The Scintilla Project Day Four — The Bottle Episode

1. Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family road trip.

— The Scintilla Project Day 4 prompt

It was like a bottle episode of your favourite sitcom — five of us trapped on a train for 5 hours with nowhere to go.

What could go wrong?

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

130 cm in January, 39 cm on January 2nd alone!!!

You’ll have to forgive me — it’s been 14 years since this went down, but it still makes for quite the tale.

The Great Snowfall of 1999 had Toronto crippled for a couple of days — despite the rest of Canada calling us wusses for being unable to handle 40 cm of snowfall, fact of the matter is that we carry 17% of the Canadian population in 0.07% of the landmass. No one could really compare what kind of problems come from the weather going haywire, because no one else was in the same situation — but it was bad.

From September 1995 through June 2000, you could find me at the University of Toronto Schools, being one of the lucky few who managed to make it through their entrance exams. Each morning, I’d be on a 7:30 train with a few classmates for the half-hour commute into school in the heart of downtown Toronto. We were used to things going a bit slower when Jack Frost came a-knockin’, but no one was ready for how badly Toronto’s infrastructure had been hit!

My parents have always been big on hard work and education — so much so that blizzard or not, my ass was definitely making its way to class!

A Tale of Two Cities

The first half of the ride was just fine, slowly making our way in from the ‘burbs — but hitting the west end of the big city brought our train to a stop… and all of our hopes with it. Seems that with the subway and bus systems to look after in the city itself, Toronto didn’t have as much time to  worry about anyone trying to make their way in or out — no one’s that crazy, right?

So there we were — 3 crazy students and 2 insane adults stuck on a train with nowhere to go — and no one knew how long it would last.

I can’t remember how the hours played themselves out, but what I do remember is that my lunch barely made it past the 2nd hour. We napped, we chatted, we rocked out to Discmans, and as no one was really rocking cell phones in ’99, entertainment was pretty limited! It was like being trapped in an elevator with unlimited space and washrooms. (Okay, maybe not at all like being trapped in an elevator.)

Four hours later, we started moving again. And five hours? Five hours later we’d be at Union Station, only to run into our buddy Matt… who’d tell us that school was cancelled.

Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.

And what did I learn from this?

The next time, Toronto find itself in the middle of a snowstorm it doesn’t know how to handle — I’m keeping my butt where it belongs.

In bed.

–case p.

The Scintilla Project Day One — The Last Day My First Job Existed

The Scintilla Project aims to help bloggers become better storytellers by sending them email prompts for a two-week period that spur them in the right direction.

Today’s prompts were to either Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so or to Tell a story set at your first job, and since I didn’t start drinking until 20 — which is a full year past the legal drinking age up here in Toronto —  I don’t have much to offer on the first one. I was a bit of a snot who’d hold a holier-than-thou attitude to my peers who’d be drinking and getting high in our teens.

You live, you learn.

3/4 Score and No Extra Years Ago…

The only thing that might’ve been worse than the restaurant closing may have been my fashion choices in 2005.

As for the first job — many know that my Dad used to own a restaurant — a rotisserie St-Hubert, in fact — on the west end of Mississauga. I did a lot of my growing up there, playing tag with my brothers between the booths before the store opened for the day; reading in the staff area while my Dad ran errands — I spent enough hours there for it to be another home.

Eventually, though, I’d be a teen and my parents wanted me to learn the value of money, so just shy of my 14th birthday, I started working at the restaurant as a take-out cashier.

I’d be at the restaurant for 4 years — which story should I tell you?

  • The time I tripped and a bowl of garden salad flew and landed on a customer’s head, leaving me sporting a mortified look as French dressing streamed down her face?
  • The time a guy scammed me for $50 with some sleight-of-hand and double-speak?
  • The scar I have on my right arm from a plate shard lodging itself in there after a sprinkler malfunction and a very slippery floor?
  • How managing a take-out area packed with tired and hungry people landed me a new job after they all left calm and happy from my jokes and stories?
  • Or how my coworkers sometimes gave me an extra-hard time because I was the boss’ son, leaving me wedged into a (thankfully empty) trash can butt-first with no easy way to get out?

Truth is, there’re so many stories I could tell you about my time there, but the one I’ll keep with me for the rest of my days is the only time I’ve ever seen my father cry.

Tears of Ambiguity

Exeunt omnes.

My Dad ran that restaurant for 20 years. Over that time, he grew relationships with loyal customers, staff and peers who owned other franchises. He was so dedicated to the restaurant that even with the city under the cover of 40 cm of snow in what we’ll call The Great Snowfall of 1999, we shovelled 4 hours and drove 1 more to attend to the 4 customers we’d serve that day.

But to Dad, it was about the principle — not the numbers. We had a service to offer, and no one was going to stop us.

Or so we thought.

In 2004, the parent company in Quebec gave us an ultimatum — pony up a million dollars or close up shop. By 2005, we found ourselves at the restaurant one last time for a farewell party.

With 20 years of history, relationships, and both good times and bad leading to this very moment, the situation’s gravity weighed upon him, his speech cut short by tears. Tears of sadness? Gratitude for the amazing staff who he’d had for all these years? Relief after the lifting of the recent years’ burdens from his shoulders?

I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but that’s one moment that’ll stay with me forever.

–case p.


#SaugaTweetup was undoubtedly a success on Wednesday night.

The best event bloggers in the city must be getting paid to write about the things they go to, because there’s no way you can hold a full-time job down, maintain a social life, be in a relationship (or a family, to take it one step further), and still find the time to write some quality prose on where you were a night or two ago.

With that said, here I am writing up an entry on #SaugaTweetup — originally the morning after on the subway, notebook in hand, scrawling notes out that I hope to assemble into a post sooner than later.

Hosted by Robert Sarjoo and Christian Anderson, #SaugaTweetup found me back in my hometown of Mississauga, Ontario, somewhere I’d long renounced for the siren call of its big brother — Toronto, ON — after serving my 28-year sentence trapped within its borders. (It’s seriously nowhere near as bad as I make it out to be, but I think the general rule applies — if kids live anywhere long enough, you’re invariably going to wind up with some who want nothing more than to escape!)

Tweetups are fun events — go to enough of them and you definitely start to se the same faces over and over again, but it’s okay, because with enough time, some of these faces turn into actual friends, and tweetups turn into the place where you happen to see them more often.

#Saugatweetup, much like Christine’s Crashaversary last year, was this kind of event — catching up with old friends and making new ones! Much of the night was a blur between nibbling on snacks, free swag, prize giveaways and rapid-fire conversation, but I came out of it with a feeling that it was a night where I’d connected well with everyone, making contact with people who could be new faces that I’ll see from time to time!

I look at my calendar and am a bit relieved that this is the last event I have scheduled for a bit; when you have a list of things that you want to work at and you’re out on the town all of the time, there’s a little voice in the back of your head gnawing away at you:

“It’s time to get back to work.”

If you missed the event, feel free to check out some of my photos at my Flickr account (or see the puny versions below)!


You can also go see my buddy Justin’s take on the night!

Until the next time,

–case p.


You read it right, folks! It’s contest time, and KKvsDmz and Take It And Go are here to HOOK IT UP! The prizes up for grabs are $20 vouchers to the East Side Mario’s by Winston Churchill & Argentia in good ol’ Mississauga (where I was born and raised — Mississauga that is, not Meadowvale), so you can get your mangia on! I know we’ve got you salivating, but it’s a contest! And what do you have to do to enter?
Good question, my friends — the victors shall be decided through the means of a CAPTION CONTEST!
So to win, you need to comment on one (or all) of the three blogs/pages here with your FUNNIEST caption for the picture attached!
Let’s note that we’re taking one entry per person PER blog, so make sure to enter on all three to increase your chances!
Here’s the one for this site:
So if you wanna win, get to the bottom of this post and drop me a line with your funniest entry 🙂 Feel free to share this with your friends, because I can’t eat all this pasta by MYSELF!!!
And if you don’t happen to win, DO NOT DESPAIR!!! There’s still a deal going on until midnight February 14th at the same East Side Mario location, where you get $20 worth of good eats, for $9!!! (80% of the proceeds go to the Mississauga Football League — that’s pretty cool!)
And if you act now, you can use the promo code TIAGTEAM1 for another $2 OFF.
$7 for $20 worth of food? How can you go wrong? But obviously, FREE is BETTER! Doesn’t cost anything to enter, so HAVE AT IT! You have until 11:59 pm of Monday, February 14th to show me what you’ve got!
This contest has been brought to you by Take It And Go, who’re awesome and trying to make the world a little better by putting more money back in your pocket — but let’s talk some more about that later!
Looking forward to your entries,
–case p.