...of quiet desperation.
John Maxwell, the owner of Allen's, is the only proprietor of a bar and grill in the Dominion who went to Oxford University. Who went to it, and who dropped out the day after he enrolled. He dropped out because he was buying a bicycle when a certified Oxford don blithered into the shop pushing a bicycle.
"This bicycle doesn't work,'' the don complained.
The merchant examined it carefully.
"And I only just bought it. Now I'm going to have to buy another one.''
"No, no, no,'' said the merchant. "It's just the chain.''
"There's a chain?'' The don stepped back, astonished.
"It's come off.''
"It's come off?''
"Not to worry,'' said the merchant, putting it back on. "It will work fine now.''
"Really?'' The don goggled. "You think so?''
And Maxwell, seeing in that moment, and in that don, the life he might end up leading, and the man he might become, walked directly out of the shop, went to his rooms, packed his bags, and caught the next flight back across the Atlantic.
Nifty excerpt from a good old-fashioned newspaper columnist working the street of Toronto. Not like today's punk newspapermen sitting on their duffs at the Internet, but like real gumshoes. Sitting on their duffs at the bar.
Thing is, anyone who's worked at a bike shop can assure you that you don't have to be an Oxford don to be an idiot. Plenty of people are just born that way.