Adventures After Midnight in the 'Peg, Part 1
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During the summer of 2000, I was employed as a horse cameraman. I would travel, with my portly, aged employer, to different show jumping competitions and horse shows across Canada. We would then film whichever horses we were paid to film. It was tedious, and in retrospect an unwise career move on my part considering my crippling allergy to horses. Needless to say, it was a thoroughly unpleasant summer. I quickly came to the conclusion that horse jumping is one of the most pointless and boring sports imaginable. I figure I saw well over a thousand horses go around, jumping over fences, but I had no idea what made one any different than another. It baffled me when one of the horses would be awarded the gold ribbon. I lived for the times a horse would stop short of a jump, and send the rider flying into the mud. It was the only excitement I knew. The riders, by the way, are all insane, clearly. Why else would they continue to compete in the snow, or freezing rain, which came down in sheets and turned the ground to quicksand? And if the show went on, I still had to stand there on a scaffold and hold the camera. I often wished I was dead.
The job did include a lot of travel, but not to anywhere exotic or interesting. In fact, the most exotic place we visited was Winnipeg, Manitoba, or as I affectionately call it, the 'Peg. Due to an extremely limited travel budget, we had to travel by car, which meant I was trapped for hours at a time with my sweating, sexist, racist boss. I took every opportunity to be anywhere other than with him. One night in Winnipeg, by some miracle, we finished that day's work early enough for me to consider going out to a movie. I caught a bus to the mall next to the SilverCity theatre. I decided to my everlasting regret to see the Paul Verhoeven atrocity "Hollow Man." I hung out in the mall until the 9:40 show started. The movie started off well and interesting. And then it rapidly got less interesting, and eventually became the movie "Predator" all over again. Except in that movie, which was exciting and good, the monster was bigger, meaner and badder than Kevin Bacon. In addition, the Predator was hunted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself much bigger, meaner and badder than Elizabeth "Adventures in Babysitting" Shue and Josh "Goonies" Brolin combined.
Anyway, the flick let out around 11:45 or so. I walked the ten minutes to the bus stop, and asked the driver of the first bus I saw where I would catch the St. Charles, which would deliver me to my fleabag motel. "Oh," the driver said helpfully, "You mean 'Charleswood'."
"Sure," I didn't remember names.
"That's the 79; it stops right back there." He pointed behind him.
"And it goes right down Portage?" (My motel is at the end of Portage, a main road in Winnipeg.)
"Yep," he said with confidence, "Right down there; down Portage." The driver indicated Portage, which was perpendicular to the stop. "The next one comes at 12:45." He said. My watch read midnight.
With 45 minutes to kill, I was dying for a Frosty. I trekked to a nearby Wendy's, only to see that "For the Safety of our Employees, Only Registered Motor Vehicles are Permitted Through the Drive-Thru(tm)."
Dejected, I carried on to Portage, and peered up and down the road looking for a glowing 7-11 sign. None. So I meandered back to the bus stop to read a magazine I had picked up. On my way back to the bus stop, a girl called to me, and asked if I would come over and talk to her and her five friends, who were gathered together. I still had about 10 minutes until the e.t.a. Of the #79, so I walked over. When I arrived, I saw they were high school aged, and mostly drunk. Mina, the one who had called me over, introduced Amy, Ryan, some other guy, and another boy named Ryan. After some weak humor involving the fact that two of them were named Ryan, Mina began to confide to me the drama that was her circle of friends. A drama in which, it seemed, they were enmeshed that very night. She indicated behind her to two vague female forms standing in the distance by Portage, and introduced them as Melanie and Jennifer. Though quite inebriated, Mina was still able to spin an impressive tale involving social intrigue, familial unrest, cliques, ex-best friends, tears, misunderstandings, and confusion. To relate, it seemed that Melanie's mother was a "total bitch", having allegedly at one time threatened Melanie with a toaster. Melanie moved out of her mother's place, and in with her father, who lives a half hour outside of the 'Peg. The commute was difficult on her social and scholastic life, understandably. In addition, her status as a licensed driver made her a sort of free Taxi for her friends. She felt compelled to facilitate trips to Subway at lunch hour, a responsibility Melanie resented. Currently, Melanie was back at her mothers place while her mother was in Europe, but when Mommy comes home, Melanie's out again, and this time with no car. This would mean she'd have to go to a Collegiate in her Dad's town, and never see her friends again. She wanted to apply for independent housing, but was too nervous to call. In addition, confided Mina, she wouldn't be approved because she could, conceivably, live with her father. On top of all this, the three friends had shifting allegiance ever since two of the three stopped working at the "Tim Hortons" donut shop. and got jobs elsewhere. Melanie was in tears on this particular evening due to a perceived insult from Amy, but her tears more likely stemmed from a combination of all the burdens it seemed her lot in life to shoulder. After breathlessly getting all this out, Mina asked for my advice at the moment the #79 Charleswood pulled up. My head was still spinning from her intricate tale, and I had little to offer but my pleasure at having made their acquaintance, and my wish that they have a good night.
I got on the bus, and waved at my new friends, and pondered my own high school experience, silently thanking God that I was no longer there. I knew people like Mina and Melanie in High School. I couldn't help them then either. I settled back into my seat, and looked at the motley crew who surrounded me on the bus, some of whom were actually wearing torn "Motley Crue" t-shirts. I looked out the window, lost in thought, as the bus turned in the wrong direction.
Fraser Tingle will be back tomorrow with Part 2.