My Week 199: I’m Not The Only One

The internet is a scary and dark place sometimes, but it does have its uses. In fact, on occasion, it can actually be a comfort. Before the advent of social media and search engines, I’m sure people lived in frightened little bubbles, not sure if what they were feeling was normal. Now of course, we’re often frightened in a GIGANTIC way, but at least we aren’t in bubbles anymore. What the internet has taught me mostly is that the things I thought were strange and quirky about myself (“mydangblog…strange and quirky?!” I hear you whispering in shock) are traits that a great many other people share. Imagine 100 years ago not knowing that having upwards of 8 decorative pillows on your bed was perfectly reasonable? Or that there were other people who not only knew what “the good tea towel” was, they also got upset when someone used it to wipe the counter?

Recently, I have discovered that several things that I thought were unique and unusual about myself are quite common. I learned this on Twitter.

1)

I was shocked to learn that I am NOT the only person who does this. Whenever I take a plate of chicken out to the BBQ, I grab the tongs, and the first thing I do, immediately, is to click the tongs together, like “Clang, c-clang, clang”. The only difference between me and Wil Wheaton (the author of this tweet) is that I don’t REALLY do it to make sure they work. I mean, that’s part of it for sure, but for me, it’s more of a swashbuckler-y type thing. I like to imagine that I’m a grilling female Errol Flynn, and when I clang them, I also do a little lunge and a quick parry. I sometimes end with a flourish and a bow because that’s how I roll.

2)

Even though I work for a secret agency, technically I am NOT a spy, and anyone who knows me knows that is true, because I do exactly what this person’s tweet says. I have two dresses with pockets, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been complimented on them SOLELY because of the pockets. The other day at work, a colleague was wearing a new dress, and when we told her how nice it was, she immediately said, “It has pockets!” Then we all stood around saying, “Ooh—pockets!” while she modelled using them for us, which is to say that she twirled around with her hands IN the pockets. It was awesome. Is there a male equivalent of this?

Frank: Hey Jerry, we really like your tie.
Jerry: Thanks guys! It’s a clip-on!
All: Ooh.

3)

The identical thing happened to me two weeks ago, only I didn’t call 911, I called Ken.

Ken: What’s going on?
Me: So…I went to Winners after work and bought some new workout clothes.
Ken: Nice.
Me: Then I worked out.
Ken: Good for you.
Me: And now I am stuck half in and half out of my new sports bra. It was fine going on, but I’m currently unable to get it off. I’m calling you with the arm that’s NOT trapped in it.
Ken: Um…can you hook it onto a doorknob and then, like, drop yourself out of it or something?
Me: I don’t think you understand physics.
Ken: Gravity. Can you wait for your roommate to come home? She can help you.
Me: You mean, she could grab it and pull it off me, and then I would be naked in front of her? No.

Eventually, with a Herculean effort that involved almost dislocating one shoulder, I got it off. But now I know that this is a common occurrence, because not only did I see the above tweet, but my friend Bryce Warden of wasthatmyoutloudvoice just wrote a post called “It’s A Death Trap” about a similar experience with a swimming suit top (click on the link to read it. It’s very funny).

4)

A while ago, Ken and I had a family get together, and someone left a spoon behind. It was a f*cking weird spoon, all flat and plain and whatnot, completely unlike all my other normal, human spoons. But every time I reached into the cupboard to grab a spoon, IT was the one I always came out with. Once, I actually said out loud to it, “I hate you, stupid spoon.” Then one day, I got fed up, and I threw it in the garbage. So I apologize to whatever family member it belonged to, but seriously, if I come to your house and see the rest of your weird-ass spoons, they’re all going in the trash.

5)

This is kind of like the opposite of Number 4, and while the person who wrote this tweet doesn’t understand proper punctuation (and thanks to the internet, I know I’m not the ONLY one who cares about things like this), it’s true. Just the other day, Ken came into the room. My first reaction was to say, “What are you doing?!” His response was to pause for a moment, so that he could do a mental scan to try and figure out why I was asking him that.

Ken: Um…nothing?
Me: Why are you using my mug?
Ken: (nervously scoffs) This isn’t your mug.
Me: Uh, yes it is.
Ken: No, it’s not—your name’s not written on it.
Me: There’s a giant f*cking “S” on both sides, Ken.
Ken: We have tons of other mugs. Use one of those.
Me: I could offer you THE SAME ADVICE, KEN!!

And now, I have to hide my mug. Oh well, he DOES respect the “good tea towel” and he thinks it’s perfectly normal that I fence with BBQ tongs, so that’s something.

Black and White Challenge Week 2

Advertisements

My Week 198: Soccer Vs. Rugby

Right now, all around the world, there’s a hum, a buzz, an undercurrent if you will. And what is the cause of this intense excitement, you might well ask. It’s World Cup Soccer. Yes, the so-called “beautiful game.” And while I like soccer to a certain extent, and have a history with it (which I’ll get to in a minute), I have to admit that watching professional international soccer can be about as exciting as watching a guy getting a haircut, if the guy getting the haircut kept falling out of the chair and crying because the air from the blowdryer was hurting his hair. But here are some of the problems with professional soccer:

1) Soccer Has An Identity Crisis

Person 1: Oh, boy! I’m going to a soccer game!
Person 2: Who’s playing?
Person 1: The Toronto Football Club against the New York Football Club.
Person 2: I thought you said you were going to a soccer game.
Person 1: Right!

This sport doesn’t even know what it is. Is it football? Because that’s what everyone outside of North America calls it. But here in North America, the soccer teams are called “football clubs” as in, you PLAY soccer FOR a football club, which is super-confusing. Apparently, the word “soccer” comes from 1800s English slang for “association football”. So if the English invented the term, why don’t THEY use it? Personally, I think it was just the Brits taking revenge on the Americans for saying Zee instead of Zed. As was the invention of American football in a tavern somewhere long ago:

1800s American Dude: So what is this football of which you speak?
1800s English Dude: Ah yes, “football”. You will need full body armour like ye knights of olde, an oval ball made from the skin of a pig slaughtered under the full moon, the mathematical skills of Pythagoras in order to understand the rules, and the ability to dance a merry jig in the “end zone”.
1800s American Dude: Cool. We’re on it.
1800s English Dude: *pounds back flagon of ale and snickers*

2) Soccer Is Very Time-Consuming

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not a soccer-hater. I just find that “major league” soccer has turned into a game where the object is to play keep-away with a ball for 90 minutes (plus penalty time for all the guys who were writhing in agony because someone brushed against them), and you end up with a score of “nobody to f*ck-all”. It’s incredibly time-wasting. In fact, I know people who PVR soccer games, then just play them on fast forward. This is a great idea when you think about it, because then everyone is running really fast, the ball is being passed like crazy, and the whole game takes less than twenty minutes . That’s a game I can get behind. Oh wait—I’m already behind THAT game. It’s called Rugby Sevens, which is an even faster-paced version of the already phenomenal game of rugby.

3) Soccer Is So Dramatic!

The main reason I like rugby is because of the tackling. The legal kind, not the sucky, sneaky, slide-y soccer kind which doesn’t really hurt but which prompts some pretty outrageous responses . I’m sorry, but if you go down on the field crying and holding your leg and rolling around like you’re dying, you should NOT get to run back on said field 30 seconds later. You SHOULD get an Oscar. Although I recognize that faking injuries happens in rugby too, most of the time if a rugby player goes down on the field screaming and crying, he’s going straight to the hospital and might never play again. But I’ve actually seen soccer games where play is delayed while a player is carried off on a stretcher, only to have him leap up on the sidelines and run back in moments later.

 

“All I said was ‘Good Morning’…”

By now, if you’re a true devotee of the game, you’re probably grumbling and saying to yourself, “What the hell does a middle-aged, secret agency worker know about soccer, anyway? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out, having coached it for several years. Let me tell you, there’s a big difference in the enjoyment level of any game when you have a stake in it, even if you’re staking your enjoyment on the capacity of 4 and 5 year olds to figure out how to pass a ball without tripping. Here’s how that particular phase of my life occurred: When T was 4, he wanted to play soccer. We took him to the local park for registration, and the convenor announced that there was no coach for the Super-Mini-PeeWee team, and if some parents didn’t step up and volunteer, they would have to cancel that age level. All the other parents hung their heads or started finding amazing things in the clouds, and there was T with his little face all excited, so Ken and I offered to coach the team. I hadn’t played soccer since I was a kid myself, and we had to get all the rule books and manuals and cram so that we were ready. Which, as it turns out, if you’ve ever watched 4 year-olds play soccer, was completely unnecessary. If you show a group of 4 year-olds a soccer ball, they will chase it in a large clump like a swarm of bees chasing Winnie the Pooh with his honey jar. And they will do it until they drop, despite your best efforts to come up with plays, or teach them to pass, or coerce them to stay in their position with promises of ice cream after the game. (We always bought them ice cream anyway. They were four years old—they were trying their best, dammit.)

Another thing about four year-olds, and if you know any, you’ll agree with this wholeheartedly, is that they have the attention spans of gerbils. For example, this was our team cheer:

Me: Are you ready?!
Team: Yes!
Me: 1, 2, —wait, where are you all going? No, don’t run on the field yet! You don’t know your positions! We haven’t even finished our cheer!

And if I had a dollar for every time one of my players stopped dead, bent down, picked a dandelion and ran over to give it to me, I could have bought a new whistle. But they WERE adorable little people, so I’d just tuck the dandelion behind my ear, smile and say, “Awesome! Now get back out there and kick that ball!” And if it wasn’t dandelions, it was “Look at this cool bug, Coach!” or “Can I have a Freezie yet?”

But of course the hardest part was when they would randomly start to cry, because they were little and easily forgot the point of what they were doing:

Me: Why are you crying? What happened?
Little Boy: I-I-I had-had the ball-ball, and that guy took it away from me. I NEVER get to keep the balllll! It’s not fair!
Me: Never mind, sweetie. Here, take this one. It’s ORANGE.

And then it would be MY fault that there was more than one ball on the field, but it didn’t really matter because we never actually kept score, being as there never WAS a score. In fact, if someone miraculously happened to get the ball in the net, it was a bit of a disaster, with no one being quite sure how it got in there, and the goalie crying. But as T got older, Ken and I graduated to older and older teams, until eventually we were coaching 13 year-olds who understood how the game was played, and cared about the score. And even then, it was fun, and exciting too, to see the same little girl who was plucking grass just a few years before now manoeuvering the ball to rival Beckham.

And maybe that’s the whole point. I love a game when I’m actively involved and I’m working with a group of kids who are super-enthusiastic despite their varying skill levels, but I just find sitting and watching grown men falling down and pretending to be hurt for millions of dollars a little obnoxious, which is why I prefer rugby. And what the hell do you know about rugby anyway, mydangblog? Well, once again, I coached rugby for many years, both Girls’ Varsity and Senior Boys. It was one of the true joys of my life, and it’s the one thing I absolutely miss about being a classroom teacher, aside from actually being in the classroom, which I also loved. Here are my two favourite rugby memories:

1) Holding a tackle bag during practice and having one of my huge new props come running at me, hit me hard, and knock me ass over teakettle. I lay on the ground, in pain but laughing hysterically as she rushed over almost in tears.

“Oh my god, Coach! I’m so sorry!” she said.

“No worries,” I answered. “Just do THAT on the field.”

2) At the end of my last season with the Senior Boys’, we lost the quarter final game. My captain started to cry. Not because we’d lost, but because he was graduating, and the team had been like family to him. Then more boys started crying, then I started crying because I was so proud of them for being such wonderful human beings. And they call soccer the beautiful game.

Of course, there were awkward or stressful moments, like having a referee look around totally perplexed then ask me, “So where’s the coach?” because I was the only female Senior Boys’ coach at the time, or having to take my hooker (don’t laugh—it’s a legitimate position) to the med tent to get her chin stitched up after a terrible collision in a tournament that left her with a fractured jaw. And then having to call her mother and explain what was going on.  And there were funny random moments too, like having to request that the boys use the porta-a-potties, NOT the trees, or reminding players that ALL piercings, visible or otherwise, had to be removed before a game.

So, yes, I’ve done both soccer and rugby; I’ve stood on many a pitch in the pouring rain, sleet, hail, bitter winds, and gorgeous spring days alike. I’ve wiped tears, handed out lollipops, carried equipment bags, bandaged raked shins, and done concussion protocol checks.  And I f*cking miss it. So we come full circle, around to where I started. I still don’t like major league soccer, but when I wake up on a Saturday morning and hear the screams of excited laughter and cheering from kids at the soccer park a block away, I smile. And then I put on TSN and watch rugby.

Black and White Challenge.

 

(Happy Anniversary, Ken–you’re the best husband a girl could ask for!)

My Week 197: The Joys of Gardening, Plants I Hate

“What the f*ck is up with raspberries?!” I asked Ken in the car yesterday. Ken looked simultaneously taken aback by the question yet somehow not very surprised at the way it was put to him.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Isn’t the whole point of fruit, of virtually EVERYTHING alive on this planet, to procreate and spread in the most efficient way possible? Like cherries, for example. Birds and tree-rats eat them, then they poop out the pits somewhere else where a new cherry tree can form.”

“I’m missing the point,” Ken answered. “Why are you so mad at raspberries?”

“Because they’re f*cking stupid! AND passive-aggressive. The berries are on top, all beautiful and beckoning, and then you get in there and it’s like being attacked by a school of piranhas. No wonder they’re almost extinct.”

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s true,” said Ken.

“Well, they should be! They’re stupid. That’s their slogan: Raspberries—The Stupid Fruit.”

Right now, you might be wondering exactly what prompted my anti-raspberry rant. Then again, if you’ve ever tried to pick raspberries, you probably know. Yes, that morning I had gone out with a bowl and a very optimistic attitude, forgetting as I do every year that raspberries are the devil’s spawn. Sure, they taste delicious, but isn’t that just part of their evil charm? It’s like when you see a cat, and it looks so adorable and squishy, and it bats its eyes at you and rolls over, then you try to rub its tummy and it grabs your hand and bites you. Raspberries are essentially the cats of the fruit world. And the worst part is, I didn’t even plant them—they just appeared, thousands of them, from god knows where. But I thought, I might as well take advantage of the situation. Unfortunately,  I came back into the house with a small bowl of berries and huge gashes on my arms and legs. At one point, I was so caught up in the thorns that I couldn’t move without ripping my T-shirt and pajama bottoms (yeah, PAJAMAS. Don’t judge me—it was only 10 am and it was Saturday). I’m sure the neighbours were a little concerned when I started screaming, “Let me go, you m*therf*cker!!” Although as a side-note, the police never arrived and now I’m seriously doubting the competency of our Neighbourhood Watch.

I was attacked just taking this picture.

But my ire isn’t reserved solely for the dreaded raspberry bush. I also hate a few other stupid plants:

1) Black Walnut Trees

These are the scourge of the forest. Nothing will grow under their “drip line”, which sounds really disgusting but that’s what tree people call it. And their nuts are SAVAGE. They drop down at the slightest hint of a breeze, and it’s like they’re TRYING to kill you. We have one in our front yard that’s over 80 feet high, and I swear there’s an evil sprite that lives in it, whose only job is to throw walnuts at people. Remember the episode of the Twilight Zone where William Shatner is a passenger on an airplane and he sees a gremlin ripping the wing apart but no one will believe him? I believe him, because that thing lives in my walnut tree now. And it’s in league with the squirrels, who keep burying the nuts all over my yard, causing new black walnut trees to spring up in random places like the middle of a flower bed, beside the pond, or up through the floorboards of the porch. You can’t even ignore them, because they grow so damned fast—one minute it’s 4 inches high; two days later, you need a chainsaw to cut it down. They’re perfect for annoying other people though. Yesterday, my mom told me that my brother’s neighbours had built this monstrosity of a garage overlooking his backyard. She wanted to know what he could plant that would grow quickly and block it out. “A Black Walnut Tree”, I said. The best revenge is slimy, green, and will give you a concussion.

2) Tall Flox

This flower is the bane of my existence, as invasive as daylilies but with worse foliage. Trying to get rid of them is almost impossible—you pull out one, and ten more pop up in its place. You exhaust yourself digging them all out and you think you finally got rid of them, but the next year, they’re all back again. The only one I like has pink and white candy striped petals, and it’s the only one that WON’T GROW.

3) Dandelions

If their flowers were pink and white striped, I would have no complaint. I just don’t like yellow.

4) Orchids

Someone gave me an orchid once. It was a gift, I suppose. After a week, the flowers fell off. Three years later, and I still have three leaves and a stick. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has an orchid with flowers on it. At work, there are several people who also have plant pots full of leaves and sticks. Two weeks ago, it was a co-worker’s birthday and she was given an orchid. We all stood around ooh-ing and aw-ing: “In a couple of weeks, that’s going to be a very lovely stick!” People say, “Don’t water your orchid–give it one ice cube a week.” Frankly, I think that’s a waste of good ice. And why are the roots always growing out of the pot? They’re like tentacles reaching out to strangle you, but they can’t because they’re too weak from the cold.

4 years later–not even a stick anymore.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I love my garden and ALMOST everything in it. I have some beautiful hostas, which are so hardy that you can apparently plant them upside down and they’ll still grow. Actually, I find that a little disturbing, like the way your hair and fingernails continue to grow after death, but they’re pretty. And I have peonies, and bergamot, and roses, and hollyhocks that suddenly just appeared in the perfect spot in a flowerbed as if I’d put them there deliberately. I made jam last weekend with the cherries from our own tree (certified organic, which also means that I had to break open EVERY SINGLE CHERRY to make sure there were no worms in them). Later this summer, I’ll make jelly with quince from a bush that sprang from an old pear tree because I am THAT f*cking earthy.

Cherries: The Friendly Fruit.

So Happy Canada Day everyone, even if you aren’t Canadian. I’m going to celebrate by putting on a hazmat suit and picking more raspberries, because Canadians are nothing if not determined, and I have a cheesecake to make.

The Mystery Guest

My Week 196: Four Vignettes, or Whuh?

Four Vignettes

1) Last weekend, Ken and I pulled into our driveway just as two very small boys about 7 years old walked past our house. They were each carrying a puppy. Neither puppy was wearing a collar or had a leash. I’m going to let that sink in for a second. By the time we had gotten out of the car, they were down the road. I stood there, mouth hanging open, watching as they disappeared into the distance.

Me: Um…there are puppies.
Ken (unpacking groceries): Looks like it.
Me: I want to carry one too.
Ken: Who knows where they came from?
Me: From a magical place in town where there are puppies that people are allowed to CARRY, KEN!
Ken: I—
Me: They’re going towards the park! You know, I forgot to get…(mumbles) you know. I’m just gonna hop back into the car and go to the store.
Ken: I could use some help with the groceries.
Me: I’ll be right back!!

I drove slowly down the street as the two boys seemed to meet up with an older man who was pushing a baby carriage and walking a dog. I drove up and as they started around the corner into the back entrance to the park, I rolled down my window and called out to the guy, “I like your puppies!” in the hope that he might reply, “Why, thank you. Would you, perhaps, like to pet one?”

But he turned to look at me and smiled. “Oh, they’re not mine. I don’t know those kids.” And then the two boys and the puppies disappeared into the park. I drove around the block to the park’s front entrance and went in. It was super-crowded and I was hoping that was because there was some kind of Puppy Petting Zoo, or a Puppy Cavalcade, or a “Puppies on Parade” thing, but it was only a stupid softball tournament. Dejected, I made my way home, convinced that I would never see the puppies again. But then, in a strange twist of fate, I was weeding the garden after dinner when the same two little boys carrying the same two puppies walked by the house once again. It was a golden opportunity and I wasn’t going to let it go by.

Me: Hey!! Are those your puppies?!
Little Boy 1: Yes.
Me: Can I pet them?
Little Boy 2: OK.
Me: What kind are they?
Little Boy 1: They’re a bulldog and sharpei cross. We have lots.
Me: Are you selling them or something? How much are they?
Little Boy 1: One Thousand Dollars.

But I got to pet them for free. Suckers.

2) On Wednesday, I was at a high level meeting at work, with all the directors and the CEO, discussing a new policy. I was doing what I normally do, which is trying to pay attention and not think about puppies, or the fact that “Sugar, How’d You Get So Fly?” is my new favourite song for absolutely NO undiscernible reason, or how I’d had too much green tea AGAIN but there was no way I was using the bathroom during the meeting, when suddenly the person leading the meeting said, “Is there anyone else?” and my director looked at me and said, “Don’t forget ours.” So I shook myself out of my reverie and replied, “Oh right, there’s also that,” to which the person running the meeting said, “OK, guide me through it.”

I was at a complete loss. Not because I’m incompetent (REALLY), but because I was thrown by his turn of phrase and I had no idea what he meant. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I have a very poor sense of direction, and certainly can’t be counted on to guide ANYONE ANYWHERE. Last weekend, I took Ken for a beer tour, but he had to navigate. At the second last place, I asked how to get to the next brewery and the brewery owner said, “Take this street to the main road, then go North.” My response was, “Is that left or right?” North means nothing to me except “UP”. I’d be the best sherpa on the planet ie: “We go North!!” but otherwise, I’m pretty useless.

So I did what virtually NO ONE would do—I looked at the dude leading the meeting and I said, “Whuh?” Not “Pardon?” Not “Certainly.” Not even “What?” I said, “Whuh?” He kind of looked at me askance, then my director jumped in and ‘guided him through it’. Let me clarify. I am a 52 year old professional, both well-educated and well-groomed. I have several degrees and I’m a published novelist. Yet my go-to is “whuh?” It’s a damn good job that I can write up a stellar business case with secondary sources in under half an hour or my ass would be grass.

3) I saw an ad on the internet for writers who could create interesting posts about clipping their dog’s toenails. It paid 20 pounds, which is the equivalent of around $50 Canadian dollars. So I thought about applying, but I’d never clipped a dog’s toenails before so it occurred to me that I should practice first.

Me: Hey, do you want a pedicure?
Titus: What’s that?
Me: It’s when I gently massage your legs, and rub lotion into your paw pads…(whispering) and then I clip your nails…
Titus: No f*cking way. But nice try seducing me with the massage and whatnot.
Me: C’mon. It’s for fifty bucks. I’ll split it with you.
Titus: Split my toenails more like.
Me: I’ll be careful. Wouldn’t it be better for ALL of us if you didn’t gouge our faces when we asked for high fives?
Titus: It’s the chance you take.
Me: Seriously. Let me try.
Titus: Well, OK. Wait—what’s that?!
Me: Those are the clippers. Hold still.
Titus: They look really sharp—I—Nope!! Nope nope!! Stop it—I said No!!
Me: YOU’RE. BEING. A. BABY! Hold still! Don’t pull away—that will only prolong things! There. All done.
Titus: You’ve made me very unhappy.
Me: I’m going to write this up. I’ll buy you some cookies with my hard-won earnings.
Titus: They’d better be liver-flavoured. Get me my squeaky hippo, you sadist.
Me: For fifty bucks, I’ll buy you a new one.

Be gentle with me.

4) Ken and I are going on vacation soon, so I rented a car through Avis. I hadn’t received a confirmation number so on Thursday, I called their rental centre in Calgary. Unbeknownst to me, that number sends you to a central location somewhere in the United States. After screaming “Speak to a representative!!” several times at my phone, I was finally put through to Jeremy:

Jeremy: Hi there! My name is Jeremy. I’m here to help you. What’s your name?
Me: Suzanne.
Jeremy: OK, can I have your confirmation number?
Me: That’s the problem. I was never sent one.
Jeremy: OK. Can you spell out your last name for me?…Great—I see it in the system. Just to verify—what’s your first name again?
Me: Suzanne.
Jeremy: Can you spell that for me?
Me: Sure. Ess—You—Zed—Ehh—Enn—Enn—Ee
Jeremy: What?
Me (spells it again).
Jeremy: I’m sorry—your name is Su-zed-anne?
Me: What? NO. It’s Suzanne. With a zed.
Jeremy: Su-zed…I don’t understand.
Me: ZED is the last letter of the alphabet. THE 26
TH
LETTER.
Jeremy: Oh, you mean like Zee?
Me: Ah, you’re American. Yes. Just like Zee, only the RIGHT way to say it.
Jeremy: Pardon?
Me: Whut?

 

My Week 195: It’s The Allergies That Are Annoying, Not Me

The other day at work, I was just standing in the kitchen, thinking about nothing in particular, like LITERALLY minding my own business, when the guy who oversees the kitchen things came in and said to me, “Is that your toast in the toaster oven?” And while this may seem like a perfectly innocuous question, like something you would say just to make conversation, there was an insidious undertone to it that you would only recognize if, like me, you work in a place where you are NOT ALLOWED to leave toast unattended in the toaster oven. “Because I came in earlier,” he continued ominously, “and there was no one here.”

I was a little freaked out and didn’t want to be blamed for the toast insurrection, so I immediately said the first thing that came into my mind, which was “No—I don’t eat gluten” to which he replied, “There’s such a thing as gluten-free bread, you know,” and I responded with “Well, I don’t even like bread that much anyway” and it was in that moment that I thought, ‘I’ve become a vegan’. And by that, I don’t mean that I have decided to no longer eat anything vaguely animal-ish, I just mean that, like a vegan, I somehow felt it necessary to unnecessarily announce that I am a ‘gluten-free person’. Although I was under a certain amount of duress. (If you’re not sure what I mean by any of this, I refer you to the well-known joke: Q: How do you know if someone is a vegan? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. No offense, vegans.)

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I had to take gluten out of my diet several years ago because I have arthritis, and gluten makes it worse. Technically, I COULD eat the stuff, and would, if I knew I wouldn’t wake up in the morning with fingers that are too swollen to bend. But this is the least of my worries, and the least of the reasons how I’ve become a total pain in the ass to my coworkers. Two weeks ago, for example, one of the teams decided to throw a party for all the staff who were having birthdays. I came in, and right next to my office was a lovely table set up with cake (no, surprisingly, this is not the problem because I CAN eat other stuff), and several balloon bouquets, which definitely are a problem, since I also have a latex allergy. The smell of balloons makes me stuffy and wheezy, so I kind of looked and said, “Oh, are those latex balloons?” (just to check, because you can get non-latex ones) and the very nice woman who had put them up realized that it was a problem and insisted on taking them down immediately, even though I said I could just stay in my office until the party was over. I felt guilty and a bit like a whiny ass, because she’d obviously gone to a lot of trouble decorating. But then the next day, the same very nice woman was in the kitchen and she was just about to microwave her lunch, which had copious amounts of shrimp in it, and because I’m also deathly allergic to shellfish and the allergy became airborne two years ago, I asked if I could microwave mine first so that I could be out of the kitchen when she cooked hers. Of course, she let me, and apologized for having shrimp, to which I said, “Don’t apologize—you’re allowed to eat whatever you want!” And then I felt even worse, like not only had I ruined her party, but also her lunch.

Then later that afternoon, she came to my office:

Very Nice Lady: I was just wondering if there’s anything else you’re allergic to, so I know not to bring it to work.
Me: (laughing) Unless you’re planning on dosing me with codeine or forcefeeding me avocado and bananas, I think we’re good.
Very Nice Lady: (also laughing) OK, because I was worried that you were going to think I was trying to murder you or something.

And now she totally could, because I just told her what would actually kill me, so I better stay on her good side.

But allergies are the worst for the following reasons:

1) It’s hard to eat at restaurants.

The first question I always have to ask at any restaurant other than McDonald’s is “Do you fry your French fries in the same fryer as your shellfish?” Not because I’m a dick and I’m testing the culinary knowledge of the wait staff, but because even that slight amount of cross-contamination will make me extremely sick. Most of the time, they immediately say No, and I get all happy and excited at the thought of eating something other than McDonalds’s fries, but then they always come back to the table 5 minutes later to say they actually checked and Yes, they do. Well, cancel my damn order then. Sigh.

2) You have to read all the ingredients on all the labels. And not just the food ones.

A couple of months ago, a friend from work gave me this ‘naturopathic’ cream for dry skin. It smelled heavenly, all lavender oil and whatnot, so I slathered it lavishly over my legs and then wiped the excess off my hands onto my chest and arms. Then I went to work. Within a very short time, my skin felt like it was burning, but I thought “Oh, it’s just the cream doing its work” which doesn’t even make any sense because what cream ‘works’ by making you feel all burn-y? But by the time I got home, I was kind of in a lot of pain, and by 7 pm, I had broken out in a violent rash all over my legs, chest, and arms, and it was spreading. So I looked carefully at the cream and realized that one of the main ingredients was PLANTAIN. Plantain is a type of banana. I had just smeared myself with the paste of something I am very allergic to. Who the f*ck makes cream out of bananas?! It took almost two weeks for it to “clear my system” as my doctor put it when I went to him and had to admit that I had done something akin to stuffing calamari up my own nose.

3) People don’t always take you seriously.

Many years ago, I had to have surgery. I told the surgeon that I was allergic to codeine:

Surgeon: No, you’re not.
Me: Yes, I am.
Surgeon: It’s just a sensitivity.
Me: No, I’m pretty sure it’s an allergy.
Surgeon: Whatevs.

After I came out of surgery, I was feeling OK, but after a while, they took me off the IV meds and started giving me pills. Within the half hour, I started feeling short of breath, dizzy, and broke out in a rash. Then I started to throw up, which is NOT something you want to do right after an abdominal surgery. When the nurse came running in, I asked, mid-vomit, “You’re not giving me codeine, are you? Because I’m allergic to codeine,” to which she replied rather hysterically something like “OhMyGodYes, nobody told us!! It’s not in your chart!!”

When I had my last surgery two years ago, Ken was so worried that he kept telling the nurses to remember that I was allergic to codeine. Right before they wheeled me in, the Operating Room nurse handed me a couple of Tylenol, and Ken literally stopped her with his hand and said, “There’s no codeine in that, right?” The nurse just looked at him and said in a kind of salty way, “WE KNOW. It’s in her chart. EVERYWHERE.” But I was superhappy that Ken was so vigilant because there is nothing quite like the hell that is throwing up after abdominal surgery.

In fact, Ken is the only person who’s actually HAPPY about my plethora of allergies for the following reason:

Me: If I go into anaphylaxis, do you know how to give me my epipen?
Ken: Of course. We do training every year at work.
Me: (snort) There’s a huge difference between playing around with a fake epipen and having to stab your own wife in the thigh with a real one.
Ken: Oh, it’ll be OK. Heh, heh, heh. It’ll be fun.
Me: Why are you laughing?! What do you mean ‘fun’?!
Ken: No reason.
Me: Are you looking at this as some kind of weird revenge for the time I buried your slippers in the garden?
Ken: Of course not. Heh heh. I will also happily Heimlich you if the opportunity ever arises. Wait—what was that about my slippers?

Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.

So now I have a new rhyme to help me remember how the epipen works: Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh, Ken gets his kicks and I don’t die.

So let me summarize what you should take out of this in case you just skipped to the end (but if you did, you might be confused and slightly frightened):

a) People are generally really decent when it comes to protecting me from possible death, although Ken’s enthusiasm is a little disconcerting.
b) It’s not a secret burial if you tell someone about it.
c) I need to grow a spine and stop taking guff from the kitchen guy, like “I don’t have all day to watch TOAST, DAVE!”

 

My Week 194: I Pitch Reality Shows

Last week, one of my colleagues was excited. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’m getting a new desk! Apparently, this one is the ‘most worn’ in the office, and the guy from Procurements said they had one downstairs for me. They’re bringing it up later, so I have to clear everything off this one.”

And of course, we all gathered around, breathless with anticipation, speculating about exactly what the new, wondrous desk would look like. Fancy? Woodgrain? A hidden drawer? The possibilities were endless. Finally, late in the afternoon, the door to the secret agency swung open, and two men appeared with a cart. On the cart was the EXACT SAME DESK that my colleague already had. They disassembled hers, and put the ‘new’ one in place, with all of us watching in a rather dejected way. It was EXACTLY AS WORN as her previous desk, which was now being taken downstairs, to await the moment that Procurements would use it to replace someone else’s ‘worn’ desk. Aside from our abject disappointment at this debacle of musical desks, there was one bright moment when one of our group mentioned that we could improve things slightly by adding a touch of décor to my colleague’s cubicle. As we got more and more carried away with things like a disco ball, twinkle lights, and a chair with cup holders, it occurred to me that there was the definite possibility for a reality show here. I have no idea how to pitch anything to the HGTV network, so I’m hoping that one of their producers will somehow read this and make it happen. Thus, I present to you several ideas for fantastic reality shows, starting with…

1) Cubicle Wars:

Host: Hello once again, and welcome to Cubicle Wars, where each week, two co-workers compete to see who can create a stunning office space with little more than a $50 gift card to the Dollar Store and their own imaginations! Let’s meet our challengers! This is Jill, a temp worker with a fondness for frogs, as you can see by the many, many statues and stuffies that she has on her desk. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jill!
Jill: Frogs are amphibians and can speak 7 different languages.
Host: Only one of those things is even correct! Welcome, Jill! And now here’s our other contestant, Josh. Josh is an engineer, so no one knows what he actually does!
Josh: That’s not true. I—I…
Host: Exactly! Now here are your $50 gift cards. See you next week, you crazy kids!

One week later…

Host: Let’s see what Jill and Josh have accomplished. Our live studio audience will then announce the winner!
Audience (which consists of a panhandler that the host found in the lobby): Does anyone have spare change for coffee?
Host: After the show, Stinky Pete! First up is Jill!
Jill: I used my $50 to buy aromatherapy candles and placed them strategically around my cubicle.
Host: That’s it? How many candles did you buy?
Jill: 50, obviously. It was the Dollar Store.
Manager (passing by): You can’t light those, Jill. I told you, it’s a fire hazard.
Jill: FINE, STEVE! But don’t come to me when the power goes out, you fascist!
Host: All right—let’s see what Josh has done. Ooh, a tiki bar theme! Very nice! I particularly like the inflatable palm tree.
Josh: Thanks. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out, although I’ve been getting a lot of side-eye because of the torches. THEY’RE CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE, STEVE! I’M NOT A NAZI!
Host: And now it’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for. Audience, who is our winner?!
Stinky Pete: Is there any whiskey in the tiki bar? NO? Then I pick the candle lady.
Host: Congratulations, Jill. Your prize is that you get to keep all the candles!
Jill: I just want my frogs back. Vlad was teaching me Russian.
Host: See you next time on Cubicle Wars!

Welcome to the office!

I really think this show has potential. And while I was fleshing it all out, here are some other show ideas I came up with:

2) Souped Up!

In this show, two guys take cheap cars and try to make them look cool. With VERY limited resources.

Host: Tell us about today’s project, boys.
Gary: It’s a 1988 Ford Tempo, base model, beige, with rust accents.
Mitch: We got it for fifty bucks at a yard sale. The upholstery smells like cheese.
Host: And what are your plans for this car?
Gary: No spoilers!
Host: Oh, sorry I asked.
Gary: No, dude—we’re not putting a spoiler on it. Spoilers are pretentious.
Mitch: You’re goddamned right they’re pretentious!

The next day…

Host: Wow! What a transformation. Tell us what you did!
Mitch: We found bigger wheels at the dump and put them on the back. Now it’s slanty!
Gary: We used duct tape to make racing stripes. I probably should have used a ruler.
Host: Um…did you put a tow hitch on the back of this car JUST so you could hang a fake scrotum ornament off it?
Mitch: You’re goddamned right we did! We made it ourselves out of two oranges and one of Gary’s gran’s old kneehighs.
Both (highfiving): Our car has balls, b*tch!
Host: All right then. Join us next week when Gary and Mitch transform a Pinto into a fancy lawn tractor!
Both: Unsafe at any speed!

3) 19 and Counting: Feline Edition

Voice-Over Intro: “Meet Meredith, a ‘cat lover’, who roams the streets of her town at night, looking for more cats. She has a LOT—maybe more than 19 but who’s counting? None of them are actually hers; she stole them all from her neighbours. Her house reeks of urine, but she insists she’s ‘not crazy’. You be the judge!”

4) Cooking With Wieners

This show is simple. It’s just hot dogs. Every week. Audience of at least one (Ken) guaranteed.

5) Flip That Port-a-Potty!

While you might be thinking that this is a decorating show where people take old portable toilets and pretty them up, you’re wrong. This show is about Bobby “Flip” Johnson, a real douchecanoe who waits until people go into port-a-potties, then he sneaks up and tips them over. He’s killed in episode 3, and the remainder of the season becomes a detective show, where a slightly Asperger’s detective and his madcap female sidekick investigate Bobby’s murder. Kind of like Jackass meets Elementary. Will we ever find out who killed Bobby? No spoilers!

My Week 193: Buddy, Where’s the Fire?

Two weekends ago, I had to put the fireplace on because this is Canada, and the weather can be minus 5 one day, and 30 degrees (38 with the humidex) the next. We literally had a heat wave from last Monday to Friday, then yesterday morning, it was 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for people who don’t have to worry about everything being in fancy wizard math), and I was wearing a sweatshirt instead of sweating.

Anyway, mandatory Canadian weather reference/complaint aside, two weekends ago, it got quite chilly, even for May, so I tried to put our gas fireplace on. It wouldn’t start, mainly because it’s old and you have to wiggle the wires underneath it to ignite it. I tried a couple of times, but Ken is the master wiggler, so he came in, performed his magic, and voila! There was heat. (And rereading those last two sentences back, it might seem that yet again, this blog has deviated into some kind of strange Canadian weather-related porn, but I AM talking about the fireplace.)

His work for the moment finished, Ken announced that he was walking to the corner to get gas for the lawnmower that he has been trying to fix for 6 weeks. (Give up, Ken. We can afford a new lawnmower.) While he was gone, I was in the back room talking to Titus about whether or not he was a good boy, as one does, when suddenly I heard this awful screeching sound. It was coming from the fireplace in the living room. I ran in and came around the corner just in time to see black smoke pouring out of the fan vents. Now, that might not be weird for a wood fireplace, but this one is gas. Naturally, I freaked out. I ran over, giving the front a wide berth in case it chose that moment to explode, turned the thermostat off so it would be less flame-y, then I did what any normal person would do—I started yelling for Ken.

Ken didn’t answer. I ran up and down the sidewalk but no response. I was terrified, but I went back in. It was still making the same deafening screeching noise and I could smell something burning, so I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. I explained to the operator that I needed the fire department in a kind of staccato “Fireplace—smoke—gas—send help—“ way, and she told me the fire department was coming and to get out of the house. I grabbed Titus, put him in the back yard, then ran to the front, phone in hand and tears running down my face, still looking for Ken. I found him chatting with the next-door-neighbours. I screamed, “There’s something wrong with the fireplace. I called 9-1-1!” He came running, ran right past me and towards the house.

Me: What are you doing?! The 9-1-1 lady said NOT to go in!!
Ken: I’m going to turn off the breaker!
Me: You’re not allowed to go in!
Ken: It’s fine! It’s probably just the motor!
Me: Don’t go in! I order you to stay outside—
Ken: *disappears into the house*

Anyway, he turned off the breaker and the screeching stopped. There wasn’t any more smoke, although the air still smelled charred, but there was no smell of gas, and that was a good sign. We stared at the fireplace for a minute. It seemed like it was no longer about to explode, so I tried cancelling the 9-1-1 call, but it was too late. The next thing, firetrucks are pulling up to the house and some very nice firefighters helped us check everything out. Apparently, there was a tag on a wire next to the fan, and when we were wiggling the wires, the tag got dislodged and ended up in the fan blades, causing the fan to overheat. Embarrassing as it was, the firefighters were really great and they waited while we turned it back on to see what would happen. It came back on quietly, and all was good, so the fire department left.

Ken: When I saw you, I thought someone had died.
Me: Well, I was pretty upset. I thought the house was going to blow up. I was screaming for you—I can’t believe you couldn’t hear me. You were right next door.
Ken: It was windy. I couldn’t hear you over the wind. You were “downwind”.
Me: The wind…what?!
Ken: Never mind. What did you do with Raven?
Me: She’s around here somewhere. I didn’t have time to look all over for her then try to catch her and carry her around with me. We probably need a plan for her in case there’s ever a real fire.
Raven: I should f*cking hope so.

This is your clever plan?

I was still pretty mad at Ken for just running into the house when the operator said to GET OUT AND DON’T GO BACK IN, even though it was all fine in the end. But Ken has a very fortuitous relationship with fire, having almost immolated himself on more than one occasion. Once, about twenty years ago, he was cooking dinner and I was upstairs. Suddenly I heard him screaming “Help! Help me!” I came running into the kitchen and he was rolling around on the floor, his shirt on fire. I grabbed a tea towel and started trying to put him out. Between the rolling and the vigorous slapping, I extinguished him. Turns out, he was leaning against the stove, his sweatshirt touching one of the burners. Next thing, POOF! Up he went. Luckily, he remembered to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, but man, did he leave scorch marks on the pine floor.

And then on Friday, he did the following in this exact sequence:
1) Start a fire in the burn pit.
2) Get gas for the lawnmower.
3) Fill up the lawnmower with gas.
4) Try to start the lawnmower.
5) Defend the lawnmower to his wife thusly: “It’s not broken. It always takes this many pulls to start it.”
6) Finally get the lawnmower started.
7) Begin mowing the lawn around the burn pit.
8) Ignore his wife’s screams. Yell “I can’t hear you over the lawnmower! You’re downwind!”
9) Push the gas lawnmower onto the burning burn pit in an attempt to cut the grass around it as close as he can.
10) Be forced to turn the lawnmower off when screaming wife (see number 8) stands in front of the mower to berate him.

Ken: What?!
Me: What the f*ck is wrong with you? You just filled it up with gas! It could explode!
Ken: Why are you scolding me like I’m a five year old?
Me: Why are you mowing the lawn like you’re a five year old?!
Ken: What? That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Don’t mow the firepit!

Words to live by, am I right? Anyway,  he finished mowing and at a certain point, I heard him trimming the edges of the flower beds with the weed whacker. After a while, the noise stopped so I went out to see if he wanted a drink. The weed whacker was lying in the exact middle of the patio and Ken was sitting on the deck staring at it with a mixture of  bewilderment and dejection.

Me: What’s wrong?
Ken: The weed whacker set on fire.
Me: What?!
Ken: Yeah. It started smoking and then flames literally shot out of it. I think we need a new one.
Me: Ya think?

Yesterday, we went out and bought a fire extinguisher. It’s small, so I can carry it with me everywhere. Just in case.

Prepared for the worst case scenario.