It is finally summer in Montreal. The calendar has been telling us it has been so for a month now, but with the arrival of hot weather and high humidity, one can now say summer has arrived. It’s not the heat but the humidity – or as the man said as they pulled him naked from the burning building, it’s not the heat but the humility!
I recall when I was a young boy there was a man who lived a few houses down the street from us. Mr. Wheeler was a thin man, retired from a long stint as an elevator operator in a somewhat seedy downtown hotel. During the summer he would set a table and chairs on his front lawn, bring out his canary in its cage, and sit sipping tea from a cup, replenishing it often from a china teapot. He would offer various delivery men a cup which, should they accept, they would soon learn that Mr. Wheeler’s tea was actually Scotch.
Some not afternoons he would go to the park in search of shade. He would carry his bird cage and make his way up the street past my house. Often my mother would be sitting outside with me and Mr. Wheeler would stop and say hello to her then turn to me and say in his nasal voice “Hello Reegan”. My name is Deegan, uncommon indeed, rare as a first name. But difficult to pronounce! Nope. Yet no matter how often my mother or I when I was a bit older corrected him he just couldn’t get it. Sometimes he gave me a lollipop. Hello Reegan became a bit of a family joke over the years.
There were two other things Mr. Wheeler was fond of saying on very hot and humid days. The first was “Good day to stick a pig”. I think there may be some logic to this seemingly inane utterance. On a hot day, a slaughtered pig’s blood would run faster. Or was it a Lord of the Flies reference?
His other favourite adage is a little more difficult to figure out: “It’s a good day to kill your mother-in-law”. I have no idea why a hot, humid day would be better than any other to commit this heinous act, but Mr. Wheeler seemed to understand!