My Week 149: Getting Ready to Vacation, Hammacher Schlemmer Revisited

Can I just stay home?

Is “vacate” the verb form of “vacation”? Because that’s what I’m in the midst of right now—getting ready to vacate for a vacation. I’m not good at the whole down-time thing, but I have to say I’m getting a little excited. Ken, T, and I are going on the Queen Mary over to the UK with our whole family, including Mom and Dad, and my brother (the one with the Ph.D) and his family. The worst part of the whole experience, aside from worrying about EVERY worst case scenario possible, is the packing. I’ve been struggling for days with what exactly to bring, and how I will fit it all in one suitcase for two weeks. The Queen Mary is a super-fancy boat, and then once we dock, we`re going to be hiking around Wales, so it’s one extreme to another. I basically just took everything I had, and rolled it all up into tight balls, so now I have room for shoes. I have a LOT of shoes. Mostly flipflops, so they don`t take up much space. But Ken and T are in a jam because they have to take “formal wear”. I can roll a dress into a tight sausage, but a suit isn’t that easy:

Me: Are you going to put your stuff into a garment bag?
Ken: I suppose…
Me: Why are you acting skeptical? It’s a garment bag, not a Tauntaun that you cut open for warmth.
Ken: What?!
Me: Nothing. Do you think three pairs of black flipflops is too many?

Random Star Wars references aside, Ken and I are T minus 11 hours away from departure. We’re also minus T, because he’s having a last farewell with his girlfriend, the lovely V, before he goes off the grid for a few days. But he promised to be home for Ken’s birthday dinner.

Meanwhile, Ken decided that he wanted to take photographs to submit to a contest held by a local ice cream company. His grand plan was to use Titus and me as models on the porch of our garden house. I had to sit there in the boiling sun with a “Yukon Bar” dripping down my arm until Titus decided he’d had enough, grabbed it out of my hand, and pulled the whole thing off the stick:

Me: What the f*ck??!!
Titus: Did you seriously think you could keep waving that at me and I WOULDN’T steal it? Whoa—ice cream headache!!
Me: Serves you right, you dick. Also, it was chocolate ice cream, so don’t come crying to me if you get sick.
Titus (whispers): It was so worth it.

Anyway, that sh*t is boring AF for you, so I’ll get to the point. I’m vacating the country for a while, and it occurs to me that I don’t really want to go anywhere else. I know that Canada isn’t perfect and that there are horrible people here too, but in the last couple of days, I’ve had some particularly Canadian experiences.

1) Yesterday, I was waiting in line for the train at Union Station in Toronto (the biggest train station in the country). When the line started to move, the woman in front of me looked down at some bags at her feet, then moved them to one side, and we all kept walking. The guy behind me was a little worried and said to me, “Do you know who those bags belong to?”

“No,” I answered, “but this is Canada. No one’s going to take them.”

“True enough,” he agreed. A couple of minutes later, I saw a man come running over breathlessly and grab the bags, smiling at the people in line, who smiled back and let him in. Which is a big deal, because Canada has some pretty stringent line protocols.

2) Over the course of the last two days, I’ve had a door held open for me by at least 10 people, some of them young people, which doesn’t surprise me—I mention it only as a counter-measure against those who continually whine about millennials.

3) This morning I was in the neighbouring city getting a few things for the trip. A couple had a shopping cart at the top of the stairs leading to another plaza. They carried two of their bags down but left three cases of water in the cart. As I walked by, the people behind me said, “Oh, someone’s forgotten their water!” Then the couple came hurrying back. “Don’t worry,” I said. “No one’s going to take it.”

“Oh, I know,” the woman replied. “I was just worried that the cart might be in someone’s way. Plus if someone DID take it, I guess they needed the water more than me, so that’s OK.”

4) I went to Shopper’s and forgot my points card. The cashier said, “Don’t worry—it’s Senior’s Day” which initially had me like ‘Dear God, do I look that old?’ but then she explained that she gave my points to the woman ahead of me in line who was a senior and who HAD her points card, and gave both of us the senior’s discount. “I pretended that you were her daughter and gave you the discount. Just say ‘Thanks, Mom’ to her, and we’ll call it even,” she said. So I did.

5) My hairdresser is openly gay, and her partner is a transgender person. We all live in a small town of 500 people, and no one gives a sh*t. Try getting an appointment with this girl—she’s booked solid every day. Although she DID fit Ken in for a straight razor cut because she just took a course and he’s one of the few guys in town who shaves his head.

And while I imagine these kinds of things happen in other places in the world, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they happen in Canada. But that worries me too, because there are good people everywhere, and things are still pretty sh*tty in other countries, so who’s to say that Canada won’t be next, or whether to some people, we’re already as bad as other countries? You can blame social media all you want for giving assholes a platform that they never had 20 years ago, but the fact is that assholes still existed then—they just made the people in their IMMEDIATE vicinity miserable instead of tweeting out their idiocy to a wide audience, or making ludicrous and ill-informed comments on national news articles.

At any rate, it’s time to see more of the world and find those little pockets of decency where I can. Because I know they exist. So have a great week–I’ll be coming to you from the UK for the next installment of mydangblog at the point where I eventually have wifi.

And now here’s a throwback to November 2014 that you might not have read on the weirdness of mail-order catalogues…

Wednesday: I wonder who exactly buys things from mail-order catalogues.

On occasion, we get mail order catalogues delivered to our house. There’s Added Touch, which features jewellery, clothes, and furniture. Why would I order anything from them, when I can buy the same things from actual stores, without having to pay shipping? We also get Signals, offering logic games and clever T-shirts with saying like “Don’t trust atoms—they make up everything” on them, and Bits and Pieces, which sells really cheap plastic garden ornaments and jigsaw puzzles of kitty cats and thatched-roof cottages. But the icing on the mail-order cake came on Wednesday, when we got, for the first time, a catalogue called Hammacher Schlemmer, which I think is German for “sh—t that you’ll never buy because it’s stupid and way too expensive”. Aside from the assorted remote control spy drones, the ultrasonic jewellery cleaner, and the washable cashmere bathrobe (only $399.95, y’all), there were some really bizarre things available for purchase. Here are a few of my favourites:

Page 5: The Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter, $129.95. It’s a tiny doghouse for cats, which comes with a heated floor. It’s waterproof and can be plugged into any grounded electrical outlet. This, to me, is a paradox. You don’t like your cat enough to let it in the house when it’s cold or wet out, but you’ll pay $130.00 for a cathouse? Do you love your cat or hate it? Maybe it’s like Schrodinger’s cat—you simultaneously love AND hate it—either way, you probably shouldn’t have a cat.

Page 60: The Faux Fireplace, $69.95. The description of this item reads: “The removable fireplace decal that instills instant ski lodge coziness to a room otherwise devoid of winter’s most heart-warming tradition.” While the prose is lovely, let’s be clear—it’s a STICKER that looks like a fireplace. You just paid seventy bucks for a giant sticker, friend. It will not warm your room. The flames don’t move. The picture in the catalogue is of a man sitting in a wingchair, staring at the fireplace. Let’s be realistic—he’s staring at the wall. For the same money, you could buy a space heater, if it’s warmth you’re looking for, or for another hundred bucks, you could go to Canadian Tire and buy an electric fireplace with fake flames that actually move. If I was ever going to stick anything on my wall, it would be a life-size Johnny Depp. (I asked Ken if he was OK with that, and he said only if he got a life-size sticker of someone too, but he wouldn’t tell me who because he “didn’t want to be judged”).

Page 64: The Cyclist’s Virtual Safety Lane, $39.95. This ingenious invention consists of two laser beams that you mount on your bicycle to provide motorists a “visual indicator of a cyclist’s riding width”. This is also known as the “target zone”. Don’t people on bicycles already have enough problems with inconsiderate car drivers almost knocking them off their bikes without providing them a clear indication of exactly where you have to drive to do that? I admit, I’m not a huge fan of fanatical cyclists who zip around in their fake sponsorship outfits and torpedo helmets (I went through a post-Olympic phase of yelling “Where’s the peloton?!” out my car window when Ken and I would pass one of them on the road), but still, I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. And neither does Hammacher Sledgehammer, because on page 71, for an additional $199.95, you can also get a Bicycle Rear View Camera, just so you can see who’s bearing down on you and the rest of the peloton.

Finally, the most incredible and most useless item in the catalogue can be found on page 59. For the low, low price of only $345,000 (yes, over a third of a MILLION dollars), you can order a 6 foot tall robot. In the catalogue, it’s described as a “Celebrity Robot Avatar”, and has apparently appeared in movies, TV shows, and music videos. As a purveyor of pop culture myself, I have never seen this robot anywhere on screen. And just to clarify—it’s not actually a ROBOT. It’s a battery-powered, remote control metal can. It doesn’t do anything on its own. It’s controlled with “an intuitive wireless remote that is small enough to escape detection”. You can make it move forwards, backwards, and spin, as well as make it seem like it’s talking by speaking into a “discreet wireless microphone”. What kind of money do you have to make to spend $345,000 on a puppet? For 50 bucks, I’ll dress in a robot costume, come to your party, and have ACTUAL conversations with your guests. That’s right—I’m your robot butler, baby. Your swear-y, angsty robot butler.

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13 thoughts on “My Week 149: Getting Ready to Vacation, Hammacher Schlemmer Revisited

    • I wasn’t specifically referring to Americans–there are problems all over the world, goodness knows! But thanks, lol–I know you guys are certainly bearing a large share of the burden.

  1. What an adventure for you and your family, big, fancy boat and all that! We are embarking on a road trip kind of vacation, and hope to be winding through your neck of the woods at some point. Can’t wait to hear about your vacay–safe travels!

  2. 1. Have a lovely vacation. I hope it’s the vacation you deserve!
    2. I LOVE that photo!
    3. Yes, let’s be grateful for this wonderful country and keep doing our part to keep it that way!

  3. It’s encouraging to read these tales of good deeeds and good people. Living in the American South, I know we have decent people around, too, no matter how screwed up our politics has become. It’s hard to remember that soemtimes, though. The only person whose kindness I can control is myself, and even that just barely.

  4. If you’re coming to the UK (and specifically that wet bit in the west) I hope you’ve packed waterproofs. The Atlantic is currently trying to reduce the already pitiful amount of summer we have. Yay.
    But I hope you have a thoroughly lovely time over here.
    Canadians are lovely. We went to Vimy Ridge a few weeks ago and had a splendid guided tour by young Chloe from Peterborough (not the one near us in the East Midlands).

  5. There is such a thing as a “staycation”. Okay, that’s one of those clever neologisms–like “bromance” and “sharenting”–that grate on my nerves, but really an extended sea voyage sounds like a wonderful thing and, based on my experience, you’ll find the Welsh to be almost as nice as your fellow Canadians. I hope you enjoy your time both crossing the pond and on the other side.
    I’m so glad Canada is providing an example to the world, by the way, especially to your southern neighbor. For too long we down here in the U.S. have claimed global superiority and while we have accomplished some notable things so has Canada, and yet it doesn’t go to your head.
    Also I love that picture of Titus looking longingly at the box of Yukon Bars.

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