So it turns out I’m a bit of a sucka.
It all started a few months ago, in early summer. One of our regular customers was in and was asking about a new book on General Brock and Tecumseh. We had the book on order and I put him on the list. We started talking about the war of 1812 and I let slip that I was going to be in Niagara soon and was looking forward to seeing some of the 200 year festivities.
Well that’s all it took. All of a sudden I became “the expert” on the war of 1812 and all he wanted to do was talk about it each time he came in. This customer is an older man, well into his 80s, and he and I have had a rapport for a while. He has an armchair fascination with geography and would often quiz me on the U.S. state capitols in the past. He was amazed that I could name so many, but I guess that M.A. in Geography has to be worth something, right? I got so many right that he stopped asking me because it wasn’t fun anymore. I couldn’t resist some geographical showboating, like telling him that the capital of South Dakota, Pierre, is actually pronounced “Peer”. He didn’t know that. I actually didn’t get all that many correct, but I guess I got more correct than he thought the average person would get, and that impressed him enough.
In 2008, he and his wife were taking their grandkids to the Wisconsin Dells, and as coincidence would have it, my wife and I had just driven through there and could offer up suggestions/sights etc. So then I became the “Wisconsin Dells” guy and he seemed disappointed when I eventually had to tell him that he had exhausted all of my knowledge of the place (which was pretty minimal to begin with).
But now we had moved on to the War of 1812, a subject on which I knew even LESS. It got so bad that I had to order in that very same book and read through it so that I had something to talk about when he came in. This past summer, we did spend Canada Day in Niagara-On-The-Lake and I actually felt a twinge of guilt that I didn’t visit Queenston Heights and the Brock Monument, but instead wasted my time visiting wineries and shoppes. It was a typically humid Southern Ontarian day and convincing my wife that “you can walk all the way up to the top and look out Brock’s eye holes!” was a task for which I didn’t have the strength.I didn’t think I could look this customer in the eye when I got back.
And things escalated. I came into work a couple of weeks ago and one of my staff said that Mr. F. was in on the weekend and he left me this:
It was a newly minted special edition quarter with Isaac Brock on the front.
“He said he picked it up for you at the mint and he knew you’d like it, being such a huge fan of the war of 1812 and everything.”
I felt weird accepting this, but I was also kind of touched that he would think of me. The next time I saw him I thanked him for his thoughtfulness and gave him a regular quarter in return. I know it’s just 25 cents, but you can’t be ever seen as benefiting from the public as a public servant. I took the quarter home and let our daughter see it and play with it and I promptly forgot about it.
Until today, when Mr. F was in again and he came up to the desk. Apparently the Brock quarter was just the tip of the iceberg. He had one of those little display cards with him and inside there was a spot for 8 quarters and an a toonie, each one representing some person or aspect of the war of 1812. The Toonie had the HMS Shannon on the front, and spots for the Brock coin (two versions! plain and “coloured”!) The other three spots were for Tecumseh, Laura Secord and some British General who was important to the war of 1812. I guess I didn’t read that book all that closely, because I didn’t recognize his name.
“I got the card for you! The toonie too! Do you want it?”
I started to say that I really didn’t but he looked so crestfallen that I quickly recanted and said “Sure, that’s great! Let me just go get you a plain toonie to swap.”
Which I did, and now apparently I’m a coin collector.I’m going to have to go home and negotiate with Audrey as to where that Brock quarter went to, and as a “completist” I realize I’m going to have to visit the mint and pick up one of the limited edition “coloured” coins, because I can’t go all half-assed on this.
Tecumseh, Secord and the other guy aren’t even going to be released until the new year, according to the mint’s webpage, so that means I’m in it for the long haul.
My job is weird.