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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Guilty as Sin!

September 15, 1995

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more."

Last Sunday, I was that poor player.  And while I did not exactly strut and fret, I did have my few minutes on the stage, glowing and simpering as, in close harmony, a collectively handsome male quartet crooned a ode to my enduring loveliness. 

It was the opening night of the Frantic Follies, of course, loud and boistrous and great fun for everyone.  'Ceptin' me and, maybe, Herb Wahl, similarly snared and hauled up into the spotlight by a seductive feather boa.  For two such shy and shrinking violets, it was an ordeal, nevermind that "Pookie" Wahl made the most of the moment under cover of the aforementioned boa while I almost made it to the men's dressing room during the closing notes of Sweet Sixteen.  We were both thwarted: Herb, by an alert and experienced Marie Gogo, who managed to pinion his hands in time to save them both from the censors, and I, by stage security, just as I was opening the door.  Funny, isn't it, how lathered up men get when their privacy is endangered.  I swear that tenor opera singer was screaming in soprano!

It was a wonderful evening, altogether.  The girls were lovely, their gowns, gorgeous; the guys, young and handsome and discerning.  Marie Gogo was a delight - both raunchy AND elegant, reminding me a little of an early Gillian Campbell.  The Barbecuing of Sam was fun, as always, and Major Brown gets younger and better-looking every year, the ice worms, squirmier and their eyes, beadier.

Put me in mind of the eyes of the customs officials we encountered earlier, on a day trip over to Skagway.  Those people are so nice, so friendly but they sure don't miss a trick.

"How are you folks today?"  The US Customs officer stooped and smiled in at us.  I stiffened slightly, darting a quick look at the box of cough drops on the dash.  Would he care that I was still coughing and sniffling from the flu I'd been packing around since Christmas, I wondered.  "We're fine, all of us, healthy as can be, not carrying any kinds of disease," I asserted, looking him right in the nostril.  "Just going over to Skagway for a picnic.  Not gonna buy anything, no sir, not us, not a thing..." 

The officer cut through my nattering.  "Are you carrying any firearms or alcohol?"  His gimlet eye bored a hole in my big stainless steel thermos.  "Alcohol?  Us?  Not us, we don't drink, nope, not a drop.  Just water.  Or sometimes a little coffee.  Put a bit of cream in 'er but that's all, wouldn't think of adding Bailey's or Kahlua, spoil the flavour of the coffee, hahahaha."

Fortunately, the Customs official recognized my mother and our friend, Ross, for the solid, law-abiding citizens that they are, and ignoring my angst-provoked chuntering, waved us through.

I don't know, there's something about a man in uniform that does things to me.  In the presence of one, I get all shifty-eyed and rosy and if he happened to be looking for a body, the trunk of my olden- golden Ford is the first place he would investigate. 

One day, I inadvertently drove smack-dab into the lineup for a traffic check stop.  Panicked, I tried to turn out and go back the way I'd come but before I could complete my wild-eyed maneuvering, the RCMP constable had waved me up and politely asking for my driver's licence and registration.  I couldn't lay my hands on either.

"I know I have them," I told him breathlessly, dumping my purse out on the passenger's seat.  Rummaging through the wadded up Kleenix and gum wrappers and money, I finally found the elusive slips of paper and surrendered them with a bright and phoney smile.  "Here you are, I'm sorry to take so ....."  Both my voice and my smile petered out as he took the proffered papers and returned to the patrol car to check them out while another officer bade me turn on my lights. 

Lights?  Oh God!  Which one was the the light switch?  I pulled one lever after another. The wipers swished back and forth on the dry windshield and the signal light began it's insistent clicking.  The constable came to my window, reached in and pulled out the toggle on the dash, walked back and glanced at the headlights. Seconds later, he came back and asked me to step on the brakes, that he might check those light, as well. 

Sweating profusely, I mashed the pedal into the floorboard and glanced into the rearview mirror.  In the bluish glass, I saw him gazing back, expectantly.  Flushing, I looked away but held my pose, leg quivering with the effort of holding down the brake.

Ater a long moment, the constable stalked back to my window.  "Would you please step down the brake and keep it down."  It was not a question.  "I am..." I quavered, pushing harder on the pedal.  He peered past my lap.  "The BRAKE, mam, please.  You're stepping on the clutch."

Well, as it turned out, my car was deemed street-worthy and, after a surreptitious peek into the trunk, they graciously invited me to have a nice day.  Before they could change their minds, I quickly stuffed everything back in my purse and made my get away.  But not, of course, before I had jammed the gear shifter into reverse, causing at least one young officer to leap nimbly to the side to avoid being struck down in the first bloom of manhood.  As I fumbled for a forward gear,  I chanced a quick peep over my shoulder.  The constable appeared to be mouthing something in my direction. 

I don't think he was singing Sweet Sixteen.

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