Want to row, row, row your boat? Then leave me out

Not everybody welcomes group participation exercises with open arms

I was dead meat and I knew it.

I was right in the front row, sitting beside mayor Steve Wallace at a fundraising event at the Quesnel Legion. The food had been filling at least, but now was the time I had come to dread: the entertainment.

In this case it was a First Nations dance troupe who took to the floor and performed a couple of numbers to polite applause before their leader, cheerfully announced they would perform one more song and then do a friendship dance.

My eyes went wide. Friendship dance?

I knew what that meant. They were going to pick people out of the audience to join them on stage and dance.

And there I was, editor of the local newspaper, sitting next to the mayor, right at the front table. I might just as well have had a bullseye on my head.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

I sat in the stall, wishing I had something to read, as the drums swelled in the room next door and then, finally, faded away.

“Soon,” I thought.

There was a bit more talk  and then the beat began again for what must be the friendship dance.

I let it get really going before I finally left the bathroom.

Sure enough, there was Steve Wallace, hands on the shoulders of the poor guy in front of him, hopping around clumsily, pretending to enjoy himself.

I picked up my camera.

“Give us a smile, sunshine!” I said, grinning.

He returned my smile as the camera flashed, but his eyes were like ice.

I get a chill up my spine just thinking about that look, which I found myself doing right near the end of the forum on cultural issues here in Qualicum Beach.

“Hey everybody,” some lady said. “We’re all going to get together over by this wall and do an activity before we go!”

My ears registered all this of course, but all that my primitive reptile brain heard was the word, “Go!”

I made my move, looking neither to left nor right as I beelined for the bathroom.

Yup, they were definitely going to sing!

Move it, soldier!

At the door, I turned and fired … once, twice, then ducked through the doorway and headed for the John.

Before I went in though, I paused.

To heck with it, I thought. I’ll just go.

The meeting’s over. I’m outa here. There’s nothing to read in there anyway.

I wasn’t the only one.

As I walked down the hall, another door opened and, in ones, twos and little groups, other singalong refugees streamed for the safety of their cars.

“Nice,” I thought.

“Back door. Should’a thought of that myself.”

Then I was gone.

You know, I really like covering your events in Qualicum Beach.

It’s interesting and sometimes there’s drama — although, after seven years, I’m still waiting for the big council fist fight.

But you know what? Don’t ask me to get up and dance, recite poetry or sing rounds in front of the whole town. Ain’t gonna happen, and while I might be persuaded to sing a solo some time if you ask me real nice, I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave you to row, row, row your boat all by yourselves.

I don’t want to have to pack a Bathroom Reader to every meeting I attend.

Neil Horner is the assistant editor of the Parksville Qualicum Beach News and a regular columnist.

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