Almost one year ago today I walked into my first grad class. The first thought I had was, wow that girl is gorgeous. But the very next one was wow, that man is huge, and he’s smiling like he won the lottery.
And not once over the next eleven months did I ever see him frown. Not once did I ever bump into him without receiving a smile, a firm handshake, and interest in how my life was going. And that includes when I was privileged enough to shake his hand last week before we both went back home for a while. The most intimidating man on campus may well have been the nicest. I don’t even know what’s going on right now; someone’s surely pulling one over on me and I can’t wait to find out that it was all in bad taste.
This past winter a group of five or six of us went to the pub to watch some hockey and they were all speaking French so that I could practice mine. Then in walks this big smiling savage to sit down for a quick six pints with us. The first thing he asks is how I’m doing.
As soon as we join the rest in conversation he looks across at me and sees my confused face, then immediately jumps in with, “Whoa, whoa, come on, guys! En Anglais! Pour Rob!” I laughed and raised my beer to him; no need to even explain that it was okay. I mean, who would defy this:
If it wasn’t a laugh in the bar, it was a laugh in the classroom. While I may have won the award for worst graduate presentation ever, he certainly won some of the best. How do you follow a 6’3” Superman who just said, with a straight face, that if his patients are too overweight for his study, “well, you can just get out of here because we can’t use you,” or when they control for their diets, “then they can go eat half a McCain pizza or whatever.” The answer is, you can’t follow that; it’s one thing to be obviously funny on purpose but it’s a whole other ball game when no one can tell because you don’t break character, and you still nail the rest of your talk with an actual passionate knowledge of your topic. Well-played by the statistical linguist behind the “MANova” test. I can assure you that it was all a perfect mix of Francophone English and true desire for a good laugh.
A perfect example. And yes, this was published.
Of course, as soon as the weather got nice this spring we made plans to golf, but it would have to wait until I picked up my clubs from back home. Later, we made plans to golf, but it would have to wait until I got back from my trip out west. When I got back we made plans to golf, but it would have to wait until I caught up on all my missed work. Finally, we made plans to golf, but we’d have to wait until we both came back from home, next week, so we shook on it.
I’m Sorry, Big Mike, I guess this time I’ll be waiting.
We all know I love a good story, as dark as it may be. And I love to hear views of this world that contrast with superficiality; with dinner-table talk.. I’m sure yours was, and I want to hear it. For fuck’s sake I wish you’d have let me.
Believe me, I see the irony in it all.
So thanks for the big laughs, big smiles, and big handshakes, especially that last one. And don’t worry that I’ll never see a frozen pizza again without thinking of you. You forced me to learn some things the hard way; maybe the only way.
What I mean to say is, fuck you, but I understand.
Rest well, friend.