As you may have seen in my last post (re-post, actually) I recently lost a friend. He was probably the second or third guy I met when I arrived at the University of Waterloo and it was in his dorm room on North A in Village 2 that my wife and I were first properly introduced. That was pretty darn close to 22 years ago to the day that a heart attack took him from this world for whatever is beyond.
Obviously, this came as a total shock to my wife and me and everyone who knew him. I’m still kind of dumbfounded and in a daze over it. Someone I’ve known since first or second grade sent me a message of condolence and asked me to tell her a story about him. One, she said, that would make me smile. So, I did, and it made me feel a little less depressed about his passing and a little more focused on the good times we had together – and there were quite a few. I shared the story with his brother and a few coworkers, and in one of my writers’ groups, and every time I did I managed a smile instead of a tear.
So now I’m sharing it with you.
Riaz and I spent a lot of time together in our first year of university. We were both a couple of physics geeks with impeccable musical taste (the principal difference being he could actually play and I even suck at air guitar). Now, just a few minutes from our dorm was the upper-year dorm, Village 1, and within it a glorious variety store / food place called “The Village Grill”. Staffed by upper-year kids it was the go-to place for starving students and guys like Riaz and I looking for a snack. There was this one girl that worked there that Riaz was in love with. All I remember is that she was ridiculously cute and Ri was infatuated with her. I swear he burned through more of his meal plan at The Grill over everywhere else combined just because she worked there.
One snowy night Riaz and I finished our homework (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and a bunch of us were going cafeteria tray sledding at the hill across the road. It was then (after we finished our homework), that I got this brilliant idea to saw a cafeteria tray in half and crazy glue the pieces to the bottom of my boots. After tray-boggoning, or tray-skiing in my case, the plan was to have Riaz pull me around the parking lot as I held on to the back bumper of his car (genius, I know).
Right about when we were all ready to go we got a hankering for some chips and we decided to head to The Grill to take care of the craving. The only problem was I had these damn pieces of fibreglass stuck to my feet. Screw it, we wanted chips, nay, we needed chips. So, off we went. We had no coats, no hats, and no gloves. We were just two guys in blue jeans and flannel shirts (this was 1993 after all) walking to the store to get some food – one of them with two halves of a lunch tray glued to his boots.
Everything was fine until I slipped off the path.
It wasn’t a big slope, but when all you’ve got is the smooth underside of a tray to walk on, any slope at all sends you in a downward direction. I slid off the path and down a small hill. No word of a lie it was only 12 feet down and had a maximum grade of about 5 degrees. Still, down I went. I tried to walk “herringbone” style up the hill but could not.
I was trapped.
Meanwhile, Riaz was giggling uncontrollably at the top of this “hill”. After letting me flounder for a few minutes while he regained his composure, he came down to give me a hand. The only problem was he couldn’t get me up the hill either. Being the physics geniuses that we were we tried quite a few things with the successful approach being I would lie on my side and he would roll me uphill like a log. To this day, I have no explanation as to why I didn’t just get on my hands and knees and crawl up the stupid hill. For certain, at the time the idea never crossed either of our minds. What should have been a 4 or 5-minute stroll ended up taking around half an hour.
We get to The Grill and we’re laughing so hard tears are running down our cheeks and freezing in the cold air. My hair (I used to have long floppy bangs) was frozen up in this crazy spike, we were soaked head to toe from all the rolling around in the snow, our eyes were red and swollen from all the laugh-crying, and I still had two halves of a cafeteria tray crazy glued to my boots.
We opened the door and the only person in the place is the cute girl behind the counter. We just stood there scratching our heads and staring at our feet while she took a good long look at us. After a few seconds, we look up and she’s shaking her head. “Chips are over there,” she said pointing to a rack in the corner. Then, she turned around to pretend to clean something. I could see her shoulders bobbing up and down as she laughed into her dish towel. We stepped up to the counter to pay and she’s still stifling laughter. “Have a nice night, boys,” she said as we exited the store. I can still hear her laughter as the door shut.
After a minute, Riaz looks to me and, with his face full of Cool Ranch Doritos says, “Well, shit. What do you think my chances are now?” Without hesitation I replied, “Pretty bad, man, but I have a feeling they are way better than mine.” Riaz just nodded and we both started to laugh uncontrollably for the second time in half an hour. We walked back to our dorm without speaking, but the laughter didn’t stop for several hours.
Tray-skiing was a complete failure. I spent an hour falling down a hill for real and never managed so much as one decent run. Cafeteria tray parking lot bumper hitching, on the other hand, was an incredible success (except for having to saw off a layer of my boot soles to get the cafeteria trays off).
Rest in peace, brother.