You Can't Control How Others React to Your Decisions

The full weight of my decision to quit the RCMP didn't hit me until I got to the parking lot with my box of personal belongings. I sat in my car, feeling numb from head to toe, my mind racing. My fellow officers were the only friends I had, and members stick together. They know sensitive things about each other. Once you're no longer in the RCMP, you're no longer invited to socialize because you can't really be trusted in the same way. You're now a civilian. Members would have to watch what they say around you. That's the kind of change that's most frightening: the inability to control how other people around you will react to your decisions. I had told some of my colleagues that I was thinking of quitting the RCMP, but they probably never really thought I'd do it — every police officer I knew talked about leaving the force, about how they'd do so much better on their own, if they ran things. What salaried worker doesn't fantasize out loud about running his or her own business? But I knew that once I made the decision, I was going to take action. And my pride was such that I wouldn't be able to turn back. If I couldn't make it as a pizza man, I could never go back to being a police officer. My life as I knew it was over. My future was murky. I had a wife and a baby. Was I nuts?

As I drove away from the detachment that day, I felt my “Linus blanket” slip away. It was time for me to become a decision maker. I was scared, yes. But I was okay that day. And I was okay the next day. And the day after that. No matter how many people tried to dissuade me, something kept propelling me forward. When I thought about my (still non-existent) restaurant in Penticton, I felt happy. Happy in a way few things ever made me feel. When you get that feeling and you can't shake it off, and criticism doesn't kill it, you've won half the battle. I searched for regrets, and still there weren't any. That's when I knew I had made the right decision, that it had truly been time for me to leave the force. I felt as though a spell had been broken.

Things moved fast after that. I needed a job, any job, to get through the next six months. I wouldn't be getting paid while training at Boston Pizza, and Don and I needed to figure out the rest of our financing in order to buy equipment for the new franchise. We couldn't afford to fly, so we took road trips, Gus, Don and I, to the BC Interior, scouting for the perfect location. It took a while, but we finally found a two-storey building, a former furniture store, with a big, empty basement, at 511 Main Street in Penticton.

“This is the place. This will do well for you,” Gus said. He knew. All three of his locations in Edmonton were successful. He was like our personal divining rod.

We signed a lease for $600 a month. That was dirt cheap for such a big space, far less than what comparable places were leasing for in Kelowna. Now it was time to build our financial base.

Back in Edmonton, the next few months were a blur of making dough at odd hours, and working at even odder jobs. Life was unpredictable and exhausting, but exhilarating. I had a stint at Sears selling major appliances. I sold boats for a while at a marina, kept the books for City Spring and Welding and worked at the Corona Hotel as a bouncer, a place far tougher than Boston Pizza — anything to raise the money. I even enjoyed a brief stint as a pro wrestler.

The Osborne Brothers, Bud and Ray out of Edmonton, were big competitors of Stampede Wrestling, a wildly popular pro wrestling show at the time. I had met Bud at an autobody shop my wife's uncle owned. He was getting a hound's head welded onto the hood of his Cadillac to signify “top dog.”

Bud took in my size.

“Big guy like you could make good money in the ring.”

At first I just worked out with Bud and Ray at the local gym. They showed me how to toss around a medicine ball, then taught me a few holds and throws. Eventually, they pressed me into service, throwing a face mask at me for anonymity's sake.

“You're an ex-RCMP. You might get recognized.”

My moniker was “Hangman.” I made about $200 per match — a small fortune — and sometimes more if I won. Matches were rehearsed. Sometimes I was the heel (the loser), sometimes the crowbar (the winner). Razors were sewn into our gloves so we could strategically bleed ourselves during battle. It was a hoot, really — until I was thrown over the ropes in Barrhead, Alberta, and spent two weeks in the hospital with my leg elevated until the blood clot had dissolved. That's when Elaine laid down the law. No more wrestling, anything but wrestling. And so ended my brief career in the ring.

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