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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Babycakes and me

Two decades ago, scant months after I moved from Ottawa to Toronto, I happened to get a job at a little-known but remarkable company called IPSA, where the pith of each employee was encapsulated in two to five letters.

I shared an office with a technical writer. She sported a luminous lime-green top, a somewhat unkempt mop of blond hair, and one of the sharpest (if mercurial) minds I've ever known.

Mary Lee was an IPSA veteran. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the company, its culture, and its cast, past and present. And she was more than happy to share her arcana with the new kid. I learned about IPSA. All about IPSA.

I called her Babycakes. She called me Stevie.

Babycakes loved words--their sounds, their meanings--and was rarely at a loss for one. And not just for a word; she could effortlessly select the sole, singular, specific word for the job.

One day she said, offhandedly, "Stevie, let's go shopping--I'm feeling consumptatory." You won't find that in your concise Oxford. Another day she came in brandishing a newspaper, pointing and exclaiming "That's Daryl Strawberry! Isn't that a great name? Daryl... Strawberry!" She was beaming.

She could recount an incident that occurred any number of years ago, in holographic detail, in faster than real time, every quotation exact, the narrative chronology phase-locked to the original, sometimes for a good 20 minutes, never missing a beat, never coming up for air. She could leave me staggered.

She had a grip that could deform a golf ball, a personal space measured in millimetres, and rarely uttered the perpendicular pronoun without adding 5 decibels, presumably just to remove all ambiguity.

Sometimes we fought, but it didn't last. Once, after a particularly acrimonious exchange, and my subsequent tearful apology, she said, "I know, Stevie--we're the same. Prickly."

Babycakes was entertaining, infuriating, engaging, exasperating. And we were kindred spirits. And we knew it.

Good bye Babycakes. Elvis has left the building.

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