I feel like I’m one of the very last people to get a cell phone. I’ve never had one. I still don’t. Most of the time people are able to get a hold of me when it’s needed. People who know me well know that it’s probably safer to send me an email, facebook message or even a tweet before leaving a message on the land-line at home. I tend to forget to check for messages. I don’t have a flashing light or a beep or anything to alert me, and I assume often in error that my wife has checked the messages and if there is anything important she’ll tell me.
Today was one of those days when I felt like things would have gone a lot smoother if I had a cell.
About a week ago my wife told me that we were invited to a 2-year-old’s birthday at Assiniboine Park this Sunday afternoon. We were to be there at 12:30 p.m. and it was a potluck. Sounds easy enough, right? I had met the birthday’s mom just once before, and I have never met the dad. We were invited because our daughter and the birthday girl have played together regularly at a local community group.
Things started off on the wrong foot a couple of days before the party when my wife said, “Now I just want you to know, Sarah (not her real name) doesn’t shave her armpits, so don’t say anything”. This statement bothered me on a number of levels. First off, I have no problem with people (i.e. women) who do not shave their armpits. It really doesn’t bother me at all, and if you are one of those women who choose to not shave, then I say let it grow, sister! Now, on the other hand, if “let’s shave them” is your creed, I am happy for you and appreciate the extra bit of time it took you to get yourself together. Secondly, I was bothered that my wife felt that she needed to give me a heads up at all. Does she really think that I would (a) notice this and (b) say something inappropriate? I probably wouldn’t notice. I had a neighbour across the street growing up who only had one arm, and by golly it took me from a toddler to well into my 20’s before I even noticed it. My Mom was having a neighbour’s party and I took her aside in the kitchen and said, “Mom, what happened to Mrs. Campbell’s arm?” My Mom looked at me like I was nuts and said “She was born that way.” So, yeah, sometimes I don’t have Sherlockian powers of observation at my disposal. Secondly, if I did notice at all, I probably would just file that away under miscellaneous information about my wife’s friends. I don’t think I would even ever bring it up. I certainly wouldn’t stare or God forbid, work it into a conversation, even if it were a compliment. “You have nice hairy armpits! I wish my wife didn’t shave hers so much”. I would never dream of saying something like that.
The second thing was that the day before the party I asked about the birthday girl’s father’s name. “He’s called Daniel”. “Dan?”, I said. “No, I’ve never heard him called Dan, just Daniel,” was my wife’s response. This made me uneasy. It reminded me of that Monty Python sketch. “By the way, call me Tom. Don’t play around with any of this Thomas nonsense!” It’s like Davids who are never Dave, Stephens who are not Steve, or Edwards who don’t respond to Ed. Is this what I had to deal with too? It didn’t help that every time I practiced saying “Daniel” it came out “Danielle”, like a girl. “You’re saying it wrong on purpose!” my wife exclaimed. I really wasn’t. I just wanted to make a good first impression, but between contending with “Daniel not Dan” and the armpit hair, I was getting nervous that something would go wrong.
The third thing was that I realized that this birthday party was coinciding with the Pride parade and festival. Whenever I can, I try to attend the parade and party. I usually bump into a number of people I know, and it’s always a good time. At first I thought there was a possibility to do both things, but from past experiences, I knew the birthday party would win out.
Marla decided on a cucumber salad. At first this sounded great, but it was only after we had made it that I remembered all those people in Europe had gotten sick and even died from e coli on Spanish cucumbers. Marla already expressed that she felt like she was going to be judged by what she brought to the party, since many of these people were nutritionists. I didn’t have the heart to worry her any more, so I remained silent. These were Canadian cucumbers, if anyone asked.
Halfway to the park, Marla realized she left the sticky note with the party details at home. Since we were already running late, we opted to just keep going with the hope that we would be able to find them. At first Marla said she remembered that it would be by Duck Pond, and there would be balloons on the picnic table. Easy enough. We drove slowly by the Duck Pond, but none of the tables had balloons attached, and none of the picnickers looked like the group. Keep in mind that we didn’t know what anyone looked like, except for the Mom and the birthday girl. After one pass around the Duck Pond, Marla suddenly thought she remembered something about the “South East Picnic Area”. Now I’ve lived in Winnipeg my whole life, and I grew up less than a mile from this park, and I had never heard of such a place, but after a few more minutes of driving, sure enough, there were signs pointing us in the direction of such a place. The parking lot was full, but we managed to squeeze into a spot on the street. We unloaded Audrey, the stroller, the creamy cucumber salad, the birthday present, and the diaper bag and headed in.
Our hearts sank when we noticed that the entire area was taken up by two groups, neither of which were the birthday party. One side of the picnic area was being used by a soccer game and its spectators. The other side was taken up by the Asian Presbyterian Alliance, or some damn thing. By this point, we were all getting hungry and Audrey kept saying “thirsty! thirsty! thirsty!” In our haste we had forgotten to pack Audrey a snack and a drink. The food these Presbyterians were enjoying was epic. Spring Rolls! Hot dogs! Some kind of a BBQ pulled pork number! Cold drinks! In an odd coincidence, Marla noticed I was actually wearing a “Presbyterian Church of Canada” t-shirt. It was something my brother the minister gave me a few years ago, and I put it on before I we went to the park without thinking. A part of me wanted to impersonate a Presbyterian just so I could get my hands on some of that pork, but these weren’t your friendly Presbyterian types. They didn’t appear to be in the mood for sharing, or even helping us find our party. Marla was getting pretty mad at herself and the situation. “I wouldn’t go to this church. They aren’t very welcoming, ” she muttered as we made our way back to the car. Our next plan was to drive over to the Duck Pond again, get out, and actually do a “table to table” search. We were about an hour and a half late at this point, and I thought that we would have been better off bringing a dessert than a salad at this point, but I wisely kept that to myself.
We parked at the zoo, and strolled back to the Duck Pond.
No one fit the description, and there were no balloons.
Getting desperate, I said “Maybe the party’s moved on to the new playground?” We strolled Audrey all the way up, and as we entered I felt like Indiana Jones in the Cairo market looking for Marion in the basket. There were literally hundreds of families enjoying the sunny afternoon. I didn’t even remember what Sarah looked like at this point, but I didn’t admit this. We didn’t have any cash on us, but we scrounged enough change together to buy a bottled water for Audrey. She was so patient up ’til now, but she was hot and hungry and refused to stay in her stroller any longer. I nervously looked down at the Tupperware holding our salad, and was trying to calculate how many hours that yogurt dressing had been out of the fridge. Although I was hungry, I don’t think I was so hungry for that salad so much anymore.
As a long shot, we checked the picnic area at the new playground, but no luck.
We decided to make our way back to the car and find an air-conditioned restaurant. As we strolled back, Marla suddenly stopped and said “Oh my GOD. There’s Sarah!”. It couldn’t be, I thought. There were no balloons, and this wasn’t the South East Picnic Area nor was it the Duck Pond. If I had to describe it, it would be “partway between the Pavilion and the Lyric stage”. But sure enough, as we got closer we realized at long last, two and a half hours later, we found our party. There were 8 juice boxes on the table, and I had to restrain myself from grabbing all 8 and sucking the life out of them. These people didn’t know me, and I didn’t want to be known as the guy who drank all the juice. The party was pretty much wrapping up. There was the odd piece of cubed cheese on a platter, and a hint of what I think was hummus in a bowl, but everything else was eaten. “Help yourself to anything!” we were told, but I wanted to maintain my dignity. “I know I said South East, but there wasn’t any room and these tables opened up. I didn’t have time to get balloons, ” Sarah apologized. I felt bad for her that she was feeling so bad for us. This could have all been avoided if we had a cell phone. I liked her when she told us that the birthday cake was made with rhubarb from our garden. We never did produce our salad and I never did get introduced to her husband, so I worried for naught. Sarah wore long sleeves.