My Week 162: Indigenous Discussions, Scientology, and the Cultural Appropriation of Iceland

This will be a quick one, because I spent most of this weekend at a conference. It was sponsored by the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Education Association. It was a humbling experience, and I really learned a lot. The biggest thing I learned was that Indigenous people are angry AF. And with good reason. Of course, they express that anger in a very polite, articulate, and dignified way, but there’s no question that they are supremely pissed.

I’m going to give you an analogy that will demonstrate the reason for their anger, but first a little context: This past week, the Church of Scientology took over a building in a town near here, a building that used to be a community centre, and they have converted it into their cultish administration offices which “will serve as a rallying point for Scientology activities across the country.” In case you’ve forgotten, Scientologists are a weird-ass cult founded in the mid-50s by a not-particularly-talented science fiction novelist, and they believe that aliens led by a dude named Xenu, “tyrant ruler of the Galactic Confederacy”, came to Earth 75 million years ago in giant spacecrafts. Then the aliens blew themselves up in volcanoes using hydrogen bombs, and their evil souls to this day try to inhabit regular people bodies. Now, if you don’t know anything about Scientology and think I’m making this sh*t up, I’m actually not. I guess in the long run, their belief system isn’t any stranger than most religions and it might be difficult to differentiate it from other belief systems, except that I doubt Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and all those other guys were failed writers who were trying to make money and evade taxes. The founders of most religions aren’t even aware that they’re founding ANYTHING at the time, unlike L. Ron Hubbard, who actively petitioned to have his science fiction tale recognized as one. At any rate, the people of Guelph organized a peaceful protest, and then the Grand Swami of Scientology (OK, she’s not really called that, but it sounds like it would fit nicely into their idiom) made a statement discrediting the protesters as a “hate group”.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the analogy. Let’s imagine that a couple of Scientologists come to your house one day, and they want to borrow a cup of sugar.

“No problem,” you say. “Here you go.”

“Gosh, thanks,” say the Scientologists, giving you the Vulcan salute or whatnot. “We might need more someday.”

“That’s fine,” you say. “I have lots. I’m happy to share.”

The next week, they come back, only this time there are 50 of them and they have phasers. They drag you out of your house and force you to live in the garden shed out back. Then they kill your dog, take your children away, sending them to weird-ass Scientology school, and you never see them again. Oh, and they also give you smallpox.

Are you mad?

The issues of our Indigenous people are certainly more complex than this (and don’t actually involve Scientology), but I hope you take my point.

I also went to a workshop on cultural appropriation, and it was really timely because right now it’s almost Hallowe’en, and Indigenous folk are really sick and tired of “Indian Princess” costumes. Even the name is offensive. I was actually shocked this summer when I went to a conference in the States, and one of the presenters actually referred to Indigenous people as “American Indians”. I was like, “You mean people from Southeast Asia who now live in the United States? That’s a very specific subgrouping.” But no, he meant Indigenous people. And they would really, really appreciate it if everyone stopped dressing their kids up like cultural stereotypes. If you really want to dress your child in the costume of another culture, may I recommend “Icelandic Stewardess”? When we flew back from the UK last summer on IcelandAir, they were actually selling “flight crew dresses” for girls aged 2 to 7. Apparently these are “elegant hats and dresses in the style of an Icelandair flight attendant”. They also cost 50 Euros, which is about $75 Canadian, so I guess they’re better quality than the Walmart Icelandic Stewardess costumes. Also, shoes seem to be optional.

The other interesting thing that happened was that I was standing in the hallway waiting for Ken to finish his session (yes, we were both there for work—nothing more romantic than spending the weekend together at a conference), when a woman (non-Indigenous) and her male companion stopped close by to me. All of a sudden, the woman burst out with, “The f*ckng British. They ruined the world! F*ck them.” I was a little taken aback, and really wanted to respond with “The British? Don’t you mean the Romans?!” because the Romans were basically the master colonizers, and did to the Celts and many other cultures exactly what the Brits eventually did. But no one ever blames the Italians for ANYTHING, except taking a dive in soccer. Anyway, I was really perturbed by this and would really have loved to discuss it with her, but she seemed super angry and aggressive and swear-y so I left it alone. Then, as luck would have it, she ended up in my last session. She still seemed angry and aggressive, admonishing someone in our group that “our task wasn’t to make comments, but only to ask questions as per the protocol”, but I thought I might broach it with her at the end of the session, you know, just for fun like. But at the end, she went up to the session leader and suddenly burst into tears. Turns out she had been given a Native Studies class to teach. She was starting “Residential Schools” on Monday and had no idea how to teach it properly, knowing what she knew now. And I get that—it WAS overwhelming, and hard, and beautiful but I’m sure as hell glad I went. Meegwetch.

 

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My Week 161: Meetings Are Hard, I Swear at the Police

So this week, I found out that my immediate boss had been promoted. I’ve been doing her job for a few months, but no one said anything to me about what would happen with my position. I didn’t want to ask because why poke the bear, right? (Not that she’s a bear—she’s actually lovely). But the date was quickly approaching when my term was supposed to end, and I wasn’t sure what to do, because I’ve kind of gotten pretty homey with her office, having installed my Retro Coca-Cola mini-fridge, my single-serve Keurig, and an assortment of family pictures, vintage wooden boxes, my melty Salvador Dali clock, and sundry other items. Not to mention things like binders and extra computer monitors and a drawer full of about 17 pairs of reading glasses and five different types of green tea. Was I supposed to wait until the last minute and then throw it all on a wheely cart or something? I was getting a little stressed out, especially since people in upper management were avoiding me like the plague and I was starting to get worried. Then, late on Wednesday afternoon, I got a call that the CEO wanted to see me, and I got a bit panicky. Why? Because I was recently nominated to chair one of our weekly meetings, and for the first week, I thought it would be nice to bring snacks to make up for the fact that I was very nervous about having to steer the group and be the one to say things like “in respect of the time, I think we should move on—let’s take this conversation off-line (which is something that I have to say now that I’m a manager. I was at another management workshop on Monday, and the presenter said that. I turned to the woman next to me, and said, “I didn’t think we were ON-LINE” and she just looked at me like I was crazy and responded, “We ARE.” And I so badly wanted to say “NO! This is not TRON!” but I didn’t, because one of my directors was sitting at the table with me also, and I didn’t think that would help my case.)

Anyway, for the first week as chair, I brought miniature Hershey’s chocolate bars, and everyone was like, “Oooh! Good job, mydangblog!” and they ate them all up. So I decided for the next week that I would really have to up my game. Then I was at Winner’s in the checkout aisle where they have all the good snacks, and I saw these little crates full of liqueur-filled chocolates. I mean, how do you make chocolate one step better? You throw alcohol into the mix, am I right?! I bought two crates—one with chocolates filled with tequila, and one that was labelled “Mojito”. Who wouldn’t like that? Well, as it turns out, no one. I’d put the little bottles into a bowl, and placed it on the table. Everyone looked at it. “Aren’t they cute?” I said excitedly. “They have liqueur in them. Please, help yourselves.” Nobody moved. Then one of the Directors next to me cleared his throat, laughed in a kind of weird way, and said loudly, “Oh, I think it’s a little early in the day for that, heh heh.” Then everyone else was like, “No thanks…I couldn’t possibly…” and the bowl sat there in the middle of the table like my own personal alcoholic badge of shame. At the end of the meeting, I cheerily invited people to take some with them “for later, wink, wink” but people were like “Oh, tequila makes me wild—I better not” or “It’s too late in the season for a mojito” and I was left with the bowl, a mounting sense of trepidation, and an uncertainty about exactly when mojito season was.

 

So you can see why when I was called to the CEO’s office, I was a little nervous. Had she heard about my “liqueur-filled chocolate faux pas”? I walked in with a pen, a notebook, and one of my many pairs of reading glasses, just in case I had to take notes about how not to encourage inebriation amongst my co-workers. As luck would have it, however, she was actually offering me an extension of my manager’s position:

CEO: So we discussed your position at the Executive meeting…
Me (silently): Please don’t say ‘tequila’…
CEO: And we all feel that you’re doing an excellent job, so we’ve decided to extend your position, if you’re willing to continue.
Me: Oh, that’s a relief!
CEO (confused): Does that mean you accept?
Me: Yes, sure, great.
CEO: Would you like to think about it?
Me: Do I NEED to think about it? I mean, if you WANT me to—
CEO (laughs): No, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But don’t say anything to anyone until we have a chance to make an official announcement, please.
Me: Oh, OK. But I can tell my husband, right? And my mom?
CEO: What? Uh, yes. That’s fine.
Me: Super. Thanks again.

So I left her office. I was really excited, even though I’m not great at sharing that kind of thing publicly, so as I walked down the row of cubicles, I checked to see if anyone was looking. There was no one around, so I randomly jumped in the air and clicked my heels together. Then I kept walking. I thought it was all good until a while later, when one of the other managers came to see me about something. Then at the end of the conversation, I realized that I hadn’t been as inconspicuous as I thought:

Manager: By the way. What the hell was with the heel-clicking earlier?
Me: Oh my god, you saw that?!
Manager (laughing): Yeah. It was kind of awesome. I told your Director about it, and when I tried to imitate you, I almost fell down.
Me: You told the Director?! Oh my god, I’m so embarrassed. What did she say?
Manager: She thought it was hilarious. Don’t be embarassed. There’s nothing wrong with clicking your heels together. People should do it more often.

Anyway, it all worked out OK, despite the booze and acting like a middle-aged leprechaun. One of the things I have to do as a manager is attend a lot of meetings. And I’ve gotten really good at attending them (mostly because when they go into my calendar, I automatically get a 15 minute reminder before they start, so I’m never late). I realized the other day that, essentially, my role in meetings involves several important jobs. First, I have to listen and take notes. This can often be hard, because a lot of my meetings involve people who like to speak using solely acronyms, like “So we have the PRRT for the TIA and the MOU”, and for a long time, I would be like WTF? Three weeks ago, I was at a meeting and had to leave early, so I said, “TTFN” but no one got it. Anyway, by this point, I have a pretty good glossary of “The Initials of Stuff and What They Stand For”. My other job is also very important: when someone says, “Are we all OK with this?” I nod very vigorously, and when someone says, “Are there any questions?”, I shake my head very vigorously (even though I just want to whisper, “SO MANY.”). But I like to support my co-workers, and I’m nothing if not a team player. And for this week’s snack, I’m considering chocolate spiders. Everyone likes those, don’t they?

Thursday: I swear at the police

On Thursday night, I was out for dinner with my brother, sister-in-law and some friends to celebrate my sister-in-law’s father’s birthday. A few days prior, I had gotten a phone message from a guy with a very heavy accent telling me that I was in serious trouble and that if I didn’t immediately call him back, he would be forced to contact the police and that I should retain a lawyer. It sounded very ominous, and also like the total scam that it was, not unlike the calls that were making the rounds last year from “Revenue Canada” which instructed people to send iTunes gift cards to Paypal accounts OR ELSE, and some people actually did. I called the number back so I could give the dude a piece of my mind, but as per usual, the number was no longer in service. In addition, I’ve also been getting slammed with text messages from a bank that I don’t deal with, telling me that my account is compromised. It was scary at first, but then I realized they must have me confused with someone else, like the guy who keeps texting me with pithy sayings like, “Hey Shane! Blazefor dayz!” even though I keep telling him I’m not really “Shane” and that I haven’t “blazed” for innumerable dayz.

Anyway, I was sitting at dinner when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but I answered it, and a recorded message said, “This call may be recorded for Quality Assurance purposes”, then a very stern-sounding man said, “Hello. I’m calling from the Police Services Board.” And how did I respond? I cut him off and said, “Yeah, right. F*ck off” and I hung up. Then I called the number back. And it said, “Welcome to the Police Services Board Fundraising Line, helping children everywhere.” I immediately hung up and gasped in shock. What had I done?! Had I just effectively black-balled myself? What if I had an emergency and had to dial 9-1-1? Would they say, “Oh right…it’s mydangblog. Yeah, you’re a funny one. F*ck off with your emergency”? So I did what any normal person would do. No, I didn’t call Ken, because this was one of the few times that wouldn’t have helped. Instead, I called the number back:

Recorded Voice: You have reached the Police Services Board Fundraising Line. Please leave a message after the tone.
Me: Um, hi. So a little while ago, somebody from your fundraising campaign called me, and I thought it was a scam, so I was really, really rude to the person. I might have used a swear word. Anyway, I feel really bad about it, and I would like to sincerely apologize to him. And the children. So, um, really sorry. Thanks.

Hopefully, they can hear how sincere I am (since I used so many ‘reallys’, which is always a sign of good intentions), and not put me on a “Do Not Respond” list. Because otherwise, FYI, TBH, I am truly SOL, LOL. FML. CYA.

 

Gord Downie: The Best of Us.

I NEVER post mid-week, but this week, I have to. Gord Downie is dead.  I am gutted. I suppose it was silly to believe that he would survive the type of brain cancer that he had, but I’m at heart an optimist, despite my consistent obsession with worst case scenarios. I’ve spent a good portion of this evening singing snatches of his songs, and crying. I may be a little drunk right now. Here is what I wrote a few months ago, at the Canada-wide broadcast of the Hip’s final tour:

Saturday Night: The Tragically Hip

hip2

Last night was the final show of the Tragically Hip’s final concert tour. The lead singer, Gord Downie, has incurable brain cancer, and rather than fade away, he’s going out in fine Canadian style by bringing the country together. You might have seen the memes about Canada being closed for the night because our national broadcaster, the CBC, was showing the concert live across the nation for those who couldn’t get tickets to be there in person. Free. No commercial breaks. 3 hours of song. So that we could all embrace the band whose music was the soundtrack to so many of our lives. Hundreds of thousands of people watching all at the same time, some at huge parties with massive screens, some at home with the people they love, watching a man give everything he had left to the nation HE loves. It was inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. It seems incredibly unfair that Gord Downie, man, machine, poem, will soon be lost to us, just when we need him most. And when the time comes, we’ll miss him fully and completely. Just wait and you’ll see.

Here’s the link to one of my favourite Hip songs—Nautical Disaster.

Gord Downie was the best of us. I have no more words.

My Week 160: Naptime at Bladerunner 2049, Russian Cowboys

Naptime at Bladerunner 2049

The other day, I went to see the new Bladerunner movie with my brother. He got tickets to the VIP theatre, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s like a luxury theatre where the chairs are all like giant La-Z-Boys (which, by the way, is a TERRIBLE name for a piece of furniture—after a long day, how is it lazy to want to sink into a reclining piece of heaven? It should be called a “You-Deserve-This-Goddamn-It-Boy” and then you would lie back and be like, “You’re f*cking right, I do” instead of “Did you just insult me, comfortable yet strangely passive-aggressive chair?” Anyway, I digress). The VIP theatre also offers dinner and bar service delivered right to your seat by the staff, so my brother and I ordered our usual pulled-pork poutine, and a nice bottle of wine. The movie, for some unknown reason, was in 3D. Let me tell you, there’s nothing more annoying than trying to eat pulled pork poutine in the dark WHILST wearing 3D glasses—talk about a messy proposition. So if you’re planning on seeing it, and you have to choose between regular and 3D, let me tell you that, like most movies in 3D lately, there is absolutely no reason to pay extra. Unless there are flying snakes or sharks in a tornado, the use of 3D is pretty redundant in most movies, and especially in Bladerunner, which isn’t really an action movie at all—trust me, at almost three hours running time, it’s pretty contemplative. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it—I completely did, and I had no weird questions to ask about it afterward. But the best, like the most f*cking amazing part of the whole experience, was that I managed to STAY AWAKE for the entire three hours. If you’ve read me for a while, you’ll know that I am renowned for falling asleep at the movies. You may recall that in My Week 79: Naptime at Batman Vs. Superman, I missed most of the film and woke up profoundly confused, and I was too embarrassed to ask my brother, who has a Ph.D., to explain it to me. Here’s a recap:

1) Why was Batman so pissed off at Superman?
2) Why did the angry Facebook guy want to kill Superman?
3) What was the point of two superheroes, both of whom are impervious to physical damage from the other, insisting on trying to beat the sh*t out of each other for three hours when it’s obvious that NO ONE is going to win?
4) What was with the gratuitous 15 minute scene of a shirtless Ben Affleck doing pull-ups and hitting a tractor tire with a sledgehammer? (Sure, he was very muscular, but also a little hairy and sweaty, and not in that GOOD way).
5) What kind of coincidence is it that Superman and Batman both have moms with the same name, and that once Batman finds out, they immediately become best friends instead of two guys trying to destroy each other? Did they have the SAME mom? Are they actually half-brothers or something?
6) How does an underground lake turn a normal, dead guy into a gigantic, disgustingly slimy superhuman who can only be killed by kryptonite?
7) Where the HELL did Wonderwoman come from and why did she look so happy to be there? And don’t even get me started on Aquaman and that weird-ass cameo where he looked like a character from Game of Thrones (not surprisingly) and came out of his little cave looking all sleepy and blinky, then stabbed the camera and swam away.
8) But the biggest question I had of all was this: Why did no one, in the entire movie, punch Jessie Eisenberg in the face? Because I sure as hell wanted to, mostly because of his bad acting (dude, you will NEVER be Heath Ledger, so don’t even try), but also because he’s just so f*cking annoying in everything he’s ever been in. At the end, Batman goes to see him in the “lunatic asylum” and he’s got his Batman brand all ready (by the way, when did Batman start branding people like cattle?), and I was like, “Please, god, just do this one thing for me,” but instead, Batman punched the wall and left.
9) And then the last scene of the movie was a zoom-in on the same bizarre painting of the same space harpies from an earlier scene, only now it was hung the other way, like it was an omen, or maybe a flashback, or maybe foreshadowing, only I was like, “I’m done. I can’t even.” And then we left the theatre:

Brother: That was great! Did you like it?
Me: Yeah, I guess. It was a little long. I was kind of bored by the end.
Brother: Bored? Really? What about the scene where…
Me: Oh yeah! That was a great scene!
Brother: And the scene when…
Me: I know, right? Talk about crazy!
Brother: I loved the part where…
Me: Me too. What a moment!

The best thing was that he seemed completely unaware that I’d been asleep for any length of time. But I had a sneaking suspicion that his inquisition may or may not have been motivated by a desire to watch me squirm, and at Bladerunner 2049, I finally got my revenge.

About half an hour into the movie, I realized that my brother hadn’t taken a sip of wine for a while. I took off my 3D glasses and looked more closely. Sure enough, his eyes were closed. At a certain point, his head tipped kind of sideways, and his jaw dropped open. Yes—my brother was asleep. After a while, he woke up, looked around surreptitiously, then poured each of us another glass of wine. I maintained my innocent façade until the movie was over. As we were walking out, we began to share our thoughts:

Brother: That was pretty amazing.
Me: I know, right? So beautifully shot.
Brother: A great sequel.
Me: And what about the part with the wings? Could you believe it when THAT happened?!
Brother (slight pause): I know! Such a moment.
Me: I can’t believe they didn’t play up the “wing” angle a little more. It would have made such sense.
Brother: It was a great motif, for sure.
Me: What a missed opportunity. Do you remember in the original Bladerunner at the end when Roy releases the dove in the rain? Can you imagine the parallelism if Ryan Gosling had been there in the snow, and then the wings had just opened?!
Brother: It would have really tied everything together!

Just to clarify, there are NO wings in the movie. Ultimately, I can’t tell if my brother was playing along because HE was asleep, or if he thought that I was asleep and that I’d had some weird, pulled-pork and wine-induced hallucination based on the fact that Ryan Gosling is named after a tiny goose and maybe would have wings in my imagination.

Still, the movie was great, and made total sense, unlike the original film Westworld, which Ken and I just watched on the weekend. We had seen the new series and were pretty impressed, but I wanted to see what the source material was like. Overall, it was a good piece for the 70s, with one major exception. The main villain in the film was played by Yul Brynner. Which would be fine in any other circumstance, except Westworld is about a fantasy vacation land where people can pretend to live in the Old West. In what possible universe would a short, bald Russian guy be believable as an American cowboy?! Then again, considering the state of American politics, I’m just going to leave that there.

 

My Week 159: Weird Service Calls, Thanksgiving Throwback

Last week, when the temperature suddenly plunged to around 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for anyone still using the Imperial system), I wanted to put our gas fireplace on, but it wouldn’t start. I did what I normally do, which was to utilize my incredible fireplace knowledge. In other words, I removed the screen, opened up the door at the bottom, and wiggled the wires. Nothing happened. I said to Ken, “I thought you had this thing fixed in April. Why won’t it work?” When we looked closer, we realized that one of the wires was loose. It looked all shock-y and dangerous, and Ken, who can normally do electrical work, plumbing, carpentry or generally anything trades-related, didn’t want to touch in on the grounds that “it looks weird”. So he called the fireplace people and on Friday, I had a visit from the fireplace repair guy (the actual name of the company is Lloyd’s Electric and they’re very good).

I also had to take Titus to the vet that afternoon, so I was concerned about how long the repair might take, and also a little stressed about loading Titus, the 100 pound monster-dog, into my Chevy Sonic. At any rate, the guy called at around 12:45 to say he’d be there in a couple of minutes. I hung up the phone, walked into the kitchen and realized that he was in our driveway like he’d just teleported there, and I was super impressed at his translocation skills. I had Titus safely stowed away in the back room (for reasons which will be revealed later) much to the monster-dog’s objections:

Titus: What’s with the baby gate?! I just want to say “Hey”.
Me: You “just want to” lick his pants. I know you too well.
Titus: Well, maybe they’ll taste like licorice. You never know.
Me: I can 100% guarantee that his pants don’t taste like licorice.
Titus: Why? Have you tried them?
Me: NO! Just stay back there.
Titus: This baby gate is stupid. I could knock it down just like that, you know.
Me: OK. Go ahead.
Titus (whispers): It makes a scary sound when it falls over…

Anyway, the guy came in, and I explained that the wire was loose and needed to be fixed. Then I went around the corner into my office. A couple of minutes later, he started yelling, “Hello! Hello!” and I was like, “I’m right here.”

Guy: Where’s the thermostat?
Me: Oh—just up on the right hand side.
Guy: Thanks.
Me: If you need me for anything else, I’ll just be in my office.
Guy: Oh no, that’s OK—I’m done. See—it’s working now.

Done? That was it? He explained that all he needed to do was pop the wire back into the thingy (he used a more technical term, but I was completely distracted by the flames and the warmth) and that all that was left now was to clean the glass. I actually got him to clean the glass on our other fireplace too, as well as check for carbon dioxide, because you can never be too careful, plus I was paying for his time so I might as well take advantage, am I right?

He needed to go out to his truck to get the CO2 detector, and he saw Titus, who was going crazy behind the gate, all hopped up with licorice-expectations. I asked if he was scared of dogs, and he said, “Of course not!” so he and Titus got to know each other quite intimately (at least on the dog’s end). Then the guy went back into the living room, and suddenly I heard Raven meowing in the most excited way, and I heard the guy exclaiming, “Oh my! Look at you! Aren’t you precious?!” and cooing to her in a really lovely way. We chatted for a minute more about cats (he has two—a calico and a tabby), then he was on his way.

“Why am I telling you this?” I hear you ask. Because this was the MOST normal service call I’ve ever had. Normally I hate it when repair people come to the house since I’ve had so many bad experiences. And here, for your reading pleasure, are the top four worst:

4) When we first bought our house, we inherited two beautiful claw-foot bathtubs which had been “professionally refinished” by a company called Porcelain Magic. After a couple of years, the bottom of the tub in my bathroom started to look a little pitted, with two small spots the size of a pencil eraser making themselves apparent. We had a certificate for the LIFETIME WARRANTY on the refinishing, so I called the company to come out and take a look. The guy showed up and told me he just needed a few minutes alone to “diagnose the issue”. When he called me back, the bottom of the tub looked like he had taken a chisel to it. There were giant sections of damage to the finish, like he had peeled everything back. This would be because he had. When I objected, he just shrugged and said the repair would be $600. Then he left. I called the company immediately, and I spoke to the owner, who actually said this to me:

Owner: Well, why did you leave him alone in the bathroom?
Me: He said for me to leave while he “diagnosed the issue”!
Owner: Well, if you’d stayed in the room, this wouldn’t have happened. This is really your fault, but I can give you a 20% discount on the repairs since you’re a repeat customer.
Me: NO, I’M NOT!

I went to the Better Business Bureau and reported them, but they fought it every porcelain inch of the way. Eventually, I bought a new tub at a garage sale, and gave the old one to someone in our neighbourhood who wanted to plant flowers in it.

3) Several years ago, we had a repair guy in for something—I don’t remember what exactly. The only thing I DO remember is that he was DEATHLY afraid of dogs. I had our yellow Lab locked the back room (with the same baby gate), but she barked when the guy came in. As soon as he heard her, he turned absolutely pale and started shaking.

Guy: Do you have a dog?!
Me: Yeah. She’s locked in the back. Don’t worry.
Guy: Can she get out?!
Me: What? No, it’s fine. Besides, she’s really friendly. She won’t hurt you.
Guy: I doubt that. Just keep her away from me.

The whole time the guy was in the house, he was shaking like a leaf and kept eying the back room like Saxon was some kind of rabid canine vampire. Seriously, if you’re that afraid of dogs, maybe you shouldn’t be in a profession where you have to go into houses where THERE ARE DOGS.

2) A few years ago, our dishwasher went on the fritz. It was a Kitchenaid, so we called the company and they sent someone out to look at it. “Oh, no problem,” the guy said. “I just have to order a part.” Sounds simple, right? Except for the next three month, he would call and say the part was in, then he would come to the house, open the box, and be like, “WHUT? This is the wrong part!” The first time it happened, we were very understanding, but after the third time, it was like, “What the hell? Don’t you look inside the box before you drive out here?!” In recompense, the company offered us a knife set in its own fancy butcher block. I was like, “Do you really want me to have knives right now?!” After two more repair visits, the dishwasher finally got fixed. Ironically, all the knives eventually broke from being washed in the dishwasher.

1) The absolute weirdest, creepiest experience I ever had was the time we called someone to service our water softener, which is in our really old basement. The guy who came was very chatty, in a kind of creepy way, but he went down to the basement and left me alone for a while with the dog, the same yellow Lab from the previous story, Saxon. Then suddenly he reappeared:

Guy: You’re not going to believe this! You have an old cistern down there, and it’s almost completely full of water. You should come down with me and see it!
Me: No, I’m good.
Guy: No, really—it’s so cool. Come down to the basement with me.
Me: No, that’s OK.
Guy: No. I really think you should come down to the basement and see it.
Me: I would, but my dog would be very upset. She looks really friendly, but if I leave the room, she might get violent. I wouldn’t want her to attack you or anything.
Guy: Oh. Well, fine then, if you don’t want to see it. I’ll just be going now.

And when his back was turned, I gave Saxon the signal to bark, because she would bark ferociously on command, and with that, he scuttled away. I have no idea if he actually fixed the water softener because I was too freaked out to ask.

So you can see why having someone come to the house and actually fix something quickly, and without terrifying me, is something to celebrate.

Thanksgiving:

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and as always, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a wonderful family, great friends, a job I Iike, food on the table, a roof over my head, and a Prime Minister who’s a pretty decent guy. So Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and here’s a throwback to Thanksgiving 2014:

Monday, when Ken and I ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving:

So we just celebrated Thanksgiving, and Ken and I were driving down to the cottage. It occurred to me that it was weird that we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans celebrate it in November, and what’s it all about anyway? And this is the conversation that ensued. Just for the record, Ken and I aren’t fussy about the accuracy of our facts:

Me: So why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans do it in November? What’s with that?
Ken: I don’t know—maybe their harvest is later than ours since they’re further south. They’re both just about giving thanks for a good harvest anyway.
Me: That’s not why the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving—they didn’t HAVE a harvest, that was the whole point. The Puritans came over here completely ill-equipped to survive—they were really good at praying, but not so good at gardening, apparently. They were literally starving to death, and the Indigenous people shared THEIR harvest with them, and basically saved their lives.
Ken: Oh yeah—“Thanks so much for your generosity—in return, here’s some small pox.”
Me: I know, right? “And some alcohol and genocide.” That’s gratitude for you. Do you think the Native Americans “celebrate” Thanksgiving, or do they secretly call it something different, like “The Day We Wish You’d Never Shown Up”?
Ken: All I know is that Sherman Alexie just tweeted out that in celebration of Columbus Day, he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a time machine, so that he could go back in time and stop Columbus from finding the New World.
Me: Seems about right.

 

My Week 158: Management 101, Throwback: Titus and I Watch the National Dog Show 2015

A few months ago, I got a promotion at work. It was great for a while, but eventually these things catch up to you, and a couple of weeks ago, I got an email that said I was registered to take a two-day course off-site on Management. And I was like, “How the hell did they know? I have done NOTHING to deserve this.” I mean, it’s not like I’m not interested in being a good manager, but I’ve done courses like this before—this isn’t my first time around the management block. So I asked my Director if I really had to go, and she laughed and said, “Yep. Everyone who’s new has to take it.” When I reminded her that I was only an interim manager, she said, “Well, it’s tied to your merit pay. It won’t be that bad.” MERIT PAY? I didn’t even know I got that, let alone that I would be exploited into taking a two-day course to earn it. I’d already taken a bunch of other on-line courses on topics like “The Union Is Your Friend” (untrue), “Workplace Violence and Harassment” (I’m already an expert—see below), and “Hazardous Chemicals and How To Avoid Them” (if only the stench of egg salad was considered hazardous, my life would be SO much better). Online courses are great, once you figure out that the “quiz” you have to take at the end is a huge lie. Which is to say, the first time, I listened SUPER-carefully, and then when the video was done, I was all prepared with my notes so I could pass the test. The “test” consisted of 1 question: “Did you watch the entire video?” I answered yes, and a screen popped up that said “Congratulations! You have completed this course and it will be entered into your record.” And I was like, “WTF kind of quiz was that?! I STUDIED! If I’d known I didn’t have to pay attention to what my union dues were used for, I could have been watching Rick and Morty on Youtube.”

At any rate, I had merit pay hanging over my head, so on the Wednesday morning, I got up bright and early to get there on time, since the email notification had stated very ominously that the course started at 8:30 SHARP. After a tussle with the door (turns out it was a push, not a pull), I flew into the room and got a seat in plenty of time, next to a colleague of mine who was in the same boat so at least I had someone I knew to talk to. At exactly 8:30, the instructor, Donna, started the course. At exactly 8:31, someone started jiggling the door handle. I can forgive someone for being, like, one minute late, but this went on for the next half hour, with people arriving and struggling with the door, and the instructor stopping to go over and open it until I wanted to yell two things: a) What don’t you understand about 8:30 sharp?! and b) Jesus, Donna, can you just leave the goddamned door open?!

We finally all got settled and underway, and the first thing Donna asked was, “So how are you finding being a manager?” One woman immediately put up her hand and said, “Well, the person who was in the Acting position didn’t get the job and I did, so things have been a little uncomfortable. She won’t really talk to me.” Then Donna asked the rest of the room if anyone else had had experience being treated badly by a colleague that you supervised, and I was like, “Won’t really talk to you? Hold my f*cking beer” because, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I left my previous position because of Bob, the nutcase who wanted my job and would harass me by text, email and even call me at night:

Bob: Why won’t you answer my emails?!
Me: What? It’s 10 o’clock at night! Why are you calling my house?
Bob: I’ve sent you 6 emails. I know you’re online because at 8:47 you liked something your mom posted on Facebook. Why are you ignoring me??!!
Me: You got me out of bed. Can we discuss this tomorrow?
Bob: You’re so mean! (click)

I would have loved it if the worst thing that dude had done was “not really talk to me” instead of dragging me to the union for taking him off Facebook. Anyway, we got all the triggering stuff out of the way, and got down to the meat of management, which is of course, dealing with unions. Then the worst thing happened—Donna decided that, instead of discussing things with our table groups, with whom we had grown comfortable, we should “find someone in the room that you haven’t spoken to yet”. This, of course, is my own personal vision of hell, where you wander around, being forced to meet new people and then converse with them. I stood up—there was a rather pleasant-looking tall guy coming towards me, and he pointed, smiled and mouthed “You and me?” I nodded enthusiastically, relieved at how easy that was. Then his face fell, and I realized that he was talking to the young, beautiful blonde behind me, who had just been swooped up by the guy who worked in a prison and who had endless (I mean ENDLESS) stories about testifying at grievance hearings.

Me: Oh, is it OK if we—
Tall Guy: Actually, I was wanting to talk to HER, but…
Me: Oh. (pause) Well, I guess you can talk to me if you want to…
Tall Guy: Sigh. I suppose.

Thanks, Tall Guy. Also, nice wedding ring you’re wearing.

Overall, the course was pretty good, and I think I learned a lot about “supporting my team”, but there were a couple of things that befuddled me:

1) We were given plenty of time for breaks and lunch. On both days, the person sitting on the other side of me brought in full tubs of very spicy, pungent food, which he insisted on eating by hiding it under the table, then quickly shoveling it into his mouth when he thought no one was looking. He would have been successful if first, the food hadn’t smelled so strong, and second, if he hadn’t made really loud squeaking and squelching sounds the whole time he was chowing down. I don’t usually notice people chewing, but the noises coming out of him were bizarre.

2) Why do people use the term “buckets” to refer to categories of things, as in “I’ve put all the soft skills into the Management Bucket on the slide deck.” As a visual metaphor, “bucket” doesn’t work for me, because I always think of a mop bucket. Also, the word “bucket” is just plain silly, like “smock”. Listen: bucket, bucket, bucket, bucket, smock, smock, smock. If you didn’t laugh at that, I don’t know why. Here’s a limerick about a bucket (mostly because all the limericks I know are about a man from Nantucket and bucket rhymes with Nantucket):

There once was a man with a bucket,
Who lived in a town called Nantucket.
He wore a white smock,
And he fell off the dock,
And he dented his bucket, so f*ck it.

I never said it would be a GOOD limerick.

Another piece of “manager-speak” that always confuses me is when things get a little heated or complex, and someone says, “Let’s take this off-line.” In a face to face meeting. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to yell, “You’re not ON-line! How can you take it OFF-line?!” Seriously people, be precise—just say “let’s speak privately about this”.

3) We were given the following scenario: You wake up late, you’re racing around to get to work, and you finally make it to your office. You’re in the elevator and someone jostles you, and you spill your coffee all over yourself. So now you’re in a terrible mood, and Marcia chooses that moment to come into your office and tell you how WELL her initiative went the day before. This is a tough situation, and it will be hard to be happy for her. How do you react?

People were answering things like, “Hey Marcia, can you come back later?” or “Jesus, Marcia, can’t you see I’m covered in coffee?” or “I’m having a bad morning, Marcia, so I’m having trouble caring about your sh*t” and so on. I was confused by all of this, and finally put up my hand and said, “I guess maybe I’m just easily distracted, but being happy for Marcia would make me forget about being late for work. Also, coffee is Satan’s brew. We should all drink wine in the morning, just like Jesus.” Ok, I didn’t say that last part, but coffee IS gross. And I don’t know if Jesus really drank wine in the morning, but if HE had to sit through two days of “Disciples Management 101”, I’ll bet he would have.

I’m superproud of you, Marcia.

 

Throwback Sunday:

Friday: Titus and I make fun of the National Dog Show 2015

Titus: Watcha doin’?
Me: Watching the National Dog Show.
Titus: Cool. (jumps up on bed) So what’s going on?
Me: It’s the Working Dogs right now.
Titus: (snorts derisively) Right.
Me: What?
Titus: That dog never worked a day in his life. His paws look all soft.
Me: And you’re Mr. Blue Collar? When was the last time YOU did any work?
Titus: Excuse me? Just yesterday, you were all like, “Where’s the Piggy, Titus? Can you find your Piggy?” And I DID. I AM a Retriever, you know. It was hard work. That pig was like all the way upstairs in the guest room.
Me: Maybe because that’s where you left it. Now be quiet so I can watch this. It’s the –
Titus: Holy sh*t, that dog has dreadlocks! WTF?!! Is that even REAL?
Me: Yes, Titus, it’s a Komondor, a real dog.
Titus: A “Commodore”? What, like Lionel Ritchie’s dog or something?
Me: Yeah, that dog belongs to Lionel Ritchie. Obviously. Now stop talking—it’s the Toy category now.
Titus: I can see why they call them “Toys”. None of those dogs are real either. That one looks like a cotton ball blew up in the microwave, that one looks like Raven coughed it up, and that one is like something out of a Japanese anime cartoon. You want to see a real dog? THIS is what a real dog looks like. Check me out.
Me: Good god.