Funny Stuff

More of Our Canada - - Contents - Penny Heneke, Burling­ton, Ont.

I pre­ferred not to at­tend an in­ti­mate Christ­mas din­ner party in a posh ho­tel. How­ever, as an in­vi­ta­tion from the idol­ized founder of the com­pany, A.B., as his em­ploy­ees fondly re­ferred to him, was con­sid­ered an honour, I ac­cepted un­der duress from my hus­band, Ken, and his col­leagues. Be­sides, I am of the era where it was deemed a wifely duty to make a good im­pres­sion on her hus­band’s em­ployer, preg­nant or not.

As new im­mi­grants from South Africa, we had to bor­row the com­pany’s pick-up truck to reach the ho­tel. We dis­carded our un­suit­able out­er­wear in the coa­t­room down­stairs; Ken’s parka and my ski jacket with the side zips fully opened to ex­tend across my ex­panded mid­dle were no match to the fur coats.

I was poised to en­ter the room in a bor­rowed full-length, gold ma­ter­nity evening gown that bil­lowed around me like an un­furled sail. I’d swear it was made from cur­tain fab­ric. A.B., whose six-foot, three-inch frame tow­ered over ev­ery­one like a craggy peak in the Rock­ies, dom­i­nated the room. He spot­ted us, and in a voice to match his gi­ant stature, he boomed across the room in Afrikaans: “Voet­sak” which po­litely trans­lated means, “Scram!” As I re­coiled at this less than cor­dial wel­come, A.B. added: “Daar is geen staan­plek hier,” or in plain English,“there’s no park­ing al­lowed here.” He was proudly rec­ol­lect­ing the only two ex­pres­sions he could re­mem­ber from his stay of a few years in South Africa 30 years prior, without re­call­ing their ac­tual mean­ings.

When it was time to be seated, A.B. said, “Come, Jo­han­nes­burg,” call­ing me by the name of my home­town. He led me to the seat be­side him, mean­ing I would have to con­verse with this huge per­son­al­ity through­out the en­tire mul­ti­course meal.

As in­con­spic­u­ously as pos­si­ble, I tucked my seven-month-preg­nant tummy un­der the white linen table­cloth and draped my stole over the back of my chair with A.B.’S so­lic­i­tous help. It was at this point that I no­ticed my an­tique bracelet, a gift from my mother, had lost its sil­ver clasp. I took a dis­creet peek un­der the ta­ble and A.B. im­me­di­ately no­ticed my con­cern. On ex­plain­ing my dilemma, he rose, drew back his chair with a mighty flour­ish and said: “Would you care to stand so we can look un­der the ta­ble?” I re­luc­tantly com­plied, and with tummy ex­posed and a less-than-com­pli­men­tary red face, I be­came the fo­cal point of the party, a some­what in­con­gru­ous “belle of the ball.”

To my hor­ror, the pres­ti­gious 78-year-old gen­tle­man sank to his knees and dis­ap­peared on all fours un­der the ta­ble. All the male guests felt obliged to fol­low their chief’s lead. De­spite the com­mu­nal ef­fort, the clasp to my bracelet was not found un­der the ta­ble, but at the foot of the es­ca­la­tor, some­time later. I doubt that I made a good im­pres­sion on A.B, but I guess I could be cred­ited with bring­ing him to his knees.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.