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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Year Seventeen - Perdu à Montréal

Well, after a brief break from the retrospective part of anniversary month, we are back with another story from another year.

And fortunately, today's year was a hell of a lot happier than the previous one.

Yeah, sixteen wasn't quite so sweet.  In fact, it was one Sour Patch Kid shy of being a completely bitter experience.  But thankfully, the experience, as horrible as it was, didn't leave me with bitterness at all.  I suppose that in a way I'm strangely glad I went through it.  It allowed me to be more cautious with people, and it made me realize that I didn't have to rely on toxic friendships just for the sake of having friendships in the first place.

Sixteen was a real soul searching year for me, and I remember spending lots of nights thinking about what happened to me while watching David Letterman on late night television - I still can't believe that tonight is his last show ever!  My, how time flies. 

But here we are at the edge of seventeen - a much better year indeed!

Seriously!  Seventeen was a year in which I completely stopped trying to impress people and just focused on those who I knew would have my back.  Let's face it - I had walked the same hallways that they had walked in for three years and they wanted nothing to do with me.  Why bother, right?

But don't you think that this was a defeatist attitude.  Far from it.  And, I'll explain what I mean in today's tale from the teen years.

First things first, a picture of my big, bad 17-year-old self.

Now, this photo came from my yearbook, and I have to say that I really liked the layout of our class photos that year.  Instead of having our photos in the traditional rows, they were placed in little Polaroid picture frames with our names written on the bottom of them.  Props to the yearbook staff who actually spelled my last name correctly!  You wouldn't believe how it's been butchered over the years.

And, what was happening in pop culture the week I turned 17?  Have a look!

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1998
"Too Close" - NEXT

Aside from their 2000 single "Wifey", does anyone else know what other songs they had out?  I'm stumped.  But after a quick search on Google, they apparently released a new single on iTunes in late 2014.  I should check it out.

"Deep Impact"

There were two films about space junk potentially destroying the entire world as we know it - "Armageddon" and this one.  Unfortunately, I liked "Armageddon" better. 


Well, after a brief hiatus, "ER" comes back to being the #1 show of the year.  In this season, Kellie Martin ("Life Goes On") joins the cast and George Clooney takes his final bow as a main cast member, choosing to focus on a big screen career.  I don't think that decision hurt his career all that much.

So, what happened at seventeen?  Well, I became an uncle for a third time!  See, both my sisters were expecting the same year.  One nephew was born in May, and the other was born in August.  My family was becoming bigger, and that was always exciting to see - even though birthdays and Christmases were beginning to leave me broke all the time.  And my ceiling in my bedroom was patched up.

But I think the most defining moment of my seventeenth year was the time that I went on a field trip, got lost in the city, and held the bus that brought us there up for nearly an hour behind schedule! 

Hey, the way I saw it, we did the rest of the class a favour.  They had a whole extra hour to see the sights of Montreal, Quebec!  Sure, the teachers didn't see it that way, but I still maintain that getting lost in Montreal was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Especially since I was sharing the experience with a couple of friends.

It was the tail end of eleventh grade - the year in high school that I gladly would have skipped if I had the chance to.  And approximately three weeks after I turned seventeen (which would make the date sometime between June 8-12, 1998), our French class was scheduled to take a class trip to Montreal to test our knowledge of the language and to experience some of the sights and culture of the city.  The trip was for students enrolled in the Grade 10 and Grade 11 classes (for some reason, my school never offered French in twelfth grade), which meant that three classes of students would be going on the trip.

Now, as part of the trip, we had to embark on a scavenger hunt throughout Old Montreal, where we had to answer questions based on historical landmarks and shops in the area (for instance, the question would be something like "Which church did Celine Dion get married in?", and we would have to write down our answers - in French, of course.  The team that answered the most questions correctly won a prize.

Now, had French been a part of my schedule for first semester, I would have had a really difficult time finding a team.  With all that was going on, I didn't trust anybody, and I avoided group assignments like the plague because of it.  It probably caused me to get dismal grades (my marks in Grade 11 were really poor due to all the stress that I was under), but let's face it.  My goal at that time was to survive high school no matter how badly I did in it.

But in second semester, I befriended a guy who had become a new student in September of 1997.  His name was David, and for some reason, we never shared any classes at all first semester!  But then again, I wasn't really paying attention to anyone in any of my classes, as again - trust issues.

But David was different.  He knew nothing about what I had gone through over those three years.  He was impartial.  And even if he heard some of the stories about me, he really didn't care.  All that he knew was that we got along great, and I think that by the time the Montreal trip came around, he had become one of my closest friends. 

(It actually makes me sad that I've lost touch with David since high school.  Wherever he is, I hope that he's doing well.)

Anyway, David and I shared English and French together, and he easily agreed to be on my scavenger hunt team.  To be honest, I wouldn't have chosen anybody else but David to be on my team.  With the exception of a couple of kids in the class, the majority of the students in my class were people who either never bothered with me, or who were completely against me.

(Remember the story I told you about "Cory", "Sparks" and "Will" in the Year 16 retrospective?  One of them was in my French class that semester.  Enough said.)

But our teachers insisted that all the scavenger hunt teams had to have at least four students.  Though that actually ended up being a good thing, as no rule was set that we had to pair up with kids from our own class.  As it so happened, one of the kids in the Grade 10 class was John, one of my roomies from the Toronto trip that I went on for eighth grade graduation, and he and his friend (I think his name was Eric) became the final two pieces of our team of quatre

So, we took a highway coach to Montreal on a four-hour trip, and it was probably a good thing that we had tinted windows because we pulled up in front of a bench where two people were making out with each other.  In the middle of Old Montreal.  In broad daylight.  I think some kids even took a picture!

Once we got off the bus though, the scavenger hunt was on.  We had two hours to go around Old Montreal, taking our sheets of paper and pens to find as many things as possible.  And from what we could tell, most of the teams gathered around the same areas and traveled in a huge blob - my guess is that they were all working together to try and win the prize.  But our group of four went off in the opposite direction, and we opted to take our time to see the sights and answer the questions slowly.  

And right until we found the church that Celine Dion tied the knot, all four of us stuck together.

But then somehow David and I got separated from John and Eric, and they went one direction and we went the other.  And somehow, David and I got completely lost in the middle of the streets of Montreal.

And we absolutely LOVED it!

Seriously, this was the opportunity that we both had waited for.  We had made the plan to ditch the rest of the class at the first chance we got and see Montreal our own way.  And David and I did exactly that.  Besides, we figured that John and Eric were doing their own thing as well (which they later confirmed was true), so we took full advantage.

We went into the various souvenir shops, trying our best to speak French and getting really nasty looks from the shopkeepers (believe me, in Old Montreal, they judge you for even using one word of English - at least that's how it was back in 1998, anyway).  Despite this, I brought home a set of pencils, a cat puzzle for my niece, and a stuffed turtle for my nephew (the other nephew hadn't been born yet).  We took a trip down every side alley in a half-assed attempt to complete the scavenger hunt, but really we only wanted to take in the ambience of the city and couldn't have cared less about the scavenger hunt.  And, admittedly, we spent the better part of twenty minutes hiding out inside of a Harvey's restaurant because we got caught in a torrential downpour during our adventure.  And I imagine that this rainstorm must have happened towards the end of our Montreal adventures because when I checked my watch, we were a good 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet up with the rest of the class to continue our tour of Montreal!

We both raced towards the highway coach where John and Eric had been waiting for us - along with sixty-six other cranky and angry students and teachers.  Our French teacher flat out told us that they were just about ready to call the police to look for us!  I don't know whether she was serious or not, but one thing was for sure...David and I were the last ones to arrive - with only a third of the answers completed on the scavenger hunt!

On top of all that, on our way to New Montreal, we got in traffic on our way, and it took us another half hour to get to our next destination (a shopping plaza).  So, essentially, David and I held up our bus for an hour if you take into account the crazy Montreal traffic.

Here's the thing.  It's not as if our failure to get to the bus on time destroyed our trip.  We still got to see everything that was planned on the trip.  We just got back home an hour later than we should have.  Besides, even though David and I ended up lost in Montreal, we still had a great time and made the best of it.  To this day, Montreal remains my favourite memory of high school.

The funny part?  David, John, Eric, and I ended up winning a prize anyway - for coming in DEAD LAST in the scavenger hunt.  

I didn't care though.  I ate every single one of those Smarties that day with pride!

So, that was year seventeen.  Coming up next - year eighteen - and in that year, I once again do some shout-outs as my high school career approached its final stages.

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