Before I became famous, I drove taxi. One time I was taking a load of passengers between Inuvik and one of the outlying communities. It was mid-Febuary and minus 45. We took off after the bar closed so there was no other traffic on the ice road. About an hour into the trip, the van started to overheat. The thermostat had stuck. Luckily I had a spare. But when I was changing it, I tore the gasket and it wouldn’t work.
We tried all kinds of other material to try and make a new gasket. I even cut a gasket out of my leather dingo boots but that didn’t work either. We sat there in the cold for about half an hour before it started getting really cold inside the van. I didn’t know what to do. I was shacked up with Bubbles at the time and she loan me her gym bag to pack some extra clothes in. I was digging around for another pair of socks when I felt a round large object. I pulled it out and it was a big rubber dildo. I pulled it out and said, “Hey, this might work.” One of the elderly ladies took offence to the sight of it and started hitting it with her cane and swearing at me in her language.
After we all had a good laugh, we decided it would be perfect material for a gasket. The girth was just the right size to fit over the new thermostat. But we didn’t have a knife to cut a new gasket out. The only thing I had was an axe. And a dull one at that. I tried once to cut it in half but the axe just bounced back. All the guys were holding their privates and wincing in pain. One of the elders pulled out her sewing bag and handed me an ulu, a traditional women’s knife. And sharp as a razor. The women all huddled together to watch. But when I readied the ulu, they all shrieked in unison and I couldn’t concentrate. All the guys were looking like I was going to perform the operation on them and the look on their face of pure dread. I finally found the courage to make the cut.
If you’ve ever tried an ulu, it’s not as easy as it seems. Especially on rubber. I was making a mess of it and finally the elder took it away from me, and sliced off a perfect size piece. It looked like she was cutting a piece of quock, frozen fish, the way the ulu sliced graciously through the rubber. It’s all in the wrist. The gasket fit perfect and we made it to our destination an hour later and I dropped everyone off at their respective houses. The last one off was the elder who gave me the ulu to use. Her grand-daughter was with her and she spoke to her grand-daughter in her language. The grand-daughter told me, “She wants to know if you need that rubber thing.” It was just a rubber shaft by then so I told her “Not really, why?” “She wants to make a plug for the sink,” she said. I didn’t think Bubbles would want it back in its current condition so I said sure. But I knew damn well she would make me go out and buy her a new one. So I told her daughter, “Twenty bucks.” Her grandmother didn’t have twenty bucks so she game me about seven dollars in change plus half a pack of cigarettes.
When I got back home I sat Bubbles down and told her the story. Instead of laughing, she starting throwing things at me, telling me I’d never measure up to what that thing had done for her and demanded I get it back. I eventually ordered her a new one. I see that elder once in a while and I dread it. Because she always asks me in her language, “How’s your ooshook? (penis)” and laugh like hell with all her women buddies. And always in Effie’s Cafe, when it’s packed.