Dinner with a Busboy


My wife called me Thursday afternoon to remind me that we were going to the annual general meeting of a local historical association she is a member of. Not that I would begrudge her the opportunity to talk history , her masters is after all in history, but I was over tired from a long and somewhat dull work day (Q can attest to that given the email traffic we had going that day) However Michelle tells me that there will be a dinner and a guest speaker. Okay so there are some enticements.

On our way to the meeting we get stuck in traffic, so In order to get there even remotely on time, I had to exit the highway and zigzag across the city stopping at half a dozen traffic lights, some of which were out due to a recent thunder storm. Finally we arrive 20 minutes late, and as we enter the hall we discover that all the tables are full. After searching around for free seats I find two at the back of the hall, but as I approach, a rather stern looking woman next to the available seats drops her luggage sized handbag on one of them, and informs me they are taken. So we are seated, for most of the official meeting, at the back of the hall against the wall. Just to note during the entire meeting no one takes those two so called “taken” seats. Grrr…

This is where the night changes and things go remarkably well. After the progress reports, awards and such, the meal is served and the caterer sets up another table right at the front of the hall. Hey, I am thinking, front row seats. We make our way to our table and as I settle down I turn to my left only to note that I am seated next to the Honourable Don Boudria and his wife Mary Ann. Now, to our American visitors this might mean nothing, but most Canadians are familiar with that name.

Don Boudria began his career in Canadian politics as a busboy in the parliamentary cafeteria and rose to the position of cabinet minister responsible for international co-operation under Jean Chretien and the Liberals. Boudria was a member of the infamous “rat pack” that harassed the Mulroney conservatives and would later be described by Mulroney as the Nazi’s of the liberal party. (Mulroney did say a lot of laughable things just ask Peter C. Newman.)

Mr Boudria was a fascinating conversationalist, though he steered clear of politics and concentrated our conversation on the work he put into writing his autobiography. I suspect that politics was off the table, because the local conservative MP was directly across from me. Not that I am ever going to write a biography, but the conversation was interesting. He layed out the way his publisher had told him to frame his outline and talked about the structure of the book. He noted some of the biographies that he found helped him in writing his, such as Sheila Copps autobiography. Surprising the one he found the most useful and most interesting was Bill Clinton’s autobiography. ( I sort of made the mistake of saying it was kind of dry)

After dinner Mr Boudria, gave a talk on his book and the importance of history. He urged the audience to write down their biographies even if the only people that read them are their families. He has photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of his grandfathers biography something he believes to be one of his most valuable possessions. I wish all Canadian’s felt this attached to their heritage and weren’t so fast to sell it short. Boudria noted that Canadians unlike our American cousins do not seem to be as proud of our history, something he sees as a grave mistake. It was nice to hear that our politicians are not only proud Canada but also the history that lead Canada to be the great nation it is.

Thank you Mr Boudria. (And not just for the autographed copy of your autobiography)

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3 thoughts on “Dinner with a Busboy

  1. Now there’s a striking example of things turning out for the best! If you weren’t 20 minutes late, or if the woman with the handbag wasn’t so rude, you wouldn’t have ended up with “lousy” seats — and you wouldn’t have ended up at the same table as Boudria.

    I’m glad you had such a memorable evening after an unpromising start!

  2. I have found that most politicians are excellent aurators, and interesting people to talk with. I had an amazing converstaion with Jean Augustine a few years back that left me with a great feeling and a newfound respect for her.

    great blog…

  3. Good going, Bill! Am happy for you both. That was a great adventure after starting off so poorly.

    But now you have to get to writing your autobio!

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