I Almost Fought an Old Man in Canada

That sounds like one of those Facebook things your friends pass around: "If your first name starts with an R and your date of birth was in 1992 then you are a red ninja who fights old men in Canada because a hot dog pissed on your mom." But it's true. I went to Canada, possibly the nicest place on earth, and found myself in an aggressive argument with an old man. Oh, and we were at a garden. Watching fireworks.

Kat and I spent the weekend in Victoria, BC, touring around the city and doing fun touristy things and not judging ourselves for eating things like poutine. It was a blast! I had never been to Canada, and the tiny portion I saw was wonderful. True to stereotype, the Canadians I met were friendly, slightly more outgoing than the average American, and equipped with darling accents that made it hard not to smile patronizingly every time I heard "you betcha." It was great. If I had any marketable skills to offer the commonwealth I would apply for a visa this instant and begin trying to relocate. Sadly, Canada knows better than to take in a loudmouthed American who complains for a living.

SIDE NOTE: You can tell it's an election year when almost everyone in America, on both sides of the political spectrum, is threatening to move to Canada if so and so gets elected or if such and such a law gets passed. Guess what: Canada doesn't want you. It's not America's backyard; you don't get to go hang out there because you're mad at mom and dad. There is no visa for whiny assholes upset about the results of an election. Stop saying that. You sound like an entitled asshat with no understanding of the real world.

Saturday night we headed out to Butchart Gardens, an "internationally known tourist attraction" which is basically a huge botanical garden full of roses and dahlias and other flowers I am too dumb to recognize. It's neat. It's also got a neat history: it was once a limestone quarry, and then some limestone quarry owner's wife was pissed that her mansion overlooked what was basically a pit into the bowels of hell, so she hired all the miners to fill it back in and landscape the whole thing. Then it gradually passed through the family until it became kind of a gift to the public and most recently a tourist trap. 

Anyway, we walked around the gardens oohing and aahing at various plants like respectable, civilized people would before making our way to a large hill where a fireworks display was set to begin. Now I could tell by all the walking and the constant flow of people that Butchart Gardens is huge, and could hold a large number of guests, but it wasn't until I saw them all shoved together on a hillside, jockeying for position like Wildebeests at a watering hole that I realized what a clusterfuck it would be. Kat and I milled around aimlessly at the very back before plopping down on the grass. I was determined to enjoy the night and not focus instead on the people blocking our view. It was a fireworks show, after all! As long as no one blotted out the sky we'd be fine.

Except we were sitting atop a large hill, and the display was at the bottom. Many of the fireworks did make it up into the sky for us to appreciate, but a lot of stuff was happening down low, and unfortunately two enormous women were blocking our view.

I too, am an enormous person. I am extra sensitive about the space I occupy and try very hard to not be the obnoxious fat man blocking people's view, trampling people underfoot, or eating in any space where someone could see me and point. Part of that's my own baggage, but part of it I like to think is just common courtesy. Kat and I were mumbling to each other a bit about the poor viewing conditions when a man sitting in front of us spoke up.

"If you sat down we could all see the show, y'know." Polite, but firm. Loud enough for not only the target but several bystanders to hear. I liked this man immensely. I am no stranger to etiquette vigilanteism. Were I given Superman's powers the world would be conquered by aliens while I kept flinging people who cut others off in traffic into the sun. One of the women briefly squatted down, but the more bovine of the two refused to acknowledge it. Eventually her partner stood back up, too.

More attempts were launched, escalating slightly in tone. Two different women, one seemingly elderly, approached the women and asked them to sit. Both were rebuffed. "Well, fuck us then," I said to no one in particular.

"I guess so," my fellow vigilante nodded. I bit my lip. I was in a foreign country, out of my jurisdiction, and supposed to be on a nice romantic weekend with my wife. This wasn't my fight. But the woman was hellbent on making it my fight. A few more fireworks watchers hooted at her to sit down. She turned around.

"I heard you," she grumbled before turning back around and photographing more fireworks. 

Side Note: Why are you videotaping photographs? Half the fireworks display was drowned out by the backlit screens in the crowd. Cameras, iPods, even iPads were out in full force. What are you capturing, exactly? Who wants to see that photo? "Oh, this is a firework exploding." "Uh huh." You're trying to capture a moment, but cameras don't capture moments. At best, you've taken an adequate representation of what a firework looks like. At worst it's a blurry, grainy shot of some random sparks. Stop it.

More people seem to take the cow-lady's lead and what was once two enormous women is now five or six people standing and blocking the show for a large portion of us. They don't respond to any of the crowd's repeated calls for them to sit down. I can take no more. This is my Dark Knight Rises moment. I stand. I stride confidently towards the group. I tap each one on the shoulder once and say, calmly but firmly, "Sit down or move, please." I move to each one and they disperse in turn. Except for the old dude.

"I ain't fuckin' sittin' on the ground," he growls at me while pointing his camcorder at the fireworks. He's probably 70-something. He reminds me of my great-grandfather. I understand why he doesn't want to sit on the ground; it had been raining and he's wearing slacks. It's also probably really hard for him to get down on the ground gracefully or stand up once he's down there.

"That's fine, that's why you have the option to move," my reply is cheery but direct.

"You gonna make me move?" He does move, but only so he is now standing directly in front of me.

I have never wanted so badly in my life to drop an old man to the ground.

It takes only milliseconds, but the scenario runs through my head on repeat: I grab his shoulders, put a foot in the back of his knee, and plop him right down on his ass. Maybe the crowd applauds. Of course I don't do that because A) He's an old man, and B) I'm in a foreign country and for all I know he's the oldest surviving Canadian War Hero and attacking him would trigger an international incident. Newspapers whirl into focus in my mind: BELLIGERENT AMERICAN TACKLES GOODLY GRANDFATHER: 'I just wanted my dying granddaughter to see fireworks before she died of Americancer,' solemn old man intones nobly. So I don't. Instead I pat him on the shoulder and say, "Hey, way to be an asshole, buddy," and walk back to Kat.

We could still the fireworks around his old wrinkly ass, anyway. And this way I'm not barred from entry to any foreign soil. Yet.

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