I hadn't had lunch with my old friend Jack for a few weeks. I'd called him and he said he'd not been feeling well: a summer cold, is what he called it.
So I was glad to join him at one of the small tables in the Bayshore food court. I can't remember what we were eating.
I asked him: "How do you feel, Jack?"
Jack said: "Usually with my hands, but sometimes with another appendage. Why?"
"Oh, no reason," I said, "just being neighbourly. Glad to see you back in good humour."
"Humph," was his answer.
There was a long pause.
Then Jack climbed onto his favourite hobby-horse: "You know what pisses me off?"
I said "Jack, the phone book doesn't have enough pages to list all the things that piss you off. But tell me, what is it this time."
"I was watching the CBC news last night," said Jack, "and what is name was talking about the Maritimes. Now let me ask you, what exactly are the Maritimes?"
I said: I never went to grade school in Canada, but I believe it's New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I know Newfoundland is surrounded by the sea, but I don't know whether it is considered one of the Maritime provinces, seeing as how it didn't join Confederation until 1949. I'll look it up, when I get home."
Jack said: "Do you know that Canada has 11 Maritime provinces?"
I said: "Jack, that's news to me. Call Peter Mansbridge and set him straight."
Jack said: "A Maritime province is one that touches the sea, right?"
"Sound logical," I said.
"So there's Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. But why not Quebec? It had lots of contact with the Atlantic," continued Jack. "Besides, it also touches the Arctic Ocean, same as Ontario, Manitoba, Nunavut, The Northwest Territories and the Yukon. And then there's B.C. touching the Pacific."
I said: "So, if I've got it right, there are only two Non-Maritime provinces -- Saskatchewan and Alberta."
"That's right," said Jack.
I said: "So how are you going to get Mansbridge to change his ways."
"I'm not even going to try," said Jack. "It just bugs the hell out of me. That and a million other things."
I said "Jack, I know what you mean. The longer I live, the more things I find that annoy me. Is it just that you and I are changing by getting older, or is it the world that's changing and we're standing still. I guess, as we get older, we get more annoyed at all the things that have gone wrong since we were young and began to take notice of the world around us."
Jack said "I get angry or frustrated a hundred times a day, starting when I open the newspaper in the morning."
"You know my remedy for that," I said. "I gave up newspapers and news magazines on my 70th birthday. But that's only a partial solution. You know, I was thinking the other day, that maybe this is how we can resign ourselves to out ultimate fate: death. That it's all part of the big plan."
"How do you mean?" asked Jack.
I said: "Imagine how difficult it must be for someone to leave this life when he hates to leave. Imagine how much more easy it must be to leave when you are pissed off at where you don't much want to be."
Jack said: "You mean ...."
I said "Yeah, 'stop the world, I wanna get off' Wouldn't it be nice to think that as the time approaches when you have to go, you may actually be ready to go? That you'll be at the railroad station when the train is ready to leave?"
"Maybe so," said Jack, "but I haven't bought my ticket yet, and I'm not going out to buy it any time soon!"
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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