Guess I’m showing my age here, but I remember when statutory holidays, like Christmas and New Years and Easter and Victoria Day and Labour Day, were just that: Statutory. Everything was shut down. Banks, the postal service, schools, offices, grocery stores, all retailers in fact. But now, at least here in Toronto, that’s definitely no longer the case.
This past weekend was Easter weekend. I naturally assumed everything would be closed on Good Friday. I know it used to be. I remember in Montreal, where I’m from, you could have rolled a bowling ball down any major street in the city and it wouldn’t have hit a soul. The streets were dead. D E A D. It was like a ghost town. Eerie, actually.
There was a french restaurant I loved. Chez George. If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t have known it was there. It was tucked away on a small, downtown side street (Stanley Street), in a tiny, nondescript building, up a couple of very steep flights of stairs.
Two small, always jammed-to-the-rafters, noisy rooms, crammed with white-clothed tables literally on top of each other. And in the front room, which is where everyone always wanted to sit, there was also long bar all along one wall. Even if you had a reservation you waited in line for at least 30 or 40 minutes for your table. Funny thing was, nobody ever seemed to mind.
Fabulous food and a spectacular wine list. Chez George is, in fact, where I was first introduced to one of my all time favourite alcoholic beverages — Lillet. The restaurant owners were French, from France and all the waiters were French. You heard very little English spoken in there, even before the Separatists got into power and mandated it.
They (the restaurateurs) used to defy the law and open on Good Friday for lunch (and stay open until early evening), but only those people in the know, knew. It was a very risky move on their part because if discovered, they would have lost their liquor licence.
So the whole manouever was very stealthy. It was like being a member of a secret society. The front door was locked and the lights were out. The only way in was up the fire escape around back in the alley where all the mice and rats hung out; and, once you arrived at the door, which was bolted from the inside, there was a special knock or else they wouldn’t let you in. Seriously, I’m not making this up. It was not unlike getting into a speakeasy in the day (no, I’m not that old, I’m surmising).
Because not that many people knew about their sinful practice it was never crowded. So it was like being at a private party and we’d all hang out there for hours and hours eating and drinking far too much and having the best time. Climbing down the fire escape, at dusk, when tipsy was quite interesting, as I recall.
Wonderful memories I must say.
Back, regrettably, to Toronto, though. This past Good Friday. A friend and I were talking about the long weekend during the week, thinking about what we might do — especially on the Friday when nothing would be open. Or so we assumed.
We were wrong. At least as far as stores and restaurants are concerned.
I’d even rushed to do my grocery shopping on Thursday. Imagine my surprise when I arrived to find signs on most of the shop doors announcing they’d be open all weekend.
Gotta be honest with you, though. While I know everyone has to make a living and business isn’t the greatest for anyone, I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing to have to shut down for a couple of days a year. I’m not a religious person so I’m not about to go all pious on you, but we all deserve a rest from time to time — from working and shopping. It’s a good thing to spend some uninterrupted time with family and friends, talking and sharing a meal, don’t you think? Taking a pause, as it were.
Clap if you agree.