This past Sunday was terrific.
I attended a mini-reunion of fellow employees from a design firm where I worked during the eighties. Together, we built custom kitchens, baths, and family rooms. Sunday, eleven of us lunched, laughed, and shared old stories. It was like we had never left, except for the deepened laugh lines and the gray hair.
I sat next to John whom I didn’t even recognize for the first five minutes. John is the youngest of our bunch, “the kid.” For forty years, John was the talented engineering draftsman who also drew artistic perspectives so customers could “see” their dream projects. His art sold kitchens.
The conversation turned to an adventure John and I experienced attending a design conference in Toronto.
On the drive, I got to know quiet, shy John a little better. He was 23, from a large family who all still lived at home. A smalltown boy, he used his good brain to study a vast assortment of interests. He had never been to New York City, and yet had memorized its entire subway system! Little subjects like that. I was constantly amazed at the glints of genius he dropped into our conversations.
Our trip together was on Sunday, Nov. 27, 1983. I’ll always remember the day.
We arrived mid-afternoon. going directly to the CN Tower for a quick panoramic view. I wanted to find a restaurant before dark.
On Yonge Street, the main avenue in the city, no restaurants appeared open. Strange. I continued toward Yonge and Bloor, the major intersection, thinking we’d run into something before the conference hotel. The area usually bustled with college students.
Suddenly the street began to fill with people. I was slowed to a crawl, but the screaming, jumping people weren’t moving. The Yonge Street trolley pulled up beside me, just as I tried to turn left onto Bloor Street. I was stopped. A trolley to the left and a dense mob straight ahead, right, and rear.
“John, this isn’t good,” I said. He murmured something that sounded worried.
Suddenly – BOOM! A young man jumped on the hood. I watched it sink under his feet. Yelling, “C’mon, c’mon!” he pulled up a friend. Three or four more guys jumped up onto the hood while the first two went to the roof. In the rearview mirror I saw two more on the trunk. The car was rocking, grinding, bouncing.
Trying to remain calm, I attempted to accelerate, but no one was moving. As a few guys jumped off, they began rocking the car. We were pushed up on two wheels when someone yelled, “Let’s tip it over!”
When John heard them declare their tip-over plan, he rolled the window down a few inches, curled his fingers over the glass edge and pleaded, “Please don’t tip us over!”
“SHUT THAT DAMN WINDOW – NOW!” That was me, gently persuading John to roll up the window. He did. He was shook. I was too. But being almost 20 years older than he, I was not going to show it. And I wasn’t going to let him down.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I saw bricks sailing through storefront windows. I had studied mob mentality in psychology classes and knew how dangerous the “bandwagon effect” could get. Who were these people? WHY was this happening?
They were football fans – long-suffering Toronto Argonaut fans who’d just learned they won the Grey Cup – the Super Bowl of Canadian football. The game was played in Vancouver, ending a 31-year drought. They took to the streets in jubilation. And drunkeness. And destruction. And terrorized a middle-aged housewife and her not-too-worldly charge.
I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up into the handsome face of strength and safety. The red-jacketed Mountie, astride a very large black horse, had maneuvered between us and the trolley. He motioned for me to open my window as he leaned down to speak. “I’m going to try to get you out of here. I can’t promise, but if you follow me closely, we should get through.” If I could have reached more than his stirrup, I would have kissed him.
He slipped ahead of the car, positioned between the headlights. The horse’s tail swished constantly, almost reassuring me that we would be OK. Two long blocks later, we broke free. The Mountie, God bless him, dropped back to my door, leaned down and smiled, “Welcome to Toronto.”
John and I, shaky, found a fast-food restaurant. The next night we had a drink before a nice dinner. Finally, John said, “You yelled at me.” I agreed. And I reassured him that given the same mob, I would do it again. We shook our heads over our close call.
Last weekend, a sophisticated John, now a gray-haired grandfather, laughed along with all of us. Everyone contributed their version of the oft-told story. John and I, mobbed by our memories, just grinned at each other.
A peaceful November Sunday afternoon.
Marcy can be reached at Moby,firstname.lastname@example.org
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