Note: I made “A Christmas Story” editorial move in my story. I substituted ”fudge” for “the mother of all swear words”.
Journey Across Quebec
Relating the journey of two engineers and a sales person across the Province of Quebec to visit a potential customer in a remote place on the border of Canada & Vermont should cause the listeners eyes to glaze over. However, the story I am about tell is anything but dull.
It was a mild, early December day when we departed Pittsburgh for Montreal. Our party consisted of Dave, a retired engineer of prickly nature, but with wealth of technical experience; Bob, a sales person with the usual abundance of sales person optimism; and me, the 2nd engineer & manager of the place that was going to make the stuff the customer desired. When our flight landed, we were surprised to discover the weather in Montreal mirrored that of Pittsburgh, sunny and in the upper 40’s.
We cleared customs and made our way to the rental car kiosk. “You have your choice of a Jeep Cherokee or a Coup DeVille.”, offered the rental agent to our salesman, the rental was in his name.
I knew there had been some snow in northern Vermont, so I suggested Bob take the Jeep because of its all wheel drive capability. “We’ll take the DeVille!”, barked prickly Dave. Finding our car in the lot, we loaded our luggage into the cavernous trunk. Prickly Dave, who in his heyday, loved nothing more than to be driven about in a limo, claimed the back seat. Bob would drive and I would handle the GPS, which in 1999 was Rand-McNally Road Atlas. We left sunny Montreal for Derby Line, VT, a drive of about 1 ½ hours.
A half hour after leaving Montreal, Bob exclaimed, “Holy Hell! Is that snow?” The highway ahead of us disappeared into a white cloud. Bob lost some of his exuberance. Within a few minutes the DeVille entered the near white out conditions of a heavy snow squall. With the exception of a narrow strip of clear pavement in the center lane, it was almost impossible to determine where the shoulders of the highway were. The traffic slowed to a crawl, mostly because of poor visibility. A few minutes into snow squall, I noticed Bob’s knuckles were white, due to his death grip on the steering wheel. Bob lived in Charlotte, NC, so he had virtually no experience driving in weather like this. I suggested he pull over at the next exit and I would take over driving. Bob thanked me, but felt he could manage. Besides, he did not want to stop and chance getting stuck.
A few more miles into the blizzard, prickly Dave announced he was hungry and demanded we stop at the next exit, there was a McDonald’s. Bob and I weren’t hungry and didn’t want to stop, however Dave persisted. Bob paid for Dave’s food with U.S. dollars. He caught the cashier attempting to short him on the exchange rate when he got his change. He brought it to the cashier’s attention. Curiously, she no longer spoke English. A talk with the manager corrected the issue. We got back on the highway without any mishap, Dave munching away on his Big Mac and fries in the back seat. Driving Mr. Dave I thought.
The atmosphere outside the car was icy, with snow swirling around the windows. The atmosphere inside the car was warm, but an odor of seaweed at low tide enveloped Bob and I. We gave each other accusatory, wide eyed sideward glances – did this come from you? We both gave each other almost imperceptible head shakes. Damn! That prickly bastard farted in the car! In a freaking blizzard! Bob cracked a window. Prickly Dave barked, “Close that damn window! I’m freezing back here!” Bob and I silently damned stinky Dave again. We did eventually drive out of the squall and arrived at our hotel in Derby Line 3 ½ hours after leaving the airport.
At dinner that evening, Dave downed 3 gin martinis, each with 3 blue cheese stuffed olives. He became less prickly, but the adult beverages clouded his judgment. As the waitress started to clear our plates, he tried to place a little, adhesive backed, embroidered rose on her breast pocket, but really on her breast. She adroitly dodged his outstretched hand. With eyes flashing, she grasped a steak knife from one of the plates and said, “Get that hand back or lose it!” She said it in a joking way, but there was murder in her eyes. When Dave went to the bathroom, Bob and I apologized to the waitress and the manager. We hustled Dave out.
The next morning would bring further adventure. Somewhat hungover from the martinis, an even more cantankerous Dave wanted to go for a big breakfast before our 9:00 AM meeting. Trooping out to the car in the raw morning, Bob discovered he couldn’t unlock the car door. It appeared the mechanism was frozen! Dave began to swear. He demanded Bob cross the road and get a mechanic from the car dealership there. But it wasn’t open yet. Bob got a pack of matches from the hotel desk clerk and walked back out to the car with Dave and I, Dave swearing without pause.
There was a drug store next to the hotel and I started to say, “I am going over to the drug store to see….”
But Dave cut me of with a snarl, “What the fudge good is a drug store going to do!?” While Bob and Dave vainly tried to use the matches to heat the key up enough to melt the iced lock, I went back into the hotel lobby to munch on a donut and sip coffee. A guy in the lobby pointed his donut at Bob & Dave in the parking lot. “What are those two up to?”, he asked. I told him. He said, “Boy! I bet they’re glad their boss is not here to see that!”
I smiled and said, “That would be me.”
At 8:30 AM, I saw the drug store open. I walked past Dave & Bob in the parking lot on the way to the drug store. Purchasing a small spray bottle of lock de-icer, I walked back to the car and asked Bob and Dave to step aside. It took one squirt to unfreeze the lock. We had to hustle, it was now 8:40 AM, we were due at the customer in 20 minutes. Bob pressed the trunk release button on the key fob so we could stow our luggage. The trunk flew open like a Jack-in-the-box lid and struck poor Bob above his left eye. It swelled immediately. Now Bob was swearing. Dave snarled, “Quit wasting time Bob, we gotta go. No fudging breakfast!” Bob grabbed a handful of snow and held it against his eye in an effort to reduce the swelling. He wasn’t successful. Arriving at our meeting, he looked like he went a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson.
We were ushered in to a large conference room and offered coffee. Bob and Dave couldn’t hide their disappointment at the absence of pastries. Experience has taught me that coffee on an empty stomach should be avoided. The people we were visiting tried not to appear distracted by Bob’s swollen eye. Soon, however, they were not able to disguise their bewildered expressions at the loud growling and popping noises emanating from the empty stomachs of Dave & Bob.
Chatham Memoir Group
2 thoughts on “A Journey Through The Province of Quebec”
Another great story Ernie! I really enjoyed the way you brought out the personalities of the three “characters”. I think I’ve met each of their doppelgängers!
Thank you Bob! That happened in December 1999. The trip did get better, it could not have gotten much worse. At my request, it was the last trip “Dave” ever made.