What you don't run into in the city

Alan Elliott
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'Like a dog standing by a hydrant: we shall not be moved.' It's a refrain from a spirit-building song at my old high school, but I can relate freshly now, and it has nothing to do with rooting for the football team.
Although I never take her seriously on the issue, Shunda occasionally suggests the idea of moving somewhere -- here, there, everywhere -- upon retirement. I can't bear the thought and figure that's half the reason why she feels it safe to play pretend.
Take one recent Sunday morning in Halifax. We'd been to the Leonard Cohen concert the evening before, which by the way was the best a person could imagine.
We are now on foot with the girls through the streets, from our hotel to a breakfast destination some blocks away. We pass many quaint restaurants and cafes, can see people chatting over morning coffee or reading papers. Shunda gets warm and fuzzy.
"Gee honey, wouldn't it be nice to live in Halifax? Maybe when we retire, we could sell our place and get an apartment."
I offer my usual 'good sense' response reserved for such occasions: all the financial reasons why that would put us on the brink of a fiery pit. And I'd be the kind of guy to go out for breakfast each day the first week, then get tired of it and only exit the apartment if I hear a fire alarm.
You know how it is. You can't take the country out of the boy. I love visiting Halifax, but in general find cities give me the whillies. I keep running into strange occurrences.
Take the afternoon before, for instance. We're doing our usual mall crawling and I wander over to the country's largest book chain. Before browsing the shelves I make a quick trip to the washroom.
Inside, I see no one, but am immediately aware of a voice. I note there's only one toilet stall, which is where the voice is. Hmm, if this is an intimate liaison someone's not being very discreet. As I go about my business, I realize by the tone and the conversation that the guy is alone and on a cellphone. OK, a little weird, but.... Trying not to eavesdrop, I hear the rustling as the guy goes about his business and wonder, is he wearing a hands-free set, or is he some sort of one-armed paper hanger or what?
I realize I'm somewhat developmentally delayed in ways, but that's not the sort of thing I run into in the washrooms of the hinterlands I ordinarily find myself using.
Still on our way to the restaurant, we pass Government House, see the backyard all in a state of reparation.
I say to our eldest, Molly, "You know kid, play your cards right and one day you could be the lieutenant governor. Queen's representative in Nova Scotia. You'd get to live in that mansion, if they ever get it fixed up."
Molly exhibits her typical non-enthusiasm. "Sure," I coax, "we could visit you. You could form a reception line for us when we come over."
Visit ... there's the operative word. I don't think I could live there even if they get it gussied up, even if they put in a ce-ment swimming pond.
We arrive at the breakfast destination and find an overflow crowd waiting for tables. It'll be at least a half-hour. But this is the place to go. I'm starting to get the picture.
Back home, I'm on a week's vacation -- working vacation. I spend much of the time installing new flooring, wearing my knees to the bone, trying to ignore the kink in my back.
Each day, though, I get out with the dog for our usual woodland hike. Each day I find some fiddleheads and have them for lunch. In the evenings, when I break from the flooring job, I sip on a couple of home brews. I look upon my work and see that it is good.
I dwell upon this country mouse-city mouse tale and it's one of those 'I can't believe we're having this conversation moments.' Thank God it's only pretend.

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