1) New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are linked by the eight-mile-long Confederation Bridge, which opened on May 31, 1997. We have a summer home on PEI so we cross this bridge at least twice a year. A couple of weeks ago, a friend who had recently crossed the bridge asked me if I ever miss the ferries that plied the Northhumberland Strait before the bridge was built. The answer was a quick and resounding “no!” But his question reminded me that the building of the bridge wasn’t universally accepted by Islanders; it was probably close to an even split on whether it was a good thing; and there was much controversy over what the bridge should be called. (During its conception and construction it was referred to simply as “the fixed link.”) I was also reminded of the two best lines I heard during those respective controversies. Just before the bridge opened, PEI native and Toronto resident, Ron Gillis (with whom I took my chartered accountancy training in Charlottetown in the early 60s) remarked, “For the first time in history someone may go to PEI by mistake.” As for the name, when I asked the late Don Harron what he thought the bridge should be called, he replied, “That’s easy. It should be called the Span of Green Cables.”
2) As anyone who knows me well can attest, I love good lines, so I really appreciated Ron’s and Don’s observations. My appreciation of good lines even extends to insults directed at me. My favourite occurred about thirty-five years ago during a very tough and lengthy contract negotiation with Capitol-EMI (Anne Murray’s long-time record label). Her lawyer David Matheson, manager Leonard Rambeau, and I were representing Anne, while a couple of lawyers and a senior vice-president by the name of Charles Tillinghast (all from Los Angeles) were representing Capitol. In these negotiations, I was the mean cop while David and Leonard were the nice cops. We’d been at it for four or five hours during the second or third day of wrangling and haggling when I made some demand that enraged Charles. He leapt out his chair, banged his fist on the conference room table, and bellowed, “Lyman, you have every characteristic of a dog, except loyalty!” Charles’ outburst had the opposite effect to what he intended. Instead of reacting angrily, I roared with appreciative laughter, which did nothing to ease Charles’ umbrage.
3) Relating the Tillinghast incident got me thinking about what was the best shot I ever took at someone. Incredibly, I think it was when I was in grade seven in the little red (honestly) schoolhouse in Morell, PEI. We had been assigned topics on which we had to write a brief essay (called compositions in those days). I don’t recall what my topic was, but I remember working very hard on it. We passed in our papers during a week when we had a substitute teacher – an arrogant ass from Charlottetown who clearly resented being sent out to what he considered the boondocks to teach a bunch of kids that he looked upon as yokels. He never did match names and faces, so a couple of days later, after having marked the papers, he was handing them back by calling out our names and having us walk up to his desk to receive them. When my turn came he decided to make an editorial comment, saying, “This was a pretty good composition, Lyman. Who wrote it for you?” I replied, “I’m glad you liked it. Who read it to you?” At recess he marched me into Principal Mabel O’Brien’s room and asked that I be “suspended for impudence.” She asked what happened. He told her. All she said was, “Well, you asked for that rebuke, didn’t you?” And the matter was closed.
4) Getting back to the Confederation Bridge, there is no toll charged going to PEI from New Brunswick. The same holds true for the ferries that run between Nova Scotia and PEI; no toll going to PEI. In both cases a toll is paid upon leaving PEI, causing some wag to observe that, “PEI is the only province in Canada that you have to pay to get out of.”
5) Winston Churchill likely had more great lines than anyone else in history. My favourite is the exchange in the House of Commons between MP Bessie Braddock and Winston during which he said, “You’re ugly.” She replied, “And you are disgustedly drunk.” Winston countered, “Yes, but in the morning I’ll be sober.”