11 April 2011

Adventurous Day From.... Well, Not Hell, Exactly

Ok. I've been chugging along the concert pace the past few days, performing not one, not two, but four (so far) concerts--one per day--and taking part in the rehearsals beforehand, making the time spent on site and on the road stretch out into full, every-man days.

It's been FABULOUS! This is the kind of life I imagined for myself when I was just a young thing. Playing professionally on a stage. Granted, it's not long-term and it doesn't pay, nor is it solo work, but I will not complain--how can I? The caliber of music has been a fantastic experience--and at my age now and in the unfolding of my life, I very much prefer playing in an ensemble to solo work. (Especially because bassoon isn't the most enthralling solo instrument--even I have a hard time sitting through a bassoon recital.) And as for pay, well, the quality of music and professionalism is self-paying.

But today unleashed a whole new monster of testing my confidence in all of my abilities, from music to language to chartering foreign territory to engaging socially!

Over the weekend, my very significant other accompanied me to the various concert locations--Metabetchouan (an hour and a half away) and Jonquiere (about an hour), and we made full days of it. However, it caught up with us and he needed to rest before work at 4 p.m. today and I needed to be at the hall, also in Jonquiere, but by 9 a.m this morning.

In addition, an appointment he made for our dog was scheduled for 8. For him to accompany me again, at that hour, after having gotten in late last night, we would have had to either a) get up ridiculously early and drop the dog off before the 9 a.m. concert call, leaving my poor boyfriend to twiddle his thumbs all day in an auditorium full of kids, no nap, go straight into 8 hours with homeless people and come home at 1 a.m. With no defined plans of when to pick up the pooch OR...

...b) still getting up early, doing the same thing to get to the hall, but leave him the car to pick up the pooch, go back home (a round trip of approximately 2 hours), get time to rest, return to pick me up, bring me back home (another 2-hour round trip), and take the car to work (another and third round-about of 1.5 hours.) One of the issues being a single car and two people with stuff to do. Another one being gas mileage. The other one convenience.

It's not really complicated. It's just that in supporting each other and loving each other to the hilt, we want to be there for all the things the other one is doing. Especially in a case such as my music. But without too much conversation about it, we decided that I would go alone, I would drop the pooch off, and I would get myself to the concert.

It would prove to be a fun, harrowing, tiring, and even!... a little emotional challenge to get there and back.


I left the house in good time with a crudely hand-drawn map and made my way. The problem from the start was that I was not very familiar with the route from a driver's stance. Between here and in Chicoutimi, I got it. I know a couple of roads for getting there, I'm good in the city, and I've learned basic landmarks--the conservatory, Marc's work, his dad's place, the cathedral and the university. But to Jonquiere I've only driven solo there once, and that's where I had to be.

As for where I was going once I got there, it was easy as pie. Take the exit off the highway and go straight. Until the prep college and find parking. But to get there, well, I was nervous, and I had to find the veterinary hospital, where I've never been, and get back on the highway. If you've ever had to watch for landmarks and if you've ever missed them in a place you don't well, you know the feeling you get about a hundred times (give or take a few) thinking you've passed it.

I was thinking about the landmarks outlined on Marc's map (I love his handwriting!) when, just as I was to get out of town, I came to a line of stopped cars about quarter of a mile long. What was stopping us? I focused on the front of the line. Blinking lights drew my attention. *Bleep! I had budgeted stopping time for everything else, but not this. A train! A bluh-hee ole train! Yeah, sure I've driven over tracks in around La Baie, yeah sure I learned how to avoid them in my hometown fifteen years ago, but now? Now?! I hadn't even made it out of town and this would eat into every precious minute of road time and increase the pressure of finding the vet without missing it.

I looked at the clock on my CD player that still hadn't kicked in (a sensor/battery thing.) I waited. I despaired. I drew in a breath and exasperatedly exhaled. I looked at Emma, who was panting and careening to see out the window. Up ahead, cars were pulling out of line and making U-turns back. Yes, there was another way to the highway. I calculated the space between me and the cars around me and followed suit, going all the way back around, into town, and getting back on the other access to the highway. After an eternity (of about 5 extra minutes), I was finally heading out of town. Finally. I glanced at the map. I looked and looked for the exit that would take me to the vet. I looked and looked for the sign that said "Refuge Des Animaux," the only landmark I knew to watch for before taking the vet exit. Why, oh why didn't I pay attention to these drab buildings and dispersed houses before?

I was in danger of getting rammed because Quebecois drivers are 1)c-R-aZ-Y and 2) probably all working people, familiar with the road, but I was desperate to see the dog pound sign, so I just tried to use my old fast-scanning skills acquired when I waitressed, and I found it. Then I was careening for "the" exit and after that, the vet. When I saw an intersection approaching in the distance, I really freaked, I thought I missed it. After all that success before 9 in the morning, my heart dropped anew. Trees were blocking the approach for near a mile, I didn't even know if the intersection would take me back to the highway (since I'd just come from there), and I would have lost major time getting back to the highway the way I'd come, never mind miss the pooch's appointment. Thus, I theoretically saw myself missing the concert (oh, the horror!!) and doing who-knows-what with the pooch.

Out of a force of sheer stubbornness, I kept driving. I knew that if the veterinary hospital magically appeared, it would be on the left. Et voila! There it was. I was still too pinched for time to relax, but I was still relieved. I zoomed into the parking lot like a professional stunt driver, parked, and shuffled a cute but very hairy and dirty Emma in through the front doors. "Le pression" did not stop there. For me or for Emma.

Inside, a man with two very large, very beautiful dogs stood at the reception counter. First thought: oh shit, this is going to take longer than I thought. Second thought, oh, poor Emma. She was cowering by the door and positioned funny. She was peeing on the rug. Great. I picked her up and held her close to me to feel my body and felt her shaking. I knew I should have kept a hold of her once we were inside. Poor thing.

Finally, it was my turn. I had already negotiated small interactions in French, and I always prided myself on being professional with service clientele in English, so I sucked in my breath and surged forward. Maybe it was the panic I was masking, my head in a million other places than there, but the words came out far more fluidly than ever before.

"Oui. Bonjour. Mon chum a fait un rendevous pour son chien, Emma."

Just like that. Wow! I saw two 'me's. The one who just has shit to get done and lurches headlong into doing what needs to be done, and the other me who hides behind the other one sometimes and always joking around. The Goofy Me was looking at Serious Me in that split second, slapping the Serious Me hard on the back and laughing heartily. (Have you forgotten? I'm Gemini.) (Yes, that's my excuse.)

For the following 2 minutes--oh yeah, I was counting--discourse en Francais was had, the nice girl behind the counter at first unable to find the appointment at all. Great, another obstac- Oh, wait, not quite yet. What's my phone number? Oh. For a Marc-Andre? Yes. There it was. She found it. Whew. What? Est-ce que veux... quoi? (Do I want... what?) "When someone brings their dog in, they cut their fur" she explains in French. Ohhhh!! Yes! Yes, please, and more 'merci beaucoup' from me before she took Emma.

Out to the parking lot I stride, in the parking lot I break into a run. I didn't have time to revel in my success--there was still about twenty minutes of road to get to the hall in about ten minutes' worth of time and I quit believing I had any time at all.

Gently gunning my V6, dual exhaust on bald tires, I took a risk. I could either check out the intersection that was right there or go back and retrace my steps like I had planned, adding who knows how much more time to time I didn't have. I chose the intersection. Good gamble. Jonquiere ahead on the signs, with arrows, no less. Just like that, I was back on the highway and started to see familiar buildings.

It wasn't over yet.

It wasn't over until I was standing in the green room with the other musicians. I looked at my clock again. Sometimes it comes on after a while. Nope, not this time. I had a general idea of the time, but I needed exact minutes. We were down to the particulars now.

I sped where I could, taking a ginormous risk on top of already driving without a current license (the story involves waiting for my permanent resident card and the antics of a nationalistic province) and *squeak* no insurance (I need my license), but I was also too scaredy-pants to push too far. I waited for the indicators, read the green highways signs, and finally, finally...

...found the exit. "THE" exit. I zoomed all the way down the strip, parked fast, walk fast, and did so in lumbering strides with my purse and block cement bassoon case in hand. I got to the door, around the corner, into the green room, and down the stairs. I made it.

* * *

After three days of concerts, I can only say this: man, I've grown. But when I came out, again in a rush to get the car back to Marc, the skies opened and I was drenched before I crossed the street. With scrap tires, I was hydroplaning all the way home. Only to find I had missed him. He'd gotten a ride from his uncle.

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