he lept off, unclipping himself from his shiny pedals and hung the bike from the fence at shoulder height rather than lock it to a fencepost.
i was sitting alone, off to one side of the huge newly renovated dressing room, on one of the new benches all done up in maple leafs' blue and white.
he sat down directly in front of me.
tossing his huge MEC teal and purple expedition pack down next to him, he began to unlace his bike shoes.
"Yes! It Sure is a Great Day Out. Nice weather today." he stated boldly.
i looked up, and wondered who he was talking to. he was looking at his shoes. remembering his fancy bike, and noting his fancy accessories, i assumed he was talking to someone on a tiny cellphone headset somewhere in the folds of his high performance cycling hood.
i tucked my boots into the cubby under the bench and began lacing up my skate.
"You're going to have to get your HOCKEY PADS!" he went on, "Looks like we're going to need YOU out on the ice today, then!"
this time i noticed he was looking straight at me. i was still working under the hypothesis that he was talking on a cell phone, but he looked like he expected a reply from me so gave him my best noncommittal half smile. he was speaking quite loudly, which i took to be a sign of a poor cell connection.
"YEP, I'm going for lunch on FRIDAY with a LADY i've known for FORTY YEARS!" i was reassured at this point, because i had no idea what he was talking about and since that phrase could not possibly be something one offers up conversationally to a stranger in a public park.
"That's an awfully long time to have known someone! EH?"
i had finished lacing my skates and was stuffing my possessions into the cubby. he was again looking right at me. this time, i noticed he had gotten himself out of his cycling get up and that he wasn't talking into a cell phone. no ear piece, no headset, no cord, no blackberry. while i didn't want to be rude to someone who was just being friendly, i had the feeling i also didn't want to engage this guy in a conversation. his openings so far had been of the i'm eager to bore you with my life story type.
"Yeah, Nothing i love MORE than coming down here and playing HOCKEY!" he had now adopted a much more conversational pose, with one hand on his knee and both his feet pointed towards me. he gestured broadly with his free hand. he had unpacked a lot of fancy looking hockey equipment from his backpack. i thought this odd, since most hockey there was played with little more than sticks, skates and toques, with the occasional helmet or pair of hockey gloves. some people put senators or habs sweaters on, as a sort of joking rebellion against the maple leafs theme. this guy had a lot of Serious Hockey Stuff.
"BOY OH BOY," he began. "I sure LIKE HOCKEY. what a GREAT GAME!"
i nodded at him, smiled, took off my guards and hobbled out, feeling awkward about the situation. it is so hard to tell who is being rude by loudly talking on a cellphone in public and who is just trying to strike up a conversation. i guess i was inadvertently the rude party in that exchange.
as i passed the windows i noticed he was talking with great animation to the window into the office. i felt bad for the poor rink attendant or zamboni driver who must be behind the glass.
after a while, he had emerged from the room, in full hockey regalia.
he opened up the gate in the boards, and stepped out into the hockey rink. i saw the hockey players wave him over and attempt to quickly communicate which side he was welcome on. the play ground to a halt, as he chatted up everyone. one by one they awkwardly tried to get back to passing the puck around. i couldn't hear what he was saying, and decided it was probably for the best.
i kept an eye on the hockey pad, and timed my exit to make sure i didn't end up overlapping time in the dressing room again with awkward conversation man.
i rate today's skating as a success.
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