Sunday, June 28, 2009

E09: When Coke is not Soda

As I posted my last entry, I thought my days adventures were at an end. This was a foolish thought from the beginning, as I could not simply press post from the safety of my bedroom. No, I had to return to the street and try to find an internet hotspot once more. The difference this time was that it was not a sunny afternoon day. Instead, this time it was a dark and cloudy (tragically not stormy) night. The clock had just struck midnight, and the bells were echoing across the city adding to the feeling of safety that surrounded me. There's nothing like wandering the streets passed bars overflowing with middle aged drinkers, holding a netbook, to really make you feel secure.

So perhaps this wasn't the best idea.

“Hey, ZZ-Top,” the all too familiar shout called out. I smiled, and walked on searching for another open network. None were to be found, until a sign was pointed out to me: Free internet hotspot, 200 meters to the left. The sign was accompanied by an arrow pointing the way. Of course the way was not to a well lit, and well secured area, complete with comfortable bench, and community building foot traffic. No, the arrow had to point down a covered alley, that twisted and turned so you could not see the other end before stepping through.

Standing on the unused street through the alley, I connected to the wireless network and began to copy and paste posts, uploading pictures and placing them where I thought they would best fit. Three teenagers sat drinking on a ramp across from me, making the odd comment now and then, breaking the silence of the night.

Voices speaking languages from all over the world could be heard as couples, infrequently, walked past either on the way in search of drink, or from drink to a more secluded area. I continued to post, slightly fulling my desire to become Spider Jerusalem.

Done, I closed my netbook (wondering how many people just grabbed my passwords from use over unsecured networks) and began to walk back to the apartment building. It was then that I once again heard the call that follows me to every country around the world, “ZZ Top! Hey, ZZ Top!” It was the same man from earlier. Having now drunk his fill, he was on his way home.

“Hey buddy,” he began, stumbling across the main road, paying little attention to the headlights that were ever moving towards him. Somehow avoiding all traffic, and now standing beside me, he continued. He talked of my beard, and how I need never shave it. He then went on and said I must be a Yank. When I told him that I was Canadian he told e how much he hated it when people confused him as a Brit. He said how it infuriated him, and caused him to rage. Well, I was in no mood to see a raging drunk, and I told him that I understood completely.

He then went on to tell me that he wasn't afraid of anyone. He wasn't afraid of anyone except for his girlfriend. As it turned out he was late to meet her. He had stayed too long at the bar, and she wold be furious. Of course it wasn't enough that he simply said this – he said this while swinging a large bag of coke around his head. Now, I know coke is supposed to be measured in grams, or ounces, or something like that, but as I've never been into the drug scene, I would only make a fool of myself if I tried to guess how much was in it with that scale. What I can tell you is that it was a lot. It was a bag a full as a ripe plum. This he swung around his head, as he proceeded to tell me in his drunken stupor how much his girlfriend was missing it.

Why did I stay talking to him? Why didn't I simply walk away? Well these are both good questions. And I'll answer you with the same multiple thoughts that ran through my head as I stood there listening to this man talk about my face, and his drugs, and his country pride. One: I did not want to upset him by disrespecting him and brushing him off. Remember, this is a big drunk, potentially raging, Scotsman fresh from the bar. The type who has no problem flailing his drugs around ever so visibly. Second: There was a definite entertainment value to the conversation, and were I not carrying my computer, I may have let it play out some time longer. Three: he was standing right outside the door to my apartment building. Of course he was! Having the big raging coke-fiend of a man know where I lived did not seem like the best of ideas at the time.

Then, just as I thought the conversation was winding down he asked me a question right out of – well, beyond the left field, somewhere out in the bleachers. Farther, perhaps, in the parking lot where some unlucky fool would find the home run ball nestled violently into his car's front windshield: As a British Canadian, do I love my Queen?

Oh what the good god damn?! How does one answer this question. I was just told that he hated being confused as a Brit, and I knew from watching Braveheart that the English and the Scots do not get along at the best of times. I've heard that wearing the wrong colour football jersey is reason enough for a beating. Do I love my Queen? What is the right answer. Do the Scots love their Queen? I just wanted to go on my way, and allow him to do blow off of whatever part of his girlfriend he so desired. But no – here was a barrier. Do I love my Queen?

I felt like a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The British version, with ridiculously hard questions – but paying out in ever valuable pounds instead of dollars. Just as the pressure was about to get the best of me he broke the silence, “I fucking love my Queen!” he shouted. Oh thank god. I nodded in agreement. Yeah, she's great. She's coming to town in a few days, to be sure. What a lovely lady. Super woman. Who wouldn't love her? She's on the stamps, the money. Boy oh boy is she great!

Just then he shook my hand, and said he had to head off. Cue forehead wipe, and – wait. Where was he walking to? Where did his girlfriend live that he was going to visit? No, it couldn't be. He wasn't. Was he? He was! He walked right into my apartment building! Are you kidding me? Really? Really?!

Thinking it best that this man who would undoubtedly be coked out in a matter of moments not know where I lived, I stayed outside for a moment. Or two. And there, there you go. Get that key in the hole, and open the front door. Count to ten. Maybe twenty. You know what, allow him a whole minute to stumble up the stairs. When I assumed enough time had passed, I entered and began to stealthily climb the stairs. His booming voice could be heard rumbling through a shut door. I quickly slipped past, and headed up a few levels to my floor, where I entered, locked, and settled in for the night.

Now sure, this may seem absurd, and perhaps it is – still, if you had a bead would you want a strung out Scotsman hunting for you through an apartment building late at night because he had something amazing to tell you, or because he was just fixing to see if I was truly a gnome and could grant him magical sparely wishes? No. I thought not.

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