My Week 56 – My Crazy Cruise On The Norwegian Star

The Cruise

As you may or may not be aware (if you read my blog regularly then you WILL know this), I just got back from a cruise. I’d never been on a cruise before, and last week, I wrote a bit about the two things I was most excited about: my butler, and swimming with my own dolphin. I was worried that my expectations might have been too high, but I was wrong on both counts. My butler was an awesome guy, and although he wasn’t called Johnson, he WAS named Cristopher (the lack of the “h” made him even more sophisticated). He was always dressed in a tuxedo outfit minus the topcoat, but his outfit seemed very bespoke, which is one of my new favourite words, the other being “iguana” for reasons which I will explain later. The best thing about Cristopher was that he looked, talked, and acted like a young George Takei, so every time he came in the room, it was like hanging out with Mr. Sulu. Only instead of navigating a starship, he called me “Miss Suzanne” and made hot chocolate for me. He also referred to the dock workers as “stevedores”, which is what they actually are, but I’ve never heard anyone call them that aside from me, so I felt like we were kindred, “butler-and-lady” spirits. Then there was my dolphin, also, unfortunately, NOT named Johnson. Her name was Atlas, because apparently Mexicans are unfamiliar with the genders of the Greek gods, but she was amazing. When she offered me her fins and torpedoed across the lagoon, I hung on for dear life, but laughed like a lunatic the whole way. I have nothing snarky or sarcastic to say about Atlas because she was gorgeous and obviously smarter than me. And DEFINITELY smarter than this guy:

Man (with thick southern drawl): So when I get to swim around with that fish, will someone take a picture of it?
Mexican Trainer: Sir, she’s not a fish, she’s a mammal. But yes, we have a photographer.
Man: That’s good. I want to show everyone at home that I actually did this thing.

Other Highlights of the Trip

1) Kasi, our Mayan tour guide: Kasi spoke English with an American accent, but she also spoke fluent Spanish and Mayan, having been raised in Chacchoben by an American father, Mexican mother, and Mayan grandmother. She treated the seven of us like we were her class and she was our teacher—she even had a little whiteboard so that she could draw us pictures to illustrate her points.

Kasi: OK, you guys. People think the Mayans just disappeared or were abducted by aliens, but that’s not true. Does anyone know what REALLY happened to the Mayans? Anyone?
Me: They were all killed…?
Kasi: No, but good try! If I told you it had something to do with chewing gum, the “chiclata”, what would you say? Anyone?…
The chewing gum story is true, but very complicated, so you all can look it up–but it’s true. Thanks, Adams Gum Company, for destroying the Mayan civilization. 

2) Iguanas: When I was initially told that it was going to cost me $10 US to gain entry to an “iguana sanctuary”, my first thought was “Why the f*ck would I pay to see iguanas?” OK, it’s technically not a sanctuary, and they’re not technically “rescue” iguanas, but they were still extremely cool. I never knew that a) iguanas could be the size of small dogs and that b) they also act quite a lot like dogs. We were given leaves to feed them with, and as soon as they saw us with food, they all came galloping over, staring at us with their excited little iguana eyes, mobbing us and following us around like puppies. You could pet them, and they snuggled into your hand. I texted Ken that I wanted my own iguana, since I don’t have a lagoon for my own dolphin, and he replied “Do you think an iguana would like Toronto?” which seems to me a pretty passive-aggressive way of vetoing my desire for an iguana puppy. The only downside to an iguana is that they like to climb up high and then poop, but I think it would be a fun party game for our friends—we could call it “Look Out Below!” and have prizes for anyone who managed to avoid getting shat on. I think vigilance is the key when it comes to iguanas.

3) Francisco’s No Name Restaurant: On Roatan, which is off the coast of Honduras, we toured the island with a local taxi driver named Franciso. He drove us all over the place, and when we asked about authentic Roatan cuisine and where we could go for lunch, he said, “Don’t worry—I know a place.” This initially sounded a little sketchy, but you have to trust, so we arrived at a building where there were maybe four tables under an awning. He told us what to order, and I was initially somewhat worried, but then I realized that he was going to eat too, and I figured that if the food was good enough for him, then I could feel relatively assured that I wouldn’t be getting food poisoning. Sure enough, the lunch (rice, beans, stewed beef, fried plantains, hot sauce–was delicious. When I asked him what the restaurant was called, he said, “It doesn’t have a name—it’s just a place we go. The owner and I grew up together. It’s much better than the restaurants the cruise ships recommend.” And he was right. Trust.

Of course, there are some weird things about being on cruise ship. First of all, the demographic is a TINY bit older than me. The average age of the passengers was about 75, and an overwhelming majority of them were seasoned cruisers who woke up at the crack of dawn, snagged the best lounge chairs, and stayed there all day unless it was time to hobble to the buffet and eat. Or play trivia. Seriously, there is nothing more hardcore and badass than senior citizens playing trivia for keychains and mugs. They would google answers, argue with the cruise director, and refuse to give part marks for ANYTHING, those f*ckers. But aside from the restaurant dash and the trivia frenzy, they were mostly completely immobile. On the first day, my dad and I went into the “disco lounge” to discover about 60 people just sitting there, staring into space. The silence was absolute. I turned to my dad and said, “This is exactly what I imagined the waiting room for DEATH to look like.” Then we both laughed really loudly but no one noticed, because their hearing aids were all turned off.

I also realized that there are people on cruise ships that you never want to be—you know the people I mean. They are sometimes referred to as “That Guy” or “That Woman”, and after a particular dancing misadventure in the disco lounge one late night, I resolved to never again be “the middle-aged woman who drinks a bit then thinks she can dance like she did when she was a teenager”. I also made a vow to never be any of the following people:

The Guy Who Gets Drunk and Falls Asleep at the Edge of the Pool – After the first day of all-you-can-swallow alcohol consumption, I discovered that it could be very easy to become THAT guy. I actually saw him on the second last day of the cruise, beer bottle precariously perched on the edge of the deck, sprawled out unconscious like a homeless person on a Toronto subway grate. Not a pretty picture, and one I was happy to avoid.

The Woman Whose Ass is Hanging Out of Her String Bikini – Seriously, can you NOT feel the draft? My ass crack is perfectly capable of differentiating between fresh air and the safety of my skirt-ini.

The Person Who is Late Coming Back From an Excursion, Forcing the Ship to Stay in Port and Causing the Passengers to Stand at the Handrails and Boo – I was almost that person after the dolphin swim, when I and my lovely sister-in-law discovered we had come all the way back with the key to our storage locker, which meant her photo ID was still with the dolphin people. After a mad dash in a taxi, we made it back just in time. No boos for us, because we may be forgetful, but we are f*cking efficient.

Bisexual Sexy Dancer – This is the person in every disco who has had a little too much to drink and suddenly becomes open to ANYONE, and will jiggle up to men and women alike, trying to “get me some”. This person is second only to INCESTUOUS Sexy Dancer, the elderly man who has choreographed several pre-set dance sequences which must be performed to either disco or mamba music with women young enough to be his daughters, both of whom hang around with him like he’s their sugar daddy. Only he’s too cheap to buy their drinks. Why, ladies—why?

The Cougar Who Thinks the Male Dancers in the Review Show Are SOOOO Hot – They’re all gay. Yes, even Dmitri. And yes, it’s heartbreaking.

Overall, it was a great experience. Thanks, Mom and Dad, John and Orchid, Cameron and Enayat. If only Ken and K had been there, it would have been perfect. And if either the butler or the dolphin had ACTUALLY been named Johnson, I would never have come home.


My Week 55: Sucky Real Estate, I Get A Butler

Thursday: Real Estate deals are stressful and sucky

A few weeks ago, Ken and I decided to sell our cottage. We bought it 6 years ago, after seeing it on the internet. It wasn’t my dream home, but it was super cheap, it was in a great little town close to some of our other family members, and we figured it wouldn’t take much to make it a cozy haven. I remember saying to Ken, “All this place really needs is some redecorating and laminate flooring.” Apparently, I had been watching too many “flipping” shows on HGTV, because holy sh*t, was I ever wrong. We had a home inspection, and found out that the electrical system had been put together by a 5 year-old. There was an electrical box on the wall right above where the bed would go, which looked on the outside like it had been disconnected, but was full of cut, LIVE wires. None of the outlets were grounded, and there were exposed wires everywhere, some held together with scotch tape. Our contractor said it was a miracle that the place hadn’t already burned down. We wanted to back out of the deal then, but the owners dropped the price enough that we could afford the rewiring. Once they moved out though, the real fun started, as we realized their abundance of junky old furniture, knickknacks, and Jesus paintings were covering up a lot of problems. Apparently, the previous owners were into home repairs like alcoholics are into sparkling water, and everything was done in the cheapest, sloppiest, absurdist way possible. My favourite was taking off wallpaper and discovering holes in walls that had been patched with Band aids. Or pulling up carpeting to discover 2 inches of sand underneath. And the place wasn’t THAT close to any beach—they were just slovenly housekeepers. Or maybe they couldn’t use a vacuum because the wiring kept shorting out. I had to clean the oven with Easy-Off—no, it f*cking wasn’t. There was so much build-up in there, and I got so much slime and grease on my hands that I literally almost threw up. There was the soaking wet subfloor under the sink in the kitchen which we pulled up and replaced, the toilet leaning against the bathroom wall (the bathroom was joisted with two by fours, so we had the whole thing pulled up and done to code), the doorways that had been wallpapered over, the painted masking tape disguising gaps between molding and walls, Kleenex stuffed into cracks to stop drafts—the list goes on. It took us almost a year to turn the place from a disgusting stinkbox into something habitable. Ironically, when we bought the place, the wife created a garden plan on graph paper, letting us know about all the unique and rare plants she had—we needed the plan because everything was hidden in crabgrass and weeds. Over the years, we kept on improving the place with the help of our intrepid contractor, Dale, who despite his construction prowess and our 6-year relationship, continues to call me by things other than my actual name, and just calls me names that sound similar, or start with the same consonant. But after 6 years, and a hell of a lot of hard work, the place really is a dream home.

We love our cottage, but the fact is, with me working in Toronto all week and only coming home for weekends, we’re hardly ever getting up there anymore. It’s not too far from our house, but K hates it because it has no wifi, which means she can’t play Counterhalo or League of Duty, or whatever crazy games she and her friends run around with daggers and machine guns in. So generally, she refuses to go, which means I have to choose between seeing my only child (between rounds of her killing animated characters) and having a peaceful getaway. That sounds like a no-brainer, am I right? At any rate, after a long discussion, we decided to put the cottage on the market. This is where the craziness began. After just over a month, or two weeks ago, we got word from our agent that an offer was coming in. “That’s so great!” I said to Ken, “So long as it’s not something ridiculous, like 20 grand below our asking price or something.” Well guess what? It WAS 20 grand below our asking price. And not only that, the woman wanted couches, beds, other miscellaneous furniture, all the outdoor furniture, everything in the sheds, and more, right down to personal items like a picnic basket, our Keurig, and the LINENS ON THE BEDS! Who the hell wants someone else’s old sheets as part of a house deal? I was like “forget that sh*t”, but our agent suggested we take out anything we wanted to keep, and send it back with a higher price. So we took practically everything out, and counter-offered with something a little more reasonable. Eventually, we all settled at a price we could live with, throwing in a couch and a couple of bed frames. AND the linens. She was adamant. Apparently, flannel sheets are a deal-breaker to some people. So Ken and I, with the help of my aunt, started the annoying process of packing stuff into boxes. We’d just nicely gotten the ENTIRE kitchen packed up and brought home when our agent called me to say the deal was off. According to the buyer’s agent, the house was falling down. The foundation was crumbling and the wooden frame under the floor was rotting. F*cking news to me. I was like, “Says who? Did she crawl under the place herself, or is there some more legitimate source for this information? What am I supposed to tell people? ‘Yeah, the place is about to collapse—an eighty-year-old real estate agent told me so.” (Well, she looks eighty on her business card). Our agent was also shocked but said we would have to sign the termination of the agreement, and I was like, “Hell no. Not until I see some actual proof that I’m about to fall through the floor.” This was where things started to get fun and sketchy as they refused to tell us who did the inspection, or provide any kind of report. We’re still embroiled in this sh*t right now. They’ve finally copped to having an inspection, but are demanding that we pay half the cost before they’ll show it to us. So I did what any reasonable person would do—I called Dale. Mainly because he’s the only person I know who will crawl around in a 3 foot high space underneath a cottage that may or may not be on the verge of collapse. And after this, he can call me ANYTHING he wants.

Saturday: I get ready to cruise

So right now, despite all the real estate stress, I’m SUPER excited because I’m going on my first cruise. I’ve been so excited, in fact, that I didn’t even really pay attention to where I’m going. After having several people say, “Where does the cruise go?” and me saying, “Wow, I’m not really sure,” I made my dad write it down for me so I wouldn’t look like a complete idiot. This is my parents’ gift to me for reaching a “milestone” birthday—as some people might say, I am now a woman of “a certain age”, and it’s not the awesomely fun age where you get to finally drink, buy lottery tickets, play bingo, or watch porn. So yeah, an “older” milestone than all of that. Still, I’m young enough to appreciate how cool this cruise is going to be, even if Ken and K can’t come. It’s just me, my parents, my brother, his wife, their son, and her dad. I think Ken feels a little left out, but it’s not my fault that he “can’t get time off work” or whatever. K said she couldn’t miss 5 days of school because missing math would kill her, and I’m hoping it’s because she doesn’t want to fall behind, not because she loves math so much. Because let’s be honest—if you love math so much that you would miss a cruise to a tropical island…enough said. Anyway, there are two main things that I’m the most excited about, aside from the “all you can drink” alcohol package:

1) I just found out today that our suite comes with its own butler. This is the best thing EVER. Ken wasn’t particularly impressed but K totally got it.

K: His name will be Johnson.
Me: Yes! And he’ll wear a tuxedo. Even at 3 o’clock in the morning.
K: And he’ll have an English accent.
Me: Absolutely. The only thing better than my English butler Johnson would be if he was a monkey butler.

I’m probably overthinking it, and my expectations will most likely be dashed when it turns out that my English butler Johnson is a guy in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt named “Jimmy”, who will recommend Budweiser and pretzels instead of champagne cocktails and caviar. Still, a girl can dream.

2) I get to swim with dolphins. This has been a lifelong dream of mine, ever since I almost failed grade 9 science and realized that I was NOT destined to be a marine biologist. Instead, I learned how to analyze poetry, which is almost the same thing. But without the dolphins. (As a side note, it’s still really easy to get into an English program. They ask two questions—1) Do you have the money for tuition? 2) Are you breathing? The second question is just a formality. If you have the tuition, breathing isn’t really a requirement.) I never thought that I would be able to come face to bottlenose with a dolphin, but it looks like that’s going to happen. I even had to buy “biodegradable” sunscreen, so it wouldn’t harm the dolphins. It was expensive, but it’s money well-spent. And if my butler isn’t up to snuff, I can always call my dolphin “Johnson”.

My Week 54: Back on the Train Gang, Conversations

Friday: Back on the train gang

Recently, I started taking the train to Toronto on Sundays and back home on Fridays. This has saved me an intense amount of stress from trying to figure out how to beat a rush hour that starts at noon. The trouble with the 401 is that it’s a great highway when no one else is on it. I can make it door to door in less than an hour and a half if the roads are clear. But that NEVER happens. There’s always a slowdown, for a variety of incomprehensible reasons. Here is my list of top ten favourite circumstances which might cause traffic on the 401 to come to a complete halt:

10) It’s raining.
9) It’s windy.
8) Is that a running shoe? Slow down!!
7) Look, an airplane. Coooool.
6) There’s an accident on the OTHER side of the road.
5) What a weird-looking bird…
4) That guy is changing his tire. What do we do?
3) Are those cloud shadows on the road, or is the beginning of the alien invasion?
2) A bus is on fire.
1) (And this is absolutely true). Radio announcer: Be careful out there today, folks. That sun is really shining brightly!

While a couple of these are legitimate—like a burning bus, or slowing down to avoid hitting someone at the side of the road, the rest are stupid. If people would just drive like normal humans instead of trying to break the landspeed record, none of the other things on the list would a) come as a shock and b) force traffic to a standstill. So, yes, I started taking the train, which is a much more civilized and safer way to travel, albeit not without its own quirks. For example, VIA has a policy that you have to present your boarding pass BEFORE you board at some stations, but not others. At Union Station, you have to have it scanned before you can get on the train. At unstaffed stations, like the one I arrive at, you can get on the train and a conductor will scan it at some point during the trip. If you take a chance and sneak onto the train without paying, there’s a pretty hefty fine. It never occurred to me that anyone would actually TRY this, but on Friday, here’s what happened: I was standing in line, getting ready to board. I’d been standing there for a while, and contemplating the nonsensical nature of me and all the other hundred people standing there, because we all have assigned seating, yet as soon as one person lines up, the rest of us panic and follow like sheep. And then we stand there for half an hour. Waiting. And talking about why we’re standing in line. I said to the woman behind me, “Why are we lined up?” and she said, “I don’t know. I just saw everyone else doing it, and figured I should too.” Anyway, I was standing there like the follower that I apparently am, lacking in free will and all that sh*t, when I noticed a man out of the corner of my eye. I was close to one of the columns that holds up the roof, and pretty close to the front of the line, and he had sauntered over very casually and was now standing against the column with his wheelie bag, looking all innocent. But I knew what he was up to. “Bastard!” I thought to myself. “He’s going to try and cut in. I haven’t been waiting here for almost 40 minutes so this guy can jump the queue. At least not in FRONT of me. I don’t care if he cuts in behind me. Someone else can deal with that.” So, you see, I was equally enraged AND mercenary. Then, the line started to move, and sure enough, the odious little jerk slid in right behind me. Everyone noticed, but we were all too polite, being Canadian and everything, to tell him off. But as we were getting close to the escalator and the conductor, he kept trying to pass me. So I did what any red-blooded Canadian would do—I swung MY wheelie bag out wide to slow him down, forcing him to stay behind me. But this is where things got interesting and supremely karmic. I showed my boarding pass, and got on the escalator with him hot on my heels. Then I heard a voice—“Sir! Sir! I need to scan your boarding pass!” I turned, and a conductor was climbing up the escalator towards us. The man announced, “You did already,” but the conductor was adamant. “No, I didn’t. Let me see it now, please.” At this point, the butt-er reluctantly held out a very crumpled boarding pass. “Sir,” the conductor said with a hint of anger in his voice, “you don’t have a ticket for this train. You’ll have to come with me.” The man protested, but had no choice. As he scurried back down the escalator, I shook my fist in triumph, and actually said out loud, “HAHA! I knew it!!”, much to the delight of the couple ahead of me, who had also noticed that he was up to something. We all smiled knowingly at each other with the smugness of those who had legitimately purchased tickets.

Then there are the “regulars”. Seriously, it’s like Cheers, when Norm walks into the bar. “Hey, Norm”, everyone yells, and all the non-regulars are confused, and a little jealous that they aren’t part of the gang. The first time I took the train, this happened to me. I was sitting near a group of the regulars, and it was like homecoming weekend. The conductor was supremely pleased to see them, and they were all laughing and high-fiving and sh*t. Then she asked if there was anyone who was unfamiliar with train safety procedures, because I guess it’s a requirement of the job, and they were all like “Haha, safety requirements! Right, Ellen!! HAHA.” But you know me, and my need to figure out the worst case scenario, so I was like, “Excuse me. I am unfamiliar with the safety procedures and I would like to hear more about it.” So she started telling me about what to do in case of an emergency, but the gang kept interrupting her, and she would giggle and be like “Oh, you guys!” until finally I said very sternly, “I’d actually appreciate being able to hear what you have to say.” At which point, she realized that maybe she needed to stop being flirty and do her job. So she explained to me that in case of an emergency, there was a little green hammer located next to the rear window, and that I would have to hit one corner of the window with the hammer, then hit another corner to get it to break out of the frame, then use a cushion from one of the seats to push the glass out. How is this even a PLAN, VIA Rail? The train derails, and I’m tossing bodies out of the way, looking for a seat cushion to push out the window with? The window I broke with a LITTLE GREEN HAMMER?! I have the exact same plan at home in case of fire, but it doesn’t involve pillows as much as me shattering things like The Hulk using a much bigger Thor-like hammer (there’s your random Avengers reference for the week), and not caring so much about glass cuts than SAVING MY FAMILY.  Then she was like, “Don’t worry—it’ll never happen. It’s just a precaution.” Oh really, conductor lady?! It’s called a ‘worst case scenario’ for a reason. From now on, I’m bringing my own damn hammer.

But you meet all kinds on the train. There’s the girl who walks down the aisle on her cell phone, loudly alerting all of us to her weekend party plans and spends the next hour calling friend after friend to let them know she’s “on the train but can’t wait to get smashed at Kyle’s house later”, the drunk Blue Jays fans who yell out the names of all the stops, the business men and women whose companies are too cheap to spring for anything more than “economy class”…. Me, I don’t care where I sit, as long as it’s quiet, I can have a glass of wine (hell yeah—they serve wine on the train, which is why I referred to it earlier as a civilized way to travel), read my book, and think my thoughts. This, however, did NOT happen on Friday. I was seated behind a woman and her 6 year-old daughter, who was quite possibly the most obnoxious child I’ve come across. Mainly because the mother seemed to have no idea that children can actually be taught, through patient care and a lot of work, to NOT be f*cking obnoxious. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE kids, I really do. I have a charming and well-behaved one of my own, and I’ve been successfully working with kids of all ages for over 30 years, so I have a pretty good idea of how to deal with them. The first sign of trouble came about 20 seconds into boarding, when “Cathy” began yelling, “SING SING LALA SING LALALA” over and over again. And to clarify—she wasn’t actually singing—she was yelling the words Sing and LaLa. Finally, the mother admonished her with “Shhhhhh.” “NO!!” came the reply, with a continuation of the racket, until Mom distracted her with the menu. Things went downhill from there. “I want THIS and THIS and THIS!”

Mom: You can only have one thing. You have to choose.
Mom: You can’t have everything. Only one. Which one do you want?
Cathy: I WANT EVERYTHING. I’m going to kick this seat until you get me EVERYTHING! (kick kick kick kick)
Conductor: Can I get you anything?
Mom: Yes, I’ll take this and this and this….

Good work, lady.

Halfway through the trip, I finally had to put my headphones on and drown out Cathy with loud music after this particular conversation:

Cathy: What does ‘technically’ mean? Mommy, what does ‘technically’ mean? MOMMY! Don’t you know? Are you stupid? Mommy, what does ‘technically’ mean? MOMMY!!

You know, I get that people are tired, and it’s really easy to let kids get away with a little cheekiness at the end of a long day, but kicking seats and calling names are a certain sign that little Cathy is going to have BIG trouble if she thinks the rest of the world is going to treat her like Mommy does. She’ll be the one trying to cut into a line, and she’ll be shocked when people like me won’t let her. That’s karma, Cathy.

But I have met some really great people on the train. There’s the kid who’s in Pre-Law at U of T, but who would give it all up to be a rock star with his band–he was visiting his girlfriend at Western and had never taken the train before so we helped each other figure out where the subway was in relation to the train station…The girl who finished a Security course and did a practicum at a northern men’s penitentiary, which taught her that she really didn’t want to be a prison guard and was now working with a pharmaceutical company…The Kinesiology student whose 8 year-old sister lives with her and goes to school in Toronto all week, then goes to London on the weekends to stay with “relatives”–she’s 18 years old but pretty much a surrogate mother, and a very good one at that, judging by the way she cares for little Hailey…The man who’s an accountant by day, but races short track with his classic car on the weekends down in Windsor in a full firesuit and helmet–his brother is his pit crew…the list goes on, and for every annoying Cathy, there are three different people with fascinating stories and lives that you can glimpse into for a brief moment, and realize that the world can be a pretty decent place if you let it. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Best elevator conversation of the week:

Guy in Elevator: Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Carol Burnett?
Me: Uh, thanks—it must be the haircut.
Guy: Kids today have no appreciation for Carol Burnett. The other night I was at a bar and I was being hit on by someone a LOT younger than me. So I said to him, “Sorry, honey—I’m Carol Burnett and you’re Lady Gaga. It will NEVER work.”

Worst elevator conversation of the week:

Guy in Elevator: Ungghh—I could sure use a big cup of coffee!
Me: Um…ok.
Guy: Wow! Look at all your rings! I really like the big one you have on!!
Me: I got that one in Spain—oh look, here’s my floor. Bye.

Best conversations with street people this week:

Me: I’m going into Loblaws. Can I get you anything?
Homeless Guy: Can I get some smoked oysters?
Me: Uh….ok…
Homeless Guy: And a Coke? Thanks.

Me: I’m going into Loblaws. Can I get you anything? Maybe some juice?
Dan: Oh…could I have a jar of Cheez Whiz? I love Cheez Whiz but I can never afford to buy it.
Me: Sure thing.
Dan: Thanks, dear.

My Week 53: Apology to Russia, A Clash of Chairs, I Go To the Toronto Circus

First, a disclaimer: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about head transplants, and I may or may not have implied (stated directly actually) that Russia was kind of sucky when it came to military-type things, although I DID give them a thumbs-up for their space program. Then a few days ago, I was looking at my site statistics and realized that someone from Russia is reading my blog. So I did what any rational person would do under similar circumstances: I freaked out and called Ken:

Me: I think I’ve just caused an international incident.
Ken: What are you talking about?
Me: Remember last week when I was dissing the Russians for losing a lot of wars? Well, someone from Russia is reading my blog. What if it’s the KGB?
Me: It’s not funny. If I don’t come home this weekend, you’ll know why. I told the Russians to contact me if they wanted some of my organs—what if they thought I was serious?
Ken: I’m sure no one is coming all the way from Russia to kidnap you and torture you just because you said they were bad at war.

So instead of worrying constantly about being reprimanded by Stephen Harper for violating some kind of peace treaty, or having my organs harvested, I decided the best thing to do was say some nice things about Russia by way of an apology. So here are “5 Great Things About Russia”.

1) Some of the best music composers in history come from Russia. Tchaikovsky is one of my personal favourites, but there are many more. The Russians know good music when they hear it.

2) They are really good at hockey. When I was in Grade 2 and we had the Russia-Canada hockey series, everyone was shocked by the precision and talent of the Red Army, which proves that Russians have some military prowess after all. I mean LOTS of military prowess. Obviously.

3) They are snappy dressers.

4) Their alphabet is crazy—crazy in that GOOD way. It puts all the other alphabets to shame, with its artistic flair and no-nonsense pronunciation.

5) They have one of the best art museums in the world—The Hermitage. It’s been a dream of mine to visit it one day, and I would prefer to go there voluntarily, and not as part of a trade deal to assuage the Russians’ hurt feelings over some of my previous comments.

So there you are. To Russia with love.

Monday: I bring home a new chair and it causes problems.

On Monday, I had to take my recycling down to the big garbage room, which I never mind, because it’s also sometimes a treasure trove of other peoples’ discarded furniture. I had just finished putting my cardboard in the dumpster (which is tricky because I’m a bit of a germaphobe and I have to do this while not actually TOUCHING the dumpster), when I heard the sound of someone clearing his throat. I peeked around the corner of the dumpster, and there he was—a bit shabby, but with unmistakable possibilities. And by his accent, he was obviously French Provincial.

French Chair: Why, ‘allo there, ma cherie. You are looking fine this evening.
Me: (blushing): Who, me?
French Chair: But of course. I was ‘oping, cherie, that you might be able to help me.
Me: What can I do for you?
French Chair: Zee truth is, I am terribly lonely down in this smelly garbage room. Please take me home with you.

I had to consider this carefully. I already had a couple of chairs, one of whom was extremely obnoxious. But still, this fellow WAS rather charming, and I knew that, with a fresh coat of paint, he would be a real keeper. So I took him up to my condo and put him in the corner of the bedroom. He was really grateful and promised not to stare at me while I was sleeping. But then the problems started.

Obnoxious Chair: Excuse me! Who the hell is THAT?!
Me: What? It’s a chair. What’s wrong?
OC: Where did you find him? At the dump?
Me: Actually, downstairs in the big garbage room. He’s French.
OC: I don’t care if he’s the KING of f*ing France—he’s a vagrant! It was bad enough when you brought home that derelict loveseat–
Loveseat: SCREW YOU, OC!
Me: Everyone just calm down. You know, OC, I’d think you’d be a little more understanding, all things considered.
OC: What do you mean, “all things considered”?
Me: I mean I bought you at an auction, so you don’t really have the right to be so smug.
OC (sputtering): Smug? SMUG?! I was in ‘NAM! You don’t know what I’ve seen!
Me: You weren’t “in ‘Nam”–stop telling people that! The closest you ever came to being in Viet Nam was watching Apocalypse Now, and you hid in the corner when they started burning the jungle with flamethrowers.
OC (whispers): The horror. The horror.
Me: The French chair is staying. Make your peace with that.
OC: Fine. But don’t come crying to me when the KGB takes you away.
Me: I already apologized to the Russians.
OC: But not for your taste in decorating.
Me: Screw you, OC.

Wednesday: I go to the circus

On Wednesday at lunch, a colleague and I decided to go out for a walk. It was a beautiful day and it seemed a shame not to take advantage of it. Little did we know that we were actually going to the circus. And we didn’t even have to pay admission.

The Never-Ending Line-up for the Rollercoaster (the emotional rollercoaster, that is): Then we went into Loblaw’s to pick up snacks for later. I had a very small bag of gluten-free pretzels, which cost more than a jumbo bag of regular pretzels, and we headed to the “Express” check-out. Where we waited, and waited, and waited, while the cashier and the two women ahead of us performed their very own “Comedy of Errors” over things like not being able to scan a container of soup, or pushing the wrong button on the debit pin pad and having to start ALL OVER AGAIN. Every time we thought we were making progress, there was another hold-up and our hopes were yet again dashed. And just like a rollercoaster, we waited in line forever, and when it was finally our turn, the ride was over in seconds. Mostly because I know how to use a pin pad correctly.

The Tunnel of Horror: On our way back from Loblaw’s, we had to walk under the scaffolding in front of the Carlton Theatre. It’s been there for months to protect pedestrians from the potential of falling concrete from the balconies above. The repair process seems to be very slow, and the whole thing looks extremely dangerous. We were just in the middle of the tunnel, and I was trying to sidestep a subway grate out of an irrational fear that it would give way and I’d fall onto a moving train, when the construction workers started yelling to each other. It was Italian and it sounded very ominous. My colleague and I simultaneously threw our arms over our heads and ducked—as if that was going to prevent us being crushed by a slab of cement. Then the construction workers started laughing, and we realized they weren’t signaling impending disaster—they’d just seen the bearded lady, who apparently was hanging around, waiting for more non-Tweeting paparazzi. The only good thing was that I discovered I wasn’t the only one who was deathly afraid of scaffolding.

The Clown Tent: Next, we went across the street to a small optometrist’s shop to get my glasses adjusted. We were in line behind an elderly lady with rosy cheeks and silvery-white hair. She was complaining that her glasses were loose, and the optometrist was adjusting them as she prattled on about needing them for things like knitting. Then he handed them to her to try and she turned around to face us. Instead of cute little wire-framed granny glasses, she was wearing giant, round, thick black frames that magnified her eyes to 5 times their size. My colleague and I looked at each other in shock, then spent the next few minutes trying NOT to fall on the floor in hysterics. Seriously, all she needed was a fake nose and moustache, and she would have been right at home on the Groucho Marx Show.


The Invisible Girl: Finally, we made it back to the office. We got on the elevator, still laughing at the three-ring spectacle we’d experienced, when several other people got into the elevator car and I took a step backwards. “Ahem,” came a voice from behind me. I turned around in shock and realized that I had backed into a girl standing in the corner of the elevator. Where the hell had she COME from? I was sure she hadn’t been there when we got on. She was like a mean ghost, giving me really dirty looks, and was less than impressed when my colleague and I kept looking at each other, trying to be serious, then dissolving into laughter again. When we got to our floor and got off the elevator, I said to my colleague, “Did YOU see that girl?” He replied that he hadn’t either. Which led me to this question: If your superpower is invisibility, can’t you think of a better use for it than hiding in elevators and then getting pissed off at people when they step on you?

So, yep, Toronto is a crazy circus town most days. But unlike a real circus, where you can breathe in the intoxicating scent of cotton candy and caramel apples, the Toronto circus bowls you over with the off-putting stench of urine and garbage. Ah, Toronto, you crazy, smelly town.