I was asked to cover the phones in the university counselling offices one day. I was eighteen and didn’t really know what I was doing but thought what the hell, how bad could it be? The receptionist, let’s call her Colleen, was sick and needed to go home.
Those of you who were around those days might recall that all of the exams ever given at the university were copied and bound in books for students to access and use as study guides. The books were then kept in a reading room next to the counselling office. On the day in question, it was spring, and hordes of students were lined up in the very small area in front of the reception desk to photocopy exams so they could study for their finals at home. It seemed to me that each student had five friends helping them place the heavy volumes onto the glass of the over worked machine and none of them were using their inside voices. Every ten minutes or so the machine would stop working. I had to put the phones on hold to go over, open the copier cabinet and shake the ink until it would start up again. But the phones were ringing off the hook and I knew less about switchboards than I knew about photocopiers, so was of little help.
The chaos of that afternoon randomly returned to me as I stacked the wood that E was splitting beside me. We had forced ourselves away from the always “breaking” news from Europe, to go outside for some fresh air, and face the big pile of arbutus rounds which needed to be dealt with. If you want to take out your frustrations with evil people, stupid people or selfish morons, splitting wood is a great way to do it.
Although we had a general sense of accomplishment from the sight of a half full wood shed, we came back to the house to even worse news from the Ukraine and regretted immediately the decision to limit wine consumption to nights when we play bridge. Then, our daughter called.
It seems that she and her very nice fella are going to make it official and there is going to be another wedding in the family to look forward to. We threw the rules out the window and opened a nice red to celebrate. 2023 looks like it is going to be a wonderful year for this family. Honestly, it can’t come soon enough. Surely, by then, the activities and opinions of the Russians and the truckers, Magats and unvaccinated will be rightfully relegated to the obscurity of society’s back page, irrelevant and forgotten.
Ok, so why does the seemingly endless madness of today’s news in 2022 remind me of the helplessness of that day in 1976. Well, near the end of my excruciating introduction to the general public that afternoon, when I had no more nerves to fray and I was feeling a lot like Lucy did with Ethel at the chocolate conveyor belt, the photo copier burst into flames. Staring at the smoke filled room and with sounds of screaming students and the smoke alarm blaring in the back ground I leaned over to pick up my last phone call as a counselling office receptionist. It was a woman on the other end of the line who insisted that she intended to donate her body to science and wanted to know just how I was going to
make that happen.