My Week 153: Google GaGa, Titus and the Frog


So this week, Ken and I went to a Google conference. Well, I went to the Google conference, and Ken went to several wineries, craft breweries, and visited a local historic home, which was totally unfair because HE’S the one who loves technology, and I’M the one who loves wine. But it was important for work that I learn about the Googleverse since, one day, Google will own everything, including your soul.

The Arrival:

I arrived to be greeted by overenthusiastic Google people who directed me to a table where I could “decorate” my name tag with stickers and sparkles and bedazzle-y sh*t. I wrote my actual name in purple marker as a concession to being fancy, and was proud at having resisted the temptation to put “Bob” in large capital letters, like they do for me at Starbucks. I am NOT a sticker person, being grown up and whatnot, and also I was grumpy because a) I had to be around people I didn’t know early in the morning and b) Ken snored all night and I was really, really tired from constantly having to wake up and punch him. Also, the only swag was a small cardboard box. At the last conference I went to, the first thing they did was give you a tote bag with all kinds of stuff in it, including a water bottle, pen, keychain, hand sanitizer and such. All I got was a cardboard box and nothing to carry it in.
Rating: 5/10 for having stickers and no swag

The Keynote:

There was a picture of the keynote speaker on the huge screen in front of the stage. In the picture, he was wearing a really nice purple, pink, and blue plaid shirt. When he stepped out onto the stage, he was wearing the same shirt. Later in the presentation, he showed a video of himself from last year and remarked, “Gosh, that’s embarrassing—I’m wearing the same shirt today that I wore in the video.” The next morning, he introduced the second keynote speaker, and he was still wearing THE SHIRT. His speech was very entertaining and funny, but I was completely distracted by questions I desperately wanted to ask, like “Do you not own any other shirts? Or do you just have more than one of that style? Does Google MAKE you wear that shirt? Or do you just really like that particular shirt, and if so, do you wash it every night, and if so, how do you keep it looking so fresh and unfaded?” And all the time, I kept thinking about how Ken was sampling wine that he didn’t even like, while I was obsessed with someone else’s wardrobe.
Rating 8/10 for the presentation…6/10 for the shirt (only because it was a nice shirt, despite its ubiquity)

Session 1:

As an accompaniment to us sitting and waiting for the first session to start (because ironically, the wifi was down—at a TECH CONFERENCE), the presenter was playing loud music. The first song was “Rehab” by the late Amy Winehouse, and next up was “If You Wanna Be My Lover” by the Spice Girls. It was confounding, particularly at 9 o’clock in the morning. Then she started by having us follow along with a “calming breathing exercise”. Instead, I scrolled through Twitter on the grounds that if I actually focus on my breathing, I get superanxious that I’m not breathing properly, and then the breathing gets louder and louder in my head, and then I can’t get enough air…trust me, Twitter was more relaxing. The rest of the presentation, which was supposed to be on the relationship between technology and emotional intelligence, consisted of a slide deck with links to websites and apps, like “If you want some neat meditation mantras, you can go to this cool site” or “Here’s an app that puts an inspiring saying on your laptop screen when you log on….”
Rating 4/10 for bad musical decisions and forcing me to think about breathing

Sessions 2 and 3:

Both of these were pretty good. One was for Google Draw, where I learned how to search for transparent images (I didn’t know you could do that), and the other was for using different programs to make videos, both of which will come in handy at work. I also learned that if you hit ‘Control-Shift-T’ on someone’s computer, it will open all the tabs that they have minimized. So if you suspect that one of your co-workers is secretly looking at porn but shuts it down whenever you walk by, now you can just stroll over, hit those keys, and yell, “Bom chicka wow wow” when ‘Big Bouncy Boobies’ magically reappears. I have the most notes for these two presentations.
Rating: 8/10 and 9/10 respectively for being practical

Session 4:

You remember how I said the only swag was a small cardboard box? This session was about the box, which, when you put your phone into it, becomes a 3D viewer. I was with one of my colleagues and we spent the whole session riding rollercoasters, swimming with sharks, and flying around space. So I should probably go back and re-evaluate The Arrival since the swag was actually pretty sweet, but at this point, I was even more annoyed by the people whose name badges I couldn’t read because they went so overboard on the stickers, like “What the hell, Martin? You’re a grown-ass man—do you really need to dot your damn ‘i’ with a sparkly daffodil?”
Rating: 10/10 for living vicariously

Day 2:

The keynote speaker was Australian, so that was good for no other reason than he sounded like comedian Jim Jeffries. Actually his presentation was excellent, on top of the Australian-ness.
Rating: 9/10 plus one bonus point for Australia

Sessions 5 and 6:

The morning started off well. The first session was about English Language Learners, and it was good, except the presenter was only about 30 and she kept referring to things then giggling and saying, “I guess I really dated myself there” or “Gosh, now you know how OLD I am!” Frankly, there’s little more annoying than really young people talking about how old they are, when most of the room has at least twenty years on them. Also, she played us the video of the Micromachine Man and said she had to be careful, because she was really passionate about her subject and didn’t want to talk too fast like she “normally does”. Which would have been fine, except her normal speaking voice was paced more like comedian Emo Philips than Robin Williams. The other session was on making animated videos using Google Slides, and I was super proud of the 2 second short I made called “Titus Waits For Cookies” which was basically a cartoon dog sliding back and forth in front of a cartoon oven. “It’s simple, but highly accurate,” I told the instructor, who was like, “Well, that’s just super!” and I choose to believe that she was being sincere and not highly patronizing.
Rating: 8/10 for pacing and dubious complimenting

Then the day fell apart, as the next session was boring AF. I would have left, but I’m very self-conscious and that would have involved making people look at me. Also, the presenter was very nice, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. So instead, I did some emails, posted some stuff on Facebook, and got into a Twitter debate with some super-racist Trump-humper, as one does. My parting shot was “The lady doth protest too much methinks” and he didn’t respond, so I WIN, because that’s one of the rules of Twitter Fight Club.

I DID walk out of the last session, which was on something called “Classcraft” and I thought it would be a cool teacher-y version of Minecraft, but no—it was a not-very-cool version of World of Warcraft. The imagery was violent and the whole game seemed like a very bad behaviour management system where you could take ‘Health Points’ away from children for infractions like “not having a pencil” or “being negative in class” until they died. In the game. I felt it necessary to clarify that, because a lot of people in the room seemed OK with it being either way. In fact, the presenter asked the room what a student might GAIN Health Points for, and one bright star said, “For sitting quietly and not talking?” Oh, hell no. As a former classroom teacher for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the whole room is quiet, that’s usually a sign that they’re plotting something. Believe me, it’s much better when they talk. Mostly because this isn’t the 1920s, and if you don’t want your kids to talk, you shouldn’t be teaching. I left the session because I was afraid I was going to say something rude like “I have a better idea—why don’t you just zap them with a cattle prod when they aren’t paying attention?”
Rating 0/10 for a bizarre punishment model

Overall though, it was a great learning experience and Ken DID buy me several bottles of very nice wine. But I got to thinking—what are some other things that Google should invent?

1) Google Cat: When you install this app, a pair of eyes appears on your screen and stares at you until you throw a stuffed mouse at it. It will also randomly hiss, or press keys on your keyboard while you’re working, just like a real life cat is walking on it. There’s also Google Dog where, any time you eat in front of the screen, simulated drool obscures it.

2) Google Benedict: This program overlays the faces of any men on the screen with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. Enough said.

3) Google Zap: Anytime anyone posts anything stupid, like “Vaccines cause autism” or “There’s no such thing as global warming” or “Donald Trump is a great president”, an electrical current will run through the keyboard, electrifying it and shocking the user. I got this idea from the last session I attended, because as much as I like it when children talk, there are a lot of adults who should just shut up.

4) Google Finger: This is an add-on for the driverless Google car. It can automatically sense when another driver cuts it off and a giant LED hand flipping the bird appears in all the windows.

5) Google Smell: It’s a really fancy and expensive air freshener. You can program it with any smell you want, like you could make your whole house smell like steak and drive your dog crazy, or make your bathroom always smell like roses, or program ‘new baby smell’ so that when your teenager hasn’t showered for three days, or keeps wearing the same damn shirt, you can close your eyes and pretend…

Titus and The Frog

Me: What the hell is wrong with you?
Titus: What?
Me: Every time we go outside, you head straight for the pond and stand staring at it.
Titus: There’s something in it. I’m not sure what it is.
Me: You mean the fish?
Titus: No—I know what fish are. We’ve had a couple in the house. One of them fought in ‘Nam—
Me: NO, he did NOT. And the other one NEVER attended a salon with Dorothy Parker. Fish are notorious liars. Wait—are you talking about the frog?
Titus: Frog? You mean that thing there? Yes! It’s driving me crazy!
Me: Why? It’s not doing anything—it’s just minding its own business.
Titus: (whispers) Yet it taunts me so…
Me: It’s not “taunting you”. It’s just doing what frogs do. Leave it alone.
Titus: But it’s so green!
Me: How the hell would you know? I thought you were colour blind.
Titus: And I thought we weren’t allowed to say that anymore.
Me: You can say it if you actually ARE colour blind. Otherwise, you have to respect all colours.
Titus: So what you’re telling me is, if it’s not hurting me, I should stop worrying about it?
Me: Exactly. Besides, one day, you might fall in the pond and that frog could save your life.
Titus: Hmm. Wait—is this one of your clever analogies? Because I think I outweigh that frog by about 90 pounds.
Me:  It IS clever, and it wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t eat so many damn cookies.
Titus: Cookies? Can I HAVE a cookie?
Me: Are you going to leave the frog alone?
Titus: Sure. I think we can live together in peace and harmony.
Me: Is that one of YOUR clever analogies?
Titus: Hey man—I’m just a dog looking for a cookie.
Me: Maybe Google has an app for that.


My Week 133: I Have a Wee Rant About Why Kids Are Important

Friday: It gets funny after the first bit…

One of my favourite sayings is “It’s easier to build a child than repair an adult”. I’ve worked with children, teenagers, and adult learners most of my life, so I can attest to the fact that the saying is absolutely true. About twenty years ago, I taught at an adult high school, and witnessed first-hand the struggles that my adult students went through—the same ones they went through as teenagers the first time through high school, repeating the same patterns over and over again. I had Charlie, a fifty-year-old truck driver who was more comfortable behind the wheel than behind a desk; Lorna, who helped her husband run their own business and was now retired, but who was ashamed to have never graduated; Mohammed and Abdi, two Somali brothers who had difficulty with English but tried SO hard; Jack, whose early experiences with teachers as a child with undiagnosed AD/HD had made him hate school; Linda, whose epilepsy medication didn’t always cut it, and the seizures were still such a source of embarrassment for her that she would skip class for days after one, and so many more people who just wanted to feel a sense of achievement by graduating from high school (Lorna’s grandkids came and cheered when she got her diploma). But they were a terrific group—I still have the card they all signed for me at the end of the year.

At the other end of the spectrum are the wee ones, so fresh and full of enthusiasm, an excitement for living that sometimes gets hammered out of them too soon. The other day, I was remembering something I witnessed about 5 years ago, and which still makes me so upset: I was at the grocery store, and I saw a woman come in with the most adorable looking boy about 5 years-old. As they passed me, I could hear him saying, “Mommy, can I drive the little cart? The little cart? Mommy, can I?” He was asking over and over, looking up at her, trying to get her attention. There’s no way she couldn’t have heard him, but she kept ignoring him until they walked past the little grocery carts that the stores have for kids (so that they can feel like big people) and disappeared into the aisles. I wanted to call after her, “Would it f*cking kill you to just let the kid drive the f*cking little cart?” I mean, I don’t know what was going on in her life that she thought it was OK to just blow him off like he wasn’t important, and maybe she was just having a bad day, but it infuriated me. Just like the other day, when my brother was telling me about a child in my nephew’s grade one class. Apparently, “Eddie” has trouble getting along with the other kids, so while everyone else sits at tables in groups of 5, Eddie sits at a desk by himself in the corner. Every day. All day long. All I could think is “What the f*ck is wrong with Eddie’s parents that they aren’t freaking about their six-year-old being isolated like that?” And while you might be thinking, “Well, I wouldn’t want my kid sitting next to Eddie if Eddie can’t behave”, how is Eddie going ever going to get along with ANYONE if he’s continually isolated? The Eddie of today becomes the Jack of tomorrow, and you can take that to the f*cking bank. But I’m not blaming Eddie’s teacher, although it’s a pretty stupid solution. No, this is down to Eddie’s parents, who NEVER come to parent night, activity days, observation days, weekly skating, swimming and so on. My brother, in the three years that my nephew has been in the same class as Eddie, has ever met either of them. Again, I don’t know their circumstances but I keep thinking of Eddie, skating by himself when the other kids have a mom or dad there, and it makes me sad. Which leads me to the main point, and yes I do have one: I was reading a little while ago about some so-called parenting guru who said that our children shouldn’t be the most important things in our lives. And I was like, “You’re an idiot.” And here is why he is completely wrong.

*Disclaimer: If you think your children are the most important things in your life, but you let them do whatever the hell they want and spoil them rotten, you’re doing it wrong.

1) Your children are responsible for what happens to you when you get old. Treat them well, and teach them to be responsible and caring adults, and you’ll probably end up in an upscale retirement home with people who don’t make you feel terrible when you wet the bed. Or maybe you can even live WITH your children if you went all out and took them to the movies once in a while, rented a cottage in the summer to have special family times, or let them drive the LITTLE CART. Treat them like crap and you’ll end up on an ice floe, or in a nursing home that serves mystery meat and has bingo every single night (yes, I know—some people like bingo. I’m NOT one of them), and they won’t come to visit.

2) Adults have pretty much f*cked up the world at this point. Global warming, species going extinct every minute, Donald Trump, oceans choked with plastic—we OWE them. The least we can do is mentor them and help them see the world as the precious thing that it is, not a commodity to be exploited until it runs dry. And buy them a puppy. Every child should have a puppy. Children who are allergic to dogs can have those hairless Chihuahua things. If you don’t like dogs, either suck it up, or buy them a cat. Or a monkey butler. If my parents had bought me a monkey butler, I would have a PhD in Environmental Science and I would have cured global warming AND cancer by now. They DID get me a kitten, so at least I have two undergraduate degrees. But no matter what the pet is, help them to learn how to be responsible for it.

3) What else is MORE important than our children? Seriously? The stuff that we decorate our homes with? The cars we drive? Our jobs? Getting away from the kids to hang with other adults? When I was a kid, I don’t remember that we didn’t have a lot of money. I DO remember family car trips to little towns on a Sunday, walking through the bush and identifying trees at a local arboretum, going with my dad to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and buying treats for my mom who was sleeping in after a long week of looking after me and my brother. My family (Mom, Dad, my brother and me) spent a lot of time together, learning how to be in the world and how to be responsible for it. I’m eternally grateful to my parents for always thinking “what would be nice for the kids?”, not only when I was young, but as an adult. It didn’t make me “entitled”, and by the way, most young people today aren’t either, despite what the people who make their money from certain parenting blogs, fake news magazines, and internet clickbait try to tell you. Face it—we’re all gonna die. “Things” are irrelevant, but leaving this world with the memories of a day at the beach, or being able to laugh around the dinner table because you didn’t make your kid eat broccoli but gave her hot dogs instead aren’t.

4) To continue, my second favourite saying is “The most important things in life aren’t things.” I’m the mother to a wonderful 18 year-old, and yes, so-called “Parenting Expert”, she is the centre of my universe. I don’t apologize for that. I can buy whatever the hell I want. I can go to the Dollar Store and get crap for my house, save up and buy crap I don’t need, or surround myself with stuff that doesn’t matter. The only thing I can’t buy is a child who is OK in the world. That, I have to work at. I also had to work at GETTING a child, because you can’t just buy one of them either, like a puppy or a kitten (or a monkey butler). Ken and I tried for a long time to have a baby, and we had some tragedy along the way. When my daughter was finally born, I was incredibly grateful to the universe for that gift. Because that’s what kids are. A f*cking gift. If you can’t see that, if you want to discount children as the most important thing in your life because some dude named Leonard Sax says you’re a failure as a parent because you like to give your child choices and make them a responsible and active voice in the family dynamic, then don’t complain when the nurse won’t make you hot dogs or cry because the polar bears all died.

*I’m really tired and may or may not have had a couple of glasses of wine, one of which I just spilled on myself. Yeah, it’s a bit of a rant. Next week it’ll be funny—I promise.


My Week 90: On Being Lucky, Summer School Stories Part Two

This is a commentary on being lucky. You might wonder why I feel that way, since I’m currently recovering from a major surgery that came upon me rather unexpectedly, and has pretty much ruined June. But I AM lucky. First, because the surgery went well, and I’ve had no complications. I came home right on schedule, and I’ve been able to recuperate in my own bed, surrounded by family and friends. However, because I can’t do much of anything, I’ve been watching a lot of TV and I’ve had a front row seat to all the horrible things that have happened in the last couple of weeks. The Orlando massacre, the shooting of a young singer, the assassination of a British MP, alligator and dog attacks, children being used as payment for debts—the list just keeps going. So I lie here and realize that, despite how lousy I feel, I have it pretty good.

First, in honour of Father’s Day, I’m married to a man who is not only a great dad but a wonderful husband. This last couple of weeks has been hard on him because he’s had to do EVERYTHING. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, gardening, waiting on me hand and foot, and a ton of other stuff, and he’s never once complained. I’ll admit I’ve been a baffling patient—I’ve had a couple of weird mood swings, most likely a combination of stress, hormones, and pain meds:

Me: When you come home from university on the weekends, I’ll make you lots of food to take back, Okay K?
K (rolls eyes): Sure, Mom.
Me: See, Ken? She’ll never come home. I’ll never see her again.
Ken: Don’t worry—you’ll still have me.
Me: SHUT UP, KEN!! (buries head in hands and sobs uncontrollably)
Ken: I was only joking…

And then on Friday:

Ken (on phone): What’s wrong? Why are you crying?!
Me: I asked my aunts to take me to the store so I could get you a Father’s Day present and there wasn’t ANYTHING! (Sobs) I have nothing to give y-y-you. I started crying in the store and had to leave.
Ken: God, don’t worry about it, honey. I didn’t expect you to go shopping for me.
Me: But you always get me such nice presents and I have nothing for YOU!! (Sobs uncontrollably)
Ken: Just tell me what you wanted to get me and I’ll buy it myself.
Me (wailing) Sandals!!
Ken: Um…okay.

But then later that day, K went shopping for Father’s Day and she offered to get me something for Ken. After a lot texting back and forth, and sending pictures of things Ken might like, she bought Ken pants for me, even though I had specified shorts. I said to K, “It says ‘32 inch inseam’. How long did you think these shorts WERE?” and she responded in usual teen fashion with “How the hell do I know how long 32 inches is? They were on the shorts table.” But it’s all good, because Ken liked them anyway. And he’s still going to buy himself sandals. Why does he need sandals, you might ask? Because in the spring, I may or may not have thrown his old sandals away during a particularly enthusiastic closet-cleaning session. I admit to nothing but the possibility.

Aside from shopping for me, K has also been wonderful in her own teenaged way, watching TV with me and letting me make her afterschool snacks while she naps, just like old times. And sometimes she even answers my texts, which is really good of her.

I’m also lucky to have a really supportive family. Everyone has been checking in regularly, and my aunts have even been weeding my flower gardens. I never have to worry about discovering that my family members have been secretly plotting against ANYTHING, or are members of the Westboro Baptist Church (because then I would know they were truly stupid and evil and would definitely have to disown them). My parents are currently on a cruise they planned months ago, but they’ve been emailing whenever they have wifi access that doesn’t cost a fortune. And just to clarify, my dad is alive and well—I posted a Father’s Day message to Ken and Dad on Facebook in which I said my dad was a great father and that he was currently “wandering the fjords”. Then I got worried that people might think it was a euphemism for being dead, you know, like “Poor Dad—he’s finally able to wander the fjords in eternal peace.” But actually, he’s just in Norway, not beyond the veil eternal.

The next reason why I’m lucky is because I’m recuperating in my own town instead of the big city. I live in a great little place, population around 500 people, and it’s quiet and pretty. I have super neighbours who would help you out with anything; in fact, two of them messaged me to say that if I needed any help, to call them and they would come over. And they would bring wine, which officially makes them the best neighbours ever. My only concern right now is that the lady on the corner sold her house, and the new neighbours moved in. Only they moved in at night. And by morning, the moving truck was gone and we haven’t seen anyone there since. Now, it’s not like we ever saw the previous owner—she was elderly and ill, and the only reason we even knew the house was occupied was from the coming and going of home help nurses, and the occasional arrival of an ambulance. But still, it made me a little curious, and I made Ken watch from the window:

Me: Can you see anything?
Ken: A couch, I think.
Me: Do you see any hydroponic growing stations? Large quantities of antihistamines?
Ken: No, just regular furniture. I’m sure they’re normal people.
Me: I don’t think a grow-op or a meth lab would be good for property values. Keep watching.
Ken (rolls eyes): Right.

So, aside from a potential house of ill repute in my neighbourhood, and full-on sobby mood swings, I find myself in a small pocket of loveliness, protected from the horrors of the world around me by the amazing people in my life, decorated with flowers from my garden and flowers from my work colleagues. And that, my friends, makes me an extremely lucky woman.


And now, just to lighten the mood, I present Summer School Stories Round 2. If you’re not sure about the context, you can read the intro from last week. Hope you enjoy the shenanigans from 2013:


Summer School Day One: Let the Games Begin

After the 100s of kids who needed to register, the parents making demands, the buses that didn’t show up, and a grand mal seizure in the middle of the registration line, we made it through the day. Of all the reasons to switch classes (which we normally don’t allow), this was my favourite:

Student: I need to change my math class. I know you don’t usually allow it, but I really need to.
Me: Why?
Student: The teacher I have today is the same one who failed me last week.
Me: So you think you’ll have a better chance with someone new?
Student: Yeah, I hope so!

Fun at Summer School Day Two: There Are No Secrets Anymore

After 20 minutes of parents tearing a strip off their daughter for lying to them in order to get a letter of permission to change classes so she could be with her boyfriend, this is what the mother and father finally said (both with lovely East Indian accents):

Mother: All right, I’m sick of this bullsh*t. I’ve been keeping your secret from Daddy, and now I’m going to tell him what you did. (To father) She didn’t get any of her credits last semester. She failed everything!!!
Father: WHAT???!!!
Me: OK, so I think we have a couple of different issues here…..

Fun at Summer School Day 3: Who’s On First? I Don’t Know…

Me: So, Ms. Le, our student Trang says she has to switch classes to make your “counselling” appointments. Where exactly are you located?
Young Girl: 26 B_____ Crescent.
Me: And where is that?
Young Girl: My house.
Me: Yes, but where do you live?
Young Girl: Toronto.
Me: She has to go to Toronto 3 days a week to see you for counselling?
Young Girl: No, she comes to my house.
Me: But where are you located?
Young Girl: 26 Br______ Crescent.
Me: Yes, but where is that?! What city?
Young Girl: In Kitchener, but I live in Toronto.
Me: OK, I’m going to say No to the switch and suggest that maybe you make the “counselling” sessions for later in the day. You’re not a real counselor, are you?
Young Girl: Not really, no.

Fun at Summer School Day 4: The Name Game

Me: So the bus driver tells me that on Friday, you were refusing to sit down while the bus was moving, and when he asked your name, you told him it was “Mohammed Mohammed”. I’m going to guess that’s not your name.
Short White Boy: (mumbles) No.
Me: What IS your name?
Short White Boy: (sheepishly) Kevin.
Me: OK Kevin, from now on you do as the bus driver tells you, or you won’t be riding the bus anymore.
Short White Boy: (mumbles) OK.

Fun at Summer School Day 4: Shots For Breakfast

Female Student: Why are you kicking me out? I wasn’t doing anything. It’s not fair!
Me: Look, you have two absences and two lates for a 9 day Careers program. You were sleeping in class and then you swore at the teacher. You’re being demitted.
Female Student: Why are you being so mean this year? Everybody thinks so–it’s not just me. Other people think you’re being mean too, you know.
Me: (sigh) If you keep refusing to leave the building, I’ll have to get the police to issue you a trespass notice.
Female Student: Blah, blah, blah….

When I looked at her Twitter feed later, the most notable entry for that morning was “Shots for breakfast!” Explains a lot.

Not So Fun at Summer School Day 5:

One of our day school students went to buy a new baseball bat, then came to the office to get his report card. When he left, he was accosted at the bus stop by a thug who tried to steal the bat, threatened him and then chased him–he ran through the parking lot and into the refuge of our building. Here’s part of the conversation, which reminds me why I love kids:

Student: He chased me from the bus stop to the parking lot. Thank god I did track for 4 years. I didn’t think he’d be able to catch me.
Me: Plus you had the baseball bat in case he did.
Student: Are you kidding?! I could never hit someone with a baseball bat!

Kudos to all the kids out there who could never conceive of harming another human being over a baseball bat, or for any other reason.

Fun at Summer School Day 6: Shots for Breakfast, Shots for Lunch

Me: So if you hadn’t been drinking, then why were you throwing up in the bathroom?
Drunk Girl (slurring): I have a cold.
Me: Right. The bathroom smelled like a bar.
Drunk Girl (excitedly): Which bar?
Me: All of them!!

Fun at Summer School Day 8: Pikachu Rules

After an exhausting morning with a couple of 15 year-old drug dealers, and the police, and their parents, and mental health workers, I had to deal with another couple of kids who had been reported as doing something suspicious on the school bus, maybe involving drugs.

Me: So what exactly were you and your friend doing on the bus that might have worried the bus driver?
Student: Well, we were playing Pokémon on my friend’s Nintendo DS…
Me: Were you passing it back and forth?
Student: Yes.
Me: What were you talking about?
Student: Just Pokémon stuff. I was thinking up a name for my friend’s avatar. I said he should call it Loveknobs. That’s British for…well…Am I in trouble for that?
Me: (trying not to laugh) No, you’re good. Go on back to class.

Fun at Summer School Day 9: Are You F*ing Kidding Me?

Me: So if your son wasn’t doing anything, can you explain why he carries rolling papers and a grinder in his school backpack?
Father of 15 Year-Old: Well, the boy smokes a little pot. I let him smoke sometimes at home with his friends. Better to do it at home than run wild on the streets…
Me: (looks to heaven for divine assistance–cannot find anything polite to say in response).

Fun at Summer School Day 11: What Not To Wear

Me: So I just wanted to have a word with you about your daughter and some dress code issues. Did she tell you why she came home yesterday?
Mother: No…
Me: Well, she was wearing a tank top that said “Smoke Meth and Hail Satan. We asked her to cover up or turn it inside out, and she chose not to do that.
Mother: (exasperated) Oh my god! She’s going through a terrible phase right now. It’s been almost a year and we just keep praying it’ll be over soon.
Me: And today she’s wearing a bra. Just a bra. I’d appreciate it if you could talk to her about wardrobe choices. I know it’s hot outside, but our air conditioning works really well.
Mother: Yes, of course. Thanks for calling.

Fun at Summer School Day 12: Hindsight is 20/20

Me: So your daughter left her class, went out for a cigarette, and then was hostile and rude when we asked her where she’d been. I’m sending her home for the rest of the day.
Mother: If she apologizes, can she come back tomorrow? She’s actually passing and her attendance has been good. I know sometimes she needs to work on her attitude….
Me: I can accept that. Bring her in tomorrow. If she’s willing to apologize, she can continue in her course.

10 minutes later….

Teacher: That’s the girl who came into my class last week, and when I told her to go back to her own class, she called me a b*tch!!
Me: If I’d only known that 10 minutes ago. Sigh.

I guess this girl was going to be saying sorry to quite a few people tomorrow.

Fun at Summer School Day 13: Hindsight Might Be 20/20, But Payback Is Sweet

Our little charmer from yesterday returned this morning. After some sulky, half-hearted apologies, she went back to class on the understanding that she would be polite and punctual from now on. At the end of first break, she refused to go back to class when it was time, then launched a string of profanities at Donna, culminating in her exclaiming to me, “F*ck all this!” and storming out when I asked her to stay in the office. I called her mom and explained that I’d removed her permanently. 5 minutes later, the phone rang again:

Secretary: It’s that student you just demitted. She wants to know why she was kicked out.

I picked up the phone just in time to hear this:

Student: Answer the f*cking phone!!
Me: THAT’S why you were kicked out! Goodbye.

Fun at Summer School Day 13: Sorry Is The Hardest Word To Say

Me: I have no interest in interrupting Ms. ___ during class, so you can write her a letter of apology.
Student: (rolling eyes) What am I supposed to say?
Me: What would you normally say in this kind of circumstance?
Student: Um…’I’m sorry that I called you a b*tch’?
Me: (sigh) Think of a way to say it a little more politely.

Fun at Summer School Day 14: XXXShakepeareXXX

The 4UI English students were asked to write an original scene for King Lear. One student strayed from the provided scenarios and handed in a script, properly formatted, lines numbered, with asides, stage directions, and lovely Shakespearean diction. Unfortunately it was also Shakespearean porn. Here’s a sample:

France: Enough of this talk. Unsheath thy sword. Let my hands wield it. Nothing will come between us.
Burgundy: Nothing!  [sex]…
[Enter servant]
France: Do you remember the beating we discussed?
Servant: I do, my Lord
France: Good, very good.
Cordelia: I knew it! How could anyone not see this? The rainbows, your low-calorie ale. It all points to this…

Seven pages of R-rated Shakespeare. Made my day.

Fun at Summer School Day 14: It’s Because He’s Invisible

Me: (to student) Your attendance is a bit of an issue. You have 3 absences now.
Secretary: I think Frank talked to her.
Me: (to student): Did you talk to the other supervisor about your attendance?
Student: Who?
Me: (pointing) The man who sits over there.
Student: (looking completely confused) But there’s no one sitting there…
Me: (trying not to laugh) No, the man who usually sits there. He’s not here right now.
Student: Oh. Yeah, I don’t know.

Fun at Summer School Day 15: Part I

Me: So your son didn’t go to class this morning–he was seen with a group of people going downtown. Do you have any way to contact him and tell him he needs to come back to school?
Father: You’re kidding! I dropped him off myself. No, we’ve already taken away his cell phone, his Ipod, and a lot of other things.
Me: So, not a lot left for leverage, huh?
Father: No, not much. I’ll go drive around and see if I can find him.

Fun at Summer School Day 15: Part II – It Must Have Been Telepathy

Me: So, you went downtown this morning. Your father was pretty upset.
Student: No, it’s ok. I talked to him and he said to tell you it was ok.
Me: How exactly did you speak to him?
Student: On my cell phone.
Me: That’s interesting because your father said he’d taken away your cell phone.
Student: Oh. (quietly) Sh*t.

Fun at Summer School Day 16: Awkward Family Moments

After lunch had started, one of our students came into the office, literally being half-carried/half-dragged by her mother on one side and her sister on the other. She could barely walk, and had the pallor of something out of The Exorcist.

Mother: We’re trying to figure out how to get her up to her classroom.
Me: Absolutely not. Take her home now.
Mother: (blank stare)
Me: Seriously, your daughter is much too sick to be in class. She needs to go home.
Mother: Oh…

At this point, they slowly turned around and left. One minute later the mother was back.

Mother: Is it OK if we use the elevator?
Me: Yes! Use the elevator! To take her down to the parking lot, right?! It’s fine!

Seriously, folks–it was the most bizarre thing I’d seen in ages.

Fun at Summer School Day 16: Baby? What Baby?

Me: So your son hasn’t been to school for the last two days…
Mother: I don’t understand–I gave him money to get there yesterday.
Me: I’m sorry but he hasn’t been here since Tuesday. He came in and said he had to go to the hospital right away because your other son’s girlfriend had gone into labour and was about to have a baby.
Mother: Pardon ME?! A baby?! Uh, no. I’ll make sure he’s there tomorrow to write his exam.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when that kid got home, lol.



My Week 89: Summer School Stories 2014

So as you may or may not know, I’m currently recovering from a particularly nasty surgery. I haven’t been able to focus much on anything this week, thanks to the drugs, let alone anything remotely amusing, mostly because it REALLY hurts to laugh. But because I care about you, gentle Reader, I have prepared in advance for your viewing pleasure, a variety of incidents that I was involved in during my tenure as a Summer School Supervisor at a make-up credit site. No, that doesn’t mean the students were there to learn about make-up, which would be all kinds of awesome—it means that they all failed a course and were there to “make it up”. Which also means that I was in charge of a building full of almost 1000 VERY unhappy teenagers. Many of them just put their heads down and powered through, but there were inevitably the kids who had difficulty with sticking to the 3 week program. We had no choice except to remove students for infractions like poor attendance (the Ministry of Education required that they put in so many hours to “make up” the original credit), or for drug/alcohol use, or other inappropriate behaviours. It certainly kept me, my school supervision monitors Donna and Roy (not their real names), and other assorted staff on our toes. So here you go—memories from 2014.

summer school


Fun at Summer School Day 1: And We’re Off!

All things considered, a pretty quiet day by our usual standards.

Favourite conversation of the day:

Student: I have to go get my cast fixed. I broke my arm two days ago skateboarding, and now I’ve wrecked my cast.
Me: That must hurt.
Student: Well, the government’s to blame. They put fresh hot tar on the hill I went down, and my skateboard got stuck.

Damn the government and their hot tar.

Fun at Summer School Day 2: Who’s On First?

Me (to very small blond boy): So why are you outside my office?
Boy: Ask my teacher.
Me: Did she send you here?
Boy: No, I came myself.
Me: Why?
Boy: You’ll have to ask my teacher.
Me: But if you came up yourself, and she didn’t send you, YOU need to tell me why you’re here.
Boy: You should call her and ask her.
Me: OK, let’s just clarify. You came here, she didn’t send you, so I need YOU to tell me why you’re standing outside the office. Are we clear on this?
Boy (mutters sadly): Everything is so stupid.
Me (sigh): Let’s go back to the beginning.

Fun at Summer School Day 3: A Hooker Is A Person In Your Neighbourhood

 This morning, Donna, Roy and I decided to go around the back of the hill surrounding the school’s field to see if any students were lurking in the woods.

Donna (whispering): We’ve got movement–there’s a couple of people over there.
Me (whispering): Are they students? What are they…OH MY GOD!

…As the middle-aged man zipped up his pants, and his elderly female companion got to her feet. Icky icky.

Fun at Summer School Day 3 – Later The Same Day: A Dealer Is A Person In Your Neighbourhood

Little Grade Nine Girl: Um, I thought I should report this. Today, I was eating lunch on the hill and a man came up to me and said, ‘Hello. Would you like to buy some weed?’ It really freaked me out.
Us: What did you do?!
Girl: I screamed NO and ran away. A couple of other students came to help me and see if I was OK.
Me: You go back to class and I’ll call you if the police want to speak to you. If it’s any consolation, I doubt if he would have hurt you. He probably really only wanted to sell you the weed.
Girl: Yeah. I didn’t have any money anyway. It was really creepy. I live in a small neighbourhood.
Donna: Welcome to OUR neighbourhood.

Fun at Summer School Day 5: Horseheads and Mockingbirds

Things continued quietly. Big excitement of the day was confiscating a horsehead mask (which Roy kept unwittingly enunciating as a “whore’s head mask”, much to our enjoyment) from a student who was wandering around at lunch creeping people out. Favourite conversation was the following:

Student: I need to drop my English course.
Me: OK. Do you have any textbooks to return?
Student: No. (pause) I have a book though.
Me: Is it a textbook?
Student: No. It’s just a book. (gives me a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird)
Me: Did you like it?
Student: Meh.
Me: Great. Thanks for the ‘book’.

Fun at Summer School Day 7: The Spies Are Everywhere:

Me (to grade 10 student): So what were you doing out of class for almost half an hour?
Student: Well, I finished my quiz, so I went outside. I was going to have a cigarette, but I saw my mom’s boyfriend drive by. She doesn’t let me smoke.
Me: Yeah, well I don’t let you smoke either. You know how you’re not allowed to leave class to smoke during regular school?
Student looks puzzled.
Me: OK, well maybe you smoke during class at regular school but you know you’re not allowed to, right? It’s just like that here. Except that if I catch you smoking during class time, I’ll remove you from summer school. Got it?
Student (nods enthusiastically and goes to leave): Yep. Have a nice day!

Fun at Summer School Day 7: Best Conversation So Far:

Roy: (over walkie talkie): Hey Suzanne, are you available?”
Me: Yes?
Roy: Meet me out by the dumpster.

Fun at Summer School Day 8: Siegfried or Roy?

While standing on the top of the hill by the school while looking for one of our errant charges, Donna, Roy, and I spotted a figure lying on a blanket in the middle of the grass at the end of the football field where our Grade 8 students were playing games. The figure was mostly nude and glistening in the sunlight. As we approached, we realized it was an older man with a mane of long, golden hair, wearing nothing but a tiny Speedo and a lot of baby oil. Roy offered to make the initial approach.

Roy: Excuse me, sir, but you can’t lie there.
Man: I’m a security guard. I know what I can’t do. This is public property.
Donna: Actually, this is a schoolyard. It’s private property and you can’t be here.
Man (getting up): Well, you can have your opinion. I work in security, so I won’t cause any problems, even though I don’t see why I can’t be here.
Donna (gesturing): There are children playing right over there!
Man (indignantly, gathering up his things): Now you’re making me feel like some kind of pervert!

Then he stalked off, wearing only the speedo, and carrying only a pair of crocs, his blanket, and the baby oil. As we watched him slowly get smaller as he walked down the field towards the road, I said nothing, because I was trying so hard not to laugh.

Fun at Summer School Day 10: Perhaps A Little Claritin Would Help

The day started well, but after break, we were passed quickly on the stairs by a student wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt (go figure) who reeked of marijuana. He disappeared but we followed him to class based solely on the vapour trail he left behind. He took off and left the property, where he dumped his stash into a sewer. We were sad to inform him that we were going to have to part ways. Later, after catching two other students smoking up behind the church during class, we searched their backpacks. After pulling out of one student’s bag a pipe, grinder full of pot, cleaning tools, and so on, this conversation ensued:

Donna: Good Lord, you have TWO bottles of Visine?!
Student (sullenly): Maybe I have allergies.
Me: Or maybe you just smoke a LOT of pot.
Student (sighs, looks down): Yeah.

Needless to say, neither of them would be getting their credits this summer.

Fun at Summer School Day 11: Bank Those Sick Days!

Student: I’m not feeling well. Can I sign out?
Me: Sure. How many absences do you have?”
Student: Only one so far.
Me: No problem–you’re allowed up to two.
Student: Oh…in that case, I’ll stay. I’ll save the other one for a time when I really need it.

Fun at Summer School Day 11: Society’s To Blame

Father of student demitted yesterday for marijuana use: I think you should be more lenient. You’re responsible for his education and now he’s lost his chance to graduate at the end of next year…
Me: I’m sorry but he will NOT be allowed back into summer school.
Father (rants): Too many foreigners at the universities…all white students smoke drugs….recession…John Howard Society will corrupt him by exposing him to more druggies…he’ll be bored at home and get into more trouble…he was fine until he went to high school…there should be more police at the schools because he’s not used to them and he was nervous….
Me: These are bigger issues than I’m prepared to deal with. At any rate, the outcome’s the same.

He eventually left. Wow.

Fun at Summer School Day 12: There Are Those Who Call Me Tim…

Towards the end of the day, there was a commotion in the foyer. Donna and Roy investigated and brought back a very sullen young man.

Me: What class are you supposed to be in right now?
Student: I don’t know…
Donna: This isn’t a trick question. Where should you be right now?
Student (gestures vaguely): Up there.
Me: What’s your name?
Student: Elton.
Me: What’s your last name?
Student: Quan.

Donna took him upstairs while I checked attendance. His actual name was nothing remotely like “Elton Quan”. I went upstairs.

Me: Your name isn’t Elton Quan, it’s –blank–.
Student: I have 5 different names that I go by. (Etc. etc., more annoying responses, foul language.)

The upshot was that Elton and all his other names were removed from Summer School. The teacher told us later that he was asked to leave class for continually pulling the hair of the girl in front of him.

Fun at Summer School Day 13: Oh, And One Last Thing…

Student: Can I sign out?
Me: Hey, you’re the guy who was late from lunch the other day because you were outside dancing.
Student: What? I wasn’t dancing–I was flexing my muscles in the window reflection!
Me (laughing): Well, call your mom and get permission to leave.
Student (on phone with mother): Well, I’m done all my work, I wrote my quiz and got perfect, and (whispering) I thought if I came home early it would be OK cuz you said we could do that thing….remember–the headphones? You said we could go get the headphones if my marks were good?…(to me) Um, I vomited, so I’m sick.

Student passes me the phone so I can talk to mom.

Mom (laughing affectionately): Ok, I told him just this once. But he has to stay all next week and no fooling around.

Fun at Summer School Day 14: Power Napping

Me (to student): You can finish writing your test in this classroom here. Let me know when you’re done.
Student: OK, thanks.

An hour later, after break, I went by the room and the lights were out. I walked in, they turned on automatically, and the same student just about jumped out of his desk.

Me: Why are you sitting in the dark?!
Student: Uh…I think someone came in and turned the lights off.
Me: No, they turn off automatically…wait a minute…were you asleep?!
Student (sheepishly): Um….

 Fun at Summer School Day 15: My Mad Math Skills

Example One:

Father: My son is in Civics. It’s only a 9 day course so he’s done today, right?
Me (mentally confused): No, he still has class tomorrow.
Me, later to secretary: Civics started on the 15th, right? So tomorrow makes it 9 days?
Secretary: Yes.
Me (relieved): Oh good.

Example Two:

Student Writing Exam Early: This question says to calculate the answer based on 6.3 hours. Is that like 6 and a half hours?
Me (mentally confused): That sounds like it might be right, but I’ll ask and find out. Roy, is 6.3 hours the same as 6 and a half?
Roy: No, it’s….(some gobbledy-gook math response).
Me: Yeah, that makes sense. So can you explain it to the student please?

Example Three:

Awesome Math Teacher Guy: So then I ask them to calculate the line…space time continuum…infinity…Einstein (maybe..?) and then the thing…
Me: I love the way you tell a story.

My Week 73: Quirky Conferences, Motion Detector Lights

Thursday: I go to a conference

I was lucky enough this week to have been given funding to attend a local education conference with a colleague. The conference overall was an excellent experience, but not without some quirks. I’m not sure if this is typical of all conferences in general, but it was my first time attending one of these things and it was at times, bizarre. It was at a local hotel, and I decided on Thursday morning that walking would be a good idea, which it totally wasn’t, since the temperature was like minus 12 degrees, or what I like to call “f*cking freezing”, which is a technical term we use in Canada for pretty much anything below minus 5. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I was dying from that insane itchiness you get when you’re out in the cold then you come into someplace warm and your skin feels like it’s being eaten by piranhas. Plus, I was ten minutes late because I have a TERRIBLE sense of how long it takes to get anywhere, and this is not made any better by the strange Torontonian idea of what a “block” actually is. In most towns, a block is the distance between intersections, but in Toronto, the intersections can be at least a kilometre apart, so when someone says, “Oh it’s only three blocks away”, that can mean 40 minutes of what I call “lost walking”, where you walk and walk, the whole time feeling like you must have gone past your destination, and you keep asking people how much further it is, and they just keep saying, “Oh, it’s like one more block”.

At any rate, I was in pain, but happy to be inside, and I made my way to the registration desk. A very cheery woman took my name, gave me a lanyard with ID on it, then told me to hand in my ticket at another table for my “swag bag”. Swag bag?!! Now this was more like it—I was really excited because I know at the Academy Awards, the swag bag has things in it like make-up, and expensive jewelry, and coupons to Pizza Hut. After paying $3.50 to check my coat (I know, right?! What a rip-off), I presented my ticket and was handed a red, plastic bag, like a grocery bag. It felt pretty light, like it was filled with paper. “Is this the swag?” I asked the woman.

“Well, it’s the bag,” she said. “You can use it to put things in.”

This was sounding more and more like when I got my eyes lasered and thought the blue bags everyone was getting must be full of treats, but it was just cheap sunglasses and an eye drop schedule. Which was still one step up from this bag, which was, upon further examination, filled with paper. At least my laser bag had sunglasses in it, even if they weren’t Chanel or Dolce and Gabbana. And I already had a bag to put things in. So I shoved the plastic bag inside my own bag, feeling a little let down by the lack of swag, and went into the conference. Over the next two days, here are some other things that bewildered me, prompting me to ask the following questions:

1) Is it normal and not-rude for people to just walk out of a session while the speaker is still speaking?

The first thing I did that morning was see the keynote speaker, a famous, former football star who now spoke about his previous career and the importance of finishing his education. He was wonderful, very funny, and obviously had worked hard to put this speech together. I was standing at the back because of the lack of available seats, and wishing that someone would leave, so maybe this whole thing was my fault, because after about ten minutes, people just started getting up and walking out. I was happy at first—like a ninja, I quickly and silently slid into a vacant seat. Then it got super-distracting, as people just kept getting up and leaving, you know, with those little apologetic half-smiles as they make their way down the row to reach the aisle then scurry away like no one noticed them. By the time the football player was nearing the end of his speech, which was entertaining, funny, and emotionally moving, so definitely NOT boring, gangs of attendees were fleeing. And when he got to audience questions, people weren’t even QUIET anymore. They acted like it was the end of the movie and the credits were rolling, leisurely sauntering out and discussing where they were going for dinner. I wanted to yell, “Sit the f*ck down!” because I had checked the schedule and there were no other activities for another 45 minutes. Where the hell were they all going? It turns out—NOWHERE. The same people who were scuttling out of the grand hall were just standing around in the mezzanine when the session finally finished.

This happened on more than one occasion over the next two days, when attendees started abandoning the room with about ten minutes to go, causing the poor presenters to have to talk over the noise. Some of them would speed up their presentation, as if talking faster would make people more interested. It was really stressful—you could see the self-doubt on their faces, like “Am I boring?” No, but it’s almost lunchtime, and god forbid the tables in the food court are all taken.

2) Do presenters practice their presentations so they know how much time they’ll need?

The answer to this question is apparently not, as every session I attended finished with “Oh my god—I have so much more material to cover! How much time do I have? 3 minutes? OK, let’s see how many more PowerPoint slides I can whip through—I only have 50 left, but I think we can do this…” It was an unfortunate truth that the main point of each presentation got glossed over in the last few minutes. One poor woman was literally freaking out and exclaiming, “This is SO stressful! I’M SO STRESSED OUT!” I felt like saying, “You’re not the only one.” So, a word to the wise—plan accordingly, and time yourself so that you can end with the ending, not with the middle.

3) Am I really old?

I ask this because I came prepared to each session with a notepad and a pen. I took notes, old school style. Unlike the majority of the people in the room, most of them younger than me. Whenever a PowerPoint would go to the next slide, cell phones and Ipads would quickly rise above the crowd and everyone else would snap a picture of what was on the screen. EVERY screen. Presenters kept saying, “All of this information is on my website,” but it didn’t make any difference. It was like being at a rock concert but instead of screaming and lighters being waved around, it was eerie silence and cameras hovering in the air.

4) Are gluten-free meals the same as vegetarian meals?

Yes. At least at the Sheraton. I went to the keynote breakfast on Friday morning, featuring a marvelous Canadian writer. When I registered electronically, I indicated the gluten-free option for the meal. When the food came, it was an omelette topped with a poached egg, smothered in some kind of sauce. Aside from the overabundance of ovum, I was worried that the sauce might have flour in it, so reminded the waiter that I needed the GF meal. “Can you just bring me one with the omelette and nothing else on top?”

“Oh, don’t worry—we have special meal for you,” he said.

What he brought me was this: a plate of potato wedges, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes (fine), with a bowl of plain, poached eggs swimming in water (absolutely, pukily disgusting). I couldn’t even look at them—it was like the eyes of death staring at me. I should probably clarify at this point that I have an EXTREME aversion to any type of egg where the yolk and the white are not completely blended. Yes, I know it’s weird, but it’s based on childhood trauma. Once, when I was little, I looked into the refrigerator and saw a bowl containing a perfect canned peach half floating in delicious syrup. I didn’t question its existence—I just did what any child would do. I dipped my finger into the syrup then licked my finger. It was NOT a peach. It was an egg.  So, blech.  I made the waiter take away the eggs and ate the vegetables, which were fine and NOT vomit-inducing. Then I looked around and realized that my meal was apparently the fallback for the vegetarian option, as well as the kosher meal. Now as far as kosher goes, I think it has something to do with how animals are slaughtered, so I guess the eggs were cracked properly? But as for it being vegetarian—I ask again, as I have in previous blog posts (see My Week 60: Facebook Quizzes), since when are eggs vegetables? Just because they don’t have legs now doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have grown up to be actual animals if Farmer Brown hadn’t stolen the mother hen’s babies. I was talking to a guy later that day, and he was like, “Oh yes, I’m a strict vegetarian, although I do sometimes eat things with eggs in them, like cake and stuff.”

5) Am I five years old?

This is the opposite of number three. I ask this because A) in the Exhibitor’s Hall, I was accosted by someone dressed as “Clifford, The Big, Red Dog” in one of those Disney-like animal costumes, and a photographer who wanted to know if I’d like my picture taken with him. Why would I ever want that? I had no small children with me, and I don’t have a “furry” fetish, which is where you want to make out with someone dressed in a fur costume, but trust me—that dog was nowhere near hot enough. Sweaty, yes, but hot, no. B) I arrived at a session and took a seat at a table near the back. “No!” said the presenter. “You can’t sit back there. I need you to sit at this table near the front.”

“But I don’t want to sit there,” I said. I might have sounded a little petulant, but I hate sitting near the front—what if I need to go to the bathroom? Then everyone watches you leave and it’s really embarrassing.

“Well you have to,” she ordered.

It wasn’t long into the session when she showed us a movie trailer which ended with a donkey being hit and killed by a car. “I probably wouldn’t show that to a lower elementary class,” she said.

Really? Maybe because a donkey just got murdered? I didn’t want to see that, let alone exposed small children to it. Then she told us we were going to watch it AGAIN. But I couldn’t even sneak out, because I was sitting NEAR THE FRONT.

6) Is a presentation more enjoyable when there’s a sign language interpreter?

Absolutely! My last session on Friday featured a well-known guru with great ideas, but who spoke in a bit of a monotone. Fortunately, there were two sign language interpreters with her, who more than made up for her lack of style. These women were SO expressive and enthusiastic that I listened to the speaker but watched THEM the whole time. Way more entertaining. I don’t know where they get their training, but the way they were signing, it must have been the Royal Shakespeare Company. There was comedy, betrayal, death, and romance—never has “Developing Non-Fiction Writing Skills” been so exciting. Like Game of Thrones meets the Weather Channel.

Overall, it was a great time, and a wonderful learning experience. As for the swag, I DID get two free books and a USB stick, which was almost as good as a Cartier watch and made the bag completely useful.

Friday Night: Motion detector lights

On Friday night, I came home from Toronto. I went into the walk-in closet to get changed, reached up to pull the chain on the light to turn it on, but couldn’t find it.

Ken: The chain broke this week.
Me: How do I get the light on then?
Ken: I installed a motion detector light bulb.
Me: But I’m IN the closet. Why hasn’t it come on?
Ken:  You have to come out of the closet. Now walk to the right, along the side of the bed. Now walk to the left and move towards the bathroom door. Take two steps forward, then hop one step back on kind of an angle.
Me: What?
Ken: You did it wrong that time. Try it again. This time, make it more of a 30 degree angle instead of a 45 degree angle.
Me: Can’t you just get another chain?
Ken: No, this is way better. Oh, by the way, when you’re finished, you have to shut the closet door. If Titus walks past, he triggers the light.
Me: I didn’t realize Titus could do Country Line Dancing.
Ken: You’ll get used to it.

Ken was right. Now, if I want the closet light on, I just hum “Achy, Breaky Heart”, the magic takes over, and it’s all good.

My Week 6 – Mennonites, Sweary-ness, and Normal Ken Dreams

Sunday: I ponder the wonderful world of Mexican Mennonites

I grew up with Old Order Mennonites. They were always around when I was a kid—at the market, driving along the side of the road, just a fixture on the landscape. I never really paid them much attention. As I got older, I wondered about them. For example, they like to go to auctions and buy pots and pans, and other household goods, I’m assuming to be part of a dowry or something, like “Here’s my daughter, a set of Lagostina cookware, two fuzzy blankets, and a goat”. Also, I often questioned their lifestyle—like why they couldn’t have electricity, but could use cell phones, or if you’re out on a Sunday in a buggy with a boy, does that mean you HAVE to marry him, or are you just trying each other out? But overall, I didn’t give them too much thought. That is, until we bought our cottage down by Lake Erie shore and were introduced to the “Mexican” Mennonites. OK, here’s the deal. They are not Mexican. They don’t speak Mexican. They certainly don’t look Mexican, They’re a splinter group of ‘regular’ Mennonites who went down to Mexico for some random reason, stayed there for a few generations, and now have returned to Ontario to share their glorious Mexican-ness with us. They are AWESOME. They should be the poster children for Mennonites, if the Mennonites were ever interested in recruiting. I spent some time gathering intel on this new brand of Mennonite—this is what I learned:

Appearance: They are all blonde and lithe. The men wear cool plaid shirts, ball caps, and jeans; women wear brightly coloured, floral dresses. Apparently they all have perfect eyesight. And teeth. They always look relatively happy, compared to their older order counterparts, who always look like they’re worried about getting the harvest in. I don’t think Mexican Mennonites worry about too much, especially the harvest, judging from their laid-back attitudes and lack of farm equipment.

Food: Mexican food! Very spicy, homemade Mexican-y goodness. Including gluten-free corn tortillas—these people are cutting edge. And they LOVE hot sauce. At the Aylmer Market, they make Hot Tamales, freshly wrapped in corn husks, and they have a food truck in PB called Dos Gringos, which may or may not be an insulting reference to white folk, but if it is, I admire their nerve. What do other Mennonites eat? German food? They make a LOT of maple syrup and sell it out of their buggies, that’s all I know.

Drink: I’m really hoping Tequila, but I don’t know—I’ve been told they don’t actually drink. If they did though, it would definitely be Tequila because Tequila is the FUN Mennonite drink (at least in my world).

Activities: These people are entrepreneurs. They have real estate companies, restaurants, grocery stores, and all kinds of businesses. They don’t have roadside stands. They DO have a lot of Chihuahuas. The teenagers rove around in gangs like Abercrombie and Fitch models waiting for a photographer. They lounge in their front yards, laughing, in co-ed groups. They always look extraordinarily happy. It could be the Tequila.

Small Children: Mexican Mennonites have large families. There was a group renting the house across the road from us in PB a couple of years ago, and they had a LOT of kids. I used to watch them play—they didn’t have any toys, but they made up the best games, like one day, they were all a bus, and they took turns driving it around the yard. The littlest one was a two year old girl, who was so adorable that it occurred to me that maybe a family with a lot of children wouldn’t miss one, and she could come home with me, but I never acted upon the impulse on the grounds that it would be highly illegal, obviously. The only thing I know about Old Order Mennonite children is that they seem to get lost in cornfields a lot, prompting OPP search parties.

I think I’ve made it very clear that to me, thinking about Old Order and Mexican Mennonites is like watching Lord of the Rings. You have the dwarves, who are short, stout, and dour, then you have the elves, who are exotic, athletic, and supremely confident. Neither group wants to interact with outsiders, but I’ll take the Mexican Mennonites hands down, if only for the awesome food. Because me, I’m all about the tacos.

Wednesday: I contemplate my sweary-ness.

I swear a LOT. I’ll admit it—I have a potty mouth and I always have had. One of my earliest memories is being told off by my dad for exclaiming “Holy Sh*t” at the number of cars in the K-Mart parking lot one day. (Which was kind of hypocritical, because where did I learn that expression anyway, Dad?) At any rate, I swear all the time, with one major exception—I rarely swear at work. I was just talking to a friend of mine from work, and I said, “Do you think I swear a lot?” and she said, “Not really.” Then I asked Ken the same question and he looked at me like the answer was obvious and said, “Uh, yeah.” But this is WHY I swear a lot—because I spend all day NOT swearing. In fact, I spend a lot of the day saying to students (hypocritically), “Watch the language!” I have to keep it all bottled inside so that when I get home, the real me comes flying out. I knew it was a problem when K was about 4 years old, we were with some friends who also had a 4 year old. We were trying to get a picture of the two of them, and Ken was taking so long that K finally blurted out, “Just take the frigging picture, dad!” (I was so proud. Also, it was good that it wasn’t me who had to point out that Ken takes way too long to focus). The other day I asked K if she thought I swore a lot, and she raised one eyebrow at me. I said, “Not AT you, just in general. I try not to swear AT you.” She agreed then that I don’t swear too much AT her, but I do swear a lot. I also reminded her that we’re mostly together when I’m driving, which might account for the extra-sweary-ness.

The problem is that I’m with teenagers all day and I have to be a good role model. It would hardly be professional if I peppered my teaching with the F bomb. (“So why isn’t your f*cking homework finished, Timmy?” “That answer was total bullsh*t, Sally.”) The only time I’ve actually sworn in class was a couple of years ago. I was in the middle of a lesson, and it was going really well, when all of a sudden, the overhead screen behind me scrolled up and almost snapped itself off its hanger. I was so freaked out that my immediate response was to exclaim “Holy Sh*t!!!” Then I turned and looked at the class, and they started laughing hysterically. One girl even said, “This is the best class ever!” Which proves that I DON’T swear in class, because it wouldn’t have been such a novelty when I did. It also proves that my first instinct is ALWAYS to use an inappropriate epithet, but that also I’m really good at suppressing my instincts. So Ken and K, and the rest of my family, have the joy of experiencing the F-bomb factory that is ME. Thank god they f*cking love me.

Saturday Morning: I realize that Ken is completely normal, even in my dreams.

I’m a very vivid dreamer. I have crazy movie length dreams that are like watching crime dramas, and sometime horror movies. Last month, I was watching a dream unfold where a patient in a hospital was extremely ill, and detectives discovered that she had been given an injection of “lupus alcoholis” by a guy who was stalking her, and this had caused her to become deformed and almost die. The doctor at the hospital formulated an antidote, and the detectives arrested the stalker. It was awesome, and cheaper than actually going to the movies. This happens to me all the time, and it’s wonderful and sometimes scary too, especially when the dreams involve K getting kidnapped or my mom driving a car into a river and me trying to rescue her (don’t worry, Mom, I saved you)—stuff like that. But for some reason, whenever I dream about Ken, it’s always the most perfectly normal dream you could have. In fact, they’re about as close to real life as you can get. Last night, I dreamed that Ken was driving me to work, but I forgot my cell phone so we were going back to get it, when he spotted a garage sale and pulled over. The only thing they were selling was these really expensive clock faces and Ken got super-excited, because he keeps talking about making his own clock (in real life, not in the dream). So I said to him (in the dream, not in real life), “Spending that kind of money on a clock face defeats the purpose of making your own clock.” He looked disappointed, but he agreed with me, and we carried on back home to get my phone. WTF kind of dream is that?! The only way it differed from real life is that Ken NEVER pulls over for garage sales unless I make him. In the future, I’m going to try a little “lucid” dreaming and introduce some zombies onto the field of play, just to see what he does. A minute ago, I asked him what he was doing, and he said “resting” (even though we just got up an hour ago), and in my head I was like, “Just see how tired you’re going to be after a night of The Walking Dead. Ha ha, Ken!!”

My Week 1 – Marijuana and Febreze

So I’ve decided to change things up a little bit because I’m not currently a mentor and don’t have a particular protegee, so I’m turning this blog into also a reflection up* the things that happen to me either in real-life or sometimes in my head, which are often even weirder. I can’t rename this blog because a) I am not that technologically proficient and I just spent 15 minutes trying to reset my email for this stupid site and I still don’t think it worked and b) it’s kind of an ironic title in a lot of ways.

So here’s some of my week.

Wednesday, also known as the day I realize I really can’t tell stories orally that well. So I was sitting around with a couple of colleagues and we were talking about how people use the comment tool on almost anything now to slag people for very minimal reasons and say some pretty nasty things because they think the internet makes them anonymous even when their names and pictures are RIGHT NEXT TO THE COMMENT. I launched into what I thought was a very clever tale about how I’m a member of a buy and sell group on Facebook, and how recently a local candidate for town council was totally taken to task when someone posted a warning about break-ins in the area, and he commented that part of his election platform was to help prevent crime. (On a side note, he was very vague and I don’t know how he’s going to prevent crime unless he means he’s going to prowl the streets of our town at night like some badass ninja vigilante). Anyway, I described the nasty backlash he got “for trying to exploit the situation to win the election” and I ended with something like “it was too bad, really.” Then I realized that my colleagues are looking at me a little blankly, almost expectantly, liked there should be more to the story, and then I also realized that my story had no real thesis, which everyone knows a good story should have, and that I’d missed the most important element to the story, the plot twist, which was that the poor guy is only 19 years old and it’s his first foray in the political arena and he probably didn’t realize that people on buy and sell sites can be very fickle. I should just give up on trying to contribute to conversations altogether, and just focus on writing things down, which is of course, my thesis, and the conclusion to this story. Tada.

Thursday. Did I really just encourage my students to smoke pot?? No. I. Did. Not. It was a total accident that can be explained in this very convoluted way. I was talking to my grade 12s about Titus Andronicus, Act 1, and two characters, brothers, who are trying to become emperor. In what I thought was an attempt to make things relevant, I said that Rome deserved a strong leader, and that just like Rome, so did Canada. I pointed out that the one brother was a lot like Justin Trudeau in that he was relying on the goodwill of the people to get elected, just like Bassianus in the play, and that Stephen Harper was very much a Saturninus figure because he was relying on the fact that he was the “elder statesman”. Then one of the kids commented, “Justin Trudeau’s only platform is to legalize marijuana”, and I said, “See what I mean? He’s like the fun candidate, and Stephen Harper is the guy who won’t even admit to smoking marijuana and he’s a pretty grim guy in his sweater vests and all. He should really live a little.” And suddenly everyone was laughing, kind of hysterically, and I had this horrible epiphany that I might have just implied that marijuana and “living a little” should go hand in hand, which is totally not what I meant to do. So I tried to clarify that I didn’t mean to say it like that, but the kids just kept laughing, and I kept digging myself into a deeper hole, until finally I just said, “Don’t do drugs. I don’t recommend them”, which sounded in retrospect not a great thing to say either. But it seemed to calm them down, and we moved on with the lesson, but I WILL spend the next few days worrying about whether I get a call from an irate parent who is either upset about the marijuana thing or doesn’t like that I called Stephen Harper “grim”.

Saturday. This morning I was in the staff bathroom at the school where we have International Languages on Saturday mornings drying my hands with the hand dryer (because a) I had just washed them and b) I was freezing and the heat was awesome) when I noticed a can of Febreze air freshener on top of the paper towel dispenser labelled “Alaskan Spring”. So I sprayed it because I’ve always wondered what spring in Alaska smelled like (does it really smell kind of like stale Old Spice cologne? Has anyone been to Alaska? If so, can you clarify this?) when it occurred to me that maybe other people had used it BEFORE they washed THEIR hands, and then I got all germaphobic-y and had to rewash my hands all over again. Yep. The thesis of this story is that you should always spray room freshener in a public bathroom BEFORE you’ve washed your hands, then you’re good to go. Or that Alaska smells like someone’s grandfather.

*Yes, I know that there’s a typo in the introduction. It’s there for a reason. Or maybe two reasons that are inextricably linked. While I was typing this blog, Ken came in and wanted to talk to me about something, I don’t know what (because I was typing, you see?) Ken is always going on about how people can’t really multi-task and then he was like, “Can’t you listen to me and type at the same time?” And then I made the typo, which just proves that a) no, I can’t multi-task and b) it’s ironic that he’s always telling me that I can’t multi-task, then he insists that I do it.