Saturday, June 11, 2011

The best birthday present ever

For years I’ve been telling my husband that I want to retire from my government job as soon as possible, so I can fulfill my life-long ambition to work as a freelance Bobcat driver. Scooping, twirling, dumping . . . a veritable ballet of steel and rubber . . . does it get any better than that?

Pierre understands the affinity I feel with Bobcat drivers. A sunny Saturday morning a few years back, we were standing in the doorway of our garage during a lull in one of our once-a-decade garage sales. A Bobcat trundled down the street, its engine emitting a jaunty rumble. As the machine drew even with us, I waved at the driver. He waved back. Pierre nodded. “One of your people,” he said.

So when Pierre arrived home this afternoon when I was elbow-deep in compost (it’s planting time in Yellowknife) and instructed me to be ready to go somewhere in 20 minutes, I was perplexed. I filled a couple more buckets with compost, washed the grime from my arms and legs, and changed my clothes. We drove to a vacant lot, where Pierre unveiled my surprise 50th birthday present – a borrowed Bobcat (a little the worse for wear) and a big pile of dirt, just begging to be moved. As I approached, another sight gave me pause – our friend, award-winning cinematographer Alan Booth, lurking in the bushes with one of his high-end cameras. Good lord.

Yet the Bobcat beckoned. I climbed in, and Pierre gave me instructions on how to fire it up and operate it. I spent the next half hour gleefully scooping, twirling, dumping – all of it captured on video. Boy, was I ever glad I changed out of the shapeless T-shirt and lumpy shorts Pierre told me were just fine.

The video will be expertly edited in time for my birthday party, which had to be bumped a couple of weeks because of the NorthWords Writers Festival. The video will show that I am a Bobcat natural - that I am to-the-Bobcat-born, as it were. Except that I kept mixing up the controls for going backward and forward. And raising and lowering the scoop. And the whole thing was pretty jerky. But other than that, I did really, really well.

First thing Monday, I’ll be looking into the possibility of early retirement.