The syrup story: Chapter 5 of my odd success story

This is the 5th chapter of my book-in-progress about the unusual fate of my massage therapy career, and the nutty transition to making decent money as a writer. Start with the introduction.

This wee chapter is silly and off-topic, pure entertainment: it’s just a funny thing that happened on the way to the rest of my life. It’s short and literally sweet.

In the summer of 1996, I moved to Vernon to begin my training as a massage therapist. I began my time there working on a farm for room-and-board again. Using the WWOOF network of farms seemed like a terrific way to move to a new town: food and a place to sleep while looking for a place to live. Clever, right? Well, it could have beeen. Alas, my hosts were the worst WWOOF hosts I ever had: severe, ascetic idealists that treated me a bit like slave labour. They were all a bit off. When I drove up, one of the three children was dangling a cat upside down by a hind leg, and both cat and kid held their creepy pose for an unnaturally long time. Somewhere, someone plucked at a banjo.

Our arrangement was doomed, and it took only a few days to fall apart. The syrup thing was what made me snap.

My last night on Freaky Farm, my hosts announced that we would be having pancakes for dinner. This was cause for much excitement. Their oppressed, deprived children, already badly warped by the strain of their environment, hopped up and down and screeched with delight that seemed out of proportion to the news. But before the pancakes were served, another lecture was delivered:

“Now, remember children — and guest,” she added with a stern nod my way, “everyone gets just one pancake, and, because sugar is very bad for you, everyone gets just one teaspoon of maple syrup.”

One teaspoon? And no butter! Were they mad? I already didn’t like these people, but this was sheer savagery!

I watched with amazement as my hosts served up individual pancakes with single teaspoons of maple syrup, which instantly soaked into the whole wheat pancakes without a trace. Pancakes for dinner had never been so disappointing. This was stingy (and meddling) almost beyond belief for a hard-working WWOOFer paid in calories.

They weren’t wrong to be cautious with sugar, of course, just the lousy hospitality and the parenting style. Those kids were a disaster-in-progress. They would be defiantly gorging on forbidden fruit the instant they were old enough to leave home.

Fortunately, I was old enough to leave. Having already accumulated several other grievances with my hosts, I contrived a little sweet revenge. I drove downtown that night and bought a two-litre bottle of the finest maple syrup. The next morning at breakfast, I placed it on the table with a satisfying thunk and smiled charmingly at the children as I unscrewed the top and poured several tablespoons over my cereal. The children’s eyes were the size of pancakes. Nobody said a word as we ate. Later that afternoon, I was sternly invited to move on, immediately, which was pretty much what I’d been gunning for.

I like to think those kids never forgot the syrup incident.

That was the first memorable thing that happened to me in massage school, before beginning my education in massage therapy. I moved from there to a hostel, where I met some people that changed my life as much as massage school did — by inviting me to become an athlete.

Next: The ultimate discovery