Why Fi?

This whole social distancing thing may or may not be making me a little punchy. A few days ago, I set out to buy groceries, and prior to the last few weeks, I had never “set out” like I was f*cking Magellan looking for (she googles “Magellan” to find out what the hell he was looking for) SPICES, although I DID need some turmeric. Something that used to be so easy and pleasurable has become quite the ordeal, especially in Canadian False Spring, which is to say that it’s technically Spring according to the calendar, but according to everything else, it’s still Fool’s Winter, which is when you are a FOOL and don’t dress for the actual weather. And that was me, standing there shivering and wearing vinyl gloves instead of mittens, lining up to get into the grocery store like it was a goddamned roller coaster—in other words, a very long wait, but without the reward of 60 seconds of exhilaration—unless bacon is on sale.

Anyway, I was fine in the store, and got everything I wanted, despite the media hysteria about how we’re all going to be starving and poop-assed. But on the way home, I drove through the same small town that I usually drive though and as I got to the section where the speed limit lowers, the warning light at the side of the road began to flash my speed as I started to slow down. It was a 50 km/hour zone, and for my American friends, I have no idea if that’s like a gazillion miles per hour or (she googles “How many miles per hour is 50 kilometres?”) THIRTY-ONE POINT ZERO SEVEN. And the damn light kept flashing red, even though I was going 54, as if I was Baby Driver or whatnot, and I yelled, “I’m doing my BEST, you passive-aggressive piece of SH*T!! F*ck you!” and I gave the flashing light the finger.

Now, I don’t really believe that an inanimate, solar-powered traffic light can actually be passive-aggressive. I mean, it’s not like it’s a husband who, when you chide him for taking his SECOND nap of the day, later posts an article on Facebook about how great naps are and how people should have at least two every day and no one should criticize them for doing it.  No, it’s not like that at all. And it’s not like it’s a wife who, upon discovering that her husband has spent the afternoon secretly watching a movie that they both wanted to see when he was supposed to be outside gardening, says “Oh, I see. That’s fine. I’m glad to know that the next time I want to watch something that we were both interested in, I don’t have to let you know. No problem.” Noooo, it’s not like that at all.

But my point, and I DO have one, is that people give their wifi extremely strange names. This point may seem to be a complete divergence from what you have just been reading about, but bear with me. As you know, I’m working from home. Last week, I had to change the password on my work computer and when I did, my whole system locked up. I was on the verge of a breakdown, having lost access to just about anything, and I’d been on the phone with one of our lovely secret agency IT guys for over an hour. We were trying to reconnect my VPN and he suggested using my phone as a personal hotspot. “Open your wifi and see if you can find it in there,” he suggested. My phone is known as “Suzanne’s Iphone” which seems pretty human and normal, but then a bunch of other wifis came up and I was like “WTF? You’re allowed to NAME your wifi?!” We have a central router in our house and then three boosters, but they are all just identified by numbers like 560 or 770 (those are fake numbers just in case my neighbours are reading this). But when the list came up, there were things on there like “2BoyzIntheBigCity” and “JaysPad” and I thought for a minute that my life had become a hip-hop video. Who ARE these people? I live in a very small town, and I haven’t seen any funky fresh folks around lately, but those wifi names suggest otherwise. I was intensely curious about this:

Me: Is there anybody in our neighbourhood named Jay? There’s a wifi on here that says “Jayspad”.
Ken: I don’t think so. What’s the name of that new guy across the street? Maybe it’s him.
Me: He doesn’t look like a Jay. I doubt that he has a nice pad.
Ken: What?
Me: You know, like a bachelor pad. My Jay has a funky fresh pad. I’ll bet his living room is all decked out in animal prints and he has a sheepskin rug and a wetbar and those swirling disco lights—
Ken: Ipad. Jay has an IPAD.
Ken: IPAD.
Me: Stupid Jay.

And then I was sad, because if I’d known I could give my wifi a personalized moniker, it would be known as Player One, OBVIOUSLY. Apparently I could change it if I wanted to but (she googles “How do you change your wifi’s name?”) it’s way too complicated. As for 2BoyzIntheBigCity, I’m fairly convinced right now that it’s the two teenaged brothers across the street being ironic, which I admire them for, almost as much as I admire whoever named their wifi “Nachowifi”. Can I use your wifi? No, because it’s Nachowifi. Passive aggressive, am I right? Yeah, it’s a tenuous link back to the beginning. Fight me.

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.

My Week 178: The Robots are Coming To Get Me

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

Case in point 1:

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

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

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

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

Case in point 2:

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

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

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

I am your robot overlord.

Case in point 3:

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

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

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

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