Shamus’s profile shots scrolled like some kind of Action Man calendar. In one photo the 39-year-old Irish-Canadian was hugging a goat on what looked like a dusty Nepalese street, with his bicep bulging over it like a rock. In another he was posing with a group of kids somewhere in Africa, deeply tanned and most definitely sexily-engrossed in another culture. In a third, he was kneeling, arms crossed in some kind of military-type uniform, so this well-travelled man of the world got a big thumbs up from me.
After just three or four short messages we agreed to meet at a restaurant he’d chosen.
I’ve just got home. I’m not really sure what to think.
I arrived at the restaurant first. I did think the venue was a weird choice. It was a bit far away from anything else; took me about half an hour to walk there from the Sky Train. Aside from the waiter, the place was pretty dead, which might have been why said waiter pulled up a chair and proceeded to flirt for about ten minutes before thinking to offer me a drink.
Shamus, when he showed up, was nothing like his profile photos. Gone were the bulging biceps. Gone was the hair, even. He had pasty white skin and way more wrinkles on his face than on his oversized shirt, but more alarmingly, Shamus appeared to have no neck. I studied him as he draped his satchel over the back of another chair and put what looked like a ring binder full of documents on the table in front of him.
You know when you want to stare at something, but you know you really shouldn’t, so your eyes end up doing that weird rolling-around thing that makes you appear possessed? Well… yeah, I did that. Every time he looked at me I was trying to locate his neck in his shirt collar and the fact that I couldn’t was making me anxious. His photos showed him with a neck, so at which point it decided to disappear I have no clue. I contemplated whether it had been eaten by that goat in Nepal, or maybe one of the kids in the African village. I didn’t like to ask.
‘We’re having this,’ Shamus said, pointing at the menu when the waiter approached again a few minutes later with a bottle of wine. Again, alarm bells. He’d ordered for me. Who does that?! What the hell was this man doing on his travels to have come home with no neck and no manners?
‘I was going to have the pizza,’ I told him.
‘Oh, we can’t have pizza, the deal is only for the shared platter,’ he told me, apologetically. I noticed he was patting the ring binder on the table. I must have looked at him blankly ‘cause he opened the binder up then and slid it to me on a page that had one of those sticky yellow arrows on it, marking a place.
I scanned the print-out. It was a Groupon voucher. It read ‘Sharing platter – $20 instead of $35.’
Now, I know what you’re thinking: You’re such a picky bitch, there’s nothing wrong with a voucher; aren’t you always bitching about how expensive everything is in Vancouver? Well, yes. Yes I am. But when I flicked the page off the deal I found another Groupon voucher behind it, for something else. Then another. And another. And another.
Shamus had, in his sacred ring binder, a Groupon voucher for what looked like every restaurant, bar and activity in Vancouver, all with holes punctured perfectly in the sides for easy storage and removal.
I flicked through them. It was so fascinating. He can’t have paid full price for anything for years. In fact, I suspect Shamus is on a one-man mission to continue living in Canada for the cost of living in Nepal. Again, I didn’t like to ask. I did wonder though, if he got some sort of neck-shrinking deal that might have gone a bit awry.
Eventually Shamus took the binder off me gently and placed it on the empty chair next to him, like some kind of holy relic that shouldn’t be tarnished or fondled.
‘You have a lot of vouchers,’ I said, pointlessly.
He shrugged, sat back in his chair; eyed me up and down like a man who just knows he’s impressing a woman.
What arrived on this ‘platter’ when it showed up were two slabs of processed cheese and a pot of mush they said was mackerel pate. One small bowl had three tiny pickled onions it in. Shamus had two of them. ‘You can finish the mackerel if you like,’ he told me kindly. So I did. ‘This would’ve been over $100 without the voucher,’ he followed ebulliently when the bill came. He was obviously adding in the bottle of wine that cost more than two pizzas would have cost us.
On the way back to the Sky Train, Shamus asked me if I wanted to get some dessert at a place called Pinkberry. It serves frozen yogurt. ‘Did you get a Groupon for that, too?’ I asked.
‘Yup. Paid $5 instead of $10 for that one. I think we get two toppings each too, I’ll just check.’ He stopped mid-walk and flicked through the ring binder, jabbing a finger at a voucher in delight. I felt a bit bad that by this point I was watching this neckless wonder more in intrigue than out of any desire for a frozen yogurt.
It was while we were eating our half price puddings, sitting at a table on the street, that Shamus dropped a bit of strawberry topping on his huge shirt. ‘It’ll wash off,’ I told him when he looked disappointed.
‘Hope so, it’s a new shirt.’
‘No, but they were 70% off.’
He dabbed at the blotch with a napkin. I considered that Shamus had been so caught up in scoring another bargain that he’d failed to realise the shirt was too big for him. So big in fact, that it swamped his body and caused his neck to disappear entirely.
At least I had some closure on that little issue before we said goodbye.