Back in the late 60s I had a business meeting at a hotel near O’Hare airport in Chicago. The plan was to fly down in the morning and fly back to Toronto in the afternoon.
On the flight down, there was suddenly a very loud bang, the plane shuddered, red flashes streamed along the fuselage and all the lights went out for a few seconds. Our plane had been struck by lightning. Everything was back to normal in less than a minute, everything that is except me. Not being a comfortable flier at the best of times, I was shaken to the core by this experience. When I got off the plane at O’Hare I immediately went to the American Airlines counter and cancelled my return flight.
After the meeting ended I called Grand Trunk Railway and booked a compartment on their overnight train to Toronto.
At about eight o’clock that evening I boarded the train at the Polk Street station, stashed my briefcase in my well-appointed compartment and went to the very opulent dining car where I enjoined a delicious meal. There were only a handful of people in the car, which wasn’t surprising because most people would probably have had dinner before boarding the train.
Upon returning to my compartment I asked the porter what time I’d be awakened in the morning for customs clearance at the Canadian border. “They probably won’t bother,” he told me. “Why?” I asked. “Because,” he replied, “you’re the only person on the train going to Canada.” He was right. They didn’t wake me up until we were approaching London, Ontario.
When I went into the dining car for breakfast I discovered that I was the only passenger there, and no others showed up. Again, this was not surprising because the people boarding the train in the morning would likely already have had their breakfasts.
But I had a problem. There were five smartly dressed, well-trained, very polite, competent employees working in the dining car, all of whom, at one time or another, served me in some way. The bill for my breakfast was $5.75. My problem was how much to leave as a tip.
It was the only time in my life that I left a tip that was almost twice the cost of the meal.
On a fine Christmas day in the late 70s, Anne, our sons Matthew and Alan, and I were driving down Jarvis St. in Toronto on our way to a family Christmas dinner at my sister’s place in Mississauga.
At that time, the Salvation Army Harbour Light hostel at Jarvis & Shuter streets had a few steps leading up to the front door. As we waited for a traffic light to change, the front door opened and a Salvation Army officer in full uniform evicted a raggedly-dressed man. The officer didn’t simply evict him. As watched in shocked fascination the officer also kicked him in the behind, sending him tumbling down the stairs.
The evictee obviously wasn’t hurt because he stood up and was waving his fist at the officer as the light changed and we drove away.
But even as I write this I wonder what in the name of all that’s holy did that guy do or say to get literally kicked out of a Salvation Army hostel on Christmas day!
I was in Las Vegas for the closing night of one of Anne Murray’s stints at the Hilton International.
There are two things I’ll never forget about Anne playing the Hilton. The first is that she always stayed in what was called the “Elvis” suite, which still had a few bullet holes in the wall from Elvis shooting at the television if he didn’t like what was on, and usually missing. The second is this anecdote.
Just before the last show of her engagement I went into Anne’s dressing room to wish her well. I expected she’d be relaxing with her feet up and looking forward to getting back home the next day. You can imagine my surprise when I found Anne and one of her guitar players, Aiden Mason, rehearsing.
And guess what song they were rehearsing. Snowbird! Although by that time she’d sung Snowbird thousands of times, and probably at least ten times that week alone, she felt that something wasn’t quite right with her rendition in her first show that night. So there she was, going over it a couple of more times before taking the stage for her final performance.
That, folks, is one of the attributes that set professionals apart.