Thursday, October 09, 2008

Wayne is for Wieners.

The other day I had the real pleasure of driving to Wayne, Alberta. Wayne, stuck deep in the heart of Alberta's Badlands--great devourer of dinosaurs--is one of those places that takes some doin' to get to. One must traverse the quaint "Road of 11 Bridges", all which are single lane, all of which are wooden-decked. It truly is a lovely drive, ripe with run-down trailer homes and abandoned vehicles that act as trophies to the excess of the 1950's and 60's auto design. At the end of this 11 bridged road is, of course, the Hamlet of Wayne, and the aptly-named "Last Chance Saloon", which could even more aptly be named "The First, Last, and Only Chance Saloon", for it truly lies in the middle of nowhere. . . safely out of reach of the World's Largest Dinosaur in Drumheller. 
As I rolled in to the Last Chance Saloon, the brilliance of my green vehicle was not lost on some locals sitting outside having a smoke; neither was the fact that I'm clearly a beer salesman. . . an animal I think is even rarer in these parts than the thick-headed Pachycephalosaurus. . . though, as I would come to realise, thick-headed decedents clearly still roam. 
 At least one. 
 An old-timer with fewer teeth than fingers bid me welcome, then quickly proceeded to bid me give him some beer. This is not a habit exclusive to Wayners; I've been flagged down by folks on the side of the road to ask me not for assistance, but for free beer. I've developed 101 different ways to laugh them off--and this time it was easy. 

B- "I'm calling on the Innkeeper, and the last thing I want to do is start pedaling free beer in the parking lot and undercutting his business. I'll tell you what--make an appeal to him if you want to get your hot little hands on one of these freebies." 
O- "Awww! Is it any good?" 
B- "Now what kind of a salesman would I be if I told you it wasn't?" 
O- "Haw haw haw haw!" 
B- "It just so happens that I can tell you it's exceptional and still have a place saved for me in Heaven." O- "She sure looks good! Maybe you could just sneak me one?" 
B- "Not a chance! I'm willing to bet everyone in the bar is watching us--I mean, I did pull up in a bright green truck. I'll give you a church key this same green for you to remember me by, though." 
O- "You a redneck?" This kinda caught me unawares. I'm used to guys pushing their luck for free beer until I walk out of earshot. Perhaps, I thought, he was trying to buddy-buddy his way into my beer tickle trunk. 
 B- "Well. . . . I grew up in a pretty small town in Southwestern Ontario that wasn't renowned for its liberal ideas." 
O- "Then come on over! I've got a xeroxed page of n****r jokes and redneck jokes for ya! You'll love'em!" 

 Then he started to laugh, either because he was thinking fondly of the jokes on the page, or because the barium discharged from the local coal mines into the water had driven him insane. I half-heartedly laughed and told him that my boss would kill me if I sat around looking at jokes all day. 
Inside the sales call went smooth as could be expected for a place that serves primarily the OV crowd. But I wasn't getting out the door without another close encounter with the locals. . . this time, in the washroom. To say that this washroom was the size of your average phone booth, outfitted with a sink, two urinals, and a toilet, would not evoke the aroma; for that, I would have to say, "The washroom was no bigger than a phone booth that, on Thursday nights, doubled as a change room for the local Junior D hockey team". 
As I bellied up to the urinal and let loose the fluid cargo three coffees and a 90 minute drive had amassed, I no sooner wondered what it would be like if someone else were to join me in the pause that refreshes (as my father used to say) when I had my answer. One of the 7 locals on hand decided (likely knowing the size of the facility) that he could wait for relief no longer and joined the 'outsider' for a whizz. Either that, or he wanted to make sure I wasn't stealing the shit tickets and climbing out the window without reading some racist jokes and bidding adieu. This fellow pee-er cozied up next to me. From behind, we must have looked like two sardines sitting in a tin, dressed for Halloween as those great monsters: Humans! I have to say--and I preface this with the comment that I'm neither a homophobe, nor too queasy about my personal space--that having my arm pressed up against another man while taking a pee--indeed, having his zipping and own wiener-handling motions set my own urine steam all aflutter, is unsettling. 
 And then we started to talk. 

P- "Well! Snow's a coming!" 
B- "So I've been told by the weather man. . . but he's been known to lie like a rug." 
P- "Har har! Ain't that the truth! . . . . For Sale!" 

With this abrupt change in subject, I felt suddenly even more ill-at-ease. What on Earth could he possibly be selling to another man (whom he is touching) while stood at the urinal, both with bishops in hand. 

P- ". . . . Last Chance Saloon. Real Estate ad over the pisser! Maybe I'll buy if I have another couple! Har har har!" 
B- "Har har har!" 

I tried to put myself away with as little motion as possible, not wanting the close-quarters and interference to cause my shoe to become the surrogate for his urinal. . . put the next challenge presented itself immediately. The sink was directly--and I mean DIRECTLY--beside the other urinal. . . basically at the right height to wash this other gent's balls in. I contemplated not washing my hands; but as a salesman of a type of food product, I felt this would set a bad example for Good Beer Folks attention to quality. Not that hands covered in ball sweat and a mist of urine would cause listeria; but still, not a positive thing. Placing my hands beneath the tap, I calculated that they were now, roughly, 20 cms away from this other man's penis. Again--no disrespect to those who enjoy having their hands in this kind of proximity to another man's fleshy wand--but I didn't even know his name. 

A quick rinse was all they got--a "Fine afternoon!" was issued to my bathroom buddy--and I was away. Vaulted through the "dining room" and safely to my vehicle without reading the xerox of jokes, giving away any free beer (save the samples to the Innkeeper), and successfully avoiding touching another man's saber of love. My trip to Wayne, at a paltry 20 minutes, had been eventful. Now, whenever I pee, I am overwhelmed with lonesomeness.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

That Seventies Birthday!

Today I was asked, by the bank, for my "current date of birth".

While this question may have been relevant prior to my 19th birthday, those happy carefree days and drunken nights as "R.W. Munchkin" have long since passed. Now when I've bought and drank in excess of my need, I have only "B. Goddard" to blame.

Now, if Marty McFly was an RBC customer. . . there could be an interesting conversation.
"Current date of birth? Uh. . . negative 46".

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Kiss of Luck

The other night I overheard an exchange in the alleyway behind our new condo that brought me up to speed on the territorial conflicts between waring tribes of hobos.

H1- (clattering along the alleyway, bottles and cans bouncing merrily inside his cart)
H2- "You better get outta here. . ."
H1- "What?"
H2- "You better get outta here--this is Lucky's territory!"
H1- "It--"
H2- "You better get outta here or Lucky'll kill you!"
H1- "I didn't know this was Lucky's territory."
H2- "Yeah? Well now yous do. And you better get out of here or Lucky'll kill you."
H1- ". . . okay okay. . . "

I can just imagine how proud my mother would be to receive a call from the police informing her that I had been killed for 45 cents worth of cans. Life well lived.

Friendly Neighbourhood Beer Givesman

I have just moved. I left my much-loved Anglican rectory, on a street where my neighbours included a Widow who gardened, an Englishman who gardened, and a man who swore at his dogs constantly because the new owners (yes--I was a 'renter') raised the rent 85%. Welcome to Calgary: home of delusional real estate speculators and absentee government regulators. 

My new home is 5 blocks away and has no gardeners, and one camouflage-motif motor home in which a couple from Nova Scotia live. Yes. Live. In a motor home on the street. What a difference 5 blocks can make, eh? Our condo is very nice; every new little "touch" is classified by the developer as "high end". Included in his tour of "high end" finishes: the over-size buttons in the elevator, and handles on the kitchen cabinetry. Both which are nice, to be sure; but they haven't been carved from ivory or ancient wood--nor do they have big dollar signs on them like in Richie Rich's house, so my heart fails to flutter every time I clap eyes on the fixtures. 

The other morning I went out to climb into my conspicuously green SW vehicle, only to meet our new neighbours across the street: hobos. Not the rail-riding, harmonica-playing Boxcar Willie hobos of yore, nor the German Shepherd variety that help children foil robbers hiding out in Cullen Gardens, but shopping cart pushing, bottle-picking hobos that seem as common in Calgary as sow bugs under a rotten log. I had been warned by our building manager that a senile old man allows several bottle-picking hobos to squat in his house; now, standing before me, was one of the aforewarned hobos, standing by my beer vehicle, shirtless, and applying deodorant. Glory glory. 

H1- "Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem Wha-stistle! Toot toot!" 
B- "Morning." 
H1- "Got any free samples of that Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem Toot toot in your car there?" 
B- "No." 
H1- "Come on! You must have some!" 
B- "Nope." 
H1- "Well hell--what kinda salesman does that make you?" 
B- "The kind that sells his beer and doesn't give it away." 

 I drove off, and he continued to apply deodorant to his other pit. . . . but I wouldn't make it far without bumping into another garden variety douchebag: the drunk "friend" who happens to be a tradesman, and is will to work for cheap. I found just such an animal at my old rectory; he was lurking around the garage I had filled with various SW goodies. The thing that I've learned about these individuals, having known many (and occasionally been one), is that you truly get what you pay for. This one was a plumber. Allegedly. The only thing I could tell you at first smell is that he was drunk. 

P- "Steeeeeeeeeeem Whistle!" (I truly hate the way hobos in Calgary draw out the word Steam--they all do it the same, and the way they deliver it makes it seem like they themselves find it very clever and amusing; I've found that it simply blows more of their pestilent breath in my face) 
B- "Hi!" (I'm always cheery to hobos, some of them are a very cheery lot) 
P- "Say. . . I've never tried that stuff--any good?" 
B- "Would you believe a salesman if he told you otherwise?" 
P- "Say--yeah--good point! Got any for a sample?" 
B- "Nope. Beer is best kept in the refrigerator, not the trunk." 
P- "Yeah, yeah! I hear that--I just wanted to try it and tell my friends to drink it." 
B- "Well. . . you could still tell your friends to drink it." 
P- "Got any shirts?" 
B- "Nope." 
P- "Hats?" 
B- "Nope." 
P- "I'd even take a neon sign if you had one." 
B- "You would?" 
P- "Sure! It's no cold beer, but it'd go great in my living room!" 
B- "Don't have'em. Never have." 
P- "Oh." 
B- "Do you get the impression that I get asked for a lot of free stuff all day long by people?" 
P- "Well--that's you're job, ain't it? Promote the Steeeeeeeeeeeeem Whistle with free stuff?" 
B- "No. It isn't. That's the Beer Giveawayman's job; I sell things. I'm a salesman." 

After some more pleasantries my new ex-landlord beckoned me in to show me the wonders of cheap plumbing. I had seen what lay behind the walls prior to all the fancy new copper that now hung before me in a great network of pipes, and I had to admit that it did look good. It did. . . until my new pal, Economy Plumber, turned on the hot water. Then it looked like a scene from Das Boot. 
My earlier cheek was rewarded with a blast to the face of hot water, which issued from a pipe in the wall. As i later found out, after a "professional assessment", the hot water line running directly from the hot water heater had been cut straight through with no . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll let the plumber lend his voice of experience to this transcript. 

L- "Shut the fuck'ing water off, man! She leaking like crazy in here!" 
P- "What? Leaking?" 
B- Glub Glub Glub! 
L- "I tellin' you, shut dat water off--it's a fucking mess!" (my new ex-landlord is French Canadian) 

The plumber actually came to look, and stepped right in my way as I was trying to retreat from the royal soaking I was getting. 

P- "Shit! It's leakin' like a horse's cock!" 
(It's a new expression to me as well) 

After the water got shut off, and my new ex-landlord stood steeeeeeeeeeeeeeming, the plumber looked at the pipe--a pipe that was clearly cut in half--and said, "Well hell! That pipe's cut!" 
Bang a gong. 
Then he said, as if to reassure us, "No problem! That's a fucking mess--but no problem. Easy. Fix it right up." With that he left for another smoke break and a can of brain food in the form of Economy Lager. 
You get what you pay for--and I guarantee that if you paid this piece of work a nickel to kick you in the ass, he'd only give you a 3 cent ass kicking. That's just the kind of operator he is--the friend whose a tradesman and will do it for cheap and drink on the job kind of operator.