In The Navy – Part 2 of 1990 or What Was I Thinking Anyway

So to continue on from last Monday I get back from England in June to the friendly confines of Montreal. A little worse for wear and with not too much money I had decided before coming back to Canada that I would make a go of it out West. They say you can never go back and Montreal had changed too much for me and besides , because of all the political stuff going on there the last few years up to 1990 , most of my friends moved away to places like Ontario and British Columbia.

So off to Vancouver I went with suitcase in hand to land a good job with a nice fancy hotel. Staying with a friend of my Mother I started my job search hitting all the hotels with high hopes. Quickly I landed an interview with the Four Seasons Hotel for an Assistant Restaurant Manager job in their Seasons Cafe. It went very well and was scheduled for a second interview. There was not a ton of jobs at this particular time and in BC there were a lot of unions in these hotels that made turnover very low for service personnel and a question asked often during these management interviews was , ” have you ever worked in a union environment?” I kept repeating no I haven’t but I am sure I am capable of supervising union employees.

Well the first two interviews went well but the time was running out where I was staying. It took me about 3-4 weeks to get through 2 interviews and I started to ask when will I get a decision on whether I am good for the job or not. The guy was very coy until he told me that the end of the week you should get a call from him setting up a final interview with the GM. Okay I said I want to hear from him as I explained the situation that time was running out where I was staying and that if I didn’t hear from him by the end of the week I would have to move on and find a job elsewhere and find my own accommodation. I don’t think he quite understood that the welcome mat where I was staying was being rolled up and besides that so was my savings and with it any lodging and food money to give.

That Friday came and no call so that is when I decided I can’t wait forever and I took a few things and took a bus to Oliver in the Okanagan Valley initially to do some cherry picking and save a few bucks. Yes folks I couldn’t live anywhere right now except in a tent picking cherries. Anyway I figured picking cherries might have been good for my state of flux at the time.

The bus arrived at 7AM in the morning and so I had a couple of hours before meeting with the others when the employer would round us up and take us to the fields. Now Oliver was a small town just north of Osoyoos and the American border and it was dry and hot. There were a few restaurants there and a lot of trailer parks of tourists soaking up the sun.

While waiting I went for a walk when I noticed this cute babe putting out a ” Open for Breakfast” sign out so I thought let’s check it out , I mean the restaurant! Okay her too. I could see it was not a half bad restaurant with a patio and such so I stopped in for a coffee. Talking to her I asked if they were needing any help. She said the owner would be in around 9 but there was some hope so I hung around. When the owner arrived I had a chat with him. He was an older fella but he said that yes he would be needing someone part time but he wanted to get the okay from the front of the house guy first who was coming in later at around 1PM.

So I went for another walk and started thinking about accommodation. There was none. The place had rooms where I was working but they were all booked for the summer and the staff all had their rooms. Finally around 3 I was hired to start at about 25 hours a week but then I asked the owner I am in a bit of a bind here as I have no place to stay. I had to go back to Vancouver that night and pick up some stuff I had left behind and be back next afternoon to start work. Finally the accommodation issue was settled and I would be sleeping on an extra bed that would be put in the owner’s room.

Perhaps all of these things had an effect on me but at that moment I realized that I couldn’t get much lower than what I was doing. Just biding time working at this restaurant with no life really , and spending a lot of spare time in the public pool on those hot days is what I did. Then the day came early August when I was told that I wouldn’t be needed in a couple of weeks time when the season was coming to a close and that I should start looking elsewhere. I made a few calls to Jasper and the owner gave me a reference to work at this Sawridge Hotel as a waiter. You know I cannot remember the owner’s name or the restaurant’s either but he was a great guy to give me that job in Oliver and reference afterwards.

So now to continue that year I go to Sawridge Hotel and get into the staff accommodations. I take the unimpressive tour of the kitchen and dining room and get ready to start the following day at 1PM. I am unpacking my stuff when the guy I am sharing the room with says did I hear the news. What news? He says that there was an outbreak of scavies in the staff rooms and the whole place had to be fumigated that day and the guy who started it used to sleep in the bed that was assigned to me! Oh freakin’ great!

The next morning I am taking a walk around beautiful Jasper and there were so many places to eat that anywhere you went there was a job. I thought maybe I could find something better as the Sawridge didn’t give me a good first impression. I sauntered into the place next door which was the Lobstick Lodge and they needed someone desperately for breakfast and they had some real good accommodation. So I went back to the Sawridge and said I found something else but thanks anyway. Took my stuff out of the room and moved into the new accommodation and started the next day.

Meanwhile I am thinking of the year so far and some stability is creeping into my head at this moment. So I get this idea of joining the armed forces as a cook. I had tried learning earlier when I was 21 or so to become a cook in the kitchen at George Brown College here in Toronto but time and money sort of got in the way. Here was a chance I thought to start a career learning something I wanted to do and have a bit of security as well. So off I go to the recruiting center and before you know it by late August I am being signed in for a 3 year contract as a cook in the Navy. Not glamorous by any stretch. But it was room and board too I guess. This is the part of 1990 when WHAT WAS I THINKING OCCURS.

I say so long to Jasper and head back to Montreal where I spend a few days with Mom and off I go by train to Ottawa to fly to Halifax and then board a bus to Cornwallis for 10 Week Basic Training. It is only September folks! This year I was in Montreal to start , England in a couple of places , Vancouver , Oliver BC , Jasper Alberta and now Cornwallis doing Basic Training for the Navy.

Basic Training was not very good for me. I remember how we were yelled at right at the beginning just boarding the bus from the airport. Attention!! Hey you in line!! Shut your cake hole!! And on it went. Not being good at authoritative figures to begin with it’s hard to imagine me ever contemplating a career in the navy. This could be a post for another time but to give you one example I even complained in the platoon office one morning that our lunch breaks were too short and that we should get the full half hour. The NCOs were going to kill me for that one. Anyway 8 short weeks later I ended up out again with honourable discharge and flying back to Toronto this time to spend a short time staying with my brother. It was November now and nearing the end of this crazy year.

To wrap it up I finished off the year staying at my stepmother’s place just north of Toronto. My Mom had moved again and was living out of range. Sleeping on the couch and not sure of what to do I did find a job with a chain restaurant that was opening up. Doing the training at a sister restaurant and getting a lift in with a lady was fine but after some thought I decided that out west was hopping so I set up some interviews.

The first week of January 1991 I headed out West again to make some money this time.

To recap , many moves , many jobs , many interviews , England , lived in 4 provinces and did a stint in the armed forces and experienced hell in Basic Training all in the same year. A year I can laugh at but at the time was not very pleasant.

Kinda restless? Well ya……..

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