Where’s The Fire?

Last Saturday, I was doing a book signing at our local Chapters Indigo store. The weather was lousy, but at least it was just rain, not the freezing rain and snow that had been forecast. I was there for three hours, and I sold quite a few copies, but still three hours is a long time to just stand next to a giant sign featuring a post-apocalyptic Toronto skyline without any distractions. Then suddenly, a fire truck with its lights flashing pulled up outside the store. OOH! And I wasn’t the only person who raced to the window, and I’m also sure I wasn’t the only person who was more interested in seeing the firefighters than actually finding out why they were there. Ultimately, nothing happened—they didn’t even come into the store, much to the dismay of women, men, and small children alike. And it reminded me of the last fire drill we had at work:

I was in the elevator and two guys got on. “Don’t forget about the fire drill tomorrow,” one of them said to the other.

“Oh,” I said. “Is it in the morning or afternoon?”

“Afternoon,” he answered. “Stay close to your coat—it’s supposed to be chilly.”

So that was a great heads-up, except that I almost immediately forgot about it until the next afternoon, when suddenly, the fire alarm went off. Everyone looked around nonchalantly, but then an announcement came over the PA system: “A fire alarm has been activated on Parking Level 2. The fire department has been dispatched. Exit the building immediately.” Then people started to get a little panicky. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I heard two guys talking about a drill yesterday in the elevator. I’m sure the announcement is just a trick or something.” But that didn’t seem to make people feel better, and then everyone started walking quickly towards the exit. Notice that I said “exit” singular, and not “exits” plural. Because, even though my office is in an 18-story building, there’s only ONE way out. Down the stairs. Along with EVERYONE ELSE who works in the building. And after meandering slowly down numerous double flights of stairs in a huge crowd of people I didn’t know, I commented to my co-worker, “This is crazy. If there was a real fire, we’d all be in serious trouble.” She replied, “Why the hell didn’t I change out of these heels?” which was a completely legit question, since our secret agency meeting place was on a side street two city blocks away. I suppose that’s in an attempt to disguise our identities, you know, like we’re just a group of tourists who happened to stop for a chat behind the grocery store. Like, nothing to see here; just move along. Ignore the man carrying the encrypted laptop. But then things got a little worrisome. Not because of the fire—at this point it became very clear that it was, in fact, a drill—but because there was no sign of any firetrucks. A ripple of dissatisfaction ran through the crowd.

“Where are the firefighters? We were promised firefighters!”

“If I had to walk down 15 flights of stairs, there should at least be firefighters!”

“What’s going on? Does anyone hear sirens?”

“This is ridiculous! You can’t just lie about calling the fire department! It’s not fair!”

And this wasn’t just the women. Men like firetrucks too, you know. But after a little while, we were all distracted by a colleague in Human Resources, a very dapper guy who was now wearing not only his suit and tie, but a rather bold, red ballcap with the words, “Fire Marshall” on it. We flocked to him to have our names checked off (to ensure none of us had perished in the fake fire?) and also because he was the closest thing to a firefighter that we had, and then we sadly returned to our building. The elevators were back in service—4 elevators for an eighteen-story building. It took a little while, but we finally squeezed on at the ground floor, cheering and laughing. Then the elevator suddenly stopped at the sixth floor. We were all puzzled until the doors opened:

“Marcel!!” we cheered. There was Marcel, one of our French co-workers, with a huge grin on his face. “I t’ought ze best t’ing would be to go up ze stairs partway. And ‘ere you are!”  With that, we welcomed him aboard and went back to work.

This might seem inconsequential or anti-climactic, but I tell this story to illustrate a point. That, given the state of some parts of the world right now, I am always grateful when the worst DOESN’T happen, when it’s a drill and not a tragedy, when the door opens and it’s a friend on the other side, when I get to spend time with people who see the humour in things, and when “another day at the office” is a good day. Even if there weren’t any firefighters.

Notice the lack of firefighters…

Three Leaves And A Stick

Me: Where’s the ice cube tray?
Ken: The what?
Me: The ice cube tray! Where is it?
Ken: In the freezer?
Me: No, it’s not. What did you do with it?
Ken: Why would I have done anything with it?
Me: Well, it’s not in here. Where did you put it?!
Ken: I sold it on EBay.
Me: Did you at least get a good price for it, KEN?!
Ken: Unfortunately, no.
Me DAMN YOUR EYES!!

5 minutes later…

Ken: I see you found the ice cube tray. Where was it?
Me (sheepishly): Behind a bag of frozen French fries.

Now, you may be wondering what on earth prompted such an overreaction to the missing (temporarily) ice cube tray, but the fact of the matter was that my orchid was starting to look a little wilty and I realized to my horror that I had failed to provide it with its requisite 2 ice cubes a week since the previous Friday. And under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been quite so panicky except that I had recently returned to work after the holidays and discovered that the incredibly lush orchid given to me by my team for my birthday had succumbed to my neglect and all the flowers had fallen off. Here’s what it looked like when I initially received it—it was glorious, more’s the pity:

Destined to become 3 leaves and a stick.

Yes, once again, I was now left with three leaves and a stick. When they gave it to me, I was overcome with gratitude, but at the same time, I felt sad because I knew it wouldn’t be long before I committed yet another planticide. Completely unintentional of course, what we would call ‘involuntary plantslaughter’, but with the same dire results. Because the fact is, I’m just not good with houseplants.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my garden, and I love plants. As long as they’re outside. I have a rule in my garden—I will plant you and occasionally water you, and the rest is your deal. Most garden plants are just fine with this and manage to thrive without much help from me, aside from me making sure that weeds don’t choke them out. House plants are a whole other matter, though. I seem to have absolutely no knack with houseplants whatsoever. Unfortunately, for both me and them, I really want plants in the house. I haven’t had any for a while, aside from the straggly hibiscus that Ken’s mom gave me years ago, which spends all summer outside looking gorgeous then comes in for the winter and pretty much withers away under my care until the weather gets warm again, and a stupid fern that Ken won’t let me throw away. I got the fern as far as the front porch at the beginning of January, and while I was vacuuming up all the dead leaves, Ken snuck it back in the house, because I’m “only allowed to have one fern and if I can’t keep it alive all winter I can’t get a new one”. It’s like a test of character, or a Nietzschean struggle of the wills. Nietzsche once said “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, so I like to think that if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’ve done my part to ensure that the fern will survive. Last spring, Ken bought me a pot of daffodils as a gift and it sat proudly on the kitchen island until the lack of consistent watering did it in. Well, how am I supposed to know that it needed to be watered EVERY DAY? What am I, its mother? So the next time we went to the grocery store, I decided I wanted a replacement plant, and Ken was no help at all.

Me: Oh look! They have orchids—I’ve always wanted an orchid!
Ken: They’re $24.99. Are you really going to pay that much money for something you’re just going to kill?
Me: I won’t kill it!
Ken: Yeah, you will.
Me: What about this campanula? Wait, they look pretty fragile…
Ken: You’ll kill it.
Me: I don’t kill everything, you know.
Ken: (snickers) They have nice cut flowers. Get a bouquet—they’re supposed to die eventually anyway.
Me: Wait, there are orchids here for $14.99!…no, you’re right. It’ll die. What about these African violets? I had one once and it lived for a long time.
Ken: I remember that. It’s a good choice—it might survive.
Me: You’re so mean!
Ken: I have to be—I’m a member of the Vegetation Protection League.

So I got the African violet instead of the orchid. It was dead within the month. But in November, I received the wilting orchid in question from a friend who couldn’t be at my book launch, so she gave it to me as a congratulatory gift, and I was determined that it would live to see February. It will not. Despite my ice-cubing and sweet talking, it’s looking worse by the day.

But I don’t think it’s just me—I honestly believe that orchids are all destined at some point to become three leaves and a stick. In fact, I was in the kitchen at work on Friday, getting ice cubes for my orchid AS ONE DOES, and a new colleague was making toast:

Me: Oh hey, how’s it going? I just need to get some ice cubes for my orchid.
New Colleague: Oh, I have one of those. The flowers fell off, and it’s only a few leaves and a stick right now, but I hope it’ll bloom again.
Me: It won’t. They never do.
New Colleague: Sigh. I know.

But I will persevere, even if my orchid IS just three leaves and a stick, for the sentimental value. As for Ken, it’s a shame that he didn’t really sell my ice cube tray on EBay, because we’ve had it almost since we got married, and when I went to the EBay website, I discovered that he could have gotten fifty bucks for a “vintage plastic ice cube tray”. That’s enough for at least FIVE leaves and a stick.

Bizarre Snacks and Bluetooth Insanity

Ok, so I have officially eaten the most bizarre flavour of potato chip. Here in Canada, we are liberal in government but fairly conservative in our potato chips. The most outrageous we’ve ever gotten was when Lays ran a contest and Swiss Chalet Sauce came out on top (with maple syrup being a close second). The taste was like a sweeter BBQ sauce but nothing that the taste buds couldn’t handle. But the British? Is there a single thing that the Brits will NOT use to flavour their crisps? Kate was already obsessed with “Roast Chicken” flavoured Lays, which we can only find in specialty shops here, but on Boxing Day, my aunt brought me two packages of Walkers chips that a friend who’d recently returned from England had given her. The first one was “Pigs In Blankets”. I’m never quite sure what that is—in North America it refers to hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury crescent roll dough, which is already disgusting on its own, but in the UK, it can be “a variety of different sausage-based foods…depending on geographic location.” That sounds kind of gross for a potato chip, unless it’s the Scottish version, called “Kilted Soldiers”, which consists of sausages wrapped in bacon. Now that’s a flavour I could get behind. What I can’t get behind is the other bag my aunt gave me, which were BRUSSEL SPROUT FLAVOURED. Yes, the British have taken the most disgusting vegetable known to humankind (aside from beets) and turned it into a potato chip. And the best part was the bag, because the bag features the company logo surrounded by swirling sprouts in the shape of a Christmas tree with the caption “Brussels Sprout”, and I don’t know if that’s a typo or if it’s because they’re “sprouting” out of a green gift box on the front of the package. But the best thing, like the ABSOLUTE BEST THING, is that beneath all the sprouts it actually says, “IMAGE OF SPROUTS FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSE ONLY. PRODUCT CONTAINS NO BRUSSEL SPROUTS”. Like someone was seriously going to buy these and then be like “Cor Blimey! Where are all the sprouts wot I was promised?! It’s bloody Christmas–this is bollocks!!” At any rate, I DID try them. They were green, very salty, and had a terrible aftertaste. Just like real Brussel sprouts.

You might not have noticed it, but I’ve spent the equivalent of several days revising all my blog posts so that they have metatags. I read somewhere that having tags on each post might increase traffic, so I set about adding them to every single post. I have so far written 276 posts as mydangblog, with each one between 1000 and 2000 words and I had to read every one of them to decide what tags to use. And I have NO idea if I’m doing it right, because it was mostly just me going “Hmm. This one’s about poop so I should use that as a tag.” So far, the tags I’ve used the most are Humour, Wine, Titus, Bathrooms, Worst Case Scenarios, and Star Wars, and that list alone should tell you everything you need to know about me. Here’s a picture of the Baby Yoda cookies Kate and I made, just so I can add a gratuitous Star Wars tag to this post too.

I decided that I probably shouldn’t use Porn as a tag, even though I have several posts related to porn, because I already get enough spam enticing me to click on a link to see hot college co-eds. Will tags make any difference? Only time will tell, but at least I got to read some funny sh*t that I’d forgotten about.

And speaking of funny sh*t I’d forgotten about, on Friday, I was driving and my 6 year-old niece Cecile tried to FaceTime me. I couldn’t answer, so I tried calling her back, but my Bluetooth was acting REALLY weird. I asked it to call Cecile, and the woman’s voice just kept saying “Pardon?” The third time I said her name, the woman said, “Ok, calling Phil” and I was like “WHO THE F*CK IS PHIL?!”And this reminded me of the last time I rented a car. (I had to rent it in the name of Queen Elizabeth because I work for a secret agency. This is not a joke. In fact, I had to call the rental agency to verify something, and the guy couldn’t find the car under my name, so I said, “Try “Her Majesty the Queen,” and he was like, “Oh yeah, here it is.” I’m glad the Queen wasn’t actually driving with me, because she would have been less than impressed by my relationship with the woman who ran the Bluetooth system. In my own car (under normal circumstances), when I want to make a call, the woman simply says, “Ready,” and I say “Call”, and she says “State the name or number.” So I tell her, and the next thing, I’m talking to someone, usually Ken. I don’t know what kind of sick, evil mind designed the system in this Nissan Sentra that I rented, but here’s what happened when I tried to make a phone call:

First attempt

Woman: Please say a command. You can choose from Call, Redial, Call Phone Book, Recent Calls, Location, Hang Up, Try Again, New Command, or Help.
Me: Uh…I…can you just call someone for me? I’ve forgotten what the options are already.
Woman: That command is not recognized. Hanging up.
Me: WTF! (presses button again, listens to list). Call!
Woman: Please specify from the following list. Name, Phone Number, Redial, Call Back, Hang Up, or Help.
Me: 519-555…
Woman: Command not recognized. Disconnecting.
Me: Wait, what?!

Second Attempt

Woman: Please specify from the following list. Name, Phone Number, Redial, Call Back, Hang Up, or Help.
Me: Name.
Woman: OK. Hanging up.
Me: What?!

Third Attempt

Woman: Please specify….
Me: Phone Number.
Woman: To dial, please speak 3, 7, or 10 digits. Say “special number” to dial 24 digits, including special numbers like star, pound, or nuclear launch codes.
Me: What the f*ck?!
Woman: You have requested the digits 254. Please say the next 4 digits to dial or choose from one of the following options. Correction, Redial, Call Back, Take Me To Funkytown, or Help.
Me: Help me…
Woman: Command not recognized. You are either speaking too loudly, too softly, or in Mandarin.
Me: I’M NOT SPEAKING MANDARIN!!
Woman: OK. Calling Ken.
Me: Sigh.

(Update: I tried the Pigs in Blankets chips last night and they tasted remarkably and unfortunately just like hot dogs. Ugh. Cor blimey.)