My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Boldly going forward, because we can't find reverse

Last night, all four of us who work at the front desk went out for dinner and bowling. I don't go out that much--and in fact, I probably spend more time hanging out with these three at work than I do going places with my other friends. But it was Brittany's last weekend in town, because she's biking back home to Guelph next week. So we had one last hurrah--and a little bit more.

First we went to Applebee's, which is pretty much the baseline measurement for normality on this outing. I had a steak that was supposed to be medium but was rare and soggy French fries. Thea and Dayna had more luck with their pasta dishes, and Brittany made quick work of her sizzling fajitas. Surprisingly, they appeared as advertised and were actually sizzling. There was also spicy rice, which she saved for another friend, because she didn't like it. More on that later. Many stories were exchanged that cannot, of course, be repeated here. Brittany and I ordered desserts while Thea and Dayna demurred; I got a chocolate chip sundae, and Britany made the better choice of a delectable soft brownie. That was probably the best food part of the meal.

After Applebee's, the plan was to go bowling. I, being the careful and attentive driver that I am, promptly drove the car forward out of the parking spot, intending to cut through the adjacent parking lot and leave that way. The only problem was the concrete parking barrier standing in my way, small enough that I had forgotten it was there. The front wheels of the car made it over. The back wheels . . . not so much.

Leaving a parking spot proves to be more challenging than I thought

Or, as Thea likes to tell the story, "You just sort of . . . kept going. And there was a scraping noise." Thanks Thea.

So I called my brother, who is the car expert in our household. He would know what to do. Fortunately, while we were waiting for him to arrive, someone else stopped and helped us extricate the car from its new perch. We put the car in neutral, and then all of us lifted the rear end and pushed it forward. Manual effort for the win!

Shortly thereafter, my brother rolled up in a very badass manner, his bright green truck as obtrusive as possible as he parked on the grass in front of where I had parked the car (as far from any barriers as I could manage). After a quick look at the underside of the car and an inspection under the hood, he prounounced us good to go.

And so we went bowling.

Thea's mom and her mom's friend showed up at the bowling alley at the same time that we did. This, of course, prompted the nth retelling of my already infamous adventure in the Applebee's parking lot. It will go down in history alongside the phone book story.

The six of us bowled together. I love bowling. I don't know why. I'm not great at it--good, not great--but there's just something about the collegial atmosphere, the shared experience of hurling a massive object on a collision course with those pins. . . . It's one of my favourite group activities. And my dancing went over well. We all had fun, I think. Despite my excessive posturing to the contrary, however, Thea emerged victorious in both games.

So I had an interesting night, and a good night. It was a good way to celebrate this year at the front desk. I've been lucky to have awesome coworkers pretty much consistently for the entire four years I've worked at the art gallery. Trying to compare them would not do them justice. They're all wonderful, and while I miss some more than others, I have stories to tell about each and every one of them. That is, without a doubt, the best part of working at the gallery: my front desk coworkers.

We move on. This is the one constant in my life with which I will always struggle. I don't like change, and once I find equilibrium, I am loath to see it thrown out of balance by someone's absence. It can't be helped, though, and it's for the best. None of us will be working at the gallery during the summer, and it remains to be seen who will be back in the fall. We'll stay in touch, I hope, and continue sharing stories. But I can always celebrate the times we've had together.

This year, I got to share and create stories with three great women. I got to see high school again, see the first year of university through an art student's eyes, and have good conversations about books, movies, and yeah, even art. We made a good team, we had each other's backs, and we got the job done. I couldn't ask for more. And if I had to lodge my car on top of a stubby concrete parking barrier, I wouldn't want to do it in the company of any other people.

The 2009/2010 front desk staff