My Week 178: The Robots are Coming To Get Me

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

Case in point 1:

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

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

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

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

Case in point 2:

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

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

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

I am your robot overlord.

Case in point 3:

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

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

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

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

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

Questions That I’ve Asked Myself

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

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

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

Bathroom Stall Overall Ranking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question Number 5: Are you good at math?

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

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

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

First Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naptime at the Movies: Part Deux

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

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

My Week 175: Adventures in Rooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Sign of the apocalypse?

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

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

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

Monday:

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

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

Wednesday/Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday

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

 

 

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

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

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

1) Supervisor, Tool Room

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

2) Warehouse Support

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

3) Team Leader, Change Implementation

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

4) Security Shift Supervisor

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

5) Bilingual French Financial Services Funding Specialist

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

6) Advanced Case Manager, Insurance Products

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

7) Broadband Specialist

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

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