Friday, July 29, 2011

Maze Rat - Season One

Quite mysteriously, the Paul McCartney show had not been an issue the night before!

I finished the 11pm newscast and effortlessly made my way through the streets around and behind the concert venue and then, smoothly drove up on to the highway.

Wednesday night, when I pulled out of the garage at the very same time, there were people everywhere! The former Beatle had obviously decided to make the last of his two shows in Montreal, a longer one, or perhaps a snapped cane had detained him. Freshly-released concert-goers were casually crossing streets, filling sidewalks and carelessly weaving through traffic. St-Antoine Street, directly behind the venue, had, conveniently, been closed by police.

Along with the cab in front of me, I eventually made an illegal turn south onto Peel Street, hoping to escape the torment of bumper-to-bumper traffic!

I turned west onto Notre-Dame Street and endured horribly bumpy roads and red lights, thinking with unshakeable certainty, t’is far better to be moving, than not.

I was pretty sure at that point I'd make it all the way to the 20 along this route, but, most conveniently, Notre-Dame was closed at St-Remi. An accomplished problem-solver, I decisively turned north on to St-Remi and accelerated. A split second later, I stopped the car and stared at the large truck, stuck halfway through the one-lane tunnel. It was, quite conveniently, not going anywhere! Its hazard signals blinked mockingly as people milled about, gesturing.

I must reluctantly admit that, by now, I was barely sane anymore.

I didn't want to enter the tunnel because cars behind me would pen me in, preventing me from ever backing out. Crazily, I contemplated the southbound side of the tunnel. It beckoned me with oncoming headlights and, after allowing a car to pass, I made a mad dash for daylight, zooming northward through the tunnel in the southbound lane.The panel truck behind me, followed. We made it to St-Jacques where, once I began heading west, I found myself  in the hospital construction zone. I made it through there fairly quickly and began travelling west along St-Jacques, enduring horribly bumpy roads and red lights, thinking with unshakeable certainty, t’is far better to be moving, than not.

I could only conclude I had inadvertently steered my car on to the set of “Maze Rat”, the new game show!

I pointed the car into the access lane emptying onto westbound 20 and sighed with relief. On the highway now, as I zoomed through the curve, I suddenly realized traffic in front of me was completely stopped! There was nobody behind me, so I slowed and stopped, leaving a large gap between myself and the stopped car in front. I turned on the "hazards" to warn idiots like myself, who might come speeding up behind me, failing to realize traffic was at a standstill.

I had left work at about 11:40pm and painstakingly crawled through that stretch until 12:35, as the far left lane gradually crammed into the middle lane and then, as the middle lane gradually crammed itself into the far right lane. In no particular order, I cursed, crabbed, gritted and whimpered. There was no one in the closed lanes, no sign of a construction worker or a useful construction tool. I finally made it on to northbound 13 and assumed nothing.

I should have known it would be one of those nights by virtue of how my drive had begun.The cameraman who was working the late shift left early, having cleverly factored-in the concert, construction and finishing fireworks. As I wound my way through the underground garage after my shift, I arrived at exit level to find a shiny white vehicle blocking my path.

Instantly, having developed rather acute olfactory prowess, I caught the unmistakable scent of manure and methane gas. The car was packed with wal-mart oxen! Noticing me behind them, they inched their vehicle toward the barrier, not knowing what to do next. They tried to put the ticket in the slot, but the task was far too delicate for the large-hoofed oxen at the wheel! They sat there. Grunting restlessly, they appeared to be discussing their next move. I knew I wouldn’t approve. They did nothing. I waited, pretending to be courteous. Pretending to be politically correct, I shall choose now, not to mention nationalities.

Eventually, the attendant came out and explained to the oxen they had to pay the ticket before driving to the exit. He told them to circle back in order to pay at the machine. They sat there. He gestured again, telling them to loop around and go pay the ticket. They sat there, tails flicking flies off their big butts. He gestured in my direction and again, made the "loop around" gesture. They sat there. After several tedious minutes, a hoof tentatively emerged from the window, clutching dollar bills. The attendant refused to go pay the ticket for them, waving his hands from side to side. They sat there. I sat there. The hoof didn’t budge, hanging dumbly in the air until the attendant gave in. As he walked in front of my car on his way to a machine, I shouted through lowered windows, “Can’t you let me go around them?” He replied, “I will pay the ticket.”

Smoke shot from my ears and I leaned on the horn.

A male oxen clumsily opened the back door of the car and looked at me with big bovine eyeballs. I heard a thud and, at first, thought one of the horns on his head had hit the door frame, but I realized he had banged the car door againt the concrete podium supporting the ticket machine. I bet the door was dented; tee hee! As I looked back at him, I impatiently screwed my index finger back and forth against my temple, congratulating him on having reached the pinnacle of oxenhood. He gestured with two hands and closed the door.

Last night, for sanity’s sake, I decided to take the train. No bumpy roads, detours and red lights for me. I boarded, thinking with unshakeable certainty, t’is far better to be moving, than not.

Alas, it turns out the last train from Montreal carries freak freight, with oblivious oxen scattered about, eagerly pulling off their shoes and propping their smelly hooves up on seats. The guy who’d staggered into the train with a much steadier friend, regaled us with wretches, heaves and the sound of plopping vomit. The friend had brought a clear, plastic bag big enough to hold a yard full of leaves.

I got off the train vowing that, tonight, I’d give the car another chance.

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