The Smartest Man in Ottawa

On New Year’s Eve I braved the (slightly) below freezing temperatures and the dreaded OC Transpo bus system (ew, masses on mass transit, all of them breathing moistly) to hit the mall and get a bottle of bubbly for midnight. I knew it would be bad, but I did not know exactly how bad it would be.

Friends, it was bad.

Now, it was only bad because it was possible in the first place, and it was only possible in the first place because Ottawa, world capital of freezing rain, adores strip malls. Maze malls. Any form of mall except the kind where the pathway from one store to the next is enclosed from the weather. In any other year this is a true inconvenience and stupidity, but in Covidian Times it is the only thing that allows many retailers in Ottawa to remain open, as all enclosed malls are closed during the Lockdown.

So, friends, I was saying it was bad. It was perhaps 100 people in the lineup for the liquor store bad, that’s how bad it was.

Now, I’ve cut back on my alcohol intake to the point where my liver thinks it’s a virgin, but I do love my cava, and had even considered splashing out on some Macieira and blood oranges to make a very Iberian cross between a French 125 and a sidecar. But, kittens, I have my limits and a 100-person lineup is well past it.

Instead, I deked into Loblaws, which also sells wine. It was sold out of pretty much everything with bubbles except Mountain Dew and beer, so I grabbed a bottle of red, some instant oatmeal, and a bottle of rhodiola supplements, and was in and out in ten minutes.

As I was passing the liquor store I noticed that the lineup had shrunk to perhaps a dozen stragglers, so I got into it thinking “what the hell, did everyone just give up at the same time?” but then I realized I HAD wine, didn’t need more, and could probably catch the next bus home if I hustled, so I began hustling bus-ward.

At which point a genial man with a shopping cart asked, “What are you looking for? I have everything.”

I looked into the cart. He did, indeed, have everything. It seems I had just met the reason the lineup had vanished: this man had gone into the store, bought every bit of bubbly and booze he could afford, and wheeled the cart down the lineup asking people what they wanted.

An honest to god bootlegger, people. An honest to god bootlegger.

If I’d had my Vry Srs Jrnlist hat on (it’s a newsboy cap, of course) I’d have asked him what his markup was, but I was hustling bus-ward so we exchanged just a few words before I was out of earshot.

Earshot. I saw a horse pedigree once for a hunter and while I forget the sire’s name, the dam’s name was “Earshot” and I realized that someone had waited that horse’s whole life for it to give birth so she could say the foal was “out of Earshot”. Nothing I like better than a long-running joke. Respect, horse-namer. Respect.

So, that’s how I met the smartest man in Ottawa, and I hope he made an absolute killing. The security dude was standing right there, but he couldn’t have cared less. He was no revenuer.

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