My Week 218: MacGyvering

Like a lot of people, I’m pretty good at MacGyvering—that is to say that I can solve complicated household problems with very common household items. I come by this skill honestly—my father was a machine shop teacher and toolmaker by trade. He can make a tool to fix just about anything out of an Allen key, and there were always several things in our house held together with contact cement. Me, I prefer Gorilla Glue, but same concept. Last month, the gingerbreading on our Victorian screen door broke, and there was no way to screw or nail it back together, so I just glued it. Worked like a sticky charm. I have a utility drawer in both my condo and at home which contain the only 4 actual tools I’ve ever needed. 1) One of the many hammers I own 2) needle nose pliers 3) a multi-screwdriver 4) a staple gun.

It’s a thing of beauty.

Everything else is assorted flotsam that I can use to MacGyver, including:

a) Cardboard: This is handy for folding up and putting under a table leg or whatnot to stabilize it. Also, our house is very old and tilty, so sometimes cupboard doors will just swing open. There’s nothing like a cardboard wedge to keep them in place. Neatly hidden of course—who wants to see cardboard?

You can barely see it.

b) Plastic food containers: I recently put the empty tub from a very delicious garlic spread upside down in a plant pot in order to raise my Thanksgiving chrysanthemum up high enough that it could be seen. I could have used a smaller plant pot, but hey—I had a tub.

c) Paper clips: These are a multi-use invention that I have rarely used on paper. Zipper pull on your boot broken? Paper clip. Screen on your hair dryer clogged? Paper clip. Feel like poking a hole in something? Paper clip. Bored at work? Paper clip. Enough said.

d) Toothpicks: These handy little gadgets are terrific for repairing reading glasses. One leg is ALWAYS going to fall off and the screw is going to disappear into a space/time void. What better item to use to fix it than a toothpick? Just shove one through the screw holes and snap it off. No one will ever know. Also, if you have 17 jar candles that are burned down really far, and trying to light them with a match burns your fingers, make a longer match with a bunch of toothpicks taped together.

e) You can hang a picture on a pushpin if it’s not too heavy. You can move any piece of furniture across a smooth surface by putting a towel under it and dragging it. You can wrap duct tape around your hand, sticky side out, and use it as a clothes lint remover. SOS pads are the only thing I use to clean old, dirty wood before I refinish it.

And so on. But this week, I had my most MacGyver-y challenge yet. My most recent roommate, who is a vegan, messaged me to tell me that she had broken her toilet. “I went to see the concierge,” she wrote, “but he said you would have to hire a private contractor.”

“What part of the toilet is broken?” I asked. She sent a picture of the chain.

Private contractor? Hah! I thought to myself, putting three paper clips into my purse to take back to the condo. “Don’t worry,” I told her. “I’ll take care of it.”

Now, the only thing the girl eats is fruit, so I don’t know WHY she was flushing the toilet hard enough to break the chain, but I don’t eat a lot of roughage either and I recently broke a toilet in the train station. I didn’t tell the station attendant, who is always extremely rude to me–I just got on the train and fled, leaving behind a complete f*cking disaster that I refer to as “her karma”. So who am I to judge? At any rate, I got back to the condo, went straight to my roommate’s bathroom and examined the toilet. I knew enough to drain it first, then I pulled out the chain. Turns out that it wasn’t the chain itself that had broken—the thing on the flapper that the chain was attached to had been ripped off. Well, the flapper was rubber and I had a paper clip, which is always handy for poking holes into stuff. All I needed to do was pierce the flapper with the paper clip and then attach the paper clip to the chain.

Toilet Repair Kit

Unfortunately, the rubber was too thick and all I managed to do was pierce my own thumb. Once I was finished swearing, I thought for a minute, and went to my utility drawer. Eureka! I had a push pin. A yellow push pin to be exact. I pushed it into the rubber flapper without sympathy (revenge for my thumb) and hooked a paper clip around it, which I then twisted around the chain. I filled the tank back up and gave it a flush. Perfect. “Flush away!” I told her. “It’s all fixed.”

The next morning, I was at work when I got another text message. “I’m so sorry,” it read. “I must have flushed too hard—the chain came off again.” Then I remembered that she had had a large meal of pumpkin and pineapple the night before—perhaps that was the culprit. Then came the second message: “And the pushpin went down the pipe.” I felt more than a little defeated at the thought that all my MacGyvering had amounted to nothing. It was time to watch Youtube videos and buy actual parts. Which I did after work. I bought three different flappers, not knowing which one would work the best. Luckily, the first one seemed to do the trick, so after draining the toilet, installing it, and practicing a few good flushes, it seemed good as new. “Just be gentle with it,” I made her promise. “And you owe me a new pushpin.”

 

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My Week 217: Things You Learn While Travelling

I just got back from spending a week on a cruise ship sailing around the Caribbean. It was great fun but I definitely learned some things about myself among other things, as one does when one is on a boat.

1) I’m not good at packing. I mean, I can PACK just fine—I’m a f*cking amazing packer. I roll everything into tight little sausages which makes them more compact AND unwrinkled. I can fit so much stuff into a small suitcase, you wouldn’t believe it. Also, I never pack until the night before, but I spend a lot of time thinking about the process and what exactly I will need. My parents actually PRACTICE packing to make sure everything will fit. They practiced on the Tuesday before we left and did such a great job that they just kept everything in the suitcase until Friday and I was like “My god, when was the last time you brushed your teeth?!” Me, I have no problem waiting until the last minute because I might end up needing something important, like what if Benedict Cumberbatch invited me to an impromptu pool/cocktail party and all my sh*t was locked inside a suitcase? So it’s not the packing itself that I struggle with—it’s WHAT I pack that’s the problem. The last time that Ken and I went away, I didn’t pack enough ‘daywear’ and had to buy a couple of souvenir T-shirts and now I will never forget where the halibut fishing capital of the world is (apparently it’s Homer, Alaska). So this time, I overcompensated but when I repacked my suitcase to come home, I realized that I hadn’t worn even half the sh*t I brought. Also, I packed twelve pairs of shoes. I was only away for 7 days.

2) Canada is a lot smaller than you think. You know how people assume that all Canadians know each other, like how people joke “Oh, you’re from Canada? Do you know Bob?” Well, it’s true. We were on a bus tour and people started saying where they were from:

Woman 1: Oh we’re from Kitchener.
My parents: So are we!
Woman 1: What part?
Parents: At the lofts at Benton!
Woman: Oh, do you know John Smith?
Parents: Yes!
Me: I’m not from Kitchener; I live in Drumbo.
Man 1: My brother’s from Drumbo—do you know Frank Jones?
Me: Yes!
Woman 2: We’re from Edmonton.
Me: Oh, we were there last summer. We stayed at the Chateau Louis.
Woman 2: Did you hear the piano player in the lounge?
Me: Yes, we did!
Woman 2: That’s Jeff—he’s my husband’s best friend! They host Blues Fest at the Chateau Louis every year and he always plays for that too!
Man 2: Oh, I think I saw him when we went there from Newfoundland last year! He was really good. We bought him a drink.
Woman 2: Wait—are you Bob?!

That’s Canadians for you—6 degrees Celsius of separation.

3) I don’t actually like monkeys. That might not seem like a big deal, but don’t forget that I have often waxed poetic about the joys of having a monkey butler. His name would be Ralph Van Wooster, obviously, and he would wear a little tuxedo with a hole cut out of the bottom for his tail. But in reality, I don’t think I like monkeys very much if my reaction to hearing that there were wild monkeys out and about on one of the islands we visited is any indication. Our tour bus driver was telling us about how people used to smuggle monkeys onto the island but then when they got older and more aggressive, they would release them into the wild, and now there were non-butler-type monkeys roaming the island and hanging around on the rooftops. And all I could think of was how terrifying it would be to wander around the botanical gardens and come face to face with a simian who was super pissed off at being tossed out onto the street and probably didn’t know how to make a dirty martini. Our tour guide also told us that people on the island ATE monkeys, and then he said, “I’ve never eaten monkey myself. I mean, I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat monkey, but if someone had some cooked monkey and it was right there, I would probably eat it” and I was like “How did it come to this, Ralph Van Wooster?”

4) Sea turtles have attitude. I got to go snorkeling with sea turtles, which was pretty awesome. The guide on that tour told us not to touch the turtles but he didn’t say anything about the turtles not touching us, and one of them slapped my dad which was a real dick move because my dad is Scottish and feisty as f*ck even in his eighties but he couldn’t fight back because he had to use two hands to hang on to his little floaty. So I also learned that sea turtles can be assholes but I guess when you’re “endangered” you get to do what you want.

Anyway, it was a great trip. We did tours of the islands, learned about spices, waded in waterfall pools, sat on beautiful beaches, and made good use of the “premium beverage package”.

Today is my birthday, but it will be a quiet one since I just got back late last night. My parents DID get me a cake on Friday night at one of the restaurants on the ship. When it came out, I started laughing hysterically. The maître d’ looked at me in confusion and said, “Isn’t your name spelled correctly?” and I said, “Not even a little bit.”

“I’m so sorry,” he said, “the pastry chef is from Thailand” and that was even more random, and made me laugh even harder. Good times, good times.

My Week 216: Brotherly Love

I’m on a boat! Yes, mydangblog is travelling. I’ve been superbusy this week getting work stuff done and then getting packed up to go, so here’s what I have for you. You know I write this blog, and you might know that I’m a published novelist, but I also write short stories. I’ve only ever posted one (Donut Store Memories), but I thought I’d share this one with you just for fun. OK, it’s not particularly funny–in fact, it’s kind of dark, but I hope you like it. I’ll be back next week with tales of my adventures but for now…

Brotherly Love

Jackson Wills had loved Joy Wills from the first moment he’d seen her in the Stag And Horn Pub five years ago. She had come towards him, smiling, hand outstretched. Even from a distance, he could see the delicate bones of her wrist, the porcelain skin, and the fine veins beneath it. When she laughed, he could have sworn he heard tiny silver spoons tapping against crystal wine glasses. Her eyes were brown, a honey-caramel colour that he could have stared into until the end of time. Her long, brown hair was tucked behind one ear, a perfect, shell-like ear. He thought that if he could just lean in a little, he might hear the ocean in that ear. As they spoke, the world around him faded away, and the only thing in the vacuum of silence that remained was Joy. He’d felt that way 5 years ago, and he still felt that way now. There was only one problem. Joy Wills was married to Jackson’s twin brother, MacKenzie.

Mack. The outgoing one, the “fun” twin. Identical to Jack in every way physically, but as different in personality as two people could be. Jack was quiet, introspective, preferring books to people. Mack was loud, a daredevil, always surrounded by a coterie of the equal-minded and equally loud. On the playground when they were children: Jackson always on the periphery; MacKenzie always in the centre. As high school students: Mack, the captain of every team, the president of every club, never without a girlfriend, never lonely on a Friday night; Jackson, on the bench, student council treasurer, invited to parties only as an afterthought.

In university, Jack came into his own, his preference for academia making him popular with professors and to a certain extent, with women. Mack continued to be Mack, but floundered under the pressures of his program, skating just above the cut every semester, spending more time in campus bars than in class. The field of play, such as it was, had finally leveled out. Jack was happy. And then Mack introduced him to Joy.

Mack and Joy had met in a class that she was taking out of interest; he was taking it in the hope that it was an easy credit: Introduction to Sartre. Unfortunately for Mack, it wasn’t easy, and he had turned one afternoon to the beautiful girl sitting next to him in the lecture hall and whispered, “I don’t get the point of this.” She had laughed, that silver-spoon-on-crystal laugh, and replied, “Good one!” He had no idea what she meant by ‘Good one’, but he went with it as he always did, and laughed along with her. Then he asked her out. When he confessed to her that night that he didn’t actually understand what the course was about, she found him charmingly candid. He confided this to Jackson some time after the wedding, laughing at the irony of Joy’s confidence in his honesty. Jackson said nothing, the tapping of silver spoons on crystal still ringing in his ears. It surprised him that Mack even understood the concept of irony. And he continued to say nothing each time Mack asked him to cover for him. Even as an adult, Mack was never without a girlfriend; it didn’t matter that he also had a wife.

Of course, Jackson’s silence was completely selfish. The first time Mack had used him as an excuse (“I’m spending the night at Jack’s. He’s going through a rough time right now…”), he was understandably furious. He found out after the fact when MacKenzie called him, begging him not to tell Joy the truth, that he’d gone out for drinks after work, and went home with a woman in Human Resources whose name he couldn’t even recall. Jackson’s first instinct was to go straight to Joy. But then he stopped. He realized that if Joy knew the truth, she would leave Mack, and he might never see her again. He was sure of one thing, and one thing only—the absence of Joy in his life would kill him.

So, for the past five years, he had been complicit in Mack’s dalliances. But it wasn’t for nothing. Mack started “going out of town for business” which gave Jack the opportunity to spend time with Joy. They liked the same books and spent hours discussing them; they went to the movies, to concerts, and they drank wine, simply talking. As eager as Mack was to get away from Joy, Jack was equally as eager for him to be gone. It was heaven. But then Mack would come back, and everything would return to normal.

One day, it occurred to Jackson that there might be a better solution to his dilemma. Divorce was impossible—he would lose Joy forever. If she and Mack split up, there was little chance that she would want to spend time with a man who looked exactly like him. And Joy seemed to have little concern about the fact that Mack was rarely home. She had a good job herself, and friends, and Jackson, to whom she had referred more than once as her “best” friend. More importantly, when Mackenzie WAS home, she seemed happy, and gave no indication that she even suspected that he was seeing other women. Jackson would watch them together, as seemingly delighted to be a couple as they were the first time Mackenzie had introduced Joy to him in the Stag And Horn. He burned with jealousy and desire, tempered only by the plan that he was slowly and carefully formulating, biding his time until the moment was right.

Then, one Saturday night, they were all out together—Mack and Joy, and Jackson with a woman from his software firm named Kim. He spent most of the evening focused on Joy, barely speaking to his date, who eventually gave up and just ordered a double scotch. Mack was in fine form, though, subtly flirting with Kim. It had long ago occurred to Jackson that he and his brother had never once, even as children, pretended to be each other. It would have been as difficult for Mack to stay quiet as it would have for Jack to be loud. But now, as adults…

Finally, Mack excused himself to go to the restroom, and Jackson followed. Once they were both alone, he broached the topic.

“Kim’s lovely, isn’t she?” he said, as they stood facing the urinals.

Mack looked at him sideways. “Great body,” he said. “Have fun with that. I’m jealous.”

“She’s not my type. She was spending a lot of time watching you when you weren’t looking.”

“Oh, I was looking,” Mack smirked. “Too bad.”

“Well,” Jackson hesitated. “Here’s a thought….”

He carefully explained the plan to his brother, expecting that the combination of Mack’s obvious interest in Kim, combined with the fact that he was slightly drunk would make him compliant. But Mack was outraged.

“You’re a sick person, you know that?!” He jabbed his index finger hard into Jackson’s chest. “I can’t believe you! And there’s no way Joy wouldn’t realize it was you! Stay away from us, from now on!”

Jackson felt sick to his stomach. He had been absolutely convinced that MacKenzie would jump at the chance to switch places, and now—now he’d ruined everything. He’d never see Joy again, never smell the air around her, never lean close to her perfect shell-like ear in the hope of hearing the ocean. He slumped down onto the dirty bathroom floor and began weeping. MacKenzie looked at him with a mixture of concern and contempt.

“Are you OK? Jack! Come on, stop crying!”

“Just take me home, please. We can go out the back—I don’t want anyone to see me like this,” he sobbed.

He got up off the floor, and staggered out of the bathroom and into the parking lot, Mack following close behind.

“I messaged Joy that you suddenly got ill and I’m just running you home, then I’ll come back for her and Kim,” he said, his anger flaring again. “Joy’s actually worried about you. I should make you walk, you piece of shit.”

Jackson just sniffed and got in the car. Mack tossed his wallet and phone into the backseat angrily. “You know I’ve had a bit to drink. You’d better hope we don’t get pulled over.”

They started driving down the highway in silence, Mack staring straight ahead, eyes fixed firmly on the road. Jackson’s mind was racing. They were approaching an underpass. He didn’t know what else to do—he was a desperate man driven by desperate desires. He surreptitiously slid his own wallet out of his pocket and let it drop to the floor of the car. As they got closer to the underpass, he suddenly reached over and popped the button on Mack’s seatbelt. The belt flew up, and Mack looked at him, confused.

“What the hell are you—” he started to say, as Jackson grabbed the steering wheel. The car swerved sharply to the right. As it made contact with the concrete foundation of the underpass, the last thing that Jackson saw was his brother flying up over the airbag and hitting the windshield. Then everything went dark.

When the light came back, he was lying in a room that smelled like rubbing alcohol and blood. He tried to turn his head, but an explosion of pain made him groan. Someone by the bed exclaimed, “He’s awake!”

Another voice, quiet but excited, asked, “Do you know who you are? What’s your name?”

Without thinking, he replied hoarsely, “Jack.” There was a flurry of voices, and he heard someone start crying. He realized suddenly, even through the pain, that he had one chance. “Jack,” he repeated. “Is my brother Jack OK?”

Three weeks later, he was finally released from the hospital. Joy had been there every day, taking care of him, and it was the heaven he had dreamed of. It was easy to pretend to be Mack when he was in recovery—no one expected a man who’d almost been killed by his insanely jealous brother to be loud. And he played up his role, telling Joy that “Jackson” had been madly in love with her, that he’d insisted on driving and that before he drove them into the underpass, he had declared he couldn’t live without her, and that if Jack couldn’t have Joy, neither could Mack. She didn’t say much, just wiped her tears and told him she was glad that he had survived.

At the memorial for “Jackson”, he was appropriately solemn, but inside he could barely contain his excitement. This was the closure he had been waiting for, and once the ceremony was over, he could finally have the life with Joy that he’d dreamed of since the first day he met her. He delivered his own eulogy with just the right amount of gravitas and tears, trying not to giggle hysterically at the realization that Mack could never have been so eloquent. Joy sat in the front pew, tears streaming down her cheeks. It filled him with tremendous empathy for her, and the friend she had lost, but he would more than make it up to her as Mack.

When they got back to the house—HIS house now, too—Joy was quiet. She went immediately up the stairs and disappeared into the bedroom—HIS bedroom now, too. He’d spent the last few days in the guestroom at his own insistence—he still woke up in the night in pain and didn’t want to disturb her. At least, that’s what he told her. The truth was much darker and inexplicable—he wanted Mack in the ground before he silently claimed Joy for his own. But tonight, he felt as if he could conquer mountains, and she had had enough time to process her grief at the loss of a dear brother-in-law. He sat in the kitchen waiting for some sign of her. One hour passed, then another. Finally, he couldn’t wait any longer. He started up the stairs, just as she was coming down. She was carrying a suitcase. They both stopped and stared at each other.

“Are you going somewhere?” he asked, looking at her and then the suitcase in confusion. “Did we have plans?” Joy continued to stare at him, her honey-caramel eyes making him weak at the knees. “I don’t understand,” he said.

“And I don’t understand how you could possibly want to stay in this sham of a marriage,” she said. “Do you really think I don’t know about all the other women? The disgust I feel for you? I was planning this weeks ago, of telling Jackson how much in love with him I was, hoping beyond hope that he would come away with me…then the accident happened, and I put it off until you were better. But now—with Jackson gone, there’s nothing left for me here. I’m leaving you.”

As she pushed past him on the stairs, he leaned in close to her perfect, shell-like ear. “I love you,” he whispered. He heard the ocean roar, and then she was gone.

 

My Week 215: Delusions Under Which I Suffer

When I was very little, I had a painful type of eczema on my hands called dyshidrosis. For some reason, the doctor became convinced that I was allergic to chocolate and oranges. This, of course, was patently untrue, as it turns out the causes of dyshidrosis are linked to seasonal allergies and stress. Go figure. But nobody knew that 50 years ago and as a result, I wasn’t allowed to eat chocolate or oranges for years in the hope that my hands would stop looking and feeling like they’d been stung by a thousand angry bees. I was OK with the chocolate, never really having had a sweet tooth. Oranges were a different matter though—I loved the tangy sweet taste of oranges, tangerines, and clementines, and I longed to be able to eat them. In my child’s mind, I coped with the deprivation by convincing myself that things that LOOKED orange actually tasted like oranges. I realized this about myself on Thursday, as I sat in my office, carefully separating a roll of Rockets into various colours and saving the orange ones for last.

Colleague: What are you doing?
Me: I like to eat the orange ones last. They taste the best.
Colleague: Rockets all taste the same, no matter what colour they are.
Me: No they don’t. F*ck off.

OK, I only said that last part in my head, because a) I like my coworkers and would never swear AT them and b) deep down, I know my colleague is right. Orange rockets don’t actually taste like oranges. Neither do orange coloured Smarties, orange coloured lollipops, orange vitamins (unless they’re Vitamin C, and then they taste slightly tangy like citrus), or most other things that are made mostly of sugar and food colouring.

I know it’s different in the States, but I’m Canadian.

Yet this is a delusion under which I suffer. It’s so deeply entrenched that when I was a kid, I used to sneak baby aspirin because it was orange. If you’ve ever tasted plain aspirin, it’s sour and acidic. So is the baby kind, but I was convinced that’s how oranges tasted. Also, it was lucky that I wasn’t accident prone because I’m sure my blood was thinner than water thanks to all the aspirin.

Now that I’m an adult, I can eat all the damn oranges I want. But I don’t, because oranges are a f*cking pain in the ass to eat. First there’s the peel. Then there’s all that white sh*t UNDER the peel. Then you have to chew through all the other bits and try not to choke on the seeds to get to the orange-y part—you might as well just drink orange juice. Or eat orange Rockets.

But this whole experience made me realize that there are a lot of other things I believe that are absolutely not true, yet I persist in believing them.

1) If I’m having trouble getting something to load on my cellphone, I hold it higher up in the air, because that makes the signal stronger. And if that doesn’t immediately do the trick, I also shake it. Ken makes fun of me for doing it, but it works. Ken also makes fun of me for wearing UGG boots, so that goes to show you how much HE knows. They’re comfortable AND stylish, Ken, so keep your opinions to yourself.

2) I’m a great singer. In the car. Nowhere else. But man, alone in the car, I can totally rock anything on my IPod. I’m like Beyoncé, if Beyoncé was a middle-aged white woman who only sang in her car. And I don’t have to worry about taking my act on the road, because my act is ONLY on the road. If I sing anywhere else, or there are other people around, I sound terrible.

3) I can predict the future. On Friday at work, we were talking about what we were going to have for dinner, and I said, “Ken will want homemade pizzas” and then I got a BBM from Ken:­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

I see pizza in our future…

I’m like The Amazing Kreskin if the Amazing Kreskin’s spouse was completely predictable and ALWAYS wanted homemade pizza for dinner. I should play the lottery more often.

4) I have many celebrity friends on Facebook. Obviously this guy is the REAL Justin Timberlake, who of course goes by a pseudonym and posts stuff like this:

It’s really Justin Timberlake. For sure.

You can see that he has lots of fans and is VERY busy. I’m also friends with Andrew Garfield, Mandy Moore, and a couple of the guys from The Walking Dead. Mandy Moore likes to post things like “Which character on this is us is youse guyses favourite?” I always assumed that Mandy Moore would be a little more articulate, but you know those Hollywood types. Andrew Garfield mostly just sends out Facebook Messenger messages with crying faces—I’m sure being famous is very lonely.  

5) Oil of Oregano can cure any kind of cold or virus. I know this is true because whenever I feel like I’m starting to come down with something, I take some Oil of Oregano and automatically feel like I might be dying, but then I drink some wine and feel better. Last month, I ran out so I bought a new bottle (of Oil of Oregano–I NEVER run out of wine), but when I took it, it tasted even more horrible than usual. I checked the label and guess what? It also had orange oil in it. Now I love the stuff.

I asked Titus if he had any favourite flavour:

Titus: Bacon, beef, fish, chicken, the hot chocolate powder inside of K cups, green beans, cauliflower, bouillon cubes,  cake, crackers, pie crust, white wine, the milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl, green peppers, red peppers, apple slices, strawberries…oh, and turkey. There’s probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten.
Me: Oranges?
Titus: Don’t be gross.
Me: You fool.

My Week 214: Let Your Backbone Slide

I have very sensitive skin. I don’t mean sensitive like I can’t use certain products or I get a rash—well, only if they have banana or avocado in them, but that’s related to my latex allergy more than my skin. What I mean is, I can’t stand certain things TOUCHING my skin. For example, I cut all the tags out of my clothes. Or sometimes I forget to do that, and then at some point, I RIP the f*ckers out. Last week, I was wearing a new pair of jeans, and I’d already taken the back tag out, but I hadn’t realized there was one down the side of the leg until I started walking to work. By the time I got to the office, I was just about out of my mind. So there I was, sitting at my desk, hunched over with my hand down the inside of my pants when my director walked by:

Director: Um…are you OK?!
Me: It’s a tag.
Director: A what?
Me: There’s a…(*rip*) tag, see?
Director (relieved): All right then.

And it is not at all uncommon for me to approach a co-worker with a pair of scissors and practically beg them, “Please cut this tag out!” People are always remarkably willing to do it, which is nice and perhaps a little worrisome, like what goes through someone’s mind at a moment like that? “Cool, I get to attack mydangblog’s blouse with scissors! Hope I don’t slip!” But you know, it’s a chance you take. Also, it’s a good reminder to be nice to people, just in case.

And if you think this is weird, let me also tell you that I haven’t worn a pair of pantyhose in over 20 years. Now, I know some of my readers will shrug and say, “Big deal—neither have I” but that’s because you’re men (although maybe some of you have, and just to clarify, that’s perfectly fine with me). I only started wearing dresses in the last couple of years thanks to the invention of footless tights. For some bizarre reason, I absolutely cannot put something on my body that stretches from my waist to my toes. The problem is that footless tights mostly come in just black, gray, and white, so it limits your wardrobe a bit. Last year, I thought “Hey. I’ve overcome so much in my life—I bet I could wear pantyhose again” so I bought a pair that were a lovely cream colour. The next morning I put them on, turned to walk out of my bedroom, said, “Nope. Nope nope nope!”, ripped them off, and threw them in the corner. Then I stood there breathing hard, full of hosiery hatred. Hard pass on the nylons.

I also don’t wear hats, wool, anything that itches, anything that touches my face, socks that are too tight, socks that are too loose…

But why am I telling you this? Because yesterday, I had to dress up in a costume and I thought I was going to die.

It was a charity walk, and our whole secret agency was participating. And because it’s getting close to Hallowe’en, the organizers announced that there would be a costume contest with prizes. I wasn’t really paying attention, but a bunch of people in the office came up with a group costume and a couple of weeks ago, they asked me if I wanted to join in. “Sure, whatevs,” I said, as one does. Over the next week, strange pieces of foam appeared in an empty cubicle, and when people asked, they were told that this was our costume—we were going to be a spine. Cool, right?  (If you google “Costume spine on parade”, you can see what it’s supposed to look like). There was also a very large pink thing that looked like a mushroom top, which was apparently the brain. So yesterday morning, we all assembled to put on our vertebrae, and that’s when the problem started. It was a big circle made of itchy foam, and it went over my head, with a peaked piece that was like a hat. Within 20 seconds, I knew this was a huge mistake. It was like being enveloped in clothing tags, and nylons, with tight AND loose socks thrown in for good measure. That’s how I felt. But I couldn’t take it off, because a) I’m a manager, and I have to be a good role model and b) the CEO was joining us and I didn’t want to come off like a big baby by tearing it into pieces and screaming at it. One of the other managers turned to me and said, “Isn’t this cool?!” and I just made a low, keening sound in reply.

Manager: What’s wrong?
Me (whispers): It burns.
Manager: Pardon?
Me: SO COOL.

But it really was the greatest group costume ever, with the guy wearing the brain at the front, and the rest of us (about 12 of us) dressed as vertebrae following along in a straight line behind him. People on the street pointed and applauded, cars honked at us as they went by, and we all smiled and waved. But my smile was more like a grimace as you can tell by this selfie that M took of us.

I had to walk for 2.5 f*cking kilometres like that. That’s a little over a mile and a half. Luckily, I was distracted by the fact that it was difficult to see and I had to be careful not to trip on the sidewalk and fall down, thus breaking the spinal column. Also, while we were waiting to start the walk, they were playing music and I pretended I was Kanye West in a Perrier bottle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL_h9m_-HlE) by bouncing up and down.

On the upside though, we DID raise a lot of money for the charity. I don’t know if we won the prize because the second we finished the walk, I whipped the costume off and felt relief flood over me. And as we headed back to the office, we had this conversation:

Me: I overheard Donna say that when she saw us coming in the distance, she was a little shocked. She said “from far away you look like a COMPLETELY different body part”, but then she realized it was too long.
Co-Worker: I don’t get it. What other part of the body?
Me: You know—think about it. The first person is wearing a large pink thing that looks like a mushroom top, and the rest of us are like a straight shaft…
Co-worker: Uh…
Me: A penis. She meant a penis.
Co-worker: Oh my god! Did she really call you a penis?!
Me: No! She meant all of us, not just ME.
Co-worker: Thank goodness! Because you’re very pretty. You don’t look like a penis AT ALL.
Me: Aw, thanks! Maybe we should all stop saying penis now.
All: Right, yes, good idea, hahaha.

When we got back to the office, everyone was excited, and as we packed up the vertebrae, someone said, “Hey! Let’s use this again next year—we can paint all the pieces brown and go as a bookworm!” and now I have to quit my job.

Have a happy Hallowe’en everyone—I hope your costumes are comfortable!

My Week 213: Speaking My Mind, I Am Your Sunshine

I, like many people, have difficulty speaking my mind. I’m usually a pretty polite person, and I’d prefer to engage, as one does, in passive aggressive banter rather than outright conflict:

Me: So I haven’t seen you all week, but you’re going away to a conference this weekend?
Ken: Is that OK?
Me: Fine. Whatever.
Ken: Are you sure? It doesn’t sound fine.
Me: No, Ken, it’s perfectly OK. You go be you. Don’t worry about me all alone here.
Titus (from other room): I’ll be here!!
Me (yells back): That’s right, you will! At least SOMEONE wants to spend time with me!
Ken: Sigh.

But we all know that passive aggression is not the best way to problem-solve, and as I write this, Ken is merrily enjoying himself in a place called Bolton instead of working on the porch with his loving wife sitting inside where it’s warm. I’m actually not really mad about it though because he had to sleep in a sleeping bag last night and that’s his karma.

But wouldn’t life be a lot simpler if we just asked for things outright? Case in point: last Friday, I was taking the subway from work to the train station with a couple of colleagues. It was standing room only, and we were holding onto the poles by the door to prevent ourselves from flying around the subway car every time it pulled into a station. There WOULD have been a seat right next to me, but it was occupied by the leg of a woman who was sitting in the seat next to it. She obviously didn’t want anyone sitting near her. Also, she was muttering to herself and pulling wads of used Kleenex out of one coat pocket and stuffing them into her other coat pocket. When she was finished, she would repeat the process in reverse. Anyway, I was standing there talking with my colleagues when the woman suddenly reached up, punched me in the arm, and yelled, “You need to stand over there! You’re too close to me. Go away!”

I was happy to oblige. Now, at first, I was kind of annoyed, but then I realized something: THIS WOMAN IS MY HERO. How many times have I been in a situation where I wanted to shout the exact same thing, but my politeness allowed me to suffer in silence? Just the week before, I was in Shoppers Drug Mart looking for hair styling products and it seemed like every single person in the Eaton Centre had decided to do the exact same thing. And for some reason, they were mostly men, so I couldn’t see over them, let alone reach anything on the shelves. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic if I could have just yelled, “You all need to f*ck off and go buy vitamins!” Or on a packed elevator to demand, “Everybody out on 15. No, I don’t care if it’s not your floor, LINDA—just get out!” Or at a meeting: “I don’t care how crowded it is around this table–if your chair bumps into mine one more time, I swear I will throat punch you, Bob.”

I feel better already just thinking about it. And in the spirit of throat punching and yelling at people to f*ck off, I’m happy to announce that I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award, which is “peer recognition for bloggers who inspire positivity and joy”. The irony is not lost on me. I was nominated by a very cool guy, Simon Farnell of Planet Simon. Check him out—he writes about science, technology, inventions, and also writes great sci-fi fiction. He’s also very upbeat, positive, and engaging, which explains why he was given the award before nominating me. In keeping with things of this nature, I have to answer some questions, but as usual, I’m going to answer some of his questions but mostly the ones I created for myself:

1) What country do you come from?

This is an easy one. Canada. That’s why I’m so full of humour and vigour, and extra ‘u’s, and maple syrup. And it’s ‘zed’ not ‘zee’.

2) Have you solved the mystery of the mouthguard you found on the floor?

No, I have not. I even called the dentist to find out if we had gotten another mouthguard made for Tristan and forgot about it. The receptionist said no and was a little freaked out by the story when I told her about finding the mysterious mouthguard in the middle of the floor where it had suddenly, magically appeared. I feel like I need to try it on again one more time, just to make sure it’s not mine, but that could just be an excuse to swish wine around in my mouth.

3) What place are you in currently in the hockey pool?

I’m in second place. I WAS in first but one of my Andersons got injured and can’t play for a few days. What a baby.

4) Have you discovered how you are like Jeffrey yet?

No. I finally got up the nerve to ask my colleague and he laughed gently and said, “Oh, I don’t know. You both have the same…persona.” He wouldn’t say any more than that. But Jeffrey is in our hockey pool, and guess who’s in first place ahead of me? So maybe we’re both really good at hockey stuff.

5) What is your dream destination?

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Ken and I have already booked our trip there for next summer.

6) Why did you burst out laughing in a meeting on Thursday?

We were looking at a prototype for an approval process and one of the managers said, “See—if I click this we can see the work flow” and he did, and the screen said, “Your flow is running”. So I snickered, but then I looked around the room and no one else was laughing so I didn’t make the joke I was going to make. I’ll bet that lady on the subway would have said it though.

7) What is your favourite movie?

I have a LOT of favourite movies. Right now it’s a tie between Alien Vs. Predator, Pitch Black/The Chronicles of Riddick, and Mad Max: Fury Road. You’d never guess I actually have a minor degree in Film Studies. Also, I just saw Venom yesterday, and as someone with a minor degree in Film Studies, I can give you my professional opinion: it sucked.

8) What crazy thing did you do on Friday night?

Ken and I went out for dinner and I had a couple of glasses of wine, so I made him take me to get my ears double pierced.

9) Are you happy with your current life?

Well, I just got my ears double-pierced, so yeah, I’m living my best life, obvs. Seriously though, I decided a few weeks ago (the week I met Gary Numan all by myself even though I was full of anxiety) that I was going to do things even if the thought of them scared me.  And there is nothing scarier than letting a total stranger punch holes in your ears.

10) Do you have any new and interesting bathroom stories?

Somebody’s a little anal.

Why, yes I do. A couple of weeks ago, I was in a professional office building and needed to use the facilities. As I sat there, I realized that this sign was on the inside of the stall door. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a more micro-managed bathroom in my life. I mean, how many rules do you need to have? What kind of people normally utilize this facility that warrants a poster like this? Were there problems in the past with people just throwing their used TP on the floor in disdain, or having riots like in the movie Carrie where the other girls attack Sissy Spacek with tampons? At the bottom in very small print, it says, ‘Help and support Little Miss Tidy’. I don’t know who that is, but she deserves a good swirly.

Now, according to the rules, I’m supposed to nominate other people for this award. Frankly, I follow a lot of people, and you all make me happy, so it’s really hard to narrow the list down without me worrying that I’ve left someone out, but here are some people who are very positive and would probably never throat punch anyone–but they can tell you that for themselves. Also, my nominees have to answer question 1 and 5-10, but 2, 3, and 4 are yours to create.

Often Off-Topic

SKYEENT

Ms Graceful…Not!

Candidkay

BiffSockPow

The Lockwood Echo

Was That My Out Loud Voice?

Greater Than Gravity

Superman Can’t Find a Phone Booth

I’m Sick and So Are You

 

My Week 212: Doing The Math

Math Story 1

The other day, Ken and I were having a discussion about the newest educational fad: Growth Mindset. This is fancy term, based on “brain research”, that people can learn to do things if they BELIEVE they can do them. So you can see why it’s so fancy and all—pretty complex stuff. And you can also see why Boards of Education are spending money like crazy to teach people how to implement it in the classroom. I’m sure there’s nothing more motivating to a struggling student than yelling at them “If you can see it, you can be it!” (Growth Mindset sounds suspiciously like the lyrics to an R. Kelly song. He believed he could fly, although I don’t think that worked out too well for him). I wish my high school math teacher had quoted Boyz to Men to me—for sure, I’d be a quantum physicist now, instead of a smartass who can’t figure out what half of ¾ of a cup of flour is (I just eyeball it). Anyway, I was like, “So after years of NOT being able to do complicated math, if I only BELIEVE hard enough that I can do it, I’ll be able to learn it?” Ken assured me that it was true. But that night I had a nightmare where I was trying to do math, and f*cking it up royally. Then suddenly, the numbers all turned into little roasting chickens in their own casserole dishes, and instead of doing math, I was basting them with a red wine sauce that I had made and worrying that they were going to dry out in the oven. Even my subconscious knows where my strengths are. But maybe that’s all changing, because on the weekend, Tristan was doing his math homework:

T: Math, math, blah, blah, dividing by zero.
Me: Oh, that’s easy. Whenever you divide by zero, you end up with the same number you started with. Like 15 divided by zero is 15.
T: No, it’s not! You can’t divide by zero.
Me: Sure you can. I have 15 things. There’s zero things that go into it, so I still have 15 things.
T: That’s NOT how it works. It’s impossible. See, if I put 15 divided by zero into my calculator, it says “Error”.
Me: I paid good money for that calculator—what’s wrong with it?
T: Nothing! You just can’t divide by zero.
Me: But I just did.
T: But you’re wrong. Zero would go into 15 an infinite number of times, so it can’t be calculated.
Me: But I just calculated it.
T: NO, YOU DIDN’T.
Me: Look. If you have 15 slices of bacon, and you try to divide them by zero, how many slices of bacon do you have left? 15! Because you have eaten zero of them!
T: 15 is the REMAINDER. IS there bacon?
Me: Sure. Do you want 15 slices or zero?

Math Story 2

I have a Chuck Norris desk calendar that Ken gave me last Christmas. I love it. I don’t know what it is about Chuck Norris jokes that always make me laugh, but there are several people in the office who appreciate them too. If I have one that’s specific to a particular person, I give it to them at the end of the day just for fun. For example, in February there was a page that said, “Once Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked an exclamation point. That’s how question marks came into existence”, so I gave it to one of our editors. She thought it was really funny and pinned it up on her cubicle. Most people have embraced the Chuck Norris calendar, so when I got a page the other day that said, “Chuck Norris is the last digit of pi”, I knew exactly who it should go to—one of the new women in the office who specializes in math-type things. The problem was that in the picture, Chuck wasn’t wearing a shirt, and personally, I think that in a professional office, we probably shouldn’t be putting up pictures of half-naked men. Or women. (Funny story—I used to work with another math-type person who put up an 8 x 10 glossy picture of a very good-looking young man in her cubicle. He was naked from the waist up. I mentioned it to someone, as in “I don’t know if that’s very appropriate” and the person responded, “Oh, it’s OK—that’s her son.” I’ll leave it to you to consider whether that’s actually a funny story or just super-creepy.). So anyway, I very carefully took a sticky note, traced Chuck’s torso, coloured it in with black marker, and then cut it out and taped it on. It looked just like a very stylish T-shirt. I took it over to her, and said, “I thought you might appreciate this”, but she just looked at it with a weirdly dubious expression.

Me: It’s Chuck Norris.
Her: OK.
Me: It’s a joke about math.
Her: OK.
Me: I thought you might like it. I made him a shirt.
Her: Oh.

So I left it on her table and walked away. Later, I went by, and it was still there, but the tiny T-shirt I’d made had been carefully peeled away.

Math Story 3

So this is technically not a math story, but it has numbers in it. If you remember, I joined a hockey pool a couple of weeks ago. I made my picks based on some pretty random factors—I now have a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Anderson in keeping with my Matrix theme, and I picked up a guy called Kailer Yamamoto, because I thought it was a cool name and someone had scooped up Yanni Gourde right before my turn. At any rate, I am currently in first place out of 16 teams with quite a healthy points lead, which led to some subtle accusations that I might be a ringer:

Co-Worker: So. You’re in first place. Guess you know a bit more about hockey than you let on.
Me: Uh, no—I mean, I understand hockey, but I don’t follow statistics or anything. I don’t even know who won the thingy last year.
Co-Worker: If you’re referring to the Stanley Cup, it was the Washington Capitals, as I’m sure you’re aware.
Me: No, I…I’m sure I’ll be in last place by the end of the season and you’ll win the $560 dollars.
Co-Worker: $320. There are 16 of us, remember?

Of course, he was only pretending to give me a hard time, because he’s a pretty decent guy, but that still hasn’t stopped me from calling out, “I’m number 1!” every time I go by his office. Because 1 is the best number.