I’m in Québéc for the Winter Carnival. The temperature is hovering around 0 degrees fahrenheit, sometimes a bit above and sometimes a bit below. Everyone knows I hate winter. Mostly everyone knows I refer to snow as “sky vomit”. Just what am I doing here?

I’ve talked about my friend I. before (here and here). Since we first got back in touch five years ago or so she has been bugging me to join her here for a fun-filled trip. I protested, and protested and protested. But I. was so persevering and convincing I finally said, “What the hell? I’ll go.”

I did like the idea of spending a vacation with her, having an adventure with her after all these years. Two friends of her would be joining us, and even that — a vacation with complete strangers — I accepted.

When I told people I knew I was doing this, they were dumbfounded, or confused, or mocking. Some people accepted my premise that I would approach it like an anthropology study.

And now I’m here. I have to tell you, some parts of this is really hellish, and then some parts are great.

The hellish part isn’t actually the frigid cold. It’s that I didn’t realize that when I signed up for this trip, that I was signing up for a tour bus filled with a gaggle of retired people and a relentlessly talking tour leader. On the the eight — count ’em, eight — hours up here, I had to play bingo, watch a movie about Québéc which showed all the things we were about to see in person, watch an incredibly trite Hollywood film, and other delights. Here in Québéc we were shuttled around in a huge herd on this bus, this huge, huge bus and oh! It’s just awful.

Today my pals decided to break off from the herd and that’s when things started to improve… for a bit. It turned out that they wanted to break off to go shopping. LOTS OF SHOPPING. I said, hey, why don’t I just meet up with you ’cause you know what? I HATE SHOPPING. They said okay, let’s meet up in an hour and a half and then we’ll go tubing. I really want to go tubing.

I walked down to the frozen river for a while and thought about my messy life while watching giant chunks of ice flow by. Then I went to an independent bookstore and drooled over the all the books in French. I was so happy to be free! Free! Of the herd and on my own to walk down the slushy sidewalk and get a little lost. It was so great to not no exactly where I was and I briefly fantasized about disappearing forever.

Then I met up with them. You know what? They had decided they didn’t want to go tubing after all because they wanted to do MORE SHOPPING.

I kept standing outside the shops, waiting, waiting, waiting and finally said to I. if you guys want to keep doing this, just tell me and I’ll go meet up with you somewhere else. Somehow this snapped her out of the stupor and she said no, let’s go for a walk instead.

I’m writing this in the hotel which has a little private office for anyone can use. I’m in here all alone. It’s wonderful.

There’s some great irony because currently I live alone and complain a lot about how I don’t like it, how I hate sleeping alone and waking up alone. Yet. Let me say that all this togetherness, especially while doing things I don’t want to do, is far, far worse.

And the good parts? Maple taffy made on snow. My god is that something crazy. Hearing French everywhere. I do have a weakness for that language. Even better is that I get to speak it a little bit. Another fun moment is when I went on the ice slide. Shit was hella fast.

But of course, the best part is being with I. There’s just something about her that makes me smile. I guess it’s the same thing that could make me take this trip, something so unbelievable not me, and still have some good laughs. There’s something about my friends, each one, that always seems extraordinary to me. I. is no exception.

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