The wonderful informality of Babel.

“Wear a hat when making sales calls on Spadina and never wear a tie north of Highway 7.” These were among the rules sales people used to follow when doing business out of the big city. I always thought the tie rule was very sensible and when I moved north of Highway 7 to Babel, I stopped wearing ties.

Oh, I keep a couple ties in the back of the closet for those times I have to go down to the city for a funeral, wedding or lunch at someone’s club, or other stuffy occasion. I have even pointed out to my wife the one to give to the undertaker, should the need ever arise. (I have always been intending to burn that tie. I guess that is the one time you can be caught dead wearing it.)

The first time I went to a funeral in Babel, it was certainly an eye opener. My wife demanded I wear a suit. I finally agreed but it was not until we were in the car that she realized I had put on the suit but deliberately forgot the tie. She did not demand I turn around but things were a bit frosty.

I knew funerals are different in Babel when we went in the door of the funeral parlour. The undertaker manning the door looked at me as though I was a competitor trying to sneak in to steal business from him. He had a tie with his suit. He imperiously sent us on to the main salon where that day’s event was happening.

There were more than 200 people in that room. I was the only guy in a suit. One refined looking gentleman was wearing a sports jacket and a tie and I made a point of meeting him. He turned out to be the deceased’s lawyer. He explained to me that only lawyers and undertakers wear ties in Babel. I commiserated with him over the loss of a client.

I finally got to meet the deceased while perusing a memorabilia wall displaying pictures of the highlights of his life. I thought the wall was rather well done until I came across the urn that contained the deceased. It made a complete story.

But it was the informality of the event that sticks with me. It was definitely a ‘come as you are’ party. One woman had something more important on later and had kept her hair in curlers. Another was one of those ladies whom, if you could show her a photograph from behind, would never wear those shorts again. It was a warm, sunny day and some of the sun dresses and halter tops were, to say the least, skimpy, but enjoyable.

The men were worse. T-shirts and jeans could be forgiven but you should not change the oil in your car immediately before coming to the funeral. The deceased had lots of golf trophies on the memorabilia wall, so many of his friends obviously came directly to the funeral from doing their 18 for the day. They obviously hurried as many seemed to have had no time for a shower.

I thought it was touching that one of his golfing buddies brought his eight iron in with him to chip a ball around the room in his honour. This caused something of a confrontation with the undertaker. I was too far away to hear whether the undertaker was more concerned about divots in the carpet or errant chips through windows. I suppose it would never do to have the premature dispersal of the ashes by a hard-hooked Titleist.


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