Masham, Quebec skate Kafkaesque

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by admin on March 10, 2010

By Andrea Rowe

It’s the first time I would describe a trip to the local rink for a friendly skate as Kafkaesque but it really, really was…

First of all, we had taken the time to find the phone number in the phone book and had called ahead to make sure about the public skate hours. Did I mention the phone number for the Masham, Quebec arena is the hardest one to find in the phone book? Hint: it’s under “C,” and I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you why. Anyway, I’d called and was told in a recorded message that the rink was open to public skating for three (measly – don’t get me started) hours a week, one of them on Saturdays from 5-6 p.m.

It’s the March break, so we had time on our hands. It was on my ten-year-old daughter’s list of favourite things she wanted to do with me this week. And it was our last chance to make the rink’s public skate hours.

Saturday we set off and arrive just as the Zamboni man is finishing. We stand and watch him for a minute and as he lumbers by I give him a bright smile to indicate our appreciation for the important work he is doing. I notice he is frowning at me and shaking his head, but we go ahead and put our skates on and go stand by the doorway.

This time it is unmistakable. He is glaring, shaking his head and looking most unpleasant. He lurches into the storage area (he’s still on his Zamboni) and we skate over to him on pristine, clean, smooth ice.

We learn (in French, but I shall translate here) that there is no public skating, that Zamboni man is not going to apologize for that fact, that the recorded message has been like that since last year and is clearly no concern of his, that if we skate there is no insurance to cover our accidents, that he has no boss he can call right now to re-consider any of this with. He is angry! He is ignoble! He is rude!

Did I mention another family arrives with a little girl already skated and helmeted? And that her expression changes very much to resemble my daughter’s: something sad and faintly rebellious. “But nobody’s using the ice,” my daughter whispers. Indeed.

We leave the rink, having had our say, vowing to phone the next week to voice our displeasure, pretty sure we’ll encounter a brick wall there too, if this is the level of service of the people they hire.

I feel this is not acceptable for a community rink and I would like a public apology and an explanation for why we were treated so badly. And somewhere in the back of my mind, as International Women’s Day looms, I wonder glumly if we’d have been treated so badly if there’d been a man in our midst. Kafkaesque, indeed.

Andrea Rowe lives in Cheslea, Quebec.