Back in Halifax, a man named Bob called my room, saying he was waiting for me downstairs. His taxi was immaculate, and he explained he was retired but helping a friend. On the half-hour drive to Stanfield International, he pointed out things we passed, proud of his city.
“Lived here 63 years. All my life,” he said. We crossed the bridge into Dartmouth, and he pointed out to the water. “Lost my brother last week,” he said. “He was 67. He was my favourite brother. Talked two, three times a week.”
I told him I was sorry.
“Yeah,” he said, pointing again. “That’s where we scattered his ashes, the wife and me. Then we had a drink of rum and poured one for him.” He was quiet then added, “But, you know, you open the paper and it’s right there, one corner’s obituaries, the other’s births, all part of life.”
We passed rows of tenements. “See those there?” Bob said. “That’s government housing. Subsidized. I’m proud of that. You wouldn’t want to go there at night, you understand, but the fact that we have them, you know?”
As we pulled up to the terminal Bob apologized that he had to go pick up another fare, then he shook my hand for a while. “I would’ve liked to have shown you more of the city,” he said.
I would’ve liked that as well.
After we parted, a funny thing ensued. In addition to being in Atlantic Canada for personal exploration and Viking research, I was promoting a book and attending a convention. The final few days had been intense, full of conference activities – workshops, breakouts, meet-and-greets – and I was in full-on conventioneer mode, every sentence starting with, “Hi, I’m Bill, from Vancouver …”
As I went into the airport and onto an elevator, the other occupant was a woman in a suit wearing a lanyard, same as everyone I’d spoken to over the past four days.
“Hi, I’m Bill, from Vancouver …” I said with a smile, extending a hand.
“Hi Bill!” she said, shaking my hand. “Really nice running into you!” A momentary pause, then, “Gosh, I have to apologize. I don’t remember where it was we first met.”
It was then I realized I was no longer at a convention. Just an effusively friendly weirdo at the airport. To which I said, somewhat ashamed, “Oh. Yes. Right. Well, in fact, we haven’t actually met. I’ve just come from a conference and was on autopilot, meet-and-greet mode. I apologize.”
To which she laughed, relieved. “Thank goodness for that!” she said, “I pride myself on remembering people I meet. You see, I’m Lieutenant-Governor here, and I admit I fall into that trap too sometimes. But it was lovely to meet you Bill. Have a good flight.”
Which I did, chuckling most of the way.
Excerpted with permission from Gone Viking II: Beyond Bounderies, published by Rocky Mountain Books.