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Montreal 2003: Day Two
Added: August 13 2004

Thursday, August 14, 2003.

Okay, you would have thought getting four hours of sleep the night before and moving untold crap, including fifty-four (yes, fifty-four) giant (yes, unbelievably huge and heavy) water bottles, would have put me out like a light bulb. Sorry, folks, sleep is not to be found in large supply the night of Day One.

For starters, the house, while very nice, does not have air-conditioning. And the inside temperature seems to float about four hours behind the outside temperature. So just as we're going to bed, the house is hot as hell. All of the windows are open, and it's still hot as hell. About 3:00am, however, it suddenly becomes unbelieveably cold, and I'm fully awake scrambling to climb under the covers.

There has been some mumbling that the campus where the tournament is taking place is actually a functioning military college, but that doesn't really mean much until they start doing drills at 6:00am. Yes, the windows are open, and we get the full treatment. 7:00am comes like a sledgehammer.

The other Head Observer and I meander out to the fields for our 7:45am meeting, only to discover that none of the other observers have decided to show up. Which is probably a good thing, granted that we haven't really figured out what we're supposed to talk about at the 7:45am meeting. (We found out later that one of the observers did show up for the meeting, but since the organizers didn't supply us with Observer shirts with tournament markings - only plain yellow jerseys - he just assumed we were players.)

We check the schedule, and we've got three games for the day. The first is a first-round Juniors game. At first, we more or less play it off as no big deal, relieved to start out with something "easy". But afterward, we're incredibly grateful for having it first. The cobwebs are definitely in full form, and we more or less end up stumbling through the game. Fortunately, we don't make any (major) mistakes, so we consider it a success. However, I think if we'd had a top-tier game first, we might have been in trouble.

We've been promised a meal ticket for each day, so at lunch time, we head over to pick up a ticket and go score some lunch at the cafeteria. Only, the TD in charge of the tickets doesn't think we're supposed to get them. So, instead, I follow up my cereal bar breakfast with a Powerbar lunch.

Day Two (day one of the tournament) ends up being the most uneventful of trip. The second game we're scheduled to work gets dropped from the schedule when the teams decide they don't want us. All we have left is a late-afternoon Mixed game. I opt to head back to the house to try and take a nap. Unfortunately, with everything that's going, sleep doesn't come.

No sleep for Chris. (Day Four)

While failing to nap, one of the TD's drops by the house and asks me how the day is going. I tell her that we were lucky - that our afternoon game was cancelled because the teams didn't want us, so I'm trying to take a nap. She queries, "both teams?" I affirm, and she replies, "Oh, okay." Five minutes later, she comes back to the house, accompanied by the captain of one of the Mixed teams in our late-afternoon game. The captain, somewhat disturbed, asks me who I talked to, and, completely confused, I tell her that the masters game was cancelled because the teams didn't want us to work. It turns out that the other team in the Mixed game is called Lucky, and the TD misunderstood my statement about "being lucky" as having something to do with the team Lucky. We chuckle about the goof, and I go back to not sleeping.

For the Mixed game, we decide to bring in a couple of our less-experienced Observers to work as linespersons to get some extra experience. Before the game, one of them comments how, since they knew I was coming from Atlanta, they expected me to have a full-on Southern accent, yet there's very little trace of one in my speech. He's surprised when I tell him that Atlanta is sort of a misnomer in the South: most of the stereotypical Southern folk live outside of the city. I regale the story of going to Six Flags as a kid with some friends and chuckling at the people with the full-on accent, giving him a "Hey, y'all, let's head over to Thunder River" in my best Southern voice. He absolutely loses it.

I find out later that most people expected me to be stereotypically Southern. The other Head Observer points out the next night at dinner that he's heard me use the word "y'all" at least once.

The game ends up being a mildly tenuous affair. Nothing really contentious, though. I end up issuing a warning to one player for some poor-spirited play, but generally luck out in that the other Head gets all of the tough calls. (My turn is coming, though.)

For the first day of the tournament, the tournament directors have organized a catered pasta dinner for all of the players and volunteers. Naturally, the dinner begins at 6:00pm, right smack in the middle of our Mixed game. And it's taking place at Disc Central, which is directly adjacent to the field where the Mixed game is taking place. As the line for food starts to grow, it begins to angle out onto the field. I start yelling at the people in the line to move off the field of play, and a few people turn the line away. But a couple of minutes later, a new group of people arrive at the end of the line and pull it back onto the field. Even after a player nearly lands on a couple of people in line, food remains a higher priority than the game. During a break in the game, I run over to Disc Central and relay the problem to one of the TD's, who's able to track down a volunteer to yell at the line in a more orderly fashion.

Balloons come up from the horizon.

The game ends, and I finally get to sit down and enjoy the pasta dinner. Just as I'm doing so, hot air balloons begin peaking up from the horizon and flying directly overhead. And there are some crazy-ass balloons in this thing. Christ, there's even a Jesus balloon.

The Jesus Balloon. (Pic: Montgolfieres)

Deciding that I'm sick of drinking water, I ask the other Head Observer if there are any vending machines nearby, and he points me to the nearby arena / ice rink. As I walk inside the vending area, I take one look at the Pepsi machine and spot something amazing: Orange Crush. Oh, the drink I adored in elementary school and haven't had since, granted that Pepsi pushes Sunkist where I live. I pull out a trusty two-dollar coin (well, one that I borrowed since all I had was a buck twenty-five in change), and buy myself a twenty-ounce bottle of orangey goodness. I like Canada.

I head back to the house briefly and pull out my CD player. After listening to some songs, I flip through the radio stations, and find a Vermont NPR station discussing some kind of blackout in New York City. They're interviewing a power company representative. It doesn't sound like a big deal, so I turn it off, put my CD player back in my bag, and head back to the fields to see if they need help with anything.

From there, I end up spending the next hour or so dismantling tables, stacking up chairs, and moving them all to Disc Central. Technically, as Observer-guy, I don't have to do this stuff. And I'm not entirely sure what's driving me to do it now.

As we're finishing, I can't help but notice that somebody has stacked all of the really heavy tables and all of the chairs against a single pole support in the tent. Better yet, the tables are angled so that all of their weight is resting on the tent pole. Horrified, I grab a volunteer, and we collectively shift the tables so that their weight is on the ground, not on the pole. I can only imagine how happy the tent people would have been to find a seriously bent tent pole (or worse) in the morning.

The TV room in the house. (Day Four)

I arrive back at the house. When I walk inside, the Merchandise Director is on the couch with the TV on to CBC News. There, the stark reality of what the NPR station was talking about flies into focus. It wasn't just New York; it was Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, and more. Yep, the giant blackout of 2003. A few more volunteers come in, and we all more or less stare in awe at the events that have taken place.

One of the volunteers is from Toronto, and is in the kitchen trying to use his malfunctioning cell phone to check on his mother. Failing that, I hand him my tournament cell, and he finds out that his mother is trying to make do with candlelight. We stroll back to the TV, and watch raw footage of stalled subway trains, with people trying to walk their way back to the stations.

We spend most of the evening watching the news coverage. One of the TD's notes that had the blackout happened the day before, half of the teams playing in the tournament wouldn't have been able to get there.

The whole thing was completely surreal. While we were out on the fields enjoying a beautiful sunny day playing (or watching) Ultimate, we were completely unaware of the major event that was affecting millions of people. Heck, there were people as little as a hundred and fifty miles away that didn't have power.

Day Two ends with me attemping to go to bed (relatively) early and actually sleep.

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Montreal 2003: Day Three