Staying Put in Vancouver

Just minutes after arriving home from the airport after returning from Winnipeg, I opened up my laptop, logged into Facebook, and begrudgingly changed my status to read:

“Had a great week in Winnipeg: beautiful city and beautiful people. Contemplating moving there with my family. Need to pray about it.”

Those 22 words set off a mini-firestorm of replies and texts from friends. Most knew that something was up, as despite my penchant for updating my status a few times a day, it seemed a bit uncharacteristic and out of nowhere.

What was up was that I had lost a friendly wager to my new friends from Winnipeg: the youth and adult participants of YouthLeader. It was indeed a wonderful week of faith, fellowship, and fun, coming immediately after an amazing week of YouthLeader here in Vancouver. While I always feel blessed to teach and train in my home diocese, I was extremely excited to do my first non-Vancouver YouthLeader. Thus, I was full of anticipation, excitement, and nerves as I landed in the Manitoba capital on Sunday afternoon.

(As an aside, I seem to end up in a lot of “friendly wagers”…especially with others in the youth ministry community. Remember the whole Oddwalk debacle a few months ago? I sure do.)

I felt right at home in Winnipeg, largely in part to the wonderful hospitality and enthusiasm of everyone I met. Throughout the week, I exchanged good-natured barbs with the youth. I would sing Vancouver’s praises, while they would make fun of our notoriously wet weather, often asking me where I put my umbrella. It was actually quite ironic that it rained almost every day that I was in Winnipeg while everyone back home enjoyed pleasant weather.

As we felt more comfortable with each other, the ribbing moved from weather to sports, and the CFL in particular. Thus, it was fitting that just a few hours after we were to part ways on Friday, the BC Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers were set to clash under the dome at BC Place.

It was an opportunity too good to pass up.

On Friday morning, I announced to the group that I had a proposition for them. Each person had the option to participate, as long as they met the following criteria:

-they were Bombers fans (or at least knew what sport the Bombers played)
-they were on Facebook
-they would be able to update their status late Friday night or early Saturday morning

Close to a dozen people were intrigued enough to meet me at lunch to hear the rules of engagement. The rules were simple: Lions win, and those dozen people would change their Facebook status to read “I want to move to Vancouver” or something along those lines. Conversely, Bombers win, and I would have to do something similar in expressing my desire to move to Winnipeg. And most importantly, the “loser” was not allowed to give away that it wasn’t true or part of a friendly wager. He/she had to either not reply to comments and play along for one day.

The Manitobans were evidently very excited about this challenge, as a couple of them whispered “Bombers rule” in my ear during the closing commissioning prayer. And that was after I had affirmed them with genuine and heart-felt words!

Within minutes of saying our good-byes, my phone started buzzing with Facebook friend requests. By the time I boarded my plane at 730pm, I had about 10 or 12 new friends, many of them involved in the friendly wager. I sat down in my seat and after take-off I excitedly plugged in my headphones and watched the game on satellite TV.

(As another aside, I had tweeted earlier in the day that I was hoping to catch the game on my flight home. Westjet actually replied on Twitter, saying they would be carrying the game on their satellite TV. Talk about great customer service! After watching the debacle, I sort of wish that their satellite TV was broken to spare me the pain.)

The game started off well, with the BC Lions scoring on their opening drive. Just as the plane was about to land in Calgary, the Bombers were threatening to score. Even so, the game was still up for grabs and I felt relatively confident that the Lions would pull it out in the end.

As I waited during my 40 minute lay-over in Calgary, I started to receive Facebook updates and messages about the game from my new “friends”. Apparently, Winnipeg had taken a 20-10 lead into half-time.

Once we were in the air again I was able to continue watching the game. What was already bad became much worse as the Lions were plagued by turnovers and poor defense. By the time we landed in Vancouver just after 10pm, the game was out of reach and I started to think about how I was going to word my post. And how to tell my lovely wife Gail that we were moving to Winnipeg!

I was met by 4 smiling faces as Gail and the kids came to pick me up. I quickly told them about my friendly wager, and Sean in particular was interested in seeing what kind of reaction I would get.

Turns out I got quite a bit. I originally was just going to say “Thinking of moving to Winnipeg” but I thought that was admittedly too weak. So I added the line about my family, changed the word “thinking” to “contemplating” and I added the line about prayer to seal the deal. I posted the change at 11:25pm and within a couple of hours I had 6 or 7 replies, ranging from gloating to warnings about the cold Winnipeg winters. I actually felt bad that a couple of people thought I was serious. And I felt even worse that they said nice things to try and convince me to stay, but I couldn’t reply or thank them.

I can admit now that I kinda cheated: I texted 3 of my best friends just after posting the change to assure them it was only a joke. In speaking to each of them, 2 of them knew from my post that I wasn’t serious, while one of them actually believed me (before getting my text) and even brainstormed scenarios and reasons as to why I would leave Vancouver and in essence force Gail and me to leave our dream jobs. To him, the line about needing to pray about it made it seem legit. Thanks Dave…you’re a good guy…haha.

So now it’s Sunday, the Lions have had a day to lick their wounds, and I’m allowed to change my status back to something more normal and more true.

For the record, I’m staying put in Vancouver for the foreseeable future, and have no intention of moving with my family to Winnipeg or anywhere else for that matter.

Unless I keep losing these friendly wagers!