My Week 263: My Hockey Fantasy

Last year around this time, I posted about my first foray into the workplace hockey pool. It was confusing for some readers, who thought that “hockey pool” was a new-fangled type of sport in which you played hockey underwater and in retrospect, while that would be a VERY cool game, especially if there were sharks, I can see why it’s not in most people’s vernacular. So this year, to clarify things, I’ve titled the post “My Hockey Fantasy”. Because it’s about my fantasy hockey team, obviously, and not what you were thinking, which was most probably dirty, knowing you as well as I do.

Just like last year, the fantasy draft took place at a lunch meeting, and it was a bit of a relief because I had had several meetings that week, and they were all pretty serious and whatnot, and I had made a couple of lovely gaffes that haunt me as I write this several days later:

My own team meeting:

We had been advised that, to increase staff engagement, we should begin our team meetings with an icebreaker of some kind, like a TEDTalk or a mindfulness exercise, but I had neither of those things ready on short notice, so when everyone sat down, I was admittedly scrambling:

Me: Welcome, everyone. Bienvenue, mes amis.
Everyone: Good morning! Bonjour!
Me: I’d like to kick off this week’s meeting with a joke. What’s brown and sits in the middle of the forest?
Everyone: What? Quoi?
Me: Winnie’s Poo.
Everyone:
Me: I apologize. It’s the only joke I know.
Team Member (whispers): Je ne comprend pas. Qu’est-ce que ‘Winnie’s Poo’?
Team Member (whispers): Like the bear, but his poo.
Team Member (whispers): Ah.
Me: From now on, I’d like YOU to all take turns starting the meeting with a mindfulness exercise or a fun activity.
Everyone: Good idea. Oui.

A Meeting with Procurement

Director 1: So the other day I was at a symposium and the presenter had ‘walk-on music’, you know, like the way baseball players have when they come up to bat. It was great. The next time I present something, I want to walk on to ‘Celebrate by Kool and the Gang.
Director 2: Ooh, what a great idea. I’d want something with a country vibe, like ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie’.
Me (without hesitation and already imagining my grand entrance in my head): I want ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’.
Directors:
Me: It’s by Def Leppard. It’s got a great beat…
Procurement Guy: Anyway, let’s look at these RFBs.

So suffice it to say that the Fantasy Hockey meeting was a real relief. The previous year, I’d come late to the pool, like I literally walked in after it had started and the ‘Commissioner’ had to create a new team just for me, which he cleverly called ‘Suzanne’s Team’, much to my absolute disappointment. This year, before we started going around the table with our picks, I asked if I could change my team name and was assured that I certainly could. And if you know me at all, you can guess right away what I picked:

Me: Player One. My new team name is Player One.
Commissioner: Player One, it is.
Everyone: Nice. Sweet.

Because there is no judgement in the hockey pool. And then every time it came around the table to me, the Commissioner would say, “Player One, who do you choose for your team?” and I would say, “That guy there with the hyphenated name. You have to be a really confident player if you expect the commentators to say all of THAT.”

Look who’s on top…

As you might know, I don’t choose my players based on anything like skill, points, or ranking. I choose them based on how much I like their name, or hair. I also try to stack my team with Toronto Maple Leafs because Canadian people are very optimistic and also deal with disappointment well. 

A couple of days later,  I was at our all-staff meeting and I was already a little distracted because there were presentations and one of the Directors did indeed have her walk-on music, and while she was talking, I was sitting at a table with my team in a lovely reverie, fantasizing about walking on to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” OR “Sugar How You Get So Fly (the Robin Schultz remix)” which would ALSO be very cool. Then out of the blue, the Director said, “Of course, this might be a straw man argument, and Suzanne will let me know if I’m on the right track.” Now, let me tell you that I honestly have no f*cking idea what any of that meant, but I am nothing if not quick off the mark, so I gave her a big smile and two thumbs up, like “You are good to go” and it was TERRIFYING.

During the break, still shaken by the fact that now everyone at the secret agency thought I was some kind of expert in debating, I went over to see the guy who is our hockey pool Commissioner on an unrelated matter, and suddenly he said to me very ominously, “By the way, don’t get too comfortable ON THE TOP.” I was quite taken aback, and about to respond that being on top is never really comfortable, when I realized he wasn’t talking about me being the new go-to for our Director on matters of rhetoric but he was, in fact, referring to the hockey pool. Apparently, Player One is currently in first place. Cue Def Leppard.

Fun Fact: Ken just read this post:

Ken: I was at a meeting the other day and the Minds-On was a video about a Canadian woman who came face-to-face with a cougar in the woods. She didn’t know what to do so she pulled out her phone, went to iTunes and started playing Metallica to scare it away. Then we had to say what song WE would use in the same situation.
Me (without hesitation): Beastie Boys, Sabotage.
Ken: NO WAY! That’s what I picked too!
Both: High five!!

 

My Week 221: Noteworthy Nonsense

Like a lot of people, I keep notes on my phone to remind myself of things, sometimes writing-related, sometimes work-related, and they’re quite often so cryptic that I can’t figure out which is which. I was on the train on Friday night, typing in a reminder to buy wrapping paper (for the first time in twenty years, we don’t seem to have any, and the gift bags have been passed back and forth to the point that they’re a little shabby), when I realized that the first note was titled “Player One”. And while you would think this kind of note would be writing-related, like for a cool story about a grand chess master who falls in love with his opponent, or the saga of an unindicted co-conspirator who is identified in court documents only by that pseudonym, this one is actually work-related:

Me: So there’s something wrong with my email. I changed my password this morning and now I keep getting error messages.
IT Guy: You’re not the only one. But don’t worry—I can set you up with a temporary account.
Me: Thanks. I don’t want to miss any important messages.
IT Guy: OK. The only thing is that the sender line won’t have your name on it—it will say Tester 1.
Me: Ooh, could it say Player One instead?
IT Guy: No.
Me: But that would be cooler.
IT Guy: I can’t rename it.
Me: Never mind then. Nobody emails me anyway.

And now I have to relive my disappointment at never having a cool nickname. Other weird notes:

1) “Christmas Candle Scents”

This one might not SEEM weird, but it’s followed by the names of the guys on my fantasy hockey pool team. Was I trying to figure out what Frederick Anderson would smell like if he was a Christmas candle? He’s a goalie, so maybe “old leather, wood, and hard work”? And by “hard work” I mean “sweat”, but I didn’t want to be mean. I asked Ken for a nicer word than sweat, and he said “Mildew” which is actually worse. Also, if you think a candle that smells like a hockey player wouldn’t be very pleasant, I just went on the Chapters Indigo website where you can purchase a candle called “Frostbite” and I would much rather that my house smell like a hockey player than gangrene.

2) “Don’t Rub Your Banana On Me”

I once worked with a woman who LOVED bananas. Then we got a summer student who was violently allergic to them and no one was allowed to eat them anywhere near her. Finally, the student went back to school and my colleague was super-happy about this, but around that time, I had had a severe allergic reaction to a naturopathic cream that contained plantain:

Colleague: I’m so ‘appy that I can eat les bananes again! (*She was French*)
Me: Just don’t rub your banana on me.
Colleague: But of course not, mon ami.

And that’s what I loved about her—most people would have been like, “Why the f*ck would I EVER rub my banana on you?” but she was just like “Pas de probleme!” as if it was the most normal request in the world. And I know if I had asked HER to call me Player 1, she would have said, “J’adore your cool nickname!”

3) “Trophy Wife”

I just went on a cruise with my parents, and in the evenings, my mom liked to go to the casino, so my dad and I would hang out together in one of the many lounges having a drink and whatnot. On the third day in, we were in the elevator and an elderly woman was complaining about how hard and confusing it was to organize shore excursions for herself. I pointed at my dad and said, “I never worry about that—he does it all for me” to which she replied, “You’re lucky you’re in a relationship.” I was taken aback but I said, “Well, he’s MY DAD so I guess it’s a kind of relationship.” But after she got off the elevator, my dad said, “I didn’t want to say anything, but last night in the lounge when we were having a drink and a laugh, a couple of guys my age walked by and one of them winked at me and gave me the thumbs up.” And I realized that there is nothing weirder than being mistaken for your father’s younger trophy wife, so from that point on, whenever I could, I would loudly emphasize the relationship, like “Can I get a glass of wine for me and ONE FOR MY FATHER?” or randomly yelling “HEY DAD!” at him from across the deck.  But then I also didn’t want people thinking that I was my parents’ middle-aged spinster daughter either, so I started bringing Ken into the conversation, like “I wish my husband was here—he would have really enjoyed this” until one guy was like, “I’m so sorry for your loss” and I had to clarify that Ken wasn’t dead, he was just at work.

4) A poem inspired by waking up from a weird dream at 3 o’clock in the morning:

I quite often wake up in the middle of the night and frantically write sh*t down in my phone. In fact, in My Week 119: Donut Store Memories, the short story titled “Double Double” was based on a dream I had where I was brainstorming with the Canadian writer Eric McCormack. I don’t normally dream up poems, but a while ago, I woke up in the middle of a dream where I was yelling at someone “I’d rather have an anonymous cadre of dubious angels!” I liked the line and wrote it down right away. Then this past week, I was reading a poem by an actual poet and blogger friend, Brandewulf of Brandewijn Words called Wakeful III and I started thinking about all the times I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep because of the negative thoughts that can swirl around my brain.  So I wrote this poem:

They came because the moon had called them
An anonymous cadre of dubious angels
Dancing on the head of a midnight pin.
You etch your rage onto vellum,
Hands heavy with loss
As they waltz until dawn.

Ken read this and I asked him what he thought. “Meh, it’s OK,” he said. That would have been a real blow to my self-esteem, except that last week BOTH Uber drivers gave me 5 out of 5 stars and they would have both LOVED this poem, I’m sure.

5) “True”

The remainder of this note says, “When the ball left my hand, it didn’t always go where I wanted it to, but most of the time it went over the plate.” This is what I heard a winning pitcher say in response to a reporter asking him, “How do you feel the game went?” And isn’t that just the best f*cking answer that you’ve ever heard? He could have said, “We won. Yay.” but he stretched it out into a whole string of words to make it SEEM like he was saying something profound. And maybe he was, in a kind of Zen Buddhist way.

6) “15 divided by 0 equals bacon”

Because it always will.

I get ALL THE BACON.

My Week 212: Doing The Math

Math Story 1

The other day, Ken and I were having a discussion about the newest educational fad: Growth Mindset. This is fancy term, based on “brain research”, that people can learn to do things if they BELIEVE they can do them. So you can see why it’s so fancy and all—pretty complex stuff. And you can also see why Boards of Education are spending money like crazy to teach people how to implement it in the classroom. I’m sure there’s nothing more motivating to a struggling student than yelling at them “If you can see it, you can be it!” (Growth Mindset sounds suspiciously like the lyrics to an R. Kelly song. He believed he could fly, although I don’t think that worked out too well for him). I wish my high school math teacher had quoted Boyz to Men to me—for sure, I’d be a quantum physicist now, instead of a smartass who can’t figure out what half of ¾ of a cup of flour is (I just eyeball it). Anyway, I was like, “So after years of NOT being able to do complicated math, if I only BELIEVE hard enough that I can do it, I’ll be able to learn it?” Ken assured me that it was true. But that night I had a nightmare where I was trying to do math, and f*cking it up royally. Then suddenly, the numbers all turned into little roasting chickens in their own casserole dishes, and instead of doing math, I was basting them with a red wine sauce that I had made and worrying that they were going to dry out in the oven. Even my subconscious knows where my strengths are. But maybe that’s all changing, because on the weekend, Kate was doing her math homework:

K: Math, math, blah, blah, dividing by zero.
Me: Oh, that’s easy. Whenever you divide by zero, you end up with the same number you started with. Like 15 divided by zero is 15.
K: No, it’s not! You can’t divide by zero.
Me: Sure you can. I have 15 things. There’s zero things that go into it, so I still have 15 things.
K: That’s NOT how it works. It’s impossible. See, if I put 15 divided by zero into my calculator, it says “Error”.
Me: I paid good money for that calculator—what’s wrong with it?
K: Nothing! You just can’t divide by zero.
Me: But I just did.
K: But you’re wrong. Zero would go into 15 an infinite number of times, so it can’t be calculated.
Me: But I just calculated it.
K: NO, YOU DIDN’T.
Me: Look. If you have 15 slices of bacon, and you try to divide them by zero, how many slices of bacon do you have left? 15! Because you have eaten zero of them!
K: 15 is the REMAINDER. IS there bacon?
Me: Sure. Do you want 15 slices or zero?

Math Story 2

I have a Chuck Norris desk calendar that Ken gave me last Christmas. I love it. I don’t know what it is about Chuck Norris jokes that always make me laugh, but there are several people in the office who appreciate them too. If I have one that’s specific to a particular person, I give it to them at the end of the day just for fun. For example, in February there was a page that said, “Once Chuck Norris roundhouse kicked an exclamation point. That’s how question marks came into existence”, so I gave it to one of our editors. She thought it was really funny and pinned it up on her cubicle. Most people have embraced the Chuck Norris calendar, so when I got a page the other day that said, “Chuck Norris is the last digit of pi”, I knew exactly who it should go to—one of the new women in the office who specializes in math-type things. The problem was that in the picture, Chuck wasn’t wearing a shirt, and personally, I think that in a professional office, we probably shouldn’t be putting up pictures of half-naked men. Or women. (Funny story—I used to work with another math-type person who put up an 8 x 10 glossy picture of a very good-looking young man in her cubicle. He was naked from the waist up. I mentioned it to someone, as in “I don’t know if that’s very appropriate” and the person responded, “Oh, it’s OK—that’s her son.” I’ll leave it to you to consider whether that’s actually a funny story or just super-creepy.). So anyway, I very carefully took a sticky note, traced Chuck’s torso, coloured it in with black marker, and then cut it out and taped it on. It looked just like a very stylish T-shirt. I took it over to her, and said, “I thought you might appreciate this”, but she just looked at it with a weirdly dubious expression.

Me: It’s Chuck Norris.
Her: OK.
Me: It’s a joke about math.
Her: OK.
Me: I thought you might like it. I made him a shirt.
Her: Oh.

So I left it on her table and walked away. Later, I went by, and it was still there, but the tiny T-shirt I’d made had been carefully peeled away.

Math Story 3

So this is technically not a math story, but it has numbers in it. If you remember, I joined a hockey pool a couple of weeks ago. I made my picks based on some pretty random factors—I now have a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Anderson in keeping with my Matrix theme, and I picked up a guy called Kailer Yamamoto, because I thought it was a cool name and someone had scooped up Yanni Gourde right before my turn. At any rate, I am currently in first place out of 16 teams with quite a healthy points lead, which led to some subtle accusations that I might be a ringer:

Co-Worker: So. You’re in first place. Guess you know a bit more about hockey than you let on.
Me: Uh, no—I mean, I understand hockey, but I don’t follow statistics or anything. I don’t even know who won the thingy last year.
Co-Worker: If you’re referring to the Stanley Cup, it was the Washington Capitals, as I’m sure you’re aware.
Me: No, I…I’m sure I’ll be in last place by the end of the season and you’ll win the $560 dollars.
Co-Worker: $320. There are 16 of us, remember?

Of course, he was only pretending to give me a hard time, because he’s a pretty decent guy, but that still hasn’t stopped me from calling out, “I’m number 1!” every time I go by his office. Because 1 is the best number.

 

My Week 210: Swimming in the Hockey Pool

Yesterday, one of my colleagues said, “I’ll be back in a bit. I have to go to the hockey pool meeting.” And I was like, “There’s a hockey pool? Why didn’t I know about this?”

She said, “Were you in it last year? Because I think the invitation only went out to people who did it last year, but you can come with me if you want. I’m sure it will be fine.”

And that was all well and good, but I hate to go places where I’m not invited. I also hate to go places where I AM invited, if you’ll remember my anxiety last week over meeting Gary Numan. But I had conquered my fear last week, so maybe I was on a roll. After a little hemming and hawing, at which point she said, “Ok, see you later,” I yelled, “Wait up!” and went with her, the words ‘I’m sure it will be fine’ ringing ominously in my ears.

Sure enough, there was a reason for the ominous-osity. I walked in the room and said cheerfully, “Hey, does anyone mind if I join the hockey pool?” I was met with glares and complete silence. My poor colleague sat down at the far end of the table while I waited. Finally, the organizer sighed and said, “It shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll just create another team. It’ll mean less players available for everyone, but that’s…OK.”

Let me just state for the record right now that I don’t even like hockey particularly, nor do I follow any team. I had no idea what a ‘hockey pool’ even was—I thought we would just pick a team to win the Stanley Cup and in about ten years from now when this year’s hockey season is finally over, the person who picked the winning team would get kudos or whatnot. But I realized that things were quite a bit more complicated when I looked around the room and realized that everyone else had roster sheets, statistical analyses, and printouts of players listed by position. I had nothing but a vague sense that I was doing this wrong. In fact, I had to leave within the first couple of minutes to get my cellphone, because I had to set myself up in an app that would track my team, which was a “fantasy team” made up of any players I wanted. I have no idea what was said in my absence, but when I came back, it was pretty obvious that there was a certain level of impatience in the room as I tried to log on and get this sh*t done as fast as possible so that the DRAFT could start. Yes, draft. All 12 ROUNDS of it. 

We had to pick a number out of a hat, and I got 15. There were 16 people, so that meant I got to pick almost last, which sounds sh*tty, but I was relieved because it gave me some time to think about hockey and any players that I knew the names of. There were 2: PK Subban and John Tavares. They were both picked before it was my turn. When it came to me, I looked at the player list projected on the board and yelled out a random name. Everyone murmured in approval, so I was feeling a little more confident, but because I was second-last and the next round started from the bottom, I had to pick again almost right away.

With all eyes on me, I picked another random name, and the guy across from me said, rather snarkily, “You can’t pick HIM. You already have a goalie” to which I replied “Oh, is that what the G after his name meant?” and everyone rolled their eyes. The man next to me shoved a roster over and said, “Here. Pick from the D list” and I was about to say, “Oh come on—I’m sure SOME of them are very nice men” when I realized that D must stand for Defence and not what I initially thought it meant. So I picked another name, and there was a visible sense of relaxation around the table as it became apparent that I was no threat to anyone who, for the twenty dollar buy-in, was trying to build a serious, winning team.

We got through 6 rounds before someone came to the door demanding the use of the room for a webinar. So far, here are the players I picked and why:

1) Frederick Anderson: I like his last name. It reminds me of The Matrix, and hopefully he has some special powers like Neo. But he’s a goalie so I hope he doesn’t do that bend-y thing to dodge the puck. If he lets in a goal, I’m going to say, “Mr. Anderson…you disappoint me.” Also, he plays for Toronto, and that’s where I live sometimes.

2) Tyler Seguin: There’s a character in my new novel named Seguin. Maybe it’s an omen. A GOOD omen, not like those Damian movies. He’s also Canadian. I just looked him up and he won the Stanley Cup in his rookie year, so maybe I’m good at this after all.

3) Morgan Rielly: I’ve always liked the name Morgan, and I like that he spells Rielly in an eccentric way. He also plays for Toronto, and I’m trying to build a Maple Leafs roster as best I can, because THIS IS THEIR YEAR. We say that about the Leafs every year, but now I’m on board with that.

4) William Nylander: Also a Maple Leaf. His name rhymes with Highlander. That was a great movie, and it would be f*cking fantastic if hockey was a competition where the teams fought with swords. I think the tagline for the movie was “There can be only one” and that’s just like winning the Stanley Cup.

5) Matthew Tkachuk: Early in my teaching career, in the year 1997, I had a student named Mike Tkachuk. I sent him to the office once for continually yelling out in class “This sucks!” He was talking about some music we were listening to—he wasn’t particularly inclined towards anything other than metal and spent a lot of time stoned (these are two separate facts about him—I’m not implying that people who like metal smoke a lot of marijuana). The principal made him write a list of 25 better ways to say “This sucks”. To his credit, he did it, and handed it to me at the end of the day. I laughed my ass off—number 10 was “Snow is better than this music”, number 15 was “This music is worse than vegetables”, and number 25 was “This isn’t music to my ears.” He was actually a pretty clever kid when he tried. He was so pleased that I found it funny that he never gave me a hard time again. I still have the list after 21 years. I hope Matthew Tkachuk is just like that. And he plays for Calgary, so at least he’s on a Canadian team.

And he carefully numbered it.

6) Mark Giordano: He was a panic pick. I had just realized that PK Subban’s brother Jordan plays for the Leafs so I was all set to pick him, but then everyone yelled at me that he was a rookie and probably would be playing in something called the AHL (?). My next pick was a guy who was 6 foot 5 because THAT’S TALL!!, but he was in some kind of contract negotiation, so I went with Giordano, who is the CAPTAIN of the Calgary Flames, so ha ha, hockey pool people.

Apparently, we have to do the last 6 rounds on Monday, but I’m getting pretty good at this. One of my favourite movies is Alien Vs. Predator, and not only is there a hockey team called the Predators, there’s a player on that team who looks just like the guy who works at the liquor store that I go to…

Thanks, Lord Stanley, for this awesome cup.