Driving By The Numbers

I’ve picked up several new followers lately, many of whom are NOT vitamin bloggers (but if you are, I take a LOT of vitamins so welcome!), and I thought it might be time to let you all know what to expect when you follow this blog. Today’s entry is short and sweet because I’m one chapter away from finishing my new book—it’s the denouement so it needs careful thought and a few solid hours of writing time, which I’ll be doing the second I wrap this post up.

So this is me.

In 2015, I bought a cute little car. It was a 2013 model but it had only been used for car shows and demos, so it had very low mileage; in fact, I think when I got it, the odometer (I just googled “thing on car that tells you mileage” in case you were thinking I was super-knowledgeable about cars) was below 2 000 kilometres, which is like 10 000 US miles or something, and I thought that was really cool. As I was driving it places, I would look at the ODOMETER every once in a while to see if I’d hit a mileage milestone and if I did, I would pull over and take a picture. Here’s the first one I took at 11 111:

Here’s 12 345 from a few months later:

There was a lull in my odometer fascination for a while, but then I reached this milestone:

All those 4s look really cool, I think. Although the number 4 is apparently unlucky to some cultures, it isn’t to mine—I’m half English and half Scottish, so 4 is simply the time we have more tea and haggis.

Then I reached a more scary number—notice that I didn’t drive the extra 5 kilometres to round out the shot, on the off-chance that it might stir up some kind of negative universal energy (as an aside, I participate in a Zoom group occasionally and the password for the room is 666, and whenever I see that number, my first instinct is to yell, “Ah! The number of the beast!” But I don’t do it out loud, just in my head and usually to an Iron Maiden song. The first time I entered the password, I was worried that I would be transported into one of the 9 circles of hell, but no, it was just a group of friendly Asian people, so Dante was way off there).

Anyway, last week I was driving and I realized that my odometer read 79, 972. “That’s so close to 80,000,” I said to myself. “Only a little more than a thousand kilometres to go and I can get another cool picture.” And if right now, you’re saying to YOURSELF, “I think the math is really, really wrong here,” you would be absolutely correct.

So I got to my destination, glanced at the odometer and gasped in dismay to see that it read 80, 007 and my first instinct was to yell “What the f*ck!” And I did that out loud, not in my head. I was well and truly furious with myself for once again being completely stymied by mathematical calculations, and I drove home in a snit. At least for the first 5 minutes, because my odometer, as you can see, is digital. The 8 looks like a capital B, and the zeros look like capital Os, and the 5 looks like a big-ass S and I realized, with a sudden thrill, that if I waited another seventy-some-odd kilometres, I could spell out the word BOOBS and that made me smile all the way home.

So, to sum:

I’m terrible at math.
There will sometimes be swearing.
I’m a 54 year-old woman with an adolescent sense of humour.

Welcome to my world.

(Update: I finished my new novel, The Seventh Devil, yesterday. 177 pages and 51, 370 words. Now those are some numbers!)

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 154: Driverless Cars, The “Good” Tea Towel

Last week, I was crossing the street at Yonge and College, trying simultaneously to avoid the taxi that wanted to run over my toes and the screaming man in the pink mini-kilt with the pigtails, when I heard a loud voice behind me say, “You know, I feel really sorry for kids these days.”

“Why’s that?” his companion replied.

I looked behind me. They were two guys in their mid-30s, wearing business suits. I braced myself for the usual bullsh*t about how today’s youth have a) no work ethic b) no social skills c) are entitled b) don’t respect their elders and so on, and got ready to roll my eyes hard enough to make that taxi back off. But I had totally misjudged the savvy pundit, who continued with “It’s a shame that, with the invention of driverless cars, most young kids today will never know the real pleasure of driving.” He continued on, reminiscing about his first car and the thrill of getting his licence until we had parted ways, me into the Tim Horton’s across the corner, he into parts unknown (but probably a very tall office tower).

I thought about it for a minute, and I was like, “Yeah, he’s so right.” Kids who are born today will never know the joy of being the ‘captain of their own ships’, in the same way that they will never know a world without the internet, or without the threat of global environmental disaster hanging over their heads in the same way that nuclear disaster hung over mine (although thanks to the assholes who are currently in charge of both the US and North Korea, kids today have to worry about THAT too. Well done.) But then I thought about it some more and started to wonder if driverless cars weren’t such a bad thing after all, and that kids really wouldn’t be missing that much. I mean, face facts—driving is a pretty dangerous business. Hurtling along at over 100 kilometres an hour (60 miles an hour for my US readers) inside a thin metal box within a few feet of other people in the same situation, it’s sometimes unbelievable that any of us survive it at all. Airplanes, which are basically flying cars, aren’t allowed to be within 3 miles of each other horizontally, and 1000 feet vertically, but I’ve got some d-bag riding my bumper on the 401 despite the signs telling you to keep at least 2 chevrons between you and the next car. When you actually think about it, driving is scary AF, and the fact that we actively encourage our children to learn how to do it and get their licences is pretty bad parenting, like “Hey Jimmy, it’s that wonderful time for you to learn how to battle the forces of humanity, nature, and fate. Hope you remember how to parallel park!”

Personally, I can’t believe the driverless car wasn’t invented sooner. I mean, cars are a necessity in Canada, where there’s a LOT of land and you have to travel pretty far to find people and jobs, and such, but where there just aren’t enough roads, so we spend A LOT of time trying to calculate the fastest route to go anywhere, and watching Google maps closely for that red line that tells you that you’re not going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve written plenty about the ludicrous nature of driving back and forth to Toronto, and I could totally appreciate being able to read or surf the internet while I was stuck on the four lane parking lot known as the 401,or more affectionately, the “stupid f*cking 401”. But what I really want to know is this: will driverless cars obey the rules of the road, or will you be able to override them so that you can drive as stupidly as you do when you’re actually behind the wheel yourself? Because there’s always going to be that one guy who drives on the shoulder to pass, or cuts you off, or tailgates you, and if he can still do it while he’s watching a Youtube video, then what’s the point?

The only real requirement I have for a driverless car, aside from obeying the rules of the road, is something I like to call “Roadkill Alert”. The car should be able to sense whether there’s an animal about to cross the road in front of you and stop you, or shoot out a firecracker or something as warning. Last year, K left the house about 10 pm to drive back to her university residence. Less than five minutes later, she called the house. I answered the phone to hear her say, “I just got hit by a deer.” Her voice was shaking. Ken had just taken Titus out for a walk, so I stood on the porch and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Ken! Come home! K’s had an accident!” From a few blocks over, I heard him yell, “I’m coming!” and he was back at the house in under 30 seconds. K was only a couple of kilometres away, but it felt like forever until we got there. When we arrived, there were two pickups trucks who had stopped to help, and the police were already there. I grabbed K and hugged her—thank god she wasn’t hurt—but there was a deer shaped dent in her buckled hood, and the deer itself was lying at the side of the road. It was a buck with huge horns, and all I could think was 6 inches higher and it would have gone through the windshield. I won’t go into details, but the police took care of the situation, and the local guys offered to take it away. The car was a write-off, but whatever—it’s only a thing.

Bottom line, the deer came hurtling out of the dark and K couldn’t avoid it. So yeah—make sure those driverless cars have long-range sensors on them. And I don’t want to hear any of that sh*t about “When I was a kid, we drove into deer all the time and LIKED it. These kids today are just sheltered wussies.” Personally, I’m waiting for someone to finally invent the Star Trek transporter. Then we can say, “These poor kids today will never know the real pleasure of travelling at warp speed…”

The Good Tea Towel

I have a problem. It’s not a big problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless for someone like me who’s just a little OCD. Here’s the back story: Because the new owner of my previous condo was a total dick and illegally evicted me, I had to find a new place to live. Toronto is hideously expensive, and the only place I could find close to work in the timeframe I had was a 2 bedroom place. The rent on this 800 square foot box in the sky is $2400 a month, so the only way I could afford it was to get a roommate. I did, and she was lovely, but there was one problem. She kept using the good tea towel, you know, the one that’s for show. It was white and black, in a ‘Paris’ motif, and it hung from a hook in a spot that was obviously chosen for its display properties. There was another tea towel, a plainer one, that was close to the stove and sink, and simply screamed out, “Use ME!” Yet my roommate kept using the good tea towel, until it was no longer ‘good’. I would come back after a weekend at home to find it hanging all crumply and stained. I would wash it and then replace it, and put the other tea towel in a more convenient spot, but my roommate had a penchant for using the good tea towel and I didn’t know what to do. Why didn’t you just tell her, you ask? Because that would be the most ridiculous conversation in the world, like “Can you not use this tea towel? It’s for show.” How do you say that without coming off like some weird kitchen textiles fanatic? And while this may seem like a first-world problem, imagine if I had two goats. The first goat was really stylish and it was the one that I kept to impress people about my taste in goats, and thereby advertise my savvy in the goat business. The other, less attractive goat was the one I used for milk and whatnot. Imagine now, if someone slaughtered my display goat. Am I now supposed to use the milk and meat goat to make my kitchen look pretty?

And why is this a problem NOW, you ask? Because my previous roommate has gone back to school, and I have a new roommate, who also seems very nice. But I just bought new display tea towels, and I still don’t know how to have that conversation with a stranger. At home, it’s no issue:

Me: See that new tea towel I just bought? It’s for show. Don’t use it.
Ken: OK.
Titus: If it doesn’t involve food, I’m pretty laissez-faire. You know me…

After 27 years of marriage, Ken understands that a) I’m weird and that b) the tea towels we actually use can just be put in the cupboard or drawer or whatever, and he can complain all he wants about the possibility of it getting “moldy”, but we both know that won’t happen, Ken. Yet I don’t know this new girl very well, and the last thing I want is for her to tell her friends, “I can use anything in the kitchen that I want, except for this one particular tea towel. Also there are five cutting boards—one for vegetables, one for meat, one for cheese…you know what? F*ck this—I’m moving out.”

Sigh. Kids today will never know the pleasure of a fancy, just for show, tea towel.

 

My Week 113: Highway of Hell, Titus and I Watch the National Dog Show Again

Monday: I hate driving

I used to love driving. I got my licence when I was almost 17. It took me three tries, but you know what they say: “Nothing worth having isn’t worth working hard for.” Now, while this might imply that I wasn’t very good at it, the fact was that I was terrified of the driving examiner, a thin red-haired guy with spectacles and a pornstache who never smiled. The first two times, I was so nervous that I forgot even the basics, like how to signal and maybe brake. But then my lovely mother came up with a plan—she told me we were going shopping and then she suddenly pulled into the licence office. I had no time to get worked up, and managed to pass the road test with flying colours. Also, the examiner had pretty much given up on me ever being able to parallel park, so he skipped that part. And if he’s out there, he’ll be gratified to know that I’ve NEVER, in almost 35 years, even attempted to parallel park. I’d rather abandon the car in a ditch and call a cab than try to squeeze in between two other cars. Apparently, new vehicles come with parallel parking technology, but I’d probably f*ck it up by screaming “Watch the back bumper! Jesus—you’re too far from the curb AGAIN!” just like my own driving instructor, an old guy hired by my high school who looked like Santa Claus but talked about his girlfriend in very graphic terms, used to do. In this day and age, Gary’s pervy sense of humour would have meant instant dismissal, but hey—it was the early 80s, a time when creepy older guys could say what they wanted and teenaged girls felt pressured to giggle nervously. Gary had one of those cars with an extra brake on the passenger side, and his favourite trick was to drive around alone, with his hand on the bottom of the wheel, his left foot on the accelerator and his right foot on the extra brake, freaking people out. He was the original driverless car. Among other things.

At any rate, there I was with my licence. Not really my freedom, since it would be years before I could afford my own car, but still. Over time, I’ve driven many vehicles—a Mercury Marquis, bigger than most small watercraft, a Cutlass Supreme, a Ford Tempo (Ken’s first car), my own Honda Accord, then a succession of mini-vans until T was old enough to not require a car seat. When I turned 40, I got the best car in the world—a Saturn SC2 Coupe in bright yellow with black leather interior. It was an awesome car, and the best part was that it was made of plastic. Well, some sort of polymer anyway, which meant it would never rust. I loved that car—I had it for almost ten years until the fateful day that I was driving K and myself home from the cottage. Two kilometres from our exit on the 401, the double tanker truck driving beside me decided to change lanes—into OUR lane. He hit us, and proceeded to push us off the highway diagonally as we were both going around 100 km an hour (60 mph for my American friends). He ripped through my plastic side panel, and for a minute we were caught on his bumper. I still remember fighting the wheel so I wouldn’t get whipped around underneath him. When the car finally tore loose and I came to a skidding, sliding halt on the shoulder, I started to cry hysterically, K in the back seat patting my shoulder and trying to hug me. The truck driver stopped, and he got out and ran back. “I didn’t even see you!” he said. “Christ, this is the second time in the last two weeks this has happened to me!” I was like “What the f*ck! My car is bright yellow—how could you not see me!?”

He was charged with careless driving, but my car was a write-off and I was a wreck. For a little while anyway. It took some time before I was able to get back on a major highway, but I did it, a few panic attacks notwithstanding. Then I got, almost simultaneously, a new car and a new job. The car was amazing—a Chevy Sonic LTZ Turbo, black with red custom trim, black leather interior, and fully loaded. It was a show car, and had only been driven to and from malls and convention centres. The job was equally awesome, but it was in Toronto, which meant regular trips down the nefarious 401, the world’s “superhighway slash parking lot”. After a few months of tearing my hair out, trying to get home on a Friday night, or back into the city on a Sunday, driving in the STUPIDEST traffic known to human kind, I finally discovered the train. I’ve previously written about this, so I won’t bore you with the details but here is the top ten list of reasons why traffic might be suddenly stopped on the 401, which I wrote about in more detail in My Week 54: Back on the Train Gang:

10) It’s raining.
9) What a weird looking bird…
8) Is that a running shoe? Slow down!!
7) Look, an airplane. Coooool.
6) There’s an accident on the OTHER side of the road.
5) It’s windy.
4) That squirrel has devil eyes!
3) Are those cloud shadows on the road, or is it the beginning of the alien invasion?
2) A bus is on fire.
1) (And this is absolutely true). Radio announcer: Be careful out there today, folks. That sun is really shining brightly!

The 401 is the most aggravating piece of sh*t highway in the world. But I had managed to avoid it completely for almost the last year, until two weeks ago, when I had to work in Mississauga. I decided that I might as well just travel back and forth from home—it was almost the same distance as coming in from downtown TO, and the upside was that I could see Ken every night. But after the first week of leaving the house at 6:15 am and not knowing if I’d get to work either on time or alive, I was starting to have second thoughts. Until I was telling my manager about it, and she said, “Why don’t you just take the 407? The company will pay for it.” The 407? That blissful, privately-owned toll road that would help me bypass all the stupidity of the Hurontario to Trafalgar Road corridor, which is technically a 14-kilometre stretch but can take almost half an hour to get through, thanks to what the radio announcers call “volume”? Yes, THAT toll road.

The next morning, a quiet Sunday, I tried the 407. I was hooked. This was MY road, the one I was always destined to drive. Of course, it WAS a Sunday—who knew what it would be like on a Monday morning during rush hour. Guess what? Exactly the same! I made it into work 15 minutes early, stress-free and with a smile on my face. The same thing happened on the way home—traffic moving steadily, lots of room to change lanes if necessary, no slowdowns because of interesting graffiti on the overpass…

But you know, once you’ve driven on a toll road, you get a little self-entitled. Just like parents who send their kids to private school and expect better grades because they’re paying for them, I also ended up one morning hitting the brakes for a minute and thinking, “What the f*ck is this?! I’m PAYING for this!” It’s amazing how quickly you get used to NOT sitting in a four lane parking lot, surrounded by transport trucks.

Well, the two weeks finally ended, and I was relieved to get home on Thursday night, and ditch the highway driving until the next time we’re working in Mississauga, which should be several months from now. Then I logged into the Via Rail site to buy my train ticket for Sunday—and everything was sold out. So one last trip down the highway to hell. But at least Ken’s driving.

Saturday: Titus and I watch the National Dog Show again.

Well, it’s that time of year, when frou frou dogs get to shake and shimmy their little selves down the catwalk (there’s some irony for you). Yes, it’s the National Dog Show, brought to you by Purina, the company who doesn’t believe feeding dogs antifreeze could possibly harm them. (Propylene glycol, according to Purina, is very safe to ingest. I wonder if any of their senior executives would care to sample it?) Anyway, the show itself is highly entertaining, as much for the strange remarks by the commentators, John O’Hurley and David Frei, as anything. We tuned in a little late, but just in time to see the Toy class:

Me: Titus, look. A Japanese Chin!
Titus: I didn’t know the Japanese had different chins from you guys.
Me: No, wake up. It’s a kind of dog.
Titus: Ugh. It looks like a bug.
Me: It’s name is Michael.
Titus: Sounds about right. “Michael”. Ha!
Me: What’s wrong with Michael?
Titus: Look it up on Urban Dogtionary.com. You’ll see.
Announcer 1: Up next is the Yorkshire Terrier, Bugsy Malone. Did you know that Yorkies were originally bred to guard factory workers’ lunches from rats?
Titus: What kind of self-respecting dog GUARDS lunches? I’d be all up in that sh*t. There’d be nothing left, let me tell you. Guarding lunches—bah.
Me: Yes, I think we all know better than to leave YOU in charge of food. God, look at this thing….
Announcer 1: And here we have the Pekingese, Chuck. Chuck is a little slow off the mark. Oh wait, there he goes—he’s really “scorching the earth” now, haha.
Announcer 2: You know, you could be walking this dog backwards for two years and never notice. Wow. He just won his class. Way to go, Chuck.

Then we went on to the sporting class, which seemed to be made up of a lot of setters, pointers, and spaniels.

Titus: Did he say Visla? Wasn’t that the all-girls’ school in Harry Potter? Wait—he just said “Cocker”! This gets better and better.
Me: Grow up!

Then the announcers started to fill in the dead air between announcing the dog’s breed and watching it parade around the ring with some pretty random sh*t:

The Irish Setter: She looks like the redhead who walked into the cocktail party. (Titus: He said “cocktail”. Snort).
The Weimeraner: This dog is the grey ghost. It’s like a ninja. I have one, and he just appears out of nowhere.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retreiver: This dog has a long name, and it’s the official dog of Nova Scotia. It has to be strong enough to carry a two pound duck.
The Chesapeake: Oily coat and webbed feet. An interesting dog. Waterproof.
The Springer Spaniel: This is by far the prettiest dog I’ve ever seen. His name is Timmy.
Miniature Poodle. This haircut is not whimsical. The miniature poodle is a gentleman’s hunting companion (Titus: Hunting for what? Aliens?).
Schipperke: Look at those nice, erect ears. (Titus: He said “erect”. Snort).
Lhasa Apso: Bred to be a guard dog in monasteries.
Tibetan Terrier: Also guarded monasteries. (Titus: Why were all these dogs in monasteries? Geez, live a little, why don’t you?)
The French Bulldog: Did you know Parisian streetwalkers used to use these dogs as icebreakers? You know, to start a “conversation” with a potential client…
The Border Collie: These dogs are incredibly intelligent. (Titus: Not intelligent enough to refuse to be in a dog show.) His name is Slick. (Titus: Well, at least he has a cool name.)

Finally, the show was done, and the overall winner was a Greyhound named Gia.

Titus: I think I’m in love.
Me: She looks a little too mature for you.
Titus: What?! Why?
Me: Really? From the guy who snickered every time the announcer said a word with “cock” in it? I thought you were going to fall off the bed when he said “erect ears”.
Titus: Guilty as charged. You know, you missed your chance with me. I could have been a show dog. Just look at these pearly whites.
Me: I’d have to rename you. How does Dick sound?
Titus: Absolutely awesome.

titus-teeth

 

My Week 97: Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Casual Conversations

olympic ringsFriday: The Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Ken and I, like many people, love the Olympics. Well, we kind of have to, because during the Olympics there’s absolutely nothing else to watch on TV, aside from reruns of Big Bang Theory and Murdoch Mysteries. Last night, of course, was the Opening Ceremonies, and I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but Canadian TV stations were doing a countdown all day, and interviewing athletes, their parents, officials, politicians, and anyone else with a remote connection to the Games, including the guy who designed the Vancouver Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The commentator asked him if he was secretly hoping that the Rio Ceremonies wouldn’t be quite as good as the ones he designed, but he was very gracious, saying, “Of course not—all these ceremonies are different and special in their own way.” I don’t know about you, but after watching the Rio Opening Ceremonies, I was like “I don’t know about special, but it was certainly different.” Half of that was Rio’s fault, but the other half sits squarely on the shoulders of the Canadian commentators—between them all, it was like watching “End of Days” narrated by two of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. I’ve never seen so much doom and gloom at what’s supposed to be a joyous celebration before. Let me run it down for you:

The Canadian broadcast started with a video about the Games—I don’t know who made it, but I think the person could use a few lessons on “tone”. It began with the juxtaposition between the shiny Olympic facility and the gravely impoverished people who live just “steps away”. Cut to pictures of small children half-clothed and playing in the dirt. It was like a World Vision commercial—I almost expected a 1-800 number and Sarah McLaughlin singing “In the Arms of an Angel” in the background. Apparently, Brazil’s economy is tanking, they are rife with crime and conflict, and their environment is a disaster, according to this introduction, which then attempted to end on a “cheery note” with the idea that the Olympic Games is a source of hope for all Brazilians. I was like, “I sure as hell hope so, since they just threw what little money they apparently had left on this thing. They better win a sh*tload of medals because that will for sure make up for the lack of housing, food, and clean water.” It was the most depressing start to an Olympic Ceremony I’ve ever seen, but Ken and I were hopeful that once the festivities got started, things would improve. Things didn’t.

It began with people dressed as giant tinfoil bags.

Me: Why are they dressed in tinfoil tents?
Ken: Maybe it’s all they could afford.
Me: Maybe it represents all the garbage in the water. Is that a giant crab puppet?
Ken: Spider? Not sure. I think the commentator called this scene “Peace for the Earth”.
Me: Oh. That’s nice.

But the “nice” didn’t last long. Indigenous people arrived and started dancing and creating traditional tribal huts out of long bungee type cords (I’d heard earlier in the day from someone involved in the ceremonies that they were long rubber bands from an underwear factory) when suddenly the commentator announced (a little too enthusiastically I thought), “And here we have the European Invasion!” Menacing looking sailors on giant ships appeared—apparently that was the Portuguese coming to Brazil. The Indigenous people let go of their underwear bands and the camera panned to the other end of the arena, where giant hamster wheels had appeared, followed by a train of people wearing heavy blocks on their feet. “And of course, the Europeans brought slaves with them!” announced the commentator excitedly. “Many Brazilian cultures were first brought here against their will!” Things were getting frightening at this point, and I was feeling too sad to keep watching. But then the Japanese appeared. In complete contrast to the rest of the group, they were wearing white robes, and dancing while carrying red and white flags. And they were smiling. “Brazil has the second largest Japanese population in the world outside of Japan!” the commentator informed us. I guess they were the only cultural group not brought there against their will, judging by the fact that they didn’t look terrified. (The Japanese Women’s Rugby Team was still smiling today, even though they got their asses handed to them by Canada, in a 45-0 game. I’ve never seen a team so happy to just be on the field. It was absolutely heart-warming and completely in keeping with the Olympic spirit). Anyway, things got crazy at that point. I was jotting down notes on my phone, which I think will best convey my utter confusion at this point:

Parkour dancers building a wall. Is that a plane? Did it really just fly out of the stadium? Ken’s asleep. Wait, it was only a video. Brazil’s “second most favourite song”? What’s the first? Why is Gisele Bundchen here? Isn’t she German? Check Google. No, she’s Brazilian. She’s walking a loooong way. Still not there yet. God, that girl can stomp a catwalk, even at her age. Wow, she’s STILL walking.

Cutaway from Gisele to dubstep and twerking. The commentators are quiet—maybe they’re not sure what to say. Cut to commercial. Damn you Proctor and Gamble, making me cry with your Olympic mom commercials. Multi-coloured Chewbaccas and Tickle Me Elmos. 1500 dancers. More commercials featuring Morgan Freeman.  Finally, a video—it’s an indictment of global warming. Ironic, coming from a country whose water is so disgusting that the plants the kids are carrying would die if you watered them with it.

Then, just as suddenly as it began, it all stopped. The announcement came: Greece!

The parade of nations had begun. Now, this was the part that should have been the most joyous, and it would have been, except the Canadian announcers kept trying to fill airspace with random facts about each country. And in keeping with the overall tone of the evening, the facts were mostly random, bizarre, or depressing. Here are some highlights of the things we learned:

Albania: “They had a wrestler thrown out during the last Olympics for using the same steroids as disgraced Canadian runner Ben Johnson.”
Argentina: “The Argentinians are not very popular in Brazil, you know.”
Benin: “Apparently, they’re the unhappiest people in the world.”
Bermuda:  “You know, they ALWAYS wear shorts.”
Bosnia: “I hear their Olympic Stadium is still lying in ruins.”
Bulgaria: “Their entire weightlifting team has been banned for doping!”
Burundi: “Looks like they’ve run out of bicycles.”
Canada: “Ooh, here’s Canada!”
Qatar: We got nothing about Qatar because the commentators were still talking about Canada.
China: “The only time they lost a diving medal was to Canada. HAHAHA!”
Comoros: “As an island nation, they’re particularly worried about the rising seas.”
South Korea: “They’re here in their special anti-Zika uniforms. Good thinking.”
Croatia: “Wow, they LOVE their water polo.”
Denmark: “She’s only the third woman in Danish history to carry the flag. They tried to stop her from coming but she appealed.”
Dominica: “They’ve never won a medal. They have two athletes here, so only two chances this time!”
Egypt: “Remember the scandal in 2012 when they got caught wearing fake Nike uniforms?”
Micronesia: “That’s one tiny country.”
Estonia: “They have blonde triplet marathoners. You can’t miss them!”
Fiji: “He started playing rugby using a coconut. You can’t write this stuff!”
The Gs were ignored while one commentator went off on a rant about the irony of the Environmental theme when Rio was “plagued by pollution.”

Iran: “You don’t often hear funny stories about Iran, but here’s one…”
Iraq: “All 22 athletes are men. Gender equity, anyone?”
Liberia: “The terrible Ebola crisis…”
Libya: “Never won a medal.”
Nepal: “One team member lived in a tent for a month.”
North Korea: “The mysterious North Koreans. Did you know they say that Kim Jong Un bowled a 300 in his very first game? They claim he’d never bowled before.”
Russia: “Systematic doping. I’ll bet they’re the cleanest team in Rio now.”
Syria: “Dreadful, bloody conflict…”
Solomon Islands:  “They have a lot of sailors. Ron MacLean has a boat. Do you think he ever takes Don Cherry sailing?”
Tonga: “Look at their flagbearer. He’s all oiled up. He looks hot. Or he’s a show-off.”
Turkmenistan: “80% of the country is covered in desert.”
Turkey: “THEY won’t be hosting the games any time soon.”
And finally Brazil: “They’ve never been off the podium for beach volleyball!”

Next, it was time for the speeches. Unfortunately, The Big Bang Theory was on, and at that point, god, I needed a laugh, so we switched channels. I know that the Opening Ceremonies is a time for a country to showcase itself to the world, and I guess Brazil has more problems than some people, myself included, were really aware of. Hopefully, an expose of the economic and environmental conditions that exist there will lead to some kind of action. And speaking of action, the games are now in progress, and it’s already apparent that the doom and gloom of the kick-off is already overshadowed by the quality of the athletics and the character of the athletes, which is always the point anyway. And I’m sure the Closing Ceremonies will be a little more uplifting—after all, Brazil is guaranteed a medal for beach volleyball.

olympic rings

Thursday: Conversations

Ken: Did you hear the latest? People are upset that Justin Trudeau was taking pictures with his shirt off.
Me: Wasn’t he out jogging in the forest when someone asked him to pose with them?
Ken: I know right? Someone said, “Oh, his father would NEVER have posed shirtless.” But I just googled it and found like 4 shots of Pierre Elliot Trudeau without a shirt on WHILE he was Prime Minister.
Me: I’m confused. If it’s OK for Melania, why isn’t it OK for Justin? The shaming must stop. Besides, Putin did it first. On a horse.

Ken: I think I know that woman. She’s a retired principal. I think I was at a workshop with her.
Me: I thought she must be a stockbroker, what with the aviator sunglasses and the Bluetooth earpiece. Does anybody else even use those things anymore? At any rate, that’s a gorgeous Mustang convertible she’s driving.
Ken: Wouldn’t you love a car like that?
Me: No way. It’s, like, unseemly at my age.
Ken: Why?
Me: It’s OK for a teenager. If you’re a teenage boy and you drive a car like that, everyone’s like “Wow—good for you! You’ve hit the big time!” If you’re an older woman, you’re just showing off. It’s ostentatious.
Ken: But you have a sporty car.
Me: It’s a Chevy. No one is ever like, “Oh my god, look at that Chevy hatchback!” Yes, it’s cute and sporty, but it doesn’t scream “I have more money than brains.”
Ken: It’s still a nice car.
Me: Convertibles make your hair messy as f*ck.
Ken: Jealous much?
Me: Sigh. Yeah.

Me: I don’t know how to finish my blog.
K: How about “See ya, nerds!”
Me: Right. I’ll be sure to try that.

See ya, nerds:-)

 

My Week 3 – Thanksgiving and Irrational Fears

Monday, when Ken and I ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving:

So we just celebrated Thanksgiving, and Ken and I were driving down to the cottage. It occurred to me that it was weird that we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans celebrate it in November, and what’s it all about anyway? And this is the conversation that ensued. Just for the record, Ken and I aren’t fussy about the accuracy of our facts:

Me: So why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans do it in November? What’s with that?
Ken: I don’t know—maybe their harvest is later than ours since they’re further south. They’re both just about giving thanks for a good harvest anyway.
Me: That’s not why the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving—they didn’t HAVE a harvest, that was the whole point. The Puritans came over here completely ill-equipped to survive. They were literally starving to death, and the Indians shared THEIR harvest with them, and basically saved their lives.
Ken: Oh yeah—“Thanks so much for your generosity—in return, here’s some small pox.”
Me: I know, right? “And some alcohol.” That’s gratitude for you. Do you think the native Americans “celebrate” Thanksgiving, or do they secretly call it something different, like “The Day We Wish You’d Never Shown Up”?
Ken: All I know is that Sherman Alexie just tweeted out that in celebration of Columbus Day, he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a time machine, so that he could go back in time and stop Columbus from finding the New World.
Me: Seems about right.

Wednesday: I realize that I’m even worse at small talk than I am at actual conversations.

I know I’ve already demonstrated my shortcomings when it comes to contributing to conversations with people I know, but that pales in comparison to my struggles with small talk. Here’s an example. I had to get my car’s thermostat replaced last week, so I took it to the car dealership, and they gave me a rental car, since I’m now a “VIP” by way of the fact that I’ve bought 3 cars from the same car guy (mostly because now I know him and we NEVER HAVE TO MAKE SMALL TALK). He’s great, and he doesn’t mind if I text him at dinner to see if I can test drive stuff (As a side note, I thought he was still at work, and when I realized that he was at home, I was horrified because I absolutely avoid imposing myself on anyone except my family, but he was really nice about it, and set up the test drive anyway).

Anyway, they called for a shuttle driver, who wanted to talk about the weather, and traffic, and that was OK because all I had to do was say, Mm hmm, and Right, and Really? and things like that. But then I got to the car rental place, and the rental guy was one of those SUPER-FRIENDLY people who wants to chat, and that‘s when things got uncomfortable. I’m kind of an introvert, and I was tired, and it was the end of a long day, so I can’t really be held responsible for the verbal fiasco to come. He proudly announced that he was going to give me the “brother” to my car, so I was kind of hyped up, thinking I was getting an awesome ride, then he took me outside and presented me with a Chevy Cruze. It was navy blue, and kind of scruffy. He looked at me expectantly, and I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “A Cruze. My dad says it has a good engine.” Then the conversation took a bizarre turn. (Mom, I need a favour. I know that you’ll be reading this before Dad, so I need you to promise to read this story OUT LOUD to him, and when you get to this part, skip over it. Make something up, like the guy asked me out and I initially accepted because I was so flustered, then I had to break it to him that I was happily married. Seriously. I swear to God I will do anything for you, including taking you to the casino if you do this for me.) OK. The rental guy looked at me and asked, “Oh, does your Dad work for GM?”  and then I became confused, (because how is that in any sense of the word, a LOGICAL connection?) and I said, without thinking, “Nuh, he’s just some old guy.” I knew as soon as I said it that it wasn’t even close to being an appropriate response, and to make things worse, the rental guy gave me a funny look, and said, “OK then,” in that kind of dismissive way people have, and I tried to make things better by explaining that my father was a retired teacher, etc. and not even that old, but VERY SMART when it came to cars. This, unfortunately encouraged him, and he started talking about his wife the teacher, and how she had to teach some students whose family got blown up on a boat (?) but I wasn’t really listening and just fell back on Mm hmm, and Right, and Really? which seems in retrospect to always be the safe, non-offensive choice for someone who isn’t good at small talk.

Friday: I catalogue some of the things I’m irrationally afraid of, and Ken makes them worse.

I don’t suffer from any kind of anxiety, I really don’t, but for some reason, I have certain irrational fears that I can’t explain, like being afraid of stepping on a nail sticking out of a wooden board, falling onto a table saw, and other highly improbable things involving sharp objects. I can usually quell these fears, except that I’m married to a man who takes extreme delight in making them worse. Case in point: I have a morbid fear of nail guns. Ken was using one this weekend, and I had to keep going into the bedroom because I was afraid of getting shot with it. When Ken pointed out that it was absolutely impossible that he could shoot me with it because of its safety guard, I reminded HIM that that was exactly what he said about the electric staple gun, right before he shot a staple past my head and that I didn’t trust ANY so-called “safety technology” regarding sharp, missile-like objects when it was in his hands. Sure enough, not much later, he dropped the nail gun on the floor, tip-down, and came close to shooting a nail into his foot. (He will claim that I am exaggerating in a “lying” kind of way, but I’m just telling it like I saw it.)

Aside from sharp things, the other source of my panic is the idea of someone kidnapping my child. My 16 year-old, six-foot-one, blue belt in Kung Fu child. But still. Even today, I worry to the point of hyperventilating if she goes to the store around the corner (literally around the corner) by herself. I take great pride in disguising these feelings, and try not to worry overly about her leaving school property and being accosted by a gang of human traffickers. But a few days ago, I was telling Ken about this, and he quite calmly informed me that he would NEVER pay a kidnapping ransom, because according to MacLean’s magazine, you only embolden the kidnappers and cause them to kidnap more people when you pay their ransom demands. I pointed out that we only have one child, so there wouldn’t BE any more kidnappings, but he said he had his principles and I just had to accept them, and that if I was ever kidnapped, he wouldn’t cough up the cash for me either, and that I would have to understand the nature of his sacrifice. “I’d be doing it for the good of all society,” he said. Now, I’m pretty sure he was just teasing, but then it occurred to me that this might be the nail gun thing all over again, so I plan to start saving up, just in case.