Where’s The Fire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice the lack of firefighters…

My Week 193: Buddy, Where’s the Fire?

Two weekends ago, I had to put the fireplace on because this is Canada, and the weather can be minus 5 one day, and 30 degrees (38 with the humidex) the next. We literally had a heat wave from last Monday to Friday, then yesterday morning, it was 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for people who don’t have to worry about everything being in fancy wizard math), and I was wearing a sweatshirt instead of sweating.

Anyway, mandatory Canadian weather reference/complaint aside, two weekends ago, it got quite chilly, even for May, so I tried to put our gas fireplace on. It wouldn’t start, mainly because it’s old and you have to wiggle the wires underneath it to ignite it. I tried a couple of times, but Ken is the master wiggler, so he came in, performed his magic, and voila! There was heat. (And rereading those last two sentences back, it might seem that yet again, this blog has deviated into some kind of strange Canadian weather-related porn, but I AM talking about the fireplace.)

His work for the moment finished, Ken announced that he was walking to the corner to get gas for the lawnmower that he has been trying to fix for 6 weeks. (Give up, Ken. We can afford a new lawnmower.) While he was gone, I was in the back room talking to Titus about whether or not he was a good boy, as one does, when suddenly I heard this awful screeching sound. It was coming from the fireplace in the living room. I ran in and came around the corner just in time to see black smoke pouring out of the fan vents. Now, that might not be weird for a wood fireplace, but this one is gas. Naturally, I freaked out. I ran over, giving the front a wide berth in case it chose that moment to explode, turned the thermostat off so it would be less flame-y, then I did what any normal person would do—I started yelling for Ken.

Ken didn’t answer. I ran up and down the sidewalk but no response. I was terrified, but I went back in. It was still making the same deafening screeching noise and I could smell something burning, so I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. I explained to the operator that I needed the fire department in a kind of staccato “Fireplace—smoke—gas—send help—“ way, and she told me the fire department was coming and to get out of the house. I grabbed Titus, put him in the back yard, then ran to the front, phone in hand and tears running down my face, still looking for Ken. I found him chatting with the next-door-neighbours. I screamed, “There’s something wrong with the fireplace. I called 9-1-1!” He came running, ran right past me and towards the house.

Me: What are you doing?! The 9-1-1 lady said NOT to go in!!
Ken: I’m going to turn off the breaker!
Me: You’re not allowed to go in!
Ken: It’s fine! It’s probably just the motor!
Me: Don’t go in! I order you to stay outside—
Ken: *disappears into the house*

Anyway, he turned off the breaker and the screeching stopped. There wasn’t any more smoke, although the air still smelled charred, but there was no smell of gas, and that was a good sign. We stared at the fireplace for a minute. It seemed like it was no longer about to explode, so I tried cancelling the 9-1-1 call, but it was too late. The next thing, firetrucks are pulling up to the house and some very nice firefighters helped us check everything out. Apparently, there was a tag on a wire next to the fan, and when we were wiggling the wires, the tag got dislodged and ended up in the fan blades, causing the fan to overheat. Embarrassing as it was, the firefighters were really great and they waited while we turned it back on to see what would happen. It came back on quietly, and all was good, so the fire department left.

Ken: When I saw you, I thought someone had died.
Me: Well, I was pretty upset. I thought the house was going to blow up. I was screaming for you—I can’t believe you couldn’t hear me. You were right next door.
Ken: It was windy. I couldn’t hear you over the wind. You were “downwind”.
Me: The wind…what?!
Ken: Never mind. What did you do with Raven?
Me: She’s around here somewhere. I didn’t have time to look all over for her then try to catch her and carry her around with me. We probably need a plan for her in case there’s ever a real fire.
Raven: I should f*cking hope so.

This is your clever plan?

I was still pretty mad at Ken for just running into the house when the operator said to GET OUT AND DON’T GO BACK IN, even though it was all fine in the end. But Ken has a very fortuitous relationship with fire, having almost immolated himself on more than one occasion. Once, about twenty years ago, he was cooking dinner and I was upstairs. Suddenly I heard him screaming “Help! Help me!” I came running into the kitchen and he was rolling around on the floor, his shirt on fire. I grabbed a tea towel and started trying to put him out. Between the rolling and the vigorous slapping, I extinguished him. Turns out, he was leaning against the stove, his sweatshirt touching one of the burners. Next thing, POOF! Up he went. Luckily, he remembered to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, but man, did he leave scorch marks on the pine floor.

And then on Friday, he did the following in this exact sequence:
1) Start a fire in the burn pit.
2) Get gas for the lawnmower.
3) Fill up the lawnmower with gas.
4) Try to start the lawnmower.
5) Defend the lawnmower to his wife thusly: “It’s not broken. It always takes this many pulls to start it.”
6) Finally get the lawnmower started.
7) Begin mowing the lawn around the burn pit.
8) Ignore his wife’s screams. Yell “I can’t hear you over the lawnmower! You’re downwind!”
9) Push the gas lawnmower onto the burning burn pit in an attempt to cut the grass around it as close as he can.
10) Be forced to turn the lawnmower off when screaming wife (see number 8) stands in front of the mower to berate him.

Ken: What?!
Me: What the f*ck is wrong with you? You just filled it up with gas! It could explode!
Ken: Why are you scolding me like I’m a five year old?
Me: Why are you mowing the lawn like you’re a five year old?!
Ken: What? That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Don’t mow the firepit!

Words to live by, am I right? Anyway,  he finished mowing and at a certain point, I heard him trimming the edges of the flower beds with the weed whacker. After a while, the noise stopped so I went out to see if he wanted a drink. The weed whacker was lying in the exact middle of the patio and Ken was sitting on the deck staring at it with a mixture of  bewilderment and dejection.

Me: What’s wrong?
Ken: The weed whacker set on fire.
Me: What?!
Ken: Yeah. It started smoking and then flames literally shot out of it. I think we need a new one.
Me: Ya think?

Yesterday, we went out and bought a fire extinguisher. It’s small, so I can carry it with me everywhere. Just in case.

Prepared for the worst case scenario.

My Week 107: Justin Who?

Sunday: Shocked by a hairdresser

I realize that when you read the above title, you might be worried that a) I was getting a haircut and the hairdresser, ignoring the warning labels, simultaneously stuck the hairdryer in the sink whilst grabbing my arm, thus giving both of us a nasty jolt or b) that the haircut went out of control and I ended up with a mohawk. Neither is true—my hair looks pretty much like it always does, and not like a troll doll OR Johnny Rotten. Here’s what actually happened:

The back of my hair was looking a little scruffy. I keep it cut fairly close to the back of my neck, and I don’t like seeing little wisps sticking out the side. It was getting too long though, so I called my usual awesome hairdresser, Emily, but she’s SO good that you have to book her well in advance. Normally, she can fit me in for a neck trim, but she was jammed with appointments. So I said to her, “Is it OK if I just go to one of those First Choice places?” because why WOULDN’T I ask permission from my hairdresser to go somewhere else? I know a lot of you totally get that. She was very understanding, so off I went to the local plaza.

When I pulled up, things looked pretty quiet. There were a couple of guys getting clippered, and I thought I might have to wait for a while, but then another woman, whose nametag read “Cathy” (well, it actually didn’t, but I don’t want to use her real name) came out of the back. She took my name and led me to her chair. I explained what I wanted. She said, “No problem , hun,” and started spraying water on me. Then she stopped and looked perplexed. “I guess I need my scissors,” she said, looking around. I said nothing, because I’ve learned that, given enough time, most people can figure things like that out for themselves. In truth, I saw a pair of scissors in her Barbicide container, but I just REALLY wanted to know how long it would take her. “Oh, there they are!” she laughed, 36.6 seconds later.

barbicide

She started snipping away, and seemed to be doing a passable job. Behind us, a man was getting a buzzcut and chatting with HIS stylist, whom he seemed to know. “Where are you going after?” she asked him.

“Downtown for the kegtapping,” he said. “Justin’s going to be there.”

“Cool,” she replied. “I wish I could go, but I have more appointments this afternoon.”

“I wish I could go,” I said to MY hairdresser. “I’d love to see Justin.”

“Justin who?” she answered.

I was a little taken aback, because it had been on the local news, but I said, “Justin Trudeau. He’s in town to ceremoniously “tap the keg” for Oktoberfest.”

“Oh,” she said. “I don’t know who that is. Is he famous or something?”

“Um,” I paused. “He’s the Prime Minister.”

“What, like OUR Prime Minister? Sorry, I don’t really follow politics.” Then she laughed. Not in a “just kidding” way, but in a slightly embarrassed kind of way.

“Who does, right?” I answered. “But he’s no Donald Trump, I can tell you that.”

At which point, she says, “I know! That guy’s crazy!! Did you hear what he did yesterday?”

So I was shocked, as I said at the beginning. But then I thought it made sense for two reasons. First, she “doesn’t follow politics” and what’s happening with the Trump campaign isn’t really politics—it’s a circus side show. Last week, I referred to Trump’s clown car, but then I saw on TV that he actually has a train. It’s called the “Trump Train” and the conductors are woman in pink shirts who yell, “Choo Choo, Trump Train, Choo Choo Trump Train.” They might think it’s cute, but they’re really setting themselves up for “derailing” jokes. Personally, I’d rather ride Via Business Class, and you know how I feel about THAT. Second, Canadians are blessed with a political leader in Trudeau who is and has been scandal-free, so no wonder he’s not more prevalent in the news. Because from what I’ve seen, the only way to catch the attention of the Canadian media these days is to say outrageous things and look like a Cheeto. So no wonder my poor hairdresser had no clue who Justin is—he’s actually focused on policy, both domestic and foreign, which doesn’t get him ANY traction with the media here, or anywhere else. On the other hand, our national affiliates are absolutely obsessed with Trump, reporting on his every ridiculous move, his most recent stupid statement. This morning, for example, he’s claiming the election is rigged, and that Hillary was on drugs during the last debate. “OMG,” everyone says, and rolls their eyes. “What will he do next?!” (That’s in Canada. Down in the States, half the population is screaming, “We knew it!! Hillary’s a dope fiend!!). At any rate, I’m happy that our Justin, like all truly competent politicians, keeps quietly plugging away, or tapping away, as the case may be. And I’ll bet HIS hairdresser knows who he is.

(Just for the record, this is a criticism of the Canadian media, NOT the hairdressing profession. In fact, my regular stylist, Emily (which IS her real name and you should totally go to her), is 22 years old, owns her own business, and is extremely well-informed about world issues. She’s also very well-read, and likes to discuss books while she’s wrapping my hair in foil.)

Friday: Fire Drill fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Week 87: Preparing for Surgery, Weird Wednesday

Saturday: I prepare for surgery

Don’t worry—this is going to be funny, not serious like last week. I got a lot of excellent feedback on my take on Participation Ribbons, but mostly it was like, “Great post, but it didn’t make me laugh.” Thanks, Mom, lol. She also suggested last week after a particularly funny conversation about a “lady-hair ripping party” that I write about my upcoming surgery, and initially I was like, “No way—it’s too personal!” But then I thought, if I was getting my appendix out, I’d definitely write about it, and God knows I’ve already shared some pretty personal stuff on this site, so here it goes.

I’m having a hysterectomy. Yep, I said it. I’m not the first woman to ever have one, and I certainly won’t be the last. But it’s me, and it came as a shock. If you read “Christmas at the Emergency Room”, I dropped some pretty heavy hints about what was going on, but honestly, I was more worried about the promise I’d made to Russia about donating my uterus to their scientists in an earlier post about head transplants, because I had intimated—well, stated very emphatically—that my womb was in excellent working condition, or at least it had been the last time it had been used for anything. I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of implied warranty there, and I didn’t want to get sued by the Russian government for false advertising, especially since I’d criticized their war efforts. Then they’d be like, “Vat?! You think ve suck at var? Vell, your uterus is piece of shit—vorse than LADA. Ve vant our rubles back.” (I don’t know what kind of accent that’s going to play out like, so just pretend it’s Russian.)

So after my emergency room incident, I waited to see a surgeon, and in a bizarre twist of fate, he’s RUSSIAN. Or Czech, or some kind of Slavic, but I’m counting it anyway. As of next week, I will have officially fulfilled my debt and diverted an international incident. But aside from that, I discovered I was living in a dream world (which is not unusual for me, but still…). I’d had my gall bladder out in my early 30s, and I figured it would be as simple as that—the surgeon, dressed in a tuxedo, would reach into my lady tunnel, and pull out my uterus like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a top hat. “Abracadabra!” he would say in his Russian accent, holding it up triumphantly for the audience of nurses and interns, and waving a magic wand. There was also glitter, and a scantily dressed assistant who smiled in a sexy way while the surgeon bowed.  And that would have been totally awesome, but unfortunately, that’s not how it’s actually going to happen, according to my surgeon, who explained all about “reconstruction” and “mesh slings” and other rather nasty procedures, according to the Youtube videos I’ve watched. Note to self: NEVER watch a video about the surgery you’re going to have. I was 30 seconds in, when I screamed, “OH HELL NO!” and desperately searched for videos about kittens.

Yet, while I’m filled with trepidation about the surgery, I’m also relieved. I have something called “uterine prolapse”, which you can look up if you REALLY need to know. And it’s gotten worse in the last couple of weeks to the point where I really don’t enjoy the force of gravity and would prefer to do everything from a horizontal position. Let me just say, there’s a real sense of betrayal you get when one of your body parts wants to abandon you and go on a road trip. Also, as a professional, it’s really difficult to have a conversation with your director when all you can think is “God, I need to readjust my internal organs.” Of course, as with most things related to female anatomy, the medical profession is remarkably blasé. When I asked what I should do if it actually fell out completely, the emergency room doctor told me to “just shove it back in”. It took several months for me to even see a specialist, since this is not considered an “emergency”. Seriously? Do you really think that if a guy went to his doctor and said, “My prostate gland is coming out of my ass!” that the doctor would say, “No worries—just shove it back in.” No—that guy would be on full bedrest, with a private nurse holding his hand and feeding him ice cream. In fact, I’ve often said that if men had to have their testicles checked in the same way that women have to have their breasts examined, the mammogram would never exist. Instead, it would be soothing music, incense, and some kind of weird-ass robot reiki. Ken says that I’m being reverse-sexist when I say things like that, but I honestly can’t see a doctor saying to a guy, “It happens to men all the time. You’ll just have to deal with it.”

The most interesting part of this whole experience was realizing that I would have to be “shorn” for the procedure, which really freaked me out. I’ve never in my life “mowed the lawn”; the most I’ve ever done is trim the hedges. But frankly, the thought of an untrained nurse attacking my lady parts with a dull Bic was more than I could take. So I called up a local spa, explained the situation, and made an appointment for the FULL BRAZILIAN. “No problem,” said the reception. “I’ll set you up with Brittany. I’ve never had it done myself, but she has a good reputation for being very quick. She doesn’t linger.” LINGER?! Why the f*ck WOULD anyone linger?! I would think we’d BOTH want it over as soon as humanly possible. I’d be like, “Please tell me you’re done!” and she’d say, “Oh my god, yes!” And then we’d give a long distance high five and never see each other again.

I got to the spa, and Brittany came out to take me upstairs. She was young, and solid-looking, which I think would be important for the expedient and determined removal of lady hair—any hesitation might result in the client simply running out the door. “Have you had this done before?” she asked.

“Nope, first time,” I answered.

“Well, I’ll be honest up front,” she said. “This is really going to hurt.”

“I have four tattoos and I’ve given birth…”

“Yeah. This is a totally different kind of hurt. But it’s over really quick.”

Did it hurt? You bet your ass it did. At one point, I gasped and started laughing hysterically. “I don’t know why I’m laughing,” I said.

“Oh,” she answered breezily. “Some people laugh, some people cry, some people refuse to open their legs.”

“Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?”

“It sure does,” she laughed. “There, you’re just about done. You’re doing great!”

She was right—it was quick. When I paid the bill, the receptionist asked how it went. “It was fast, thank God,” I said.

“Yes, Brittany’s good like that,” she smiled.

I left a tip, which, when you think about it, was totally appropriate, if tipping is for good service.

So while I may be scared sh*tless about the surgery, at least I have one less thing to worry about. (As a side note, I’m currently one of the few people I know who can actually say, “I’m literally beside myself right now.” Unlike other people who say that when they really mean “figuratively beside myself.”) Ultimately, my plan is to stay drugged up, watch a lot of Netflix, and drink a lot of wine. Best. Vacation. Ever.

waxpot

Wednesday: All the weird things

Wednesday was one of those days. I’d made plans with my sister-in-law to meet at a spa because I really needed a massage, and she really needed to work out, which honestly, is a need I’ve never been able to relate to. But I got my own workout on the way there, because I decided to walk and I miscalculated how far away the spa actually was. Also, the weather was outrageously humid, and I was dying by the time I was halfway there. I had underestimated the distance so badly that, every time I saw stoplights up ahead and realized it STILL wasn’t my street, I swore copiously, as in “Shuter Street?! What the f*ck!” But on the way there, I saw a man coming towards me. His head was down, he was all sweaty, and he was breathing hard. As he got closer, I realized it was John, one of the homeless guys from my neighbourhood. He looked up and recognized me, and we smiled at each other. “Hey, John,” I said. “Oh hi! How are you?” he answered. “Can I get some money for a cold drink? I won’t use it for alcohol.” So I emptied all the change out of my wallet and put it in his hand, which was weird because I normally put it in his hat. But it was kind of cool, like we were friends and I was just loaning him some money like I would with a co-worker who needed change for the vending machine, except if my co-worker had qualified the request with “I won’t use it for alcohol”, I might have suggested counselling. He said, “Thanks! See you later!” and off he went.

Then I met my sister-in-law, and we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I was going to name it here, but the manager just sent me an apology. For what? you might ask. I’d ordered gluten-free pasta because I have a gluten allergy, and it was so undercooked that it was inedible, so I left at least ¾ on the plate. When the waitress asked if I had enjoyed it, I told her “No”, and her response was this: “Well, YOU ordered the gluten-free pasta.” Then she walked away. I was kind of shocked at being personally blamed because their chef couldn’t cook. A few weeks ago, I ordered gluten-free pizza at a different restaurant, and when it came, it was burned. ITonstead of blaming me and saying, “Well, you didn’t specify UNBURNED,” the waitress apologized profusely and got me another one. That was at Scaddabush, which I don’t mind naming because their food is awesome, and their staff is lovely. Go there if you’re ever in Toronto. Tell them I sent you.

Finally, I was back in my condo and settling in for the night when the building’s fire alarm went off. It’s hideously loud and comes in through a PA system in each unit. I started to panic a little, being on the 27th floor, and wished I had some rope AND training on how to a) tie knots and b) rappel down a set of balconies. Which would never happen in real life, because the only way I EVER go out on my balcony is by holding onto the patio door jamb, then stepping out with one foot and leaning towards the railing only as far as I can go without releasing the door jamb. As I always say, “I’m not afraid of heights; I’m just afraid of falling FROM them.” Which means that I can go on roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and airplanes, but I can’t parachute, ride in a hot air balloon, or stand on my balcony.  It’s all a matter of being strapped in. Anyway, 6 firetrucks showed up, and I was straining to see them without actually getting close to the railing, when it occurred to me that a better use of my time would be to make a pile of all the things I would want to take with me if I had to evacuate. First was the external hard drive with copies of all of Ken’s photographs of flowers, clouds, Christmas ornaments, and cows. Next came the small collection of jewelry that I keep in my condo. A piece of driftwood from the cottage beach, the wooden goblet that Ken had hand lathed for me for Christmas, and I was set, because I had doubles of everything else at home. There were several pieces of artwork, but I figured if the time came, I could throw them in my suitcase at the last minute, then run down all 27 flights of stairs like a mad tourist. Just as I was about to take the first painting off the wall, I heard someone clear his throat. It was the Obnoxious Chair.

OC: Aren’t you forgetting something?
Me: Like what? Oh right, I probably need shoes.
OC: Not shoes, you idiot. I’m thinking of a particular chair you know.
Faint voice from the bedroom: I am in here, cherie, patiently waiting.
OC: Not that French bastard! I’m talking about me!
Me: You’re kidding right? You really think I’m going to carry you down 27 flights of stairs after the way you constantly behave?
OC: Hey, the last time the men were here to service your fan coil, I was really good. I kept my distance, even though they were sketchy and were touching your underwear.
Me: What?!
OC: Underwear, fan coil, whatever.
Me: The most I’ll do is throw you off the balcony. You can take your chances with gravity.
OC: Hah! Like you’d ever go out there. Well, suit yourself. And by the way, a little fire would do wonders for the décor in here.
Me: You’re a jerk.
OC: Screw you.
French Chair: I’m waiting, ma petite chou. We shall escape together, as I’ve always dreamed. Perhaps to ze Casbah.

Just then, the concierge came over the PA to announce that the fire department had given the all-clear, and that we could “resume our normal activities.” I felt a little letdown after creating such an elaborate escape plan, but at least I knew who I’d take with me, and what would be left behind to burn.