J.K.

I woke up on Thursday morning to a notification that I had a new comment to moderate on my blog. I have things set so that any new commenter has to be approved, and then once approved has carte blanche to say anything they like. Spam, of course, is filtered out right away; otherwise, my entire site would be littered with people encouraging me to buy backrest pillows shaped like baseball caps, kamagra jelly, various antibiotics and other drugs, and comments like:

“It’s perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it’s time to be happy.
I’ve read this publish and if I may just I desire to recommend you some fascinating
issues or advice. Perhaps you can write next articles regarding
this article. I want to learn more issues about it!”

Or

“I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never
found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me.
In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet
will be much more useful than ever before.”

And while I’m happy to be making the internet more useful than ever before, I am very aware that these are just autobots. So imagine my surprise on a sunny Thursday morning to discover that J.K Rowling HERSELF had left a comment on my blog to be moderated. It was a particularly eloquent comment too. Now, before I tell you what the comment was, I should probably state for the record that, while I love Harry Potter, the books AND the movies, I am NOT, for personal reasons, a huge J.K. Rowling fan and I may or may not have responded to her more transphobic tweets by telling her exactly how I felt about her. Still, she took the time to read my blog and even better, she left a comment on my About page. The comment read as follows:

Trash ass blog? That’s the best you can do, J.K.? Not even a cool spell like ‘Trashicus Assicus Blogamundo!’? And it’s obvious that her editors had washed their hands of this pithy tome, with nary an upper-case letter in sight. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In addition, J.K., my ass is not trash and I have the receipts, and by receipts I mean the results of my last colorectal screening, to prove it. But then it occurred to me—maybe this wasn’t really J.K. Rowling. But I looked up the website and it took me straight to Wizarding World: The Official Home of Harry Potter. The email address was jkrowling@gmail.com. Hmmm. Seemed legit. Perhaps this was her revenge for that tweet I sent. So I emailed her and asked if she had posted a comment on my blog, and wouldn’t you know it? She must have been so ashamed of herself that she deleted her email address because my email got immediately bounced back.

And now I’m starting to wonder if this is, perhaps, the work of an imposter, albeit one with terrible writing skills and a definite lack of humour, an imposter who has gone to an awful lot of trouble only to leave an incredibly stupid comment on my About page. Actually, it’s even more nonsensical, because the comment was a reply to a reply that I had given to someone else’s comment, not even on one of the posts where I mention anything to do with Harry Potter. This is one of my favourites—thanks fake J.K. for giving me an excuse to promote it:

Fan Question 2) Who do you call if you have a noisy bathroom fan?

I Fix Noisy Bath Fans

Apparently you call this guy—talk about a niche market. I can picture the high school Careers class with the teacher asking everyone, “So what do you want to do when you get out of high school?” and the one guy just lighting up: “I want to fix noisy bathroom fans!” and the teacher saying, “Amazing—there’s a school JUST for that! It’s called Hogwarts!” I don’t know why I thought of Hogwarts, but it made me laugh so hard picturing this guy at a school for magic and wizardry pointing his wand and yelling ‘Reparo’ at bathroom fans. Also, his name in this strange divergency is ‘Tim’ as in the following conversation:

Dumbledore: Hmm. My bathroom fan seems to be on the fritz. Someone get Tim—he’s the best at repairing noisy bathroom fans.
Tim: Reparo!
Dumbledore: Thank you, Tim. Have a lemon drop.

Honestly, if I was going to create a fake name, website, and email address just to say something snarky on a person’s blog, I would at least have made the comment worth reading, like “A backrest pillow for bed that provides a soft and comfortable material is perfect. It’s going to support your entire body, so the aches in your shoulders and back will disappear. This will give you the best night’s sleep you can have, allowing you to wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.” Now THAT’S useful information.

Update: Apparently the dumb f*ck masquerading as J.K. Rowling clicked on other people who had commented previously on my About Page and left them rude comments too. Weirdo.

Quilt Update: 8 and 1/3 rows and then my 1936 Singer sewing machine had a nervous breakdown. I’ve borrowed Ken’s mom’s machine and now I have to figure out how THAT works.

Playing Around

Over the last few weeks, the AZ vaccine was made available to Gen Xers and, in Canada at least, most of us rushed to get it, because as many people recognized, those of us in Generation X are pretty devil-may-care, that’s how we were raised, and we don’t give a f*ck. Blood clots? I’ll take my damn chances if it means that people stop getting sick, small businesses can open, or I can have a graduation party for Kate. So I decided to repost this satirical look at the way our childhoods were different from kids today, originally written almost 5 years ago when kids were allowed to hang out on playgrounds without masks. I hope you enjoy…

 I was watching the news at lunch on Thursday, and there was a feature on “playground safety”. A very serious and sincere woman was instructing parents on how to “inspect” their local playground to make sure it was safe for their children. Her following gems of wisdom made me realize how much the lives of children have changed since I was a kid:

1) “Make sure the playground equipment is on a soft surface such as sand or wood chips.” This is so that, in case of a fall from the monkey bars, it’s less likely the child will suffer a broken bone. Well, in my day, we didn’t have “playground equipment”. There were swings and slides, and they were usually on concrete pads, and if you happened to fall off, it was no skin off anyone’s knee but your own. The best piece of playground equipment from my childhood had to be the giant metal rocket at Churchill Park. You had to climb into it via a metal ladder that went all the way up through very tight openings to platforms at different heights. The whole structure was on a slight angle and the top platform was probably 20 feet off the ground, which made it all a little disorienting, but you were encased in a metal cage (picture a rocket-shaped Wicker Man), so it was perfectly safe unless you lost your footing and slipped off the ladder. But see, all this taught us to be CAREFUL. It was like when hockey players used to play without helmets—they thought twice before trying to block a slap shot with their heads. Now, it’s just a free-for-all, with pucks flying everywhere, and kids leaping from platform to platform or swinging maniacally off stuff without a care in the world. Really though, in my day, we had better things to do than be all supervised on a playground. The best playground in the world when I was a kid was a construction site. I remember the good old days, racing around among the nails, concrete blocks, and roof trusses, then a gang of us would swing down into the basement through an open window, and play tag. Was it dangerous? F*ck yes, it was dangerous. One time when I was too small to get in and out by myself, the neighbourhood kids swung me in, then forgot about me later when it was time to go home. After a couple of hours, my mom started to get worried and, eventually a search party found me. Sure, it was scary being down there by myself, screaming for help and whatnot, and sure, I have an intense fear of climbing through tight spaces like windows or holes in metal platforms, but it made me TOUGH. Not like these babies today.

2) “Thoroughly inspect the equipment to ensure there are no damaged areas or sharp edges.” This is good advice for today’s playgrounds, which are all made out of plastic and easily broken. Or vandalised. But that was the great thing about the slides and swings of my youth. They were sturdy and iron and medieval-looking and held together with giant bolts and chain ropes. You couldn’t damage them if you tried. You would literally need a gang of kids wielding sledgehammers to even dent the slide in my neighbourhood. Was the bottom edge sharp? Sure. Was it rusty? I would certainly hope so. Otherwise, what was the point of getting a f*cking tetanus shot?

3) “Teach your children about the ‘zone of safe passage’.” What the playground safety expert meant by this was that parents need to assist kids in observing other children swinging and running, and figure out how far away they need to be from them to not get kicked or knocked down. When I was a kid, no one taught you that sh*t—you learned via the school of hard knocks, pardon the pun. In other words, if you ran by someone on the swing set and got a foot in the face, you very quickly learned the “zone of safe passage” on your own. There were no adults screaming, “Veer left, Tommy! Veer Left!! Remember the zone of safe pass—Oooh!” Our parents taught us one rule, and it was the most important rule of all: “Never chase a ball onto the road. But if you’re already playing on the road, move when you see a car coming.” That was their wisdom, and it saved my life many a time. Actually, both of my parents saved my life at one time or another. Mom saved my life at a baseball game. It was before the age of netting to protect the spectators, and a fly ball was coming straight for my head. She stuck out her hand and deflected it away. The bruise on her hand later was a very good indication of what might have happened to my skull if she hadn’t been so quick-thinking. She also saved my brother from drowning on more than one occasion. My dad saved my life one day when he happened to look out a bedroom window and saw me dangling by the collar from the branch of a pear tree in our backyard, slowly choking. I’ve never seen him run so fast. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for helping me survive to adulthood.

4) “Smoking is now banned on playgrounds, so be vigilant and remind those who might not be aware.” NO SMOKING?! What? I’m sorry, but the only reason that I’m only slightly asthmatic is because my lungs were toughened up by years of second hand smoke (and first-hand as well, of course—it WAS the seventies). It’s funny how attitudes change over the years. When I was a kid, ANYONE could buy cigarettes. I still remember my mom giving me a note and a couple of dollars, and sending me to the local store to buy her a pack of Rothmans. I’d stand there in line with the other 6 year-olds, shooting the sh*t about the latest Barbie outfits, or what construction site or vacant lot we’d be meeting at later, or what vacationing family had left their milk door unlocked, then spending the change from the cigarettes on sugar candy. (Milk door, in case you’re wondering, was a tiny door next to the actual door. The milkman would open it from the outside, put the milk in, then the family could open a second door from the inside and get the milk. If you went on vacation and forgot to lock the milk door, you were an open target for the neighbourhood kids. The smallest one, usually me, would squeeze through the opening and let the others in. So if you came back from a trip and all your cookies and cigarettes were gone, you knew you’d forgotten to lock the milk door.) But people back when I was young were not as knowledgeable about the dangers of smoking. In fact, my mom, like many women, smoked through both her pregnancies. Of course, she’ll tell you she’s glad she did, because otherwise, my brother, who has a Ph.D., and I would be “insufferable” and much taller than his 6’1” and my 5’6”. Now, of course, some women are so paranoid that they won’t eat peanut butter if they’re pregnant because it “might cause allergies”. I say expose ‘em early and often—it’s the best way to toughen them up. I remember once being told off by a colleague when I was pregnant with Kate for drinking a Pepsi. No, not because it wasn’t a Coke—she said, “Don’t you know what the caffeine might do to the baby?” I was like “Hopefully keep her awake all day so she doesn’t kick the sh*t out of my stomach tonight when we should both be sleeping.” I feel terrible though—she might have gotten MORE scholarships to university if I’d gone with Pepsi Free.

Overall, I just think that monitoring your child’s every move is counterproductive to childhood. And of course, I’m exaggerating about my own youth—my parents took very good care of me and my brother, but not in that “in your face” kind of way. My dad calls it “Carefully supervised neglect,” which to me, means that you let your kid be a kid, but you’re always there to stop the baseball or the drowning, as the case may be. Personally, I’ve tried to embrace that saying, but I get that it’s not always easy. The world seems to have become a more scary place than it was 40 years ago, or maybe as an adult, I’m just more aware of it now than I was when I was young. All I know is that the first time Kate wanted to go to the store by herself (it’s just around the corner and she was 10), I had to stifle every protective instinct I had. She was gone about 30 seconds when I broke down and begged Ken to act like a stealth ninja and follow her at a safe distance so Kate wouldn’t know he was there. Ken, of course, obliged, and came back to report that she was fine—that she had made it safely through the four-way stop and was on her way home with some sugar candy and a pack of smokes.

Quilt Update: 7 rows complete and 13 to go. You can see the pattern starting to form, maybe?

It’s Toxic

I’m currently being plagued by toxicity. No, I don’t mean I’m surrounded by toxic people—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m particularly fortunate to have many incredible people in both my life and work. No, when I say toxic, I’m referring to the song. Yes, Toxic by Britney Spears. I’ve had that f*cking song in my head now for several days and it’s evolved from an ear worm into a serpent. At first it was amusing. “What’s that song playing in my head?” I asked myself last week. “Oh, Britney. Fun.”  A couple of days later, I was like, “Toxic? Still? What the hell?” as it became more persistent and annoying. Yesterday, it ramped up to the point where I started getting worried. Every time I stop actively thinking, I realize it’s there, playing in the background, over and over again. And the worst part is that I don’t even know all the goddamn words so it’s mostly just Britney mumbling and then belting out the chorus. I actually woke up at 3 am yesterday and the first thing I heard was “With the taste of a sip I’m drinking rye/It’s toxic, I’m hearing thunder…” and it’s even more worrisome that my brain is filling in the lyrics like THAT.

Now, I’m no stranger to the ear worm. I get them pretty regularly, thanks to good old OCD, usually based on something I’ve just listened to, but after a couple of hours or a couple of glasses of wine, they disappear. And because I have a semi-eidetic memory, I usually know the lyrics and can sing along. The week before I began my battle with the Britney Army (slight tangent: I just googled ‘what are Britney Spears’ fans called?’ but first I misspelled ‘what’ and it autofilled ‘what are hemorrhoids?’. Then I misspelled ‘Britney’ and again it autofilled with ‘what are hemorrhoids?’ To be clear, I have never done any research on that topic and thus far in my life I haven’t needed to, but it concerns me that Google associates Britney Spears with butt ailments, so I investigated further and went down a rather terrifying hemorrhoidal rabbit hole and now I know more about the topic than I ever wanted to, and I still don’t know why I can’t get Toxic out of my head.), I had Shame by Foo Fighters playing on a loop, but that was okay because a) I love Foo Fighters and b) it’s an awesome song and c) I knew all the words so I just started merrily singing along.

But now? Is it an omen? Is it a warning? Is the universe trying to tell me something? Could it be related to the sudden upswing in my OCD due to all the adhesive rug grippers I bought suddenly letting go due to several rather vigorous games of boogedy boogedy with Atlas, resulting in my carefully symmetrized rugs being askew once again (I should have known there might be issues with the product when I saw the instruction that read “For renew the sticky, wipe with cloth”)? OR…hear me out: Is Britney in danger and needs my help to free her? Well, if that’s the case, she’s sh*t out of luck, because we’re under yet another stay at home order. Sorry, Brit. At this point, I’m just resigned to having the damn song in my head forever. And you know what they say—the next step after resignation is acceptance, so hit me baby, one more time.

Quilt Update: All patches are cut, and the design has been laid out. Ken figured out how to use the sewing machine because he made a wooden marionette out of some scrap wood and decided to sew it a little shirt and pair of pants. I’ve named the marionette Marty, and he’s adorable in a kind of grotesque way and definitely has Ken’s fashion sense, but at least now Ken can teach me how to sew. Also, just in case you think I haven’t been busy, I also made this cool bookcase out of a 1970s grandfather clock shell.

As I Was Saying

The other day, I was in a meeting, listening intently as one does, when suddenly a colleague said, “Yes, if we do that, it’s like killing two birds with one shovel.” I immediately did a double-take, first because things seemed to have escalated quickly from talking about policy decisions to violently murdering birds, and second, because as far as I know, the original saying is “Kill two birds with one stone” and where the hell did the shovel come from?! I mean, the original saying is bad enough—I suppose it means accomplishing two things at once, but who was the sadist who thought the best metaphor for that was the slaughter of our avian friends with projectiles? And now we’ve upped the game to some bizarre game of stealth, because there’s no way you can bludgeon two birds with one shovel unless you have the reflexes of a ninja (and the soul of a serial killer). And it got me thinking about other weird sayings:

1) A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush

Is it really though? Have you ever actually tried to hold a bird in your hand? Those little f*ckers get pretty pecky. I’d much rather have two birds merrily singing in a bush than one of them trying to bite my damn finger off.

2) Eating crow

This saying is interchangeable with “eating humble pie” and let me tell you, I’d much rather eat pie than a crow. Is the crow IN a pie? How is crow best served? Personally, if I was forced to eat a crow, I’d like it in a stir fry, smothered with spicy peanut sauce and served with a side of rice noodles. Or I could just not eat it at all, because according to the first idiom, I would have to kill it with a stone. Or a shovel. Neither of those options sounds appealing.

3) Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Were old-timey people really this villainous, with their birdicide and baby neglect? I used to think that this expression meant one thing, but apparently I was wrong:

Me: So throwing the baby out with the bathwater refers to someone being stupid, right? Like “He’s so dumb, he threw the baby out with the bathwater.” And then he had to go get the baby and give it another bath because it was all muddy and whatnot?
Ken: No, it’s an old saying from when people only bathed once a week. First, the grandparents had a bath, then the parents, then all the kids. By the time the baby’s turn came, the water was so dirty that no one realized the baby was in the bathtub.
Me: So the person who was bathing the baby was like, “Yawn, think I’ll go have a drink” and just forgot about the baby? I suspect my initial assumption was right.
Ken: No, it means losing something you like along with something you don’t.
Me: Well, I like babies. I’m changing this to “throwing the pearls out with the jewelry box”.
Ken: Random, but OK.

4) Like taking candy from a baby

This expression is SUPPOSED to mean that something was really easy, but it’s completely inaccurate. Have you ever actually tried to take candy from a baby? They will scream and pout and generally make your life miserable. I wasn’t even allowed to dip into Kate’s Hallowe’en haul without being accused of grand larceny. Seriously. Just TRY taking candy from babies. They will cut you.

Of course, the current popular expression around our house is “YOU GO, PELETON!” because Peleton has upped their game with new commercials showing people exercising and being called out personally by the virtual trainers, and I really wanted a Peleton so that I could be part of the cool club. But they’re super-expensive, so instead, Ken promised to randomly yell, “YOU GO, PELETON!” or “YOU DID THAT, PELETON!” at me for encouragement. And the best part is that I don’t even have to exercise. Easy as crow pie.

Eye of the Needle

Last week, I got a new tattoo. I love tattoos—I already have five of them, and now that I have Prime TV, I’ve been bingewatching Ink Master, which is a great show with a surprising amount of drama. So I was super-excited to book an appointment with Nathan at New Rise Studio, who’s the son of one of Ken’s former colleagues, and I’ve been following Nathan’s work through her Facebook page for ages. I finally made the appointment with him at the beginning of December for a January date, and just before the glorious day came, we went into lockdown again, postponing everything indefinitely. I finally was able to get the new tattoo done last week and it turned out exactly the way I hoped. And Nathan was very cool and not at all freaky like the last guy I went to, who not only gave me a tattoo but also regaled me about the time he was a Chippendales’ dancer, and told me about his stepson’s sex life.

It might seem weird that I got my own book cover tattooed on my arm, like very narcissistic and whatnot, but I don’t care. I’d originally envisioned something much smaller and less ostentatious but when Nathan showed me what he’d designed, I thought, Why the hell not?

And now my plan is to get ALL my book covers tattooed on me at some point, so I’m literally covered in covers. But that isn’t why I’m telling you this story. No, I’m telling you this as the context for a very misogynistic conversation I had recently, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

This week, I got a call out of the blue to come the next day to a hospital where a surgeon would perform a procedure on my shoulder called ‘barbotage’, which is supposed to break up the calcium deposits in my shoulder and relieve the intense pain I’ve been in for months. You might remember that I had undergone shock wave therapy for the same thing, and I had to explain to several people that it wasn’t electroshock, like they were envisioning me with electrodes attached to my skull a la Frankenstein. The shock wave therapy, despite its hefty price tag (not all of it was covered by our provincial health program) didn’t work, obviously, since the calcium was still there like a rabid little ferret, chewing away on my tendons. I’m assuming that’s what a rabid ferret would do at any rate, as I have no actual experience with either rabies or ferrets. So I went to the hospital and was greeted by the ultrasound technician, who explained that she would use the ultrasound machine to guide the surgeon as he stuck a variety of needles into a variety of places in my shoulder, particularly this long tubular needle that he would use to break up the calcium. “Just to let you know,” she said ominously, “there’s a chance the tendon could tear, or you could get an infection. Also, it will bleed a bit. I’m obligated to tell you that.” It sounded TERRIFYING. But I thought “What would Dave Navarro do?” and I signed the release she gave me.

She left to go get the surgeon and I sat there waiting, almost sick with fear. They came back and after some chit chat (he had a deceptively charming English accent), I didn’t feel any more comforted:

 

Me: So I heard this procedure has a 90% success rate.
Surgeon: Meh. There haven’t been many clinical studies. It’s probably more like 60%. Fingers crossed.
Me:

Then he draped me and began the procedure:

Surgeon: I’m going to inject you with lidocaine. It will feel like a bee sting.
Me: Let me know when.
Surgeon: It’s already done. You’re okay?
Me: Yep.
Surgeon: Okay, now I’m going to inject your bursa with a local anaesthetic. Are you still good?
Me: I got a tattoo last week. This doesn’t hurt as much as that did, and the tattoo didn’t really hurt.
Surgeon: I’m going to insert the barbotage needle now…So you have a tattoo? My wife wants one, but I told her she wasn’t allowed to get one. And I told my kids that if either of THEM got one, they could find a new place to live.
Me:
Surgeon: How are you feeling? Just a few more minutes.
Me:

Like, what do you even say in response to that? I mean, I had a ton of things I could have said in response to that, but the dude had a giant needle stuck deep inside my shoulder, so I didn’t feel it was an appropriate moment to explain to him that we were living in the 21st century. I mean, could you imagine that kind of conversation at MY house?

Me: I’m going to get a tattoo.
Ken: You’re not allowed.
Me: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! See ya when it’s done, nerd.

The procedure was quickly finished up—it was nowhere near as bad as I’d thought—and he gave me some aftercare tips then vanished. Right before he left…I still didn’t say anything because what if I have to go back for another treatment? But if I do, I’m going to make sure I see Nathan FIRST.

Sh*t On A Stick

Yesterday morning, I woke up, opened my eyes and immediately grabbed my phone to text Ken (he was downstairs, but I’m lazy and the bed was so cozy):

I was filled with relief. And what could possibly have brought about this reverent—nay blissful—attitude towards the state of our dog’s bowels? Well, let’s backtrack a bit.

On Wednesday, I was in the middle of a meeting when Kate skidded into the room and announced loudly, “Atlas just threw up!” I managed to convince her that, having just been accepted into a Veterinary Technician program, cleaning it up would be great practice, so she did, and after my meeting was over, I went to investigate. It was A LOT. Then about half an hour after lunch, he did it again. And after his mid-afternoon snack. For dinner, we gave him a small amount of steamed rice and plain yogurt, and he seemed OK, so on Thursday morning, we gave him the same. Around 10 am, I let him out and he tossed up all the rice and yogurt. My heart sank, and I started immediately fearing the worst—either an obstruction or a tumour.

Let’s backtrack a little bit more. Atlas the monster dog, our canine enfant terrible, is a typical Lab. Which is to say, he will eat literally anything. I’ve pulled plastic tags, bottle caps, deck screws, my car key fob, and other assorted and bizarre items out of his mouth on a regular basis. A couple of weeks ago, he came into the house with a chunk of ice in his mouth (I’m in Canada and it’s winter) so I wasn’t too concerned, until Kate came home, saw him, and yelled, “Why the hell does the dog have glass in his mouth?!” Turns out it wasn’t ice. I have no idea where he could have gotten a large piece of glass from—Ken and I never put our recycling out back. I found him eating okra once outside too—I had to look it up, because I’ve never bought it before in my life. Where he gets this stuff is beyond me, and we’re also currently missing several jigsaw puzzle pieces and three of Kate’s earrings. So the idea of an obstruction was NOT far-fetched.

We took him to the vet on Thursday, where he spent the day, getting examined and tested. When Ken finally brought him home, he was tired but starving. The vet was pretty sure it wasn’t an obstruction, mostly because, as she put it, “He’s very…enthusiastic” which I took to mean that he was leaping into the air and yelling “Yee Hah!!” as he normally does whenever he knows liver treats are close by. She said to give him the stomach medicine she’d prescribed and not to feed him until Friday morning, then give him special canned food—one tablespoon every hour, and see if he held it down. But the most important thing was to make sure he was pooping. Which he didn’t. All day Friday, and all Friday night.

And then finally, it was Saturday morning and EUREKA!

Right now, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, What the heck is going on here? This is supposed to be a HUMOUR BLOG. None of this sh*t  is funny! But wait—there’s more.

Me: So where’s the poo?
Ken: Just over by the fence.
Me: Have you examined it yet?
Ken: Of course not. I was saving it for you.
Me: Awesome, thanks!
Ken: You’re not going out NOW, are you? It’s minus 5 and you’re in your pajamas.
Me: I need a long stick.

And if you’re not laughing at the thought of me, out there in my pajamas and slippers, ankle deep in snow, poking through my dog’s poop with a stick, I don’t know what to tell you. I didn’t find anything unusual in it, more’s the pity:

Kate: Did Atlas poop out my earrings yet?
Me: Not yet. Maybe next time.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to, am I right?

The Shane Of It All

On Tuesday morning, I was getting ready for work when my phone rang. I wouldn’t normally answer an actual phone call that early (or any time really unless it was family) but it was a Toronto number and I work with several people who live there. So I put down my blush brush and said, “Hello?” A woman’s voice answered: “Hello, I’m calling from Doctor ____’s office for Shane Brien.”

And there it was. Like an elusive ghost from the past, Blazefordayz Shane had suddenly reappeared.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Shane hasn’t had this number for a few years.”

The woman sounded confused, but said, “Okay, thank you. Goodbye” and she hung up.

For those of you who haven’t been here long enough to know the saga of Shane Brien, let me remind you quickly. I received a company cell phone about 4 years ago. Almost immediately, I began getting text messages about Soca parties, Facetime calls from Shane’s mother, messages from Shane’s jealous girlfriend (“You better not be with that Angela”) and invitations from his friends to play soccer, go to Vegas, and smoke weed, as well as various job offers from temp companies. In fact, one of my favourites was the time I was offered a ‘warehouse’ job, and after a certain amount of contemplation, I offered to get a team together and requested the blueprints to the warehouse (you can read all about this in My Week 226: All About The Bordens). The response was a confused “What do you mean?” and I realized I may have misjudged the situation.

Over the years, the calls and messages have continued sporadically. I tried to hunt down Shane, but to no avail. Unfortunately, there are several ways to spell both ‘Shane’ and ‘Brien’, leading to about nine permutations, none of which matched anyone on social media that I could see. But I did find out tidbits of information first from a jewelry chain, who had the number associated with a Shane Brien in Brampton. He also had a Canadian Tire Points Card, long expired. And now this—a doctor’s office calling for him.

It made me very concerned. After all, Shane and I go way back, and at a certain point, I began to feel quite motherly towards him. But after all these years, people STILL don’t know he changed his number and they’re STILL looking for him? And then I had a terrible thought: What if Shane had been murdered?!

In case you’re wondering why this escalated so quickly, I started watching a crime show on Netflix about a hotel called The Cecil where people have died or disappeared from. In the very first episode about a Chinese student who went there and was never seen again, I immediately, after an aerial shot of the roof, announced, “She’s in the water tank.” Ken looked it up online, and she was, indeed, found in the water tank, obviously because ‘putting bodies in water tanks’ is the new ‘tossing them into a dumpster’ in the world of crime dramas, and I’m REALLY good at solving mysteries. But it got me thinking, What if…

So bear with me: Shane Brien, a popular young man, goes to a jewelry store to purchase two gifts, each an engraved bracelet. One is for his fiancé, and the other is for a woman named Angela whom he is seeing ‘on the side’. After a heavy night of drinking and Soca dancing, Shane inadvertently gives the wrong gift to the fiancé, who is understandably furious. Little does Shane know that ‘Darla’ (that’s what I’m calling her) is the type of woman that you should never scorn. She begins to plot and plan. She goes to Canadian Tire and drains Shane’s points account with the purchase of an air fryer to establish her alibi—she couldn’t possibly be responsible for Shane’s impending disappearance—after all, she just bought an air fryer to make him chicken wings for f*ck sake! (Darla swears a lot when she’s nervous).

But she’s a small woman—how on earth will she exact her revenge on the duplicitous Shane? Then she has a brainstorm—she calls a ‘temp agency’ which is really a front for a criminal enterprise and asks to hire a ‘cleaner’. And as everyone knows, if a ‘warehouse job’ is a money heist, then a ‘cleaning service’ is obviously who you call when you want someone disappeared.

The ‘cleaning service’ is expensive, but Darla has access to all of Shane’s accounts as well as his passwords. She arranges to have them send Shane a text message advertising a rooftop SOCA party. Party of ONE, but Shane doesn’t know that yet.

“I’ll meet you there,” Darla says with a sweet smile. But she doesn’t. She just sits at home eating chicken wings (those air fryers are pretty goddamn awesome), waiting for the call telling her the ordeal is over. The ‘cleaning company’, in the meantime, has lured poor Shane up to the rooftop of a local hotel with the promise of sweet Soca music, and deposited him in the water tank. He’s never seen again.

Darla, of course, has the password to his cellphone account, which she cancels, although she continues to text Shane to establish a solid alibi and also throw suspicion onto ‘that Angela’. But the one thing she didn’t count on was that Shane’s cell phone number would be passed on to me, a crime drama afficionado. I hope I’m wrong about all this, but I rarely am.

Of course, there could be a much simpler explanation—Shane got a new cell phone and forgot to tell people he’d changed his number. But somehow, I doubt it…

Also, check back here on Wednesday for Creative Wednesdays—I have a big announcement!

Tested To My Limits

So last week, I had the MRI I was telling you about, and unfortunately, I didn’t sprout forklift arms. Not even fork hands, which would also have been cool, although somewhat of a step down. But I quickly got over it because this week, I had to have a CAT scan on my head to try and figure out why I haven’t been able to breathe out of my left nostril for a very long time. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do anything special for it, except for show up at the hospital early yesterday morning.

I was sitting in the waiting room when the radiologist came to get me. He called my name and introduced himself and my blood ran cold. “Yello,” he said. “My name is Sergei. I vill be doing your CAT scan. Come vis me.” Yes, he was Russian. Now, I have absolutely nothing against Russians, but several years ago, I almost caused an international incident with our Soviet comrades when I said the following as part of a post about giving up some of my organs to science:

“Just the other day, I read an article on an actual legitimate internet site about Russian researchers who are on the brink of being able to do a head transplant. They even have a patient lined up for the procedure, believe it or not. This, of course, led me to wonder though–under what possible circumstances would you EVER need a head transplant?! How the hell did you manage to get yourself decapitated in the first place? And if it were possible to re-attach a head to a body, wouldn’t you want your OWN head back? Where would you even find a body that had also lost its head so you could put the two of them together? Kate says that it’s for people who are quadriplegic, so that they can have more mobility, but in that case, wouldn’t it be a better use of medical research to figure out how to fix a spine, rather than aspire to be Dr. Frankenstein? Trust the Russians to do things the hard way—this is why they lost the war. Which war, you ask? Take your pick. I did some internet fact-checking because as we all know, historical accuracy isn’t one of my strengths, and it turns out that they lost almost every war they’ve ever been involved in. Sorry, Russia. They DID win the space race though, so hats off for that.”

Then a few days later, I was looking at my site statistics and realized that someone from Russia was reading my blog. So I did what any rational person would do under similar circumstances: I freaked out and called Ken:

Me: I think I’ve just caused an international incident.
Ken: What are you talking about?
Me: Remember last week when I was dissing the Russians for losing a lot of wars? Well, someone from Russia is reading my blog. What if it’s the KGB? What if they want my head?!
Ken: HAHAHAHA
Me: It’s not funny. If I go out for groceries and never come back, you’ll know why.
Ken: I’m sure no one is coming all the way from Russia to kidnap you and steal your head just because you said they were bad at war.
Me: YOU DON’T KNOW THAT, KEN!

So I spent several months afterwards worrying constantly about being reprimanded by Justin Trudeau for violating some kind of peace treaty, as one does, or having my head affixed atop a figure skater. I finally stopped thinking about it and assumed the Russians had forgiven me. But just when I thought that I had nicely dodged not only an international incident AND potential decapitation, I found myself at the mercy of Sergei, as he directed me to lie down on the bed and commanded “Tip your chin up, pliz.” I was just on the verge of yelling out, “No one is going to want my head—my mind is like a cross between a Monty Python sketch and a jukebox that never stops playing! It will make whoever you donate it to go crazy! Also, I said ALMOST all the wars–I’m sure you’ve won a couple, but history is not my strong suit!”—when I heard Sergei’s voice in the speaker above my head: “You’re all finished,” he said. “Have a nice day.”

“Spasibo,” I answered, just to be on the safe side.

I’m including the picture below because I know a lot of people have been feeling down lately, and after I took it, I said, “This looks like a beacon of hope.” Of course, that could just be me all tired and sentimental after a week of medical testing, but you have to admit, it’s peaceful and pretty.

The Art Of The Deal

It’s been yet another one of those weeks where the days seem to blur into each other, and where the highlight was receiving a conference call before 7:30 in the morning from a colleague who had butt-dialled the entire team. Cue several confused voices all worried that something major was going on, but all we could hear in the background was the sound of someone getting ready for work. Because I’m me, I posted a gif in the team chat a while later that said, “When you pocket-dial the entire team…” with a picture of Hugh Laurie from House going, “Oops” (I didn’t say butt-dial in the team chat because I’m a professional, dammit). Later, I noticed that everyone but the culprit had reacted to the gif, so I got suspicious and messaged him:

Me: Did you like the gif I posted?
Colleague: Yes, lol.
Me: You know why I posted it, right?
Colleague: No, why?

At that point, I may or may not have led him to believe that it was a video call, and he was momentarily horrified:

Colleague: What was on screen?!
Me: Well…
Colleague: Seriously? Omg???

I finally put him out of his misery and assured him that it was audio only. I can’t be too judgmental though—I’m the one who answers video calls by putting the phone to my ear, which I’m sure my co-workers appreciate.

At any rate, this week I was looking for cheap jigsaw puzzles and happened to be on Facebook Marketplace. Some of the ads are quite interesting as I’ve discussed before and, based on what I’ve seen, it occurs to me that I could make a fortune at helping people market their crap on there. So here are my four tips to making a great sale:

1) Truth in advertising

If you’re trying to sell something, it’s important that you’re honest with your customers and this advertisement is demonstrably inaccurate. There is no old ass in this painting anywhere—no elderly politician, no giant donkey, no wrinkled butt to be seen. The only ass in the picture belongs to the boar and it looks remarkably youthful. I was expecting something completely different based on the description, as you can well imagine. Also, it’s become de rigeur to set a price of $123 if you have no clue how much something is worth, yet below it says, “Sold at auction for €3000 euros which is like $4600 Canadian”. So the painting is already sold? Is this just someone bragging? Instead of sending the polite auto-message that says “Good afternoon, is this still available?”, I really wanted to send, “WTF is this?” But then I checked the profile picture of the seller, which featured a young couple who looked as though they imbibed frequently on certain mind-altering substances, and suddenly the whole thing made sense in a drug-fuelled fantasy kind of way. Still, the truth is important and this old ass painting has yet to sell.

2) Clarity

While this ad is accurate—there ‘is’ indeed two of them—the question remains: Two of WHAT? And the question remains unanswered in the description below, which simply reiterates, “There is two of them”. Did the person who posted this ad really think the picture speaks for itself? Because the only thing it’s saying to me is “There is two of them.” After that, I’m at a loss. Clarity—because none of us are f*cking mind readers.

3) Don’t get too fancy

I’ve never been to Antigue Dispaly, which I assume is one of the minor islands off the coast of Antigua. And I also don’t know how many styles of cabinets they make there, but I’m assuming at least 16 based on this ad. But is all of that really necessary? Do you really need to dazzle potential customers with your exotic Antigue wood? IT’S A CABINET. No one cares where it comes from, Bob. If it was that rare, you’d be asking a hell of a lot more than $175 so take it down a notch.

4) Be willing to compromise

This ad is a perfect example of someone who truly understands marketing. First, it’s completely accurate and honest. The ad description says “Sold” and it’s a picture of the word “Sold”. Second, it’s very clearly written and easily understandable—nothing convoluted here. Third, it’s not fancy—there’s no swirly font, and it just screams simplicity the way it’s on a piece of lined paper and whatnot. Finally, Debbra knows that her audience appreciates a good buy and has dropped the rather hefty asking price by 50% for a quick sale. This is what it’s all about, people.

I hope you appreciate my sound marketing advice, and with that in mind, I leave you to guess what this ad featuring Sir Turdalot is for (hint—he’s not for sale).

Jumping The Shark

OK, so this week has been pretty busy, I’m exhausted, and around midnight last night, I had still had nothing in mind to write about. Then, just as I was drifting off to sleep, a voice in my head said, “Sharks are so cool.” I woke Ken up and said, “In the morning, remind me that I need to write about sharks.” He was like, “Sharks. Right.” But then I wrote it down myself because I knew he wouldn’t remember; in fact, I just asked him a minute ago to remind me what I told him last night and he said, “Glass. You were going to write about glass.” Unfortunately, I am nowhere near as obsessed with glass as I am with sharks. And I know that sounds weird, living nowhere near an ocean as I do, but I’ve had a thing for sharks ever since I was little and we were in England, where we watched some fishermen inspect their haul and throw all the dogfish back in the water.

“What are those?” I asked. “They’re so CUTE!”

“They’re dogfish,” my mother said. “They’re like tiny sharks.”

And I was like, if this is how adorable a TINY shark is, imagine how majorly awesome a HUGE shark would be!! So this week, in honour of sharks, here are my top 5 Shark Moments, in chronological order:

1) When I was around 9, my grandmother offered to take me to the movies in another city, which involved a very long bus trip. This was in the days when the cinemas were on Main Street instead of in a strip mall or a ‘cineplex’. When we got there, there were two movie theatres on the same block. One was playing “Blazing Saddles”, the G rated comedy she was SUPPOSED to take me to see. The other theatre was playing “Jaws”. I begged her instead to take me to see “Jaws”, although I didn’t have to try to hard—my gran was one of those ‘laissez-faire’ English people, and her response was “Whatevs. Don’t tell yer mam.” If you’ve ever seen “Jaws”, you’ll know that by the end of the first minute, I was absolutely terrified. But after a little while, the terror turned into fascination, and by the end of the movie, I was kind of cheering for the shark, especially after that woman slapped Sheriff Brody, and I was like, “It’s not his fault—maybe you shouldn’t have let your kid swim in shark-infested waters—it’s not like he didn’t TRY to warn you. And don’t be blaming the shark either—he’s just doing what sharks DO.” By the time the movie finished, when the shark makes its first real appearance, I was in love. Later that week, I saw in the TV guide that there was a movie on about a shark, and I begged my mom to stay up late and watch it. She was confused but reluctantly agreed. Then the movie started:

Me: When will we see the shark?
Mom: What shark?
Me: The movie is about a lone shark. Like Jaws.
Mom: (laughing) Uh no—it’s about a ‘loan shark’. That’s a man you borrow money from, and if you don’t pay him back, he breaks your legs.
Me: What?! I’m going to bed.

2) The next year, when I was 10, my brother and I were absolutely fanatical about this novelty record that had just been released called “Santa Jaws”. It was a collection of Christmas carols, all rewritten to include sharks. Our favourite was “God rest ye merry gentlemen/You’re not so merry now./The seaside signs said not to swim/But you swam anyhow.” It was brilliant. I just looked it up, and you can listen to it on Youtube (here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELZGHmrF9pA )

3) When Kate was little, I somehow transferred my love of sharks to her. When she was about 5, she had her heart set on dressing up like a shark for Hallowe’en. But try finding a shark costume anywhere—apparently the costume people think it’s OK to dress up like vampires, zombies, or culturally inappropriate Indigenous princesses, but sharks? They’re just too scary. The best I could do was find a dolphin costume, to whose mouth I stapled sharp, cardboard teeth. Kate was only 5, so she didn’t know any different, but I was like, “Aw man—that dorsal fin is all wrong. I hope the other kids don’t make fun of her.” She still got lots of candy, despite the dorsal fin debacle.

4) A few years ago, I bought myself a shark puppet. It was on sale at the local store, and I brought it home and named it Marcelle. Whenever our previous dog Titus was getting too hyper, I would put it on and speak to him in a deep, sharky voice:

Titus: There’s food! Food on the coffeetable! This is the best day ever—wheeee!!!
Marcelle: SIT DOWN.
Titus: Whuh—who are you?
Marcelle: I’m your worst nightmare. It’s time to be a good boy. Now, SIT!
Titus: (sitting) I don’t think this is ecologically accurate—
Marcelle: No food for you!

Eventually, I gave Marcelle to a colleague’s little boy. He was just too hard on Titus. I eventually replaced Marcelle with a small stuffed shark that I named Brian. Then we got Atlas:

Atlas: Mine!
Me: No, you can’t have him.
Atlas: But I want him. I will eat him.
Me: Not if he eats you first, buddy.

So I had to put Brian on a high shelf out of Atlas’s reach, for his own good.

5) I saw Sharkwater, that documentary about sharks, and it made me cry. Then I went with my parents to Turks and Caicos, and my dad and I went snorkeling. The tour took us out to a place called Stingray Cove, where they had a lot of little stingrays that for some reason, they wanted you to hold and kiss. So we did, suddenly, the tour guide yelled, “Shark!” And I was like “Ooh, where?!”  Turns out they were small lemon sharks, who grow quite big and can be very aggressive towards stingrays. I thought it was the best thing ever, but the tour guides were all upset because they make their livelihood taking people out to kiss the stingrays, and didn’t want the sharks to hurt them.

So there I was, standing waist-deep in water with my underwater camera, trying to get a picture of a shark, with these local guys all yelling at me to ‘Get out of the water!’ and ‘Stop encouraging the sharks!’  and ‘You’re going to get bit, crazy Canadian lady!’ I DID get a blurry picture of one of them before it suddenly occurred to me that, despite my tremendous sympathy for them, a shark might not know the difference between my leg and a stingray. And they already have a bad enough reputation without the headline “Ungrateful shark eats Canadian shark ally.”

Anyway, there you have it. Sharks. Because glass is dumb.