Dance season is upon us. After months of preparation it all comes down to four competitive weekends where we roll into various towns, set up an ops centre (usually under ridiculous circumstances like 40 people in a 6 by 8 foot room), and execute tricky maneuvers like blacking out dancer faces only to have to reset them to pristine for the next dance, while picking up pieces of disappointed child when a dance doesn’t go well.
When you combine a dance weekend with an ice storm, things get really interesting.
Peterborough is a nice little town. Quirky almost, with it’s one way streets and vintage downtown. The Holiday Inn there is an interesting design, executed very well. The staff are amazing – congenial and helpful. Friendly, even as they patrol the halls and shoo people into rooms at 10 p.m. curfew. The halls are Shining. Had I seen a set of twins that weekend I would have run screaming in the other direction. Peterborough’s Showplace Theatre is a grand old performance palace and the dance we were seeing was all great. The other studios were lovely people, the theatre volunteers were gracious, we were having a terrific start to the first weekend of competitive dance, except for the weather.
Mother Nature was mad mad mad and it was coming down in icy sheets of pebbled sleet and freezing rain. All. Weekend. People started talking about staying an extra night as soon as we got there. The Friday drive up was dark, rainy, and a perfect example why lines on the roads are important – when you can’t see them, driving becomes tense. We had carpooled and my friend is a first responder. She had to be back for work Monday. I decided to Scarlett O’Hara the whole issue (worry about it another day) and get the competition over with first. Cue Sunday night.
We Tetris’d the gear into the car. Snugged the (incredibly successful, congrats again girls!) two dancers into the back seat. Tossed kid2’s giant mirror-blocking tutu into someone else’s van, and took a deep breath. There were several signs things weren’t going to go well.
First sign: Kid2 stole a donut. We hit Tim Horton’s for dinner. We were in a hurry and we ordered a cubic ton of food. As we poured out to the car I couldn’t figure out why kid2 was hanging back. I saw her ask the Tim’s employee* something. I headed back into the restaurant just as she was coming out, happily carrying a donut. “I got my donut!” she said. I asked her how she paid for it. “YOU paid for it…” she said. I hadn’t ordered her a donut. We looked at each other for a heartbeat. “Get in the car” I said.
Second sign: We got lost getting lost. Peterborough seems to have circles going around it. Spirals of intersections and cut-offs, that when roads are mere tire tracks and a storm is raging, are hard to navigate. I have to confess I get lost every time I go there but this wasn’t the day or road conditions to be messing around in. As I tried to turn around in a driveway, I got stuck. I could feel rage bubbling, knew the dent in my forehead was forming. I ordered everyone out of the car, to go stand way in front of it, which is ridiculous as all together they total a combined body weight of maybe 350 pounds. I needed to feel like the load was lightened though and I spun backwards out of the driveway then without issue. Of course we proceeded to get lost again. At this point I was chew-the-steering-wheel level of angst. I have a creepy kind of tense mood I hit which is like the Tasmanian devil pausing before starting to twirl. That’s where I was poised. That’s when I turned savage.
The final straw: Popcorn madness. We decided to stay driving in the wrong direction for a few kilometres as it was a main road and all the side roads were snow covered with no tracks. We were doing 50 km/hour and there was no one else on the road. Time to settle in for a long, slow drive. I was trying breathing exercises and wondering how damaged my friendship was going to be, for having turned savage when it happened; the final straw. Kid2 is a twig. She is grace and elegance as a dancer, and beautiful energy as a person. She’s also very feminine. That’s why hearing her croakretch in a demon voice escalated the situation to critical. Maybe it was the stolen donut. We’ll never know, but she was going to be sick.
I knew we had at least three hours ahead of us in the car. I knew where my patience and sanity were at, and with no bars left on either I flipped to crisis mode. “GIVE HER A BAG” I yelled at her friend in the back seat. She handed her a Tim Horton’s bag. Flimsy paper. The demon voice was still croaking, I knew the bag wasn’t going to work.
I should say a word about my friend who had carpooled with us. She’s a first responder, and excellent at her job. She’s super chill, hilarious, and a great mom. She had opened a bag of Chicago Mix popcorn that I had saved all weekend, for the drive home. I love the stuff, and was going to consider it, and the inevitable gastric distress it causes me as my reward for doing the crappy drive. I had just commented that the top of the bag was all cheese, and I wanted more caramel. I had just said how glad I was we had snacks. Then I yelled at her to THROW THE POPCORN OUT THE WINDOW so we could give kid2 the plastic bag. I saw her pause. I saw her emergency-handling reflexes weighing the situation. I repeated myself, saw her clutch the bottom of the bag tightly, put her window down and fling the contents to the wind.
Picking popcorn out of my bra later at home I suppose I could have handled things differently. My friend said she debated which would be worse, kid2 barfing and us smelling it, or me realizing I had no popcorn left. As it blew back into and all around the car I felt slightly amused for having thought you *could* throw popcorn out the window of a moving car. Kid2 got her bag, which as barf bags go, smelled lovely. The tension was broken and as we picked popcorn out of our hair the drive gradually improved and all ended well. I haven’t lost a friend. Kid2 gained some awesome memories, and we’re off to the next dance weekend, new bag of popcorn in hand.
Kid2 and I in a happy moment, as we prepped to dance on day 1
*I would like to give full props to anyone who was working that weekend, in food service, at the theatre, and at the hotel. The weather conditions were apocalyptically awful but everyone was cheery and if they hadn’t been doing what they were, we would have been even further up a frozen creek. I will pay the stolen donut forward a multitude of ways and hope everyone appreciates the employees of such places, during such times. They’d rather have been home snug too, I bet.