When visiting Eric Balcom many years ago at his residence alongside the Atlantic Ocean he told me a tale about him and his business colleagues who met for lunch at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, NS. They were all on the Board of Directors of the same company. Newly appointed to their membership was a farmer from the nearby countryside. The farmer had never been to the Lord Nelson Hotel. When they sat for lunch Eric sat next to the farmer. Eric recognized in an instant that the farmer was confused by the items on the menu. Accordingly Eric suggested this and that based upon his prior experience. The farmer chose precisely as Eric had recommended. But after lunch the farmer unhesitatingly chose tea rather than coffee. All the other men at the big round dining table ordered coffee instead of tea. The young waitress – to whom the businessmen were indistinguishable – correctly reasoned that she would first deliver the tea to the farmer then return with the coffee for the others.
There are endless quips about getting old. Judging solely by the way I look and feel in the morning as I pry myself from the lair I’m set to illustrate the mocking witticisms. Naturally everything within me intended for mobility aches. If it doesn’t ache it won’t bend – at least not properly. It has been almost ten weeks since I had a haircut. Thanks to the Oreo cookies and Nanaimo Bars from Baker Bob I’m guessing my “physique” resembles something other than a race horse. What however utterly surprises me – because I can’t in all honesty pretend that incremental decline does – is my shameless and seemingly inexorable dedication to habit. More to the point it is my abhorrence of whatever it is that disturbs the daily enactment of my trifling hobbies. I stand firm upon this assertion. Don’t try confronting me with, “Oh, you love it!” No, I do not! I assure you I am perfectly capable to bear the deprivation of disruption.
The date is critically close to the first day of June. The exquisitely balmy weather atmospherically heralds approaching summer. The corridor of verdant foliage along the bicycle path adjacent the Mississippi River (and the channel surrounding Coleman’s Island) lent a magical theme to our morning cycle. We dipped off the gravel pathway long enough to travel upon the well-trod track leading through Al Potvin’s and Shirley Deugo’s property. In that process I encountered Billy Sullivan and his 10-year old daughter Ėlise (whose twin brother William I spoke with just days ago in similar circumstances). The children have a new brother who according to his justifiably proud father is full of p&v.
Somewhere around 2:00 am this morning I awoke and dressed myself in an assortment of cotton casuals then descended to the basement to drive my car. First however I responded to an email from Les Bell, Dealer Principal of Lincoln Heights Ford. He very kindly invited me to drive another of his Aviator models to compare to my vehicle what if anything leaked from its undercarriage. Meanwhile I continued my examination of the condensation from my own vehicle. Once again this morning I discovered that, upon moving my vehicle immediately from the parking spot (that is, without lingering to allow the engine to diminish the revs upon start-up), there were no collections of contaminants on the garage floor. When I allowed the engine to idle and then backed it into the parking space again, there were no manifest drips. Thus begins the comparative investigation.
In my admittedly narrow existence there are two products which routinely prompt annoying dilemmas – computers and cars. The computer issues are usually resolved after several days or a week by the “techies” who in some instances are drawn from the retailer or at other times imported from the company directly. The car issues are managed less happily. A car complaint normally begins with the dealership (mechanics). If however it cannot be resolved it “escalates” to the manufacturer. Invariably the manufacturer doesn’t acknowledge the “lemon laws” even if unable to cure the defect. I am sadly engaged in yet another vehicular complaint with Lincoln Motor Company regarding my now regrettable purchase on April 13th last of a 2020 Lincoln Aviator from Lincoln Heights Ford (Dealer Principal: Les Bell; General Manager: David Cameron) in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
One of the last times I recall flying in a private plane – I believe it was called a “Beaver” – was in 1964 with David Garrett (whose father was head of De Havilland aircraft company) and “Buck” Buchanan who was the pilot. After lunch at the Garretts’ place in Forest Hill we spent a glorious Sunday afternoon winging across the expansive agricultural territory immediately north of Toronto, jettisoning out the sliding windows parachutes made from handkerchiefs to which we had attached cryptic notes for unsuspecting candidates on the ground.
“Throughout an impressive 75-year history of producing various models of aircraft in Canada and for the world, De Havilland has always proudly been known for its adaptability and dependability. Being responsible for creating some 3,500 aircraft—including the most advanced turboprop in the air today—our experience and expertise constructing the highest performing planes in the industry is second-to-none. Our aircraft are all manufactured in Canada at our state-of-the-art facility in Ontario and are a proud symbol of Canadian innovation and achievement.
On March 5, 1928, the De Havilland Aircraft Company of England incorporated a subsidiary business in Canada. Over the coming years, this small upstart would become one of the most accomplished aircraft designers and manufacturers in Canadian history. The DHC-1 Chipmunk—an all-metal trainer developed for the Royal Canadian Air Force—was the first all-Canadian design to come out of De Havilland Canada and helped establish the young company as a leader in the North American aviation industry.“
Almost anyone you talk to – no matter where in the world – will similarly report first having to endure the inconvenience of the pandemic around March 10th, 2020. That was when we received a communication in Florida that our private medical insurers intended to cancel our 6-month policy in ten days. This was accompanied by the Canadian government’s alert that international travellers should return home within the same time. Though with marked reluctance we dutifully drove back to our residential digs in Canada. We sequestered ourselves as required for 2 weeks. Since then we have practiced social distancing when cycling, grocery shopping or filling the car with gas.
Before I betray annoyance I must first remind myself of the adage, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth!”
Since horses’ teeth change over time, inspecting their teeth is a way of gauging age. However, doing such a check would be a sign of mistrust towards the giver.
From Middle English texts for “given horse”:
No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth. — John Heywood, 1546.
The substitution of gift for given occurred in 1663 in Butler’s Hudibras, because the iambic tetrameter required a shortening:
He ne’er consider’d it, as loth
To look a Gift-horse in the mouth.
Although uncertain, the origin can be traced even further to St. Jerome’s Latin Equi dentes inspicere donati., from the Preface to the Commentaries of the Letter to the Ephesians, circa AD 400, where it is denoted as a “common proverb” (“vulgare proverbium”). In: Patrologia Latina Volume 26, S. Eusebii Hieronymi, Stridonensis Presbyteri, Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Ephesios Libri Tres, 537-538.
The pep and vigour of youth is indisputably welcome and inspiring. As diminished as my carcass is first thing in the morning, I am nonetheless thoroughly revitalized by the unmistakable gusto of young people! Specifically I allude in this instance to my niece and her husband. They’re models of energy, utility and sprightly impression. We rallied with them and my sister and her husband at their residence in Ottawa South today. Preserving the correct social distancing, we congregated in the garden beneath the shade of the burgeoning trees and sipped coffee. When the wind occasionally picked up we were dusted by the floating cherry blossoms.
It is bad enough merely to mark time. It is worse yet to consider what it means to do so. Marking time has as I am certain you know but a speck in its favour at the outset; basically it involves doing little while waiting for something that is going to happen. To acquire an insight into the condition, it helps to recall that synonyms include dallying, diddling, dillydallying, shilly-shallying and lallygagging – not exactly the most energetic inspirations.