Last week, I wrote about my brother-in-law, Jim Munro, who died August 3rd, and mentioned a piece I wrote about driving from the church to the cemetery after the his father’s funeral in Toronto 20 years ago.
Back then, my in-laws told me they got a laugh out of the story published in the Driver’s Edge section of the Financial Post on September 17, 1999.
For anyone interested in a reprise, I offer it here:
After talking to the Toronto police, I figured I’d committed eight moving violations in 20 minutes: running four red lights, three stop signs, and speeding at about 120 k-hr in a 50 km-hr zone.
If a cop had pulled me over and asked: Whatsamatta, buddy, you in a hurry to get to the cemetery? I could have casually and truthfully answered in the affirmative.
My crime spree started just after noon, after a funeral service at Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church in Scarborough. I was in no hurry to line up for the motorcade, content to bring up the rear, behind a dozen vehicles, including the hearse.
A young man in a black suit slipped a plastic marker into the hood crevice on the driver’s side, identifying my Chevy minivan as an official member of the funeral cortege.
Inching en masse out of the church parking lot, traffic halted reverently for the casket-carrying Cadillac and its trailing train of sedans, vans and SUVs.
We marched west on Sheppard Avenue, blinking our way from right lane to left without a break in the vehicular conga line. The first left turn was accomplished without serious incident, though my sister-in-law, in her Jeep Cherokee, and I suffered temporary blindness when the traffic light switched
from amber to red.
It was at this point that I turned to my wife and asked why there was no police escort.
Since we’ve been married for 21 years, she recognizes one of
my rhetorical gripes when she hears one. She turned up the radio.
The cavalcade managed to stick together on this southward jog for the next few minutes, allowing time to reflect on funerals past; those giddy years before every vehicle had running lights, when such a solemn convoy was instantly recognizable and possessed a certain status.
“That’s when a funeral looked like a funeral,” I said. My wife inserted the earplugs from her Walkman.
Over the next couple of kilometres, our caravan managed to break up and reassemble several times. Ignorant fellow travellers cut in and joined the pilgrimage for short stretches.
A left turn at a busy intersection brought a braying of horns when half our parade marched through a red light. I pointed
to the plastic I.D. tag and shouted into the din: “We’re a funeral, for cripes sake! Show some respect.”
The driver of a rusty compact, with its own removable sign identifying its pizza-delivery mission, offered both his
middle fingers in response. My wife leaned back, closed her eyes, and pretended to sleep.
The next sprint, along an east-west artery, proved the most hazardous. A woman in a grey Volvo, two toddlers strapped in the back, cut me off, slammed on her brakes, and stopped for a red light, effectively blocking my opportunity to run it.
I smacked my horn in frustration, received my second
single-digit salute in 60 seconds, and watched helplessly as the rest of my party crested a hill and disappeared from sight.
“Do you have any idea where we’re going? What cemetery?” I asked my wife.
“None,” she said, before calling dial-a-prayer on her cell phone.
When the light hinted green, I swerved around the Volvo, floored the accelerator, hit the hill going 100, flew over it like Steve McQueen in Bullit— fuzzy flashback to my ’67 Mustang and San Francisco in the summer of ’68 — and managed to shake off the reverie without rear-ending my
After that, I maintained a tranquil pace, tail-gating the procession as it slipped through less congested stoplights and stop signs.
After the service at Mount Hope Cemetery, I was disappointed to notice the funeral-home guy had collected his marker, which I had planned to retain and display as a ticket to ride through red annoyances.
“Not so,” said a Toronto police spokesman when I later called to inquire about the rules governing a funeral cortege. “You have to obey the same laws as everybody else.”
Unless you hire a police escort: $834 for three officers on motorcycles, for parties of up to 30 vehicles; another $834 for each additional 30.