Thursday, June 29, 2017

Encounter at Clegg

I was running a little later than usual on the way home from work this evening, and it was raining steadily as I pedaled along the canal. At the Clegg crossing, I turned and stopped over the signal loop dots as usual. I had noticed, as I rode up to the crossing, the flashing lights of a police motorcycle further down Colonel By, and while I waited for the light, he pulled up, parked in the middle of the intersection, and stopped traffic coming onto Colonel By from Clegg.

"You'll have to wait a few minutes," he called to me. I said okay, and resigned myself to standing in the drizzle for a bit, straddling my bike. The cop started waving traffic along Colonel By, heading toward Bank. There was no traffic in the other direction.

Another, older woman pulled up on her bike, and the cop told her she'd have to wait a few minutes. "What's going on?" she asked me.

"No idea," I said. A phalanx of police motorcycles, lights flashing, streaked toward downtown. "Maybe it's the Italian president?"

"No," she said, "they left yesterday. Oh well, I can't get any wetter, I suppose."

"I know," I answered.

"What did your app tell you? Mine said it was supposed to stop raining by now. Teach me to believe it."

Another cyclist showed up, and was warned to stop. "Can't we just - go? Like, when it's open?" he asked.

"I wouldn't recommend it," I said, "the cop is right there." Another group of bikes streaked past. They kept coming by in squads, at fairly high speeds.

"I was only ever in a motorcade once," said the lady who'd come up behind me, "and I hated it. It was in Shanghai, and I was a complete nobody, but I was in this motorcade. They shut the whole city down, and to be honest I was just embarrassed by it. I guess they're used to it because it happens all the time in Shanghai, but I was just so Canadian about it. You know, I just wanted to apologize for blocking up traffic."

At this point there were four or five of us on bikes, in the rain, standing at the corner. "Hey," I called to the cop, in a break between the groups of motorcycles. "What's up?"

"Charles," he said, and went back to waving cars along to clear the road.

"What, Prince Charles?" asked the guy next to me, in a fake British accent.

"Yup," said the older lady. "And Camilla."

"Which one is he?" asked the guy. "Is he the older one?"

"He's the oldest one," she said. "Of Elizabeth's kids. Princess Di's former husband."

"Wills and Harry's dad," I added.

"So we'll know him if we see him," said the lady. "Although, we won't see them, it's not like they'll have their windows down in this rain. Still, I guess that's something. Worth getting soaked here in the rain for, right?"

The road was cleared at this point. "Wait," the lady said, "here they come, I can see the lights..."

So we stood there as the motorcade of black cars rolled towards us. "Should we wave?" someone said,

"We should definitely wave," said someone else. "Welcome to Ottawa, here's a bunch of drenched cyclists to greet you."

So we waved. And as the cars rolled by, the window rolled down on one of them, and HRH Charles, Prince of Wales waved at the four or five soggy cyclists standing at the crosswalk, who'd been randomly stopped on their way home to let him go by.

There was a small squeal of surprise from the lady, and a couple of the other cyclists, and we all pretty much burst into laughter. "Well, that was pretty much worth it," someone said, "front row seats." The motorcade passed, and the cop in the intersection drove off, and the regular flow of traffic resumed. At our green light, we got moving again. 

"I can't believe he actually rolled the window down," said the lady. "That's something. What a welcome to Ottawa, a bunch of people on bikes in the rain." She was laughing.

"Nice meeting you all," said someone. 

"You too," said someone else. "Have a good night, eh?" 

As we filtered through the bollards and onto Echo or Clegg, I could still hear the older lady laughing to herself. 

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