Friday, February 4, 2011

The American Can’t Gat-in-eau Satisfaction

The Marathon du Medoc in Bordeaux, France boasts 22 wine stations, 1 oyster station and sometimes a cognac station; no porta-potties and very few water stations. The participants are encouraged to run in funny costumes. I am not sure why; maybe to mask their tipsy demeanour. I saw a photo once of runners dressed up as clowns, brides, and ballerinas all tripping down the French countryside. I’ve never been to this event, but it doesn’t take much imagination to think it would be like a Halloween party on steroids.

It is my understanding that alcohol dehydrates the body. Apparently France didn’t get the memo. And, it appears that neither did Tom, my neighbour’s boss.
The four of us (Heather, her bosses Tom and Andrea, and myself) head out to this great nation’s capital, for the Ottawa race weekend. We women had decided on the 10 km race and Tom, a landed immigrant originally from Jersey, signed up with gusto for the half marathon.
Heather and I are taking this race rather seriously. Being new to the world of running, we aren’t taking any chances. We train within an inch of lives, as if we are about to be deployed into a war zone or worse, an IKEA bed and bath sale. In contrast, Tom, the American, has run to work 3 times in the last 2 months, feeling this has put him in top athletic form.
Our hotel is in Gatineau, just a short drive over the River to downtown Ottawa. Andrea spends the afternoon visiting a friend, however Heather and the American have several hours to kill before the 10 km race begins. Tom pipes up, “I heard they sell beer at Costco in Quebec.”
Now, to someone who lives in Ontario, beer in Costco is as likely as semi automated weapons being sold at the Principal’s office of an elementary school. It just isn’t possible. All alcohol is sold through licensed provincial facilities. However, just like the Marathon du Medoc, the French are a bit more relaxed about such things.
I’m not actually into beer or alcohol in general, however, I like Costco, so I go along for the ride. Once inside, it looks just like our local Costco except for one noticeable difference. Instead of bottled water, sports drinks and specialty teas in the back corner, there are mountains of beer cases and pyramids of wine bottles.
The American had found his Mother Ship. Not only is beer for sale in Costco, it is considerably cheaper than at home. Tom can stock up for the next two years! Heather and Tom quickly trade in their grocery-store style push carts for the large, flat bed furniture movers. They morph into human big rigs, pulling flatbed trailers. No motor, just the sheer engine force of their own bodies.
They begin loading their carts as if building a cache for the longest prohibition ever. I see perspiration on the American’s brow, probably the longest pre-race workout he’d had this year. People are starting to stare. At first, I pretend not to notice the looks. But, then I take things into my own hands. I act apologetic and whisper, “They’re from Ontario and he’s American.” For some reason this works. Their curiosity seems to be satiated and they begin nodding knowingly as if being an American explains everything.
I am entertained as I watch Heather and Tom steer and push their clinking monster loads to the cashier.  They think they are almost home free when they find out that apparently there is some type of limit on how much you can buy at once and they are likely 20 times over it. The policy is in place to prevent people reselling…probably to people from Ontario and America. It looks grim and then I remember my success earlier. I smile and whisper under my breath, “They’re from Ontario and he’s American.”
“Ohhhh, la la. Oui, oui. Je vois. D’accord, d’accord.”
The cashier and her helper are now nodding and waving approval. They ring them through.
“What did they say?” the American asks me.
“That you must be here for the race weekend because you look very fit.”
He smiles.
Across the parking lot to Heather’s car, they load their distillery into the back of her SUV and I can’t help myself, “I hope you can take this over the Ontario border.” I say to the American.
“Really?” he looks concerned.
“It’s all the same country,” Heather quickly eases the look of panic on his face.
Once back to the hotel, Tom and Heather now remember that all our rooms are on fourth floor. I think they had subconsciously blocked that fact from their memory when they were in Costco. I note the looks of concern from the guests in the lobby when they see the trolleys piled high with alcohol, however, they don’t look as nearly as worried as the desk staff. One lady comes over and discreetly slips me a card with contact information for the nearest AA chapter. “Oh, don’t worry,” I say. “He’s American.”
 “Ahhh, I see.” She nods knowingly.
Once settled in amongst the wall of beer cases, we decide it is time to go for lunch. It will be the last meal before the women run the 10 km race in a few hours.
Where to eat lunch?
“I saw a micro-brewery down the road,” says the American…
*Please note: no names have been changed to protect the innocent. You’re on your own with this one, Tom! To be fair, I should mention, however, that an extensive amount of hyperbole and creative license and little bit of outright lying was used in the creation of this entry. For example, I can’t remember whether we were on the fourth or fourteenth floor of the hotel.  Okay, not everything happened exactly as written, but some parts are true.

©2011 Written by Heather Down and Illustrated by John Larter

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