It Happened to Me

Best Date Ever, chapter 1: Quid Pro Quo

The Worst Date Ever story came about as a bribe to my readers. In exchange for a Bloggie

nomination, I promised to tell the story. While a number of people

submitted my name for nomination, I didn’t make the final cut, but

decided to tell the story anyway.

People have asked me, via

comments, email, instant messaging and face-to-face conversation, if I

ever have good dates. I do, and when they go well, they go stunningly

well. I had a particularly memorable and bloggable one last year, an

unexpectedly wonderful one in the spring of 2000 in New York City, one

dreamlike on in Prague just after New Year’s 2000 and one unforgettable

one on my birthday in 1992. However, the one which makes the best story

is the earliest one: one particularly sweltering night in Montreal in

August 1987, when what should’ve been a disaster turned into something

altogether different.

(Besides, I think that sixteen years is well past any statute of limitations.)


could simply dive right and and just tell the story of the date, but it

would simply be nothing more than a cute little tale of little more

consequence than a sitcom episode. Big Life Moments like the Worst Date Ever

don’t happen in isolation, but in the context of the life surrounding

them. Just as every particle in existence exerts a pull on every other

particle to give the universe its shape; every experience we have

exerts its own gravity on every other experience, giving shape to our


So as promised, here it is: the serialized story of

the Best Date Ever, by way of the scenic route. This is going to take a

helluva of a lot of installments, but I think you’ll find the journey

an interesting one.

This story is dedicated to anyone who feels alone, unwanted or is suffering atrophy of the heart.

Quid Pro Quo

Toronto, May 1986

If airports smell like impatience (as I believe Douglas Adams wrote), high school principal’s offices smell like remorse.

In my eight years at De La Salle College “Oaklands”,

a picturesque Catholic school set on a prized hilltop plot of land

donated to the Christian Brothers by an eccentric millionaire’s widow,

I had never been called to the principal’s office for reasons that

would end up on my permanent record. Although some of the school’s more

notorious troublemakers were my friends, I was generally regarded as

one of the good kids, even if I always didn’t “apply myself” to my


It was a particularly bright and sunny morning in

late May, and the gorgeous weather outside made the fact that I was in

this office for disciplinary reasons more painful. I decided not to

stare outside the window, but instead at a rather generic scenic

painting of a forest that hung on the institution-pale-green walls of

the office.

My Inquisitor, Mr. Davies, the school principal,

kept me waiting for fifteen interminable minutes, while chatting with

Ms. DeCesare, the bursar’s secretary. While I couldn’t hear what they

were saying through the closed glass door, I could tell by the sound of

their voices and their body language and furtive glances and gestures

in my direction that they weren’t doing official business, but making

small talk, possibly about me.

It was a tactic meant to wear me down and make me willing to name names.

Thirty-two hours earlier


must’ve been the most suspicious looking lot on that warm spring night:

ten boys, all at the end of their teenage years, clad head-to-toe in

black (some even in balaclavas), piled into a van that was slowly

making its away across a darkened parking lot with its headlights off.


eased the van to a quiet halt at the edge of the parking lot that was

both farthest away from any lights and closest to the school building.

“Awright,” he said, turning the engine off and turning to face the rest of us in the back. “Let’s do it.”

One of us slid the side door of the van open. A slightly drunk Pazzo let out a war whoop.


I quickly silenced him by covering his mouth with my hand.

“This…is…a…stealth…mission!” I hissed. I removed my hand from his mouth, wiping off the whiskey-scented drool on the leg of my black jeans.

“Oh yeah,” was his sheepish reply.

“C’mon,” said Ray, who was supressing his laughter. “Let’s make this quick.”

Pazzo, Ray and a few others a long with me were on Beta Team. Beta

Team’s mission was to take several dozen rolls of toilet paper and turn

the trees of St. Michael’s College, our rival school, into weeping

willows of bum-wad. The other members of The Operation, Alpha Team,

were charged with the duty of rendering the school’s locks inoperable

by rubbing chicken boullion into the keyholes.

Beta Team made short work of the trees, and four dozen rolls of bathroom tissue later, we returned to the van.

“I fucking hate St. Mike’s,” said Pazzo, “bunch of stuck-up assholes.”

Pazzo’s rage was misdirected. He actually hated only one

St. Mike’s guy, whom some girl from our sister school, St. Joseph’s had

chosen over him. St. Mike’s was guilty by proxy, which probably made

sense according to the pretzel logic of the kind of guy who would curse

all the sailors of the world after getting food poisoning from eating a

submarine sandwich.

“I got an idea,” he said, grabbing a can of spray paint and running out the door.

“I hate it when he gets ideas,” said Ray.


you double blue,” said Mr. Davies, when he finally entered his office

bearing a single file folder. The swear words sounded doubly obscene

coming from him.

He walked to his desk, tossed the folder

onto it, took off his blazer and placed it on his chair. He looked away

from me and out his window.

“Four hundred dollars,” he said,

watching a group of “Greenies” — the younger students, who wore green

blazers, while we older ones wore blue — playing frisbee. “Do you know

how much that costs, on a per-word basis, Jose?”

Mr. Davies always preferred to address me as “Jose” rather than “Joey”.


hundred dollars a word, sir,” I answered nervously. The fact that I

knew he was toying with me didn’t make me feel any better.


hundred. Dollars. A. Word,” he said, elucidating each word very

carefully. I was reminded of a trick that some of the chess players who

played on the public tables off Yonge Street intimidated their

less-experienced opponents: they’d slowly twist each piece they moved,

as if screwing bolts into place.

“The actions of your friends

on Monday night have tarnished this school’s fine reputation forever.

Do you know what a man has if he doesn’t have his reputation, Jose?”

“He has nothing, sir,” I said, wishing that he would skip this

tea-ceremony-cum-torture-session and just tell me what he wanted.


Has. Nothing,” he said. He was facing away from me on the words “he”

and “has”, but turned on his heel and faced me from across his desk,

his arms in an inverted V-shape and his legs together, glaring at me

like an angry tripod. “Nothing!”

He’s quick for an old man, I thought. Had I not been so nervous, I’d have laughed at the Shatnerian ridiculousness of the gesture.


stood upright and faced the window again. “You, however, have a

reputation. It’s good, and if you apply yourself, it could be great.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’ve known you for eight years — eight years! — and you’ve been a good man all the way through. Although you are friends with some of the ne’er-do-wells…”


tapped a cassette tape that was rested on a two file folders that I

hadn’t noticed on his desk. They were the permanent records of Nik

Roland and Will Stepney. During the previous week, they’d managed to

sneak into the control room for the school’s public address system and

replaced the cassette of the national anthem with one that had a

synthpop tune where the vocalist was yelling “Suck me off! Suck me off!

Suck me off!”

“…and you fancy yourself as some kind of

clever prankster, you are too much of a gentleman, if I may be so bold,

to stoop to petty vandalism.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t thank me just yet.”

Finally, I thought, here it comes. I could feel my pulse in the veins around my throat, and I could swear that someone was slowly draining the air from the room.

He slid Roland’s and Stepney’s records aside and took a seat. He opened the folder, which I realized was my permanent record.


excellent. Computers: well, I know you’re our resident computer whiz

kid. English: Mr. Cheley says you could be our next Oscar Wilde.”


for the writing and not the…the thing for boys, sir,” I said, in a

pretty foolish attempt to inject a little levity into the situation. I

was on an express train to Hell, so why not have a little fun?

One eye glowered at me from behind a bifocal lens.

“Too bad about these chemistry and math marks. They’re okay, but probably a little low for applying to engineering. That is what you want to get into, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I expect that you’ll probably repeat these courses.”

“Yes, sir. I’m going to do chemistry in summer school, and redo the three maths in the fall.”

“Not here?”

“I thought that if I had to repeat courses, my parents shouldn’t have to pay for it, sir.”

“Public school, eh?”

“I found a good one. They even have a robotics course that I was going to try in the winter term, sir.”

“So…” he said, his voice becoming more conspiratorial. “You only need to repeat these four courses, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You sure you don’t want to, oh, I don’t know — repeat them all?

“But I already have good marks for those courses. They’re right there,” I said, gesturing towards my record.

“You have them…insofar that I’m allowing you to have them.

The words, although spoken in a soft conversational tone, hit me with gale force.

“Jose, do you know the meaning of the Latin quid pro quo?”

“It means…” I said, my voice diminished by the sudden dryness in my throat. “..tit for tat.”

“Correct,” he said, “if colloquial. Tit. For. Tat.

This is an exchange that I am willing to offer you. I will make sure

that your good marks get transferred to whatever school you will be

attending this fall. That way, you will not have to repeat those

courses. In exchange, I want names.”

“Names, sir?” I asked, pointlessly. I knew what he wanted and he knew that I knew.


know you were there. I know you know who did it. I know that you and

some others were responsible for the non-destructive parts of your

little graduating student prank. That’s tradition, and I care a whit

about that. But some of your number are responsible for spray-painting

‘FUCK YOU DOUBLE BLUE’ across the entire front wall of another school!


“Sir…” I said, weakly. I struggled to think of something to say, but I didn’t have a bargaining chip. They were all his.

“I know. You are worried about your

reputation now. I hear that irony is a major literary device that is

covered in the English class in which you did particularly well.”

I prayed for a stray meteor to hit the school and crush the office, but the prayer went unanswered.


you are generally un upstanding gentleman, I am willing to make this

easier on you. You will not be required to provide me with names.”



want you to use your powers of persuasion to convince any one of the

people who spray painted St. Mike’s to step forward. He will provide me

with the names. That way, you will not be directly responsible for — I

believe the vernacular term is ‘ratting out’ — the gentlemen in

question. In exchange, I will transfer your marks to your new school.

If this man that you provide to me provides me with names, I will

reinstate the prom.”

The day earlier, he’d announced that the prom was cancelled until those responsible revealed themselves.

“If you cannot produce this one man in forty-eight hours, I will not

transfer your marks, and no record of the courses in which you excelled

will exist. You will have to repeat everything, not just a few


That wily old motherfucker, I thought. I’d just had my first bait-and-switch pulled on me.


hours. One man,” he said, as he showed me out of his office. “It

shouldn’t be difficult for a intelligent and resourceful gentleman like


The door to his office shut with a sound that

reverberated down the long empty hall. I glanced up at the clock on the

wall. 9:15. I was late for my exam.

23 replies on “Best Date Ever, chapter 1: Quid Pro Quo”

Finally I’m hearing the whole thing! Davies made mention to a few of these things to me when i’d go to shoot the shit with him in his office every once and a while…

you’re missing the one word that defines Davies as a person though… “How are you gentlemen! is everything tickity boo?”

Oh my God! I was at Del after it went co-ed for one — interesting — year. Yeah, Davies hasn’t changed much.

You’re going to write a book one day, right? There is no way in hell that this good of writing should not be shared with the world. 🙂

Can’t wait for the next installment.

Aw, shucks, thanks!

I think I’ll wait until I’ve accumulated a couple of years’ worth of material before I consider putting together a book. I’d like to work on my writing a little more, as well as do a little more living.

Was this the year when everyone in the school had to relocated due to the structural damage from the Even Worse PrankThan Mine?

My 1st comment here Joey…

Great post and am on tenterhooks for the next one. I too pinballed through the private school experience and your description reeks with authentic detail. Keep it up.


Yet another one of the reasons why I read your blog every day, Joey — your writing is superb, and you definitely lead an interesting life. *grins* My interest has been more than piqued by this bit of backstory; I can’t wait to hear the rest!


Everytime I hear “quid pro quo” I think of that line “yeah squid pro row” but I’ll be damned if I can remember the source of that line. Sonaofa…

You know what’s funny you could almost turn this into a Nick Hornby style movie a la High Fidelity or something. Just a matter of getting the funding for it. Just an idea.

Joey – I went to St. Mike’s. It’s a small world, alright, and one filled with Catholics in various states of … Catholicity.

Private boy’s school. No matter how different it is, it’s always the same.

I don’t recall anyone really hating De La Salle all that much, though there was the usual, tedious, sports-derived rivalry. Meself, I always hated UCC much more – uptight, smug Protestant oligarchs-in-training getting buggered by their teachers to the vast indifference of their parents, who are too afraid of losing social standing to complain.

Not that I had any kind of grudge…

No, Joey, I was there in 95-96. I think the biggest prank was someone pushing the lime carts around the grass of the back campus to spell out “FUCK YOU”. Pikers.

AMOK, as in “Ledernacken and Band”? I remember Foy having that tape, but are you sure it was the one he used?

“yeah, squid pro row” comes from Austin Power’s third move, Gold Member, when he goes and visits Dr. Evil to the high security prison.

Joey, he’s right. I still remember “aw shucka, aw shucka, ooh aaaaaaaamok!” and laughing my assoff.


No, sorry, Anonymous…someone pulled that old skule “Fuck You” trick on the lower campus back in ’82 or ’83, by stomping the words out in the snow for all the Avenue Road commuters to see. Been there; done that; got the (Del) T-shirt.


Your recollection of the facts of Operation Annihilation are incorrect. I was there with you. St. Mikes was the afterthought. DLS was the target. (My proof: eferyone had the Operation Annihilatin nickname. Do you remember yours?) And it was Billy M. who did the painting, not Luca. It was toothpicks in the locks, not chicken boullion – I bought the toothpicks. And it I could go on. But it was interesting to hear about what happened in Davies’ office. It’s the first I’ve heard your account of it.

Yup, Del was the initial target and St. Mike’s was a spur-of-the-moment thing. That’s supposed to be revealed in part 2, which I should get around to writing.

I thought the codename thing was stupid, hence my stupid choice of codename: “Cream Puff”. I know someone went as “Maverick”.

Billy did the vast majority of the painting, but Luca and at leats one other guy did some too. The shame of it is that Luca painted all of one letter.

I had boullion and so did Philippe, I believe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *