My Week 195: It’s The Allergies That Are Annoying, Not Me

The other day at work, I was just standing in the kitchen, thinking about nothing in particular, like LITERALLY minding my own business, when the guy who oversees the kitchen things came in and said to me, “Is that your toast in the toaster oven?” And while this may seem like a perfectly innocuous question, like something you would say just to make conversation, there was an insidious undertone to it that you would only recognize if, like me, you work in a place where you are NOT ALLOWED to leave toast unattended in the toaster oven. “Because I came in earlier,” he continued ominously, “and there was no one here.”

I was a little freaked out and didn’t want to be blamed for the toast insurrection, so I immediately said the first thing that came into my mind, which was “No—I don’t eat gluten” to which he replied, “There’s such a thing as gluten-free bread, you know,” and I responded with “Well, I don’t even like bread that much anyway” and it was in that moment that I thought, ‘I’ve become a vegan’. And by that, I don’t mean that I have decided to no longer eat anything vaguely animal-ish, I just mean that, like a vegan, I somehow felt it necessary to unnecessarily announce that I am a ‘gluten-free person’. Although I was under a certain amount of duress. (If you’re not sure what I mean by any of this, I refer you to the well-known joke: Q: How do you know if someone is a vegan? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. No offense, vegans.)

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I had to take gluten out of my diet several years ago because I have arthritis, and gluten makes it worse. Technically, I COULD eat the stuff, and would, if I knew I wouldn’t wake up in the morning with fingers that are too swollen to bend. But this is the least of my worries, and the least of the reasons how I’ve become a total pain in the ass to my coworkers. Two weeks ago, for example, one of the teams decided to throw a party for all the staff who were having birthdays. I came in, and right next to my office was a lovely table set up with cake (no, surprisingly, this is not the problem because I CAN eat other stuff), and several balloon bouquets, which definitely are a problem, since I also have a latex allergy. The smell of balloons makes me stuffy and wheezy, so I kind of looked and said, “Oh, are those latex balloons?” (just to check, because you can get non-latex ones) and the very nice woman who had put them up realized that it was a problem and insisted on taking them down immediately, even though I said I could just stay in my office until the party was over. I felt guilty and a bit like a whiny ass, because she’d obviously gone to a lot of trouble decorating. But then the next day, the same very nice woman was in the kitchen and she was just about to microwave her lunch, which had copious amounts of shrimp in it, and because I’m also deathly allergic to shellfish and the allergy became airborne two years ago, I asked if I could microwave mine first so that I could be out of the kitchen when she cooked hers. Of course, she let me, and apologized for having shrimp, to which I said, “Don’t apologize—you’re allowed to eat whatever you want!” And then I felt even worse, like not only had I ruined her party, but also her lunch.

Then later that afternoon, she came to my office:

Very Nice Lady: I was just wondering if there’s anything else you’re allergic to, so I know not to bring it to work.
Me: (laughing) Unless you’re planning on dosing me with codeine or forcefeeding me avocado and bananas, I think we’re good.
Very Nice Lady: (also laughing) OK, because I was worried that you were going to think I was trying to murder you or something.

And now she totally could, because I just told her what would actually kill me, so I better stay on her good side.

But allergies are the worst for the following reasons:

1) It’s hard to eat at restaurants.

The first question I always have to ask at any restaurant other than McDonald’s is “Do you fry your French fries in the same fryer as your shellfish?” Not because I’m a dick and I’m testing the culinary knowledge of the wait staff, but because even that slight amount of cross-contamination will make me extremely sick. Most of the time, they immediately say No, and I get all happy and excited at the thought of eating something other than McDonalds’s fries, but then they always come back to the table 5 minutes later to say they actually checked and Yes, they do. Well, cancel my damn order then. Sigh.

2) You have to read all the ingredients on all the labels. And not just the food ones.

A couple of months ago, a friend from work gave me this ‘naturopathic’ cream for dry skin. It smelled heavenly, all lavender oil and whatnot, so I slathered it lavishly over my legs and then wiped the excess off my hands onto my chest and arms. Then I went to work. Within a very short time, my skin felt like it was burning, but I thought “Oh, it’s just the cream doing its work” which doesn’t even make any sense because what cream ‘works’ by making you feel all burn-y? But by the time I got home, I was kind of in a lot of pain, and by 7 pm, I had broken out in a violent rash all over my legs, chest, and arms, and it was spreading. So I looked carefully at the cream and realized that one of the main ingredients was PLANTAIN. Plantain is a type of banana. I had just smeared myself with the paste of something I am very allergic to. Who the f*ck makes cream out of bananas?! It took almost two weeks for it to “clear my system” as my doctor put it when I went to him and had to admit that I had done something akin to stuffing calamari up my own nose.

3) People don’t always take you seriously.

Many years ago, I had to have surgery. I told the surgeon that I was allergic to codeine:

Surgeon: No, you’re not.
Me: Yes, I am.
Surgeon: It’s just a sensitivity.
Me: No, I’m pretty sure it’s an allergy.
Surgeon: Whatevs.

After I came out of surgery, I was feeling OK, but after a while, they took me off the IV meds and started giving me pills. Within the half hour, I started feeling short of breath, dizzy, and broke out in a rash. Then I started to throw up, which is NOT something you want to do right after an abdominal surgery. When the nurse came running in, I asked, mid-vomit, “You’re not giving me codeine, are you? Because I’m allergic to codeine,” to which she replied rather hysterically something like “OhMyGodYes, nobody told us!! It’s not in your chart!!”

When I had my last surgery two years ago, Ken was so worried that he kept telling the nurses to remember that I was allergic to codeine. Right before they wheeled me in, the Operating Room nurse handed me a couple of Tylenol, and Ken literally stopped her with his hand and said, “There’s no codeine in that, right?” The nurse just looked at him and said in a kind of salty way, “WE KNOW. It’s in her chart. EVERYWHERE.” But I was superhappy that Ken was so vigilant because there is nothing quite like the hell that is throwing up after abdominal surgery.

In fact, Ken is the only person who’s actually HAPPY about my plethora of allergies for the following reason:

Me: If I go into anaphylaxis, do you know how to give me my epipen?
Ken: Of course. We do training every year at work.
Me: (snort) There’s a huge difference between playing around with a fake epipen and having to stab your own wife in the thigh with a real one.
Ken: Oh, it’ll be OK. Heh, heh, heh. It’ll be fun.
Me: Why are you laughing?! What do you mean ‘fun’?!
Ken: No reason.
Me: Are you looking at this as some kind of weird revenge for the time I buried your slippers in the garden?
Ken: Of course not. Heh heh. I will also happily Heimlich you if the opportunity ever arises. Wait—what was that about my slippers?

Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.

So now I have a new rhyme to help me remember how the epipen works: Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh, Ken gets his kicks and I don’t die.

So let me summarize what you should take out of this in case you just skipped to the end (but if you did, you might be confused and slightly frightened):

a) People are generally really decent when it comes to protecting me from possible death, although Ken’s enthusiasm is a little disconcerting.
b) It’s not a secret burial if you tell someone about it.
c) I need to grow a spine and stop taking guff from the kitchen guy, like “I don’t have all day to watch TOAST, DAVE!”

 

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My Week 194: I Pitch Reality Shows

Last week, one of my colleagues was excited. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’m getting a new desk! Apparently, this one is the ‘most worn’ in the office, and the guy from Procurements said they had one downstairs for me. They’re bringing it up later, so I have to clear everything off this one.”

And of course, we all gathered around, breathless with anticipation, speculating about exactly what the new, wondrous desk would look like. Fancy? Woodgrain? A hidden drawer? The possibilities were endless. Finally, late in the afternoon, the door to the secret agency swung open, and two men appeared with a cart. On the cart was the EXACT SAME DESK that my colleague already had. They disassembled hers, and put the ‘new’ one in place, with all of us watching in a rather dejected way. It was EXACTLY AS WORN as her previous desk, which was now being taken downstairs, to await the moment that Procurements would use it to replace someone else’s ‘worn’ desk. Aside from our abject disappointment at this debacle of musical desks, there was one bright moment when one of our group mentioned that we could improve things slightly by adding a touch of décor to my colleague’s cubicle. As we got more and more carried away with things like a disco ball, twinkle lights, and a chair with cup holders, it occurred to me that there was the definite possibility for a reality show here. I have no idea how to pitch anything to the HGTV network, so I’m hoping that one of their producers will somehow read this and make it happen. Thus, I present to you several ideas for fantastic reality shows, starting with…

1) Cubicle Wars:

Host: Hello once again, and welcome to Cubicle Wars, where each week, two co-workers compete to see who can create a stunning office space with little more than a $50 gift card to the Dollar Store and their own imaginations! Let’s meet our challengers! This is Jill, a temp worker with a fondness for frogs, as you can see by the many, many statues and stuffies that she has on her desk. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jill!
Jill: Frogs are amphibians and can speak 7 different languages.
Host: Only one of those things is even correct! Welcome, Jill! And now here’s our other contestant, Josh. Josh is an engineer, so no one knows what he actually does!
Josh: That’s not true. I—I…
Host: Exactly! Now here are your $50 gift cards. See you next week, you crazy kids!

One week later…

Host: Let’s see what Jill and Josh have accomplished. Our live studio audience will then announce the winner!
Audience (which consists of a panhandler that the host found in the lobby): Does anyone have spare change for coffee?
Host: After the show, Stinky Pete! First up is Jill!
Jill: I used my $50 to buy aromatherapy candles and placed them strategically around my cubicle.
Host: That’s it? How many candles did you buy?
Jill: 50, obviously. It was the Dollar Store.
Manager (passing by): You can’t light those, Jill. I told you, it’s a fire hazard.
Jill: FINE, STEVE! But don’t come to me when the power goes out, you fascist!
Host: All right—let’s see what Josh has done. Ooh, a tiki bar theme! Very nice! I particularly like the inflatable palm tree.
Josh: Thanks. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out, although I’ve been getting a lot of side-eye because of the torches. THEY’RE CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE, STEVE! I’M NOT A NAZI!
Host: And now it’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for. Audience, who is our winner?!
Stinky Pete: Is there any whiskey in the tiki bar? NO? Then I pick the candle lady.
Host: Congratulations, Jill. Your prize is that you get to keep all the candles!
Jill: I just want my frogs back. Vlad was teaching me Russian.
Host: See you next time on Cubicle Wars!

Welcome to the office!

I really think this show has potential. And while I was fleshing it all out, here are some other show ideas I came up with:

2) Souped Up!

In this show, two guys take cheap cars and try to make them look cool. With VERY limited resources.

Host: Tell us about today’s project, boys.
Gary: It’s a 1988 Ford Tempo, base model, beige, with rust accents.
Mitch: We got it for fifty bucks at a yard sale. The upholstery smells like cheese.
Host: And what are your plans for this car?
Gary: No spoilers!
Host: Oh, sorry I asked.
Gary: No, dude—we’re not putting a spoiler on it. Spoilers are pretentious.
Mitch: You’re goddamned right they’re pretentious!

The next day…

Host: Wow! What a transformation. Tell us what you did!
Mitch: We found bigger wheels at the dump and put them on the back. Now it’s slanty!
Gary: We used duct tape to make racing stripes. I probably should have used a ruler.
Host: Um…did you put a tow hitch on the back of this car JUST so you could hang a fake scrotum ornament off it?
Mitch: You’re goddamned right we did! We made it ourselves out of two oranges and one of Gary’s gran’s old kneehighs.
Both (highfiving): Our car has balls, b*tch!
Host: All right then. Join us next week when Gary and Mitch transform a Pinto into a fancy lawn tractor!
Both: Unsafe at any speed!

3) 19 and Counting: Feline Edition

Voice-Over Intro: “Meet Meredith, a ‘cat lover’, who roams the streets of her town at night, looking for more cats. She has a LOT—maybe more than 19 but who’s counting? None of them are actually hers; she stole them all from her neighbours. Her house reeks of urine, but she insists she’s ‘not crazy’. You be the judge!”

4) Cooking With Wieners

This show is simple. It’s just hot dogs. Every week. Audience of at least one (Ken) guaranteed.

5) Flip That Port-a-Potty!

While you might be thinking that this is a decorating show where people take old portable toilets and pretty them up, you’re wrong. This show is about Bobby “Flip” Johnson, a real douchecanoe who waits until people go into port-a-potties, then he sneaks up and tips them over. He’s killed in episode 3, and the remainder of the season becomes a detective show, where a slightly Asperger’s detective and his madcap female sidekick investigate Bobby’s murder. Kind of like Jackass meets Elementary. Will we ever find out who killed Bobby? No spoilers!

My Week 193: Buddy, Where’s the Fire?

Two weekends ago, I had to put the fireplace on because this is Canada, and the weather can be minus 5 one day, and 30 degrees (38 with the humidex) the next. We literally had a heat wave from last Monday to Friday, then yesterday morning, it was 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for people who don’t have to worry about everything being in fancy wizard math), and I was wearing a sweatshirt instead of sweating.

Anyway, mandatory Canadian weather reference/complaint aside, two weekends ago, it got quite chilly, even for May, so I tried to put our gas fireplace on. It wouldn’t start, mainly because it’s old and you have to wiggle the wires underneath it to ignite it. I tried a couple of times, but Ken is the master wiggler, so he came in, performed his magic, and voila! There was heat. (And rereading those last two sentences back, it might seem that yet again, this blog has deviated into some kind of strange Canadian weather-related porn, but I AM talking about the fireplace.)

His work for the moment finished, Ken announced that he was walking to the corner to get gas for the lawnmower that he has been trying to fix for 6 weeks. (Give up, Ken. We can afford a new lawnmower.) While he was gone, I was in the back room talking to Titus about whether or not he was a good boy, as one does, when suddenly I heard this awful screeching sound. It was coming from the fireplace in the living room. I ran in and came around the corner just in time to see black smoke pouring out of the fan vents. Now, that might not be weird for a wood fireplace, but this one is gas. Naturally, I freaked out. I ran over, giving the front a wide berth in case it chose that moment to explode, turned the thermostat off so it would be less flame-y, then I did what any normal person would do—I started yelling for Ken.

Ken didn’t answer. I ran up and down the sidewalk but no response. I was terrified, but I went back in. It was still making the same deafening screeching noise and I could smell something burning, so I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. I explained to the operator that I needed the fire department in a kind of staccato “Fireplace—smoke—gas—send help—“ way, and she told me the fire department was coming and to get out of the house. I grabbed Titus, put him in the back yard, then ran to the front, phone in hand and tears running down my face, still looking for Ken. I found him chatting with the next-door-neighbours. I screamed, “There’s something wrong with the fireplace. I called 9-1-1!” He came running, ran right past me and towards the house.

Me: What are you doing?! The 9-1-1 lady said NOT to go in!!
Ken: I’m going to turn off the breaker!
Me: You’re not allowed to go in!
Ken: It’s fine! It’s probably just the motor!
Me: Don’t go in! I order you to stay outside—
Ken: *disappears into the house*

Anyway, he turned off the breaker and the screeching stopped. There wasn’t any more smoke, although the air still smelled charred, but there was no smell of gas, and that was a good sign. We stared at the fireplace for a minute. It seemed like it was no longer about to explode, so I tried cancelling the 9-1-1 call, but it was too late. The next thing, firetrucks are pulling up to the house and some very nice firefighters helped us check everything out. Apparently, there was a tag on a wire next to the fan, and when we were wiggling the wires, the tag got dislodged and ended up in the fan blades, causing the fan to overheat. Embarrassing as it was, the firefighters were really great and they waited while we turned it back on to see what would happen. It came back on quietly, and all was good, so the fire department left.

Ken: When I saw you, I thought someone had died.
Me: Well, I was pretty upset. I thought the house was going to blow up. I was screaming for you—I can’t believe you couldn’t hear me. You were right next door.
Ken: It was windy. I couldn’t hear you over the wind. You were “downwind”.
Me: The wind…what?!
Ken: Never mind. What did you do with Raven?
Me: She’s around here somewhere. I didn’t have time to look all over for her then try to catch her and carry her around with me. We probably need a plan for her in case there’s ever a real fire.
Raven: I should f*cking hope so.

This is your clever plan?

I was still pretty mad at Ken for just running into the house when the operator said to GET OUT AND DON’T GO BACK IN, even though it was all fine in the end. But Ken has a very fortuitous relationship with fire, having almost immolated himself on more than one occasion. Once, about twenty years ago, he was cooking dinner and I was upstairs. Suddenly I heard him screaming “Help! Help me!” I came running into the kitchen and he was rolling around on the floor, his shirt on fire. I grabbed a tea towel and started trying to put him out. Between the rolling and the vigorous slapping, I extinguished him. Turns out, he was leaning against the stove, his sweatshirt touching one of the burners. Next thing, POOF! Up he went. Luckily, he remembered to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, but man, did he leave scorch marks on the pine floor.

And then on Friday, he did the following in this exact sequence:
1) Start a fire in the burn pit.
2) Get gas for the lawnmower.
3) Fill up the lawnmower with gas.
4) Try to start the lawnmower.
5) Defend the lawnmower to his wife thusly: “It’s not broken. It always takes this many pulls to start it.”
6) Finally get the lawnmower started.
7) Begin mowing the lawn around the burn pit.
8) Ignore his wife’s screams. Yell “I can’t hear you over the lawnmower! You’re downwind!”
9) Push the gas lawnmower onto the burning burn pit in an attempt to cut the grass around it as close as he can.
10) Be forced to turn the lawnmower off when screaming wife (see number 8) stands in front of the mower to berate him.

Ken: What?!
Me: What the f*ck is wrong with you? You just filled it up with gas! It could explode!
Ken: Why are you scolding me like I’m a five year old?
Me: Why are you mowing the lawn like you’re a five year old?!
Ken: What? That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Don’t mow the firepit!

Words to live by, am I right? Anyway,  he finished mowing and at a certain point, I heard him trimming the edges of the flower beds with the weed whacker. After a while, the noise stopped so I went out to see if he wanted a drink. The weed whacker was lying in the exact middle of the patio and Ken was sitting on the deck staring at it with a mixture of  bewilderment and dejection.

Me: What’s wrong?
Ken: The weed whacker set on fire.
Me: What?!
Ken: Yeah. It started smoking and then flames literally shot out of it. I think we need a new one.
Me: Ya think?

Yesterday, we went out and bought a fire extinguisher. It’s small, so I can carry it with me everywhere. Just in case.

Prepared for the worst case scenario.

My Week 192: Antiquing, Bones of Contention, Just Bones

On Saturday morning, Ken said to me, “Hey, let’s go to the Christie Antique Show.” I did what I always do and immediately said, “Yes! Let’s do that.” Then I did the next thing I always do and immediately had second thoughts and regrets, especially after looking on the website which said that there were free shuttle buses from the parking lot to the show site. All I could think of was the line-up to get into the parking lot, the line-up to get on the bus, and the obvious huge crowds of people that would be there. So I said, “Maybe let’s not go after all,” but Ken was insistent, even when I was all sad and whiny and like, “I don’t wanna go to the antique show. Don’t make me go to the antique show,” but he made me go anyway on the grounds that “it will be fun.”

Before we left…
Me: I’m taking my wristlet. I don’t want to lug a huge purse around with me.
Five minutes later…
Ken: I’m taking my camera.
Me: You always take your camera. Why are you telling me this?
Ken: Oh, I just thought we were announcing things to each other.
Titus (from outside): I’m taking a dump in the back yard! This is fun!

In the car…
Ken: Why are you staring at me like that? Is there something wrong with the way I’m dressed?
Me: I wasn’t staring at you. I was looking past you out the window.
Ken: No, you were looking at me.
Me: How would you even know that?! I’m wearing dark sunglasses. Besides, you look fine. You’re wearing a black T-shirt and a black plaid shirt. You match. (*under breath*) Unlike when you wear your red plaid shirt and lime green T-shirt.
Ken: What?
Me: Nothing.

A moral dilemma…

Me: Did you see that video on Facebook about the job interview question?
Ken: The one where you’re driving in a lightning storm and you see three people at the side of the road?
Me: Right—“You see your best friend who once saved your life, a beautiful woman, and a sick elderly lady standing by the side of the road in a lightning storm, and you only have one seat. Who do you take?” It was easy. I solved it right away.
Ken: What do you mean, “you solved it”? Did you watch the video to the end?
Me: I didn’t need to watch it to the end. The old lady sits on my lap in the driver’s seat, my best friend sits in the other seat, and the beautiful woman sits on HIS lap.
Ken: You’re not allowed to do that. You only have one seat.
Me: I can do whatever the f*ck I want. It’s MY ethics. I’m like the Kobayashi Maru.
Ken: No, you’re Kirk. But it doesn’t matter. That’s not the right answer. Why don’t you EVER watch videos to the end? The CORRECT answer is: You give your keys to your best friend because you trust him to take the old woman to the hospital and then come back for you.  This leaves you alone with the beautiful woman. Then he comes back and—
Me: This is starting to sound suspiciously like that logic problem where you have a rowboat and you have to take a bunch of animals across a river. It’s a MORAL DILEMMA, not a logic problem, Ken. Also, why do I want to be alone with the woman?
Ken: So you can hit it off with her.
Me: That’s why my solution is more ethical. I put the woman on my best friend’s lap so that HE could hit it off with her. I’m self-sacrificial as f*ck. There. I win. ALL THE JOBS ARE MINE.
Ken: Sigh.

Then we got to the antique show, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. We had no problem getting parked, got a bus right away, and made it into the showgrounds less than 5 minutes after arriving. But then we realized that there were 100s of dealers and we needed a system, which was basically to wander down one row and back up another, saying, “Have we been down this aisle before? Oh yeah, I remember the giant elephant statue.” We have a friend who had a booth, and we finally found him. He said he was having a pretty good day, selling quite a bit and whatnot, when Ken pointed to a large box of bones at the front of his tent. They were priced at $5 each. When we asked about it, he said that last month, a guy came into his store with this big box of bones, wondering if he’d buy them. He was skeptical at first, but they sold like hotcakes (if hotcakes were all dirty and decomposed). So when the guy came back with another box, he bought that too, and brought them to sell at the show.

Friend: People are going nuts for them. I’ve already sold most of them. Quite a few people have been teachers, you know—want to use them in their classrooms.
Ken: What kind of bones are they?
Friend: Cow bones. I think.
Me: Cow bones?
Friend: Probably.

I don’t know if I want my child in a classroom where the teacher is like, “Hey kids, check this out! It LOOKS like a human femur, but the guy told me it’s probably just a cow bone.” And the weirdest thing was, he wasn’t the ONLY dealer selling bones. There were so many of them that we lost count. There were skulls, antlers, jaw bones, full skeletons of small rodents, you name it. We walked past a booth where a guy was showing a woman a skull that was on top of a log with a branch going through the skull’s eye socket. He was actually saying this: “Sometimes when animals die in the forest, they do it on top of logs and such, and then they decay there. So I’ve arranged the skull and log like this—kind of like a nature scene.”

At the end of the trip up and down the aisles, Ken and I came away with a single antique window, because we needed it for the greenhouse we’re building because why WOULDN’T we be building a greenhouse? (See the picture below–it’s a work in progress, and I’ll post another picture when it’s complete.) Also, in the process of looking for hinges in Ken’s workshop, I came across a tinfoil packet on a shelf. When I opened it, I was like, “What?! Are these BIRD SKULLS?!” and Ken said, “Yes, I was going to use them for a photography project.” When he’s done with them, I know a guy…

Work in progress

Alas, poor Yorick.

My Week 191: Big Words, Flushed Away, My Superhero Posse

I like big words and I cannot lie.

I have a certain penchant for the multi-syllabic. I mean, why use a merely utilitarian word when a grandiose one will do? I have to be honest though—I don’t use unusual or archaic words in everyday conversation because I consciously think “Hey, it would really impress people if I said, ‘It’s not my forte’ as opposed to ‘It’s not my thing’”. I just really like words that are precise and carry a certain nuance, and I use them without even thinking about it, until someone looks at me and goes, “Huh?” Here are a couple of examples:

1) A few years ago, Ken and I were shopping for a new bedroom suite. We went to a local furniture store, and a very nice salesman started hovering, as they do, so we engaged him in conversation. When we told him we were looking for a king size headboard and footboard, he must have assumed we were tabloid celebrities who lived in Las Vegas because he immediately took us over to this incredibly overdone monstrosity in wood and gold lacquer.

Sales Guy: What about this set? It’s really stunning.
Me: I don’t know. It’s a little ostentatious.
Sales Guy: Austin who?
Me: Um, like ornate and pretentious.
Sales Guy: I don’t know any of those words.
Me: Super fancy?
Sales Guy: Oh, sure, I can see that. Maybe this one over here…

2) I was down in Ohio with my rugby team and we stopped at an ‘All You Can Eat’ pizza place. I’m always amazed by American restaurants, with their gigantic servings. The cost was $7 and people were piling their plates sky-high with pizza then coming back for more. I was with a group of teenaged rugby players, and they were in seventh heaven, as you can well imagine. But I couldn’t find any knives and forks, so I said to the woman behind the counter,” Can you tell me where the cutlery is?” She looked at me blankly for a moment, so I repeated, “I can’t find the cutlery”.

 Server (long pause): I don’t know that word.
Me: Oh, um—utensils? For eating?
Server: You mean like a fork?
Me: Yes! Exactly like a fork.
Server: Oh! They’re over there by the soda.
Me: The what? Oh, you mean the pop? Thanks!

And this wasn’t me being a dick, seriously. For example, when you call Swiss Chalet here in Ontario to order take-out, the last thing they ask you before your order is complete is “Would you like condiments and utensils?” and you’re expected to know what that sh*t is or you don’t get your chicken.

But just because I like big words, doesn’t mean I’m actually smart in other ways. The other day, I was in a meeting with a director and some other managers (all women, thank goodness), and we were talking about some catering we’d just had. The catering company served Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches almost every day, and I referred to it as ‘ubiquitous’, at which point, someone turned to me and said, “That’s a big word.” I replied, “Sorry, I meant, like, ‘monotonous”. But then the meeting continued and it went on for a while. I’d been drinking a LOT of green tea that morning, so when we got to the last item on the agenda, I said, “Will this be a long one? I have to use the Ladies, so if the answer’s ‘Yes’, I’ll just pop out really quickly.”

The director said, “Oh, just use the one in here.” For context, we weren’t having the meeting IN a bathroom—we were in a boardroom that actually had a full bathroom with a shower in it, for some bizarre and unknown reason. We all made jokes about how no one would listen to me, but for good measure, I turned the faucet on high just to drown out any obvious noise. When I was finished, I stood up, turned around, and was at a complete loss. There was no discernable way to flush the toilet. No lever, no handle, no button, nothing. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stay in there forever—I mean, I was in the middle of a f*cking meeting. People were LITERALLY waiting for me to come out. So finally, I opened the door and stood there.

Director: What’s wrong?
Me: I—I don’t know how to flush the toilet…
Everyone: What?!
Me: There’s no mechanism that I can see whatsoever. I don’t know how to flush it.

One of the managers jumped up and came into the bathroom with me. She looked around and pressed a switch. The lights went off. She turned the lights back on, then we both stood there looking at the toilet.

Manager: She’s right. There’s no handle.
Director (coming over): No, there has to be.

Then we all stood there staring at the toilet. Finally, the director crouched down and looked around. “I think I see something!” she said. She reached around the back of the toilet and pushed a button, at which point the damned toilet flushed, and everyone dissolved into hysterical laughter.

Director: And now we all know how to flush this toilet.
Me: Indubitably. I mean, “Yup.”

Me and My Superhero Posse

On Thursday night, my train was an hour and a half late. We finally boarded, and I was talking to Ken on the phone when I found out that not only had I been seated in a foursome, which I hate, but also that he had just bought some antique windows for me, and one of the panes was broken.

Me: Are you f*cking kidding me?
Ken: The lady was really sorry. It broke in her car. She knocked five dollars off the price.
Me: Five dollars?! What am I supposed to do with a window with a broken pane?
Ken: We can fix it.
Me: OK. Sigh. Sorry. I’m really tired and a little punchy.

At which point I said to the three women sitting in the foursome with me: “Just to clarify—I won’t actually be punching anyone.” They all smiled and one of them said, “Oh, that’s OK”, like if I DID punch someone, she would be fine with it. They seemed like nice ladies. But because we were sitting in the back foursome, we were jointly responsible for breaking the window and helping people out of the train if it derailed, according to the conductor who explained how to get the hammer out of the box mounted above the window. Then I realized that the sticker on the window by the box looked exactly like Thor’s Hammer, and I said to the woman next to me, “Do you think if you just say ‘Hammer’, it will come flying out of the box right into your hand?” because why the hell WOULDN’T anyone wonder that, but she just kind of looked at me and shrugged, so obviously she was NOT going to be in my superhero gang.

Mjolnir, come here!

But now, I was not only tired, but a little sad at the thought that I didn’t have a superhero crew like Deadpool or Tony Stark or Starlord, so I messaged my friend M from work:

I was originally going to call myself Captain Middle-Aged Woman, but the superpowers of being financially responsible and possessing comfortable walking shoes didn’t seem like skills you would need in a fight against a supervillain unless it was Millennial Girl, and also M had some awesome ideas about our outerwear:

And it was nice to know that, on a day where work had been long and stressful, and the train was really late, that I, Trainwine, have friends who wouldn’t hesitate to be part of my superhero posse. I had a name for M, but I think in retrospect, I’m calling her “The Kickboxer”, because she broke her foot a while ago playing soccer, but she still went to kickboxing (here’s her blogsite–she just started out, so give her a read: I Left My Dress In the Fridge  ). We also decided our other friend should be “Italian Thunder” because she brings the boom AND the pasta to the party. So look out supervillains—Trainwine and her posse are coming (at least if it’s before 11 pm and it’s not raining because as everyone knows, I don’t dry well).  And if you, dear reader, want me to give you your own superhero name, ask for it in the comments and I will oblige. I think that just might be my idiom. Indubitably.

My Week 190: What New Hell Is This? Also, Happy Mother’s Day!

For a little while now, I’ve been experiencing things that put me in mind of hell. I feel like Dante, making my way through a landscape that just gets more and more bizarre. And every time I think I truly know what my own personal hell would be like, something happens that’s even worse. Oh don’t worry—none of it is truly tragic. I recognize that people go through things that are absolutely nightmarish, but in keeping with the spirit of this site, my version of hell is more like a Monty Python sketch, but one where Terry Gilliam plays all the roles and John Cleese is nowhere to be seen. And unlike Dante, I don’t have the 9 circles of hell—I have the Five Dickish Rings.

Dickish Ring One:

It all started a few weeks ago, when I was working offsite. Every day, I would either have to drive from downtown Toronto and back, or from my actual house and back. One particular morning, I was driving in the dark, in the rain, surrounded by transport trucks kicking up spray, and the only radio station I could get was the one that does news and traffic incessantly, which was probably the WORST thing about the whole experience, and I thought, “This is my personal vision of hell—driving on this damned highway forever with a guy who is PRETENDING to be in a f*cking helicopter but who is actually just a winged demon, and who is telling me that traffic is jammed from Townline Road to Mississauga due to volume.”

Dickish Ring Two:

After the nightmare that was working for 16 days straight without a day off, I finished work and came home. Ken had bought us all tickets for ‘Mardi Gras Night’ at the community centre. I had this weird idea that the local Lion’s Club was going to transform the community centre into a dimly lit enclave where we would go incognito in our fancy masks, and gamble the night away to the strains of jazz music and incense. I actually know nothing about Mardi Gras, if you haven’t guessed from the previous description, but if Mardi Gras means fluorescent lights, people dressed in jeans and ball caps, and a guy yelling out numbers to the elimination draw every five minutes through a loudspeaker, then Fat Tuesday it is. Well, there WERE beads. One string of dollar store beads per table. We got there early and snagged them so that I, my mom, T, and his girlfriend (the lovely V) each had one. All I could think was “This is my own personal version of hell—wearing plastic beads, sitting in an incredibly noisy small town community centre surrounded by drunk people and losing money to a man who looks like he wants to staple your elimination draw ticket to your face.”

Dickish Ring Three:

I walked to the local grocery store last week with a colleague who wanted to buy salad for lunch. There were many delicious options—spinach with chicken, dried cranberries, candied pecans, apples, and balsamic vinegar was my particular favourite if I was going to actually eat salad. What did she pick? Spring mix with hardboiled eggs and chunks of avocado in a blue cheese dressing. I honestly said to her out loud, “This is my own personal version of hell—being force-fed that sh*t three times a day.”

Dickish Ring Four:

I came home on Thursday night. Ken was away at a conference, so I was naturally a little nervous at being home alone, but at least I had Titus and Raven. On Thursday night, Titus pretty much ignored me because he was pissed off at Ken for not being there to walk him. On Friday night, it was another story:

Titus: Hey, whatcha doing?
Me: What do you mean, ‘what am I doing’? I’m sleeping!
Titus: I need you to open the door. I’d do it myself but I don’t have opposable thumbs.
Me: What? I let you out three times before bed. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning!
Titus: The heart wants what the heart wants.
Me: Fine! Make it quick. (long pause) Where the hell are you?!
Titus: I was just taking in the night—
Me: MORNING
Titus: —air.
Me: OK, fine. I’m going back to bed.

An hour later…

Titus: Hey, whatcha doing? By the way, my tummy’s a little upset…

This went on for several hours. All I could think was “This is my own personal version of hell—being woken up at night every hour by a dog who may or may not have diarrhea, so you HAVE to get up and let him out just in case. If you do, he will disappear into the night, giving you no choice but to wander around in the cold night air in your bathrobe and slippers to find him. If you don’t let him out, he will have pooped all over your favourite Persian rug. It’s literally the devil’s version of Schrodinger’s Dog.”

The devil incarnate.

Dickish Ring Five:

On Saturday, I had a book signing, which is to say that I was invited to come to a local mall by a book store and promote my novel. I was a little nervous, but I thought, ‘People do this all the time. I’m sure they have it all organized.” When I got there, right before 1 pm, there was nothing set up at the store. I saw the owner, and he said, “Oh right. There’s the table out there, and here are a couple of book stands. See you later.” The table was in the middle of the mall, right between the Fido Mobile Booth and a lady who was raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. I sat there for two hours while people walked by me and stared at me. Thankfully, my parents, my aunts, and a friend came by to say hi. My parents and my aunts pretended like they didn’t know me, and took a picture of us all so at least the five teenage boys who work in the Fido booth wouldn’t think I was a total loser, but after my family left, I still had another hour to go. At 2:30, I thought, “This is my own personal version of hell—sitting at a table by myself in the middle of a busy, incredibly noisy mall, while strangers walk by and stare at me.” At 2:56, I thought, “You can do this. You only have four minutes left”, at which point I realized that I was making a low, keening noise under my breath and slightly rocking back and forth in my chair. Finally, at 3 pm, I put my books back into my bag and went into the store. “Oh, don’t you want to stay for a while longer?” he asked.

“No, I’m good,” I said, which was a total lie. What I really wanted to say was “Go to hell”.

But later that day, I was at the grocery store, and I bumped into a really nice young guy that I used to work with. We exchanged pleasantries and then he said, “There’s a newspaper article about you pinned up on the bulletin board in our staff room. You’re a famous author now, right?” And while Sartre might have claimed that hell is other people, they’re also heaven sometimes too.

Happy Mother’s Day. Whether you’re a mom, an auntie, a second mom to someone, a special person who cares about your friend’s kids or whatever, here’s to all the wonderful women who make strong connections with children and give them great lives.

My Week 189: I’ve Got The Power

I don’t know about you, but I’m frankly very sick of all this extreme weather. Two weeks ago, we had ice storms. Ice storms in April. As T.S.Eliot once famously said, “Oh my f*cking god, April—you truly are a dick.” I believe that was in his greatest work “The Wasteland”, or “Etobicoke” as it’s known today. (I tweeted this out at the time, and it didn’t get a single like, as opposed to my lame tweet about Canada being ready to defend its sacred Maple Syrup, which got over 200 likes and numerous retweets, all of which taught me one thing: that people don’t appreciate obscure literary references and I should stick to tweeting about Maple Syrup). And then of course there’s terrible flooding out East in Saint John or St. John’s— I’m not sure which one. I initially thought that it must be the height of Canadianism to name two provincial capitals practically the same thing, but then I looked it up and the capital of New Brunswick is actually Fredericton, so I guess the height of Canadianism is to NOT know all the capitals. I DO know that up until recently, Canada had 9 teams in the Canadian Football League, and two of them were called the Roughriders. One of them was the Roughriders, and the other was the Rough Riders, just so you could tell them apart. This would be like if the NFL, for some bizarre reason, named half its teams The Patriots. Can you imagine the play-by-play (which I have to do because I have never watched the CFL)?:

Commentator 1: And the Roughriders take the field.
Commentator 2: As do the Rough Riders. Go teams!
Later…
Commentator 1: And the Rough Riders have scored a touchdown!
Commentator 2: Aw—now the Roughriders are behind by 22 and a half points.

Anyway, about the weather. I came home early this week with the intention of getting some writing done. I had the remaining chapters of my new novel laid out, and I’m itching to get it finished because I sent some sample chapters to my publisher and he said they’re definitely interested in it. But then I sat down to write and realized that I had forgotten about the chapter I had started BEFORE working 16 straight days in Etobicoke, and I had no plan for it. So that meant a lot of pacing, and thinking, and sitting and staring into space while the whole thing crystallized in my mind. By Friday morning, I knew what I was doing and I sat down at the computer. I was getting close to finished when I noticed that the wind outside had REALLY started to pick up, like the trees in the yard were whipping from side to side in a rather alarming way, and things that used to be on the porch were now in the middle of the yard. Then the power started to flicker. Then it went off. I tried to call Hydro but the line was busy, as always. But then the power came back on, so I stopped panicking and finished writing. Ken came home, and we went out to see Infinity Wars at the VIP theatre with T and his girlfriend. It was pretty good, even if I hadn’t seen all the other movies and had no idea who half the people were. Luckily, T was with us, so I could ask him, even if it meant being subjected to a LOT of eyerolling:

Me: Who’s that?
T: That’s The Falcon.
Me: The what? I don’t remember him from the last Avengers movie.
T: Which one was the last one you saw?
Me: The…Avengers? Who’s the guy with the mechanical arm? I feel like I’m really out of touch here.
T: Bucky. Stop talking.
Me: Where’s Batman? I heard he dies in this movie.
T: Mom! Batman is DC, not Marvel. They’re two different universes!
Me: So no Aquaman? You know what this movie REALLY needs? The Wonder Twins.
T: Sigh.

But then the Guardians of the Galaxy showed up, and I was like, “This is so unfair! How come the raccoon and the tree are here, but I can’t have Batman?!” But apparently, the Guardians are “Marvel” too, but just from a different franchise, and I had to resign myself to drinking wine, eating my poutine, and silently wondering where the f*ck Vision and Wanda came from.

After the movie, Ken and I drove home. But as we got into town, I noticed something terrible. There were no lights on anywhere. No street lights, no house lights, nothing. And sure enough, the power was out in the entire town and surrounding areas. I checked Facebook on my phone and someone had posted that power wouldn’t be restored until the next day at 6 pm.

So I did it all by the numbers.

1) Get out all the jar candles.

I have a drawer in a desk in the living room, where I keep jar candles. I currently have 23, all in varying shapes, sizes, and states of use. Why, you ask? Because the POWER MIGHT GO OFF. I started lighting them with a lighter wand thing, which ran out of butane by number 17. I haven’t used matches since I was a teenager, and I couldn’t get them to light on the sandpaper strip on the box, so I just stuck them in the open flames of the other candles. I am nothing if not resourceful. Candles lit. Check.

2) Find all 8 flashlights and realize that none of them work. Look for batteries. Try to install the batteries into the flashlights by the light of a “White Linen and Vanilla” jar candle. Remind Ken that “the pioneers might have been way better at living rough than me, but I bet their houses didn’t smell as good”.

3) Also remind Ken that under no circumstances should he open the fridge in order to keep the food from spoiling. Open the fridge myself to get out a bottle of wine.

4) Lie in bed in the dark, drinking wine and plotting my revenge against nature by candlelight. Eventually blow out all the candles so that I don’t set the house on fire.

Day Two

In the morning, we checked again. Now Hydro was saying the power wouldn’t be back on until Sunday at 6 pm.

5) Have a minor meltdown, and order Ken to take me out to buy a barbeque so that we could cook dinner (our previous bbq had broken during the winter when I rather vigorously threw open the lid and it snapped off). I also bought one of those big camping lanterns. The only instructions for its use involved three pictures that were all upside down. After ten minutes, I lost my sh*t and called for Ken. He looked at it, then pushed the button and it came on. “You have to press harder,” he said.

“Yeah, well, just wait until you have to put together the barbeque!” I responded. Which he did. In under the time suggested in the instruction manual.

6) Call my mom and complain about the lack of electricity.

7) Call my aunt and complain about the lack of electricity.

8) Post on Facebook complaining about the lack of electricity.

9) Realize my phone battery is almost dead.

10) Remember that our neighbour has a generator. Message her to ask if I can use it to charge my phone. She says yes.

11) Take my phone and a bottle of wine across the street. Spend a couple of very pleasant hours with my neighbour, talking and drinking while my phone charges.

12) Go home and light all 23 jar candles again. Lie in bed, drinking wine and plotting revenge against Ontario Hydro, who will rue the day they ruined my plan to kick back and watch Netflix so that I could get caught up on The Avengers movies. Enjoy the aroma of “Lavender Sky” mingled with “Christmas Berry”. Read the fifth book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and get seriously pissed off at being over halfway through and still not knowing who the f*cking Wolves of Calla are.

13) Blow out all the jar candles and go to sleep. Wake up sometime in the night and realize that the hall light is on. Wake Ken up to tell him, but he already knows and has been watching Netflix without me. I forgive him, silently rejoice, and congratulate myself on being hardy like a pioneer. Make plans to buy my own generator. Just in case.