This isn’t a funny story. It’s more the type of story where you think it can’t possibly get any worse and then it does. There’s an element of humour in there. There’s a lot of humour if you don’t like me.
For Roscoe’s last birthday he had a very traditional Canadian request; he wanted to go to a Leaf’s game. So I acquiesced and purchased tickets for him. That’s a lie. I would have had to use the internet to do such a thing. So Roscoe purchased the tickets, but I paid for them.
I digress so it’s the day of the hockey game, Roscoe and I drive up to Buffalo. The two of us often attend NHL games as a part of either his education because the med class enjoys going out together or as a part of my Dad’s Christmas gift to Roscoe. We cross the border just fine, check into our hotel then walk to the game and everything is good.
But the problem is I’ve purchased the tickets, not my Dad or another person from the med class with equally deep pockets so we get to the game and start climbing to our seats. And climbing. And climbing. Then two rows away from the very top of the arena we stop and sit down.
I’ve worn one of my nice skirts for the evening, it’s a favourite of mine by a designer from Montreal who has the silhouette of a curvy woman on her labels. I’m also in heels. This seems like a poor decision at the moment because of the stairs and the fashion choices of the fans around us. Many people are in sweatshirts and jeans and one man is in a Frosted Flakes cartoon costume.
“Why is he dressed as a cereal mascot?” I ask Roscoe.
“The Leafs are playing the Sabers, he’s a saber-toothed tiger.” Roscoe is already into the game and his beer, thus he is very focused and does not appreciate my questions.
For the record, during the game you are supposed to look at the ice. Not at the stands. This is a part of hockey that Roscoe reiterates to me often.
The tension in the arena was incredible. Judging by the number of Leaf’s jerseys in the rows in front of us, we were not the only Canadians who had driven down. The roar when a goal was scored got progressively louder as the game went on. Jeering comments were shouted back and forth between groups in the stands. Roscoe and I watched as an older man started a fight with a fellow fan in a section below us. Their yelling escalated and the large security guards just stood idly by.
Finally it was the end of the game. Roscoe and I stood up getting ready to leave when all of a sudden we see a young man with a bloodied face tearing towards us in the row above. And not two feet behind him was a three hundred and fifty pound man, his face red and screwed up with rage. The young man tripped and fell to the ground, partially over the seats that Roscoe and I had just vacated.
I bolted, not wanting to become a target for the larger man’s rage or his girth which I had no doubt could break at least a few of my ribs if I was to break his fall. I turned around expecting to see Roscoe right behind me.
“No!” I screamed as I watched Roscoe dive into the fray. For the past three years while my husband was in medical school I’ve been the primary breadwinner. By my estimation I’ve poured about ninety thousand dollars into his head and had no desire to see his educated mind mashed or knocked about on the arena floor. Panic rooted me to the spot and I started to cry from fear and the feeling of being completely out of my element as I watched Roscoe attempt to restrain the obese man’s powerful arm. By this time the men who had been sitting around us jumped in, helping pin the punching, furious limb to the ground.
Seeing that there was no longer any danger, security rushed in removing both of the ruffians from the section swiftly. The smaller man’s face was completely bloodied by now. Roscoe picked up his jacket and walked over to me.
“I didn’t want you to get hurt!” I sobbed into his pea coat. “I know but the larger one would have mangled his face. He just kept throwing uppercut after uppercut” Roscoe said while hugging me.
After five minutes of having my hair petted and soothing words whispered into my ear I was calm enough to walk. The fan’s energy and anger still flowed through the crowd as we moved out of the arena towards the hotel, heated exchanges were shouted as Leaf’s fans passed Saber’s fans. On our walk we saw a large art installation and I ran over to hug it, believing it to be the only piece of beauty left in Buffalo.
In turbulent times even art needs love.
Just as I had wrapped myself around the giant Christmas ornament and was about to wish some good back into the world a voice barked at me, “Hey lady! Don’t touch the art.”
Back at the hotel, I spent twenty minutes trying to rinse the blood out of Roscoe’s cream coloured sweater. His coat had been splashed with blood too and would need to be taken to the dry cleaners.
“Happy Birthday?” I said to my husband as I handed his damp sweater back. Shortly after, just before eleven we climbed into bed and fell asleep to the sounds of revelers celebrating the Saber’s win.
“DANGER. DANGER. FIRE. Please make your way to the exit. DANGER. DANGER. FIRE. Please make your way to the exit.” In the darkness of the hotel room, it took me a moment to remember where I was. And then a glance at the clock confirmed my sinking realization. We were at a hotel, and someone had pulled the fire alarm at three in the morning.
The voice coming from the ceiling was so loud it interrupted my thoughts. Roscoe was already out of bed pulling on his jeans and blood stained coat. The voice continued to boom it’s urgent message in the hall and then down the stairs.
Shivering in the parking lot, I turned to Roscoe. “I’m sorry, I will never ever buy you a birthday gift ever again.”
The next morning we both woke before six after freezing in the parking lot for half an hour and returning to bed at three thirty am. To say that we were both grumpy would be laughable. We were the kind of disgruntled that leads people to sacrifice goats and other small farm animals with their teeth. We drove back to Canada in silence, not stopping once for coffee or breakfast until we were safely two hours away from Buffalo.