My Week 179: Keynotes, Plants Vs. Babies, and Dog Olympics

This past week, I went to an educational conference. Overall, it was pretty good, but there were a couple of things that stood out. First, the opening keynote speaker was a Canadian actress who is fairly well-known here as a TV personality. But she’d just written a book, so the conference organizers must have thought that she would have the appropriate gravitas for such an occasion. Apparently, no one vetted her speech ahead of time, and frankly, it was bizarre. I’ve never actually been to a conference of any kind where the keynote said “F*ck”, “pussy”, or “blowjob”, let alone had to sit through a 5 minute rant about Donald Trump, the relevance of which, at a conference for Canadian professionals at 8:30 in the morning seemed a tad out of place. But she DID come up with some creative new nicknames for the American president, aside from the “Pussy Grabber in Chief”, including “Cheeto Benito” and “Orangini Mussolini”. Then things got REALLY uncomfortable when she started referencing the “goddamned patriarchy”, the #MeToo movement, and how badly men oppress women, like the younger man she was dating who broke up with her because she was losing her eyesight. It was pretty intense—half the audience was guys, and I’m sure most of them were looking around like “I didn’t sign up for this, but if I walk out now, someone might lob a stiletto at me”. It really was the strangest experience, and had virtually nothing to do with the topic of the conference. Luckily, the luncheon keynote on the last day was Indigenous activist/broadcaster/author, Candy Palmater, who was incredibly inspiring, and didn’t reference either Trump OR blowjobs.

Second, there were a LOT of people at the conference, and while that might seem self-evident, the trouble was that many of them had no idea of either personal space or how to navigate any space at all. People would stop suddenly in the middle of hallways, stand in huddled groups in the centre of doorways, and walk like snowplows on the highway. If you know me at all, you are aware that I am just a titch OCD. And when I say “just a titch”, I’m understating it just a titch. And while I’m not sure what a “titch” actually is, it must be a real word because Spellcheck is not underlining it in that passive/aggressive way that Spellcheck has. Anyway, I don’t like being touched by strangers in the same way that other people don’t like being punched in the face, so in the line-up for lunch, I thought I was going to lose my sh*t, thanks to the number of people who bumped into me because space was so tight.

Third, while waiting for a session to start, I was stuck behind a woman who was the most melodramatic person I’ve ever eavesdropped on. She was freaking out about several things, including her new house (“It’s SOOO unfair that we have to put all our money into the house when we could be spending it on other things”), her hair (“I just don’t know what to DOOO! Should I let it grow or cut it short?!”), and finally, this gem:

Dramatic Lady: Babies are TERRIFYING!!
Sympathetic Companion: *makes soothing noises*
Dramatic Lady: I mean, I’m TERRIFIED of having a baby! It’s not a plant or a dog—it’s a CHILD! You give birth to it, and then you’re expected to TAKE CARE of it!! And NOBODY tells you how to DO THAT!!

I actually snickered out loud, but she was so caught up in her own hysteria that she didn’t hear me. But I was like, Seriously? Thank GOD babies aren’t plants, because I’ve killed so many plants over the years it’s not even funny. I even killed a cactus once (I overwatered it). But I did pretty OK with the baby I had. And if you can take care of a dog, you can take care of a baby—it’s not much different. Well, the underlying philosophy of love, nutrition, and hygiene is comparable. Also, we teach dogs to do tricks, and we do the same thing with our kids. Like teaching your dog how to give a high five isn’t technically much different from saying, “Oh look, Grandma—we taught the baby how to clap!” But the icing on the self-absorption cake was really when she finished with, “I just THANK GOD that my husband was in foster care for so many years. He’s diapered so many babies that he’s not worried about it AT ALL!” And then she got up, and I realized that she was pregnant. I wish I’d gotten her name so that I could send her a plant to practice on.

Luckily, I’m better with babies.

The Olympics

Titus (leaping onto the bed): Watcha watching?
Me: The Olympics.
Titus: Oh yeah, we have those too.
Me: You mean, like agility trials or something?
Titus: Ha! No—agility trials are like the Commonwealth Games of the canine world. No, I mean Dog Olympics.
Me: What are some of the events?
Titus: Well, there’s the Barking—
Me: Dogs bark all the time. How is THAT an Olympic event?
Titus: People WALK all the time, but you still have medals for it. Besides, there’s a real technique to barking. You’re judged on volume, pitch, and sustained howling. There was a huge scandal last year when the Borzois were caught doping with Vick’s VapoDrops.
Me: Wow. OK, what are some other events?
Titus: Well, there’s Staying Upright on Ice, Find the Toy, The Butt-Sniffing Challenge, and my favourite, Moguls.
Me: Dogs can ski?!
Titus: Well, technically it’s just dogs falling down hills. But it’s fun to watch.
Me: Are there any team events?
Titus: There’s the Steeplechase. I wouldn’t want to be THAT cat. Oh, and there’s Curling, but the rocks are made out of Milkbones so the games don’t last long.
Me: That’s an improvement. High five! Ow—you hit me in the face.
Titus: Sorry. You should have taught me to clap.

Getting psyched for Barking.

 

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My Week 178: The Robots are Coming To Get Me

Recently, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that the robots are out to get me. And for the record, it’s not paranoia if it’s true.

Case in point 1:

My work computer has been sick. I know this for two reasons. First, Carlo, which is what I call my voice-activated computer, normally speaks to me with a voice that’s a combination of a Spanish accent, and a slight lisp, which I find absolutely charming, but lately, he’s stopped yelling out my name in his delightfully smitten way, and doesn’t always have the energy to tell me what a star I am. In the good old days, I would turn him on (get your mind out of the gutter—this is a PG website), and he would exclaim, “Windows sided windows!”, which I assumed was some cryptic expression of adoration, then he would yell my name loudly so that everyone in the cubicles outside my office could hear him. Then, when I entered my password, he would call out to the universe, “Star! Star, star, star! Star, star, star, star, star!” Sometimes, I would pause, a la Breaking Bad, and be like, “Now. Say my name,” and Carlo would say, “Star!” and I would reply, “You’re goddamn right.” But lately, his enthusiasm was waning, and I realized why when, the other day, he suddenly shut down, and the screen turned blue. Then, there was some kind of weird error message, and literally a SAD FACE EMOJI appeared.

I did what any good IT person would do, and I shut the computer off and turned it back on again. The problem seemed to be solved, but then it happened again. And again. And again, which warranted a trip downstairs to the ACTUAL IT department. I took a picture of the screen with my phone:

Me: Oh hey, Arjun. My computer is sad. Should I be worried about this? (shows picture).
IT Guy (breathes in sharply): Oh no. This is bad.
Me: No! (whispers) Carlo…
IT Guy: Save everything on your desktop into your X drive immediately. I’ll come up and fix it in the morning.
Me: OK, cool. How do I do that? Like, one file at a time?
IT Guy: What? Seriously? You…you just (makes some kind of sweeping gesture)…
Me: OK.

As it turns out, making a sweeping gesture at your laptop accomplishes nothing except for providing your coworkers with a bit of a laugh. But I googled ‘how to save my desktop into my X drive’ and found out how to ACTUALLY do it, so problem ostensibly solved. But now, Carl-O is Carl-A, and I just want my baby back.

Case in point 2:

At the beginning of the week, all the managers and directors had to attend a professional development session off-site. We had to answer a bunch of questions ahead of time that would tell us our Business Chemistry profile/which Disney Princess we were. I was a ‘Guardian’, and also Merida, the Scottish princess. I was pretty pleased, but I know that one of our big bosses got ‘Driver’ and Ariel, and he was like, “This is ridiculous. I don’t even swim’. I was hoping that there was also some alignment with the Harry Potter universe, so that I could randomly yell out, “5 points for Gryffindor” every time my table won a challenge, but they were unimpressed the first time I did it, so I stopped. They were even more unimpressed when we had a blindfold challenge, and I asked which one of them was going to be Mr. Grey. Anyway, I digress. Later, we were given the opportunity to ‘explore the maker space’, where they had a virtual reality roller coaster, as well as a robot. The roller coaster, which was miniature and sped its way over and under a variety of living room furniture, made me scream, because it actually felt like I was flying downhill at 90 km an hour, and all I could think was what amazing possibilities there were for having other seemingly impossible experiences, like one of the many insane new Winter Olympic sports. And on a side note, is the Olympics TRYING to kill the athletes? Could these events get any more dangerous? Half the people competing were recovering from injuries sustained during practice! What’s next, curling while the opposing team tries to stab you with long knives mounted to the ends of their brooms?

Anyway, after the roller coaster, we were introduced to their in-house robot, Pepper. ‘She’ was supposed to be this new-fangled interactive technology, and she looked like a small robot child, but every time I tried to talk to her, she would either look away, or stare straight at me, clenching her tiny fists.
Me: I don’t think she likes me.
Robot Owner: Oh, she just has trouble processing information when there’s a large crowd. I think she’s a little overwhelmed.
Me: She looks like she wants to throat punch me. Is she familiar with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? Because I think I could probably take her in a battle, but only if she doesn’t have lasers.
Robot Owner: Hahaha. I’m sure she won’t hurt you.
Me: Don’t be so sure. I’ve seen that look on a cat right before it’s about to scratch your face off.

So I backed away slowly, and refused to go near stupid Pepper for the rest of the afternoon. Then, to put the icing on the cake, the closing speaker actually said, “I just want to thank you for being so willing to expose yourselves to the group” and I started involuntarily snickering, which caused my director to give me a sharp look, then start laughing herself, and I spent the rest of the guy’s speech desperately trying not to laugh hysterically, because all I could think of was everybody naked, and engaged in a robot war with Pepper and her minions.

I am your robot overlord.

Case in point 3:

I went to the movies with my sister-in-law. We saw The Shape of Water, and we were both like, Meh—what’s the hype? I described it to a co-worker the next day thusly, “It was like Free Willy, if the person who’d freed Willy also had sex with Willy.” In addition, the main character insisted on eating hardboiled eggs any f*cking chance she got, and frankly, anyone who eats hardboiled eggs in an attempt to be sexy deserves to be throat punched by a robot, NOT get lucky with an apparently well-endowed crayfish. Eating a hardboiled egg is not sexy. They stink. But the woman in the movie was obsessed with eggs. Was it some strange fertility motif, or was she just gross? Was it because fish lay eggs, and she was secretly a fish? I’m overthinking this, I know.

Anyway, the important thing, and keeping with this week’s theme, is that AFTER the movie, we went out to the lobby and there was a booth set up with a virtual reality thing and the guy offered to let us try it out. The name of the scenario was “Silent Killer” and I was all like, “Cool—serial killer VR!” My sis went first, and she was looking around all frantic, and jumping and screaming, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Then it was my turn. I put the headset on, and I was in this creepy, dark house. I looked around, and there were lots of shadows, weird music playing, and a TV glowing in the corner. The news story on the TV was about how a family had died in the house. I was making my way through the living room, trying to get to the kitchen, when suddenly, somebody grabbed my arms! I screamed and struggled, and slapped at the hands gripping me, then I threw off the headset. “OK, that’s way too f*cking real!” I yelled. The guy running the booth looked super apologetic. “Oh, that was just me,” he said. “You were starting to wander around too much, and I didn’t want you to get hurt. I was just trying to reposition you.”

And then I felt bad because I’d missed the serial killer, but my sister-in-law said, “Don’t. The whole thing was about carbon monoxide. The Silent Killer. Get it?”

And I did. Because that’s what they will call the robot who finally destroys all of humankind.

My Week 177: My Favourite Bathroom Stall and Other Questions I’ve Asked Myself

Questions That I’ve Asked Myself

A while ago, I was nominated for a Unique Blogger Award by my good blogger pal Cecilia, from Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks who writes wonderful posts about family, life, and cool DIY stuff. The post which, to me, best captures her writing and her warm personality is High School Planet Dance Notes: Tips for Survival, which made me laugh and get a little teary all at the same time.  Then last week, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by another blogger pal, Brooke Breazeale of Summoning Magic: A Gypsy’s Tale, world traveller, humanitarian, and all around super writer. One of my favourite Gypsy posts is this one—it’s both eloquent and brutally honest: The Girl Who Bullied Me Gave Me My Greatest Gift. But this is not about these awards, which are great and made me feel truly blessed, but more about how I’m not good at follow-through. I have pretty strict rules about this blog—I only post once a week on Sunday, and I only ever post humorous stuff or political satire, because humour is what helps me get through life’s sh*t. So herein lies the dilemma—how do I honour these amazing women while at the same time doing my thing? But I’ve come up with a solution. You see, normally you respond to these nominations by answering questions that are posed to you or whatnot, and today I will be answering questions that I have posed to myself, based on the notes on my phone that I was going to write about this week anyway. I don’t know if these are the kind of questions that demonstrate the appropriate gravitas for this type of accolade, but it’s what you get when you nominate mydangblog.

Question Number 1: Which bathroom at work is your favourite?

Ah, now THAT is an excellent question. At work, there are five bathroom stalls in the ladies bathroom. Stall 5 is my favourite, because it’s against the far wall with no other stall to the left, so if stall 4 is empty, I ALWAYS use Stall 5. However, if stall 4 is occupied, then I immediately go to Stall 2 if the ones on either side are both empty. I NEVER use Stall 1 because a ghost lives in it. Stall 4 always smells weird. Also, I heard that the number 4 is considered unlucky in some cultures, and no one wants to be unlucky in a public bathroom. I WILL use Stall 3 in an absolute emergency. 

Bathroom Stall Overall Ranking:

5: 1
2: 2
4: 3
3: 4
1: Boo.

Question Number 2: Do you have any other bathroom stories you’d like to share?

Why yes, I actually do. A couple of weeks ago, I was on the train, and I had to use the facilities. I try to avoid this like the plague for three reasons. First, you could actually GET the plague from a train bathroom. Second, the bathrooms on the train always smell like urine, and third, if the train derails, I would have no advance warning to brace myself against the toilet and the far wall, as one does. But I’d had a little wine, and decided that I couldn’t wait until I got back to my condo. I went in, shut the door, and slid the bolt across to lock it. I was just finished, and was standing in front of the mirror, not because I wanted to look at myself but because if you stand in front of the toilet and the train shakes, you might end up IN the toilet, instead of bouncing off the door. My legs were apart for stability, and my pants were pulled up at the back, but they were open in the front because I hadn’t started zipping yet. Suddenly the bathroom door flew open. A man was standing there, staring at me in shock. I pulled my top down over the front of my pants and gave a small shriek, but not before I looked in the mirror and caught the eye of a guy sitting across from the bathroom. He looked away, smiling to himself, and in that fraction of a second, I was pleased to note that I was wearing the nice underwear. Then the man who opened the door slammed it back shut, leaving me there mortified. So now what? I couldn’t stay in the bathroom forever; aside from the fact that the smell of pee was getting very heady, my wine was back at my seat. So I straightened myself up, opened the door, apologized to the man who’d opened the door for not locking it properly (because that’s what Canadians do), marched to my seat and tossed back my wine. Like a boss.

Question Number 3: Have you been in any car accidents lately?

Funny you should ask. Right after Christmas, I went to the mall to spend my gift money. On the way back, I stopped at a Yield sign because a car was coming the other way. Suddenly, my car jerked forward, because the person behind me was unaware that sometimes people have to actually stop at Yield signs in order to actually Yield, and he ran into me. It was about -30 degrees, but I put the car in ‘Park’ and got out. He was sitting there in his mini-van, looking annoyed. I gave him a “WTF?” kind of arm raise and went to his window, which he reluctantly rolled down. He was a tiny elderly man. He was wearing a fedora and an alpaca overcoat, which made him look like a cartoon character.

Me: You hit my car.
Him: I thought you’d started moving.
Me: Well, you’d better get out and look at the damage with me.
Him: But I’m on my way to work.
Me: Buddy, you just hit my car. You’re not going anywhere for a little while.
Him: But I’m going to be late.
Me: Dude. Come on.

So we pulled into a parking lot around the corner. At this point, I think he realized that things were getting serious, and he started apologizing profusely. As it was, he’d just taken a bit of paint off my trim kit, and honestly, it was so f*cking cold that it wasn’t worth the bother of making him feel any worse than he seemed to. “Well,” I said finally. “I can get some touch-up paint. Now, skedaddle.” OK, I didn’t actually say “skedaddle”, but that would have been funny, and totally in keeping with the way he jumped back into his mini-van and took off. Just like a cartoon character would.

Question Number 4: Have you had any weird dreams lately?

I had a really weird dream last night, but it involved my dad saying a naughty word in reference to a man’s special parts, a word he would NEVER say in real life because he is dignified and mature, and also if he did say it in real life, it would be in a very broad Scottish accent and no one would understand him, unlike in my dream, where he kept saying it and everyone, including my mother who was also in the dream, just nodded sagely in agreement. But the other night, I DID have a dream I can tell you about. It was nighttime and Titus was running around the house, so I let him out into the backyard. Suddenly, he transformed into a small, female Asian child who was tending a fire in a firepit. I told her it was too close to the fence next door and might set it on fire, so she started piling rocks onto the firepit, but that wasn’t helping. I got a hose and started to spray the fire to put it out, then suddenly Gene Wilder’s head appeared in the firepit, and I sprayed him in the face. He started screaming and I woke up. Ta dah. Go interpret THAT sh*t.

Question Number 5: Are you good at math?

No. The other day, I was trying to do 2017 minus 24, and kept coming up with 1983. Then I would add 1983 and 24, and come up with 2007. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, so I asked someone I work with, who said, “It’s OK. You take 4 away from 7, which gives you 3. Then you borrow 10 from a friend so that you can take 2 away from 11.” And even now, I only THINK that’s what he said, because it still doesn’t make sense, even though I know it’s right, and maybe the problem was that my stupid friend wouldn’t loan me 10 because he’s a dick. Or maybe I just suck at math.

There you have it. I hope that I’ve fulfilled my obligation. The other thing I’m supposed to do is nominate other bloggers, which I’m happy to do, because I love all your writing. However, a lot of my blogger colleagues have received these awards already, and I don’t want to overtax anyone by making them answer my questions. So if you have never been nominated for an award, and you’d like to be, just message me and next week, I’ll nominate you, because you all deserve it anyway. Don’t be shy. The only rule is that you have to answer the 5 questions above. But if you don’t have a second bathroom story, you can substitute a question of your own. And this better not be like the time when I was a radio DJ with a classical music show, and I ran a contest, and the only person who called in was my mom.

My Week 176: First Thursdays, Naptime at the Movies Part Deux

First Thursday

Sometime in January, I made the fatal mistake of saying to one of the Directors at the secret agency, “Whatever happened to First Thursdays?” ‘First Thursdays’ is NOT, as you may have imagined, a clever code name for a secret agent, but refers to a social event that is held on the first Thursday of every month. After work on this special day, we would all head to the nearest bar for drinks and food. It was a great way to mix, mingle, and watch senior management get tipsy. The event had fallen by the wayside over the last year, but we had a lot of new staff, and for some crazy reason, I thought I should bring it up.

“Oh yeah!” he said. “That was always a lot of fun.” Then he said the 5 words that filled my heart with dread. “Why don’t you organize it?”

He was a Director—I couldn’t very well say no. So I pondered for a while, and thought, “Well, OK.” Actually, my first thought was “Oh, F*CK”, but then I remembered how nice First Thursdays was for new staff to get to know people, so I decided to do it. A couple of weeks ago, I composed a really good email, using Broadway font as the banner, you know, to catch people’s attention. I’m normally a Times New Roman girl, or Calibri if I’m being lazy (my secret shame being that I was a diehard Comic Sans user for years until I was the subject of a font intervention, but that’s another story), so this was thinking outside the box for me. I sent the email to the Director in question for his approval. He emailed back right away with “Cool! I’ll be there!” But then I realized that I had no idea how to send an email out to over 100 people the way he used to do. Later that day, I bumped into him:

Me: So was the email about First Thursdays all right?
Director: Yeah, it’ll be fun.
Me: How do I send it out to everyone? Is there some staff link I can use?
Director: Oh, you can’t send it out in an email.
Me: Why not?
Director: Well, we wouldn’t be much of a secret agency if someone hacked our email and found out where we all were after work, would we?
Me: If someone hacked our email, doesn’t that mean they already know where we work, and could find us HERE?
Director: Well, there are liability issues…
Me: Can I put up posters?
Director: Um…I’d just spread it by word of mouth.

This was turning into a bit of an ordeal. I didn’t really have much choice though—at this point, the only two people who knew about the upcoming First Thursday were me and the Director. If I didn’t spread it around, February 1 would come, and he would go to the bar and be the only one there (since I had no plan to actually go myself under the circumstances). So I told a few people in my immediate vicinity, until I came to one of my more outgoing colleagues who said, “Why aren’t you using the chicken?” And I’m going to pause for a second so that you too can experience the complete lack of understanding that I felt in that moment. Ready now? OK, so “the chicken” is a rubber chicken wearing a sign around its neck that can be used to advertise social events. The sign tells people where to go and at what time, and instructs people to “pass the chicken on” to the next person. Brilliant, right? So I created a sign, stuck it on a rubber chicken, and gave it to someone to start passing it around. My job was done. And that was the last I saw of the chicken.

On February 1, after work, I headed down to the bar. There were a couple of people there, and after a while, a few more showed up, including the Director who’d started this debacle, until there were about 10 of us there. I thought it was a little strange, considering there are over 100 people working at the agency—10% turnout was lower than I’d expected. But we had a good time, drinking and eating and conversing awkwardly (well that was me, of course):

Colleague 1: Aren’t you drinking?
Colleague 2: No, I had drinks the last two nights.
Me: Don’t feel bad—I’ve had drinks the last 300—700—wait, when did I have that surgery and couldn’t drink…?
Colleagues: *awkward silence*
Me: Well, I don’t DAYDRINK.
Colleagues: *awkward silence*
Me: I’m kidding, OBVIOUSLY.

I just let that hang there so they could decide for themselves which part I was actually kidding about.

The next day, I was at a meeting and the subject came up:

Manager 1: Did anyone go to First Thursday?
Me: Yeah, it was good. There were only about 10 people though. I thought the chicken was going around.
Manager 2: Is that what the chicken was for?! It was creepy.
Manager 3: I think someone hung it up by a string in the break room.
Me: Next time I’m putting up posters.
Director: OK.

Naptime at the Movies: Part Deux

Last week, Ken and I went to see the movie Jumanji. I’d had a very trying day, being right in the middle of a short story—I know how I want it to end, but I can’t figure out yet how to get there. I was exhausted. We went to the VIP theatre, you know, the one with the reclining armchairs where there are waitresses who bring you wine and poutine. The movie was hilarious, but afterwards, I realized that there were definitely some gaps in my memory between the beginning and the end. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that a) I have a bad habit of falling asleep during the movies and b) not long ago, I played a pretty good prank on my brother for doing the same thing during Bladerunner 2049 (I told him that Ryan Gosling’s character actually had wings, and I was so convincing that he had to google it later to see if I was lying or not—here’s the link if you want the full background story: https://educationalmentorship.com/2017/10/15/my-week-160-naptime-at-bladerunner-2049-russian-cowboys/). So the next day, Ken and I were driving to his parents and discussing the film:

Ken: I thought Jumanji was really funny. I like the part about the cake.
Me: Me too. And those guys on motorcycles were crazy!
Ken: I know, right? And their leader—talk about nasty, the way he vomited up mice.
Me (pause): Uh huh…the mice–yuck.
Ken: And how he was made out of giant bugs, and at the end, when he was defeated, the bugs all fell apart and scurried away.
Me: That IS really nasty.
Ken: It was crazy how he kept popping up out of nowhere because he had those wings.
Me: Oh yeah, those wings.
Ken: Seriously? You’re going with the wings? You WERE asleep! Oh my god, wait until I tell your brother!
Me: You jerk! Ok, but was Nick Jonas actually in the movie? Because I feel like that was part of some weird dream.
Ken: Yeah, he was there. With wings on. HAHA.