Sean spilled his coffee on the cafeteria table like he did every Monday morning and asked “So how went the weekend Bushwhacker” ? I said “Oh the wife and I did a coupla lines Saturday, and then we sat on the deck suckin’ back a few dubes. The whole table froze. Dead silence. Everyone was staring blankly at the table or into their coffee cups. Matt raised his hands and clapped to get everyone’s attention. He explained for me, “Dube is an abbreviation for some kind of french booze, I think it’s called Dubonnet or something”? He looked toward me, and I nodded to the affirmative. “But the doing lines thing ? I’m not touching that one. You’re on your own now Bud”. They all looked at me with concerned, furrowed brows as I explained, “Concession lines, we walked a couple of concession lines … you know … walked roads.” All that got were blank stares from people who wouldn’t walk to their neighbour’s house. “We went for a walk on some backroads for Chrissake”.
Suddenly, Sean clued in with an, “OOOOOHHH ! Now I get it !”
I had to explain to the rest of them that I hadn’t just casually admitted to flagrant cocaine and marijuana abuse. I meant the wife and I went for a walk in the country, and then enjoyed a coupla glasses of an aperitif in the afternoon on our back deck. I felt like I was in a Benny Hill Show skit, without the chase scene and the scantily clad girl (Gawd ! That guy made me laugh !).
Anyway, this is a bit of a stretch for 2 Old Guys Walking, since it’s not about 2 old guys so much as it is about one of those old guys and his former secretary. Technically, Christine’s title wasn’t Secretary, it was Technical Writer. However, I liked to think of her as my secretary because she was like the classic secretary of old movie clichés. The kind of confidant a guy could really appreciate. A devoted, trustworthy, dedicated, and loyal friend to the end. She played dumb when it suited her, but she was plenty smart and never fooled me for a moment.
I refused to carry a cell phone so I could escape the incompetents surrounding me by taking a walk. As well, the political gameboard the offices and laboratories had become, necessitated a clandestine getaway to strategize with my single ally left on board.
I just re-read the last paragraph. Small wonder I said “screw this” and retired eh ? That’s exactly how I used to think. Is that pathetic or scarey ? A bit of both I suppose. Oh well, enough “shop talk”.
As coincidence would have it, my laboratory and office site was on a … wait for it … No Exit road !! Yes, even before Ranger and I re-united, I was walking a No Exit road daily. Rather indicative of my career path actually. Apparently, Christine wasn’t allowed to leave the building during her shift. However, since my boss was a thousand miles away, and he out-ranked the president of our operation, I could do as I wished. So, I started taking Christine for daily walks. We’d bundle up against the cold in season, and we’d seek out the shady treed paths in the heat of Summer. I realize the first few times Christine walked with me, she did so because,
1) She was a classic secretary, if her boss wanted her to join him for a walk, she’d join him. But more likely it was,
2) She got to break a rule that no one else at her level could, not only with her boss’s consent, but with his participation. On one of our first walks, I found a dime in the gravel on the roadside. From then on, we called our walks ten cent tours.
We’d walk the same path every day, but there would always be something different to see, hear, or smell. Many days we’d start before sunrise, and Christine worried about urban animals. So I got a hold of some lady-finger firecrackers and we’d light them in the early morning darkness to frighten away vicious animals as we walked. We’d check the status of the creek running under the road, or the beaver dam. We’d do an update on the creek depth and reason out whether the beavers were busy or if the recent rain would affect it that much. We’d explore the roadsides and examine the wildflowers. I’d point out the monarch larvae feeding on the milkweeds, and explained how the cardiac glycosides in the milkweed protected them from predators. We both learned about the bright orange fungus on the cedars which strikes fear in the wallets of apple orchard owners. On our early morning walks we’d trace out the constellations in the sky. She’d ask for confirmation of things her daughter told her she’d learned in school. I’d tell her things that her daughter would never know, so she could show the kid Mommy ain’t so dumb after all.
We talked about friends and enemies. I displayed my trust in her by sharing upper management information, and she showed her trust by telling me which manager’s marriage was on the rocks, or which manager’s son had been arrested or whatever. The day before a major business decision was announced, she could tell her friends on the Production floor. In exchange, I knew the private-life weaknesses of my peers in the boardroom. The bottom line was that Christine was Union, and I was Management. She was the subordinate, and I was the boss. But somewhere between the first (obligatory) and last (tearful) walks, we became friends.
For whatever reason, those daily walks made friends of two strangers from different walks of Life. Now, ask me the value of a ten cent tour.