Local odyssey proves wisdom of listening to one’s wife

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 12, 2010

Not even Odysseus’s wanderings around the Aegean Sea after the fall of Troy can compare with the hilarious journey one of our readers made in search of my 70th birthday party a couple of weeks ago. And as in that Greek epic poem of nearly 3,000 years ago, a woman plays a key role in this modern-day odyssey, too.

According to LCol (Ret’d) Richard Maillet, a relative newcomer to Cochrane, trying to find the Frank Wills Memorial Hall, site of my birthday gathering, was anything but a piece of cake.

As he arrived at one wrong location after another, he found that things were either pretty dead, he was barking up the wrong tree, or his unintended hosts were wondering (much to my chagrin), “Who the heck is Warren?”

Although I don’t want to unduly prolong coverage of my getting older, I simply must share with you an e-mail I received from him. (Note: French is Richard’s first language, Susan his wife, and Emmeline their young daughter.  See my Jan. 27 column on Richard’s views on Haiti.)

Richard wrote:

IT WAS A GENUINE pleasure to join you on such an important event, Warren.

We showed up a little later than we expected, as we experienced some difficulty in finding the hall.

As a linguist you will appreciate the fact that words can have different meanings depending upon the language, and this is particularly true when there are similarities between languages such as between French and English.

So, to cut a long story short, to me a memorial hall is a funeral parlour. I thought when I read the invite that it was a little peculiar, but I recognized a certain form of humour in holding a birthday in a funeral home. Susan definitely did not agree with my interpretation of the invite, but I was driving. I made the critical mistake of not listening to her.

Here we are, Susan, Emmeline and myself going to the funeral home. Well guess what, when we got there, not a sign of life, except the big black Cadillac parked on the outside.

Having yourself been married for a number of years, you will understand that I got an earful of “I told you so,” with the implied message that it was not the brightest idea of my life, and retrospectively, I must humbly admit that I cannot totally disagree too much with her.

So the question is still in the air: Where is Warren?

In a stroke of genius, we figured out that the memorial hall had to be at the Legion, and here we go. In order to save time, and as it is always problematic to get Emmeline in and out of her car seat, we decided that I would go in alone and crack the mystery into the whereabouts of Warren. So I go in alone.

There were about five guys and one lady sitting at the bar. They looked in a fairly joyous mood for such an early time on a Saturday afternoon. Being very sociable, they readily invited me to join: “Come in Skipper, have a cold one.” I deduced that those were former sailors. I approached the bar and asked the dreaded question, “Where is Warren?” After about five minutes of a fairly heated debate amongst themselves they finally concluded that they did not know who the heck Warren was.

By then, the clock is ticking. I rejoined Susan back in the car. She’d had a real good idea and while waiting for me, had used her Blackberry, performed a Google search and found out the address for the memorial hall. And here it is, 405 1st Street.

We quickly zipped towards the designated address. It takes us close to the Donair downtown. I quickly got out of the car, and guess what: 405 1st Street is a dog-training hall, and still no signs of Warren and the birthday cake.

By then, you must understand that the morale is running low, and we are really getting discouraged. Once again Susan figures it out, that there must be an East and West 1st Street. It is the case for St-Catherine Street in Montreal, even in Calgary. After all Cochrane is a growing city so there must be an East 1st Street. Once again, Susan saves the day, we are on our way again.

After an hour of driving around Cochrane and a tank of gas, we finally reached our destination.

All that to say, Warren, that we were quite happy to be there to share those precious moments, and once again a warm thank you for the opportunity.

—Richard Maillet, Cochrane

IN HIS COVER letter Richard added:

“It was quite a journey, and it is not like Cochrane is such a big place. The moral to my story is always listen to your spouse no matter how wrong you think she is; more than likely, she is probably right.”

Yup, I know what you mean, Richard. Odysseus and I thank you for a real good chuckle.

© 2010 Warren Harbeck

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