Sunday, October 02, 2011

[It's slightly past the opportune time for some birthday stories, but I found this draft post from 2006 while trawling through my unpublished posts. Commence obligatory birthday post.]

The first story takes place on my 18th birthday back in 2002, while I was in Quebec on a 4-H exchange trip. I had been staying with my exchange family for about a week, and since they smoked in the house all the time you have to imagine me in a state of being unable to talk out loud, and being unable to inhale without coughing violently. For a week. [Editor's note: I was able to recreate the sensation using only Cuban-grown mold and pestilent travelmates this past winter.]

Now imagine me having spent two days sitting in a barn in Quebec City waiting while all the French people walked around in a circle, pulling cattle around on ropes. But not just any cattle. First, there was an elaborate ritual that involved clipping their hair in such a way as to make them look bonier, then painting the black spots black. Then carting them to Quebec City and pulling them around on ropes in circles.

Then they made me pull one around in a circle, in front of a lot of people. I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Did I mention that these people all spoke French and I don't speak French? All that my exchange person was able to communicate with me was something about a "Joooje" (judge). Whatever.

So the first night in Quebec City we stayed in a hotel. The second night (the night of my birthday), we stayed in a pig barn. Oh yes, a pig barn. But not just any pig barn. This one had some stalls (for lack of a better term) containing bunk beds with festering mattresses on them and garbage all over the floors. Apparently you were supposed to pay to sleep there, but as I said they were no more than stalls, and the walls didn't go all the way up to the ceiling, so we climbed over the wall and commandeered some more "rooms." Very early in the morning, all you could hear was the BEEP BEEP BEEP of tractors cleaning out the pig-portion of the barn. There was another 4-H exchange person from Manitoba there too, and we sat around waiting and joking about how slow these French people were, and I said something about how I bet one of us would miss our flights back home two days later. Yes, good joke Megan.

This wasn't part of my birthday-day, but they dropped me off at the airport in Montreal half an hour before my plane was scheduled to leave (keep in mind that this was the summer of 2002, still in the wake of the whole 9/11 deal, and people were supposed to be at airports at least an hour or two in advance). So I did miss my plane, and they gave me a ticket for the next flight and told me to go through the express line, but the lady wouldn't let me go through it and refused to speak English to me. So I missed the next flight, and by that time I was getting very uneasy because I had to make a connection to get to Saskatoon, and that flight only goes once a day. Finally I got on a flight and very fortunately the connection to Saskatoon was delayed.

I am never going to Quebec again.

Now let's fastforward to my 21st birthday (last year [Editor's note: gosh this is an old post]). I had been working at camp for a week, and the last day of camp happened to be my birthday. So, there was the traditional last-day-of-camp party, which was extra big because it was also the last camp of the summer. The idea was to drink a lot, but it was also a Sunday and all the refreshment stores were closed. So, we got me about 8 of those Red Bull type drinks.... I can't imagine why. I drank 3 of them and got too sleepy and had to go home (and also had to stop for several naps along the way [Editor's note: I realize now that what I interpreted as sleepy episodes throughout that summer were actually the first rumblings of my migraine problem]).

So those are my two most memorable birthdays. Growing up, every birthday was quiet, spent at my parents' farm, because nobody remembers summer birthdays.

[Editor's note: this concludes the original draft, and a slight updation is in order. Here follows this year's birthday story.]

I have a self-defeating personality to uphold, and part of the upkeep involves insisting that I don't want my birthday acknowledged. At work, this sentiment is sincere; I don't want the whole office to gather round the glow of a lighted cake and sing happy birthday to me (impatiently, because the sooner the song is over the sooner CAKE TIME). Fortunately, almost nobody actually knows my birthdate, except one single person whose own birthday happens to be the day before mine (and to whom I am quite certain I'd expounded at length about my dislike of birthdays).

I feel somewhat secure in the fact that my birthday falls upon a Sunday this year. But the Friday before, there is an evil plot afoot. I begin to worry when a good friend lets slip that she knows it's a special day. The next time I see the person who knows my birthday is pending (let's call him Banjo), I quietly ask him to kindly not tell anybody. To my surprise, he becomes suddenly angry and stalks off. About two minutes later, Banjo comes in the office with a card that he's secretly gotten everyone in the office to sign, along with the dreaded candle-lit cake. I manage to choke back my fury fairly well.

The great joke in all this, of course, is that it's not actually my birthday until Sunday; in fact, it will be Banjo's birthday sooner than it will be my own.