My Week 175: Adventures in Rooms

Last week, I went on an adventure. To a castle. I hope right now that you have a vision in your head of mydangblog, dressed in golden armour, engaged in swordplay on the battlements of a stronghold, a handsome squire (named Ken) tossing me a stick with a studded ball attached to it, which the squire insists is called a “mace” and he won’t give me a cooler weapon, or at least one with a cooler-sounding name, but despite my handsome squire’s insolence, I defeat Sir Loin of Beef and his cow army and we celebrate with a barbeque…

OK, in reality, I went to an Adventure Room at Casa Loma. For those of you to whom either of those things is a mystery, let me explain. An Adventure Room is a live-action game where a group of people work together to solve puzzles and escape from a room that they are trapped in. Casa Loma is a stunningly beautiful, ACTUAL castle in Toronto. It was built by a wealthy financier at the turn of the last century, and it rivals anything you might see in Europe. Or Disney. I went with a group from work, and I was really excited to go—the week before. On the actual day, true to introverted form, I was overwhelmed with the usual dread of social interaction. But I’d played it smart—it was $48 and I had no intention of forfeiting that much money just to go home and watch Season 3 of Elementary all tucked up in my cozy bed…which would have been a lovely option too.

But I work with really nice people, and I’ve known most of them for a while, so off we went on our adventure, which actually began with trying to figure out, over dinner and drinks, how to actually GET to Casa Loma. That involved a subway ride, then a streetcar (no one was sure of the stop, so we kept jumping off, panicking, and jumping back on, much to the amusement of the other passengers. Actually, they were more annoyed than amused, but we’d all had a bit to drink at the restaurant, so WE thought it was funny), then a 10 minute walk. In Canada. In the winter. At night. So yes, by the time we arrived, we were freezing, and in need of first, a bathroom, and second, more to drink. The first we got. The second—well, I asked the woman who greeted us if there would be “an opportunity to purchase some beverages”. Her response was ‘No’. Seriously, what kind of adult adventure room doesn’t allow you to sip a nice glass of Chianti whilst codebreaking?

Then we were ushered into a movie theatre, where we were to watch a film that would explain our upcoming adventure, described thusly: “The war is over, the fascists in Europe have lost, and it’s time for celebration in Toronto; or so it would seem. Deep beneath the gothic exterior of Casa Loma, there lies a secret. You and your closest friends stumble upon the soon to be decommissioned Station M. Within the hidden workshop of failed projects and confidential experiments, you find one last mission. Be careful who you trust, and make sure you have an escape plan.” Sounds cool, am I right? We would also be accompanied by a character who was part of the scenario, and we would meet him after the film. “But,” warned the young man who was explaining this to us, “you can’t touch him. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN YOU TOUCH HIM. Do not EVER touch him. Are there any questions?” And all I could do was whisper, “So many…” because then we were ushered into a hallway and I couldn’t ask them, but here they are:

1) Why can’t I touch him?
2) What do you mean by “touch”? Does it count if I accidentally brush against him? Is it OK to poke him to see if he’s real, and not animatronic or whatnot?
3) Can I touch him if he touches me first, like in retaliation?
4) You said, “Under no circumstances”. But what if there’s a fire? Can I grab his arm and pull him to safety or do I just leave him to fend for himself? What if he falls down? Can I help him get up or do I just stand there staring at him?
5) Is this a rule you created because someone in the past slapped him for not giving them enough help with the puzzles? Is he really that unhelpful, or is he just a smartass?
6) What happens if I DO touch him, like he’s being funny and I lightly punch him in the shoulder, like one of those “Oh you!” kind of gestures? Will he taser me?
7) Is this part of the game? Is this a clue? Like when someone says, ‘Don’t think about elephants’, and then you absolutely do? Because now all I can think about is poking this guy, and I haven’t even met him yet.

And then I did meet him. He was in his early twenties and dressed in an old-fashioned suit. His name was ‘Steven Rutledge’. He claimed to be a spy or a secret agent or something, but I’m not really sure because I was trying not to touch him. We were in a room that was full of really cool antiques and things, but it was hard to concentrate because everyone else was running around looking for clues. I wasn’t sure for what, since I hadn’t really been paying attention, but suddenly someone yelled in triumph, a door opened, and we were all in ANOTHER room. Apparently the first room was like the launch pad for the actual adventure in ‘Station M’, which was to save a scientist from his Russian kidnappers. We had to get a radio to work, so I said to Steven, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” in an attempt to lighten the mood, but he gave me a weird, kind of dirty look. I wasn’t sure if he was just ACTING like he didn’t get it, or whether he really didn’t get it, so I said, “R.E.M.? It’s a pop culture reference,” to which he replied, “Pop Culture?!” and rolled his eyes. Then I knew why we weren’t allowed to touch him, because with THAT attitude, he would get slapped a lot.

Anyway, we solved a lot of puzzles, and Steven was actually pretty helpful, dropping cryptic hints and whatnot, until finally we were at the last puzzle. The timer was counting down, people were running around, it was madness, there was an air raid siren going off, lights were flashing, Steven was trying to avoid being touched, and then—we ran out of time. It wasn’t really a letdown, except that the scientist was still at the mercy of his Russian kidnappers, but it was a lot of fun. Casa Loma has two other adventure rooms, and I would totally do it again, because it finished early enough that I still had time to watch Season 3 of Elementary in my own cozy bed afterwards. With a nice glass of Chianti.



My Week 174: I’m on TV, People Who Know People

It was a rather exciting week for good ole’ mydangblog. Exciting, as in full of disruptions to carefully-attended-to routines, mingled with a certain amount of terror. You see, dear reader, I was asked to appear on a local TV show to promote my new novel. That was all fine and well, but I’ve never been on TV before—aside from being on Big Al’s Ranch Party when I was very small (I won the birthday cake and had to speak to the host, a frighteningly large man wearing a cowboy hat and a sheriff’s badge),  a childhood appearance on Romper Room at the age of 5 (I drove the director crazy by insisting that it was Saturday and jumping up and down like a frenzied squirrel), competing on a Canadian game show called Definition at the age of 19 with my brother where you had to buy letters to fill in the blanks to solve a cryptic puzzle (damn you, “Kookie Sheet”—you will forever be my nemesis), and being interviewed by a local news station after witnessing a man run into a burning barn—actually, in retrospect, I’ve been on TV a lot. But I was still really nervous. Couple that with the fact that I had to go back to Toronto Sunday night to go to work on Monday, then come home Monday after work for the taping, then go back to Toronto on Tuesday night, then come home again on Friday…luckily, VIA had given me back all my train points so I was able to travel with minimal cost. And the upside was that I got to meet some very interesting people…

Sunday: My seat partner was a man who apparently had no personal space issues, and didn’t seem to recognize mine. He sat OVER the space between the cushions, because apparently he was raised by wolves. He bumped my elbow on several occasions, and insisted on talking very loudly on his cell phone to someone who I assume was his wife. The gist of the conversation was this: their son, a very academic and motivated young man, was upset because the family was going on vacation right before exams, and he was worried about not being able to study and pass said exams. The guy next to me was very clear with his spouse that “teachers just push them through anyway—he has nothing to worry about.” In his case, I can only assume that the apple fell VERY far from the tree. At this point, I put on my new Bluetooth headphones. A few weeks ago, I was ranting that the future wasn’t living up to all that I was promised as a child, but these headphones almost make up for the fact that there are still no flying cars. Almost.

Monday: On the way back home again, I started to go to my seat. After Sunday though, I was a little gun-shy, and when I saw that there was only one person sitting in the foursome seats, I plunked myself down there, kitty corner to her. She smiled. I asked if she was going all the way to London. I also got a very strong whiff of marijuana. She started talking. She was going home for the first time, having been working on the east coast for a couple of years, but she’d been in the hospital and wanted to see her family now that she was better. Where had she worked on the east coast? I asked. A “medical dispensary”, she replied. A medical MARIJUANA dispensary? I inquired. She sheepishly smiled. Yes, the distinctive smell of pot was coming from her. Now, this might seem exactly the situation that I would want to avoid, but she was intelligent and delightful despite being stoned, which I’m starting to think is probably par for the course. Also, she knew the guy who had just won the first round of a new TV singing show called The Launch, which reminded me of a few weeks ago when I met another young woman who was the cousin to the guy who plays for one of Canada’s top curling teams. And I was like, Damn—I’m getting to know some minorly famous people by riding this train so much, and also, Is it weird that I’m super-introverted yet I strike up conversations with strangers?

So on Tuesday, I got up and put on my new dress (the day before, I had gone to Winners with two friends from work, who helped me pick out something that would look good on camera) and went to the TV station. I was super-nervous, mostly because I had no idea what they would ask me, and I didn’t want to come off like a babbling idiot, but my lovely auntie was there and she made me a cup of tea. The two co-hosts of What’s Up Oxford? were young women who both worked for Goodlife Fitness as trainers, and they made me feel comfortable, and just slightly like I should be exercising more, but the problem was that no one said anything about when the taping would start or where I should look. They all had headsets in, and at one point they just turned away from me and exclaimed cheerily, “And we’re back!” And it reminded me of the time when I was the principal of an International Languages school, and I would be asked to “say a few words” on special occasions. I would be waiting on the sidelines as someone addressed the crowd in whatever language, practicing how I would say Happy New Year in Vietnamese or whatnot, when suddenly I would hear, “And Suzanne!!”  It always took me by surprise, and I would have to then run to the stage in a panic and say “Chúc mừng năm mới!“ Then the crowd would laugh and clap, and I would hope to god that I’d said “Happy New Year!” and not “These chickens are green!”.

Anyway, things were going pretty well, what with them asking questions and me answering them, until suddenly one of the women said, “Can you hold the book up for us so that everyone can see it?” and I did, but I had no idea where to look, so I’m sure that when the show is broadcast, it will feature me looking around wildly at some point and then just closing my eyes and hoping for the best.

Tuesday: On the way back to Toronto, my seatmate slept all the way there. With her mouth hanging open.

Friday: One of my new colleagues takes the train home sometimes, so we swapped seats with other people and sat together. It was nice. We drank wine and chatted. Also, she’s tiny, so there was no encroaching over the gap between the seats. She’s the perfect seat partner.


My Week 173: Sewage, Spiders, Sundogs, and Stuff


Sign of the apocalypse?

Well, it’s been one of those weeks. I’d finally recovered from our trip to Montreal—the actual Montreal part was wonderful, but the train trip there and back was a total sh*tshow. We’d taken T and his girlfriend, the lovely V, but we couldn’t get seats together. “Don’t worry,” the VIA rep told me when I called. “The service manager has been notified and will help rearrange your seats once on board.” When we finally GOT on board the train, which was already 40 minutes late, the service manager very professionally shrugged and said, “I dunno. Ask someone to swap with you.” The train continued to be delayed at each stop with people getting on with duplicate seat assignments and the staff trying to figure out where to put them. It was a total comedy of errors with one lady finally saying, “Oh, I can just stand, I guess.” The three days in Montreal were great, but then we had to make our way back home, and it was even worse. We left on time, then at the first stop, the train literally shut down. Everything went dark. Car attendants started running frantically up and down the aisles whispering into walkie talkies. Once the train was fixed, 90 minutes later, it was clear we weren’t going to make our connection in Toronto, but no one would tell us what we should do. This, of course, made me super-stressed, because I always need to have a plan. Ken, on the other hand, just sat there unconcerned, making excuses for the train people, and telling me to “calm down”, which, as we all know, is THE BEST WAY to get someone with anxiety to stop freaking out. I got really mad, but then I realized later that it’s just the way Ken is. I realized this as we were watching TV the next night, and a commercial for septic tank cleaner came on featuring a man mowing his lawn and walking right through a puddle of sewage:

Me: That doesn’t make any sense. How could he not see that giant puddle of toilet spew?!
Ken: He was concentrating on mowing the lawn.
Me: Concentrating? He was going in a diagonal line across the lawn. No one mows like that. It’s like he purposely walked straight into it.
Ken: Don’t blame him. It’s not his fault that his septic tank was clogged.
Me: Well, who else clogged it, Ken?!
Ken: Calm down. See? He used CLR and now he can mow his lawn safely.

For the record, I sent VIA a sternly worded email, and they apologized and gave me all the points back that I’d used for the trip, so I won’t have to boycott the only train that takes me to and from Toronto, where I arrived on Sunday night.


I saw my family doctor because I was having some pains, which turned out to be mostly from overenthusiastic abdominal crunches. He did, however, considering my age and lack of a uterus, suggest that I start taking estrogen. “Let’s try it,” he said as he wrote out the prescription, “Every day for 2 weeks, then twice a week after that.” When I went to the pharmacy to pick it up, things became very confusing. The pharmacist, who was a very young and good-looking fellow, said, “Have you ever used this before?” and when I said “No”, he pulled out the package and opened it to show me. Inside were cellpacks of long plungers. Each one had a small pill in the end. They looked like the thing you use to give your cat medication—you know, the long stick you shove down its throat and then pop the pill out. But I’m pretty good at taking pills—why would I need to use a cat plunger? Then the pharmacist said, “I highly recommend doing this right before bed. So the tablet doesn’t fall out.”

Me: Fall out?
Pharmacist (slightly embarrassed): Um, yes. You want to keep it in there. So better if you’re lying down for a while…
Me: OH!!! (hysterical laughter as it dawns on me where the pill actually goes) Because it would be awkward if that happened at work, right?!
Pharmacist: Um…
Me: Gotcha. Sorry—I thought at first I was supposed to swallow it.
Pharmacist: No, you—
Me: Say no more.


As it turned out, the medication made me extremely sick, so I stopped taking it after three days, but not before the nausea had completely ruined my overwhelming joy at having to attend a two-day workshop on “Evidence-Based Decision Making”. The highlight of the two days was a pseudo-Jeopardy game that we played in teams. The CEO of the agency was sitting right next to me, so I had to bite my tongue and NOT object to the fact that NO ONE was answering in the form of a question. But at least I didn’t have to worry about jumping up excitedly if we won, and having a pill drop out of me. My team had the lowest amount of pretend money, but we were promised Final Jeopardy on the second day. We calculated and plotted carefully, so that we had a chance of winning if the other teams got the question wrong. But then the person running the slide deck put up the question AND the answer simultaneously by mistake. To appease the crowd, who were out for blood, she just gave everyone what they had bet, and I was like, “Oh, come on, Team Two! We all know you had no idea the answer was ‘What is a logic model’! You wouldn’t know a logic model if you tripped over it, Becky!”


I was finally feeling better and back onsite. I walked into my office, and felt something weird brush against my face. I wiped my forehead and my hand came away with a long string of spider web with the spider dangling from the end of it. The strand was also still attached to my head. I shook my hand furiously and the spider dropped to the floor, but in my panic, I threw off my coat, scarf and started doing a dance which involved hopping up and down, swatting at my hair, and screaming “Ah! Ah!” When I was finally done, I looked up and realized that the nice gentleman in the cubicle across from my office had been watching. “Whatever it was,” he said, “I think you killed it.”


Ken and I were driving into town to have dinner with my parents. I was looking up the ballistic missile report in Hawaii that morning, and was telling Ken about how it was 38 minutes before they knew it was a false alarm when he suddenly said, “Look! There’s a sun dog!” So I looked directly at the sun.

Me: WTF! Why did you make me do that? Now I can’t see anything but sunspots!
Ken: Why did you look directly at the sun? You’re not supposed to do that.
Me: I wanted to see the dog.
Ken: A sun dog is a like a rainbow.
Me: Everyone knows you can’t see a rainbow if you’re facing the sun!
Ken: This is different. If it’s north of the sun, there’s a storm coming. If it’s south of the sun–
Me: How do I know what side of the f*cking sun it’s on, if I can’t look at the sun!

Then T, who hasn’t been to church since he was very little and has only been to one very secular wedding, started messaging me that he was at a wedding with V and he didn’t understand what was going on. It was hard to read because of the spots in front of my eyes, but the gist, in his own words, was this: a dude kissed the bible, raised up a cracker and another dude rang a bell. Then the first dude downed a glass of wine. I responded, “Did they try to make you eat the cracker?” and he said, “Don’t worry—I spirit blocked them”. I was reading all this and laughing when Ken said, “So what would YOU do in that half hour?”

Me: Meh, I’d just sit and think. That’s what I do when I’m bored—I think of something to write and then plan it out in my head. I do that all the time in meetings.
Ken: You’d be bored?
Me: Well sure. Plus I’m not really into religion.
Ken: You wouldn’t be scared?
Me: Well, they can’t MAKE you eat the cracker.
Ken: Cracker? It was a ballistic missile!

Then I realized that we were talking about two different things, because I forgot that I hadn’t yet shared T’s wedding experience with Ken. He, of course, was talking about Hawaii.


I have to spend the rest of today creating a logic model for what I would do if a ballistic missile was heading towards Ontario and I had 38 minutes. Luckily, I just went to a workshop…



My Week 172: LinkedIn, I Am Good At All The Jobs

I’ve been on LinkedIn for about three years now. If you don’t know what LinkedIn is, it’s like Facebook for people who don’t want to read about your vacation, see pictures of your kids, or look at memes about how cold it is. Yes. It’s cold. We are all aware. Anyway, the purpose of LinkedIn is to let you network with other “professionals”, post interesting “professional” articles, and read about “professional”-type things. Frankly, it’s boring AF for someone like me, who only dabbles in “professionalism” and would actually prefer to read about your vacation or see pictures of your kids than read about how I can “benefit from a global logistical hub connecting people, goods and markets through sky and sea”. But please stop telling me how cold it is. Every time I hear someone on Facebook say, “Oh my god, it’s so cold!”, I am reminded of the fact that in approximately 16 weeks, you will all be saying, “Oh my god, it’s so hot!” It’s weather. That’s what it does.

A few weeks ago, though, I was looking through my account and found a button I could activate that would tell people I was ‘on the market’, i.e. looking for a job. I’m not actually looking for a job, since I already have a couple, but still, I thought, What’s the harm in seeing what’s on offer? It’s the same logic as being in a happy marriage, but looking over your friend’s shoulder while she’s swiping left and right on Tinder—it’s interesting to see what’s out there, just in case. So I signed up (for Job Alerts, NOT Tinder). But now, at least three times a day, I get a LinkedIn Job Alert that shows me over 100 jobs for which I might, apparently, be a ‘top applicant’. And also, apparently, LinkedIn has no idea what I do, or what my current skill sets are because I don’t even know what some of these jobs entail. But what if I applied for one and actually got it?…

1) Supervisor, Tool Room

Me: Good morning, staff. I am your new Supervisor, Tool Room.
Staff (muttering—they’re a cynical bunch apparently): Yeah, good morning, whatevs.
Me: So, first things first. Please put your tools on the table so that I can supervise them. I’ve devised this clever sign-out system, so if you need a tool, I’ve also created a Word doc explaining how you fill in the requisition form. There will be a quiz tomorrow. Have a good day.
Staff: What the f*ck? Give us back our hammers.

2) Warehouse Support

Me: You are an excellent warehouse. Don’t feel bad because you aren’t always as creative as the other warehouses. Creativity comes in many forms. We just have to find the right…idiom for you.
Warehouse: I just really want to get better at abstraction. I mean, my realistic canvasses are quite well-received, but I want to branch out—you know, show the other warehouses that there’s more to me than just landscapes.
Me: You will. Trust me.

3) Team Leader, Change Implementation

Me: Good morning, staff. I’m your new Team Leader. My job is to implement change.
Staff (enthusiastically—these guys are much more receptive): OK, cool, whatevs.
Me: As of today, you are no longer “Waterloo-Wellington Agricorp Limited, Finance and Procurement Division”. You are now “Frosty Queen”. Let’s hear it for frozen milk products!
Staff: But we make farm equipment.
Me: Change is hard.

4) Security Shift Supervisor

Me: Good morning team. I understand that you are the Security Shift. I like it. That’s an awesome nickname. So which one of you is Deadpool, because I just LOVE how you combine humour with kick-ass action.
Staff (confused—not the sharpest tools in the shed): Deadpool? What are you talking about?
Me: Oh. Is this more of a Suicide Squad type deal? OK. Which one of you is Harley Quinn?
Girl (slowly raises hand).
Me: Cool. I didn’t recognize you out of costume.
Girl: Uh, no. There’s no ‘Harley Quinn’ here.
Me: Then which universe IS this?! I get them so confused, especially since Marvel AND DC are both putting teasers after the credits. OK, “Security Shift”—show me your superpowers. And do it quick—I hear there’s trouble down at Frosty Queen.

5) Bilingual French Financial Services Funding Specialist

Me (terrible French accent): Doo yoo wahnt sum mun-ayyy?
French Person: Je ne comprend pas!
Me: Mun-ayyy! Le cash! Do you actually SPEAK French or are you just messing with me?
French Person: Vous etes une idiote.
Me: Aww. That’s sweet. But you forgot the accent circonflexe on ‘etes’. (My written French is MUCH better than my spoken French).

6) Advanced Case Manager, Insurance Products

Me: So a shark attacked your boat and it sunk?
Customer: Aye. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Me: Unfortunately, you’re only insured for the replacement cost. Also, shark attacks are an act of God.
Customer (scratches nails down the blackboard that I somehow have in my fancy insurance office): Argh. You suck.
Me: I’m sorry, Mr. Quinn. I CAN, however, provide some funds for the purchase of extra scuba tanks and a rifle.
Customer: I can’t see how that would be helpful, but whatevs.

7) Broadband Specialist

Me: I hear the internet is slow. Where do we keep the extra wires?
Staff: In the warehouse. Be careful when you go in—it has self-esteem issues.

As you can see, I would be amazing at so many of the jobs that LinkedIn is offering me. Luckily for me, and the rest of the working world, I already have a job. I’m not sure what I actually do there either, but whatevs.