A Series of Unfortunate Events

whole foodsIt started with tow trucks. We could see their lights flashing sideways above the cabs as we drove north towards Queen’s Park on University Ave.

“It’s somebody important,” said Rob, who is used to Obama shutting down Brussels.

“Funny vehicles,” I observed, but no, it was about a hundred tow trucks protesting, by driving very slowly around Queen’s Park Circle. Protesting what, I wondered, too few accidents?

We inched along. Even my loquacious brother fell silent. I named the buildings on our right. The one on the left, pinkly Victorian, was the provincial legislature. Oddly, the members were not outside being impressed by the tow truck parade.

Finally, I was able to get into the right lane and speed by the circling trucks. (Why do they have tinted windows, anyway?)

I parked in the Whole Foods underground parking at Hazelton Lanes. All the stores except it were under construction, indeed half of Hazelton Lanes. The city is getting ready for the Pan Am games next summer. It is unlivable now and will be unlivable then.

We decided to eat at the Whole Foods deli, choosing food from the steam tables. Rob joked his way through the line for the cash register, managing to choose the only clerk with a sense of humour, Chun. We found a table and Rob wolfed down his “Layered” meal – salad on top, hot food on the bottom. I was much slower.

I was in the restroom when the fire bell started ringing. We all ignored it and went on with what we were doing. Then the alarm got hysterical and there were shouts of “Evacuate.” As I returned to our table, I saw Rob dump my half finished lunch in a trash bin.

We walked in single file through a corridor under construction for a long time. Then we walked up stopped escalators and emerged into cold air.

“We’ll just walk to the theatre,” I said to Rob.

“What about your car?” Rob asked.

“You think it’s going to burn?” I saw Chun and went over to ask him if he knew anything.

“Probably false alarm,” he shrugged. “Don’t know.”

As we headed for the street, the alarm stopped ringing and people began streaming back inside.

I was a bit turned around when I found we were spewed out up a north/south street instead of on east/west Yorkville, but I got us turned south and then east past the park with the enormous dome of rock from the Canadian Shield, carefully cut up like jigsaw pieces and reassembled a hundred miles south in the city’s centre for our viewing pleasure.

It was only a few blocks to the Varsity Theatre in the Manulife Centre, but I had forgotten about Rob’s knees, well about his right one anyway. His left knee joint was plastic, worked well and didn’t pain him. The right one was still bone on bone. He limped on that side and it hurt so much that it encompassed both legs in his mind. At Bay St. we caught the diagonal walk signal. That felt too exposed to him and my worldly European brother protested. Eager cars confronted us on four sides as we two lone figures crossed to the diagonally opposite corner.

Rob rested his knees at a coffee shop while I hurried through Indigo book store buying calenders for Christmas. I was carrying my fur hat in my hand, it being too hot to wear.

Inside the movie theatre I waited at the bar while he bought popcorn, resting my things on it.

We were on time, which meant we watched  half an hour of commercials before we even got to the previews. Finally, Interstellar started at ear numbing volume. Immediately I saw that it seems to have been filmed near Bakersfield, CA, my summer stomping ground. Where else would they have found vast corn fields, dust and mountains?

We were there because a guy who worked for Rob as an electrician had done the lighting. I decided privately than despite Matthew McConaughey, it was a dog of a movie. About 1 1/4 hours in, McConaughey and two other members of his space crew were trying to decide whether to go down to Miller, a planet that might save the human race by providing a home now that earth was done for. It was about then that I missed my fur hat.

“Let’s go find it,” Rob whispered.

“It’s okay. I’ll wait,” I whispered back.

Various terrible things happened on Miller in the 3 1/2 hours they spent there. When they arrived back at their space ship, the guy they had left in charge was 23 years older. Rob and I turned and looked at each other, picked up our things and rose as one to leave.

It reminded me of a news item I had heard about Japan sending a space ship zooming toward an asteroid six years away. My immediate response was, “How could they have so little respect for human life?” Then of course I realized the ship was unmanned. The old Kamikazi prejudice had reared its head.

In this case, I couldn’t stay and contemplate the poor guy’s wasted life, waiting 23 years for his ship-mates to return.

I was sure I had left my hat at the book store check-out, but I stopped at the bar to ask if it was there. One young woman disappeared behind the bar, while three others stood looking after her. About five minutes later, the watching tableau unchanged, the first one emerged with my hat.

We hobbled back to Whole Foods, which was back in business. I bought a few things, which came to $68, thus reinforcing the Whole Paycheck idea. But, hey, I got $2.50 off my parking bill.

At the  machine, Rob started pouring coins into the slot. I tried to stop him because I was pretty sure he didn’t have $22.50 in coin, despite Canada’s strange coin system. I had to get cross, inviting him to stop by using an emphatic short word followed by a preposition. I put in a $20 and invited him to top it up.

Since we had forgotten our cloth bags, we loaded the items into a bag in the car and got the cart out of the way of traffic, more or less. I went to start the car. Where was that expensive paid parking stub. I searched my purse, my pockets, the car floor.

Oh, God, another $25 or more,” I moaned

“Get out of the car,” Rob ordered. And I did.

I stood beside the door. There lying at my feet was the parking stub.

Now I could blame Rob’s hyperactive, discombobulating energy, but a few days before when he wasn’t around, I had gone through the car wash at my local gas station. I pulled over into a bay to wipe the car, creating a bigger and bigger pile of wet paper towel. I opened the trunk, got out the windshield washer and topped it up. I carried the towels to the garbage can, got into the car and found I did not have the car keys. What to do? I searched my purse, my pockets, the car floor, the trunk, under the hood, under the car. I dumped all the nice garbage out and pawed through every last bit. No keys. I did it all again. I was the only one on the lot. It had been half an hour. Finally I walked over to the shop.

“I’ve lost my car keys,” I said.

The clerk raised his hand. From his index finger hung the keys.

When I left for California in early June, I was a well organized person. I always read several reviews before I wasted money on a movie. I always knew when some moron or other had organized a slowdown protest. I always put my keys in the same pocket of my purse. The parking stub went beside the credit card until it was paid and then it joined the keys. Both got taken out once I was at the car. If I took my hat off, I always stuffed it in the sleeve of my coat. Now after 5 months high on a mountain, I can’t organize myself out a door.

No point in talking to Rob about it. That was a normal way of life for him. I decided to tell Blake, my ex-husband, as we drove back from his 80th birthday party. Too late I realized how wrong that was. Blake has spent a small fortune on taxis after shutting his keys in his car, yet again.

“People says it’s age,” he said, “but I’ve always been like that. Well you know.”

Ah yes, the time he packed our passports in a suitcase and had to climb on top of a Moroccan bus to get them, the time he ran the family car out of gas miles from nowhere on a throughway…..

I’ve always been like that too, I guess, but I wound myself so tight it didn’t show. Darn those relaxing mountains!

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