It’s easy to consider oneself wise when one has already made truckloads of mistakes in life. I’d have to be as dim as a burnt-out forty watt bulb not to have learned something along the way. And it’s not as if I’m heading out on the road with Brad Pitt and George Clooney in a Cohn brothers movie, with all kinds of weird excitement guaranteed. We’re on our way to just another Old-Timers hockey tournament. But we are going to Montreal and not somewhere like Peterborough, Ontario. And I’m sharing the trip with Brett, who has been married three times. The first time was to a Mexican girl he met in a bar in Cancun, and then married her the next day on a beach. She couldn’t speak any English, he knew two words of Spanish. They did make it back to Toronto together, where the marriage lasted almost two weeks. Come to think of it, this weekend could turn out to be something.
There were five of us from Ottawa who would be met by another nine guys from Boston, Massachusetts. I’d never met any of them. Someone in our group knew someone in their group, and I was never interested enough to listen to all the details. I also seriously wondered what kind of shape they would be in for a weekend of hockey, they being sports-lovers and the Red Sox having won the World Series just days before. You know, Americans and their cheap alcohol prices and all that. Once we were settled in at the Chateau Champlain downtown, we headed out to the arena in Brossard. There was one of the American guys already in the dressing room. He stuck out his hand and introduced himself. “Pleased to meet you, Mattie,” said Brett, upon hearing his name.
“It’s not Mattie, it’s M-a-a-a-a-r-t-y,” he corrected Brett, who looked as confused as my grandfather would be sitting in on a modern-day Women’s Studies seminar. Having been to Boston several times in my life, I had to step in to enlighten him.
“It’s like M-a-a-a-a-r-t-y went to H-a-a-a-v-a-a-r-d,” I interpreted. “You know, they have trouble with their ‘ars’.”
“Oh,” Brett responded. I guess we’ll leave it at that.
Our first game was as disjointed as Brett and Marty’s introduction. None of us had played together before and after three periods that resembled the Three Stooges trying to get through a door at the same time, we found ourselves on the short end of a 7-2 score.
Glen, one of the guys from Ottawa, had seen enough. “That f—— sucked,” he opined in the dressing room afterwards. “The defensemen were caught up the ice all game long and we didn’t connect on even two consecutive passes.” We are old guys, long over the hill even if any of us did play a fair level of hockey, but no one can accuse us of lacking passion. So Glen was given the assignment of putting better lines together for the next day’s shinny and we all repaired to the bar to calm down.
The dinner was delicious and the company, as it always is post-game , was both ribald and raucous. I was proud of myself for not overdoing anything, keeping my own bill to $35.00 as all about me I marvelled at what I saw as the over-indulgence in everything from appetizers to bottles of wine.
“Here comes the bill,” someone announced as the waitress deposited one slip of paper on the table.
“What do you mean…the bill,” I sputtered. “Where are all the other bills?”
“Didn’t you hear?”, Brett informed me. “In the States the waitresses always just bring one bill to the table.” He looked over the figures quickly, doing a quick add-up. His first career had been in accounting. “That’ll be $85 each.”
I gulped, a gesture that was not lost on anybody. “Pay up, you cheap son-of-a-gun,” I was told. That wasn’t exactly the expression that was used.
At fifty-seven years old, I felt as naïve as a farm boy riding into town on a load of watermelons. I could have tasted Chianti for the first time in my life and had someone else pick up a large part of the tab.
But I soon cheered myself up. This was only Friday night. Saturday night’s meal was still to come. But it would be just my luck that the decision to use Canadian practices would made while I was visiting the bathroom.