Looking For A Jay-Oh-Bee

The other morning I was driving to the train station and listening to the radio for the road report because here in Canada, we’ve moved from last week’s warm weather, known fondly as “fool’s spring” to this week’s “second winter” which would account for all the snow we’ve gotten over the last few days.

Morning radio is a lot of boring talk, interspersed with a little music, and a LOT of commercials. And it’s a strange mix of ads for lawyers, bankruptcy trustees, tax accountants and something called ‘Sell-Off Vacations.com’ and I can’t help but wonder if the target audience is mobsters:

Big Jimmy: The fuzz are closing in. What are we gonna do?
Mack the Spatula: I’ve been listening to the radio and I have an idea…

Anyway, I was driving and switching back and forth between stations (I have a cool thingy on my steering wheel that lets me do that with my thumb) trying desperately to find some actual music, when I heard a commercial for a recruitment agency. They detailed the advantages of signing up with them, and then said, “Start a new career now at Zip Recruiter.com/Canada. That’s Zip Recruiter dot com slash See-Eh-En-Eh-Dee-Eh” and I was like WHAT?! Of all the things in that web address to be more specific about, you chose to spell out the name of the country we LIVE IN? So you assume that the person can spell ‘Recruiter’ but not the most phonetically obvious country in the world? I mean, it’s not like we live in Kyrgyzstan or Azerbaijan or even Britain (which sounds like it should be spelled ‘Brit-in’). In fact, I think the only country that would be even easier to spell than Canada would be Finland. And let’s not even get started on that slash, like WHICH SLASH? The forward slash or the backwards one, because personally, I would want more information on THAT and especially where to find it on my keyboard since one of them is under the question mark, and the other can be literally ANYWHERE. And frankly, if you can’t spell the name of the very country that you live in, I think you have bigger problems than not being able to find a new job.

I had mostly put it out of my mind, except to randomly shake my head every once in a while, until yesterday, when it occurred to me that I might indeed need their services. I was working from home, and I got up early to start working on a report for a 10 o’clock phone meeting, and let me just emphasize PHONE here, as in, the people you are meeting with can only hear your voice. I called in at the appropriate time and told my director that I’d been working on a doc that I could email for her to look at. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I just figured out how we could all look at it together in Teams—let me send you the link. When you get it, just click on it” and when I clicked on the link the screen opened and there I was, ON CAMERA, in my housecoat, not wearing any makeup, my hair standing up all over the place, because I WAS WORKING FROM HOME so why the hell would I be all fancy?!! So I kind of screeched and ducked and said, “I didn’t know this was a video link” and I heard laughing and someone gasp, “Oh my god” and then my director said, “Click on the video camera icon and it will turn the camera off” but I couldn’t find the icon at first so I had my thumb over the camera lens on my laptop until I was able to locate it, which I finally did while everyone else waited in silence, and now I think I need a new job.

And because I DO know how to spell Canada, I figured I had a leg up on all the other applicants so I headed over to Zip Recruiter to see what they had for me. The first thing that caught my eye was Private Investigator. I think I’d be great at that because I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a young girl and my shoes always match my handbag. Also, I’m really good at solving mysteries and I have the reflexes of a middle-aged ninja.

Me (leaping out awkwardly from behind a door): Aha!! It was YOU who ate the cake that was on the counter!!
Titus (nervously licking icing off his whiskers): You’ll never be able to prove it!
Me: Prove it? Ha! I saw you do it with my own eyes!
Titus (confused): Then why didn’t you stop me?
Me: (whispers): Because you looked so cute and happy…plus I filmed the whole thing with my phone so I could post it on Facebook.

Is there cake?

OK, maybe I wouldn’t make the best detective, which was a shame because it came with full benefits. Another job that piqued my interest was Video Game Developer. I don’t know what kind of technical skills you need for that, but I have lots of ideas that I could give to someone to make a game with. My current favourite is The Commuter. In this game, you have to get from the train station to the subway in under five minutes, while avoiding the following obstacles:

  • The university student who stops at the bottom of the escalator to post a selfie on Instagram.
  • The two elderly woman who are drifting back and forth erratically while discussing their cats.
  • The line-up at Pastry Hut that stretches across the concourse.
  • The group of teens playing hacky sack right in front of the doors.
  • The man who can’t find his subway pass and is blocking the turnstile.
  • The people who apparently don’t work and who can see the subway coming but are in NO HURRY TO GET DOWN THE GODDAMNED STAIRS.

It’s a very stressful game actually, and I don’t know how much fun playing it would really be. I do it every day and I don’t enjoy it at all if I’m being honest. So maybe my video game ideas aren’t the best. I was getting a little discouraged in my job hunt so instead I just put the word “Fun” in the Zip Recruiter search bar and waited excitedly to see what came up. The first job on the list was “On-line Math Coach”. And now all I can think is that a) Zip Recruiter is the most f*cked up job agency on the Pee-El-Eh-En-Ee-Tee and b) from now on, I will get completely gussied up when I’m working from home, just in case.

Ever The Optimist

Every so often I buy a lottery ticket. There are several different lotteries here, and the prizes are starting to get really big, so I figure, Why not? I mean SOMEONE has to win, and what are the odds that one day I might? Pretty astronomical actually, but still, a girl can dream. And the best part is that you don’t even have to wait to find out if you won because there’s an app you can download onto your phone that lets you scan the barcode on the ticket and find out almost right away, which completely satisfies my need for instant gratification. Like, you know those obnoxious scratch tickets with 3 separate play areas that advertise themselves as “hours of fun”? All you have to do is scratch the barcode, scan it, and you’ve saved yourself a hell of a lot of time, which is a win all on its own. Also, because Canada is a bilingual country, if you DO win, you’re told by a very excited woman’s voice in both official languages, and I think it’s some kind of Pavlovian thing that if an Ontarian ever hears someone say “Winner!”, their immediate and automatic response is “Gagnon!” If you don’t, you’re a spy or an alien or an alien spy or whatnot.

But as I was scanning my ticket last weekend, I discovered something interesting. As I was waiting for the results, I realized that I was pretty sure I was going to win, and when I didn’t, I was genuinely disappointed, like What? Really?, and that I feel that way EVERY SINGLE TIME. What does this mean? Is this the true irony of my life that I, the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios is, at heart, an eternal optimist? That the woman who has mentally laid out, in painstaking detail, plans to survive bear attacks, bouncy castle misadventures, high speed train derailments, cars plunging off bridges into icy water, and thousands of other potential disasters, is secretly convinced that there is a BEST CASE SCENARIO?

(Side note: Speaking of Worst Case Scenarios, the other day some of us met with a group of people who came to the secret agency to do some research. They started by going around the table and telling us who they were and what their backgrounds were. It went like this for the first 5 people: Accountant, IT Support, Accountant, Business Analyst, Programmer. Then the last person, a man who looked about 25, said, very casually, “Before I came to Canada, I was a Colonel in the army, responsible for training other military units in confirmation and identification of biological warfare agents as well as combatting potential nuclear strikes.” There was a pause, then I said, “OK, this guy wins.” Everybody laughed except me, because I was IN AWE, and also if I was single and about 25 years younger, I would have dropped to one knee and proposed right then and there.)

But back to my point—if anyone remembers what it was. Oh right—I’m always certain in my heart of hearts that I’ve won the jackpot, and when I haven’t, I console myself by saying, “Next time” and “What would you do with 50 million dollars anyway? It’s just too much for one person.” But that is, of course, bullsh*t. I could very easily enjoy that much money, and could find numerous things to spend it on. Once, Ken and I were talking about winning the lottery:

Me: If I win the jackpot, I’m buying a helicopter to take me to work. F*ck the train. I could get there in like 15 minutes by helicopter. The only problem would be where to land.
Ken: If you won the jackpot, why the hell would you keep working?!
Me: Ooh. Good point. Can I still buy a helicopter?

One of my friends at work has an article pinned up in her cubicle about a woman who won millions of dollars and the headline is the winner saying, “I’ll Keep Flying Economy”. And my friend was like, “See? People like that don’t deserve to win the lottery. If you’re not going to change your life AT ALL, you shouldn’t be allowed to keep the money. There should be a quiz, only instead of a skill-testing math question, you should have to describe the things you’re going to do to make life better” and I was like, “There’s a F*CKING MATH QUESTION??!!”

Still, I agree with my friend. If you’re not going to at least fly first-class and sleep in one of those cool pods, you don’t deserve the money. Stop being all humble and sh*t and just go around screaming “I’m rich!!” I’ll be checking my lottery ticket from last night very soon, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m going to be writing about next.

Update: I just checked my ticket and you won’t believe this!……

……I just found out that the word “acai” is actually pronounce “ass-eye-ee” and if that isn’t something to giggle about every time I see a bottle of Blueberry Acai Vitamin Water, I don’t know what is. Also, I didn’t win the lottery and I’m really shocked. But there’s always next time.

Oh, by the way, I found out a couple of days ago that a site called Feedspot has my blog listed in their Top 100 Humour Blogs, so thanks Feedspot! I’m currently number 93 but that’s better than not winning the lottery.

Cursed By Santa

I’m currently in quite the state, due to the fact that I just got a new laptop after 9 years. This one is fast and shiny, but there is no discernible way to remove the password requirement from MY OWN DAMN COMPUTER. I’ve literally spent an hour this morning watching tutorials and carefully following instructions and all I’ve managed to do is create ANOTHER f*cking account under MY OWN NAME that has become the default account and now, when I restart my computer, not only do I have to put in a password, I have to switch accounts. And then suddenly, all my apostrophes turned into accented ‘e’s and I finally figured how to stop that, but whatever I did now makes it impossible to create an ‘e’ with an accent so apparently I’ve lost my alt keyboard and can no longer speak French.

Anyway, this is NOT about how much I hate my computer; this is about how I finally figured out why my life is so weird, which is to say that I think I was cursed as a very small child by Santa Claus. And what led to this bizarre, albeit obvious, conclusion? Last week, my parents came over for my mother’s early birthday dinner. At the end of the evening, right before they left, my mother pulled a card out of her purse and said, “Ooh, I found this the other day, and I thought you might want it!” On the front of the card, it said, “Christmas Fairyland” and on the inside was a picture of me at the age of 2, sitting on the lap of a Santa Claus. “Oh, that’s cute,” I said. “Thanks,” and I put it aside.

But then the other day, I opened it up and took a closer look. And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t really Santa. I mean, I KNOW it’s not the real Santa Claus, obviously—what I mean is that I think the lap I was precariously perched on belonged to some kind of demonic creature a la Stephen King. (Note that I couldn’t put the accent on the ‘a’ because my keyboard is no longer bilingual. Sorry). It’s like in It, when the kids realize that Pennywise is in all the historic pictures of Derry going back hundreds of years, except MY clown is dressed in a Santa suit. Don’t believe me? Take a good look at those dead eyes—they follow you wherever you go. They’re the eyes of a man who wants nothing more than to devour your soul. And look at ME—it’s like he just whispered, “You will be cursed with a mind that never shuts off” and I’m like “Get me off this guy’s lap and also, is Fred Flintstone based on a real caveman? Will people be able to live in space some day? Will I ever get a robot butler? Which bathroom stall is the best one? Wouldn’t Player One be a fantastic nickname? Oh my god, it’s already started!” So now you know.

In Other News…

Speaking of bathroom stalls, we’ve been having a problem at work with Stall Number 3. If you’ll recall from a couple of years ago, there are five bathroom stalls in the ladies’ bathroom. Stall 5 is my favourite, because it’s against the far wall with no other stall to the left, so if Stall 4 is empty, I ALWAYS use Stall 5. However, if Stall 4 is occupied, then I immediately go to Stall 2 if the ones on either side are both empty. I NEVER use Stall 1 because a ghost lives in it. Stall 4 always smells weird. Also, I heard that the number 4 is considered unlucky in some cultures, and no one wants to be unlucky in a public bathroom. I WILL use Stall 3 in an absolute emergency. But now, Stall 3 has supplanted Stall 4 as the worst non-haunted stall because twice in the last two weeks, it has been plugged up rather badly and won’t flush. And I don’t know what’s wrong with the person who’s been plugging it up (aside from the need to reduce the vast amount of fibre in their diet) because they’re not leaving a note saying Out Of Order or anything—all they’re leaving is A LARGE PILE OF POO LYING ON A GIANT BED OF TOILET PAPER. And this has forced me to go not once, but TWICE to the young woman who looks after facilities and have this conversation:

Incident 1

Me: Um, hi Deirdre. The third stall in the bathroom doesn’t seem to be working. It’s full and won’t flush.
Deirdre: OK, no problem. I’ll call the plumber.
Me: It wasn’t me. I swear.
Deirdre (laughs): OK.

Incident 2

Me: Um, hi Deirdre. The third stall in the bathroom doesn’t seem to be working again. It’s full and won’t flush.
Deirdre: OK, no problem. I’ll call the plumber again.
Me: It wasn’t me. I swear. Seriously, I know that it seems like it’s always me reporting it, but I didn’t do it. This is NOT a “Blame your fart on the dog” kind of situation.
Deirdre (laughs harder): OK. I believe you.

It really wasn’t me. I swear.

Let Me Be Frank

So on Thursday, we were trying to figure out how to get home because all the Via trains were cancelled (long story) and a bunch of us took a GO train halfway home then figured we would share a cab to Brantford from there. We were looking for one more person, and I saw someone I knew standing further up. “Frank!!” I called out, loudly enough that everyone else stopped talking. The man turned and started coming towards me. IT WASN’T FRANK. But he kept looking at me and getting closer, and my friend next to me whispered, “Why aren’t you saying anything?” But I didn’t know what was going on with Man-Who-Looked-Like-Frank-But-Wasn’t-Frank, so I kept very deliberately staring out the window until he was right in front of me.

Me: Um…hi?
Man: Do we know each other?
Me: No, I mistook you for someone else.
Man: But you called my name.
Me: You’re FRANK?
Man: Yes.
Me: Sorry—I meant a different Frank.

And I don’t even know how to end this story except to ask how many completely bald, short men wearing huge headphones and a trench coat named Frank are out there riding the trains every day? Are we in The Matrix and this is a Mr. Smith-type situation? Because if this is The Matrix, I want my damned robot butler.

All Hail The Rat Queen

This giant stuffed rat dressed in a pioneer costume sits atop a cardboard box in the middle of the warehouse used by the secret agency to house our secret stuff. It’s been there for years. No one knows why, and if you ask anyone why it’s there, they just shrug. And I’m not sure if it’s there to WARD OFF the rats like a bizarre eyeless scarecrow or if it’s there for the rats to worship. But SOMEONE OR SOMETHING has been leaving it offerings of paper flowers and I will think about this every day for the rest of my life, and that’s my curse.

Cereal Killers and Other Stories

So tonight we’re all going to see a very well-known comedian, and I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, because every time I watch one of his specials on Netflix, he does a whole bit about something that I’ve written about, like once I did a post about revolving doors and escalators, and then about a month later, I watched one of his shows and he was talking about the exact same thing. And I was like, “Hey, he plagiarized me!” But then I realized that his special had been taped two years before, and then all I could think was “Hey, great minds think alike!” or as my dear old dad would say, “Fools never differ”. So right now, I’m hedging my bets, and if Jim Gaffigan talks at all tonight about cereal, or ninja utility tools, or Gumby, or MY DOG, I’ll know there’s something weird going on. Weird-ER any way.

Cereal Killers

I was at the grocery store today and realized with absolute certainty that the end of days is nigh. No, it’s not because of politics or pandemics, or even pollution. No, it’s because of this:

Yep. It’s cereal that tastes like chocolate glazed donut holes, or as we call them in Canada, “Timbits”, and all I can think is “Dear god, why?!” I mean, when I was a kid there were sugar-y cereals, but at least they didn’t pretend to be anything other than cereal. I remember begging my mom for some Captain Crunch, and then being disgusted by how sweet it was and also how long it took to get my upper and lower teeth to unstick from each other. There was Trix and Lucky Charms of course, which had weird-ass marshmallows in it, and Count Chocula for the Goth kids, but it was still mostly cereal. When I got older, I ate Froot Loops a lot (guess how many years it took before I actually looked at the box and realized it wasn’t FRUIT Loops?) and switched to Corn Pops when I had to take gluten out of my diet. Now I just eat yogurt and a lot of gummy vitamins, which is like healthy candy. But TIMBITS cereal? What has the world come to when parents will be feeding their children bowls of chocolate donuts for breakfast? (You can also get it in Birthday Cake as in Happy Birthday, I Got You Clogged Arteries!). And then I Googled “Chocolate Donut Cereal” and THERE ARE MORE! Kellogg’s has “Donut Shop” cereal and Captain Crunch has “Choco Donuts”. So I guess Tim Horton’s is just jumping on the bandwagon. The delicious, apocalyptic bandwagon.

Batman Should Have One Of These

I was recently at a presentation at the secret agency and the people who were presenting brought us swag and it was the best swag ever. There was a cool canvas laptop bag, notepads, those silky things you clean your glasses with, and this crazy utility tool:

It’s like the perfect tool if you’re a ninja on a picnic. You can open bottles and peel sh*t, and then silently slit your enemies’ throats with the box cutter. I could have used one of these when I was trying to MacGyver my broken toilet. The only thing it doesn’t have is an Allen key, which is a bit disappointing, but so is anything you have to put together with an Allen key.

I’m Gumby, Dammit!

When I opened my Christmas stocking, I found a little Gumby in it.

Me: Why did you get me a Gumby for Christmas?
Ken: Because we were watching Saturday Night Live the other night and you were like ‘Oh my god, I f*cking LOVE Gumby’.
Me: I was talking about Eddie Murphy.
Ken: Oh. Look, you can adjust his arms and legs. You can put one hand on his hip to make him look sassy.

Anyway, I took Gumby to work and put him in my window, with his arms in the air and his face pressed up against the glass like my office was an insane asylum he wanted to escape from.

A little while later, I heard a sound like “Whoa!” coming from the cubicle across from my office where the Very Nice Gentleman I work with sits:

Me: What’s wrong?
VNG: I just looked up and your Gumby is staring right at me. It’s a little disconcerting.
Me: Do you want me to move him?
VNG: No, I’m sure I’ll get used to him…

Now I need to get a Pokey (as the actress said to the bishop).

This Dog

Ken is an extremely talented photographer and he got this shot of Titus outside in the snow.

So there you are. I’ll be updating this post tomorrow after the show, and if Jim talks about any of this sh*t, I’ll let you know.

Update:

 He started to talk about Tim Horton’s and I slapped Ken and said, “See?!” but he just talked about how many stores there are, like they’re the stop signs of Canada, and didn’t mention the cereal, so it’s all good.

Also, one last thing. I hate to ask favours but if any of you have read my latest novel The Dome and liked it, would you mind leaving a short review on Amazon or Chapters Indigo or Goodreads or whatever? I know a couple of you already have, and it means the world to me. If you don’t want to, no problem—I know it’s not everyone’s thing.

Terms Of Endearment

On Tuesday, I was walking down the aisle of cubicles heading towards the kitchen with a male colleague, Brian, and we were talking about a presentation we were planning. I was carrying my lunch plate with the intention of washing it in the sink, and as I did that, we continued talking. I was done with the plate at the same time that the conversation ended, and I don’t know if it was the domesticity of the situation or whatnot, but as I put the plate in the drying rack, I said, “Super. Thanks, honey.” Cue the sound of a record scratch.

Me: Oh, wow, I think I just called you ‘honey’.
Brian (laughing): Yes, you did.
Me: Sorry—it kind of slipped out.
Brian: It’s perfectly fine. I call the people on my team ‘honey’ all the time.
Me: OK, well as long as it didn’t bother you.
Brian: Not at all!

Because you never know, right? But then on Thursday, Brian and I were continuing our conversation about the presentation and as I walked away, he said, “OK, thanks honey!” There was a pause and then he peeked his head out of his cubicle and called after me:

Brian: Hey, I just called YOU honey!
Me (laughing): I know!
Brian: See, I told you I call people that all the time.
Deep Male Voice From Another Cubicle: IT’S TRUE. HE DOES.

So now I don’t feel as bad and also I think Brian and I have to get married. Sorry, Ken.

And when I told Ken this story, after reminding me that I was already married, he confessed that he was having trouble with terms of endearment at work too. Mostly because we’ve been binge-watching Rupaul’s Drag Race.

Ken: It’s really hard not to walk into a room and greet everyone with ‘Hey, queens!’
Me: Or be like, ‘Bitch, we need to discuss that budget variance report, okurrrr?’
Ken: Or leave a room yelling, ‘By-eeee!’
Me: Yass, babe. I was so tempted to put ‘Sashay Away’ on the light-up marquee in my office just for fun.
Ken: Girl, you know you better don’t.
Me: Bitch, please!

At any rate, it got me thinking about those affectionate names that people have for each other, like sweetie and honey and baby, and how very few people ever call me Suzanne:

  • Ken calls me “Honey” 99% of the time. The other 1% is when he’s mad, and then he refers to me as “Buddy” in an incredulous kind of way, like “BUDDY! Really?! Come on!” I can’t remember the last time he actually addressed me by name but that’s OK, because I’m pretty sure he knows what it is.
  • My dad and I greet each other with “Hello, dahling!” When I was younger, he called me “Sugarplum”, which I also loved.
  • My mother generally calls me “Sweetheart” or “Ooh, you cheeky monkey!” When I was little, her affectionate nickname for me was “Squeeg” like a squeegee. Neither of us know why, but I always liked it.
  • Katelyn calls me “Mom”. She said “mama” for the first time at around 3 months (she was a super-early talker and was speaking in two-word sentences by the time she was a year old), but that quickly morphed into just Mom. I think there were a couple of months where she might have called me “Mommy” but it didn’t last long. When she was little, I called her “Baby” all the time to the point where she began to refer to herself in the third person as Baby and would say, “Baby up” or “Baby tired” or “Baby agrees with Nietzsche—if the taste of these strained green beans doesn’t kill me, they will definitely make Baby stronger” (ok, she didn’t actually say that, but when she was two, she actually DID say, “When I gwow up, I will be a bus dwiver and I will dwive all the children to the beach and they will pway in the sand and I will pwotect them” and I said, “Have you been reading Catcher in the Rye AGAIN?”) Then she started pre-school and one morning, she turned to me and said, “Don’t call me baby anymore. I’m a big girl now”, and it kind of broke my heart, but I stopped.
  • One of my aunts, who is only a few years older than me, calls me “Kiddo” which is cool because I’m 54 and it makes me feel young. My other aunt calls me “Suzie”. She’s the only person in my entire life who’s ever shortened my name, and I let her do it because she’s adorable and I love her. If anyone else does it, they will get throat-punched.
  • A lot of my virtual friends called me mydangblog, or MDB (or Suzune, thanks to an unfortunate cake incident), and it’s very cool to have a secret identity like that.
  • I have been lobbying for literally YEARS to be called Player One. At this point, I don’t think it’s happening, but I’ll keep trying.

At any rate, I’m very lucky to have people in my life who refer to me with terms of endearment instead of nasty slurs. I asked Titus about nicknames because he never really calls me anything:

Me: So what do you call me in your head?
Titus: Player One, of course.
Me: You do?! Wait—are you only saying that to get a cookie?
Titus: Obviously. In my head, I just call you ‘Mommy’.
Me: Really? Awww. That’s why you’re the bestboi.
Titus: Cookie?
Me: Of course, honey.

T And A+

You may recall that, a few week ago, I got a congratulatory letter in the mail regarding a certain colon test that I’d had. This week, I got ANOTHER letter, again giving me kudos for taking good care of my health. “Thank you,” it said, in fact, “for taking good care of your health. Your results are amazing.” OK, it didn’t actually say ‘amazing’ but it should have, because that’s how I felt when I read that my results were normal. And what test was this? This was the test that makes every woman cross her arms over her chest and sigh in painful anticipation. Yes, I had a mammogram. Now, there’s nothing to be alarmed about—this was just a routine check, unlike several years ago when I had to have one because my doctor thought I had an ‘anomaly’. THAT was scary, but I came away with a clean bill of health. I hadn’t had a mammogram since, but Linda Rabenek, the Chief Cancer Care Prevention Officer in Ontario seemed so pleased with me last month, and I didn’t want to let her down by ignoring the numerous notices that I’d been receiving in the mail. So I booked the test, along with a dental X-ray and a massage. No, they weren’t all at the same clinic, although that would have been convenient, but I had carefully mapped out the day so that I had enough travel time between each event. So I scheduled the x-ray for 2, the mammogram for 3 and the massage for 4, realizing that I was going to NEED a massage after having my B cup assets in a clamp. I won’t bore you with the X-ray, which took approximately 2 minutes and gave me plenty of time to go shopping.

Then I headed over to the medical centre and again, lucky me, they took me right away. “Just put this gown on,” said the nurse, “and come on back.” I never know if those things are supposed to tie in the front or back, so I slung the gown on and just kind of clutched it around me as I made my way to the mammogram machine (by the way, I just googled “what do you call a mammogram machine” and the answer was ‘mammogram machine’ or ‘special x-ray machine’. Also, the plastic plate you have to lay your boob on is called a ‘plate’ and the paddle that comes down and turns you into a human pancake is called the ‘paddle’ and I thought it would all be fancier than that BUT IT’S JUST NOT).

Anyway, she made me drop the gown and stand in front of the machine, then came a series of manipulations that were highly personal and I won’t discuss them at all except to say that I wished I was a little taller and maybe a man because then she was like, “OK, hold still” and the paddle came down. For the first fraction of a millisecond, it wasn’t so bad but then the paddle KEPT COMING DOWN. And I kind of screamed, and she said, “Oh, does it hurt a bit?” but I couldn’t answer because the breath had literally been sucked out of me, so I just whimpered quietly.

After a few more seconds—or was it an eternity?—of torture, the paddle released. “Good job you didn’t pass out,” she said, and she kind of laughed when she said it, and I’ve never wanted to throat punch someone so irrationally and so badly in my life. And for the men reading this who can’t fathom how a mammogram must feel, I’d like you to imagine that you’re sitting on the floor of your living room with your legs spread apart, and your pet elephant walks over and stands on your testicles, compressing them between his foot and the floor. Then your elephant laughs at you and tells you not to pass out. That’s what a mammogram is like.

(Slight tangent: the above analogy engenders more questions than it does answers, I realize that. For example, why are your legs spread apart? Why do you own an elephant? Why is an elephant’s foot simply called a foot and not something fancier, like a verhoofen or a gargantupaw? Do elephants really talk, and what’s more, do they mock people who are screaming in pain? They always seem so friendly on Facebook.)

And as if that wasn’t enough, then she did the other side, which, unbelievably, hurt even more, and I was additionally terrified, thanks to her bringing it up, that I MIGHT pass out, but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to fall to the floor because my boob was in a f*cking vice, and I would just dangle there like some kind of bizarre, Trent Reznor-esque performance art piece. Finally, and to my blessed relief, the whole ordeal was over, and I don’t have to go through that again for at least 2 more years and by then, I will have forgotten how much it hurt.

But it was all worth it in the end, because now I can advertise myself as being high quality, and I have the papers to back it up. Like say I apply for a new job or something, and they ask for special skills and qualifications, I can proudly put “Certified healthy from top to bottom by the Province of Ontario”. Or if something happens to Ken, and I start online dating, I can include “A-Plus T&A” on my Tinder profile.

Seriously though, get a mammogram when you’re supposed to. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room—that job belongs to the mammogram machine.

Also, I just found out that my flash fiction piece “Magpie” was nominated for Publication of the Year (Non-Poetic) by Spillwords Press. If you want to vote for me, you can go to this link. If you’d like to read the story, find it here !

Where’s The Fire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice the lack of firefighters…