My Week 183: Things That Boggle The Mind

In the great scheme of things, there’s a lot that I don’t understand, and like most people, I try to make sense of the world in the best way I can. But this week, there are five particular things that are throwing me for a loop. Here they are in order of when I thought of them:

1) Why are there so many dental floss thongs?

People litter all the time. I don’t understand why because it’s usually not hard to find a garbage can or recycling bin, but I see people tossing coffee cups onto the sidewalk, spitting out gum, and generally just being trashjerks on a regular basis. But the one thing I REALLY don’t get is that I see those little things you use to hold dental floss all over the damn place. In the last three weeks, I’ve probably seen at least five of them on the ground, either on the sidewalk outside of the grocery store, in a parking lot next to my car—you name it, a plastic dental floss holder will be there. We went on a wine tour with my dad last weekend, and there was one lying on the ground outside the winery. Which begs the question— whatever happened to flossing your teeth in the privacy of your own home? Why are so many people flossing their f*cking teeth in public? Who the hell flosses their teeth before they drink wine?! And what could possibly possess someone to throw these things on the ground instead of finding a garbage can? And if you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a picture:

I’m a little confused as to what they’re actually called because I tried to google it, but I typed too fast, and apparently asked for “dental floos thing”, and for some reason Google thought I meant “dental floss thong” and gave me pictures of underwear, as well as a link to “Dental Floss Thong G-String Sexy Firm Bubble Butt Booty Dance”. I don’t understand that either. But now that I’ve told you about dental floss thongs, you will also be seeing these tiny pieces of mouth trash everywhere you go. Just wait.

2) Why am I cursed by the subway?

The subway hates me and I don’t understand why. I have subway incidents on a regular basis, and this week was no different. I had to go out to my brother’s because it was my nephew’s birthday, and that meant taking two different subway lines during rush hour to get there. I stood on the platform waiting, as train after train kept going straight through because they were so packed. Finally, one stopped and I got on board to travel two stations up to the next line. There was no room to move and I had my hands up under my chin. It was extremely claustrophobic and I was just barely keeping the panic from building by telling myself that there was only one more station to go when suddenly the train stopped dead, the power went off, and it stayed off for 15 minutes. The exact same thing happened to me a year ago to the day, when I was also going to my nephew’s birthday party, and just like last year, I had a full-blown panic attack, hyperventilated, and cried a little in front of about 100 people. The next day, I had to take the same train again, so I left work well before rush hour. This time, there was a man on the platform running back and forth, waving his arms and screaming, “F*ck you! F*cking subway! F*ck this!!” and I was like, “Ooh, what a coincidence—that’s exactly what I was saying to myself just yesterday.” Oddly enough, he was extremely well-dressed, which made it even more terrifying.

3) How can you think you lost your phone when you’re holding onto it?

I have done this on more than one occasion and this is a complete mystery to me. In fact, on Wednesday, I was in my office getting packed up to leave, and was completely freaked out because I couldn’t find my phone. I was turning around frantically and looking everywhere, wondering if I left it in the bathroom or something, when I realized it was IN MY HAND. And once, I was out shopping and I called T:

Me: Hey, I left you stuff for lunch.
T: OK, thanks.
Me: Hang on—oh sh*t, I can’t find my phone.
T: What phone?
Me: My cellphone.
T: You mean the cellphone you’re using to talk to me right now?
Me: Never mind. I found it.
T: Between your hand and your ear?
Me: Shut up.

Don’t tell me you’ve never done this, because you have. And if it wasn’t a cellphone, then it was your glasses. Or your keys, KEN.

4) Is it just me or is American politics incomprehensible?

I used to understand American politics but I don’t know if I do anymore, unless the following analogy is correct:

Watching American politics is like watching a hamster running really fast on one of those spinning wheels, but the wheel is spinning superfast, and then the hamster’s leg gets caught in the wheel, but the wheel keeps spinning and the hamster is being whipped around like crazy by the leg and its only choice is to die or chew its own leg off, but while its deciding, the f*cking wheel breaks and the hamster is crushed by the wheel, and no one is sure anymore whether the wheel is America and the hamster is politics or the hamster is politics and the wheel is America.

So if American politics is an extremely long, run-on sentence about a wheel murdering a hamster, then I nailed it. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you, and please feel free to add to this analogy.

5) Why are people so dumb?

I could mean this in just general terms, but in this case I’m talking specifically about people who are always banging the drum about free speech, and freedom of expression (as if you can’t say pretty much anything you want already, no matter how ridiculous it is, despite what the hysterical alt-right seems to think. Merry Christmas, by the way.). But those same people get super-pissed off when other people exercise THEIR right to free speech by protesting the other people who are saying the things that THEY want to say. You can’t have it both ways. Case in point. This past week, a sniveling grad student at a local university created a special club for people just like her who think that it’s hard being white. They invited another white power bandwagoneer to come and speak because it’s “their right to say unpopular things.” The topic of the event was “Ethnocide: Multiculturalism and European-Canadian Identity”, which sounds all fancy but it really just means “It’s sooo hard to be white because of all the non-white people.” Then they got mad when protesters came and–gasp–protested by USING WORDS. Now, I’m all for open and intellectual debate of ACTUAL issues, but come on. Racists are so boring and predictable—why bother debating someone who has nothing original to say on an indefensible position that’s based on nonsense? I mean, we live in a country where you’re ALLOWED to say stupid stuff, but don’t dress it up like it’s smart. If you want to make a name for yourself championing people’s right to be stupid, then become a lawyer and defend the idiots who throw their dental floss thongs on the ground.

 

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My Week 182: Shark Week

OK, so this week has been pretty quiet. Not boring, per se, but nothing super-interesting happened, and at around midnight last night, I had nothing in mind to write about. Then, just as I was drifting off to sleep, a voice in my head said, “Sharks are so cool.” And then I woke Ken up and said, “In the morning, remind me that I need to write about sharks.” He was like, “Sharks. Right.” But then I wrote it down myself because I knew he wouldn’t remember; in fact, I just asked him a minute ago to remind me what I told him last night and he said, “Glass. You were going to write about glass.” Unfortunately, I am nowhere near as obsessed with glass as I am with sharks. And I know that sounds weird, living nowhere near an ocean as I do, but I’ve had a thing for sharks ever since I was little and we were in England, where we watched some fishermen inspect their haul and throw all the dogfish back in the water.

“What are those?” I asked. “They’re so CUTE!”

“They’re dogfish,” my mother said. “They’re like tiny sharks.”

And I was like, if this is how adorable a TINY shark is, imagine how majorly awesome a HUGE shark would be!! So this week, in honour of sharks, here are my top 5 Shark Moments, in chronological order:

1) When I was around 9, my grandmother offered to take me to the movies in another city, which involved a very long bus trip. This was in the days when the cinemas were on Main Street instead of in a strip mall or a ‘cineplex’. When we got there, there were two movie theatres on the same block. One was playing “Blazing Saddles”, the G rated comedy she was SUPPOSED to take me to see. The other theatre was playing “Jaws”. I begged her instead to take me to see “Jaws”, although I didn’t have to try to hard—my gran was one of those ‘laissez-faire’ English people, and her response was “Whatevs. Don’t tell yer mam.” If you’ve ever seen “Jaws”, you’ll know that by the end of the first minute, I was absolutely terrified. But after a little while, the terror turned into fascination, and by the end of the movie, I was kind of cheering for the shark, especially after that woman slapped Sheriff Brody, and I was like, “It’s not his fault—maybe you shouldn’t have let your kid swim in shark-infested waters—it’s not like he didn’t TRY to tell you all. And don’t be blaming the shark—he’s just doing what sharks DO.” By the time the movie finished, when the shark makes its first real appearance, I was in love. Later that week, I saw in the TV guide that there was a movie on about a shark, and I begged my mom to stay up late and watch it. She couldn’t understand why, and I get her point, because it was all about gangsters.

Me: When will we see the shark?
Mom: What shark?
Me: The movie is about a lone shark. Like Jaws.
Mom: (laughing) Uh no—it’s about a ‘loan shark’. That’s a man you borrow money from, and if you don’t pay him back, he breaks your legs.
Me: What?! I’m going to bed.

2) The next year, when I was 10, my brother and I were absolutely fanatical about this novelty record that had just been released called “Santa Jaws”. It was a collection of Christmas carols, all rewritten to include sharks. Our favourite was “God rest ye merry gentlemen/You’re not so merry now./The seaside signs said not to swim/But you swam anyhow.” It was brilliant. I just looked it up, and you can listen to it on Youtube (here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELZGHmrF9pA )

3) When T was little, I somehow transferred my love of sharks to him. When he was about 5, he had his heart set on dressing up like a shark for Hallowe’en. But try finding a shark costume anywhere—apparently the costume people think it’s OK to dress up like vampires, zombies, or culturally inappropriate Indigenous princesses, but sharks? They’re just too scary. The best I could do was find a dolphin costume, to whose mouth I stapled sharp, cardboard teeth. T was only 5, so he didn’t know any different, but I was like, “Aw man—that dorsal fin is all wrong. I hope the other kids don’t make fun of him.” He still got lots of candy, despite the dorsal fin debacle, and I was a very proud shark-mama.

4) A few years ago, I bought myself a shark puppet. It was on sale at the local store, and I brought it home and named it Marcelle. Whenever Titus was getting too hyper, I would put it on and speak to him in a deep, sharky voice:

Titus: There’s food! Food on the coffeetable! This is the best day ever—wheeee!!!
Marcelle: SIT DOWN.
Titus: Whuh—who are you?
Marcelle: I’m your worst nightmare. It’s time to be a good boy. Now, SIT!
Titus: (sitting) I don’t think this is ecologically accurate—
Marcelle: No food for you!

Eventually, I gave Marcelle to a colleague’s little boy. He was just too hard on Titus.

5) I saw Sharkwater, that documentary about sharks, and it made me cry. Then, last year, I went with my parents to Turks and Caicos, and my dad and I went snorkelling. The tour took us out to a place called Stingray Cove, where they had a lot of little stingrays that for some reason, they wanted you to hold and kiss. So we did, but at one point, the tour guide yelled, “Shark!” And I was like “Ooh, where?!”  Turns out they were small lemon sharks, who grow quite big and can be very aggressive towards stingrays. I thought it was the best thing ever, but the tourguides were all upset because they make their livelihood taking people out to kiss the stingrays, and didn’t want the sharks to hurt them. So there I was, standing waistdeep in water with my underwater camera, trying to get a picture of a shark, with these local guys all yelling at me to ‘Get out of the water!’ and ‘Stop encouraging the sharks!’  and ‘You’re going to get bit, crazy Canadian lady!’ I DID get a blurry picture of one of them before it suddenly occurred to me that, despite my tremendous sympathy for them, a shark might not know the difference between my leg and a stingray. And they already have a bad enough name without the headline “Ungrateful shark eats Canadian shark ally.”

Anyway, there you have it. Sharks. Because glass is dumb.

My Week 181: 50 Shades of Ewwwww

Have you ever had one of those weeks that seems to be theme-based? Apparently, my theme this week is “50 Shades of Grey”. Now before you all start thinking that I’m a very lucky, and also naughty, girl, let me assure you that it’s nothing quite so salacious. It’s just that the topic of either that particular novel/film or the subject of ‘adult’ fiction have both been coming up fairly regularly lately. It all started last week, when I was at the Page to Screen conference because I’d been invited to attend the cocktail reception by my publisher. He’s been my publisher for about 2 years now, but this was the first time I’d ever spoken to him, let alone met him—all our communication has been via email. Anyway, he invited me to go, because he was pitching my novel to producers in this kind of speed-dating style format, with the intention of getting someone interested in making it into a movie or whatnot. Over the last few weeks, Ken and I had engaged in some pretty thorough speculation about what he actually might look like. Ken was convinced that he was a tall, older, absent-minded professor type, and I thought he was probably middle-aged but distinguished. He has a VERY Anglo name, so imagine my surprise when I walked into the reception and was met by a rather diminutive man with a VERY strong Russian accent. Well, I don’t know if he’s actually Russian, but you know how the Russians get credit for almost everything these days, so whatevs. At any rate, I really enjoyed finally getting to talk to him, and he introduced me to a couple of the producers that he knew. We also had a conversation about my next novel:

Him: I read the synopsis. Is it science fiction?
Me: It’s more dystopian. You know, like post-apocalyptic Canada.
Him: Many people here are asking for science fiction. It’s popular.
Me: Yeah, it’s science fiction.

In my defence, there are definitely some science-y bits in it. But then he had to leave. I decided to stick around for a little while longer, because there was free wine, and that outweighed my discomfort with being in a crowd of people I don’t know. So I was standing there, minding my own business and drinking a nice Chardonnay, when I was approached by this trio of women. They wanted to know what I wrote, so I told them, “Young Adult fiction. My main character is 16.”

“Oh,” said one of them. “MY main character is 16 as well, but it’s not Young Adult. There’s LOTS of sex in it. I mean A LOT OF SEX. It’s very ADULT.” And it was kind of weird and creepy how she so cheerfully emphasized the amount of sex in her book, so I tossed back my Chard and excused myself. And now I’m worried about what kinds of films these producers are making.

Then earlier this week, we were out for a birthday lunch, and the topic of 50 Shades of Grey came up at the table. I’ve never read or seen any of it, but the consensus was that the books were poorly written and the movies weren’t much better. One of my colleagues said she had just seen it with a group of lady friends, and at that moment I looked down at my phone to read an email. When I looked back up, someone was saying, “And then they raised money and took all the kids at the school to see it.” And I was like “What?! That’s horrifying! What parent would allow their child to see THAT?!” Then everyone just stared at me because the conversation had moved on from 50 Shades of Grey to The Black Panther and I should probably pay attention to conversations if I want to contribute to them.

And yesterday, I was in the kitchen at work, and someone asked me what kind of novel I had written. When I told her, she said, “Do you ever write anything adult?” and I was like, “What, you mean, like porn? God, no.” She immediately clarified that she just meant books designed for an older audience, not “erotica”, but it occurred to me that there’s no real way to ask that question without sounding like you actually MEAN porn. IE: Do you write for a mature audience? Is your work meant for adults? Are your readers older? Because all I have to do in my head is put quotation marks around “adult”, “mature”, or “older” and it automatically sounds like it’s porn. But I could never write porn, not even that 50 Shades sh*t, because every single one of my female characters would giggle self-consciously and make jokes whenever anything remotely sexy happened. Face it—there are just some people who shouldn’t write porn. I’m going to now try writing something “adult”, just so you have proof:

Woman: I’m bored. Talk dirty to me.
Man: OK. Mrs. Smith, I’ve been looking at your lesson plans and you’ve been very naughty.
Woman: I have? Ooh. What have I done, Mr. Jones?
Man: Your rubrics don’t align with curriculum expectations. You will have to be punished. Please come to my office.
Woman: Your office? Tell me more.
Man (husky voice): I just had new carpeting installed. It’s builder’s grade, but it’s very nice all the same.
Woman: That’s definitely going to trigger my allergies.
Man (husky voice): Ohhh, your allergies eh? Maybe you need to have them spanked out of you.
Woman: *laughs hysterically*

That may or may not have been based on a real conversation between 2 people who have been married almost 30 years. The closest I’ve come to actual porn lately though was the movie Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence. She plays a Russian ballerina that trains to be a sex spy, which is to say, someone who uses sex to spy on people, NOT someone who spies on people having sex. Anyway, there was a LOT of graphic action in this movie, which we had gone to see with T and his girlfriend, the lovely V. When the movie was over, we were all just like, “Well, that was certainly a complicated plot….” and “Gosh, the Cold War was an interesting time in history….” So probably not the kind of movie you want to see WITH your teenager. And now, I just took a break and peeked at Facebook, where one of my friends has posted an article about a Canadian trapper who was attacked by a randy 200 pound beaver, so I’m just going to leave things there.

Hey there, baby.

My Week 180: Star Wars Death Elevator, Purple Rain

Well, I managed to survive another week, and by survive, I mean LITERALLY not get killed. Over the course of the last few days, something terrifying happened, and something lovely also happened. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Obviously, the bad news, right? Because we need to get the sh*t out of the way so that we can celebrate the good things that life has to offer. So away we go…

On Thursday, I decided that I wanted hot chocolate. I like to make it with half hot water and half milk, but the communal milk in my mini-frig was sour (sorry, M, but we aren’t drinking that sh*t fast enough—pick up the pace!), and I decided to pop down to the store on the corner to buy a new carton. I came back into the building with my bag of milk, and some hummus and crackers for lunch, and got onto the elevator. You may recall, if you visit this site often, that I am particularly phobic about elevators, and often have nightmares about them. You may also remember that a few weeks ago, I had an elevator incident where I accidentally pushed the basement button and couldn’t get to my floor for a few minutes. So naturally, I’m very careful now in terms of buttons. Of course, aside from the numbers, I don’t know what any of the other buttons mean. Most elevators just have symbols, which I have always related back to the Star Wars universe, and simply call them “Imperial Fighter”, “X-Wing Fighter”, “Darth Vader’s Helmet” and either “Princess Leia’s Hairdo”, or “ET, phone home” depending on which way the phone icon is facing. So yes, I know the phone is to call someone, but as for the rest, I am perpetually stumped. I never know which one opens the door or closes it, and 9 times out of 10, I accidentally shut the door on someone calling, “Hold the elevator!” and then seem like a total jerk, when actually I just DON’T READ BRAILLE. Like, I understand the importance of making sure the blind don’t get stuck in elevators too, but can’t these buttons be also labelled in regular WORDS? Is this a Canadian thing, where we expect people to guess how the elevator works? Some elevators have words, from what I’ve seen on the interweb, but not mine.

See the resemblance?

Luke, I am your alarm button.

Anyway, I got on the elevator and pressed “12” for my floor. The door shut. The elevator started moving, then it stopped. The light on the “12” button went out. Nothing happened for a second. And then the elevator DROPPED about a foot and then bounced up and down. I started stabbing the lobby button frantically but nothing happened. I looked at the buttons. Imperial Fighter or X-Wing Fighter?! How do I get these f*cking doors open?! I tried both, but nothing happened, and then the elevator dropped and bounced again. At which point, I pushed Darth Vader’s Helmet as hard as I could, not knowing whether this would result in a light sabre battle with the Dark Lord, but I would have gladly lost a hand to get off that elevator alive. A piercing alarm sounded. I kept pushing the Helmet Button and I heard a faint voice saying, “Stop pressing the alarm—we’re coming.” So I stopped for a second, and then the elevator dropped again. At which point, I resumed pressing the button and also screaming, “Help me! Get me out of here! Please! Someone help me!” I also started crying, so probably good that Darth Vader’s Helmet didn’t summon the Dark Side, because I would have been an easy kill at that moment. Suddenly the elevator doors opened, and two guys were standing there looking at me very concerned and apologetic.

Guy 1: Are you OK?
Me (crying a little bit): No.
Guy 2: What floor were you going to?
Me (crying a lot): 12.
Guy 2: Do you want me to go up with you?
Me (sobbing ridiculously): Yes.

On the way up, he apologized profusely. Apparently, he and his friend were checking for water leakage in the basement, and had locked my elevator at the exact moment that I had pushed “12”. So it was like an epic battle between floors, with me caught in the middle. By the time I got back to my office, I was in the middle of a complete panic attack. I walked in with tears rolling down my face, and was immediately surrounded by the warmth and care of my coworkers, who helped me to a chair, offered to get me water, and brought me chocolate because, as my colleague put it, “Nothing helps a panic attack more than chocolate”. And if anyone ever wonders why I work so far away from home, when I could try to find a job within easy driving distance, this is it. Except for the elevators.

So that was the scary thing, although it had a nice ending. The really cool thing that happened is this:

We recently brought on board a person whose job is, apparently, to understand what the secret agency does. I’ve had to meet with him several times, and the conversations go something like this:

Him: What’s this?
Me: It’s this.
Him: What does it do?
Me: It does this.
Him: Who’s involved?
Me: They are.
Him: What happens next?
Me: This does.

And then he fills in his fancy and complicated spreadsheet. He’s a very quiet, polite, older fellow, and doesn’t say much, at least not to me. Then the other day, he needed some information and came to my office. When he sat down, he looked at my tote bag, my hair, and a couple of other things in my office and said, “I see you really like the colour purple.” I said, yes, that it was a particular favourite. He responded with “I have something on me that I wish was purple” and he started rolling up his pant leg. And I was like, “Wait, what is happening here?!” (in my head of course, because I was alarmed, but also fascinated). He pulled the pant leg up to reveal a tattoo of the Prince symbol on his calf. Honest to god, it was the last thing I expected from this quiet, older man. Turns out, he and his wife are both huge Prince fans, and we spent the next little while reminiscing about Prince, and how wonderful he was in concert (I’d never seen him live, but my colleague had on several occasions). His biggest regret aside from getting the tattoo in solid black instead of purple, he said, was that he didn’t get VIP tickets for the last concert, because the people sitting on the corners of the stage actually got called up by Prince to DANCE with him. It was a lovely conversation, and it struck me how important it is to get to know people on more than just a spreadsheet level. And the best part was when I was telling Ken about it yesterday on the way to see a movie with T and his girlfriend, and just as I was describing how much this guy loved Prince, “Kiss” came on the radio, and all I could picture was this cool, quiet, older guy dancing his heart out.

Anyway, sorry that this week wasn’t as funny as normal, but a near-death experience can do that to you. I feel bad though, so I’ll leave you with this conversation that I had with a telemarketer last week:

Phone rings at 7:30 on Saturday morning, then stops. Ken has answered. I’m worried that it’s someone with bad news, because who the f*ck else calls your house at that time in the morning. I pick up the upstairs phone:

Heavily accented voice: …an illegal charge on your credit card. If you don’t pay right away, the police…
Me: Ken, this is a scam. Tell him to f*ck off.
Heavily accented voice: You f*ck off.
Me: No, YOU F*CK OFF.
Heavily accented voice: NO, YOU F*CK OFF.
Me: Ken, hang up the damn phone.

Yep. That’s me. Willing to engage in a swearing match with a telemarketer at 7:30 in the morning. Near death experiences have made me bold.