My Week 91: Aquacide, Ken Needs Help

Friday: I make an unwitting confession

I love fish. Not so much to eat—if given a choice, I’d much rather have steak—but as far as living organisms go, I’ve got a tremendous fondness for the wee, finned ones. We have 2 ponds on our property, both stocked with goldfish, and until recently, we had a pond at our cottage, also inhabited by over a dozen swimmers of all colour variations. And then, of course, there’s Mishima, who lives in a tank on the kitchen island. He’s a narcissistic diva, but over the last 4 years, we’ve come to an understanding. He doesn’t trash me on his Twitter feed (@tweetsoffish), and I feed him. It’s a deal that benefits him more than me, to be honest, because while he can be rather cutting, he is still just a fish, and his opinion of me is just about as compelling as Donald Trump congratulating Scotland on Brexit. Scotland responded exactly the way I do with Mishima, which is to roll my eyes and call him a “mangled apricot hellbeast” But Mishima doesn’t realize just how lucky he is, considering my actual track record of keeping fish alive. Over the years, Ken and I (although it was almost always Ken’s fault except for my last example) have had several unfortunate “incidents” with our fish.

5 years ago, we had 6 beautiful goldfish in the pond nearest our house. We’d had them for over three years, and they were all healthy and about 4 good inches long. In order to help them survive the winter, we always put a trough heater in the water to keep it above freezing—none of our ponds have EVER (do you hear that, Ken), EVER been deep enough for the fish to actually dig in and hibernate, or whatever it is that fish do. So that October, in went the trough heater. Unfortunately, we had both forgotten that earlier in the year, one of our spruce trees had been struck by lightning. The charge had traveled through the ground, into the house, and out the other side, wreaking electrical havoc to a lot of our wiring. Ken had repaired it all—EXCEPT for the outside outlet that the trough heater was plugged into. Bear in mind that the subsequent events were NOT his fault. This time. Two day later, he looked out an upstairs window, and then ran downstairs in a panic. Apparently, the trough heater had shorted out, overheated, and evaporated ALL the water in the pond. There was nothing left. Just some sludge, and 6 tiny carcasses. I actually cried at the thought of their suffering, even though they would have forgotten about it at 3 second intervals. We had a solemn memorial for Goldie 1, Goldie 2, Spot, Blackie, Whitey, and Goldie 3 (yes, I know those are pathetically unoriginal names, but they were f*cking ACCURATE).

The next year, I drained and scrubbed the ponds out until they sparkled. Then we got new fish, and divided them between the back pond and the smaller one in front of it. Things were going well, the little fellas swimming around merrily, until I bought a pond plant for the front pond. Ken took it upon himself to “plant” it by plunging it into the water. The soil dispersed and the water became super-murky and dirty. 4 days later, when the sediment finally settled, the fish had all suffocated. It was too sad—I hadn’t even had time to name them yet, and one of them had stripes so I was looking forward to adding “Stripey” to my repertoire. The same thing happened the next year, when we put a new pond in the back by Ken’s workshop. Some people just never learn, I guess, and this time 2 out of the 6 fish we had just bought perished in the dirt storm. We ultimately ended up with only three fish in that pond, the circumstances of which you can read about in My Week 34: Ken is Sometimes Right, in which he was not.

As for the cottage, we went through 2 rounds of fish. The first year we put in a pond, Ken was convinced that it was deep enough that they would all survive the winter. They did not. The next year we bought new fish, over a dozen, and they did really well until this past winter. It was supermild for the first couple of months, and Ken was convinced that the fish would be fine. Finally, in November, he deemed it cold enough to put the heater in. This spring, we went up and took out the heater. There were no fish. At which point, Ken suddenly remembered that while he had put the heater in the pond, he had forgotten to actually plug it in.

Now before you think that this post is simply a vehicle to bash Ken and his fish-hating ways, or subtly imply that he is a fish murderer, the truth is that his actions were all unpremeditated and without malice. When it comes to aquacide, unfortunately, it’s me who should be vilified. I did what I did with the best of intentions, but no secret can stay hidden forever. Especially when you can’t remember who knows about it. On Friday, K and I were out together; she’d offered to take me out to buy her some clothes. It was a short-lived trip, since I’m still having post-surgery issues with standing and walking, but on the way back, we had this conversation:

Me: I like this song, but I don’t get the lyrics. Why does he say, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”? That’s not very romantic. Like “You make me numb to sensation.” Weird.
K: It’s not actually about a girl. It’s about taking drugs. It’s metaphorical.
Me: Really? That’s even weirder.
K: You can take it either way, I guess. It could be about a woman, it could be about drugs.
Me: Oh, like that 9 Inch Nails song “The Perfect Drug”. It sounds like it’s about a woman but Trent Reznor said it’s about drinking a lot of absinthe.
K: What’s absinthe?
Me: It’s a really potent alcohol with wormwood in it. Wormwood is a kind of drug, so if you drink a lot of absinthe, you have crazy hallucinations. It’s what I killed your fish with.
K: I—Whuh?! YOU KILLED MY FISH???!!!!

Apparently, I had forgotten that I’d never told K that I killed her beta fish when she was 5 years old. But before you think I’m a heartless killer, let me explain. “Jarry” (K named him that because he came in a jar. You can tell she’s inherited my ability to choose imaginative names for things) was a red beta that had lived in K’s room for 2 years. Then he suddenly developed something called “Beta Bloat Disease” which is really gross. The fish gets all bloated and it can’t swim—it just bobs on the surface of the water gasping for air. So one day, when K was out with Ken, I researched the best way to euthanize a fish. Turns out that pouring really strong alcohol into the tank is the quickest and most painless, so that’s what I did. With absinthe. And why did I have absinthe? No, I’m not some kind of Victorian deviant; my brother brought it back from Hungary just so we could see what it was like. I don’t recommend it, because there’s hardly any wormwood in most brands anymore and while it made us a little tipsy, it also tasted pretty yucky, so it wasn’t worth it. Anyway, K was pretty appalled by my unwitting admission:

K: I can’t believe you killed my fish! Why didn’t you discuss it with me first?!
Me: You were five. What was I supposed to say? “Hey, your fish is dying so I’m just going to help him on his way by poisoning him with this blue sh*t”?
K: You could have said it in a way that a child could understand, like “Your fish is sick, so I’m going to give him medicine to make him go to sleep”.
Me: I didn’t want to upset you.
K: And then Dad killed my Sea Monkeys by not feeding them when I was away. You’re quite the pair.
Me: You know they weren’t actually monkeys, right?  They were worms or larvae or something.
K: Still.

She eventually forgave me for my aquacide, which I swear I did with the best of intentions. But somehow, Mishima must have gotten wind of the entire thing, because last night when I opened a bottle of wine, he started screaming, “Put the bottle down and back away from the tank! BACK AWAY FROM THE TANK!!” And I’m pretty sure I just guaranteed that he will never subtweet me again.


Saturday: Ken needs my help

Ken is a pretty self-sufficient guy. He’s really good at taking care of me, but he hardly ever needs my help. I can only remember two actual times before yesterday that he asked me to help him, aside from steadying things he’s trying to cut or hammer, holding one end of a measuring tape, or proofreading something for him. I mean the serious kind of help, like emergency help. Once, he was really sick, and asked me to make him pudding. The other time he set himself on fire and needed my help to put him out. I knew he was really in trouble because he started screaming “Help me!” and rolling around on the floor. Turns out that he was leaning against the stove while he was boiling potatoes, his shirt touched the element, and up he went. Thank god he has this weird habit of always wearing two shirts—it was the only thing that saved him from being badly burned. When I got him put out, he just lay there panting, then said, “Thanks.” When he got up, I saw the scorch marks on the wooden floor where he was rolling and realized that it could have been so much worse.

Then on Saturday, I thought we had another emergency situation. He decided to finally trim the door of the shed by the driveway. For years, I’d been asking him to do it, because the door would only open partway then get stuck. He kept saying , “Yeah, yeah” until yesterday when he wanted to put our lifejackets away.

Me: What are you going to do now?
Ken: I need to put the lifejackets away, which means I have to open the shed door, which means I have to take the door off the shed and trim it so it will open.
Me: Great thought process. I’ll watch from the balcony.

So I watched him do it, since I’m still post-surgery and couldn’t actually help him. I was sitting on the balcony half-watching and drinking a glass of wine, when suddenly I heard a slam, and Ken yelling, “Help!! I’m locked in the shed!!” Apparently, the shed was on a bit of a lean, and now that the door wasn’t stuck on the decking anymore, the weight of it caused it to swing shut. On Ken. I yelled back, “Don’t worry! I’m coming!” but the problem was, he couldn’t hear me, being locked in the shed and all, and I was upstairs on the balcony, probably the furthest point in the house from the shed. I started to slowly make my way down—I couldn’t go any faster thanks to my “hundreds of internal sutures”, and the whole way, I could hear him pounding on the walls. I started getting all panicky and teary at the thought of my beloved husband there in the dark, not knowing if he was going to be rescued any time soon, possibly starting to suffocate. I kept yelling, “I’m coming!!” but the hammering continued. When I finally got to the shed and opened the door, there he was. He turned and smiled at me.

“I was so worried,” I said. “I could hear you pounding the walls—I’m sorry I couldn’t get here faster.”

“Pounding the walls?” he said. “No, I figured you’d come eventually. I was just putting up some hooks for the lifejackets. That’s why I was hammering. I’m just about finished—just prop open the door for me for a second so I don’t get locked in again.”

It’s nice to be needed.


My Week 90: On Being Lucky, Summer School Stories Part Two

This is a commentary on being lucky. You might wonder why I feel that way, since I’m currently recovering from a major surgery that came upon me rather unexpectedly, and has pretty much ruined June. But I AM lucky. First, because the surgery went well, and I’ve had no complications. I came home right on schedule, and I’ve been able to recuperate in my own bed, surrounded by family and friends. However, because I can’t do much of anything, I’ve been watching a lot of TV and I’ve had a front row seat to all the horrible things that have happened in the last couple of weeks. The Orlando massacre, the shooting of a young singer, the assassination of a British MP, alligator and dog attacks, children being used as payment for debts—the list just keeps going. So I lie here and realize that, despite how lousy I feel, I have it pretty good.

First, in honour of Father’s Day, I’m married to a man who is not only a great dad but a wonderful husband. This last couple of weeks has been hard on him because he’s had to do EVERYTHING. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, gardening, waiting on me hand and foot, and a ton of other stuff, and he’s never once complained. I’ll admit I’ve been a baffling patient—I’ve had a couple of weird mood swings, most likely a combination of stress, hormones, and pain meds:

Me: When you come home from university on the weekends, I’ll make you lots of food to take back, Okay K?
K (rolls eyes): Sure, Mom.
Me: See, Ken? She’ll never come home. I’ll never see her again.
Ken: Don’t worry—you’ll still have me.
Me: SHUT UP, KEN!! (buries head in hands and sobs uncontrollably)
Ken: I was only joking…

And then on Friday:

Ken (on phone): What’s wrong? Why are you crying?!
Me: I asked my aunts to take me to the store so I could get you a Father’s Day present and there wasn’t ANYTHING! (Sobs) I have nothing to give y-y-you. I started crying in the store and had to leave.
Ken: God, don’t worry about it, honey. I didn’t expect you to go shopping for me.
Me: But you always get me such nice presents and I have nothing for YOU!! (Sobs uncontrollably)
Ken: Just tell me what you wanted to get me and I’ll buy it myself.
Me (wailing) Sandals!!
Ken: Um…okay.

But then later that day, K went shopping for Father’s Day and she offered to get me something for Ken. After a lot texting back and forth, and sending pictures of things Ken might like, she bought Ken pants for me, even though I had specified shorts. I said to K, “It says ‘32 inch inseam’. How long did you think these shorts WERE?” and she responded in usual teen fashion with “How the hell do I know how long 32 inches is? They were on the shorts table.” But it’s all good, because Ken liked them anyway. And he’s still going to buy himself sandals. Why does he need sandals, you might ask? Because in the spring, I may or may not have thrown his old sandals away during a particularly enthusiastic closet-cleaning session. I admit to nothing but the possibility.

Aside from shopping for me, K has also been wonderful in her own teenaged way, watching TV with me and letting me make her afterschool snacks while she naps, just like old times. And sometimes she even answers my texts, which is really good of her.

I’m also lucky to have a really supportive family. Everyone has been checking in regularly, and my aunts have even been weeding my flower gardens. I never have to worry about discovering that my family members have been secretly plotting against ANYTHING, or are members of the Westboro Baptist Church (because then I would know they were truly stupid and evil and would definitely have to disown them). My parents are currently on a cruise they planned months ago, but they’ve been emailing whenever they have wifi access that doesn’t cost a fortune. And just to clarify, my dad is alive and well—I posted a Father’s Day message to Ken and Dad on Facebook in which I said my dad was a great father and that he was currently “wandering the fjords”. Then I got worried that people might think it was a euphemism for being dead, you know, like “Poor Dad—he’s finally able to wander the fjords in eternal peace.” But actually, he’s just in Norway, not beyond the veil eternal.

The next reason why I’m lucky is because I’m recuperating in my own town instead of the big city. I live in a great little place, population around 500 people, and it’s quiet and pretty. I have super neighbours who would help you out with anything; in fact, two of them messaged me to say that if I needed any help, to call them and they would come over. And they would bring wine, which officially makes them the best neighbours ever. My only concern right now is that the lady on the corner sold her house, and the new neighbours moved in. Only they moved in at night. And by morning, the moving truck was gone and we haven’t seen anyone there since. Now, it’s not like we ever saw the previous owner—she was elderly and ill, and the only reason we even knew the house was occupied was from the coming and going of home help nurses, and the occasional arrival of an ambulance. But still, it made me a little curious, and I made Ken watch from the window:

Me: Can you see anything?
Ken: A couch, I think.
Me: Do you see any hydroponic growing stations? Large quantities of antihistamines?
Ken: No, just regular furniture. I’m sure they’re normal people.
Me: I don’t think a grow-op or a meth lab would be good for property values. Keep watching.
Ken (rolls eyes): Right.

So, aside from a potential house of ill repute in my neighbourhood, and full-on sobby mood swings, I find myself in a small pocket of loveliness, protected from the horrors of the world around me by the amazing people in my life, decorated with flowers from my garden and flowers from my work colleagues. And that, my friends, makes me an extremely lucky woman.


And now, just to lighten the mood, I present Summer School Stories Round 2. If you’re not sure about the context, you can read the intro from last week. Hope you enjoy the shenanigans from 2013:


Summer School Day One: Let the Games Begin

After the 100s of kids who needed to register, the parents making demands, the buses that didn’t show up, and a grand mal seizure in the middle of the registration line, we made it through the day. Of all the reasons to switch classes (which we normally don’t allow), this was my favourite:

Student: I need to change my math class. I know you don’t usually allow it, but I really need to.
Me: Why?
Student: The teacher I have today is the same one who failed me last week.
Me: So you think you’ll have a better chance with someone new?
Student: Yeah, I hope so!

Fun at Summer School Day Two: There Are No Secrets Anymore

After 20 minutes of parents tearing a strip off their daughter for lying to them in order to get a letter of permission to change classes so she could be with her boyfriend, this is what the mother and father finally said (both with lovely East Indian accents):

Mother: All right, I’m sick of this bullsh*t. I’ve been keeping your secret from Daddy, and now I’m going to tell him what you did. (To father) She didn’t get any of her credits last semester. She failed everything!!!
Father: WHAT???!!!
Me: OK, so I think we have a couple of different issues here…..

Fun at Summer School Day 3: Who’s On First? I Don’t Know…

Me: So, Ms. Le, our student Trang says she has to switch classes to make your “counselling” appointments. Where exactly are you located?
Young Girl: 26 B_____ Crescent.
Me: And where is that?
Young Girl: My house.
Me: Yes, but where do you live?
Young Girl: Toronto.
Me: She has to go to Toronto 3 days a week to see you for counselling?
Young Girl: No, she comes to my house.
Me: But where are you located?
Young Girl: 26 Br______ Crescent.
Me: Yes, but where is that?! What city?
Young Girl: In Kitchener, but I live in Toronto.
Me: OK, I’m going to say No to the switch and suggest that maybe you make the “counselling” sessions for later in the day. You’re not a real counselor, are you?
Young Girl: Not really, no.

Fun at Summer School Day 4: The Name Game

Me: So the bus driver tells me that on Friday, you were refusing to sit down while the bus was moving, and when he asked your name, you told him it was “Mohammed Mohammed”. I’m going to guess that’s not your name.
Short White Boy: (mumbles) No.
Me: What IS your name?
Short White Boy: (sheepishly) Kevin.
Me: OK Kevin, from now on you do as the bus driver tells you, or you won’t be riding the bus anymore.
Short White Boy: (mumbles) OK.

Fun at Summer School Day 4: Shots For Breakfast

Female Student: Why are you kicking me out? I wasn’t doing anything. It’s not fair!
Me: Look, you have two absences and two lates for a 9 day Careers program. You were sleeping in class and then you swore at the teacher. You’re being demitted.
Female Student: Why are you being so mean this year? Everybody thinks so–it’s not just me. Other people think you’re being mean too, you know.
Me: (sigh) If you keep refusing to leave the building, I’ll have to get the police to issue you a trespass notice.
Female Student: Blah, blah, blah….

When I looked at her Twitter feed later, the most notable entry for that morning was “Shots for breakfast!” Explains a lot.

Not So Fun at Summer School Day 5:

One of our day school students went to buy a new baseball bat, then came to the office to get his report card. When he left, he was accosted at the bus stop by a thug who tried to steal the bat, threatened him and then chased him–he ran through the parking lot and into the refuge of our building. Here’s part of the conversation, which reminds me why I love kids:

Student: He chased me from the bus stop to the parking lot. Thank god I did track for 4 years. I didn’t think he’d be able to catch me.
Me: Plus you had the baseball bat in case he did.
Student: Are you kidding?! I could never hit someone with a baseball bat!

Kudos to all the kids out there who could never conceive of harming another human being over a baseball bat, or for any other reason.

Fun at Summer School Day 6: Shots for Breakfast, Shots for Lunch

Me: So if you hadn’t been drinking, then why were you throwing up in the bathroom?
Drunk Girl (slurring): I have a cold.
Me: Right. The bathroom smelled like a bar.
Drunk Girl (excitedly): Which bar?
Me: All of them!!

Fun at Summer School Day 8: Pikachu Rules

After an exhausting morning with a couple of 15 year-old drug dealers, and the police, and their parents, and mental health workers, I had to deal with another couple of kids who had been reported as doing something suspicious on the school bus, maybe involving drugs.

Me: So what exactly were you and your friend doing on the bus that might have worried the bus driver?
Student: Well, we were playing Pokémon on my friend’s Nintendo DS…
Me: Were you passing it back and forth?
Student: Yes.
Me: What were you talking about?
Student: Just Pokémon stuff. I was thinking up a name for my friend’s avatar. I said he should call it Loveknobs. That’s British for…well…Am I in trouble for that?
Me: (trying not to laugh) No, you’re good. Go on back to class.

Fun at Summer School Day 9: Are You F*ing Kidding Me?

Me: So if your son wasn’t doing anything, can you explain why he carries rolling papers and a grinder in his school backpack?
Father of 15 Year-Old: Well, the boy smokes a little pot. I let him smoke sometimes at home with his friends. Better to do it at home than run wild on the streets…
Me: (looks to heaven for divine assistance–cannot find anything polite to say in response).

Fun at Summer School Day 11: What Not To Wear

Me: So I just wanted to have a word with you about your daughter and some dress code issues. Did she tell you why she came home yesterday?
Mother: No…
Me: Well, she was wearing a tank top that said “Smoke Meth and Hail Satan. We asked her to cover up or turn it inside out, and she chose not to do that.
Mother: (exasperated) Oh my god! She’s going through a terrible phase right now. It’s been almost a year and we just keep praying it’ll be over soon.
Me: And today she’s wearing a bra. Just a bra. I’d appreciate it if you could talk to her about wardrobe choices. I know it’s hot outside, but our air conditioning works really well.
Mother: Yes, of course. Thanks for calling.

Fun at Summer School Day 12: Hindsight is 20/20

Me: So your daughter left her class, went out for a cigarette, and then was hostile and rude when we asked her where she’d been. I’m sending her home for the rest of the day.
Mother: If she apologizes, can she come back tomorrow? She’s actually passing and her attendance has been good. I know sometimes she needs to work on her attitude….
Me: I can accept that. Bring her in tomorrow. If she’s willing to apologize, she can continue in her course.

10 minutes later….

Teacher: That’s the girl who came into my class last week, and when I told her to go back to her own class, she called me a b*tch!!
Me: If I’d only known that 10 minutes ago. Sigh.

I guess this girl was going to be saying sorry to quite a few people tomorrow.

Fun at Summer School Day 13: Hindsight Might Be 20/20, But Payback Is Sweet

Our little charmer from yesterday returned this morning. After some sulky, half-hearted apologies, she went back to class on the understanding that she would be polite and punctual from now on. At the end of first break, she refused to go back to class when it was time, then launched a string of profanities at Donna, culminating in her exclaiming to me, “F*ck all this!” and storming out when I asked her to stay in the office. I called her mom and explained that I’d removed her permanently. 5 minutes later, the phone rang again:

Secretary: It’s that student you just demitted. She wants to know why she was kicked out.

I picked up the phone just in time to hear this:

Student: Answer the f*cking phone!!
Me: THAT’S why you were kicked out! Goodbye.

Fun at Summer School Day 13: Sorry Is The Hardest Word To Say

Me: I have no interest in interrupting Ms. ___ during class, so you can write her a letter of apology.
Student: (rolling eyes) What am I supposed to say?
Me: What would you normally say in this kind of circumstance?
Student: Um…’I’m sorry that I called you a b*tch’?
Me: (sigh) Think of a way to say it a little more politely.

Fun at Summer School Day 14: XXXShakepeareXXX

The 4UI English students were asked to write an original scene for King Lear. One student strayed from the provided scenarios and handed in a script, properly formatted, lines numbered, with asides, stage directions, and lovely Shakespearean diction. Unfortunately it was also Shakespearean porn. Here’s a sample:

France: Enough of this talk. Unsheath thy sword. Let my hands wield it. Nothing will come between us.
Burgundy: Nothing!  [sex]…
[Enter servant]
France: Do you remember the beating we discussed?
Servant: I do, my Lord
France: Good, very good.
Cordelia: I knew it! How could anyone not see this? The rainbows, your low-calorie ale. It all points to this…

Seven pages of R-rated Shakespeare. Made my day.

Fun at Summer School Day 14: It’s Because He’s Invisible

Me: (to student) Your attendance is a bit of an issue. You have 3 absences now.
Secretary: I think Frank talked to her.
Me: (to student): Did you talk to the other supervisor about your attendance?
Student: Who?
Me: (pointing) The man who sits over there.
Student: (looking completely confused) But there’s no one sitting there…
Me: (trying not to laugh) No, the man who usually sits there. He’s not here right now.
Student: Oh. Yeah, I don’t know.

Fun at Summer School Day 15: Part I

Me: So your son didn’t go to class this morning–he was seen with a group of people going downtown. Do you have any way to contact him and tell him he needs to come back to school?
Father: You’re kidding! I dropped him off myself. No, we’ve already taken away his cell phone, his Ipod, and a lot of other things.
Me: So, not a lot left for leverage, huh?
Father: No, not much. I’ll go drive around and see if I can find him.

Fun at Summer School Day 15: Part II – It Must Have Been Telepathy

Me: So, you went downtown this morning. Your father was pretty upset.
Student: No, it’s ok. I talked to him and he said to tell you it was ok.
Me: How exactly did you speak to him?
Student: On my cell phone.
Me: That’s interesting because your father said he’d taken away your cell phone.
Student: Oh. (quietly) Sh*t.

Fun at Summer School Day 16: Awkward Family Moments

After lunch had started, one of our students came into the office, literally being half-carried/half-dragged by her mother on one side and her sister on the other. She could barely walk, and had the pallor of something out of The Exorcist.

Mother: We’re trying to figure out how to get her up to her classroom.
Me: Absolutely not. Take her home now.
Mother: (blank stare)
Me: Seriously, your daughter is much too sick to be in class. She needs to go home.
Mother: Oh…

At this point, they slowly turned around and left. One minute later the mother was back.

Mother: Is it OK if we use the elevator?
Me: Yes! Use the elevator! To take her down to the parking lot, right?! It’s fine!

Seriously, folks–it was the most bizarre thing I’d seen in ages.

Fun at Summer School Day 16: Baby? What Baby?

Me: So your son hasn’t been to school for the last two days…
Mother: I don’t understand–I gave him money to get there yesterday.
Me: I’m sorry but he hasn’t been here since Tuesday. He came in and said he had to go to the hospital right away because your other son’s girlfriend had gone into labour and was about to have a baby.
Mother: Pardon ME?! A baby?! Uh, no. I’ll make sure he’s there tomorrow to write his exam.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when that kid got home, lol.



My Week 89: Summer School Stories 2014

So as you may or may not know, I’m currently recovering from a particularly nasty surgery. I haven’t been able to focus much on anything this week, thanks to the drugs, let alone anything remotely amusing, mostly because it REALLY hurts to laugh. But because I care about you, gentle Reader, I have prepared in advance for your viewing pleasure, a variety of incidents that I was involved in during my tenure as a Summer School Supervisor at a make-up credit site. No, that doesn’t mean the students were there to learn about make-up, which would be all kinds of awesome—it means that they all failed a course and were there to “make it up”. Which also means that I was in charge of a building full of almost 1000 VERY unhappy teenagers. Many of them just put their heads down and powered through, but there were inevitably the kids who had difficulty with sticking to the 3 week program. We had no choice except to remove students for infractions like poor attendance (the Ministry of Education required that they put in so many hours to “make up” the original credit), or for drug/alcohol use, or other inappropriate behaviours. It certainly kept me, my school supervision monitors Donna and Roy (not their real names), and other assorted staff on our toes. So here you go—memories from 2014.

summer school


Fun at Summer School Day 1: And We’re Off!

All things considered, a pretty quiet day by our usual standards.

Favourite conversation of the day:

Student: I have to go get my cast fixed. I broke my arm two days ago skateboarding, and now I’ve wrecked my cast.
Me: That must hurt.
Student: Well, the government’s to blame. They put fresh hot tar on the hill I went down, and my skateboard got stuck.

Damn the government and their hot tar.

Fun at Summer School Day 2: Who’s On First?

Me (to very small blond boy): So why are you outside my office?
Boy: Ask my teacher.
Me: Did she send you here?
Boy: No, I came myself.
Me: Why?
Boy: You’ll have to ask my teacher.
Me: But if you came up yourself, and she didn’t send you, YOU need to tell me why you’re here.
Boy: You should call her and ask her.
Me: OK, let’s just clarify. You came here, she didn’t send you, so I need YOU to tell me why you’re standing outside the office. Are we clear on this?
Boy (mutters sadly): Everything is so stupid.
Me (sigh): Let’s go back to the beginning.

Fun at Summer School Day 3: A Hooker Is A Person In Your Neighbourhood

 This morning, Donna, Roy and I decided to go around the back of the hill surrounding the school’s field to see if any students were lurking in the woods.

Donna (whispering): We’ve got movement–there’s a couple of people over there.
Me (whispering): Are they students? What are they…OH MY GOD!

…As the middle-aged man zipped up his pants, and his elderly female companion got to her feet. Icky icky.

Fun at Summer School Day 3 – Later The Same Day: A Dealer Is A Person In Your Neighbourhood

Little Grade Nine Girl: Um, I thought I should report this. Today, I was eating lunch on the hill and a man came up to me and said, ‘Hello. Would you like to buy some weed?’ It really freaked me out.
Us: What did you do?!
Girl: I screamed NO and ran away. A couple of other students came to help me and see if I was OK.
Me: You go back to class and I’ll call you if the police want to speak to you. If it’s any consolation, I doubt if he would have hurt you. He probably really only wanted to sell you the weed.
Girl: Yeah. I didn’t have any money anyway. It was really creepy. I live in a small neighbourhood.
Donna: Welcome to OUR neighbourhood.

Fun at Summer School Day 5: Horseheads and Mockingbirds

Things continued quietly. Big excitement of the day was confiscating a horsehead mask (which Roy kept unwittingly enunciating as a “whore’s head mask”, much to our enjoyment) from a student who was wandering around at lunch creeping people out. Favourite conversation was the following:

Student: I need to drop my English course.
Me: OK. Do you have any textbooks to return?
Student: No. (pause) I have a book though.
Me: Is it a textbook?
Student: No. It’s just a book. (gives me a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird)
Me: Did you like it?
Student: Meh.
Me: Great. Thanks for the ‘book’.

Fun at Summer School Day 7: The Spies Are Everywhere:

Me (to grade 10 student): So what were you doing out of class for almost half an hour?
Student: Well, I finished my quiz, so I went outside. I was going to have a cigarette, but I saw my mom’s boyfriend drive by. She doesn’t let me smoke.
Me: Yeah, well I don’t let you smoke either. You know how you’re not allowed to leave class to smoke during regular school?
Student looks puzzled.
Me: OK, well maybe you smoke during class at regular school but you know you’re not allowed to, right? It’s just like that here. Except that if I catch you smoking during class time, I’ll remove you from summer school. Got it?
Student (nods enthusiastically and goes to leave): Yep. Have a nice day!

Fun at Summer School Day 7: Best Conversation So Far:

Roy: (over walkie talkie): Hey Suzanne, are you available?”
Me: Yes?
Roy: Meet me out by the dumpster.

Fun at Summer School Day 8: Siegfried or Roy?

While standing on the top of the hill by the school while looking for one of our errant charges, Donna, Roy, and I spotted a figure lying on a blanket in the middle of the grass at the end of the football field where our Grade 8 students were playing games. The figure was mostly nude and glistening in the sunlight. As we approached, we realized it was an older man with a mane of long, golden hair, wearing nothing but a tiny Speedo and a lot of baby oil. Roy offered to make the initial approach.

Roy: Excuse me, sir, but you can’t lie there.
Man: I’m a security guard. I know what I can’t do. This is public property.
Donna: Actually, this is a schoolyard. It’s private property and you can’t be here.
Man (getting up): Well, you can have your opinion. I work in security, so I won’t cause any problems, even though I don’t see why I can’t be here.
Donna (gesturing): There are children playing right over there!
Man (indignantly, gathering up his things): Now you’re making me feel like some kind of pervert!

Then he stalked off, wearing only the speedo, and carrying only a pair of crocs, his blanket, and the baby oil. As we watched him slowly get smaller as he walked down the field towards the road, I said nothing, because I was trying so hard not to laugh.

Fun at Summer School Day 10: Perhaps A Little Claritin Would Help

The day started well, but after break, we were passed quickly on the stairs by a student wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt (go figure) who reeked of marijuana. He disappeared but we followed him to class based solely on the vapour trail he left behind. He took off and left the property, where he dumped his stash into a sewer. We were sad to inform him that we were going to have to part ways. Later, after catching two other students smoking up behind the church during class, we searched their backpacks. After pulling out of one student’s bag a pipe, grinder full of pot, cleaning tools, and so on, this conversation ensued:

Donna: Good Lord, you have TWO bottles of Visine?!
Student (sullenly): Maybe I have allergies.
Me: Or maybe you just smoke a LOT of pot.
Student (sighs, looks down): Yeah.

Needless to say, neither of them would be getting their credits this summer.

Fun at Summer School Day 11: Bank Those Sick Days!

Student: I’m not feeling well. Can I sign out?
Me: Sure. How many absences do you have?”
Student: Only one so far.
Me: No problem–you’re allowed up to two.
Student: Oh…in that case, I’ll stay. I’ll save the other one for a time when I really need it.

Fun at Summer School Day 11: Society’s To Blame

Father of student demitted yesterday for marijuana use: I think you should be more lenient. You’re responsible for his education and now he’s lost his chance to graduate at the end of next year…
Me: I’m sorry but he will NOT be allowed back into summer school.
Father (rants): Too many foreigners at the universities…all white students smoke drugs….recession…John Howard Society will corrupt him by exposing him to more druggies…he’ll be bored at home and get into more trouble…he was fine until he went to high school…there should be more police at the schools because he’s not used to them and he was nervous….
Me: These are bigger issues than I’m prepared to deal with. At any rate, the outcome’s the same.

He eventually left. Wow.

Fun at Summer School Day 12: There Are Those Who Call Me Tim…

Towards the end of the day, there was a commotion in the foyer. Donna and Roy investigated and brought back a very sullen young man.

Me: What class are you supposed to be in right now?
Student: I don’t know…
Donna: This isn’t a trick question. Where should you be right now?
Student (gestures vaguely): Up there.
Me: What’s your name?
Student: Elton.
Me: What’s your last name?
Student: Quan.

Donna took him upstairs while I checked attendance. His actual name was nothing remotely like “Elton Quan”. I went upstairs.

Me: Your name isn’t Elton Quan, it’s –blank–.
Student: I have 5 different names that I go by. (Etc. etc., more annoying responses, foul language.)

The upshot was that Elton and all his other names were removed from Summer School. The teacher told us later that he was asked to leave class for continually pulling the hair of the girl in front of him.

Fun at Summer School Day 13: Oh, And One Last Thing…

Student: Can I sign out?
Me: Hey, you’re the guy who was late from lunch the other day because you were outside dancing.
Student: What? I wasn’t dancing–I was flexing my muscles in the window reflection!
Me (laughing): Well, call your mom and get permission to leave.
Student (on phone with mother): Well, I’m done all my work, I wrote my quiz and got perfect, and (whispering) I thought if I came home early it would be OK cuz you said we could do that thing….remember–the headphones? You said we could go get the headphones if my marks were good?…(to me) Um, I vomited, so I’m sick.

Student passes me the phone so I can talk to mom.

Mom (laughing affectionately): Ok, I told him just this once. But he has to stay all next week and no fooling around.

Fun at Summer School Day 14: Power Napping

Me (to student): You can finish writing your test in this classroom here. Let me know when you’re done.
Student: OK, thanks.

An hour later, after break, I went by the room and the lights were out. I walked in, they turned on automatically, and the same student just about jumped out of his desk.

Me: Why are you sitting in the dark?!
Student: Uh…I think someone came in and turned the lights off.
Me: No, they turn off automatically…wait a minute…were you asleep?!
Student (sheepishly): Um….

 Fun at Summer School Day 15: My Mad Math Skills

Example One:

Father: My son is in Civics. It’s only a 9 day course so he’s done today, right?
Me (mentally confused): No, he still has class tomorrow.
Me, later to secretary: Civics started on the 15th, right? So tomorrow makes it 9 days?
Secretary: Yes.
Me (relieved): Oh good.

Example Two:

Student Writing Exam Early: This question says to calculate the answer based on 6.3 hours. Is that like 6 and a half hours?
Me (mentally confused): That sounds like it might be right, but I’ll ask and find out. Roy, is 6.3 hours the same as 6 and a half?
Roy: No, it’s….(some gobbledy-gook math response).
Me: Yeah, that makes sense. So can you explain it to the student please?

Example Three:

Awesome Math Teacher Guy: So then I ask them to calculate the line…space time continuum…infinity…Einstein (maybe..?) and then the thing…
Me: I love the way you tell a story.

My Week 88: Soccer vs. Rugby, Donald Trump’s Imaginary Friend

Wednesday: What’s up, soccer?

Right now, especially in Toronto, 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 soccer. Yes, the so-called “beautiful game.” Which, in my opinion, is just about as exciting as watching a haircut. And of the many issues I have with soccer, here’s the first:

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? Cuz that’s what everyone east of North America (Or is it west? Actually I think it’s both) calls it. But here in North America, you PLAY soccer, but you GO to a football game. (And where does this leave American-style football? We should just call THAT “cheap-ass rugby for people who are afraid to tackle each other without full body armour”. Put that on a t-shirt. It’ll take up the front AND the back, but at least people will know what you’re cheering for.) 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 a trick to fool the Americans, like “Teehee, let’s convince them it’s really called soccer, so we can look down at them for THAT too.”

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not a true 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—GAWD), and you end up with a score of “nobody to sh*t-all”; it’s incredibly time-wasting. In fact, I know people who PVR soccer games, then just play it 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 7s. Plus there’s tackling in rugby. The legal kind, not the sucky sneaky, slide-y kind, which is another thing that frustrates me about international play. 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.

soccer player

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 Kate was 4, she wanted to play soccer. We took her 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 and started finding amazing things in the clouds, and there was Kate with her 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.)

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, so I’d just tuck the dandelion behind my ear, smile and say, “Awesome! Now get back out there and kick that ball!” 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 quite being sure who scored, and the other team’s keeper crying. But as Kate 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 to see the same little girl who was plucking grass just a few years before now maneuvering 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. If you did that in rugby, you’d get laughed off the field. And what the hell do you know about rugby anyway, lady? 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 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 an Ohio tournament that left her with a fractured jaw. And then having to call her mother and explain what was going on. Or having to tell one of the best scrumhalfs I’d ever had that he couldn’t play the rest of the season because he was on his second major concussion and I wanted him to be able to remember his own name when he was forty. 18 years old and he sobbed like his heart was broken, but he understood, and still came to every game to support his team. 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.

Saturday: Donald Trump has an imaginary friend

Today, I was listening to an interview between Donald Trump and some guy named Jake Tapper about Trump’s racist comments regarding the judge overseeing the lawsuit filed against his fake-ass college. As I listened to the interview, I realized that the Trump was having an entirely different conversation with an imaginary interviewer. I came to this conclusion because every time Jake Tapper asked him if his statements about the judge were racist, he would say, “I’m building a wall”, or other unconnected statements:

Tapper: Why do you keep calling the judge Mexican? He was born in Indiana.
Trump: I’m building a wall.
Tapper: What does his heritage have to do with anything? He’s American.
Trump: My college is an excellent college. Everyone thinks so.
Tapper: Don’t you think you’re being racist?
Trump: Hilary’s a stiff. She should be in jail.
Tapper: Can we just talk for a minute about your statement that the judge is Mexican?
Trump: I’m building a wall.

Who the f*ck is Trump talking to? Because every time I see him talking ANYWHERE, it’s like he’s having an imaginary conversation with another 5 year-old, regardless of the circumstances. And he just keeps repeating the same bizarre statements over and over again, the way two small children talk to each other in the sandbox:

Child 1: My truck is green.
Child 2: Muslims are bad.
Child 1: I like ice cream.
Child 2: I’m building a wall.
Child 1: Can I use your shovel?
Child 2: I’m going to make America great again.
Child 1: Um…okay.
Child 2: My hands are bigger than yours. You’re a loser.
Child 1: Mommy!!

Bottom line: Dude is on another planet. One where there’s a lot of hate and stupidity. And speaking as a Canadian, there are many of us just praying that he builds a wall between him and us as well.

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