"I remember telling people," says the voice on the other end of the phone, "it's my birthday, it's my birthday suit."
He chuckles. "It kinda went from there."
I'm sitting in the studio at CBC in Charlottetown, talking to a stranger on the phone. I do this every month. "Everybody's got a story," is the theory I'm working on. To prove it, I open the P.E.I. phone book to a random page and stab my finger at the first name I find.
This month, I've picked Lance Fleming. Or as his friends call him, No Pants Lance.
We'll get to that part of the story in a bit.
Bitten by the theatre bug
Fleming lives in Montague, P.E.I., but he grew up in St. Thomas, Ont. He was a goofy, fun-loving guy. When his friends were heading to hockey, he was heading to theatre class.
He got to the house first, but he didn't have any of his clothes with him when he got there. — Dee Fleming
"I actually got into it because a friend of mine was," he said. "He kind of laughed and said, 'Y'know there's a lot of females, and you might be interested."
He came for the girls, but he stayed for a love of theatre.
"I didn't end up doing a lot of acting. I did a lot of work behind the scenes doing props and things. I really enjoyed that."
Fleming found his home backstage. He's always been handy with tools — he's an electrician today — so he kept busy building and working behind the scenes. He was the guy dressed in black with a headset on.
But he was still a goofy, fun-loving guy. He gleefully took part in the theatre's long tradition of practical jokes. Fleming remembers a scene where one of the actors was supposed to swing a yardstick.
"I cut it," he said. "I sawed it part way so that when they'd swing it, it'd break. Or if they were supposed to be reading a story, I would glue the pages together so they couldn't read it. I know it was bad, but it was because it was people I'd know. It was fun to watch them try to ad lib. I'd only do it on the last night, the very last play of the season."
A nickname and a girlfriend
Outside of theatre, Fleming took as many shop classes as he could. He later took a two-year electronics course at college. After graduation, he went to a job fair.
"There was a company there called Experience Canada. And the deal was if they accepted you, you had to go out of province."
He'd almost forgotten he had applied when the company called two months later with a job offer in Prince Edward Island.
Weeks later, he was working at a tiny start-up tech company in Dundas, P.E.I. It was a tough transition, working in rural P.E.I.
The company didn't last long, but his first foray to the Island was fruitful. In one magical night, he acquired a nickname and a girlfriend — who would go on to be his wife.
He did it his way
"I had a birthday party, and my roommate invited a bunch of people from work and the gym," explains Fleming.
One of the guests was a woman he had met just once at the gym. Dee arrived at the party before Fleming, and she remembers sitting on the couch waiting for the birthday boy to arrive.
It was mid-winter, and it was snowing. The long driveway was so drifted in, the cab carrying Fleming and his friends dropped them off at the road.
"And you could see them coming in single file," remembers Dee with a laugh. "And all of a sudden you could see this one person who was just blowing by everyone else. And he got to the house first, but he didn't have any of his clothes with him when he got there."
No Pants Lance was born.
'That guy is kind of interesting'
"So, I get the story about the streaking," I say to Fleming. "But how did that turn into 'Now there's a guy I want to date'?"
"I think she told me the exact words were 'That guy is kind of interesting,'" he said.
As a foundation to a relationship, you could do a lot worse. Lance Fleming doesn't spend a lot of time streaking through the snow these days, but Dee Fleming says life with him is never boring. She knew it right away.
"There's about three-and-a-half feet of snow, and it's very cold, and he's got no clothes ... and it's a long driveway," she said. "So. He was interesting!"
"The heart wants what the heart wants," I say.
We're both laughing now.
"What can I say? He makes me laugh."
That was 18 years ago. The Flemings have moved around a bit since, back to Toronto for a few years, but they've been on the Island for six years. They have a son, whom Lance says may or may not turn out to be a theatre kid.
Life on P.E.I. turned out pretty good for No Pants Lance. It's certainly never boring. And he and Dee have a terrific story to tell the grandkids one day about how they met.
"Oh God, can you imagine?" squeals Dee.
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