Canadian Book Tour: Part 4

Those few hours Doug and I spent stranded along the Trans-Canada seem far away now. Maybe because they are. I have been car-less for exactly nine long days: the tranny blew on Saturday, June 6th and we’re now the 15th, the day that was supposed to be my U.S. Launch Party and all-around fun time at the Book & Bean in Green River, WY. Instead, I will sit in my new “home” at the Best Western in Regina with Riker, who has become the hotel’s mascot.
Once we got picked up by the tow truck on the 6th and were driven to the Regina Honda dealership, it quickly became clear this would not be a quick fix. First of all, nothing would happen the rest of that day or Sunday. Monday would be spent placing the parts orders, clearing the cross-border red tape on warranties, etc. “Thursday if you’re lucky,” Trevor in Service told us. “More likely Friday.” And he recommended we stay at the nearby Seven Oaks Best Western because it was pet-friendly and wasn’t a junkie hell-hole like the Plains Motel.
So Doug and I grabbed whatever clean, warm clothes we had out of the Element and checked into the Best Western. Then I set to work figuring out our next move. It soon became evident we couldn’t make it to the centennial event at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton the next day, so I set my sights on getting to the Calgary CAHS event on Monday. I found a kennel in Regina for Riker (leaving desperate voicemails and email messages begging them to take him), cancelled hotel rooms in Edmonton, booked flights to Calgary, and contacted my good friend, Laura, who lives there to see if the offer was on for me to come stay for a few days. Then I booked Doug’s flight back to Wyoming from Calgary for Tuesday morning, so at least he’d be working and could pay for all these extra expenses…
Calgary was fantastic. I had a great time at the CAHS meeting which was attended by a wonderful group of people, including a former Laurentian pilot I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting before. After the meeting we all headed over to the Sky Lounge at the Port O’Call hotel which appropriately has vintage images of aircraft plastered all over its walls. Doug and I stayed up talking to 11:30pm (which for me is late!) and sold several copies to folks in the bar who overheard us talking and wanted to find out more.

The next morning after Doug left I got the chance to go over to the Aero Space Museum where I’d been promised a private, behind-the-scenes, tour with one of the volunteers and CAHS members, Bob Connor. He told me all about the Sopwith Tri-Plane they have on display there, which he helped restore, and could actually be flown, if it weren’t so valuable and the insurance so dear. He also told me about the old Bell helicopter they have there and the new geological survey exhibit they will be opening shortly. Apparently after being a Mosquito pilot at the end of WWII he went to school to become a geologist and spent four months riding horseback through the interior of B.C. on geological survey only to find out that these helicopters could do the job in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday noonish Laura (who co-ran the McGill Writer’s Circle with me while we went to school there), picked me up and whisked me off to her magical new house in the Bowness neighbourhood of Calgary. I spent a few days catching up with her, another McGill friend, and generally catching up on sleep, exercise, and sunshine.

Cadence, a cool little coffee shop and breakfast place in Bowness, NW Calgary.

Still, in the back of my mind was the fact that Riker was in a Regina kennel, the car was still not fixed, and after a month of being on the road, I really just wanted to get home. I was in touch with the dealership several times a day and they were quite confident the new transmission would arrive by Thursday and that I would be ready to hit the road Friday. So I booked my flight back to Regina, picked up Riker, and showed up with a “All right, let’s go!” kind of attitude.

Except the new tranny hadn’t arrived. I wasn’t going anywhere…. all weekend.

The Metcalfe Genes and Training

For those of you who don’t know, my mother is a super-hero: she is an incredibly good researcher and advocate who can clearly and concisely get her point across on paper and in a meeting. Since I was a child, she has used her gift to right wrongs and keep people (like me) safe from corporate sloppiness, university bureaucracies, and plain old meanies.

I have been her apprentice all these years and – like a good grasshopper – have gone out in search of additional training. There was the summer I worked at McGill in the Donor Research programme, basically receiving training in sniffing out info on alumni. Then there was my work as a facilitator at the Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth at the University of British Columbia that taught me how to move difficult discussions along, listen to people without rolling my eyes, and ask probing questions to get at the root of the matter. (the second skill is probably the most useful one, btw!)

Well, the Metcalfe genes and training kicked into overdrive yesterday! Someone wrote a vicious (and hugely overblown) email about the Rock Springs Humane Society and had been circulating it for over a week before a caring supporter sent it to the director to give her a head’s up. Basically this alarmist email was trying to raise a mob to descend on our board meeting yesterday. We found out about the email the day before and by yesterday morning the director (my good friend) forwarded it to me. It was on.

Within a few minutes, I had compiled a table of all the people who had forwarded and received the email (at least in the ’email tree’ that had ended up with us). You see, the people had not thought to use the useful BCC function on their email accounts, and so all their names were in plain sight. Soon I had added their addresses and phone numbers, some of their ages, and some additional details – like place of work – to my table. It’s amazing what you can find out on the internet if you know where to look…

Then I set about responding to the email piece by piece. It turned into a three-page rebuttal. If all else fails, kill ’em with a logical, reasoned response. It’s a good thing I did, too, since the Rock Springs mayor, Tim Kaumo, had gotten wind of these accusations and came to the meeting yesterday. It was with more than a modicum of satisfaction that I gathered my document up and handed it to him.

I then briefly summarized the contents of my rebuttal to the board members and the dozen or so concerned citizens who had been roused by this email (or who had written it in the first place – that is still unclear!). While they did not show up bearing pitch forks, if we had been blindsided by this whole affair, things could have gotten very ugly.

In the end, though, while there were some heated discussions, I think we managed to squelch what could have been a huge blow-up. I, for one, walked away from the meeting feeling like some valid concerns had been raised, people were willing to be part of the solution (we even had a few people sign up to be volunteers!), and that most people present had conducted themselves in a reasonable manner. In addition, the mayor seems like a very approachable and animal-friendly sort of man, and is willing to work with us in the future for possible funding, etc.

It’s amazing what having a super-hero mom can teach you!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.