I smiled at the stranger sipping his beer to my left as I sat down and picked up my fork. I moved the constituents of the salad around to make sure they hadn't skimped on the honey encrusted pecans. It was my favourite salad; spinach drizzled in a sweet balsamic vinaigrette topped off with a wedge of goat cheese rolled in sesame seeds.
We were sat at the bar and I took my first bite glancing up at the television above showing highlights from the Olympics. The games had just finished a few days before and it had been an incredible experience to be in Whistler, British Colombia for those few weeks. Never mind the athletes walking around in their regulation gear adorned or not with medals, never mind I had some great days snowboarding on empty slopes, never mind there were fantastic free music shows. No, the best part seemed as if peace had descended upon us, like everyone had swallowed a pill full of joy and there was no-ill will towards anyone, regardless of which flag you were flying. The bus drivers were extremely helpful (thank you), strangers chatted in line-ups and hugged one another in a middle of a crowd. Even that moment of acknowledgment of your existence from someone unbeknown, when they catch your eye or return your smile as you pass each other on a packed street was exhilarating (something that is sorely missing in big cities). This sense of camaraderie diminished only a little after the closing ceremony.
Back in the bar at the base of the mountain, things had quietened down now the feverish hockey games were over. My salad was yummy with just the right amount of dressing. The stranger to my left asked if I called the red slithers on my plate, capsicums or red peppers. I'm not sure what I replied but I probably said, 'both'. Silently I thought, here we go again, he thinks I'm an Aussie.
Promptly he did ask that question and perhaps I disappointed him by saying, no, I'm not.
He had a friendly, roguish face and a great smile underneath a red and white toque. Inevitably we swapped stories of our Olympic experiences. We told tales of travel while all the time, I shoved forkfuls of spinach, nuts and cheese into my mouth. Meanwhile the stranger, otherwise now known as Doom, eyed my plate. It was obvious the guy was hungry; he had already delayed a sushi date with a friend to hang with me. Yet I felt I hadn't known him long enough to offer a few forkfuls of my salad. If it had been pizza, it might have been a different story.
Finally that part of an introductory conversation when one asks what does one does arrived. There is more to life than making money and therefore many possibilities to that answer, and so as it turned out, Doom was a former financial services manager transformed into a stand-up comedian. How interesting, I thought. A guy in a suit has never done anything for me, but a stand-up comedian, now that's different.
In the ensuing days we got to know each other in between his shows in Vancouver before he finally took the road to Jasper and I stayed behind for my next adventure. We snowboarded in great powder, hiked in soft rain and laughed a lot. We had a good giggle about spinach salad and perhaps the best or the worst chat-up line ever uttered. I guess it depends on whether or not you like red capsicums aka red peppers.