TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Surprise! Lobsters And Lessons Well Learned

I’ve talked about my adventures with dogs, horses and spiders, but I forgot about one multilegged creature that provided a special moment of embarrassment.

Years ago (too many to count), the Supreme Court honored me with an appointment to attend a judicial conference in Montreal, as a newly elected municipal judge. Although my father was a judge, I knew little if anything about the judicial system’s internal operations.

As my wife and I flew over the waters to Montreal, all I could think about when we crossed the water was man-eating sharks and the fact, if the plane were to land prematurely, I swim like a rock.

But the plane didn’t crash, and we made it safely to our hotel … a collection of long, narrow walkways completely filled with people all day and all night. Apparently, some people either don’t sleep, or sleep all day and socialize all night. I’ve always been (and still am) an early-to-bed type of guy. My wife, on the other hand, has a taste for adventure. She decided to go out walking to see the area and its shops. Not to be outdone, I went to bed.

The next day, she told me about this fantastic restaurant. At least, that’s what I thought she meant. She and the wife of a Supreme Court judge from Tennessee had spotted it the night before and thought we should dine there. So off I go with my wife and a group of Tennessee judges and wives.

We arrived at a cozy little smoke-filled place (emphasis on “little,” and so smoky I wondered if they’d been smoking dope the night before.). I think I was the only one who had never before been in such an exclusive place. We were all dressed in business casual, while the waitstaff was all dressed to a T. I knew right off the bat that the bill for this meal was going to exceed my annual income, but we were there so we were going to eat.

The staff in all their finery provided place settings fit for kings, complete with drinks and a wide variety of foods. I even got used to the smoke, which turned out to be from cooking and not cigarettes and cigars. I was carrying on a conversation with one of the wives. We were laughing it up (nope, no drinks yet) and just having a fun time. The servers wheeled up a tray of delicacies to choose from.

The lady and I were examining what was in front of us until I noticed what I thought was a movement on the tray. I continued talking while I looked around again … and by golly, there were giant man-eating-sized lobsters on that table lying on crushed ice.

I may have mentioned before that I have a fear of multilegged critters that look like spiders. As I focused on one of these monsters, the damn thing moved.

Remember, this was years before I ever went to Red Lobster and got used to seeing them in person. When it moved, I shrieked out a shrill yell like a child who’d been dropped on his head. I pushed away from the table in utter panic.

My wife should have poured a drink on my head at that point, but she kept her cool. Everyone thought it was funny but me. I had seen myself jump out of my skin on previous occasions when I’d been startled. They had not. The friendly lady from Tennessee just about passed out from laughing at my unplanned antics. But karma was about to strike her.

Our meals arrived. Just like in the movies, everything was delivered under glass or, in her case, beneath a solid cover.

Well, we had ordered the same thing, fish. Mine came without its head. Such was not the case for hers. When the waiter pulled the cover off of her meal, the fish not only had its head on — its mouth was wide open. She let out a shriek; like me before, she pushed her chair back and really let out a holler. Hell, I thought someone was stabbing her! I asked her what was wrong and how I could help. Her reply: “Cut off its head! It’s looking at me!) I looked around us, wondering whose head she wanted removed. I didn’t realize it was the fish until she pointed.

I don’t know who cut its head off, but things settled down after that. We were once again just a group of people enjoying a quiet meal — surrounded by other patrons who wondered what planet we had arrived from.

* * *

The shock and awe of the Fourth of July reminded me of a good friend from our neighborhood in Grand Forks who found a 50-caliber machine gun shell back when we were in seventh grade. Naturally, he placed it in in a vice in his basement and slammed it with a hammer.

I wasn’t in attendance for the demonstration but found out later that it blew a hole in the basement wall and scarred his hands pretty badly. He was lucky, I suppose, that he did not blow his fingers off or worse. But when his dad entered the scene, he caused some serious damage to my friend’s behind. It was one of those situations when, after something bad has happened, you are so happy that your loved one wasn’t hurt that you beat the hell out of them.

This same friend lived next door to Porter’s Grocery. The store was on the main floor of the building, and the owners lived above it, on the second. Access to their living quarters was by a long flight of stairs straight up.

Being young and stupid, we dropped a load of firecrackers at the steps to the second floor down at ground level — two years in a row. We then sat back and waited for the owner (who, by the way, was a really nice man) to go running around the block seeking the blasters.

We weren’t caught the first time. But when the next year came around, our store owner turned out to have a good memory. We waited until the lights were out, then struck again. We lit those firecrackers and turned to run — right into his chest. He was there in the dark waiting for us. We shrieked like babies in a crib. He could not have possibly scared us more than we scared ourselves! Instead of killing us and burying our remains, he laughed and told us never to do it again. And we didn’t.

We had what we thought was fun at the expense of others while we were growing up — but it always caught up with us, and turned out to be a great learning experience. Note: I do not recommend that the youth of today copy any of the adventures outlined in my columns because today you’d end up in juvenile court with Scott Griffeth and Susan Solheim, the local juvenile judges, and they do a great job. Amen.

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