A CHAMPAGNE BIRTHDAY
Some Things I Loved Learning and Some Things I Never Wanted to Know
Sometime Late in the 1990’s
The Chimichanga came flying through the air. Whack! The projectile glanced of my glasses, sending them askew. I looked up with a dazed and confused stare. Beatrice, not her real name, was standing in the doorway of my office. My co-worker, who I was starting to consider a friend, had just thrown her lunch at me. Thank God the Chimichanga was still in its wrapper! I am not sure who was more surprised, me or her. In retrospect, I am going to say her. Beatrice stood there, saying over and over, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”. I have never seen a person’s face turn so many shades of pink and red as I did that day. Now I am sure everyone, at this point, is asking, “Why did she throw it?” Well, in my opinion, it just does not matter! The woman threw a Chimichanga at me!
Now, you would think that such an incident would cause a very strained and difficult working relationship. However, as I looked up from my office chair, with my glasses still askew, and saw the mortified embarrassed look on Beatrice’s face, it made me howl with laughter. I do not think it was the response Beatrice had been expecting. The Chimichanga Incident, as I like to call it, has cemented a friendship that has now endured well over twenty years.
Around Four Years Later
I looked up from my desk, yes, Beatrice is standing in my office doorway again. No, I am happy to report, Beatrice is not wielding, her weapon of choice, the Chimichanga. She proceeds into my office and sits in the visitor’s chair across from my desk.
Beatrice says, “So, my birthday this year is my Champagne birthday.”
Not having a clue what that is, I curiously ask, “What’s a Champagne birthday?”
She proceeds to explain, “It’s when your age and the day of your birthday match up. I turn 29 on the 29th of August this year, so it is considered a Champagne birthday. Not everyone gets to celebrate theirs.”
Which is true. I reply to her, “No they don’t. My birthday is on the first, so I would have been one years old when I had mine. Not much of a celebration there.”
Beatrice smiles and continues, “I want to go on a trip to celebrate the event. I was thinking about doing a Contiki Tour to Europe.”
Again, not having a clue, I excitedly asked, “What’s a Contiki Tour?”
Beatrice explains, “It’s a tour company that arranges all of the details, transportation, hotels, some meals, and you tour from place to place. I would like to do one in Europe, and I would like to get a few friends to go with me? You have to pay for the flight, the tour, and have some spending money.”
Smiling, I reply, “I’m in.”
“Great!”, Beatrice happily responds. Getting up she leaves my office.
About Two or Three Months Later
Beatrice has been working diligently on planning her perfect Champagne Birthday trip. Thus far, she has convinced four of us to go on this adventure with her. She has decided on a trip to Europe, where the tour visits eight countries in seventeen days. Sounds exhausting, but so much fun! The countries, on this specific tour, included, England, Holland (technically a region/province of the Netherlands), Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and France. But wait, you are asking yourself, that was only seven, there are supposed to be eight. Well, included on the list was Vatican City. A little unknown fact, many people think that the Vatican is part of Rome in Italy, however, on February 11, 1929, the Vatican was given status as a country. It was hoped, the move would ease tensions between the church and government. Therefore, our eighth country, and the smallest in the world, was considered The Vatican.
The trip that Beatrice was planning was coming together, which was why I felt so bad a few days later. It was my turn to stand at her office door. No, I was not there to throw something at her! I entered and sat in the visitor’s chair, peering at her across her desk.
I say, “I have a problem.”
With a slight frown on her face, she replies, “What’s that?”
Chagrin, I respond, “I got a call from my first cousin, he is getting married in August. He wants me to be in the wedding party. The wedding overlaps with the trip.”
Wide eyed, she says, “You’re kidding!”
“No”, I reply.
“What are you going to do?”, Beatrice worriedly asks.
I respond, “I want to do both. Is it possible to move the Europe trip by a few days?”
Beatrice is not all that happy with this wrinkle but, bless her heart, she moves the trip by a few days. I get to have my cake and eat it too; it is a birthday celebration after all!
A Few More Months Later
August has finally arrived. We were all so excited. The plan, for me, was that I would fly out before everyone else and go to my hometown for the wedding. The others would fly out a few days later, heading to England. Alas, I would have loved to have spent a few days with them in England, but I just could not fit it all in. I was meeting up with them the day before the Contiki Tour started.
Now, because I needed the dates changed for the trip, my dear friend Beatrice, ended up having to celebrate her incredibly special birthday in Munich, German, in a Hofbräuhaus, a local beer tavern. Some of you may be asking, what is wrong with spending your once in a lifetime Champagne Birthday in a beer tavern, halfway around the world, with your wonderful friends? Well, BEATRICE HATES BEER!! She cannot stand the smell of beer and if you spill some on her you better move quickly, or she may very well puke all over you.
Beatrice was not happy about the beer tavern, but, like the happy go lucky person she is, she rolled with it. We made sure she had a never-ending supply of the nail polish, that they called Peach Schnapps, to drink for the entire evening, while the rest of us on the trip, happily enjoyed the high-quality beer that Germany is know for. We had a wonderful German meal, most of which I could not pronounce. We also took one of the tavern’s paper menu’s and had everyone in the tavern sign, wishing our dear friend a Happy Birthday. Most of the well wishes we could not read since they were written in many different languages, but it is a memento that Beatrice keeps to this very day.
The whole trip was amazing, a trip of a lifetime! Now I could tell you many more stories about that wonderful trip but then instead of a short story I would have to write a novel, so I will move on.
One and a Half to Two Months Later After the Trip
My sister is excitedly calling out to me. We lived in a split duplex and I was in the lower part watching TV in the recreational room. I head up to the landing, she is standing at the top of the stairs with her hair in a towel and her robe on. She looks distressed.
Concerned, I ask, “What’s wrong?”
Disgruntled she tells me, “I just almost killed myself trying to get out of the shower! There was a huge bug in there with me. It’s about this long.” She is holding her index fingers about four or five inches apart.
I respond, “Well did you kill it?”
“No”, she says, “I came to get you.”
Laughing, I say, “OK.”
I proceed up the stairs from the landing, head down the hall to the bathroom, wondering all the while, what kind of bug I was going to have to try and kill. Going in I cautiously walk over to the tub and peer in. There is nothing in there! I come out and look at my sister standing in the hall.
“Sorry”, I say, “It’s gone.”
“Well find it and kill it!”, she says, her voice a little higher than usual.
I turn around and go back in to do her bidding. She is my older sister after all.
I search everywhere. Nothing. I assumed, whatever bug it was, crawled down the drain, probably more scared than my sister. I turn the water on, letting it run for a couple of minutes.
While the water runs, I go out to the hall again, I tell my sister, “It must have gone down the drain. I’ve looked everywhere, there is nothing in there.”
Suspiciously looking at me, she says, “OK.”
I return to the bathroom, turn the water off, then head back downstairs to continue watching my TV show.
A Few More Days Later
I am in the kitchen getting supper ready. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a bug/insect crawling out from behind the canister set. Quickly turning my head, two things register with me. One, the thing is butt ugly; two, it is no where near as big as my sister said it was. I had been peeling potatoes with a sharp knife, which I still had in my hand. Acting on reflex, I stabbed the ugly looking bug through its back. It was disgusting! I, however, did not manage to kill it. Lifting the knife, before I could do anything else, the horrible looking creature took of, at lighting speed, and dropped down behind the stove.
I call to my sister and she comes into the kitchen and I explain to her what happened. I do tell her that the insect was no where near as big as she said it was.
She laughs, and says, “Well I did have my glasses off at the time, I was in the shower.”
Laughing with her, I now understand why she was so afraid of the insect. My sister is extremely near sighted, without her glasses, anything a foot away looks enormous to her. I can see now, how the sight of a moving insect in the shower would make her fear she was about to be attacked by a bug on steroids. Just picturing it made me laugh even harder.
She responds to my laughter indignantly, “It’s not that funny!!”
Trying to contain myself, I ask, “Can you help me move the stove off.”
Together we pull the stove off. Disappointed, we cannot find the bug. Not knowing where it has gone, I pull out the stove drawer and proceed to take everything out looking for it. We could not find the injured bug anywhere.
Turning to my sister, dubiously I say, “I did hurt it. It has probably gone off to die somewhere.”
We put the kitchen back together, I continue with making supper, glancing every so often at the canister set and the stove, watching for the unwanted intruder. Yes, I did get a clean knife to finish peeling my potatoes!
A Week Later
I am in the kitchen again and I am noticing little black specs all over the counter especially around the sink. I clean them up without thinking much about it.
A Couple of Days Later
I am in my bathroom getting ready for work and there are these little cricket-like bugs all over my sink. I get a tissue and kill about five or six of them.
My sister and I are driving to work, and I mention it to her, and she tells me she has been seeing them too.
A Few More Days Later
I come upstairs, ready for work again. In the kitchen on the counter was a lot more black specs. I get a rag and clean them up. I am starting to get concerned.
My sister comes out of her room, the first thing she says, “I had another one of those bugs in my tub this morning and there are more of those small ones too.”
It dawns on me, “Houston we have a problem.”
My sister and I carpool, so we head on to work and I tell her in the car, “I think we need to get someone in to deal with whatever those bugs are.”
Her only response, “Good.”
At work that afternoon, I pull out the yellow pages, yes, I am old enough to remember them, and find the page listing for exterminators. I call one and tell them about my problem. He explains that it is a common problem for some households here in Calgary and sounds like a bug infestation that is easy to take care of. Nothing really to worry about. He proceeds to ask me if I can catch one so he can make sure he treats the infestation properly. He cannot come until after the weekend, so I sit up the appointment for Monday, then go arrange to take Monday afternoon off.
That evening I pick my sister up from work and fill her in on what is happening. I have plans’ that weekend and will be extremely busy, so innocently I ask, “The exterminator needs to see one of the bugs so do you think if you see one you could catch it for me.”
“I’m not going near one of those things!”, she cries.
“Please,” I respond.
I leave the conversation at that. The week passes and I continue with my plans. I get home late Saturday evening. My sister is standing at the top of the stairs. She is holding a yellow pill bottle, with the cap on, between her thumb and index finger.
Proudly she says, “I did it!”
Excitedly, I respond, “You got one?”
Proud as a peacock, she replies, “Yes.”
Profusely I say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Right on time the exterminator shows up at the house. Coming upstairs I point to the pill bottle containing the disgusting insect. The exterminator picks it up in his hand examining it.
Looking at his assistance, he says, “Go back to the truck, we have the wrong stuff. It’s a cockroach.”
My jaw drops to the ground and I say, “It’s a what?”
He responds, “By the look of it, it’s a German Cockroach.”
I want to throw up!
I ask, “How on earth did I get a cockroach?”
He responds again, “Well you would have to bring them into the home. Most people get them from traveling. Has anyone recently traveled out of the country?”
My heart sinks! I tell him, “I got back from Europe not too long ago.”
“Well,” he says, “That’s where it came from. Probably hitched a ride in your luggage.”
Now I really want to throw up!
The exterminator proceeds, delightedly, telling me all about German Cockroaches.
Here is the list of things I learned about them that I never ever wanted to know:
1. Just because they are called German Cockroaches does not mean they come from Germany; they can come from anywhere in Europe.
2. The female cockroach lives approximately 200 days.
3. In those 200 days the female can give birth 6 to 8 times in that period.
4. Each birth can yield, on average, up to 35 lovely new insects at each birth.
5. The insects then feed on any of the ones that do not survive.
6. Within months you are at infestation levels.
After the exterminator’s gleeful cockroach lesson, I am even more disgusted than I was before!
I ask him, “What can I do so this never happens again.”
He tells me, “Always close your suitcase when you are done with it when you are traveling. It makes it harder for insects/bugs to get in. More importantly, when you return home, leave your open suitcase outside for a day or two before bringing it in and unpacking. These insects can’t stand the cold and will crawl out to find some place warm.”
At this point the exterminator and his assistant proceed to treat my cockroach infestation. They put out a tacky substance in the kitchen and bathroom, areas where cockroaches love to hang out. Since they eat anything, they would ingest the substance and die. They would also have some stuck to their legs and body, spreading it around to all the others.
Now all finished, I give the exterminator my credit card, as he is processing his payment, he drops another bombshell on me.
He tells me that if the infestation is too large, he may have to come back and do another round of “treatment”. Also, he tells me I need to visit my neighbours' living in the duplex attached to me, because the lovely insects have probably already traveled through the shared wall to their place. The fact that the shared wall is brick makes no difference. If they do have an infestation then without treating both households, we would continue to pass the ugly, disgusting insects back and forth between the two houses.
That afternoon, with my head hung in shame, I go next door and tell them the wonderful news!
Two Days Later
I get home from work and as I pull up, I see my neighbour’s son heading across the shared lawn. I already know what is coming.
He looks at me, saying, “Mom had one of those insects in her cupboard today.”
Dejected, I reply, “Ok. I will bring over the exterminator’s number so your parents can book an appointment. Just bring me the bill and I’ll reimburse them the expense.”
Two Weeks Later
No more cockroaches! Thank God!
I am so happy that the problem has been resolved.
It is now close to Christmas and all is right with my world again. Life is back to normal.
However, my friends are not yet ready to let my ordeal go. Just to remind me of my horrific experience, that year, they gave me a stuffed toy Cockroach. I must say it was much cuter than the real thing. Unfortunately, even a lovely stuffed toy cannot erase the images, seared into my brain, of those horrific insects.
A Final Thought
There has always been one thing that bothered me about my cockroach infestation. I was the only one on the Europe trip, out of five of us, that had the unwanted stowaway. We all stayed in the same hotels, went to all the same places. I have often wondered, did my dear friend, the Chimichanga wielding Beatrice, seek revenge on me for making her spend her once in a lifetime Champagne Birthday, in a beer tavern. Maybe she was just trying to frighten me with an ugly insect in my luggage. How could she know it was a pregnant female German Cockroach that would travel all the way back to Canada with me!
I have never had the courage to ask the question. “Did she, or didn’t she?”
At this point I don’t think I want to know the answer!
Did you know that a male Ostrich’s legs turn red during mating season? A wonderful fact I learned on my trip to South Africa. In attendance, of course, is Beatrice (trip planner extraordinaire), her husband, me, and three other great characters. I may introduce you to them some day……...
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