“I really want to be a hockey referee,” one of my sons said to me awhile back.
“No… you don’t,” I answered.
Like most of my advice, I have no delusions that this unsolicited counsel will be heeded. Nor should it be. My track record of advising is at least as odorous as the pile of manure which still exists outside of my deceased cousin’s horse stable. I once advised the father of Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks’ all-star defenseman who is one of the three contenders for the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s’ top defenders, not to move from Lindsay, Ontario to the growing city of Barrie. Brent’s parents, Rob and Gabby, thought that he would receive better coaching and competition closer to Toronto.
“Don’t do it,” I advised. “What chance does the kid have of ever making it out of Junior ‘B’?”
The thing is, we can only relate to our own experiences and perspective when we look out at the world and give our opinions. I refereed hockey on outdoor rinks and umpired baseball on the sandlots of Montreal’s baseball diamonds when I was twelve and thirteen years old. It looked like a step-up from delivering the Montreal Gazette at six a.m. or trying to sell greeting cards door-to-door.
My fingers and shins were hacked to death when I dropped the puck between two house league centres and the renumeration probably wasn’t enough to buy myself a hot chocolate at Peppy’s Greasy Spoon as I trudged home, carrying both my skates and the resentment I felt after listening to an hour of abuse.
And even though I was earning my wages in the wide world of sports, which I loved, I came to realize that there was no easy money out there. “What did you expect, kid?”, my father retorted when I shared this profound truism with him.
My daughter has a part-time job as a cashier at a grocery store on Ottawa’s Bank Street. Her job has both annoyed and amused me, for as much as that matters. She and I can’t walk through a grocery store without her rattling off the cash register numbers of every piece of produce that I pick up. “Broccoli… 4060.” I decided to humour her along so I asked her the number for apples. “What type ?” she asked. “Royal Gala…4135. Granny Smith? 4017.”
“Do you wanna know any others?”
No. That’s enough.
But standing at a cash has provided my daughter with more of a life education than memorizing produce food codes.
Lost causes and crumbling empires make for a good story. So does bad human behaviour. Maybe not all of us have carried a banner for a lost cause or lived through the crumbling of the Babylonian and Roman Empires. But not any of us, not a one, has not witnessed bad human behaviour.
We don’t have far to look. And it’s usually when people have their guard down, at the times they think they are free of the judgement of their friends and acquaintances, that their true colours shine forth.
And it’s become a part of my daughter’s coming of age. There’s the grocery store crowd that when asked if they need bags at a cost of five cents each, say no, that’s not necessary. When the order is rung through and the bill complete, then they suddenly realize that bags may be of some use. There are others who bring bags, but they are of the small clear plastic type that we tear off in the produce department and in which these aforementioned cheapskates now expect their cereal boxes and ice cream containers to be wrapped in.
Then there’s the guy who has carefully removed the tiny round identifying paper stickers used to identify apple brands. “These are Royal Gala apples?” my daughter will politely inquire, although she certainly knows anyway.
‘No… they’re not. They’re MacIntosh,” the thrifty fellow will reply assertively, having substituted the most expensive stickers for the least. To his credit, he didn’t expect to walk off with free grocery bags. He threw his on the counter, then folded his arms as he watched my daughter pack up, pretending to be completely enchanted by the price of the chocolate bars on the nearby shelf.
Of course, there’s such a thing as karma in this universe of ours. You see, I’ve done more than played hockey and worked out at the gym in my retirement’s free time. I’ve also been studying Eastern mysticism and spirituality. And as it turns out, my new gym, GoodLife, is now on the lookout for personal trainers.
“Maybe that could be a retirement career for me,” I mused to my daughter one afternoon while reading the notice on the gym wall.
My daughter snorted and almost choked on the smoothie these kids always seem to be drinking these days. “Who would want a 60- something personal trainer,?” she scoffed.
I silently envisioned a phalanx of bagless, apple sticker-switching customers lining up relentlessly at her till.
Karma, anyone ?