So today I’m strolling along Sherbrooke at the eastern edge of Lafontaine Parc just minding my own business and I notice something strange: a van parked in a no stopping zone. This would not normally be unusual, but the back of the van is open and a woman and a blond kid are standing behind it, looking over a fair volume of equipment that didn’t seem to be normal travelling/camping gear. I notice also a few other vans and trucks in this no-stopping zone. Hmmm, I think,* maybe they’re setting up for a large picnic or event in the parc. Looks a little odd, though*. I also notice another woman, reasonably attractive, carrying a CB radio with the microphone clipped to the neckline of her blue lycra top, and she’s talking into said microphone, pulling the top slightly away from her chest and in my hopefully subtle het-male fashion, I take a momentary glance as I walk by, though I see nothing particularly, heh, titillating.
A few steps past, I see a small grey tent several metres to my left with a big Hydro-Quebec logo on it. Since I have some small experience running household electrical cables, this attracts my attention for a few seconds, in part because the tent is on the grass, and thus not above a manhole cover, and not near a lamppost, nor anywhere else I’d expect a Hydro-Quebec repair crew to be. How odd. In front of me is one of those blue porta-potties and standing next to it, looking vaguely anxious, is a dark-haired kid about 12 holding a goldfish in a plastic bag. Where would he get a goldfish? I wonder, and I consider but refrain from (in part because I don’t trust my ability to render the concept coherently in French) saying “Hey, kid, if you’re planning to flush that goldfish, that porta-potty ain’t gonna do it, huh hur hur.” The kid notices my glance and takes a step toward me. “Monsieur, [translated] can you hold my fish for a moment?”
“Oui,” I repond. “Je peut tenir le poissoin pour une moment.” Thank God for elementary-school French lessons. The kid enters the porta-potty and this is when I notice something curious about it; it appears to have a raised section on the back of it that for some reason makes me think of a trapdoor. Heh, I hehed to myself, if this one of those Just For Laughs Gags, the kid would sneak out a trapdoor and leave me holding the bag for five or ten minutes. Anyway, out of nowhere comes a second kid, blond (it didn’t occur to me until later that he was the same kid I saw by the van, though I might have noted it subconsciously), approaches and shows an instant and odd interest in the fish-in-a-bag. If it was a kitten-in-a-bag or a puppy-in-a-bag, I could understand it. Anyway, my spider-sense starts tingling and I play keep-away for a few seconds. Then it hits me: this is a Just For Laughs gag, the woman with the microphone is part of it, and I’m the helpful adult who’s about to trapped in some horribly embarrassing situation wholly not of my own making. Why anyone would consider me a filmable subject is unclear, since I’m just walking along in my green shorts and knockoff Tilly hat. Anyway, I figure the kid has to earn his keep, so I show him the bag and, natch, he gigglingly pokes four or five holes in it (Montreal parks have gotten very dangerous of late, so no child should be without his +1 Dart of Piercing) and takes off. Since I knew he was going to do that, I simply squeezed the bag to pinch the holes closed and waited for someone to yell “Cut!”, not even bothering to watch where the blond kid takes off to. The kid in the porta-potty yells out “Is everything okay, monsieur?” Yeah, yeah, kid. Sure. Take your time. This kid eventually emerges and asks all innocent “What happened?”
“Well, this other kid broke the bag and ran off,” I mumble in bad French. My eyes are still on the bag, making sure I minimize the leaks. The kid smiles and points off in some direction. “Monsieur-”
“C’est pour Juste Pour Rire, n’est ce-pas?” I interrupt. A few adults eventually approach and I hand off the fish-bag. I feel almost apologetic for my blasé reaction but clever at the same time, as I point out the woman with the microphone was a tip-off. A man with a release form asks for my name so I show him my military I.D., since no-one ever spells it right. He recognizes it as military but doesn’t ask for or get my signature, so it’s a safe bet I won’t be appearing on TV anytime soon.
I reflected on this curious event as I kept walking. Aside from the joke not working because I have a professional interest in radios and electricity (as well a amateur one in boobies) and thus was alerted that something unusual was going on, I’ve also seen episodes of the show where they take advantage of someone’s natural helpfulness to try to make them look foolish. As a result, I was all primed to get suspicious if a strange child approached and asked for an unusual favour. It occurred to me also that what looked like a trapdoor on the porta-potty probably was a trapdoor and the whole thing was a prop used in another possible gag involving ten people who enter a porta-potty yet (apparently) don’t come out. On my return trip, I took a closer look at the “Hydro-Quebec” tent. Yep, enough space for a cameraman and equipment, with extension cords running across the grass to one of the trucks.
Of course, what really bugs me is I’m pretty sure this whole exercise was in some way and in some portion taxpayer-funded.