I am member 29111 of the Heritage Bicycle Club of North America. Until tomorrow.
The Ferocus has needed new tires for some time, and I was basically driving its current ones into the ground while I looked into which tires I wanted as replacements. Thus it came as no particular surprise yesterday that, while doing 120 or so on the 407 near Vaughan, our front passenger tire gave up. No blowout, no trauma; just Amy and I realising that the tire was gone and me hitting the hazards and pulling off. Since I like cars, and preparedness, our car is well armed for such a happenstance and it took no more than 15 minutes to swap tires, check pressure on the donut, touch up with compressor, and we were back on the road. It was basically perfectly executed on the tire’s part since I had just that morning cashed the Make: cheque that was going to pay for the replacements, and since I have today off (3 blog postings in one day, you better believe I have the day off) to bring the car in for the swap. Now this is how we roll.
So it came to be that I had to find lunch while the tires were swapped, and was on foot, in Brampton. I meandered south since the road tends to slope that way, and passed by the Crown & Anchor pub. The Crown & Anchor looks, from the signage, like a wannabe Firkin, but since Firkins are sort of wannabe pubs, I thought this might be the very thing I was looking for, a beef dip or halibut and chips being emminently more civilized than your average fast food fare. On the door, I saw a sign, reading thus:
This establishment (The Crown & Anchor Pub, Brampton) has become a member of the Heritage Bicycle Club of North America.
As a result, our services are only offered to members of the club.
One day membership: $1.00
Yearly membership: $25.00
One day memberships can accrue towards cost of yearly membership.
On my eternal soul, I shit you not.
It took me I think a full 3 seconds to process the scam that was going on here, so if you already know the punchline, you are clearly much smarter than I. I walked in the door, grabbed a seat at which point the waitress gave The Schpiel. “This is not a pub,” she said, doing her best Magritte. “Yes, I saw the sign,” I replied knowingly, but she was compelled, I think, to continue. “We are a private club, and there is a membership fee of $1.00 for a one day membership.” I waited. “And this is a smoking establishment.” Bing-, as they say, -o.
She needn’t have bothered. The mind likes familiar things and so it was not long before I remembered pubs with smoke and settled back in; I spent a lot of high school in pool halls and a lot of the last few years in poker rooms, I can handle smoke, but that is not at all to say that it wasn’t immediately, overpoweringly noticeable. The smoke curling off of every (other) patron’s fingers was almost lively, excited to find a room where it could stretch out and fill the space. There was no filtration system in evidence, even the ceiling fans only sort of wandered about their orbits. It felt like I was in a den of iniquity, far moreso than any underground poker game.
The pub (qua pub) wasn’t great, unsurprisingly. My diet coke tasted alarmingly like beer in a way that casts doubt on the diligence of their dishwasher. The beef dip was passable, the coleslaw was mayonnaise, and the tab came to $11.45 including my membership fee. When I got home, I took another look at the card, and dug up the URL. I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but what I did amused me. The site is a sham of course, every page past the opening is under construction or 404. I thought the banner page might militantly proclaim smoker’s rights, I thought they might farcically pretend interest in those big-wheeled bicycles of yore. What they do instead is muddle:
The purpose of the membership is to provide FRIENDSHIP and an understanding of expectations. These expectations can vary and in fact should evolve with the membership.
Because of the increased regulations on both sides of the border that increasingly dictate cultural and social behavior, there is a growing need for an organization that can propagate these rules and regulations. Our members can use modern technology to inform themselves about seemingly confusing dictates and find an experience that caters to them.
Now you know the secret, you understand this code language. If you got there because you googled for heritage bicycle clubs…?
I pass no judgement on the whole operation – they did the natural thing when their shared interest became taboo, they turned inward. I’m really more struck than anything, like I walked in on a Knights Templar baptismal ritual, only sadder, more pathetic. I doubt I’ll renew my membership.