I Crossed the Line

From 1983 – 1986 I taught in Newfoundland. As a result, I had to take a leave-of-absence from the Naval Reserve.

During the winter of 85/86 I applied to return to the reserves. It was required to complete some paperwork and pass a physical exam, and all of this was arranged through the Armed Forces Recruiting Office in Corner Brook.

One day I received a call from the recruiting centre telling me that I had to appear and sign some forms. But there was a problem. This federal office was located in the same building that housed a number of provincial government departments and the employees union was on strike. To get to the recruiting centre I would have to cross a picket line.

The next day after school I drove to the building. A lot of snow was on the ground and the banks along the sides of the streets were quite high. I couldn’t actually see the parking lot until I drove through the intersection and entered it by taking a quick left. Two things were very apparent: I didn’t see a picket line (that was good) and the parking lot was VERY empty (that was bad). As I drove into the lot I looked over my left shoulder and saw the picketers were gathered around a barrel that contained a fire. They stared at me. Uh-oh, I thought.

I drove over next to the building and exited my car.

You crossed our picket line!”, one of them yelled.

Yeah, sorry about that. But it actually wasn’t much of a line. It was more like a huddle”, I responded. I also explained that I was heading to a federal, not provincial, office.

You still crossed the line. You have to come out at some point and we will be waiting.”

I sense of dread fell over me. I had visions of picketers surrounding my car and pounding it with signs.

I followed the walkway around the building and entered through the front door. The picketers in front of the building didn’t see me.

When I finished my business inside I exited by the same door. As I was quietly making my way around the building I could hear footsteps running up behind me. I could tell it was at least two people. I edged over closer to the building but didn’t turn around. The steps were getting closer. Oh no, I thought – here we go.

Just as the first guy caught up to me he spoke.

There’s a scab coming out the back door.”

Realizing they thought I was one of them I replied, “Really? The back door?”

Yeah, we’re heading there now.”

OK”, I said. I started running behind the two guys but at a slightly slower pace. Once they rounded the building I kept going straight and jumped into my car.

The coast was clear. The picketers I spoke to earlier were nowhere to be seen. I suspect they were hassling some poor scab around the back of the building.

I don’t know who that poor fellow was but his timing was perfect for me. I hope they didn’t hassle him too much.

I couldn’t help but giggle as I drove out of the lot.

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