In the nick of time

11Aug10

I ambled over to a drinking fountain, impossibly thirsty in a fleeting summer rainstorm. My suit was sopping wet, my cell phone was nearly out of batteries, and it seemed everyone in the passing cars was infintely more confident than me. I wasn’t hopelessly lost, but I was in danger of being hopelessly late.

This is the story of my first trip to Rideau Hall.

***

The assignment was easy enough:  report on the youth dialogue hosted by Governor General Michaëlle Jean. All I had to do was get to Rideau Hall, and everything else would fall into place. Well, life ain’t perfect. Such was my experience yesterday.

My first mistake was to trust my ability to read numbers. My second mistake was not to take a cab. To get to Rideau Hall on time, I was supposed to take the #9 bus from the Rideau Centre. Like a fool, I took the #1 all the way to the end. That put me smack in the middle of Rockcliffe Park, just outside the gates of the renowned Ashbury College.

That unforeseen terminus did a number on my sense of direction. I thought I was supposed to end up on Sussex at Alexander (where the #9 ends up), which is a stone’s throw from the gates of Rideau Hall. But here I was somewhere south, west or east of that point, not sure which direction to walk.

As it turns out, Rideau Hall was just two blocks west of where I was standing — a short hop down the delightfully named Maple Lane. Unfortunately, I walked north on Springfield. And almost at the same time, rain started to trickle out of the heavy clouds above.

Those familiar with Rockcliffe Park will know that, at first blush, the neighbourhood is almost unnavigable. Streets just keep jutting out of nowhere. Monster homes distract you at every turn. And all of a sudden, you notice there are two different roads named “Acacia”. And they intersect. Talk about confusing.

Needless to say, time was running out and I had to giddy up. I’d walked up and down about five different streets and couldn’t pick up any scent. I needed some direction(s), so I contacted a trusted ally — someone who delivers without fail. I called my dad.

“Hi, dad. Are you near a computer?”

“Yes.”

“Can you go to Google?”

“Yes.”

For the next five or so minutes, my father put up with my inability to think straight. He slowly guided me from street to street, and things started to look familiar. I was soon walking along Rockcliffe Parkway, which I knew eventually wound around to Sussex Drive. There was hope yet.

Then the phone beeped. Low battery. Shit.

“Dad, gotta go. Phone is dying. I’ll call again.”

Then, as if on cue, the skies opened up and the road narrowed. Also, the sidewalk disappeared. My suit actually frowned. For the next five or so minutes, I tried not to acknowledge any emotion. They used to teach us about being stoic at times like these, so I gave it my best effort.

Apparently, all that determination made me thirsty. For some reason, the National Capital Commission decided to place a drinking fountain in the middle of nowhere, just off the Parkway. Finally, some good luck. I figured another 30 seconds wouldn’t kill the mission, and took a drink.

Then I got lost again. And it was still raining.

“Dad?”

“Yeah.”

“Was I supposed to walk down Mariposa?”

He once again corrected my course, played it cool despite my best efforts to throw him off, and wished me luck. Five minutes later, I walked into the nicest ballroom I’d ever seen. I looked like a fish (very recently) out of water, dripping wet and sniffling. My notebook was soaked as soon as I took my first notes. But everything was turning out okay.

Here’s what happened next.

***

When I emerged from Rideau Hall, the sun was shining. I walked into the waiting cab, and asked the driver what he thought of the rain earlier.

“Rain? Well, wasn’t much of a storm. Not where I was, anyway.”

Touché, cruel world.

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2 Responses to “In the nick of time”

  1. Nick, you have two allies. Good thing you called Dad, though. At the time of your need I was driving back from a trip to one of our clinics and thus had no access to a computer. No, I do not have an i-phone or a Blackberry, only my 2000 Telus phone.

    Great story! – Mom

  2. Nice story.

    Mountain Equipment Co-op sells waterproof notebooks. I bought one and have been waiting for a good occasion to use it but never have seem to have it handy when it rains.


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