My Week 249: Who Is The Elusive Shane? Titus Gets Punchy

Who is Shane?

This question continues to plague me. A little over two years ago, I received a company cell phone, one of the perks of being a permanent employee at the secret agency. It’s just a simple iPhone–it doesn’t have a built-in Geiger counter or tear gas cartridges, nor does it change my voice to sound like Batman or provide me the gift of super-hearing. It DOES have Google Maps and a calculator, so that’s almost as good as an Industrial Satellite Laser, and you might have guessed that I watched a lot of James Bond movies as a kid. At any rate, I got this phone, and I also immediately started getting random text messages (these are actual screen shots from my phone so if you’re having trouble reading them, click on them to enlarge). The first was an invitation for a boat ride of some kind.

 I didn’t know what “SocaSweetness” might be, but the liberal use of numerals for letters, abbreviations, and the overenthusiastic exclamation marks were a surefire indication that it was going to be a very loud event, and most likely NOT for me. The next message was the first indication that someone named “Shane” was somehow connected to me, and that his friends were a jolly, if perhaps prone to “blazing”, group of people.

LMFAO

And for those of you who don’t know, “blaze”, according to Urbandictionary.com, means “smoke weed”. Shane henceforth was known as “Blazefordayz Shane”. I’ve written about Shane before—his girlfriend who excoriated me for not answering her numerous Facetime calls, his mother who scolded me for never texting her back (TEXT ME BACK SHANE!), and his many friends towards whom I’ve become quite motherly:

Don’t text and drive!

Shane has nice friends.

Of course, my favourite was the Warehouse Job episode, which I wrote about previously in My Week 226: All About The Bordens.

But the other day, I was at People’s Jewellers, a well-known jewellery store chain, and the store clerk asked for my phone number to check the status of my protection plan. I gave it to her and she looked perplexed. “Shane Brien?” she said. “From Brampton?” And I gasped audibly and replied, “BlazeforDayz Shane is REAL?!” She looked at me confused and I said, “Oh sorry—that must be the person who had the phone before me.” See, in my mind, Shane had become a mythical figure, a sort of pot-smoking, Soca dancing Bigfoot—it never occurred to me that he was an actual human person. And then I had an epiphany. I could use my keen skills of detection, and the wonderful world of social media, to finally identify Shane once and for all. So I engaged my “little grey cells” as Hercule Poirot would say, and headed straight to Facebook.

Do you know how many people on Facebook are named Shane Brien? Or Shane Brian? Or Shane Bryan? Or Shayne…you get the picture. There are a LOT of them. But I could easily narrow it down by excluding any of them who lived outside of Ontario (which was a shame, because there’s a lovely Shane Brian in New Brunswick and I wish him and his adorable girlfriend all the best in life). Anyway, I tried to narrow it down a little further by a process of elimination based on their profile pictures:

1) Shane Brien, standing in the middle of an icy highway in Northern Ontario. I don’t think MY Shane likes the cold. It would be too hard to Soca dance when your extremities are frozen.

2) Shane Brien, tiger-striped kitty cat. Does having a profile picture of a sweet floof detract from your semi-gangster image or is the cat just a decoy?

3) Shane Brien, no profile pic, but underneath it just says ‘Prison’. Now, MY Shane may flirt with the law, but marijuana is legal in Canada; besides, Shane’s mother would kill him if he did anything criminal. And so would I.

4) Shane O’Brien. That sounds Irish. I don’t think Shane is Irish. Also there’s an NHL player named Shane O’Brien and he is now officially my top pick for next year’s hockey pool. He will be my secret weapon, allowing me to defeat the even more mysterious and even more elusive Jeffrey, who won this year’s hockey pool while I came in a shameful 12th.

5) Shane Brien, Contractor, Advanced Warehouse Structures. Shane…warehouse job…I’d say it looks like the pieces are falling into place, except this Shane has 3 kids and I don’t remember his girlfriend saying anything about children. In fact, I believe her exact words were, and I quote, “You better not be with that Angela.”

And because the store clerk at People’s insisted on changing the name on the phone number to mine, I can never go back to the store and try to find out more information. Maybe I should have accepted the invite to Vegas. Shane and I would have had a blast.

Vegas Baby!

Titus Gets Punchy

Alarm goes off.

Me (*stretching*): ERGH. Time to get up.
Titus: NO.
Me: Oh my god, you just punched me in the eye!!
Titus: It was an accident–I was trying to high five you. Where are you going? Stay in bed.
Me: No! I have to see if my eye is OK!
Titus: You’re fine. Stop being a baby. Besides, eye patches are all the rage this season.
Me: I don’t want an eyepatch! OWW. If you scratched my cornea with your germy paw, I’ll be so mad.
Titus (whispers): I just wanted you to stay home with me. I’m sorry.
Me: Sigh. I love you, buddy.
Titus: You’ll look awesome with an eyepatch. Like an angry pirate.
Me: ARRRR.

My Week 233: All The Weird Things

It’s been a strange time lately, a time when all the weird things are happening. If you read The Mystery of the Tip Sheet on the Table, I should tell you that was only the “Tip” of the iceberg, haha, and I apologize for the terrible pun, but I’ve certainly had some experiences in the last three weeks that have been completely outside my wheelhouse, and most of them have to do with the magical world of math. I call it “magical” because there are formulas, and also whenever I see someone solve an equation, I squeal excitedly and exclaim breathlessly with child-like wonder, “How did you do that?!” Here are the 5 strange things that have beset my life recently:

1) I applied for a job closer to home. I love my current job, but I have to live in the city during the week, and it’s getting pretty sketchy downtown. The job was kind of the same as what I do now, I thought, and to be honest, I didn’t really want to change jobs immediately, but at the bottom of the job posting it said that eligible candidates would be put in a pool for future positions, and that seemed like a great opportunity. So I applied, and lo and behold, I got an email about an interview. And at the bottom of the email was a description of the interview telling me that I would have to prepare a presentation for the interview panel. On MATH. My first reaction was, “Did they even LOOK at my resume?” Because I have a lot of qualifications and experience, none of which have anything at ALL to do with the numbers or adding or dividing or whatnot. The closest I’ve ever come to doing math professionally was teaching Life of Pi. And then it said at the bottom of the description that there would be a TEST at the end of the interview, and I was like, “What? A MATH TEST?!” because nowhere in the job description had it even mentioned math at all, and it seemed pretty obvious by then that they probably already had someone for the job, someone who was, perhaps, good at math. So when the place called me to confirm that I got the invite, I actually had to ask the woman, “So is the test at the end a math test?” because if it was, there was no point in going, but she said she didn’t think so, that it was probably a “scenario”. Which it was. And ironically, I totally ROCKED the math presentation, but I blew the “scenario” which was writing a letter in response to someone who was very angry. I responded the way I normally would—no, not by saying “Take a f*cking step back”—but in a professional way which is “Please provide more information to help me understand your anger.” It turns out though, that apparently I was supposed to direct them to a variety of different websites where they could explore their feelings themselves. Ultimately, it was not fun, but I DID get put into the pool for future positions, mostly on the merit of my math presentation, which is another one of life’s great mysteries.

Isn’t it magic-y?

2) I went to empty my blog spam folder, which usually contains about 30 comments about Nike shoes or Viagra, and there were 1, 167 spam comments in there. They were all for CBD oil (derived from marijuana). So I emptied the spam folder, and three days later, there were another 2, 000 messages, again for CBD oil, and all I could think was “Someone REALLY wants me to get high”. But then I did a little research and it turns out that CBD oil isn’t psychoactive, so I’m not sure what’s going on there, but the Viagra people need to step up their game.

3) I had to go by myself to do a presentation (this time on my actual work instead of magic-y math sh*t) to a group of around 60 people. I don’t enjoy standing up in front of people at any given moment—I don’t even say much in meetings when I’m sitting down—but someone had to do it, and I was that someone. I stayed in a hotel the night before because the weather was supposed to be lousy for travelling the next day. I decided to order some Swiss Chalet chicken, and then stay in for the night watching the Oscars. I called up Swiss Chalet and asked for delivery, but when the woman gave me the total, I realize I didn’t have any money so I said, “Oh, I don’t have any cash on me. Will the guy take Visa or is there something else I need to do?” and then I realized to my horror that it sounded like I was offering to instigate a porn scene where the lady doesn’t have money but offers to “take it out in trade” with the nubile young delivery man. Luckily, you can pay for Swiss Chalet over the phone,  and a very sturdy older lady came to my hotel room, so no worries there. But then, incredibly, the hotel TV had 54 channels and not one was showing the Oscars, so I ended up watching porn. No I didn’t. That was a joke. I ended up watching a Flip or Flop Nashville marathon.

The presentation the next day went OK, except for the snarky guy sitting right in front of the podium who kept muttering under his breath and rolling his eyes, which was very distracting. At one point, he raised his hand to angrily complain about how hard it was to use a particular report, and I felt like saying, “Well, toilet training is hard too, but I assume you’ve figured that one out.” Instead I just smiled and said, “Here are some websites you can use to explore your feelings about this issue.”

4) Then I got back to the office and was asked to start supervising, in addition to my own team, another team whose job revolves completely around MATH. My reaction again was “Have you even LOOKED at my resume?!” And now not only do I have to try and understand math in English, I also have to try and understand it in FRENCH, because we have two official languages, and math is hard in both of them. At least the people are nice and don’t roll their eyes at me.

5) On Tuesday, I raced to get dinner finished and get ready for bed so that I could be all cozy on the couch in my pajamas in time for my favourite new TV show The Launch (it’s Canadian). I made it with a minute to spare and yelled to my roommate, “Come on, it’s almost starting!” Then I went up and down the guide and couldn’t find it on anywhere. “I don’t understand” I said. “Are they on hiatus already” and my roommate said, “Isn’t The Launch on Wednesdays?” and I said “Yes,” and she said, “Today is Tuesday”, and this is what too much math does to you. So we resigned ourselves to watching The Voice and I was trying to figure out Instagram when I realized my young cousin was starting some ‘live’ video thing so I clicked on it. He and his friend were talking, then suddenly he said, “Hi Suzanne”, and I shrieked and threw the phone down and said to my roommate, “Oh my god, can he SEE me?!” She started laughing hysterically and explained how your name comes up at the bottom so that people know you’re watching, and it reminded me of the first time I tried to send a fax, and panicked when the paper went into the fax machine because there was a phone number on the back of the form that I needed. The secretary at the school also laughed hysterically just like my roommate and explained that the paper would come back out once it had been scanned. “Did you think the fax machine magically transported the actual paper to the person you’re sending it to?” she asked.  “Of course not—that would be ridiculous,” I said, but in my head I was like, “Yes. Yes, I totally f*cking did.” Because faxes are magical. Just like math.

(I just had a short story published in the inaugural issue of a terrific literary magazine called Slippage Lit. It’s called Perfect Food, and if you want to read it, click here: https://www.slippagelit.com/perfectfood)

 

My Week 200: Where It All Began

This week is my 200th blog post, at least in its new form. I know a lot of you have been following me for a while, but I don’t know how many of you have been here from the beginning. In fact, I think the only people who read the first couple of weeks were related to me. So to celebrate, here, in all its glory, is the very first week. Bear in mind that this was almost 4 years ago. I don’t know if I’m funnier now than I was then, or vice versa but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

October 4, 2014

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

So here’s some of my week.

Wednesday, also known as the day I realize I really can’t tell stories orally that well.

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

Thursday

Did I really just encourage my students to smoke pot?? No. I. Did. Not. It was a total accident that can be explained in this very convoluted way. I was talking to my grade 12s about Titus Andronicus, Act 1, and two characters, brothers, who are trying to become emperor. In what I thought was an attempt to make things relevant, I said that Rome deserved a strong leader, and that just like Rome, so did Canada. I pointed out that the one brother was a lot like our Liberal candidate for  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in that he was relying on the goodwill of the people to get elected, just like Bassianus in the play, and that our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper was very much a Saturninus figure because he was relying on the fact that he was the “elder statesman”. Then one of the kids commented, “Justin Trudeau’s only platform is to legalize marijuana”, and I said, “See what I mean? He’s like the fun candidate, and Stephen Harper is the guy who won’t even admit to smoking marijuana and he’s a pretty grim guy in his sweater vests and all. He should really live a little.” And suddenly everyone was laughing, kind of hysterically, and I had this horrible epiphany that I might have just implied that marijuana and “living a little” should go hand in hand, which is totally not what I meant to do with a large group of 17 year olds. So I tried to clarify that I didn’t mean to say it like that, but the kids just kept laughing, and I kept digging myself into a deeper hole, until finally I just said, “Don’t do drugs. I don’t recommend them”, which sounded in retrospect not a great thing to say either. But it seemed to calm them down, and we moved on with the lesson. Will  I spend the next few days worrying about whether I get a call from an irate parent who is either upset about the marijuana thing or doesn’t like that I called Stephen Harper “grim”? Absolutely.

Saturday

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

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

*July 22nd, 2018

Happy Birthday to my amazing daughter K, who just turned 20. Yes, I am now the mother of a grown-up adult type person. To celebrate, we took her and her girlfriend, the lovely V, to Niagara Falls, where I am currently writing this bit on my phone. Last night we played Glow in the Dark mini-golf and I paid $35 for a hamburger, which pretty much sums up the Niagara Falls experience if you’re ever thinking of coming here. But the kids are having fun and that’s the main thing.

Black and White Challenge Week 3: Happy Birthday, K!

My Week 174: I’m on TV, People Who Know People

It was a rather exciting week for good ole’ mydangblog. Exciting, as in full of disruptions to carefully-attended-to routines, mingled with a certain amount of terror. You see, dear reader, I was asked to appear on a local TV show to promote my new novel. That was all fine and well, but I’ve never been on TV before—aside from being on Big Al’s Ranch Party when I was very small (I won the birthday cake and had to speak to the host, a frighteningly large man wearing a cowboy hat and a sheriff’s badge),  a childhood appearance on Romper Room at the age of 5 (I drove the director crazy by insisting that it was Saturday and jumping up and down like a frenzied squirrel), competing on a Canadian game show called Definition at the age of 19 with my brother where you had to buy letters to fill in the blanks to solve a cryptic puzzle (damn you, “Kookie Sheet”—you will forever be my nemesis), and being interviewed by a local news station after witnessing a man run into a burning barn—actually, in retrospect, I’ve been on TV a lot. But I was still really nervous. Couple that with the fact that I had to go back to Toronto Sunday night to go to work on Monday, then come home Monday after work for the taping, then go back to Toronto on Tuesday night, then come home again on Friday…luckily, VIA had given me back all my train points so I was able to travel with minimal cost. And the upside was that I got to meet some very interesting people…

Sunday: My seat partner was a man who apparently had no personal space issues, and didn’t seem to recognize mine. He sat OVER the space between the cushions, because apparently he was raised by wolves. He bumped my elbow on several occasions, and insisted on talking very loudly on his cell phone to someone who I assume was his wife. The gist of the conversation was this: their son, a very academic and motivated young man, was upset because the family was going on vacation right before exams, and he was worried about not being able to study and pass said exams. The guy next to me was very clear with his spouse that “teachers just push them through anyway—he has nothing to worry about.” In his case, I can only assume that the apple fell VERY far from the tree. At this point, I put on my new Bluetooth headphones. A few weeks ago, I was ranting that the future wasn’t living up to all that I was promised as a child, but these headphones almost make up for the fact that there are still no flying cars. Almost.

Monday: On the way back home again, I started to go to my seat. After Sunday though, I was a little gun-shy, and when I saw that there was only one person sitting in the foursome seats, I plunked myself down there, kitty corner to her. She smiled. I asked if she was going all the way to London. I also got a very strong whiff of marijuana. She started talking. She was going home for the first time, having been working on the east coast for a couple of years, but she’d been in the hospital and wanted to see her family now that she was better. Where had she worked on the east coast? I asked. A “medical dispensary”, she replied. A medical MARIJUANA dispensary? I inquired. She sheepishly smiled. Yes, the distinctive smell of pot was coming from her. Now, this might seem exactly the situation that I would want to avoid, but she was intelligent and delightful despite being stoned, which I’m starting to think is probably par for the course. Also, she knew the guy who had just won the first round of a new TV singing show called The Launch, which reminded me of a few weeks ago when I met another young woman who was the cousin to the guy who plays for one of Canada’s top curling teams. And I was like, Damn—I’m getting to know some minorly famous people by riding this train so much, and also, Is it weird that I’m super-introverted yet I strike up conversations with strangers?

So on Tuesday, I got up and put on my new dress (the day before, I had gone to Winners with two friends from work, who helped me pick out something that would look good on camera) and went to the TV station. I was super-nervous, mostly because I had no idea what they would ask me, and I didn’t want to come off like a babbling idiot, but my lovely auntie was there and she made me a cup of tea. The two co-hosts of What’s Up Oxford? were young women who both worked for Goodlife Fitness as trainers, and they made me feel comfortable, and just slightly like I should be exercising more, but the problem was that no one said anything about when the taping would start or where I should look. They all had headsets in, and at one point they just turned away from me and exclaimed cheerily, “And we’re back!” And it reminded me of the time when I was the principal of an International Languages school, and I would be asked to “say a few words” on special occasions. I would be waiting on the sidelines as someone addressed the crowd in whatever language, practicing how I would say Happy New Year in Vietnamese or whatnot, when suddenly I would hear, “And Suzanne!!”  It always took me by surprise, and I would have to then run to the stage in a panic and say “Chúc mừng năm mới!“ Then the crowd would laugh and clap, and I would hope to god that I’d said “Happy New Year!” and not “These chickens are green!”.

Anyway, things were going pretty well, what with them asking questions and me answering them, until suddenly one of the women said, “Can you hold the book up for us so that everyone can see it?” and I did, but I had no idea where to look, so I’m sure that when the show is broadcast, it will feature me looking around wildly at some point and then just closing my eyes and hoping for the best.

Tuesday: On the way back to Toronto, my seatmate slept all the way there. With her mouth hanging open.

Friday: One of my new colleagues takes the train home sometimes, so we swapped seats with other people and sat together. It was nice. We drank wine and chatted. Also, she’s tiny, so there was no encroaching over the gap between the seats. She’s the perfect seat partner.

 

My Week 130: Surrounded by Russians, Everyone Learns French

Tuesday: I live in the Kremlin

On Tuesday night, I was making dinner in my condo. I needed to defrost some soup, so I opened my pot drawer. No, not the “GOOD kind of pot” drawer, like I have a secret stash under the oven mitts and tea towels, but the drawer in which I keep my cooking pots. Although if I HAD a pot drawer, I`d have to call it something else to throw people off, because “pot drawer” would be pretty obvious—I could call it the “spider drawer” because who the hell would want to open THAT? Oh, and just for the record, I don’t smoke pot—I tried it a couple of times as a teenager, but instead of feeling mellow and whatnot, I felt super-paranoid and my skin wouldn’t stop twitching. Nothing was humorous, and everything was too real. So kind of the anti-marijuana experience. Anyhow, I opened my non-marijuana drawer, and everything inside was wet (so probably good that I DON’T keep pot in it), and I was confused. Why was my drawer full of water? This didn’t bode well, and if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll remember a certain week when a certain woman left the kitchen sink running and ended up with a small flood. I immediately went into panic mode and pulled the drawer further out to discover that the pipe under the sink was leaking quite noticeably. How did this happen? I’d just used the dishwasher the night before and everything seemed fine. But now the pipe was dribbling into the drawer and the undercabinet. I have the number for my concierge desk pinned to a corkboard (made from real corks that I hotglued to a wooden panel and framed in barnboard—I had to drink a LOT of wine to make it and it was a terrible hardship, let me tell you) so I called down. No answer. The dripping continued and my panic increased. It was 6:30 pm and I was wearing pajamas because why the f*ck not, am I right? So I had to change back into my actual human clothes and go down to the front desk myself. I had no idea if it would help because normally a concierge isn’t trained in the plumberly arts, but Ken was 100 kilometres away and I had no tools other than a universal screwdriver, a hammer (in case there’s a fire and I have to break a window), and a sewing kit.

The three to midnight concierge is called Sergei, and my only contact with him thus far had been to say “hello” when I came in every afternoon, to which he replied “hello” back. It was an amiable, albeit succinct, relationship, but I feel like we were both OK with that. I approached the desk:

Me: Hi. Um, the pipe under my kitchen sink is leaking.
Sergei: OK. I come.

With that, he reached into a drawer (not a pot drawer either apparently), and took out a small flashlight and a tiny pair of slipjoint pliers (I totally looked that up—did you really think I know the names of all the tools?), and he came out from behind the front desk. We travelled up the elevator together, me telling him about the leak, and how it wasn’t there yesterday. He walked into my condo with the confidence that Russians seem to have, and peered into the space behind the drawer. Then he straightened up and smiled.

Sergei: Is drainage pipe only. I have pliers to turn off water but is not necessary. Contact property management company and they can fix. But don’t use sink until then. Empty drawer and put big pot under for leak.
Me: That’s a relief—I’ll do that. Thanks so much.
Sergei: Is no problem.

Then he left, and I immediately emailed my property management company and logged a ticket (which I swear to god would be the best euphemism for going to the bathroom that I ever heard—how do I make this popular?! Like, “Excuse me for a minute—I just have to “log a ticket”. Am I right?) Anyway, I got a reply back right away that I would be contacted by the in-house plumber in the morning. My roommate and I spent the rest of the night using the bathroom sink to rinse off dishes, and hoping it would be fixed before the bathtub became the dishwasher.

The next morning, I was in a meeting when my phone rang (it was on silent, because I’m not a dick), so I stepped out:

Voice with thick Russian accent: Hello. I am Alex. The plumber. You have problem with sink?
Me: Yes, the drain pipe is leaking.
Alex: I come at noon. How do I get in?
Me: The concierge can let you into the building…
Alex: No, how do I get into apartment?
Me: Don’t you have a key?
Alex: No.
Me: OK, I can meet you there at noon and let you in. OK?
Alex: Yes, is good.

Luckily I live just across the street from work, so at quarter to twelve (yes, the meeting was still going on), I said to my co-workers, “I have to step out for a minute and meet my plumber. His name is Alex.” I added that for emphasis in case they thought I was ditching them to go eat something, or “log a ticket” or something else that normal people do when they’re not in meetings that last ALL MORNING.

I ran across the street and waited in the lobby. A couple of minutes after twelve, a van pulled up, and I knew it was him because it said “Alex’s Plumbing” on the side. An elderly, tiny man got out and went to the passenger side, where he helped an elderly woman wearing a housedress, slippers, and a leather overcoat out of the van. She was clutching a handbag, and he had a utility light. I was very confused. They both came into the lobby, and I said, “Oh hi—are you Alex?” He gave me a huge smile and said he was, then they both followed me into the elevator.

Me: So…
Alex: We came from Jamaica.
Me: ???
Alex: It was good holiday, but we just came back. This is my wife, Marta.
Me: Oh hi. Did you have a good trip?
Marta: Yes, is good, but weather here is so cold now after Jamaica.
Me: Um yes, I can imagine…

As you may recall, I am super-sh*tty at small talk. Obviously. We got into my apartment and I showed him the sink, while Marta slowly wandered around the living room.

Me: Would you like to sit down?
Marta: Oh nuh, is fine. I stand. I was on airplane for six hours.
Alex: I see problem. Pipe is cracked. I get new trap pipe.

Then he left and there I was, alone with Marta, who kept commenting about the view (“I can see lake”), the size of the condo (“Is so small!”) until Alex got back.

Alex: Anyone got toonie? I need toonie.
Me: I think I might have one? Oh wait, I only have a loonie.
Marta: I have toonie. Don’t worry. Here is toonie.

I was completely befuddled at this point, as she handed Alex the toonie (loonies and toonies are one and two dollar coins, for my non-Canadian readers), but then he clarified that he needed it to “tighten pipe”, and I was like “A toonie is an actual plumbing tool?” but it seemed to work, and within 10 minutes, he was running water and checking for leaks, of which there were none.

Alex: All fixed now. No big problem.
Me: Thanks so much for coming so quickly.
Alex: We were at airport. Not too far, so they call me because I’m the cheapest.
Me: Um, OK. Well, I totally appreciate it.
Marta: Have good day.

Then they both toddled off to goodness knows where. Everything was fine, until later that day when I got an email from my property management company. My phone screen read, “We regret to inform you…” and I was like “WHAT DID THE RUSSIANS TELL YOU?!” but it wasn’t about the plumbing visit, it was that my landlord was selling my condo, which made me want to write back, “It was only a trap pipe! ASK THE RUSSIANS!” but apparently the housing in Toronto is so insane that my landlord is listing my 600 square foot, one bedroom plus den condo at $525 000 and expecting to get more. So I’m probably going to have to move. Maybe the Russians can hook me up with something.

Friday: The language of love

I came home on Friday night and was greeted with this:

Titus: Bonne soir, ma cherie
Raven: Bonjour, tete de merde.
Me: What the hell is going on here?
Titus: Oscar Wildefish is teaching us French. He says it’s the language of love. Check this out—“Voulez-vous coucher avec—
Me: Stop! No more French for you! Oscar?!
Oscar: Oui, mon petit chou?
Me: You just called me a tiny cabbage. WTF?
Oscar: It’s a term of endearment, sweetheart.
Me: Fine, but tete de merde is NOT. Why are you teaching everyone naughty French?
Oscar: Everyone should know at least one of the Romance languages, darling. When I was in Paris with Gertrude, Scottie, and Zelda—
Me: Here we go again. Do all goldfish have past lives?
Oscar: Only the good ones, honey.
Me: You weren’t in ‘Nam, were you?
Oscar: Heavens no! I’m a lover, not a fighter. That was Uncle Mishy. Oh, the stories he used to tell…
Me: Yes. I remember. Well, if you’re going to teach Titus and Raven—
Oscar: Flossy.
Me: Whatever. If you’re going to be their French tutor, keep it clean.
Oscar: Oui, oui madame. Voulez-vous coucher—
Me: Don’t be cheeky!
Oscar: Just part of my natural charm, mon amour.

Yes, it certainly is. I wonder if he also know a little Russian…

My Week 89: Summer School Stories 2014

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

summer school

2014

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

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

Favourite conversation of the day:

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

Damn the government and their hot tar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun at Summer School Day 5: Horseheads and Mockingbirds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun at Summer School Day 8: Siegfried or Roy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He eventually left. Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun at Summer School Day 14: Power Napping

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

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

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

 Fun at Summer School Day 15: My Mad Math Skills

Example One:

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

Example Two:

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

Example Three:

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

My Week 1 – Marijuana and Febreze

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

So here’s some of my week.

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

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

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

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