April 19, 2022 at 4:38 am #950Michael GrayParticipant
Photo: ‘Sweeping’ by Paweł Englender from Pixabay
I was lingering beside the job board, long after the rush of job seekers had moved on. My eyes followed a man sweeping the concrete floor, as my mind wandered into memories of being at the Montreal Forum watching a Zamboni circling the rink. For those who didn’t grow up with hockey, a Zamboni is the machine that wipes up the ice shavings between periods. In its wake, a glistening film of water would freeze before the teams returned to the ice and the spectators were back in their seats with hotdogs and beer.
I remembered the cello-scrape of skates and the kettle-drum slams of players checking each other against the boards. Sitting high in the cathedral of the Montreal Forum, those sounds—which don’t come across on TV—resounded in my memory. And now, as the broom-pusher orbited the room, I noticed that he left no sound behind him.
In the empty Farm Labor Pool, in Calgary, Alberta, there was only me and a man pushing a two-foot-wide broom. Collecting dust, cigarette butts and candy wrappers, he stopped after each circuit to scoop up the scraps and dust and to tamp his broom on the edge of a large trash can. Earlier, a small crowd had pressed around the cork board, each of us hoping to find a posting from a farmer needing help. But the season for unskilled labor had come to a close. The harvests had been gathered, hay bales stacked in the barns around Calgary, and the few postings getting pinned to the board were for ranch hands with more experience than I had. So why was I hanging around, remembering Montreal?
I was pondering this question. as the broom pusher passed by again and said, “There won’t be any new postings until tomorrow morning.” Just to pass the time, I asked him, “How did you get this job?”
He kept moving with no response, and I assumed he just wanted me to leave. But, a few minutes later, this time on a slightly smaller circuit, he said, “I don’t have a job. This broom was leaning in a corner.”
I was thinking I could learn from his attitude when, as he was heading my way again awhile later, I noticed that he was dragging his left leg.
I asked, “Where are you from?”
Without slowing, he responded, “I was born in Calgary. I used to ride broncos in rodeos around the province. Until I took a fall that ended that career.”
Then I realized why I had been waiting for an extra hour. It wasn’t to marinate in fear about what would come next in my life. It wasn’t to tremble in the grips of a vision of having to return to Montreal and return to the office work I had fled earlier that year. In fact, it wasn’t to wait for anything to be different.
“Nice meeting you,” I called out as I opened the door onto the sidewalk, determined to let my feet take me wherever they wanted to go.
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