Wednesday, September 18, 2013


          Girls love hearing the engagement story, so dudes, you had better make it a good one.  We were on vacation in Paris and I decided that it was time to ask my girlfriend Stacey to marry me.  This was it.  I went out and bought the ring, and then the games began.
          First of all, I wondered, where am I supposed to hide a diamond ring?  The obvious answer is in the suitcase, except that I pack like a junior high school student’s locker.  I just take clothes and kind of stuff them in.  There’s no folding, there’s no organization.  I would never find the ring again.  So here was my big plan: I stuffed the ring in the bottom of a pair of shoes that I was bringing along, and then put a sock in the shoe.  Brilliant.  Just to make it not look suspicious, I stuffed another sock in the other shoe.  I told myself this looked normal, even though no one in the history of mankind has ever stuffed socks in shoes when they travel. 
          Who’s looking in my suitcase you may ask?  Here’s my other foible: I don’t really “do” laundry.  I put a pair of Lulu Lemon pants in a dryer once a couple of years ago and I was pulled from the game.  Apparently Lulu Lemon pants cost a fortune because they are the greatest fabric in the world—they can withstand sweating, stretching, exercise, et cetera—but if you put them in the dryer they are destroyed.  So the coach pulled Wiebe from the game and now I am holding the clipboard on the sidelines when it comes to laundry.  Don’t get me wrong—I am not complaining.  I can supervise the washing and the drying of the clothes and watch football at the same time.  If the dryer catches fire, I will grab a fire extinguisher during the commercial.  That is the extent of me doing laundry.  So Stacey has “all access” to the suitcase since I will just put stinky underwear back in the suitcase.  It’s not an issue (for me, anyway) because I can tell, most of the time, which clothes I have worn before. 
          So the suitcase has shoes in there, and the shoes have socks in there, and there is a ring hidden in there somewhere.  We wound up in Paris, France.  My big idea was to propose at the Eiffel Tower.  This was the plan.  If you haven’t been to the Eiffel Tower, then you are probably thinking “wow, that is the greatest”.  If you have been to the Eiffel Tower, then you know that this is a terrible idea.  I will explain now the difference between the marketing of Paris and the reality of Paris.
          The marketing: you show up at the Eiffel Tower via a horse carriage.  Everything smells like lavender.  You put away your parasol and ascend the beautiful Eiffel Tower to the viewing platform.  Some dude with a pencil moustache appears at the top with an accordion.  You gaze out over the river and the Arc de Triomph and suddenly you whip out the ring.  The girl starts crying, she screams yes and you kiss on top of the world.
          Enter reality.
          First of all, there are gangs of gypsies roaming around the Eiffel Tower.  This is what we were told upon arrival.  Watch out for the gypsies.  They are everywhere!  What would have been helpful is if someone had explained to me what a gypsy looks like.  I was picturing Little Steven from the E Street Band, but that was just an old guy with a bandana.  Then I thought of some guy with a turban and some pointy slippers, but I am pretty sure that was a genie.  So I decided that logically, I should be terrified of everyone.  I walked into the horribly long lineup to the Eiffel Tower with my hands in my pockets, guarding the ring, my wallet and my fingers.  They weren’t taking anything! 
          There are actually two lineups to the Eiffel Tower. Line up #1 is for VIPs like us who bought advance tickets.  This meant that we were in a small lineup.  Then there were all the schmoes who just showed up.  They were in a way longer line.  So we were feeling like big shots until we got near the front of our line. 
          The lines merged right at the elevator.  So this meant that if you were pushy enough, you could just get into this “mosh pit” of people who were trying to get on this elevator. 
          There are four towers at the Eiffel Tower.  One lift was operating.  So that meant that you had one tiny, rickety elevator that was built in the 19th century to haul a bunch of pushy, angry and impatient tourists to the top.  The doors opened and we pushed forward.  I expected to hear Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” blare out of the loudspeakers.  I am pretty sure that I crushed a Spanish lady’s foot and I didn’t show any remorse.  I stand by my decision and I’m sure she will heal someday.  We made it onto the elevator—I was pushed up into the corner, my hands stuck firm inside my pockets.  I was hoping that Stacey was on the elevator.  If she wasn’t, she did her best and she would be missed. 
          When the doors opened, people scrambled off with the same ferocity as when we got on.  Being Canadian, I have been conditioned to act with at least a tiny amount of manners, so that meant that me and my girlfriend were the last ones off the elevator.  We caught our breath and stepped out onto the observation deck.
          The winds were horrible that day, my friend.  You know it is bad when you use “winds”.  As in plural.  Wind is normal—hey, we are golfing today, watch out for that wind!  “Winds” means that people and property are being blown away.  The winds on the top of the tower were fierce.  I whipped out my little iPod to take a picture and it almost blew away.  We look like we are smiling in the pictures, but we are gritting our teeth and trying to remain on the concrete. 
          “MIND THE PICKPOCKETS” blared over the loudspeaker every 10 seconds.  It’s hard to propose when you are hearing this over and over again.  We were constantly frisking ourselves, making sure that phones, cameras and money were still in our pockets. 
Me: I think that you are very special—
Me: I would be honoured if you—
Me: Umm...
 Me: Watch out for that guy!

          This went on for a few minutes, and I abandoned the plan.  The observation deck was out.  Instead, Stacey said that she wanted a glass of champagne.  They have one guy, in one booth, at the very top and all he sells is champagne.  Awesome.  So we buy a glass of champagne and we hand the guy a 20-Euro note. 
          He tells us that he has no change.
          Really.  You are working at literally the most famous building in the world, at the top, and you only sell one item.  He seemed surprised that anyone was actually buying anything.  I imagined that he phoned down to his supervisor on the ground floor.  “Hey boss, you are not going to believe this.  Yeah, we finally sold a glass of champagne.  I know!  I know!  That’s what I thought.  Who buys this stuff?  Anyway, we have no change.  I never thought to bring any up when I started my shift.  Yeah, bad planning on my part, but in my defense, I didn’t think that any tourist would travel all the way to Paris for champagne!”
          We enjoyed the view and finally stuffed ourselves back in the squeaky elevator and made it back to solid ground.  That was okay, I said to myself.  I was going to propose on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Just as romantic.  It’s still on the property.  Still counts.
          So we went to the supermarket and bought some picnic stuff—some long bread, some wine, and some fruit.  Perfect!  We picked out a spot on the lawn and ate our bread and enjoyed the majesty of the Eiffel Tower.  How romantic! 
          Then we saw the gypsies.  These creepy-looking young guys were wandering around asking people to sign some document or petition.  But they were laying the paper down on tourists’ purses and belongings and trying to do the old “steal your possession” trick.  Get out of here gypsies!  For the record, they were wearing regular shoes—no pointy shoes, just regular sneakers.
          So they finally went away and we starting eating again.  With eyes darting around on the hunt for creepy gypsies, or genies, who human-rights advocates who wanted me sign a petition, we began eating grapes and drinking Cherry Coke. 
          I reached into my pocket to pull out the ring, and it was just then that three girls from Japan set up shot six feet away and decided to spend the next 20 minutes jumping up and down and taking pictures.  And I mean jumping up and down.  Like jumping jacks.  I don’t know what kind of cheerleading they have in Tokyo but these girls had some energy.  There was the “pointing to the top of the tower”, the “chest bump”, the “standing on each other’s shoulders”—they must have taken 300 pictures.  There was selfies, twofies, and a threefie in there at some point.  Anyway, the park was out.  Forget the park.  It wasn’t going to happen.  We finished the lunch and Stacey declared that she was ready to go home.
          Think, man, think!  If it didn’t happen at the Eiffel Tower, where else could I propose?  The French Army Museum?  There was an Apple Store at the Louvre—in my defense, I had like ten seconds to run through different places.  I loudly declared that it was time to go for a walk around the park first.  I made up some story about memories, and we should smell the flowers—if she wasn’t suspecting something before, she would very soon.  I haven’t voluntarily smelled a flower in my life and I wasn’t about to start.
          We quickly got on a pathway and I proposed in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  It was private, romantic and wonderful. 
          I guess even great wine takes some grape-stomping, so I don’t mind that we had to stomp on some grapes in order to create a great memory.