Of course everything was chaos, but somehow we managed to get my sister to the bride's hotel at the designated hour so she could fulfill her bridesmaid duties. Where is the church again? we asked, as she sprung from the car, hair wild, dark circles under her eyes, dress and shoes in a bag under her arm, (also, wedding speech unwritten, and two hours until the ceremony).* Right down there, she said, pointing. We could see the spires. Just remember Saint Paul's - think of your friend Paul S. she said, and shouted thanks over her shoulder as she ran toward the hotel door.
My sister had just come off a week of little sleep, moving to a new place, massive work deadlines, and a red-eye flight across the country from Whitehorse, Yukon to Montreal, Quebec.
We took the two hours until the ceremony to get a quick bite, nap for a few minutes, shower and get dressed. We also were shamefully short on sleep and not in our finest form, but with me teetering in red heels and a crisp new shirt on him we looked sharp enough. We headed out the door, glanced at the time: 23 minutes to get to the church.
Out on Avenue de Parc, we tried to hail a cab. No luck. After a few unsuccessful attempts, a pretty red-headed woman noticed and told us, "You want a cab? There is a stand down there on Fairmount", and off we went.
By the time we were in the backseat of the taxi, we had 12 minutes before the ceremony. We told the driver, St. Paul's, down near the Delta Hotel, we have 12 minutes.
"That's not far. I can do it," he said. We soon learned that he had taken this as a personal challenge.
Have you ever witnessed Montreal driving? We experienced the following:
- tires squealing, repeatedly
- impressively excessive horn use
- up on two wheels around a corner, the two of us flung brutally to the side door, which fortunately held shut
- cutting off someone at high speeds by six inches or less, every 4-9 seconds for the entire 12 minutes
Grinning and flushed with adrenaline by now, we became concerned when, in this unfamiliar city and speaking in very rusty French (or Franglais, more like), we whizzed past the spires we'd been looking for, which we spotted several blocks away.
"Excuse me, but I'm pretty sure that's the church back there that we're looking for."
"I'm pretty sure we're going in the wrong direction."
"St. Paul's! St. Paul's in Old Montreal."
"No, it's St. Paul's near the Delta."
"There is a Delta in Old Montreal."
"No, we want a church called St. Paul's near Sherbrooke."
Stony silence as our cabbie pulled a U-ey and raced back up the street, lurching to a stop at a red light.
"How am I supposed to know! No address, just St. Paul's! There is no St. Paul's church."
"I'm so sorry, we gave you terrible directions. Can I please look at a map?"
"I don't see a St. Paul's... Shit shit shit. Oh! She must have meant St. James. Could she have meant St. James!?"
After breaking most laws (traffic and otherwise) in the next two and a half minutes, (just short of gunning down pedestrians with unregistered firearms, I'm pretty sure), we screeched to a halt in front of St. James.
The only way to run in 3.5 inch heels is to bend your knees and get down low. It's not graceful - you look like the Minister of Silly Walks crossed with an orangutan, but if you need to move, it's much better than the little mincing steps you're otherwise forced to take.
Up the steps, and I swiped a program from the usher at the door. The right names were on it, so I ran back to the top of the stairs, gave my friend the thumbs up so he could throw a fistful of money at the cabbie and run to meet me. Air on the G-String
(sorry to report that I was so tired and frazzled that it is only JUST NOW as I am writing this that the hilarity of that title is suddenly clear)*** was playing as we snuck as inconspicuously as possible into one of the pews. We barely had time to mop the sweat from our brows before the procession began, and there was my sister, stunning in a strapless dress, looking miraculously as though she wasn't the least bit tired, and then the bride, looking like a 1930s movie star.
* But she is brave, articulate, and fast on her feet, so we were not too worried, even if she was.
** This is where I am quite sure he was quietly cursing us as the worst têtes-carrées
to ever disgrace his automobile.
*** Think, for example, of whistling on a blade of grass between two thumbs, as my friend has just suggested, incredulous that it has taken me nearly 48 hours to clue in.