My Weeks 150/151: Travelling Dangerously on the Queen Mary 2 and Throughout the U.K.

I’m on a boat!

Well, I WAS on a boat. Then in a car, then on a plane, and now I’m back. I hope you didn’t miss me too much—it’s the first time in years that I haven’t made my weekly journey into the absurd. Even when I had surgery last year, I wrote something ahead of time, and had Ken post it for me. This past week though, anyone who could have figured out my computer and hit “upload” was actually with me. Plus, I didn’t have anything new to tell you until I got back. Which is now. So fasten your seatbelts and secure the overhead bins—things are going to get slightly humorous.

So, as you know, I like to live life on the edge. And while maybe it’s usually the edge of sanity, or reason, the fact is that I’m pretty much a daredevil when it comes to travel, which I will get to in a minute. As you may or may not know, I’ve been away the last two weeks, having taken the Queen Mary 2 over to the United Kingdom with my whole family, parents, siblings, and children included. Then we all split up and went our separate ways, with me, Ken, and T going first to Wales and then to Scotland. It was an excellent trip—let me break it down for you. First, the boat (which my dad keeps telling me is a “ship” not a “boat”, so if you’re extremely old and extremely rich, the Queen Mary is definitely the “ship” for you. Unfortunately, I am NEITHER, so it was an interesting experience to be on that particular BOAT, DAD, haha.)

Part One:

Things I liked about the Queen Mary 2:
a) Like most cruise ships, it was decorated like an upscale brothel, which made me feel very risqué.
b) The beds were comfortable and you could stay in them all day if you wanted to.
c) You could get breakfast brought to your cabin instead of having to get dressed, and it didn’t cost anything extra.
d) The food was OK. There was always bacon, and I mean real bacon, not those weird-ass slabs of pan-fried ham that the Brits think is bacon. Silly Brits.
e) There were two guys who played the piano and told jokes, and they were so funny that I saw them twice.

Things I didn’t like about the Queen Mary 2:
a) You could stay in your bed all day because there was literally nothing much else to do that was interesting or didn’t cost you a lot of extra money. The lectures were either on war, politics, or Broadway musicals, and the other “seminars” were sponsored by the Spa, as in ‘Come to our session on Botox and hear an expert talk about why it’s so great and then you can get a discount on a costly Botox treatment’, or by the Art Gallery, as in ‘Come to our session on this unknown artist and then you can buy his extremely expensive painting of emoji-faced lollipops for a significant discount’. The other activities all had costs associated with them, like the red wine tasting entitled, “Syrah, Shiraz? What’s the difference? Find out for a nominal fee of $120”. 120 bucks for a flight of 6 small glasses of wine? For that price, I can wait until I get home, buy 10 full bottles and find out for myself, so Que Syrah Shiraz to you. There were also art classes for a fee, and a variety of other things you could do that all cost extra. Why is that a problem? Because whenever there was any activity for free, it was a MOB SCENE. For example, there was a free rum tasting at the duty-free liquor shop one day, and people were rioting like it was the only Red Cross water truck in the middle of the desert. And yes, obviously I was there because it was FREE RUM. Just as I was about to get my tiny plastic cup, a guy beside me whined that he’d been waiting for twenty minutes and still hadn’t gotten any. I was like, “Here’s the line-up, mate. Try standing in it.” Because I’m CANADIAN, and we are extremely OCD about line-up protocols, which a lot of other countries aren’t and it makes me crazy. I firmly believe that the inherent understanding of how to line up in an orderly fashion is what makes a culture civilized, and the Fall of the Roman Empire can be directly traced back to their inability to queue properly.
b) The ship’s House Band was a group known as “Purple Haze.” Mostly because they covered the whole ship with a fog of Motown and cover songs. They weren’t actually bad if you like a reggae version of Justin Beiber’s ‘Love Yourself’—they were just EVERYWHERE. In the lounge after breakfast—Purple Haze. Poolside at lunch—Purple Haze. In the ballroom during afternoon tea—Purple Haze. In the very sad little disco that no one ever went to because most of the passengers went to bed at 10 pm—Purple Haze. I swear if the ship was ever sinking, it would be to the “fine musical stylings of Purple Haze”.

Overall, the good outweighed the bad. It was a very relaxing crossing, and the best part was that our whole family was together for the journey. And seeing T in a tuxedo at dinner was pretty cool.

Part Two:

I am a total f*cking badass when I’m travelling and here’s why:

1) Despite the fact that I’m severely allergic to shellfish, I wandered the beaches of Wales and collected seashells. This doesn’t sound dangerous, but the last time I did that in British Columbia, I picked up some shells then accidentally chewed on my cuticle (not so much an accident as part of an OCD thing), and then my lips swelled up. So now, if I want to collect seashells, I’m literally TAKING MY LIFE IN MY OWN HANDS, and have to consciously avoid putting my fingers in my mouth until I can wash with soap and water, or else risk having to use my epipen. I live my life on the edge, folks.

2) I am deathly afraid of heights, but I still climbed up ruined castle towers and stood on ramparts that were 100 feet in the air. Did I have a full-blown panic attack at Harlech Castle when I realized that I was on the top of a stone wall with no guardrails and at any moment some unruly British child could run past me, causing me to lose my balance and fall to my death? I may or may not have. (I did). But I still crawled back to the stairs like the daredevil I am instead of crying like a big baby.

3) I defied the tide and clambered over jagged rocks to make my way to a private little alcove half a kilometre from the main beach at our bed and breakfast in Wales (which is called Kilsaran House and it was amazing). I had no choice really—T and Ken announced they were doing it, and I had to go along or be left behind to worry about them dying. I figured if I was with them, I could scout out the worst case scenarios before one of them fell off a tippy rock or poked a jellyfish with their fingers. I spent the whole time with one eye on the ocean and one eye on the rocks that threatened to break my ankles. But we made it there, and I was glad I went with them, because who else besides me was going to shout “I forbid you to climb that cliff!” or “That crab might not be dead so don’t pick it up!”

4) I made an old man give me a chair, all by my bad-ass self. In fairness, I HAD the chair, and he tried to take it away, but I was like “Out of my cold, dead hands, elderly English dude!” I should probably provide a little context—on the “ship” (there you go, Dad), they had trivia competitions 4 times a day, and because it was one of the few activities onboard that was actually free, EVERYBODY went. Except it was held in a small pub with limited seating, so people got pretty testy about the chairs, especially since you could play in teams of 6 and the tables and chairs were arranged in groupings of 4. So this particular time, I asked a guy if he was using one of his chairs, and he said no. I was in the process of moving it when this big old man came over and pulled it out of my hands. Seriously. He was like, “Oh, I have this chair,” and I was like, “Um, I asked for it first, but whatever” and I let go. Because I’m Canadian, and a chair isn’t worth being a dick over. But my sacrificial, and slightly sarcastic attitude made him feel  bad, so he gave it back to me. Score one for the good guys.

5) Driving in the UK is enough to earn anyone the moniker of ‘madcap heroine’. Of course, I wasn’t actually driving—I was the navigator, having never learned to drive a stick shift. I mean, why have a dog and bark, am I right? But the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road (yes it is, don’t argue), and the bulk of my job was yelling at Ken “Stay to the left!” Also, the “roads” in the UK, especially in Wales aren’t really roads at all, at least not by Canadian standards. What they call a major roadway in Wales is what we call a “tractor path” here. For example, the so-called road to our first bed and breakfast went through a gravel parking lot and out the other side, then became a one-lane walking path with little spots to pull over in case someone was coming in the other direction. The directions we were given said “go past Hunter’s Fleece Cottage, then follow the track downhill for 100 yards” where there was an almost sheer vertical drop. Getting back up was a treat, with Ken gunning it in third gear and hoping to hell that no one was coming the other way. The best part was when the GPS would announce, “Take the next left onto A725” and it would SOUND like a real road, but it would be one lane, pinned in on both sides by rock walls, and suddenly there would be sheep.

I was a kick-ass navigator until the day that Ken decided to defy the GPS and plot his own route:

Ken: I took a screenshot of the way I want to go. Where do I turn next?
Me: How do I turn the Ipad on?
Ken: Push that button. Where do I turn?! I need to know now!
Me: Where’s the ‘You are here’ arrow? How do I know where to turn if I don’t know where I am?
Ken: We started from New Steddon Road. Where do I go next?
Me: The map goes sideways if I try to figure out which way is North.
Ken: I don’t need North! I just need to know where to turn! God, I forgot how bad you are with maps!
Me: I’m not bad with maps! You can’t just give someone a screen shot of some streets, not tell them where they’re starting from, and expect them to calculate your route! I’m not a GPS, you know.
Ken: Fine, just program the GPS then.
Me: OK. Where are we going again?
Ken: Sigh.
T: What’s going on?
Me: Just go back to sleep. I’ve got this covered.

Two other minor proofs of my bad-assedness: I walked through the haunted corridor of a castle. It wasn’t—I have plenty of experiences with ghosts (see My Week 69: Ghost Stories) and there wasn’t one there, despite the place being featured on some reality show where a woman swore there was electromagnetic energy and an angry ghost who wanted to strangle people. Also, I ate haggis. If you’re Scottish, you have to. I just love being descended from a culture whose national dish is so disgusting that you have to force yourself to eat it, but you’re so stoic that you do it anyway. My Scottish cousin Lynn put it this way: “I keep trying it because I want to like it, but it’s so gross”. So there you go. I’m a devil-may-care, throw caution to the winds kind of gal who’s happy to be home where I can use a hair dryer in my own bathroom and eat the best national dish of all–poutine.

Next week, I’ll tell you about some of my favourite places from the trip, but for right now, I’m still kind of jet-lagged. Plus, my head thinks it’s 5 o’clock instead of noon, so time for a nice glass of wine–maybe a Syrah…

My Week 149: Getting Ready to Vacation, Hammacher Schlemmer Revisited

Can I just stay home?

Is “vacate” the verb form of “vacation”? Because that’s what I’m in the midst of right now—getting ready to vacate for a vacation. I’m not good at the whole down-time thing, but I have to say I’m getting a little excited. Ken, T, and I are going on the Queen Mary over to the UK with our whole family, including Mom and Dad, and my brother (the one with the Ph.D) and his family. The worst part of the whole experience, aside from worrying about EVERY worst case scenario possible, is the packing. I’ve been struggling for days with what exactly to bring, and how I will fit it all in one suitcase for two weeks. The Queen Mary is a super-fancy boat, and then once we dock, we`re going to be hiking around Wales, so it’s one extreme to another. I basically just took everything I had, and rolled it all up into tight balls, so now I have room for shoes. I have a LOT of shoes. Mostly flipflops, so they don`t take up much space. But Ken and T are in a jam because they have to take “formal wear”. I can roll a dress into a tight sausage, but a suit isn’t that easy:

Me: Are you going to put your stuff into a garment bag?
Ken: I suppose…
Me: Why are you acting skeptical? It’s a garment bag, not a Tauntaun that you cut open for warmth.
Ken: What?!
Me: Nothing. Do you think three pairs of black flipflops is too many?

Random Star Wars references aside, Ken and I are T minus 11 hours away from departure. We’re also minus T, because he’s having a last farewell with his girlfriend, the lovely V, before he goes off the grid for a few days. But he promised to be home for Ken’s birthday dinner.

Meanwhile, Ken decided that he wanted to take photographs to submit to a contest held by a local ice cream company. His grand plan was to use Titus and me as models on the porch of our garden house. I had to sit there in the boiling sun with a “Yukon Bar” dripping down my arm until Titus decided he’d had enough, grabbed it out of my hand, and pulled the whole thing off the stick:

Me: What the f*ck??!!
Titus: Did you seriously think you could keep waving that at me and I WOULDN’T steal it? Whoa—ice cream headache!!
Me: Serves you right, you dick. Also, it was chocolate ice cream, so don’t come crying to me if you get sick.
Titus (whispers): It was so worth it.

Anyway, that sh*t is boring AF for you, so I’ll get to the point. I’m vacating the country for a while, and it occurs to me that I don’t really want to go anywhere else. I know that Canada isn’t perfect and that there are horrible people here too, but in the last couple of days, I’ve had some particularly Canadian experiences.

1) Yesterday, I was waiting in line for the train at Union Station in Toronto (the biggest train station in the country). When the line started to move, the woman in front of me looked down at some bags at her feet, then moved them to one side, and we all kept walking. The guy behind me was a little worried and said to me, “Do you know who those bags belong to?”

“No,” I answered, “but this is Canada. No one’s going to take them.”

“True enough,” he agreed. A couple of minutes later, I saw a man come running over breathlessly and grab the bags, smiling at the people in line, who smiled back and let him in. Which is a big deal, because Canada has some pretty stringent line protocols.

2) Over the course of the last two days, I’ve had a door held open for me by at least 10 people, some of them young people, which doesn’t surprise me—I mention it only as a counter-measure against those who continually whine about millennials.

3) This morning I was in the neighbouring city getting a few things for the trip. A couple had a shopping cart at the top of the stairs leading to another plaza. They carried two of their bags down but left three cases of water in the cart. As I walked by, the people behind me said, “Oh, someone’s forgotten their water!” Then the couple came hurrying back. “Don’t worry,” I said. “No one’s going to take it.”

“Oh, I know,” the woman replied. “I was just worried that the cart might be in someone’s way. Plus if someone DID take it, I guess they needed the water more than me, so that’s OK.”

4) I went to Shopper’s and forgot my points card. The cashier said, “Don’t worry—it’s Senior’s Day” which initially had me like ‘Dear God, do I look that old?’ but then she explained that she gave my points to the woman ahead of me in line who was a senior and who HAD her points card, and gave both of us the senior’s discount. “I pretended that you were her daughter and gave you the discount. Just say ‘Thanks, Mom’ to her, and we’ll call it even,” she said. So I did.

5) My hairdresser is openly gay, and her partner is a transgender person. We all live in a small town of 500 people, and no one gives a sh*t. Try getting an appointment with this girl—she’s booked solid every day. Although she DID fit Ken in for a straight razor cut because she just took a course and he’s one of the few guys in town who shaves his head.

And while I imagine these kinds of things happen in other places in the world, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they happen in Canada. But that worries me too, because there are good people everywhere, and things are still pretty sh*tty in other countries, so who’s to say that Canada won’t be next, or whether to some people, we’re already as bad as other countries? You can blame social media all you want for giving assholes a platform that they never had 20 years ago, but the fact is that assholes still existed then—they just made the people in their IMMEDIATE vicinity miserable instead of tweeting out their idiocy to a wide audience, or making ludicrous and ill-informed comments on national news articles.

At any rate, it’s time to see more of the world and find those little pockets of decency where I can. Because I know they exist. So have a great week–I’ll be coming to you from the UK for the next installment of mydangblog at the point where I eventually have wifi.

And now here’s a throwback to November 2014 that you might not have read on the weirdness of mail-order catalogues…

Wednesday: I wonder who exactly buys things from mail-order catalogues.

On occasion, we get mail order catalogues delivered to our house. There’s Added Touch, which features jewellery, clothes, and furniture. Why would I order anything from them, when I can buy the same things from actual stores, without having to pay shipping? We also get Signals, offering logic games and clever T-shirts with saying like “Don’t trust atoms—they make up everything” on them, and Bits and Pieces, which sells really cheap plastic garden ornaments and jigsaw puzzles of kitty cats and thatched-roof cottages. But the icing on the mail-order cake came on Wednesday, when we got, for the first time, a catalogue called Hammacher Schlemmer, which I think is German for “sh—t that you’ll never buy because it’s stupid and way too expensive”. Aside from the assorted remote control spy drones, the ultrasonic jewellery cleaner, and the washable cashmere bathrobe (only $399.95, y’all), there were some really bizarre things available for purchase. Here are a few of my favourites:

Page 5: The Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter, $129.95. It’s a tiny doghouse for cats, which comes with a heated floor. It’s waterproof and can be plugged into any grounded electrical outlet. This, to me, is a paradox. You don’t like your cat enough to let it in the house when it’s cold or wet out, but you’ll pay $130.00 for a cathouse? Do you love your cat or hate it? Maybe it’s like Schrodinger’s cat—you simultaneously love AND hate it—either way, you probably shouldn’t have a cat.

Page 60: The Faux Fireplace, $69.95. The description of this item reads: “The removable fireplace decal that instills instant ski lodge coziness to a room otherwise devoid of winter’s most heart-warming tradition.” While the prose is lovely, let’s be clear—it’s a STICKER that looks like a fireplace. You just paid seventy bucks for a giant sticker, friend. It will not warm your room. The flames don’t move. The picture in the catalogue is of a man sitting in a wingchair, staring at the fireplace. Let’s be realistic—he’s staring at the wall. For the same money, you could buy a space heater, if it’s warmth you’re looking for, or for another hundred bucks, you could go to Canadian Tire and buy an electric fireplace with fake flames that actually move. If I was ever going to stick anything on my wall, it would be a life-size Johnny Depp. (I asked Ken if he was OK with that, and he said only if he got a life-size sticker of someone too, but he wouldn’t tell me who because he “didn’t want to be judged”).

Page 64: The Cyclist’s Virtual Safety Lane, $39.95. This ingenious invention consists of two laser beams that you mount on your bicycle to provide motorists a “visual indicator of a cyclist’s riding width”. This is also known as the “target zone”. Don’t people on bicycles already have enough problems with inconsiderate car drivers almost knocking them off their bikes without providing them a clear indication of exactly where you have to drive to do that? I admit, I’m not a huge fan of fanatical cyclists who zip around in their fake sponsorship outfits and torpedo helmets (I went through a post-Olympic phase of yelling “Where’s the peloton?!” out my car window when Ken and I would pass one of them on the road), but still, I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. And neither does Hammacher Sledgehammer, because on page 71, for an additional $199.95, you can also get a Bicycle Rear View Camera, just so you can see who’s bearing down on you and the rest of the peloton.

Finally, the most incredible and most useless item in the catalogue can be found on page 59. For the low, low price of only $345,000 (yes, over a third of a MILLION dollars), you can order a 6 foot tall robot. In the catalogue, it’s described as a “Celebrity Robot Avatar”, and has apparently appeared in movies, TV shows, and music videos. As a purveyor of pop culture myself, I have never seen this robot anywhere on screen. And just to clarify—it’s not actually a ROBOT. It’s a battery-powered, remote control metal can. It doesn’t do anything on its own. It’s controlled with “an intuitive wireless remote that is small enough to escape detection”. You can make it move forwards, backwards, and spin, as well as make it seem like it’s talking by speaking into a “discreet wireless microphone”. What kind of money do you have to make to spend $345,000 on a puppet? For 50 bucks, I’ll dress in a robot costume, come to your party, and have ACTUAL conversations with your guests. That’s right—I’m your robot butler, baby. Your swear-y, angsty robot butler.

My Week 148: Family Vacation, Road Conversations, TBT (Throw Back Titus)

It’s been a kind of crazy, hectic week, what with us taking a mini-vacation to Blue Mountain with T and his girlfriend, the lovely V. The trip was in honour of T’s 19th birthday, and the best part was at midnight on the Wednesday, when we went into a local bar. At exactly one minute after midnight, T ordered a glass of scotch, and when the waitress asked for his ID, he whipped out his driver’s license like a boss. She read it, her eyebrows shot up, and she laughed. “Congratulations!” His next goal is to go into the liquor store that he and Ken were recently kicked out of, because Ken was letting him carry some of the alcohol and there’s a ridiculous rule in Ontario that people under 19 aren’t even allowed to TOUCH anything, so they got told to leave. Seriously. My poor husband, who’s never done a single illegal thing in his life, got tossed from the LCBO. (Actually, he DID run a red light once, but in his defense, I was in labour, it was 3 in the morning, and who WOULDN’T run the light with an insane woman next to you screaming, “For f*ck’s sake!! Do you want me to have the baby in the car?! Why are you stopping?!”) So T’s plan is to go in and very obviously touch  as much liquor as he can and carry bottles around until someone confronts him, then he’ll whip out his ID again in the manner he’s been practicing, which is to say, very confidently and smugly.

If you’ve never been to Blue Mountain, the resort there is fantastic, with mini-golf, ziplining, treetop adventures, the Apex bag jump so you can pretend to be a stuntperson, and the Ridge Runner, which is like a combination rollercoaster/bobsled run down the mountain at top speeds (there are plenty of cheesy homemade movies on Youtube if you want to see how it works). Mini-golf is always a great family activity, but I have to admit that we take it seriously and play by the rules, UNLIKE the family behind us, who were playing “best ball” and kept dogging us at each hole, tapping their feet and sh*t because we were actually trying to make par and keep score instead of PICKING UP THE BALLS FOR YOUR KIDS AND PUTTING THEM IN THE HOLE IN A CAVALIER FASHION, LADY.

There was also a swimming pool where I would have been able to show off my awesome swimming prowess if it wasn’t for Ken:

Me: I’m going to do the Australian crawl. Spot me so I don’t smash into anything.
Ken: OK. Off you go. I’m watching.

10 seconds later:

Me: OWW. OMG, I just smashed my hand on the ledge. Why are you holding onto my ankles?! Are you trying to drown me? Let go!!
Ken: I was trying to help you straighten out. You were going all crooked.
Me: Are you drunk?
T: We were yelling at him to push you away from the concrete, but he kept trying to grab your feet.
Ken: It seemed like the best option. Plus, you’ve been drinking too—no wonder you can’t swim straight.
Me: Sigh. Fair enough.

(Before I go on to the next bit, I just want to quickly add that Blue Mountain has the best gift shops. I bought a pair of socks that say “This meeting is bullshit” on them, and I am totally wearing them to the next meeting about whether or not the percentages on the pie chart are accurate.)

Anyway, aside from the “pool incident”, we had a great time, and were pretty exhausted on the way home. At one point, we got passed by a truck, and the sign on the side said ‘Underground Investigations”, which got me thinking—what kind of business is that exactly? Private detectives? Sewer inspectors? People who work at cemeteries making sure that the holes are dug properly (or that the people in the coffins are really dead)? A secret agency that looks into other secret organizations? (of course, if you do that, it’s kind of stupid to advertise it on your truck). When we got home, I looked it up, and it turns out that it could also be a heavy metal band, or a TV reality show that follows the adventures of 4 plucky men who “follow clues to the source of hazardous liquids that flow into storm drains.” And now I really can’t decide which one I’d rather be—a rock star or a sewer detective—because both sound pretty cool, and there’s not technically much to choose between them aside from the hazmat suit, but that could also be your trademark as a heavy metal band. I mean, there are bands that perform in clown costumes, and bands that perform dressed like space aliens, so why not orange jumpsuits and gasmasks, am I right?

But an even better choice is “bucket or truck?” which I asked Ken as we passed a road crew trimming trees along the highway using cherry pickers:

Me: Bucket or truck?
Ken: Huh?
Me: Would you rather be the guy in the bucket or the guy in the truck controlling the bucket?
Ken: The guy in the bucket controls the bucket. The guy in the truck just sits there hanging out. So I’m going to say “truck”.
Me: The guy in the bucket gets to control the bucket?! I’m totally saying “bucket”. I’d be up and down and swooping around—it would be fun.
Ken: You’re just supposed to trim the trees.
Me: Seriously? F*ck that. That sounds boring and labour-intensive. I change my choice to “truck”.
Ken: We can’t both be in the truck.
Me: Fine. You go in the bucket then.
Ken: But I don’t want to be in the bucket…
Me: Stop being a baby and get in the damned bucket.

But later, in revenge for making him be the guy in the bucket, Ken informed me that I had to make T’s birthday cake yesterday, instead of today like I’d planned:

Me: Why? I was going to make it tomorrow morning.
Ken: No. It needs time to cool down before you ice it.
Me: Do you think I’ve never made a cake before and don’t know how to do it without all the icing soaking into the hot cake?
Ken: I’m just saying.
Me: You realize that if I make it now, you still don’t get to eat it until tomorrow, right?
Ken (pause): Yes. Sigh.

Friday Night: I ponder casting choices

On Friday night, we were tired from the trip and decided to rent a movie. The kids wanted to see Star Wars: Rogue 1 again, but as we were watching it, it occurred to me that the casting is pretty random when it comes to the aliens:

Director: OK. For this scene, give me a girl with elephant trunks for ears. Make her blue and half-naked. Also, I want a giant white sloth.
Costume Person: We need more fake fur!! Someone get to Len’s Mill Store, stat!
Director: Not too much fur–he needs to have cyborg parts.

Later…

Director: Now, for this scene, I’m gonna need a guy with a squid head, a woman in a toga, and a frog wearing a beehive for a hat.
Costume Person: We’re all out of beehives.
Director: NO! Don’t tell me that—it won’t be authentic without the beehive. FIND ME ONE! Oh, and give Forest Whitaker an oxygen mask to suck on.
Costume Person: What about the blind Asian ninja? Should I find him giant red shoes or something?
Director: Don’t be ridiculous! There’s such a thing as overkill, you know.

People have very strange ideas about what aliens might look like. Personally, I think if there ARE aliens living on other planets, they’re probably invisible. Either that, or they look like the members of a heavy metal band.

Throw Back Time

It occurs to me that many of you who only started following in the last year or so might have never seen some of these earlier posts, so I present to you a throw back to November 2014, when Ken and I first got Titus:

Friday: I realize that my dog is a bit of a dick.

So let me just say first that I love my dog. He’s awesome. We got him about 2 months ago, and he’s this big, black Labrador Retriever that another family had to give up. Now I know why. No, just kidding. Titus is actually like the best dog ever, but he has some bad habits that make me crazy, and I’m just going to vent a little.
• Tonight, he licked my pants FIVE times. Seriously. Five times. Do you know why? Because I dropped a Dill Pickle flavoured rice cake on my pants. I picked it up and gave it to him, which apparently is dog-ese for “lick the pants that thing landed on.” (When Ken read this, Titus was sitting next to me and tried to lick my pajamas. When I objected, Ken told me I was like “a human smorgasbord.” He gives the dog a little too much credit.)
• Two days ago, he ate an entire bag of pitas. He has a voracious appetite. Since we got him, he’s eaten 2 full unopened bags of dog treats, a package of tortilla shells, 4 boxes of chicken bouillon cubes and a can of beef bouillon powder, a bag of grapes, a box of cherry tomatoes, an unopened box of Vegetable Thins crackers, and so on and so on. We have learned the hard way to make sure there is no food left out ANYWHERE, because he also has no issue whatsoever with vomiting. When there is no food, however, he will steal dishes out of the sink and carry them around the house, licking them lovingly. (Just for the record, we DO feed him his own food.)
• He likes to sleep on our bed. We’ve never had a dog that wanted to do this. I wouldn’t mind, except that he weighs almost as much as me, and insists on sleeping between Ken and me. And he likes to SPOON.
• He thinks the cat is another toy. She, however, does not appreciate his playful nature. Have you ever heard a very small cat growl from the depths of her soul, like a demon? Titus doesn’t seem to understand her objections to him, and wants to smell her ladyparts whenever possible. Naturally, this is putting up a barrier between them.

You’d think this would be another “worst case scenario”, but he also does this thing like when you’re petting him and you stop, he puts his nose under your hand and flips your hand up, so you understand that he still wants you to love him. And whenever he eats something he shouldn’t, he looks guilty (right before he throws everything up.) And when he jumps on the bed, slides over and puts his head on your chest and his arm around your neck, you’d forgive him just about anything. Well, I would. I can’t speak for the cat.

*As of right now, we’ve been well-trained to no longer leave food out, so the vomiting is a thing of the past. He and the cat have made their peace, and sleep together with us on the bed. Also, as it turns out, he’s a great conversationalist.

My Week 147: I am Descended From Royalty, Deadly Distractions

I am descended from royalty

A couple of weekends ago, Ken and I went to a local Highland Games. I love the Highland Games for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the music. I can never understand when people object to bagpipe music and cover their ears, or make jokes about the sound of cows dying, because to me the sound of the pipes and drums is thrilling. The best part is the band competition, where you can hear them approaching, and then they walk onto the field in formation, stop, circle up and play their hearts out. If you look around at the crowd, you can see that almost everyone watching is subtly moving one of their feet up and down to the rhythm. Because it’s Scottish, so no one’s getting all excited and doing the pogo, or breaking out into spontaneous flings (mostly because it’s the middle of the day and the drinking hasn’t started yet). Nope, just the understated foot tap, but we all know that means the soul is awake.

This year, they also had a sheep herding competition which was kind of interesting. The trainer had different border collies for the demonstration, and the one thing they had in common was that they only cared about the sheep. I’ve never seen dogs so focused—it was like if instead of sheep, I was holding a hamburger, and Titus was watching me eat it. That’s how intense these dogs were, but without all the requisite drooling.

Of course, if you’ve ever been to a Highland Games, you’ll know there’s also the heavy events, where men, and women now too, do things like toss giant poles into the air, or see who can throw a massive stone the furthest, because that’s what Scottish people used to do back in the old days:

Scottish Man 1: Och aye! I need to build ma hoose, but I dinnae know how tae get this log from here to there!
Scottish Man 2: Dinnae be daft. Just toss it.
Scottish Man 1: Och! Good idea, Jimmy! How will I nail the logs together?!
Scottish Man 2: Just throw the hammer after them!

So apparently, all the Highland Games heavy events are based on Scottish construction techniques.

There was also Highland Dancing, which I longed to do as a small child. Once, when I was about 5, my mother, in a misguided attempt to save my soul, sent me to Sunday School at the local church. It was in the basement, and literally this is my only memory of the entire event: I told the Sunday School teacher that I knew how to do highland dancing, and she asked me to show everyone. Of course, I had absolutely no f*cking idea how to do it, but I’d just been to a local highland games and had watched the dance competition. Back when I was five, I wasn’t quite so introverted as I am now, so I stood up, walked to the middle of the circle of kids, and flailed my arms around, kicked my feet randomly, then bowed. Because that’s how I used to roll. All the other kids clapped, but the Sunday School teacher looked confused:

Sunday School Teacher: You don’t really know how to highland dance, do you?
Me: Yes.
Sunday School Teacher: But that wasn’t really highland dancing, was it?
Me: Yes it was.
Sunday School Teacher: Did you take lessons?
Me: No. I learned it myself.
Sunday School Teacher: Sigh. Jesus hates liars.
Me: Who’s Jesus?

OK, I made up that last part, but it was really what we were both thinking—her, that this five-year-old was full of sh*t and would be punished in the afterlife for being a crappy highland dancer, and me, why the hell was I sitting in a basement with a lady who doubted my dancing prowess?

Anyway, back to this weekend. As the band competitions were nearing a close, the sky was looking ominous and thunderstorms were in the forecast, so I said to Ken, “Let’s take a look at the vendors before it starts to rain.” There were a lot of booths, with pottery, and baked goods, and so on, but then I saw a sign that said, “Have you ever dreamed of owning land in Scotland?” and I was like, “We’re going to that booth, Ken!” The booth was mostly clothing, and I kept looking for a real estate agent, until finally I just asked the guy who was running it, “Where do I buy the land?” So he showed me these packages where you can buy so many square feet of Scottish property, and then he said the BEST THING OF ALL: “If you buy this land, you can become a lord or lady of Scotland.” I thought I was going to die from happiness, and I bought the 10 square feet package which would entitle me to legally change my name on all my banking information and credit cards to “Lady mydangblog”. But then I thought to myself, “Who might get a bigger kick out of this than me?” and also, “Who’s more legitimately Scottish than me?” and I immediately thought of my Dad, who was actually born in Scotland and who just had a milestone birthday. Also, if I made my dad a Scottish lord, it would totally beat out my brother, who travels a lot and once, for Christmas, gave my parents plane tickets to Hawaii with his points, while I was like “Here’s a gift card to The Keg.”

So I registered the land ownership to my dad, then I called my brother to tell him:

Me: I just bought Dad land in Scotland and now he gets to call himself a Lord.
J: That’s awesome. And the best part is that I get to inherit it.
Me: No. The rules of primogeniture have changed so that women can inherit. I’m the oldest, so it goes to me.
J: We’ll see. I have to look up the legal precedents…

(Later, when I told my dad about this, he said, “I can’t believe you guys. I’m not even dead and you’re already arguing about my estate.”)

I really wanted it to be a surprise, but the company had to have his email address. Mom and Dad were coming over for dinner that afternoon, and when he walked in, I said, “Greetings, my lord!” and he said, “What’s going on? I just got some spam email calling me Lord D__ and inviting me to tour my new property in Scotland!”

When I explained it to him, he was pretty chuffed, but he said, “What could I possibly do with 10 square feet? That’s just a little over 3 by 3.” So I thought about it, and here are some suggestions:

1) Pitch a tall, narrow tent and sleep sitting up in a camp chair.
2) Yoga. You can do the Lotus, the Hero pose, and the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose. Also, the Standing Up Straight pose, and the Curled Up in a Tight Foetal Position pose.
3) Solitaire.
4) Picnic for One. Or two, if you hug each other while you eat.
5) Narrowly Focused Highland Dancing. I’m an expert, so I can show you how.

When I told T about it, he was intrigued, and the next thing you know, he bought himself his OWN 10 square feet of land in Scotland. So now, I’m surrounded by royalty. Luckily, we’re going to Scotland in a little over two weeks, and the company will give us the GPS coordinates for T’s land so that we can visit it. And huddle tightly together while we survey all that is his.

Saturday: I am distracted

Yesterday, we were downstairs getting ready to go out, when T said, “Hey, do you hear that? It sounds like something is scratching inside the wall in the back room.” So I listened, and sure enough, there was some kind of creature making a lot of noise, like it was trying to escape. But it wasn’t coming from inside the wall—it was coming from inside an old chimney that has an access door into the top cupboard of a wall unit that Ken built. So we did what any normal person would do—we called Ken/Dad. Which is to say that Ken was taking a shower, so we both ran towards the bathroom, simultaneously yelling, “Ken!” and “Dad!” Ken came out of the shower, and tied a towel around his waist, then went to the back room to look.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m going to have to open the cupboard door.” I immediately ran outside and locked myself behind the gate leading into the vegetable garden, and T hid behind the door to the backyard, where we taunted each other:

Me: Once that thing gets loose, it’s going to eat your feet off.
T: No—it will eat your face off.
Me: No—it’ll hit the floor and go straight for your feet.
T: Haha—that’s what you think—it’ll go straight for the exit and fly at your face!
Ken (opening the door): I can’t see anything—the chimney is full of bird skeletons.
Me: Someone wake me up from this hellish nightmare.

A couple of years ago, Ken had wrapped chicken wire around the top of the chimney to stop creatures from getting in, but apparently the wire had fallen down, and now it was a graveyard. The only thing he could do was pull all the dead stuff out and put it in a bag, and hope that whatever was still alive in there would be able to finally make its way into the cupboard. Which meant that for the rest of the day, we had to keep the door to the back room shut, because I was terrified that some manic squirrel would push its way out and kill us in our sleep. As of this morning, there’s still no sign of anything and I’m super-distracted. The only person who was happy about the whole situation was Ken:

Ken: Hey, check this out!
Me: Why are you digging through all that dead sh*t?!
Ken: There are some awesome skulls in here! I can use them for a photography project.
Me: Are they maggoty? Stop digging in the bag—you’re kicking up dead animal dust and I don’t want it to get in my wine!
Ken: Ooh—this one is really nice. So clean! Oh look—a perfectly formed leg…
Me: I need more wine.

 

 

My Week 146: I Need To Learn German, Happy Anniversary!

Well. It’s been a fairly hectic week, what with me having to drive on the highway to and from home. The upside is that I get to spend more time with Ken, Titus, and Raven. Notice that I didn’t mention T, because he’s working in an auto parts factory for the summer to make money for next year. We have his tuition covered etc., but I was like, “If you want to keep buying light sabres and land in Scotland, then get a job, kid.” I’ll explain the Scottish real estate thing later. The downside of all this driving is, of course, that I have to drive on the worst highway in the world. I’ve already said plenty about that in previous posts, so I won’t pursue it any further except to say that it gave me time to think of some pretty random things for this week’s foray into the world of the absurd.

1) Last week, I went back to Toronto on the train. During the trip, I had to use the nasty train bathroom. They always smell of pee, mostly because the train is very wobbly. It’s not a problem for me, since I SIT on the seat, but if you’re one of those people who likes to stand and try to aim at the opening (male OR female—I’m not judge-y), I can guarantee you’re going to miss at some point and get your urine all over the place. As a result, I line the seat with toilet paper just in case. After, I sat back down in my seat. Then I got off the train, and took the subway home. I must have looked pretty cute because I was getting a lot of looks, like “Hey girl,” and “Nice, old lady”. When I got to my stop, I walked to my condo, and it was all good. Then I got into the apartment and realized that I didn’t have any milk for the morning, so I decided to pop down to the Loblaw’s on the corner. I was standing at the light, waiting to cross, when a German couple approached me. I could tell they were German because they were saying things like, “Das Madchen hat Toilettenpapier auf ihrem Arsch”, which I didn’t understand, but I assumed they needed directions. Then the woman said, “Excuse me,” and I was like “Sure”, thinking she needed to know where the CN Tower or the Eaton Centre was. But then she said, “You haf some papier on your back.” I tried to see where she was talking about, and the guy she was with was pointing and saying, “Das is right zere,” until finally, I got a glimpse of it, and was able to pull it off. It was a square of toilet paper. I had been walking around with a square of toilet paper hanging from my waistband for the last hour. Well, no worries—it was gone now, and I could buy milk without shame. I laughed and thanked the German couple and went merrily on my way. They seemed pleased, having helped me, and yelled out, “Es gibt noch mehr Toilettenpapier!” which I assumed meant, “We gave you help with the toilet paper!” Unfortunately, my German sucks. When I got back to my condo, finally, I started to change into my pajamas, and discovered to my horror that I had only pulled off the LAST SQUARE of toilet paper and that there were 6 additional squares that I had unwittingly tucked into my waistband in the train bathroom and which were hanging down like a paper tail the whole time I was in the grocery store. And now I need to learn German.

2) Last week, a colleague of mine and I were having a conversation about why he was bailing on going out for a drink on his last night before leaving the agency for good because he and his wife just had a baby. “I have to pick up something that I found on Kijiji,” he said.

“What could possibly be so important that you’re not coming for a drink? I’m buying, for God’s sake!”

“Exactly,” he said. “It IS for God’s sake. This couple is advertising all of their daughter’s baptism and communion stuff, on sale for super-cheap. I know it sounds weird, but it was only used once and it’s generic, with the dove on it and all, so I might as well get it now rather than pay twice as much later.”

Me: Why do Catholics have pigeons all over everything?
Colleague: Not pigeons. Doves. There’s a slight difference.
Me: I’m not seeing it, but OK—why doves?
Colleague: The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes fire shoots out of its head. If you ever see a dove breathing fire, you know you’re in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Me: Either that, or in the latest Harry Potter movie, like “Harry Potter and the Fire-breathing Pigeon”.
Colleague: Dove. It’s a dove.
Me: OK.

The next morning, I went into my office, and there on my desk, was a little dove planter, with a fern in it. My colleague popped his head in:

Colleague: I got you this as a going-away present.
Me: Cool! Does it breathe fire?!
Colleague: No, it’s only ceramic. But the plant is fake, so you can’t kill it.
Me: You know me so well. I’m going to miss you more than you know.

And I will.

3) Yesterday, I was at the mall, and I decided to buy some Cinnabons for a treat. T loves them, and I could take some to my parents for dessert that night. So I went up to the counter:

Me: I would like some of those little Cinnabons please.
Woman: THEY ONLY COME IN BOXES OF 9 AND 12.
Me: Oh. How many of the big ones can I get?
Woman (sighs): THEY ONLY COME IN BOXES OF 4 AND 6.
Me: Um, okay. Can I get a box of 4?
Woman (rolls eyes): THEY’RE RIGHT DOWN THERE. YOU GET THEM YOURSELF.

So I grabbed a box from below the counter. I’m not an expert in buying ‘bons’, so I thought she was pretty mean, and very yell-y. But I got her back because just as she was packing up the box of 4, I said, “You know what? I changed my mind. I’ll take the box of 9 little ones.” And then she rolled her eyes really hard again, and gave me back the box, which I switched out. Then I paid and told her to “have a good day” but I might have said it slightly sarcastically, so I totally SHOWED HER. When I got home, I told T and Ken that the woman at the Cinnabons counter was very rude to me, and T said, “Was it the old lady with the short white hair?” and I was like, “YES!!”, and he said, “She’s always really rude to us too, when we go there.” So at least I know it’s not just me, and now I REALLY wish I knew German because I could have just smiled at her and said, “Du hast Toilettenpapier auf deinen Arsch”.

4) On Friday, it was our 27th Anniversary. Ken said “Happy anniversary” first, but I was the first one to post it on Facebook, so I thought I won. Then he posted a picture of two puzzle pieces which said “You” and “Me”, and I was like, “Aww—that’s sweet!” But then I realized it was a gif, and when I watched it, the two little puzzle pieces moved towards each other and fit together. Which sounds really cute, but the one puzzle piece had a part like a very large phallus, and the other one had an opening, so when they fit together, it looked super-dirty. And then I also realized that the puzzle piece with the phallic bit said “You”, as in me, and the apparently-lady piece said “Me”, as in Ken, and that was even more disturbing in terms of what Ken intended:

Me: I think you got the genders on those puzzle pieces wrong. At least I’m hoping. I think we’re both too old to be trying stuff like that.
Ken: What are you talking about?!
Me: That gif was a little dirty.
Ken: It was two puzzle pieces. What’s dirty about THAT?
Me: Did you watch the animation? Very pornographic.
Ken: They fit together! It’s cute, like “we’re a perfect fit”! Get your mind out of the gutter.
Me: Super-dirty. What WILL our friends think?
Ken: Happy Anniversary, weirdo.
Me: Yeah. Ich liebe dich. That means “I love your–”
Ken: No, it doesn’t.

 

 

My Week 145: Line-ups Are Hell, The Todd

Tuesday to Friday: I Go Abroad

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been conspicuously AFK this week (“away from keyboard” for those of you who don’t watch The Big Bang Theory).  I was in a different country and my laptop wouldn’t work because the hotel wifi was ‘open’ as opposed to ‘secured’. Every time I tried to open Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or even my own work drives (you can see how I prioritize when I have free wifi, right?), I would get a message saying that someone might be trying to hack into my system.  I was like, “Listen, laptop. You’re not the boss of me,” but the laptop didn’t give a sh*t and refused to let me connect with the world like a mean babysitter. Sure, I had my phone, but I HATE trying to read and comment on things via a handheld device. I really need a full keyboard to feel articulate. Also my hands are gigantic, so I make so many typos with my phone that I get frustrated.

That having been said, the conference was very interesting and I was with a couple of really nice guys from work who made sure I didn’t get lost or get on the wrong plane. I’ve never actually travelled out of the country by myself before, and Ken usually arranges everything, and keeps all the pertinent itinerary materials in a file folder in order of date, while I’m all ‘devil-may-care’ and try to throw him off by insisting on unscheduled stops at scenic bars and such. But I was feeling super-confident because I’d gone and booked my own transit to the airport from downtown and I’d made my OWN file folder. Then I got to the airport. I walked inside and immediately had a panic attack. There were kiosks and line-ups and counters and people, and I didn’t know how to even begin. So I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken. But just as the phone was ringing, I saw one of my colleagues, and he was like “Great, you’re here. Have you checked in yet? You do that here—let me show you” and I was SO relieved that I hung up the phone.

Then Ken messaged me to say “Why did you call? Are you OK?” But I’d just exchanged Blackberry PINs with my colleague, and when I sent back a reply to Ken that said, “Yes” with two great big HEARTS, it accidentally went to the guy I work with. I was mortified and didn’t know what to do, because he hadn’t seen it yet. By this time, our other co-worker had arrived, and when I told him what had happened, he said, “Don’t say anything. Later, I’m going to whisper, ‘I think mydangblog has a crush on you—have you checked your messages lately?’ and we’ll see what he says.” I was even more appalled but then I realized 2 things: 1) that both these guys had a good sense of humour and that 2) I should probably stop making fun of Ken with his “file folder system” and his “knowledge of airports”.

We arrived at our destination without incident, and the rest of the trip was excellent. But it occurred to me over and over again, that the main problem with any kind of travel is other people. That is to say, other people who are ahead of you in any kind of line-up and who have seemingly complicated issues that inevitably delay you from doing the things you need to do:

1) The bank

I had to get American money for the trip. I went to a bank. I stood in line for 20 minutes while the tellers were each dealing with people who apparently had never been in a bank before. One girl was asking numerous questions and signing several documents, another guy was just standing there while three bank employees looked at a computer terminal, another woman just looked confused and kept digging in her purse for god-knows-what and handing the teller the same piece of paper back, and so on. When it was finally my turn, I went to the teller with 3 twenty-dollar bills in my hand and said, “Here is 60 dollars Canadian. I would like this turned into as much American money as you can.” I had my 44 bucks and 5 cents in under 2 minutes, and I was like, “The rest of you in line can thank me NOW.”

2) The airport

Both coming and going, the airport was another place where people who don’t know what they’re doing hold up lines. Yes, I was confused and didn’t know where to go when I arrived, but I DIDN’T stand in a line just to ask someone. If my colleague hadn’t appeared and if Ken hadn’t answered the phone, I would have simply Googled “What do you do when you get to the airport?” Either that or called my Mom.

At the self-baggage check, we literally had to wait 5 minutes for a family who was standing there, discussing and debating what to do with their luggage. The sign clearly read, “Place bag on belt.” I don’t know what there was to talk about—it’s four words. And an ARROW.

On the way back, there was literally no one at the airport and there were only two people in line ahead of us at the Air Canada desk, with two service representatives. Guess how long it took to get a boarding pass? You can probably imagine, given the nature of people in line-ups. At one point, the guy ahead of me had 4 clerks staring back and forth between his passport and a computer terminal. Then one of the clerks got on the PHONE. The other person in line ahead of us was busy repacking his suitcase, because it was over the weight limit. You know how I knew my suitcase was UNDER the weight limit? Because I had it weighed at the hotel. Also, he had two sets of golf clubs that were being inspected ONE BY ONE by a security guard. Who the hell travels alone with TWO sets of golf clubs?!

When I DID step up to the counter to check in and get my boarding pass, I had my passport open to the right page to expedite the process. The woman looked at my passport and asked me, “What’s your country of origin?” I really wanted to say, “You’re looking at my passport right now. I believe that information is readily available to you on the page you’re currently staring at, so FIGURE IT OUT.” What I actually did was say “Canada”. But when she asked, “Are you travelling alone?”, I refrained from answering, “Do you see anyone else standing here?!” and I just pretended not to hear the question. Eventually, she DID figure that one out.

3) On the plane

What was I waiting for on the plane, you ask? The bar cart, obviously. And it would have been there in fine time if the old dude in the second row hadn’t wanted to know the ingredients of each and every menu item:

Old Dude (pointing to cart): What’s that?
Flight Attendant: That’s hummus.
Old Dude: What’s hummus?
Flight Attendant: It’s a spread made out of chick peas.
Old Dude (pointing to cart): Oh. What’s that?
Flight Attendant: It’s another type of hummus.
Old Dude: What’s in it?
Me: F*ckity f*ck f*ck can a girl get a damned drink before this plane lands??!!

I didn’t need to know about the hummus, or what was in the ‘Fiesta Snack Pack’, or the ‘Airline Surprise’, because I had read the MENU that Air Canada thoughtfully provides to every passenger.

To paraphrase Jean Paul Sartre, “Hell is other people ahead of you in line”.

Last Sunday:

Last week, I challenged a fantastic fellow blogger to write on a specific topic. He goes by ‘desertcurmudgeon’ and his blog is Two Voices in One Transmission. His posts are extremely articulate and always thought-provoking and entertaining, so be sure to check him out. When he challenged his readers to give him a topic, I gave him the following prompt: “A daughter’s a daughter all of her life; a son’s a son ‘til he takes a wife.” I’ve heard this saying many times, and while I don’t necessarily believe it’s true, I wanted to see what desertcurmudgeon could do with it. The result is the hilarious Todd.

As funny as it is, when you dig beneath the surface, “Todd” is a pointed example of being so fearful of your child leaving you that you coddle him until he has no coping skills and no independence. I think being a good mother to a son is a very delicate balancing act between supporting him, but also raising him to be good with the world. And while I sometimes struggle with feelings of loss now that my own son has become an adult and doesn’t really ‘need’ me much anymore, I’m still extremely proud of his independence and his resiliency. Also, he has a lovely girlfriend, and when I see how he treats her, I know I raised him well. So thank you, desertcurmudgeon, for “Todd” and for helping me realize that if I’d done what Todd’s mom had done, I’d have nobody to blame but myself when he was travelling and  pissed everyone else off on the plane because he hadn’t read the menu and treated the flight attendant like she was his mother.

My Week 144: Titus the Therapy Dog, It’s Coming From Inside the House

Titus the Therapy Dog

At the beginning of last week, someone in the office posted on our Staff site that the St. John’s Ambulance Society would be bringing therapy dogs into our building on Friday, and if anyone wanted to come and see them, they would be in the lobby from 11 am to 2 pm. You can only imagine how excited I was—I love dogs, and I only get to see Titus on weekends, thanks to living in a large city so I can be close to work. In the spring, we were doing an event off-site, and there was supposed to be someone coming with a miniature Chihuahua service dog, and it was all we could talk about for weeks. Of course, we were told that we weren’t allowed to PET the dog, since it was a working animal, and I was like, “What kind of service is THAT?” and I was secretly betting that the woman would let us pet it. I mean, what’s the point of having a tiny ball of adorable dogginess if you can’t share it with anyone, am I right? But if not, we would understand, and just stare at it lovingly. Then the day finally came, and we all, seemingly nonchalantly but inwardly super-pumped, strolled down to the room where the woman would be, only to discover that she hadn’t shown up for the event. It was such a letdown, and worse was when we went back to the office, and people kept asking, “Did you see the Chihuahua?” and it just kept bringing it all those feelings of disappointment back again.

Also, I regularly annoy people in my condo building when they bring their dogs onto the elevator, and I only speak to the dog, as in “So what’s your name? Are you a good girl? Are you going for a walk?” and the owners feel obliged to answer, but in my head, it’s actually the dog and me having a conversation. I also do that to small children, but THEIR parents don’t seem to mind, perhaps recognizing that their babies can’t talk. Unlike dogs, some of whom secretly can. Quite often when we’re out with Titus, people try to engage him in conversation, which he steadfastly ignores:

Random Stranger: Ooh, who’s a big boy? Who’s got a lovely coat? Does he like the vet?
Me: Titus?
Titus: What?
Me: The man was asking you questions. Why didn’t you answer?
Titus: I assumed he was being rhetorical. You know, if you leave people alone long enough, they eventually answer their own questions all by themselves.
Random Stranger: Ooh, YOU’RE the big boy! Yes, he’s so shiny. I’ll bet he LOVES the vet.
Titus: I rest my case.

So Friday came, but I got sidetracked by a PowerPoint I was working on, until suddenly it was around 1 pm, and somebody said, “Hey, did you see the dogs?” And I was like, “The dogs?! Are they still here?! Please tell me they’re still here!” And then I tried to coerce the nice gentleman I work with to come downstairs with me:

Me: There are dogs in the lobby! Come and pet them with me!
Colleague: Um, no, that’s OK.
Me: But you’re ALLOWED to pet them!
Colleague: I’m good, thanks. REALLY.

Then I remembered that I’d tried to get the same man to look at naked ladies last week, so he was probably suspicious that the dogs were a euphemism or something. Everybody else had already gone down to see the dogs (I know because I asked), but then one of my French colleagues came strolling by. I work with a lot of very cheery and easy-going Francophones, so I called out, “Hey! Il y a des chiens ici! Viens avec moi!” My French is not fantastic, but she said, “Ooh, oui, d’accord!” which of course sounded like “Ooh way dakkar,” because of the Quebecois’ broader accent, but she was nodding, so I guessed she was coming with me. Of course, I hadn’t been specific, and she didn’t know whether or not they were wild dogs and I was trying to help her escape, but again, the French are pretty laidback, so down we went.

There was a crowd of people surrounding three dogs and their handlers, but I kind of slid my way up to the front so I could pet them, on the grounds that I’d had an awkward morning (Slight tangent: I don’t think it’s fair that some people in our office don’t have nameplates on their cubicles. Two days prior, I was visited by two different women from the finance department. Then one of them called me and asked me to sign a document and bring it down to her on the floor below. I opened the door and I saw one of the women, but her cubicle didn’t have a name plate on it. She looked at me, and I looked at her. I didn’t know how to get out of it gracefully, so I held up the document game-show style, smiled cheekily, and said, “This is for Desiree!” in a kind of sing-songy way. So if SHE was Desiree, she would be like, “Oh thanks!” in the same sing-songy voice, and if she WASN’T, she could say, “I’ll bet she’ll be happy to get it!” and then I would know. As it turned out, she wasn’t Desiree, and her response was, “Desiree’s cubicle is right down there”, so I feel simultaneously clever, and awkward as f*ck. Tangent over.) Anyway, I NEEDED to pet a dog. I’ll bet people would have forgiven Donald Trump for pushing aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro if he’d been trying to get to a puppy.

The dogs were beautiful, and totally calm as people petted them and scratched them behind their ears, but I noticed something weird—none of their tails were wagging, and none of them would make eye contact. Even if you tried to look at them, they would turn their heads away. In short, these dogs all seemed like they needed their OWN dogs to pet, because they all seemed depressed. I’ve never yet seen a dog that didn’t wag its tail when people were talking to it and petting it, unless it was scared. I mean, I don’t know a lot about therapy dogs, but the best thing about ANY dog is how happy they are to see YOU. That’s why dogs are so great. No matter how sh*tty you feel, the dog is always like, “Oh my god! You’re home! This is the best day ever!” So I got to pet the dogs, but the stress of worrying about how sad they looked cancelled out the therapy part of the experience. How do you even train a dog to NOT wag its tail? I kind of don’t want to think about it. One of the dogs, Tucker, was a Golden Retriever who even had his own business card, and on the business card, he had a huge smile on his face. In person though, it was like the time when T was around 7 years old and we took him to see Brent Butt, the comedian. We’d watched Brent on “Corner Gas” for years, and T loved him. His stand-up show was hilarious, and afterwards, he was signing autographs, so we lined up. When we got there, we told him how much T liked him and T told him how funny he thought the show was. Brent Butt just flatly said, “Thanks,” and turned away to the next person in line, like he was really bored. So maybe that was the problem—these dogs were temperamental celebrities. Anyway, I arrived home on Friday night:

Titus: You’re here!! This is the best day ever! Pop the cork on the champagne!
Me: I’m happy to see you too, buddy. C’mere and let me rub that tummy.
Titus: With pleasure! Wait—have you been around any other dogs today? Don’t lie. You know how good my sense of smell is. For example, I detect that you had white wine on the train—a Riesling, 2016, I believe.
Me: I ALWAYS have wine on the train, Sherlock. But yeah, they had therapy dogs at work.
Titus: Therapy dogs? Those guys have no sense of humour.
Me: I know, right? I guess I’m too used to you, you big goof.
Titus: That’s right, baby. I’m the only therapy you need.

Saturday: Lines of communication

On Friday, I went out for lunch with a couple of people from work to a local restaurant which serves ethnic cuisine. I don’t want to mention what kind, because I’ve had it before from different places without consequence. The meal I ordered didn’t look remotely like what it normally does, but I thought, Hey—maybe they are regional variations. It tasted OK, although it was a lot spicier than normal. Then for dinner that night, I had Cajun chicken wings and nachos with hot peppers. It’s no surprise then that I woke up about three o’clock in the morning feeling pretty sh*tty. I tossed and turned and finally went back to sleep around 6. When I woke up at 8, Ken had already gotten out of bed. I lay there for a while, all miserable and still feeling lousy, so I did what any normal person would do: I called Ken.

Phone rings and rings…

Ken (groggy): Uh…hello?
Me: It’s me.
Ken: Why are you calling me?
Me: I don’t feel well. What are you doing right now?
Ken: Well, I WAS having a nap on the couch. But then the phone rang and I had to get up to answer it, so thanks.
Me: Well, I tried your cell phone, but you didn’t pick up.
Ken: Why didn’t you just come downstairs?
Me: Because I’m all cozy.
Ken: Yeah, so was I, until I had to ANSWER THE PHONE.
Me: Can you bring up some batteries? I can’t turn the TV on because the remote is dead.
Ken: You could always get up and turn it on—Sigh. Never mind. I’ll be right up.
Me: Bring Titus with you. I need a hug.