It happens every year. I wake up in the morning to a world of white. Not just on the ground, but in the air. The temperature plummets and the white stuff just keeps coming down. Later in the day I dig my little car out from under the snow and head across town to BiBO to pour wine for whoever might show up on such a night. Usually I grumble to myself about risking life and limb on such a night to get to a job that, well let’s just say, doesn’t save lives. All the cars heading the other direction taunt me,”We’ll be home soon and will curl up with our families with hot soup and love…” (sigh).
I make it across the river and up the big hill and when I wheel into my parking spot I wisely back up a couple of times to make tracks so I won’t get stuck when I leave in the dead of night. It’s late of course, so there are about ten minutes to tidy the bar, get ice and open up before five o’clock. I’m a pro, I flick on the OPEN sign and face the door expectantly.
Nothing. That’s okay. Traffic is bad and my local peeps probably aren’t home yet. So, I do some re-organizing, re-stocking, check my inventory levels and make sure there’s enough food in the fridge. The door opens… it’s chef. I’ve left the ice bucket in the back alley. Oh well. We have a conversation about the upcoming changes to the Culina list and about integrating our inventories so that when a guest has wine at BiBO, they’ll be able to have it at Culina as well. He leaves.
I check the twitter feed and encourage everyone to come into BiBO to get outta the cold. Check Facebook, emails… watch some you-tube. I need to use the bathroom, but I think if I do, guests will come in while I’m in there. What the heck. I turn off the music so I can hear if people come in, sneak into the wash closet and sit down. Immediately I hear the front door open and three people come in. I can hear them. “Oh what a cute space! Do you think they’re open? Yes. the sign was on…” etc. I quickly wash my hands and head out. Sort of embarrassed, I make the transition from ghost to host and try to make these first-timers comfortable.
It’s always a little weird for BiBO virgins because there’s no paper wine list, just my handwritten chalk board, but these people were game and they tried my suggestions. They were very nice and ordered a little bit of food while they waited for their colleague.
As we got to know one another, I discovered that they all work at Sofra, a Turkish place downtown with a stellar reputation. They had just suffered a flood from upstairs pipes and were in the midst of a clean-up. That’s why they were out on such a night, because they (like me) work most nights and don’t get the chance to try places that people talk about. I’ve always wanted to go to Sofra, but thought they were closed the same nights as me. I was very happy to find out that they’re open on Sundays so I can take my boys some Sunday night soon!
We talked about reviews and how frustrating they can be. Sofra got one review that said the food was good but that there’s garlic in everything. The chef assured me there was garlic only in the dishes that called for garlic. Less than half the menu. I laughed and told them about the review that I once had that said the service was good and the wine too and that I had a small list of appetizers that I heated up in the micro-wave. I’ve never had a micro-wave. A toaster oven yes, but a micro-wave? Please.
Their cold colleague finally showed up and we warmed her with good wine and some candied pecans. All in all it was a very nice visit and while I would have liked to be busier, it’s always a delight to have time to talk to wonderful new friends.
They left. I cleaned up, polished the stem-ware and settled down to watch some more you-tube. The door opened. It was my friend Tippy. He said he and his gal were coming in if I was going to be open. I promised to stay until they came in and settled back down in front of the i-pad.
Ten o’clock came and the door opened again! It was Claria from next door. “Your guests can’t make it.” she said, “They’re coming in tomorrow”. …and the door closed. So I closed. Snapped off the OPEN sign, cleaned up, cashed out and dragged the sandwich board inside and headed next door to put my cash out in the safe.
Claria was finishing her closing duties and asked how likely I thought it would be to get a cab. I told her if she’d called an hour ago, maybe… and offered to drive her home. She accepted gratefully and I went out to dig the car out again. If you aren’t lucky enough to know Claria, picture this: A tiny lady, about 5’2″ with an Amy Winehouse bouffant hair-do, creamy pale skin weighing in at about 82 pounds. She climbed into the car and we backed out of the parking stall. Almost. After much rocking and back and forthing, she got out of the car to push. I didn’t hold out much hope. Tiny pixie against one ton Mini. But she did it! …and then we got stuck in the narrow alley. Really stuck. As hard as she tried and as much as I rocked, we could not get out. But this is Alberta! Just when all seemed lost, two strong boys showed up and offered to push us out.
After many tries and a run home to get a shovel, the three of them managed to push me out backwards so Clara could finally get in out of the cold. As I drove her home, my son called (it’s ok. I have bluetooth.) and asked if I could pick him up on my way home.
So, I dropped Claria off on the nearest main road by her house, not wanting to risk getting stuck on a side road, and drove back across the river. As I approached the place my son works, I realized that if I stopped, I’d be stuck again. About a block away, there was a small clear space where I stopped and called him to tell him where to meet me.
After the short drive home, as I approached the house I realized again the if I parked in the snow drift in front of the house, I’d be stuck for days. So, I slowed down and let my son jump out of the car, asking him to shovel the road for me while I drove around trying not to get stuck. He’s a good Alberta boy too and had a wide swath dug out in short order. So I finally made it home.
As I put the kettle on to make us each a hot whisky, I reflected on the crazy weather and how Edmontonians just don’t let it get to them. If a person can’t get a cab, you drive them home. If someone’s stuck, you push them out. In all my days here, I’ve never heard of a ‘snow day’. I’ve been hopelessly stuck more than a couple of times, only to have some good samaritan push me out and you can’t even stop to say thanks or you’ll get stuck again! It’s just a wave and a smile I guess, hoping one day you’ll be able to pay it forward.