Stephen Osborne says goodbye to Stephen Harper
The 99: Bus Without Pity
On the day Stephen Harper disappeared from public life, in October of 2015, I pinned a poppy to my coat for the first time in years. I had given up poppy-wearing as a protest against Stephen Harper, specifically as protest against the obnoxious policies of Stephen Harper, the obnoxious non-policies of Stephen Harper, the craven ethics of Stephen Harper and above all the person and the name of Stephen Harper; my unstated intention was to protest all aspects of Stephen Harper as they continued from term to term to reveal themselves in their obnoxiousness, by the strenuous non-wearing of the poppy from November to November, etc., until the day that Stephen Harper would be out there no more, looming over the national horizon. That day came in October, and I who had grown ashamed to be a citizen of this country grew rapidly much less ashamed.
A few weeks later, on Remembrance Day, the rain stopped in Vancouver and the sun shone in a windy blue sky; a breeze blew: a day for walking around with a poppy in your lapel. I went down the hill and walked through the park and then over to the Skytrain and took the Skytrain downtown and walked down a hill and up a hill and around the courthouse. Then I went into the Hudson’s Bay Company and took the express elevator to Men’s Wear and bought a new shirt of light denim and one of heavier denim. I went back to the elevator where there was a sign by the entrance to the men’s room: This washroom is patrolled by Asset Protection. A door marked Associates Only swung open and a big man with shopping bags came through. Great view of the city in there, he said. You might take a picture. He showed me how to unlock the door to get back out. I went through and looked at the view: it was not very interesting. A woman’s voice echoed down the staircase. You shouldn’t be here, said the voice. You’re not an associate, are you?—these stairs are only for associates, you know. I pressed the button the big man had shown me and went back the way I had come. Farther down Granville Street I went into the Mongolian Grill and filled a small plate with carrot slices, broccoli, three kinds of mushrooms, shrimp, squid slices, fat noodles and red onions. The grill man dumped everything on the grill and poured on the sauce, Thai garlic and chili, and grilled it all up; I sat by the window: the window glass was cold. Out on the sidewalk people were walking up and down, some with poppies, some without. It was the last poppy-wearing day of the year. Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the author of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World. Read his most recent piece, “Insurgency,” and many other works at geist.com.
Associate View, HBC, 6th floor