My Week 26: Chip Dip, Camouflage Pants, and The Great Flood

*Halfway through a full year of fun times and crazy blogging. Huzzah!

Monday: I get totally stressed out by International Chip and Dip Day

At work, we have a social committee. They plan fun and interesting events, like ice cream socials, drinks after work, etc. At the beginning of last week, they sent out an email announcement that they were hosting a mini-celebration for International Chip and Dip Day. Now, I never knew that this was an actual festival, but it made total sense, because who doesn’t like chips/and or dip? Probably only the Belgians. I was really pumped for it, but then the stress started. We had to sign up at reception on a big, totally PUBLIC flip chart, and say what kind of chips we liked, and what kind of dip we were committing to bringing. This was a COMMITMENT, y’all. I take these things very seriously, so right away I should have known there would be issues. Here they are in chronological order:

1) I was excited to sign up, but when I got down to reception, there was only one other person signed up before me, and I didn’t want to seem too eager, so I left and waited until there were more people on the list. I spent a lot of time peeking my head around the corner, and when there were about 5 people ahead of me, it seemed appropriate. Yes, I realize that I was overthinking this in a very big way, completely disproportionate to the event itself. Thanks for pointing it out, Ken.

2) I had to specify what kind of chips I liked. In public. Were there chips that would make people think I was weird? If I asked for quinoa chips, would people think I was a little elitist? Would BBQ make me seem kind of redneck-y? I went with my gut and wrote down “Anything bacon-flavoured”. (This was after I figured out how to use the magic marker, which had a button that you slid up and down to get the marker nib out. It was very complicated and I almost threw in the towel right then and there, but there were chips and dip on the line so I persevered). Then it was time to commit to a dip. I panicked and wrote down the first thing that popped into my head, which was “Ranch Dip”. OK, cool. I had specified a chip and made a promise regarding dip. Now all I had to do was wait until the night before, and buy dip. Awesome. I totally had this.

3) Three days later, I had a panic attack. I had forgotten to buy dip, was working off-site, and had no way to get the dip to the office, even if I had it. When I finally confided to my co-workers that I was overwhelmed by guilt, they reminded me that Chip and Dip day wasn’t until Monday. Crisis averted.

4) On the weekend, I completely forgot about International Chip and Dip Day until I was driving to have coffee with a friend. I pulled a U-ee, and ran into Zehrs, where I purchased two tubs of ranch dip. I decided that if I kept it in my car, then there was no way I would forget to take it back to Toronto, and I was only mildly worried about it staying cold. Which is weird in retrospect, because you’d think I would be more concerned with NOT giving my new colleagues salmonella.

5) Sunday Night. I put the dip in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, all ready to take to work the next morning.

6) Monday Morning, 7:45 am: I left my condo and forgot to take the dip with me.

7) Monday Morning: 10:15 am: I popped out of work to run to my condo and get the dip (the party didn’t start until 2:00 pm—I thought). When I got back to work, I put the dip in the refrigerator and then realized that my colleagues had disappeared. When I finally found them, they were all in a VERY important meeting that had been called while I was out getting the dip. I didn’t know where the meeting was, and ended up coming in noticeably and embarrassingly late. Stupid dip.

8) At 2:07 pm, I looked at the clock and realized that the party had started, and my dip was still in the refrigerator. I took off from my desk, ran to the kitchen, got my dip, and went to the boardroom where the party was being held. The only person there was someone from a different department who was carefully arranging chickpeas in a circle around a glass, flowered plate of homemade hummus. She gently reminded me that the party didn’t start until 2:30. I cracked the lids off my tubs of dip, and left her there, lovingly spooning out her decorative chickpeas.

9) As it was coming up to 2:30, I made a decision. It was all more than I could take, and I refused to start worrying about when would be the right time to go to the boardroom ie: if I went right at 2:30, would people think I was over-anxious (yes, I get the irony), but if I waited until closer to 3, would I miss the party altogether? I was done. The only way I was going was if someone came to my desk and personally invited me. Screw it. But I had forgotten one very important thing—my new company was pretty fantastic, and the people were very caring and sincere about making everyone feel part of a team. So at exactly 2:30, members of the social committee began going to everyone’s desks, inviting them individually to come to the International Chip and Dip Day celebration. A couple of my colleagues were sad that they had forgotten to bring dip for the party, so I said, “Hey, no worries—I brought two tubs, so we can say it was a group effort.” They were like, “Excellent!” so we all went to International Chip and dip day together, and I was so relieved that it was finally over that I barely cared that most people had brought home-made dip, while I had cheaped out on Philly.

Monday: Yes, it’s still only Monday.

At some point during the chip and dip drama, one of my colleagues asked if I wanted to pop down the street with her to look at shoes. I needed a distraction, and she needed a companion, because the store she wanted to go to was what I would diplomatically refer to as “sketchy”. There were always a lot of strange men hanging around outside, there were shirts featuring marijuana leaves in the window, and rap music was playing at full volume. But they sold a lot of popular styles of basketball shoes that she wanted to look at for her son. When we got there, it was raining a bit, so no strange men. It seemed like a good omen, and we went in. The ‘customer service representative’ was wearing a huge bomber jacket, and the place was freezing. It was already a little weird, but then I happened to comment on how much I liked camouflage pants, and the next thing I knew, the guy was going through stacks, saying, “Is this your size? Is this your size?” I told him I was a 6, and he pulled a pair out of the pile and handed them to me:

Me: Why does the tag say ‘15’? Is that some kind of foreign sizing system?
Guy: Too big, lady?
Me: A little. Like I said, size 6.
Guy: What about these?
Me: Um, maybe a little small—they say ‘3’.
Guy: You like shorts?
Me: No, not really.
Guy: These ones are ‘5’. You try them on?
Me: Uh…

So he directs me to the front of the store, where the ‘change rooms’ are. I put that in quotation marks, because it was just pipes with curtains hanging from them. When I got there, a very large teenage boy was going in at the same time, but the guy says, “There’s two rooms”, and I wanted to get it over with, so I suddenly found myself in the most gross change room I’d ever seen, with only a thin curtain separating me from a teenage boy, and only a piece of cardboard separating my half-clad self from Yonge Street behind me, because the back wall of the change room was actually a broken window that had been covered up. It was freezing cold. I could have just pretended to try on the pants, but I DO have a penchant for camouflage, and I decided that I had come this far, so I might as well try to fulfill my pants destiny. My colleague, thankfully, had decided to stand guard outside, which made me feel a little safer. Unfortunately, the pants, while they fit in the waist, required a much bigger butt than I currently possess, and they were way too baggy. I whipped them back off, handed them to the guy, and we hightailed it out of there, giggling like teenage girls all the way back to the office. When we told everyone where we had been, they were all, “You went IN there? Oh my god, you’re so brave! What was it like?!” So we regaled them with our tale, and they got to live vicariously through us, which made it seem like we had performed a valuable service instead of being scared sh*tless.

Monday: One of my worst nightmares comes true. And yes, it’s still only Monday

On Monday night, after a particularly exhausting day, as you can see from all of the above, I decided to tidy up, then have a bath, and go to bed. The sink in my condo is especially deep, and it takes a while to fill, so I started it going, then went to run a nice, hot bath. The bath was luxurious; I felt all the day’s chip and dip tension slowly slipping away, and I had a good, long soak. When I got out of the bath, around 20 minutes later, I was about to wash my face, when I looked in the mirror and saw something moving behind me on the floor. I turned around and almost literally fainted when I realized what it was. Yes, I had left the sink faucet on FULL BLAST and then had forgotten all about it. For over TWENTY F-ING MINUTES! Do you have any idea how much water can fill a 600 square foot condo in TWENTY MINUTES??!! A LOT of water, that’s how much, and it was all over the place! I splashed over to the sink as fast as I could, and turned off the tap, then I stood there, hyperventilating, not knowing what to do next. So, I did what any sensible person would do—I called Ken.

Me: OH MY F-ING GOD, KEN! That nightmare I had a couple of weeks ago just came true!!
Ken: Which one?
Me: The one where I flooded my condo! Only the water isn’t anywhere near the balcony door, so I can’t open it and let the water drain out, like I did in the dream!
Ken: You actually flooded your condo? How did you DO that?
Me: I left the sink running while I had a bath. There’s water EVERYWHERE! What do I do?
Ken: (calmly) Get every towel and sheet you have, and start soaking it up.
Me: I don’t think I have enough sheets and towels. It’s gone right through to the bedrooms and the carpets are soaked too!
Ken: Then you’ll just have to keep ringing the towels out. It might take a while, but you can do it.
Me: (still hyperventilating) I’m naked and I’m standing in front of an open window.
Ken: Then get dressed first. It’ll be OK.
Me: I’ll call you when I’m finished.

Two hours later, I had a bathtub full of wet towels and bedsheets and a relatively dry condo, but any benefits I might have felt from my earlier bath had gone down the drain. Literally. When I finally called Ken, I was exhausted. After we finished talking, I looked at the clock and it was after 11 pm, which meant one wonderful thing—this day was just about done. The rest of the week could only be uphill from here–and it was.

My Week 25 – Weird Sayings and Library Books

First, a bit of an apology regarding my Life of Pi analogy—if you have never read Life of Pi, there’s a very good possibility that you didn’t find the story funny. Me, I thought it was freaking hilarious, but of course, I had the proper literary context. It actually did happen, though, and unlike Pi’s experience of having his 3 religious teachers argue over who “owned” his soul, my make-up ladies agreed to share the wealth. But they can’t have my soul—that belongs to the portrait in the attic which ages instead of me. Dang, there I go again with the out-of-context literary references (The Picture of Dorian Gray, y’all).

Wednesday: I have a lot of sayings that apparently no one else understands.

So on Wednesday, I was talking with some colleagues about the similarities between two pieces of writing that we were looking at. I happened to remark, “It’s probably just a coincidence—you know, a million monkeys and a million typewriters, right?” Everyone looked puzzled and a little confused, so I clarified—“If you give a million monkeys each a typewriter….?” In retrospect, this was NOT a clarification, and everyone continued to look at me with confusion. I tried again.

Me: If you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, eventually one of them will write the bible. You’ve heard that saying before, right?
Colleague: Why would a monkey write a bible?
Me: No, it’s a saying. It’s the idea that random events can happen if you have enough time—and monkeys. So eventually, after hammering away, one of the monkeys might just randomly hit the right keys to recreate the words in the bible…sorry, it’s just a saying. I’m not implying that the person who wrote this, or the bible, is a monkey…

At that point, I started to get panicky, because I want my colleagues to think that I’m at least a little bit mentally competent, and I was starting to sound kind of like a crazy monkey-lady, which is like a crazy cat-lady, but with monkeys. Obviously. Then it occurred to me that I have a lot of strange sayings that I expect other people to understand, but a lot of the time (I’ve come to realize) they DON’T.

Last semester, before I changed jobs, I was discussing Hamlet with my students. It was the scene where Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, gives him back all the ‘remembrances’ he’s given her, under the direction of her father. Hamlet freaks out, tells her to get to a nunnery, and curses her out, even though he loves her. So I said, “That Hamlet—talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, right?” The kids were like, “Why would Hamlet cut off his nose? What does that mean?” So I went into this lengthy explanation of how if you’re mad at your face and you cut off your own nose just to piss off your face (I didn’t say piss, of course, but something innocuous like ‘tick’), then all you’ve done is wreck your own face, because you’re mad at yourself, and now you’ve made yourself more unhappy—and noseless. I said, “Come on—none of you have EVER heard that expression? No one’s parents or grandparents have EVER used that expression?” To which one student replied, “My grandparents aren’t that old.” Ouch. Wow, really? Because I’ve inherited a lot of my weird sayings from my family, over the course of many years. Here are a few of my favourites, and I’ll be honest—even I’m not sure exactly what they mean.

“If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.” I have, after many years, interpreted this to mean that if you go to the Lagostina store a lot, you put pot-repair people out of business. This saying has numerous applications because it sounds very clever, and it makes people think twice before they wish they had more pots.

“If hell was in Yoker, you’d get over for a penny.” Where the hell IS Yoker? Plus, I would think that going to hell wouldn’t cost a measly penny—it would cost your ETERNAL SOUL. That one, I don’t even begin to understand. My dad knows what it means, mostly because I think he made it up. Or one of his Scottish ancestors did, when they were drunk on Scotch at a bar in Yoker.

“You’re such a dog in the manger.” This is a very unusual saying, and I don’t know where it comes from (Ken), but it refers to a dog that doesn’t really want to BE in the manger (which is like a cattle stall), but he stays in there only because he doesn’t want the cow to enjoy the manger. Ken grew up on a dairy farm, so I imagine this happened a lot, with people constantly chasing dogs out of cattle stalls and all. In human terms, this would be like a person who has called dibs on the long spot on the couch, then won’t give it up to someone else, even if they’re really uncomfortable after watching the first 5 episodes of “The Walking Dead.” Of course, I would NEVER do that.

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” No they wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen of the local panhandlers in my neighbourhood, if wishes were horses, beggars would sell them for a hot meal and a warm bed. What would a panhandler do in downtown Toronto with a horse? First, they would have to feed their horses, and most of them don’t have enough money to feed themselves. This would most likely result in people sitting on sidewalks with signs that said, “Help me feed my horse.” Would you feel sorry for someone with a sign like that? My favourite homeless guy, who sits outside of Loblaws, has an adorable little terrier named Onyx, but he’s smart enough to keep a bag of dog treats next to his sleeping bag as a way to engage people. When someone says, “What a cute dog,” he asks if they would like to give Onyx a treat. Then people feel so sorry that Onyx is homeless too that they give him money to help feed the dog. And it works. Over the last 2 weeks, I must have given him at least 10 dollars, and one day he remarked that he had just run out of treats for Onyx, so I bought him a bag when I went into Loblaws. He was very grateful and blessed me, which was nice. I can’t see that happening with a horse though. I definitely wouldn’t buy a bag of apples for a homeless guy’s horse. Even if he was my favourite panhandler like Francis (that’s not actually his name, but it’s what I call him in my head). I have a least favourite panhandler too—he’s the guy at the entrance to the Gardiner Expressway who has a sign with the Macdonald’s logo on it that says “Hungry and not lovin’ it”. While the sign is clever, he isn’t—he runs in and out of traffic with the sign and a coffee cup, banging on windows, and almost causing car crashes. I don’t think he’s really homeless–he’s too energetic for someone who’s apparently starving. A lot of panhandlers try to brand themselves with signs like “Can’t work, brain injury, please help”, or “Give a nickel for a kid in a pickle”, but Francis is more subtle—he doesn’t have a sign. He just sits wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a ball cap in front of him, and then he just smiles at everyone and says “hello” in a very pleasant way that makes you WANT to give him money. I’ll bet if he had one wish, it wouldn’t be for a horse, it would be for world peace, cuz that’s the kind of guy Francis is. I think.

“What you lose on the roundabout, you save on the swings.” I love this saying. It basically means the same as “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”, so essentially, everything balances out. But it makes me think of carnivals, and that puts me in a festive mood. Of course, it could also refer to people with inner ear disorders, like Ken. Once, we went to a carnival in New Hamburg and I convinced him to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl. So we paid “for the roundabout”. Then he got so sick and dizzy that he couldn’t go on any more rides. I had to half-carry him home because he could barely walk. Except we didn’t really “save on the swings” because we had already bought tickets for some other rides, and ended up giving them away to random people because Ken was like, “Ooh, I felt like throwing up. Ooh, please take me home.” So technically, we lost on the roundabout AND the swings because Ken was a big baby. A big, nauseated baby.

I asked T what kind of sayings I use that he thinks are weird, and this was the conversation:
T: Well, you say the F word a lot.
Me: That’s not a saying, that’s a swear word.
T: But I tell my friends, “Like my mom always says, ‘F-ck.”
Me: *laughs hysterically*

When he read this, he got upset and said I was making him sound like he talked with an English accent. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but I encourage all of you to imagine that he DID say all that with an English accent, just to further enrage him.

Friday: Am I a little OCD?

OK. Let’s be honest—I have a few quirks. One of them, which a lot of people don’t understand, is that I can’t stand to touch library books. The idea of the hundreds, maybe thousands of people who have touched the book before me, in all kinds of unsavoury circumstances (it’s amazing how many people like to read on the toilet) make me feel icky, which is a technical, medical term for ‘uncomfortable, like I really need to wash my hands’. So today, I was looking at a friend’s book, and I really wanted to know what it was about, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch the cover so that I could open it to read the synopsis. I resorted to saying, “That book looks interesting. What’s it about?” and she replied, “Here, take a look,” and tried to hand it to me. I reacted in an externally reasonable way, which was NOT to yell, “No! Don’t let it touch me!” Instead, I said, “Oh, but it would be so much better if you gave me YOUR impression of it.” And then she laughed, because she remembered that I have an issue with library books, which I MIGHT have mentioned once (maybe more than once), and she told me what the book was about instead of making me touch it. See, now THAT’s a friend. Although, she’s also the person who told me about finding bed bugs in a library book last year, and now she always leaves them outside for few hours to make sure any bugs are dead, so in a way, she also contributed to my fear of library books. Oh well, six of one, half a dozen of the other, right?

My Week 24: Etiquette for Travel, and a Life of Pi Moment

Wednesday: Things that there should be etiquette manuals for:

This week, a new sign appeared in the elevator in my building. There are always signs—the last one was announcing the presence of a massage therapist in the “sister building” next door, which ticked me off a little, because the “sister building” also has the swimming pool and hot tub. My building has the PET SPA. I’m not really seeing any equity here. I can USE the swimming pool, but that means having to carry all my stuff either outside across the courtyard, or down through the parking garage, and then change in the change room instead of sauntering downstairs with a swimsuit and cover-up on. Although I would never do that anyway because it’s not in my nature to either saunter, or walk around in public half-naked. Anyway, the new sign said this: “Please do not throw cigarette butts off your balcony.” It went on to explain WHY cigarette butts should not be thrown off balconies—they can land on other people’s balconies and set fire to things, they disturb people’s enjoyment of their outdoor space, they could land on a pedestrian below, and it was a contravention of the Condo Act, etc. My source of amazement was that anyone should have to EXPLAIN why cigarette butts shouldn’t be thrown off balconies. And then backing that truck up just a little bit more, what kind of idiot would throw a cigarette butt off a balcony in the first place? But there must be several people doing it, because it was a professionally made sign and all, not one of those cardboard jobs handwritten with a Sharpie, like when I put a TV at the side of the road in Port Burwell (I’ve done this with a few items there actually—I have a special sign that I made out of a cereal box that says, “I’m free and I work. Take me home”. This can be applied to almost anything, and I’ve gotten rid of a lot of junk that way.) The sign continued on to ask others in the building to report it if they saw someone throwing something off a balcony. Or someone, I assume. So it occurred to me that throwing garbage on the ground is a human behaviour that I really just don’t understand. I could no more toss a coffee cup on the ground than I could bark at someone on the street. (And there are actually people who do that too, if you read this blog regularly). But Toronto is the cigarette butt capital of the known world, from what I can see as the snow continues to melt. Some businesses actually hire people to sweep up the cigarette butts and garbage off the sidewalks in front of their buildings in an effort to keep the city looking clean, but it’s a losing battle because there are way more people who litter than there are people who sweep up after them. Yesterday, outside of Shopper’s Drug Mart, a worker was sweeping garbage into a dustpan, and this guy who had just finished his cigarette said “Here you go,” and threw his still-lit butt into the dustpan, like he was doing the world a favour. Maybe it’s just the way people behave in large cities where they don’t really feel any responsibility towards other people or ownership of their shared space, but people do things in large cities that they would never do in a friend’s backyard. For example, if you were at a party at a friend’s house, would you throw a cigarette butt out the second story window onto your friends below? Well, if you did, you can pretty much guarantee you’re never getting another party invitation. But aside from the whole cigarette butt mystery here are some other things that I really feel there should be etiquette guides for.

1) Revolving doors: You all know how much I hate revolving doors. I actually agree with them in principle—they help keep in the heat in very cold weather (which apparently has become ALL YEAR in Canada) and they allow more people to go in and out of a building more easily. IN PRINCIPLE. The trouble is, there are seemingly no rules regarding their use, no common understanding of HOW one should use a revolving door. There are a lot of very self-absorbed people out there who honestly believe they are the only people who exist, and approach revolving doors as if they’ve just reached the finish line of a 100 metre dash—one more last push and there’s a medal waiting on the other side. Regardless of who else is already in the door. The other day I saw an elderly woman almost thrown to the ground when a young guy in a business suit, talking on his cell phone, pushed through like he was Usain Bolt and there was a Nike ad campaign at stake. Using a revolving door properly should be fairly straightforward: 1) Wait until it’s safe to enter. 2) Don’t push so hard that you make the people ahead of you fall down.

2) Escalators. Escalators are one of my favourite things in the world. Stairs that do the walking for you. Whoever invented this brilliant method of travel deserves the medal that people think is waiting for them on the other side of revolving doors. But again, there’s no apparent general understanding of HOW to use escalators if other people are on them. If you’re alone, do whatever the hell you want. Same goes for revolving doors, and a lot of other things too probably. But if there are other people on the escalator, don’t walk up the moving stairs until you’re right behind them and then sigh loudly and impatiently. If you want to walk on your own, TAKE THE STAIRS. The grocery store where I do a lot of shopping has an up escalator, a down escalator, and an actual staircase in the middle. It never ceases to surprise me how many people will try to push past you on the escalator instead of using the stairs, which are there expressly for people who WANT TO WALK. Leave the escalator to us slow and lazy people. I got really thrown for a loop the other day when I tried to go down the escalator at Marshall’s and it wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure how to navigate it initially and became very disoriented about halfway down. It felt kind of like when you’re on vacation and you wake up in the middle of the night not sure where you are. Except when THAT happens, there aren’t any people trying to shove past you because you’re “going too slow”. Here’s the rule for using an escalator: 1) Get on a step. 2) Stand on the step until you get to the top or the bottom. Easy peasy. It’s 10 seconds on the escalator or 11.3 seconds if you push past people to walk up the escalator while it’s already moving you towards your destination. You’re not saving time–you’re just increasing the odds of getting elbowed hard.

3) Tail-Gating: Tailgaters are jerks at the best of times, but it’s the people who tailgate in really heavy traffic that I don’t get. So we’re all on the 401. Every lane is full and creeping along at about 20 km/hr. Sure enough, there’s that one guy in the “fast lane” (which isn’t any faster right now because it’s a TRAFFIC JAM) who keeps zooming up right to your bumper, flashing his lights, and generally being an a-hole. Here’s the question—where the hell do you think I can go to make way for you? I can’t change lanes, and I can’t get the 50 million cars ahead of me to move for me either, so back off. Here’s the best way to function in heavy traffic. 1) Realize that the world will not turn any faster no matter how much you will it to. 2) Put on some great music and dance in your seat. It works for me.

I experience make-up awkwardness that is eerily like the novel Life of Pi

The other day, I was talking about the novel Life of Pi with someone, and the scene where the main character, who has joined three different religions, accidentally bumps into his priest, imam, and Buddhist pandit at the same time. None of them know that he’s a member of the other’s faith, and they all start arguing over him. Well, the exact same thing happened to me not too long ago with my 3 Lancome and Estee Lauder ladies. OK, it doesn’t exactly have the spiritual impact and importance of Pi’s experience, but it was still a humbling experience. I’ve been buying make-up from Wilma, Betty, and Veronica (no, those are not actually their real names, but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were?), for many years individually, with none of them aware of the other’s existence. I used to alternate between The Bay/Wilma and Sears/Betty, buying something from each one. Why would I do that? Because Sears and The Bay also alternate the times that they give away free gifts with the purchase of a product, and I love free stuff. Then Betty got moved to the Estee Lauder counter at Sears and Veronica took over, which made me then obligated to start buying things from Estee Lauder as well as Lancome to keep those free gifts coming. The other day I was in Sears, about to sneak past Betty to get to Veronica, when suddenly I saw Wilma standing by the Lancome counter and she saw me! What the hell was she doing in Sears?! Then the worst thing happened—Betty and Veronica both saw me at the same time and they all converged on me, each one giving the other confused looks as it became apparent that they were all headed for the same target. Clearly, they each believed that I was their exclusive client—how was I going to explain this? So I did what Pi did in the novel. I whispered “Lord, avert their eyes from me”, and then blurted out, “I just want to love make-up!” Then it was all smiles, as they immediately understood why I had been a make-up tramp. Turns out that Wilma and Betty had done their Lancome training together, and Veronica was friends with both of them. They all agreed that as long as I spread the wealth and was fair in my purchases, none of them had an issue with me buying from all of them. Make-up is so much easier than religion.

My Week 23 – Deathly Foods and Weird Signs

Wednesday: I make a list of things that I’ve ingested that made me feel like I was dying

I can often succumb to peer pressure, when it’s about something that’s supposed to be good for my health. For example, I haven’t eaten gluten (well, except for the occasional juicy, wheat-y pizza) for almost two years because someone told me it was better for my joints. It was hard at first—gluten-free baked goods, especially tortilla wraps, can taste a lot like cardboard. Also, everything is made of rice. To be honest, I do feel better for it, and I’ve found alternatives that are almost as good as the real thing. But the other day at work, a colleague was extolling the virtues of Oil of Oregano as a cure-all and preventive for almost everything known to humankind. It can cure the common cold, prevent Montezuma’s Revenge, and apparently turn water into wine. A bunch of us decided that, with super-busy days coming up, and it still being flu season and all, we would troop down to the health food store en masse to buy some of this miraculous elixir. Little did I know what I was in for. I like oregano—I grow it in my garden, and I sprinkle it on pizzas, and use it to season pork tenderloin, among other things. How bad could an oil made from oregano be? The man at the health food store said it was a distilled oil and could be “pretty strong”. Well, I have a hardy constitution—I’ve eaten haggis– so what the hell? The directions said to put one drop under the tongue. I did that. My immediate reaction was, “This isn’t so bad. I—OMFG!!” Then I thought I was GOING TO DIE. My tongue went numb for about 20 seconds, but then the sensation came back, and that was worse, because all I wanted to do at that point was jump up and down yelling, “Ugh! Oh God! Blech!!” Perhaps Oil of Oregano was meant to build one’s character as well as one’s immune system, you know, under that old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? I had always previous thought of that as a metaphor for dealing with nasty people, but if Oil of Oregano was a person, then it would be SATAN. Then it occurred to me that I had been here before, doing that same “Kill Me Now!” dance. So I decided to make a list of the top food type things that I had ever ingested that made me also feel like dying.

1) Gorgonzola cheese. Once, Ken and I were overseas, and the person we were staying with, a wonderful host and one of my favourite people, made us dinner. It was gnocchi tossed in melted gorgonzola cheese. I love gnocchi and the whole thing looked fantastic. Then I took a bite. Some people claim that they quite like gorgonzola—I call these people LIARS. Gorgonzola cheese tastes like mold growing on sweaty socks—the black mold that medical dramas always tell you will kill you. I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t want to be offensive, so I choked down as much as I could stomach, then claimed that jet lag had made me too tired to eat. Jet lag is a good excuse for just about anything, especially avoiding food you don’t want to eat. The other really good excuse for that is “I just had those dilating drops put in my eyes at the optometrist and I can’t see what’s on my plate.” I pulled that one out as a kid to avoid eating veal—don’t tell my mom.

2) Barium. Remember, this is about things I’ve “ingested”, not things I’ve eaten. No one in their right mind would ever willingly want to EAT barium (OK, you could say the same about gorgonzola cheese) but still, barium is like a medical thing not an actual food substance. If you ever have stomach problems, you might have to go for a procedure called a barium swallow. Notice that it’s not called “Olive Garden’s Lunch Special” because the expectation is that you will NOT enjoy it—and no one is going to treat you like family while this procedure is happening. Barium is a mineral or something, and according to Wikipedia, “has a low toxicity”, which means it has more than zero toxicity, so only SLIGHTLY poisonous. But still, if you’ve ever had a barium swallow, it feels like you’re being poisoned. I had to have this procedure done once. The nurse handed me a gigantic glass of what looked like pink chalk pureed with a little water. I looked at it dubiously, and she said, “You have to drink the whole thing. Don’t worry—it’s Strawberry Flavour.” Strawberry Flavour, my ass. Next time, flavour it with a little Drambuie—it’ll still be death in a cup, but I’ll feel better about it. After I had choked and gagged the whole thing down, and my eyes were tearing from the effort, it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how my body was going to get the stuff back out, and I had this horrible feeling that I would never be able to pee again—that it would sit in my bladder for decades, laughing at me.

3) Deep-fried squid. Deep-fried squid actually tastes really good. I had it once at a restaurant where we were having a “sampling” menu. I love sampling menus, because you can try something, and if you hate it, you don’t have to eat any more of it. So I tried the deep-fried squid, (one little piece because it was a French restaurant where I guess they expect you to smoke so much that you aren’t hungry enough for full portions), which came with spicy peanut sauce. It was delicious. It was also, as I found out later, a member of the mollusc family, and I’m allergic to shellfish. After about 20 minutes, my lips started to swell, and on the ride home, I was feeling dizzy and out of breath. By the next morning, I was extremely ill and the inside of my mouth felt like someone had taken a flamethrower to it. I had no idea what was going on, but Ken did some research, and we discovered that there was a good reason why I felt like I was dying–because I just might have, haha. Thank God for tasting menus with very small portions.

4) Eggs that are not scrambled. Eggs are interesting. Essentially, they’re wannabe chickens. I can never understand how people who say they’re vegetarian can eat eggs, but a lot do on the premise that “they were never fertilized”. But aren’t they still animal protein? Anyway, I love scrambled eggs and omelets, anything where the white of the egg and the yellow part are mixed together so you can’t taste either of them separately. Together, they are a heavenly component of the “All Day Breakfast”, one of my favourite meals. Separately, they are like death on a plate. The white part tastes like the sulphurous fires of hell (in other words, like eating a fart), and the yellow part is—well, I don’t know because I’ve never tried the yellow part because its simple appearance is enough to put me off. That liquid-y, slimy thing that some people love to “dip their toast in”. Why the HELL would you dip your toast in a liquid baby chicken? So gross.

5) Extremely sour candies. Isn’t that an oxymoron? What is it with people and extremely sour things? The other day, I was in a store and on the candy display were bags of “Extreme Sour Gummi Bears”. The “i” in gummi was in the shape of a lightning bolt, and the slogan was “Try to eat more than one”. The gummi bears on the bag had FANGS. Where is the pleasure here? Candy is supposed to be a treat, a reward for doing something good, like using the potty. Can you imagine how long kids would be in diapers for if you gave them rewards that made them scream in agony? Depends-Nation, y’all. Candy is not supposed to be scary. A couple of months ago, some of my students brought in ‘extreme sour candy’ and challenged me to try one. They were all grimacing and “yuck”ing, but I have more mature taste buds, so I accepted the challenge. Let me tell you, there is no taste in nature like an extreme sour watermelon candy. Within 10 seconds, my extremities went numb and I could no longer feel my face, either inside or out. Very casually though, I plucked it out of my mouth and gently put it in the garbage can. Never let them see you sweat. Or swear.

Friday: Weird signs that I’ve seen (NOT of an apocalyptic nature).

Yesterday, I was in the Bay, and I had to use the ladies’ room. As I was leaving, I noticed a sign on the door that read, “All criminal activity in this bathroom is closely monitored.” I stared at it for a minute or two, trying to figure out exactly what it meant. First, what KIND of activity are we talking about here? The only people I’ve EVER seen in that bathroom are elderly ladies. I mean, the Bay is not exactly Forever 21. Could there be a gang of old toughs who frequently gather in said bathroom to fence their stolen Hudson’s Bay blankets and Estee Lauder cosmetics? And what does “closely monitored” mean? Are there security guards looking at hidden cameras whose reaction to every criminal transaction is “Huh. Take a look at that. Interesting. We’d better keep monitoring this. CLOSELY.” Then I was reminded about another interesting sign that Ken and I had seen the other day. It was one of those mobile signs at the side of the road, and it read, “Jesus said, ‘The only way to my Father is through me.’ My first reaction was this:

Me: Did you see that sign? I don’t believe Jesus said that.
Ken: Whuh? Why not?
Me: Well, don’t you think it sounds a little arrogant? Like, UPPITY? I never think of Jesus like that. You’ve read the Bible. Did Jesus really say that?
Ken: I don’t remember.
Me: No. From what I know about Jesus, he would have said something more like, “It would be really nice and just super if you could let me help you find your way to my Father”. Something non-aggressive, you know. That sign makes it seem like there’s going to be a bar fight, and Jesus is all like, “You’ll have to get through me to get to HIM!” Like Liam Neeson or something.
Ken: OK…

Then I was reminded of my favourite sign from a few years ago, outside a church, which said, “Take Jesus on vacation with you”. Ken and I were planning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with T, and I went into this reverie about what would happen if you literally COULD take Jesus on vacation with you to the waterpark. Would you have to stop him from trying to baptize the kids in the wave pool? Would all the water in the park automatically become Holy Water? Would he get annoyed if strangers kept splashing him? Would he be like, “OK, I’ll go down the waterslide as long as I don’t get my hair wet? (Because that’s what I always say.) Would he multi-task, and deliver a quick sermon while he was on the white water raft with a bunch of other people? At the end of the day, I could picture him in a lounge chair, surrounded by small children, telling them parables until it was time for Pizza Hut and Pay-Per-Vue. At any rate, it would be a hell of a lot better than taking Satan on vacation to the waterpark with you. He’d be “that guy”, you know, the one who always does the cannonballs into the pool, gets everyone in a 20 foot radius soaking wet, and laughs like he thinks he’s so cool. He’d hog the Jacuzzi, make all the water boil, then force everyone to take Oil of Oregano. No wonder Satan never gets asked to go anywhere.

My Week 22 – A Series of Misadventures

A Series of Misadventures

This past week has been fraught with incident. Nothing serious, of course, but some bizarre, and at times, embarrassing moments that continue to support my ongoing thesis that life is absurd, and that often, there is no rhyme nor reason to it. Some days, it’s Dr. Suess; other days it’s Kafka.

Saturday: I try to have lunch with a good friend.

I say “try’ because this was the first in the series of meanderings that have plagued my week. My friend and I decided on Del Dente’s in Kitchener. She had looked up the schedule and saw that the place was open at 11. When we got there, the parking lot was surprisingly empty, but I just thought it was our lucky day. We went in, and immediately the girl behind the reception counter said, “Sorry, we’re not open”. Turns out they don’t open until 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday, but don’t feel the need to put that on their website. I guess the restaurant industry must be booming if places can afford to miss the lunch crowd. I was feeling a little snarky, so I said, “If you’re closed, then why is your door open?! It’s counter-intuitive.” She explained that it was so people could come in and buy gift cards. Seriously? You won’t serve people food, but you will sell them cards so they can BUY FOOD LATER? Anyway, we decided to go down the road to Ennio’s. IT didn’t open until noon. The weather was horrible and we were starving, so as a last resort, we went to a burger place in the next plaza, and cheered when we walked in to warmth and the possibility of food. The waiter was a younger man, who was awfully pleased to see us, and treated us like long-lost friends, right down to telling us about how his “brown” roommate cooks for him all the time, so he’s used to spicy food. OK, is it just me, or does it seem a little weird that someone would refer to their “brown roommate” in this context, especially when it had to do with the taste of the food. Do waiters of colour tell customers that their “beige” roommate does all the cooking so they’re used to bland food? Plus, there are a lot of derivations that constitute being brown, and the spices which accompany them are vastly different, so I’ve decided that he was trying to be hip more than helpful. When the food came, the waiter announced grandiosely that I was getting 22 ounces of poutine. Isn’t that like 5 pounds or something? Who the hell can eat 5 pounds of poutine in one sitting? Well, not me, that’s for sure. I finished approximately 1 ounce and had to take the rest home. Ultimately though, it was the fine company that made the difference–it was lovely seeing my friend, and by the time we actually found food, we were both ready to eat.

Sunday: I waste the afternoon looking for boots

On Sunday morning, I had a horrible epiphany. I was supposed to be going on a field visit with the CEO of my new company, and I had left all my dress boots at home. While this might seem like an extremely first-world problem, and it is, I’m still a new employee and this would be my first time meeting the boss. What if he was like some fashionista who would be looking at my outfit with a critical eye and wondering why I was wearing Doc Martens? So I decided to nip over to the mall and grab some boots. Which would have been an easy task if a) my feet were a size five or b) I was willing to pay over $300. I went to every shoe store in the region, and could not find a single pair of black dress boots in my size or price range. It’s f-ing February, and all the stores are full of sandals. It makes perfect sense of course, because this is CANADA. Why WOULDN’T we want to wear sandals in February? What was I thinking, looking for boots when the temperature is a balmy -25 degrees, and the snow banks are up to my ass? After 2 and a half hours of wandering around, I gave up. I had pretty much wasted the whole afternoon on this fruitless mission. Then I got home, and discovered a perfectly good pair of black dress boots in the back of the closet. I would have cried a little bit, but I was too exhausted. Also, it turns out that my boss is the nicest man imaginable, and probably couldn’t have cared less about my footwear.

Monday: I get stared out and it freaks me out

Before I was ready to go back to Toronto on Monday, after my field visit, I had to gas up. The Diva on the corner (that’s the name of the gas station, not the guy who owns it) was superbusy, which means there was one car on each side of the pump. I sat and waited patiently, and just as the person ahead of me was leaving, a car pulled up, cut in ahead of me and stole my pump! I couldn’t believe it. I honked my horn, but the woman ignored me and kept being an a-hole. So I decided to go down the street to the new Esso, where they have lots of pumps. They also have people who sit in the window and stare at you while you’re doing it. I got out of my car and put my debit card in the pump, then I realized that there were a couple of elderly people, and the owner of the gas station, all staring at me. I decided I was being paranoid, so I went back to what I was doing. When I looked up again, they were still staring at me. They weren’t even blinking. I started pumping the gas, and they were not only staring at me, but now they were talking at the same time. I got a little freaked so I waved my free hand and mouthed, “What?!” Then the owner came and opened the door.

Me: Is there a problem?
Owner: No….
Me: Then why are you all staring at me?!
Owner: Oh, sorry…

I’m never going back there again. Unless the Diva’s busy.

Tuesday: I smell toilet water. And not the good kind

On Tuesday morning, the bathroom in my condo started to smell a little strange. Yes, I know that bathrooms can do that, but this wasn’t a typical bathroom-type odour. It was more like the smell of a restaurant the sells food that doesn’t smell very good and that you don’t want to eat. I started sniffing everything up close—the new towel I’d just bought, the shower curtain, the hair dryer, the waste paper basket–until the only thing left was—you guessed it—the toilet. Well, I’m no stranger to putting my hand in a toilet, but my nose is another thing. When I finally got up the courage to stick my head in the toilet, I discovered that, sure enough, it was the toilet water. It was fresh and clean-looking, but it smelled rank. I flushed it, and the new water smelled exactly the same. Then it occurred to me that the same water was probably coming out of my tap, and that I had been making tea with it. From now on, I’m buying water. I totally understand the whole ‘landfill’ issue, but if you can’t count on your tap water’s germ-freeness, then blame the city of Toronto and not me.

Wednesday: I am so embarrassed

On Tuesday, I went for lunch with a colleague and another co-worker that I didn’t know very well. We went to a great little Korean place, and I couldn’t finish my lunch, so I took the rest back to the office in a Styrofoam container wrapped in a plastic bag. I put it in the company refrigerator, then forgot to take it home, which was OK, because then I could have it for lunch on Wednesday. So I got it out of the fridge at lunchtime, heated it up, and started eating it. It looked a little different than it had the day before, but I put that down to the kimchee sauce making the rice go a little orange-y. I was halfway done when suddenly I saw a piece of broccoli. There was no broccoli in my bulgogi. Also, apparently what I thought were crunchy pieces of cabbage were actually pieces of carrot. My blood went cold. I was eating SOMEONE ELSE’S LUNCH. And it belonged to the coworker I had just met the day before. I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed as I was when I had to tell her. She was extremely nice about it, and said that she would eat my leftovers instead of her own, but I can only imagine what she was thinking. Actually I can’t imagine it, because she’s Romanian and speaks French, and I don’t know what “big loser who steals other people’s lunches” is in either language. Then I went back to my desk, pulled out my office chair, and the handle came off in my hand. I was done at that point, and just stood there in defeat, with someone else’s lunch in one hand and a chair arm in the other.

Thursday: People in Toronto are even weirder than I thought

On Thursday, I went to the grocery store across the street after work. In the space of time it took to leave the grocery store and get back to my building, these things had happened: An elderly Asian man with a long pony tail barked at me on the escalator. And he sounded exactly like a dog, which was impressive and frightening all at the same time. A man riding a racing bike, wearing full racing gear—shorts, t-shirt, and helmet in the minus 25 degree weather, rode past me yelling F- you, you bunch of a- holes at the traffic around him. Then just outside my building, another elderly man wearing a balaclava asked me several questions in a foreign language. I finally got to the safety of my condo, and I wasn’t inside for more than 5 minutes when suddenly my door began to jiggle like someone was trying to break in. I froze in a panic because I realized I didn’t have a baseball bat OR Ken to protect me. Finally, an envelope was creepily pushed through the crack in the side of my door—a piece of mail belonging to the previous tenant. I spent the rest of the night checking the deadbolt and looking under the bed, just in case.

Friday: I break the office hole punch

I put too many pieces of paper in it, and they all got stuck. I had to ask for help to dismantle it and get the papers out. Enough said. The embarrassment continues.

Saturday: Finally things go back to normal.

I got home in good time on Friday night and decided to take a chance on shopping for some mittens on Saturday. Not only did I find the ones I wanted, but they were the last pair and were on super-sale. Then I saw my favourite Lancome Lady, Olga, and she gave me an extra gift with the cream I bought. Maybe all is right with the world again.