I wasn’t happy when I boarded my Calm Air flight to Thompson yesterday. It was pouring rain in Winnipeg and I had to walk a long way across the tarmac to the plane, so by the time I boarded I was soaking wet. You don’t get assigned seats on Calm Air, you just sit wherever you like, so I sat down in the first empty seat I came to—beside a very elderly man. I apologized for dripping water on him, asked if he could move his bag to make room for my briefcase and started to chat about the weather. He didn’t reply and then I noticed his hearing aid and wondered if he’d even heard me. I decided getting to know my seat mate which is something I usually like to do, wasn’t in the cards for this flight. I was sleepy after spending a good part of the previous night at the hospital with my Mom so I decided to have a snooze. When I woke up the elderly gentleman beside me was reading some notes and holding a blue folder labeled SPEECH. I didn’t mean to look, really I didn’t, but the notes were in huge print and my eye caught something about the Aspers, who are media moguls here in Canada, and apparently the man sitting beside me , who referred to himself in his speech notes as ‘an ink-stained journalist’, had discussions with Izzy Asper, the head of the family, about his reluctance to allow his children to inherit his business.
At this point I started to realize the man beside me was someone well-known, but I just couldn’t remember his name. The hat he was wearing looked familiar too and I knew I’d seen him wearing it in a photo in a newspaper byline. But his name wasn’t coming to me.
The stewardess served us drinks and when the man dropped his bottle of cranberry juice on the floor he asked if I might pick it up for him so I did. The flight was short and by the end of it the man’s name still hadn’t come to me. Remember I’ve been out of Canada for four years and haven’t been reading Canadian newspapers.
I finally thought of his name when I was in the cab on the way to my hotel. “That was Peter C. Newman and I’ve seen his photo in Macleans magazine!” But what in the world would Peter C. Newman be doing in Thompson of all places? As soon as I got to my hotel I googled him and sure enough Wednesday morning Peter C. Newman was speaking at a Manitoba Community Futures breakfast in Thompson.
I could have kicked myself. Here I was sitting beside one of the most famous Canadian journalists ever, for an hour and a half plane flight, author of over twenty books and editor of both the Toronto Star newspaper and Macleans magazine and all I talked to him about was the weather and cranberry juice.
What next? I doubt I’ll get a chance to meet Peter C. Newman again but if I do I’ll certainly know exactly who he is!