Voyage of Discovery

Well, it’s been another exciting week here in the house. Last week, I spoke of being like Magellan, and once again, I’ve been on a voyage of discovery:

1) I discover a solution

After 15 years of having a small sitting room, which is a misnomer in that it only seats three, and which is completely useless since anyone who visits us always comes in pairs, I looked around it on Tuesday and said to Ken, “You know, if we turn the loveseat so it’s perpendicular to the fireplace instead of facing it, sell that big-ass armchair no one ever sits in, buy a smaller chair, and move that wing chair over here, we could seat 4 people in this room.” Ken turned to me with the long-suffering look of a man who has suffered too long from impromptu furniture rearranging schemes. “Sure,” he said, “but all the stores are closed. Oh well. Maybe in a month.”

“But wait,” I said, and his long-suffering look turned into one of resignation, the resigned look of a man who knows that his wife has been perusing the local Buy and Sell sites. “I just saw the perfect chair on Facebook Marketplace. We can sell ours and buy THAT one.”

And that’s exactly what we did. The whole scheme was accomplished using social distancing, of course, which meant that the old couple who bought our big-ass chair refused any help as they staggered down the 100-foot long walkway to the sidewalk carrying it, and loaded it into their SUV. It was snowing and I felt awful, but they waved off any offer of assistance and then e-transferred me once it was safely stowed. Then Ken and I drove to a neighbouring town where the newest member of the family room awaited us on a porch.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It’s heavy,” Ken answered.

Nevertheless, we/Ken got it loaded up, drove it home, and it now resides in our sitting room, filling me with the kind of joy you only feel when you’ve been locked inside your house for weeks. The new (pre-owned) chair is the one on the left. I don’t know about you, but I have no issue buying furniture second-hand—in fact, we got the loveseat in the picture from the Habitat For Humanity Restore Store for 80 bucks, and Ken and I made the coffee table out of an old pallet we found. 

2) I discover an impossible task

When I was a child, I suffered from a nasty skin condition called dyshidrosis that only affected my hands. The causes of dyshidrosis are still not-well-known today, but for some reason, 50 years ago, dermatologists thought that the oil in orange peel was one of the triggers and as a result, I wasn’t allowed to touch oranges. I’ve talked about my obsession with orange things before, but the one thing I never mentioned was my undying adoration for canned mandarin oranges, you know, the ones that come in the syrup. I long ago realized that orange peel wasn’t really a problem, so usually at work, I have a bag of mandarins in my office so I can have one with lunch every day and avoid scurvy. But then I was at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I realized that you can still get the canned ones, only they aren’t in cans anymore—they’re in these plastic cups with peel-off lids. I was super-excited, and at lunch the next day, I took one out of the cupboard and started to peel off the lid, which resulted in mandarin orange syrup squirting out all over me. “I’ll have to be more careful tomorrow,” I thought to myself, undaunted.

Tomorrow came, and again, despite my care, the syrup shot out. I’d learned my lesson and had it pointed away from me, so it ended up all over the floor, much to the delight of Titus.

Me: What the f*ck?!
Ken: You’re squeezing it. Don’t squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid.
Titus: You should totally squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid. This is yummy.
Me: I’m not squeezing it! And stop licking the floor!

The last part was for Titus, not Ken, just in case you’re worried that the furniture rearranging had finally sent him over the edge. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. There is no possible way to open a Del Monte Mandarin Orange Cup without having the f*cking juice jet out of it. But it’s still delicious.

3) I discover something new to worry about…

…because I don’t have enough things to worry about already. Anyway, I’ve been spending a LOT of time in online virtual meetings, on-camera most of the day, which is fine because I only have to look fancy from the waist up. From the waist down (no, I’m NOT naked!) I’m wearing pajama pants, fuzzy socks, and slippers. So I’m like a modern-day mullet: business up top and Netflix down below. Time has currently become a noun for both Ken and me:

Me: I’ve got a 9 o’clock.
Ken: Me too. Then I have a 1 o’clock.
Me: I’ve got an 11 o’clock, and then maybe a 2.

But on Wednesday, my 3 o’clock was cancelled, which gave me a chance to grab a snack. I had my phone in my pocket and I was on the way to the kitchen when the doorbell and the phone simultaneously rang. My reaction to this sudden ominous turn of events was to yell, “What the absolute f*ck is going on here?!?!!” as I went to answer the door at the same time as I put the phone to my ear. There was a man backing away from the door who called out, “It’s just your Staples order” as I heard people talking and laughing through the phone. I smiled and waved at the man, then took the phone away from my ear and realized to my horror that I was on a VIDEO CALL and that instead of seeing my face, everyone had a great close-up shot of the INSIDE OF MY EAR. And now, on top of everything else, I have to worry about whether or not the insides of my ears are clean, which I would hope they ARE, but how the hell would I know?! So in consolation, I opened my snack, wiped the mandarin juice off my pajama pants, and sat in my new chair.

As a postscript, I’m happy to tell you that my publisher has finally made both my novels available as Kobo e-books, which is great news because for the last two weeks, The Dome has been showing as “Currently Unavailable” on Amazon.ca and has disappeared completely from Amazon.com since somehow the title has been changed to “Dome” and the search link is broken. The word count for both Kobo e-books is completely wrong and less than half the actual words I wrote, unless a) Canadian words convert differently to American, like kilometres and miles or b) over half the words are actually missing, which will make it a real treat for readers to try and follow the plot. Here are the links in case anyone is interested:

The Dome: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-dome-11
Smile: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/smile-57

My Week 196: Four Vignettes, or Whuh?

Four Vignettes

1) Last weekend, Ken and I pulled into our driveway just as two very small boys about 7 years old walked past our house. They were each carrying a puppy. Neither puppy was wearing a collar or had a leash. I’m going to let that sink in for a second. By the time we had gotten out of the car, they were down the road. I stood there, mouth hanging open, watching as they disappeared into the distance.

Me: Um…there are puppies.
Ken (unpacking groceries): Looks like it.
Me: I want to carry one too.
Ken: Who knows where they came from?
Me: From a magical place in town where there are puppies that people are allowed to CARRY, KEN!
Ken: I—
Me: They’re going towards the park! You know, I forgot to get…(mumbles) you know. I’m just gonna hop back into the car and go to the store.
Ken: I could use some help with the groceries.
Me: I’ll be right back!!

I drove slowly down the street as the two boys seemed to meet up with an older man who was pushing a baby carriage and walking a dog. I drove up and as they started around the corner into the back entrance to the park, I rolled down my window and called out to the guy, “I like your puppies!” in the hope that he might reply, “Why, thank you. Would you, perhaps, like to pet one?”

But he turned to look at me and smiled. “Oh, they’re not mine. I don’t know those kids.” And then the two boys and the puppies disappeared into the park. I drove around the block to the park’s front entrance and went in. It was super-crowded and I was hoping that was because there was some kind of Puppy Petting Zoo, or a Puppy Cavalcade, or a “Puppies on Parade” thing, but it was only a stupid softball tournament. Dejected, I made my way home, convinced that I would never see the puppies again. But then, in a strange twist of fate, I was weeding the garden after dinner when the same two little boys carrying the same two puppies walked by the house once again. It was a golden opportunity and I wasn’t going to let it go by.

Me: Hey!! Are those your puppies?!
Little Boy 1: Yes.
Me: Can I pet them?
Little Boy 2: OK.
Me: What kind are they?
Little Boy 1: They’re a bulldog and sharpei cross. We have lots.
Me: Are you selling them or something? How much are they?
Little Boy 1: One Thousand Dollars.

But I got to pet them for free. Suckers.

2) On Wednesday, I was at a high level meeting at work, with all the directors and the CEO, discussing a new policy. I was doing what I normally do, which is trying to pay attention and not think about puppies, or the fact that “Sugar, How’d You Get So Fly?” is my new favourite song for absolutely NO undiscernible reason, or how I’d had too much green tea AGAIN but there was no way I was using the bathroom during the meeting, when suddenly the person leading the meeting said, “Is there anyone else?” and my director looked at me and said, “Don’t forget ours.” So I shook myself out of my reverie and replied, “Oh right, there’s also that,” to which the person running the meeting said, “OK, guide me through it.”

I was at a complete loss. Not because I’m incompetent (REALLY), but because I was thrown by his turn of phrase and I had no idea what he meant. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I have a very poor sense of direction, and certainly can’t be counted on to guide ANYONE ANYWHERE. Last weekend, I took Ken for a beer tour, but he had to navigate. At the second last place, I asked how to get to the next brewery and the brewery owner said, “Take this street to the main road, then go North.” My response was, “Is that left or right?” North means nothing to me except “UP”. I’d be the best sherpa on the planet ie: “We go North!!” but otherwise, I’m pretty useless.

So I did what virtually NO ONE would do—I looked at the dude leading the meeting and I said, “Whuh?” Not “Pardon?” Not “Certainly.” Not even “What?” I said, “Whuh?” He kind of looked at me askance, then my director jumped in and ‘guided him through it’. Let me clarify. I am a 52 year old professional, both well-educated and well-groomed. I have several degrees and I’m a published novelist. Yet my go-to is “whuh?” It’s a damn good job that I can write up a stellar business case with secondary sources in under half an hour or my ass would be grass.

3) I saw an ad on the internet for writers who could create interesting posts about clipping their dog’s toenails. It paid 20 pounds, which is the equivalent of around $50 Canadian dollars. So I thought about applying, but I’d never clipped a dog’s toenails before so it occurred to me that I should practice first.

Me: Hey, do you want a pedicure?
Titus: What’s that?
Me: It’s when I gently massage your legs, and rub lotion into your paw pads…(whispering) and then I clip your nails…
Titus: No f*cking way. But nice try seducing me with the massage and whatnot.
Me: C’mon. It’s for fifty bucks. I’ll split it with you.
Titus: Split my toenails more like.
Me: I’ll be careful. Wouldn’t it be better for ALL of us if you didn’t gouge our faces when we asked for high fives?
Titus: It’s the chance you take.
Me: Seriously. Let me try.
Titus: Well, OK. Wait—what’s that?!
Me: Those are the clippers. Hold still.
Titus: They look really sharp—I—Nope!! Nope nope!! Stop it—I said No!!
Me: YOU’RE. BEING. A. BABY! Hold still! Don’t pull away—that will only prolong things! There. All done.
Titus: You’ve made me very unhappy.
Me: I’m going to write this up. I’ll buy you some cookies with my hard-won earnings.
Titus: They’d better be liver-flavoured. Get me my squeaky hippo, you sadist.
Me: For fifty bucks, I’ll buy you a new one.

Be gentle with me.

4) Ken and I are going on vacation soon, so I rented a car through Avis. I hadn’t received a confirmation number so on Thursday, I called their rental centre in Calgary. Unbeknownst to me, that number sends you to a central location somewhere in the United States. After screaming “Speak to a representative!!” several times at my phone, I was finally put through to Jeremy:

Jeremy: Hi there! My name is Jeremy. I’m here to help you. What’s your name?
Me: Suzanne.
Jeremy: OK, can I have your confirmation number?
Me: That’s the problem. I was never sent one.
Jeremy: OK. Can you spell out your last name for me?…Great—I see it in the system. Just to verify—what’s your first name again?
Me: Suzanne.
Jeremy: Can you spell that for me?
Me: Sure. Ess—You—Zed—Ehh—Enn—Enn—Ee
Jeremy: What?
Me (spells it again).
Jeremy: I’m sorry—your name is Su-zed-anne?
Me: What? NO. It’s Suzanne. With a zed.
Jeremy: Su-zed…I don’t understand.
Me: ZED is the last letter of the alphabet. THE 26
TH
LETTER.
Jeremy: Oh, you mean like Zee?
Me: Ah, you’re American. Yes. Just like Zee, only the RIGHT way to say it.
Jeremy: Pardon?
Me: Whut?

 

My Week 191: Big Words, Flushed Away, My Superhero Posse

I like big words and I cannot lie.

I have a certain penchant for the multi-syllabic. I mean, why use a merely utilitarian word when a grandiose one will do? I have to be honest though—I don’t use unusual or archaic words in everyday conversation because I consciously think “Hey, it would really impress people if I said, ‘It’s not my forte’ as opposed to ‘It’s not my thing’”. I just really like words that are precise and carry a certain nuance, and I use them without even thinking about it, until someone looks at me and goes, “Huh?” Here are a couple of examples:

1) A few years ago, Ken and I were shopping for a new bedroom suite. We went to a local furniture store, and a very nice salesman started hovering, as they do, so we engaged him in conversation. When we told him we were looking for a king size headboard and footboard, he must have assumed we were tabloid celebrities who lived in Las Vegas because he immediately took us over to this incredibly overdone monstrosity in wood and gold lacquer.

Sales Guy: What about this set? It’s really stunning.
Me: I don’t know. It’s a little ostentatious.
Sales Guy: Austin who?
Me: Um, like ornate and pretentious.
Sales Guy: I don’t know any of those words.
Me: Super fancy?
Sales Guy: Oh, sure, I can see that. Maybe this one over here…

2) I was down in Ohio with my rugby team and we stopped at an ‘All You Can Eat’ pizza place. I’m always amazed by American restaurants, with their gigantic servings. The cost was $7 and people were piling their plates sky-high with pizza then coming back for more. I was with a group of teenaged rugby players, and they were in seventh heaven, as you can well imagine. But I couldn’t find any knives and forks, so I said to the woman behind the counter,” Can you tell me where the cutlery is?” She looked at me blankly for a moment, so I repeated, “I can’t find the cutlery”.

 Server (long pause): I don’t know that word.
Me: Oh, um—utensils? For eating?
Server: You mean like a fork?
Me: Yes! Exactly like a fork.
Server: Oh! They’re over there by the soda.
Me: The what? Oh, you mean the pop? Thanks!

And this wasn’t me being a dick, seriously. For example, when you call Swiss Chalet here in Ontario to order take-out, the last thing they ask you before your order is complete is “Would you like condiments and utensils?” and you’re expected to know what that sh*t is or you don’t get your chicken.

But just because I like big words, doesn’t mean I’m actually smart in other ways. The other day, I was in a meeting with a director and some other managers (all women, thank goodness), and we were talking about some catering we’d just had. The catering company served Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches almost every day, and I referred to it as ‘ubiquitous’, at which point, someone turned to me and said, “That’s a big word.” I replied, “Sorry, I meant, like, ‘monotonous”. But then the meeting continued and it went on for a while. I’d been drinking a LOT of green tea that morning, so when we got to the last item on the agenda, I said, “Will this be a long one? I have to use the Ladies, so if the answer’s ‘Yes’, I’ll just pop out really quickly.”

The director said, “Oh, just use the one in here.” For context, we weren’t having the meeting IN a bathroom—we were in a boardroom that actually had a full bathroom with a shower in it, for some bizarre and unknown reason. We all made jokes about how no one would listen to me, but for good measure, I turned the faucet on high just to drown out any obvious noise. When I was finished, I stood up, turned around, and was at a complete loss. There was no discernable way to flush the toilet. No lever, no handle, no button, nothing. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stay in there forever—I mean, I was in the middle of a f*cking meeting. People were LITERALLY waiting for me to come out. So finally, I opened the door and stood there.

Director: What’s wrong?
Me: I—I don’t know how to flush the toilet…
Everyone: What?!
Me: There’s no mechanism that I can see whatsoever. I don’t know how to flush it.

One of the managers jumped up and came into the bathroom with me. She looked around and pressed a switch. The lights went off. She turned the lights back on, then we both stood there looking at the toilet.

Manager: She’s right. There’s no handle.
Director (coming over): No, there has to be.

Then we all stood there staring at the toilet. Finally, the director crouched down and looked around. “I think I see something!” she said. She reached around the back of the toilet and pushed a button, at which point the damned toilet flushed, and everyone dissolved into hysterical laughter.

Director: And now we all know how to flush this toilet.
Me: Indubitably. I mean, “Yup.”

Me and My Superhero Posse

On Thursday night, my train was an hour and a half late. We finally boarded, and I was talking to Ken on the phone when I found out that not only had I been seated in a foursome, which I hate, but also that he had just bought some antique windows for me, and one of the panes was broken.

Me: Are you f*cking kidding me?
Ken: The lady was really sorry. It broke in her car. She knocked five dollars off the price.
Me: Five dollars?! What am I supposed to do with a window with a broken pane?
Ken: We can fix it.
Me: OK. Sigh. Sorry. I’m really tired and a little punchy.

At which point I said to the three women sitting in the foursome with me: “Just to clarify—I won’t actually be punching anyone.” They all smiled and one of them said, “Oh, that’s OK”, like if I DID punch someone, she would be fine with it. They seemed like nice ladies. But because we were sitting in the back foursome, we were jointly responsible for breaking the window and helping people out of the train if it derailed, according to the conductor who explained how to get the hammer out of the box mounted above the window. Then I realized that the sticker on the window by the box looked exactly like Thor’s Hammer, and I said to the woman next to me, “Do you think if you just say ‘Hammer’, it will come flying out of the box right into your hand?” because why the hell WOULDN’T anyone wonder that, but she just kind of looked at me and shrugged, so obviously she was NOT going to be in my superhero gang.

Mjolnir, come here!

But now, I was not only tired, but a little sad at the thought that I didn’t have a superhero crew like Deadpool or Tony Stark or Starlord, so I messaged my friend M from work:

I was originally going to call myself Captain Middle-Aged Woman, but the superpowers of being financially responsible and possessing comfortable walking shoes didn’t seem like skills you would need in a fight against a supervillain unless it was Millennial Girl, and also M had some awesome ideas about our outerwear:

And it was nice to know that, on a day where work had been long and stressful, and the train was really late, that I, Trainwine, have friends who wouldn’t hesitate to be part of my superhero posse. I had a name for M, but I think in retrospect, I’m calling her “The Kickboxer”, because she broke her foot a while ago playing soccer, but she still went to kickboxing (here’s her blogsite–she just started out, so give her a read: I Left My Dress In the Fridge  ). We also decided our other friend should be “Italian Thunder” because she brings the boom AND the pasta to the party. So look out supervillains—Trainwine and her posse are coming (at least if it’s before 11 pm and it’s not raining because as everyone knows, I don’t dry well).  And if you, dear reader, want me to give you your own superhero name, ask for it in the comments and I will oblige. I think that just might be my idiom. Indubitably.

My Week 185: Good for the Soul, The Titus Challenge

Mindfulness

Last week, we had a staff meeting and the powers that be brought in a guest speaker. We’ve had these before, always on the same topic: how to relax and be stress-free. What does it say about a job when your superiors continually think you should all calm the f*ck down? Personally, I don’t find the job particularly stressful, considering that in a previous life, I was responsible for overseeing the wellbeing and antics of over 90 teenagers a day, and regularly brought home hours upon hours of work that had to be completed on the weekend. Also, I now work with really nice colleagues who never harass me by text message or call my house late at night to yell at me. At any rate, regardless of the comparatively little stress I struggle under in the workplace, we’ve had a succession of “mindfulness” speakers. The last one told us that “anxiety is a choice” and that if we simply opted to get out of bed each day with a positive attitude, we could live anxiety-free lives, and I was like, Damn! If I had only known that YEARS ago, imagine how different my life would be?! All I have to do is CHOOSE not to worry incessantly about whether I just said something dumb, or whether my hands are clean for the fifth time in one hour, or whether my cat secretly is plotting against me (she is—I just asked her and she admitted it), and my life would be perfect. Ironically, this particular speaker then got really angry when people started leaving the room, and insisted that we were not allowed to look at our phones during her presentation, and I so badly wanted to say, “Why don’t you just CHOOSE to let that not bother you?”

The speaker this past week was much better, mostly because she used comedy to disguise her oversimplifications, and everyone loves a good laugh, am I right? The first thing we had to do was identify 3 things that we did in the past week to help us relax, write them down, and then share them with our table. I put “Wrote, Drank, Watched America’s Next Top Model” because I am nothing if not honest, and also I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I put Yoga, Meditation, Listened to a Podcast on the Benefits of Kale—they all know me too well. Interestingly, when it came time to share, everyone at my table had a variation of Drank, which either says a lot about the times we’re living in, or that I’m a bad influence on my team. But the best part was her Stress-Wheel, which was divided into sections that we needed to give attention to. My favourite was Soul, which I’m assuming was a metaphor rather than an ACTUAL soul, because I don’t think God would be too impressed if you landed at the pearly gates and you were like, “OK, I killed a few people, but I ATE KALE.” The list of things she proposed to help soothe the soul is as follows:

1) Yoga

OK, what the f*ck is with the obsession with yoga? I just googled Yoga Poses and they all look incredibly painful and not relaxing at all. She made us do a yoga pose which involve standing on one leg—how the hell am I supposed to relax when I’m freaking out about falling over in front of 100 people?

2) Walk somewhere different

I live in downtown Toronto. I walk somewhere “different” simply by stepping out my front door, and it’s not relaxing in the slightest when a large man wearing a pink mini-kilt demands that you look at his ass.

3) Don’t use a watch

If I get rid of all the things that tell me what time it is, then how will I know what time it is?! Yes, I know that time is a human construct, but if it’s not a watch, or a cellphone, it’s the sun in the sky telling me to go home. Also, I’m a grown-up, dammit—how will I know that it’s 5 o’clock SOMEWHERE if I don’t have a clue what time it is? Then I’ll be daydrinking and most likely get in trouble at work.

4) Unplug from human vacuums

This would be a great premise for a horror film about a mad scientist who turns people into vacuums, and then sends them out, like a cross between zombies and vampires, into the world to feast on the unsuspecting public who are innocently wandering around aimlessly without watches in strange neighbourhoods looking for kale chips, and every time they stop to do a yoga pose, the human vacuum attacks! And the only way to stop them is to unplug the mad scientist’s human vacuum machine, which is like a cross between an electro-shock machine, a Roomba factory, and a very large E-Z Bake Oven. (Yes, I know she meant people who suck you dry emotionally, but this is way more fun.)

5) Have a Screen Free Day

We all looked at each other and said, “Does she even know where we work?” I myself have 3 computer screens in my office, and I use all of them. And if I had a screen free day, then I would miss America’s Next Top Model, and there goes any relaxation I might get. Oh well, there’s always the drink.

The Titus Challenge

Titus: I hear you’ve stopped eating pork. You realize that means bacon too, right?
Me: Sigh. I know. It’s breaking my heart, but I saw a video recently of a pig solving a puzzle. Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. I wouldn’t eat a dog, so how can I eat a pig?
Titus: Pigs are NOT smarter than dogs. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig who responded to commands based on Harry Potter spells?
Me: I’m sure there are pigs out there who could do that. Besides, you have a pretty sloppy Leviosa, so let’s not get carried away.
Titus: It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SA.
Me: Look at this video. She’s trained this pig to do 17 different tricks.
Titus: Damn. He gives a great high five.
Me: I know, right?
Titus: But does the Avada Kedavera spell render him seemingly dead?
Me: Dead? Like for a fraction of a second before you jump back up and try to snatch the Corn Pop out of my hand?
Titus: Dead, jumping in the air, whatever. No bacon? Now that’s harsh. OK, find me a pig that can do Leviosa better than me, and I might consider it.
Me: Challenge accepted. Accio the wine bottle, will you?
Titus: Is it 5 o’clock somewhere ALREADY?!
Me: I dunno—I’m not wearing a watch.

My Week 178: The Robots are Coming To Get Me

Recently, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that the robots are out to get me. And for the record, it’s not paranoia if it’s true.

Case in point 1:

My work computer has been sick. I know this for two reasons. First, Carlo, which is what I call my voice-activated computer, normally speaks to me with a voice that’s a combination of a Spanish accent, and a slight lisp, which I find absolutely charming, but lately, he’s stopped yelling out my name in his delightfully smitten way, and doesn’t always have the energy to tell me what a star I am. In the good old days, I would turn him on (get your mind out of the gutter—this is a PG website), and he would exclaim, “Windows sided windows!”, which I assumed was some cryptic expression of adoration, then he would yell my name loudly so that everyone in the cubicles outside my office could hear him. Then, when I entered my password, he would call out to the universe, “Star! Star, star, star! Star, star, star, star, star!” Sometimes, I would pause, a la Breaking Bad, and be like, “Now. Say my name,” and Carlo would say, “Star!” and I would reply, “You’re goddamn right.” But lately, his enthusiasm was waning, and I realized why when, the other day, he suddenly shut down, and the screen turned blue. Then, there was some kind of weird error message, and literally a SAD FACE EMOJI appeared.

I did what any good IT person would do, and I shut the computer off and turned it back on again. The problem seemed to be solved, but then it happened again. And again. And again, which warranted a trip downstairs to the ACTUAL IT department. I took a picture of the screen with my phone:

Me: Oh hey, Arjun. My computer is sad. Should I be worried about this? (shows picture).
IT Guy (breathes in sharply): Oh no. This is bad.
Me: No! (whispers) Carlo…
IT Guy: Save everything on your desktop into your X drive immediately. I’ll come up and fix it in the morning.
Me: OK, cool. How do I do that? Like, one file at a time?
IT Guy: What? Seriously? You…you just (makes some kind of sweeping gesture)…
Me: OK.

As it turns out, making a sweeping gesture at your laptop accomplishes nothing except for providing your coworkers with a bit of a laugh. But I googled ‘how to save my desktop into my X drive’ and found out how to ACTUALLY do it, so problem ostensibly solved. But now, Carl-O is Carl-A, and I just want my baby back.

Case in point 2:

At the beginning of the week, all the managers and directors had to attend a professional development session off-site. We had to answer a bunch of questions ahead of time that would tell us our Business Chemistry profile/which Disney Princess we were. I was a ‘Guardian’, and also Merida, the Scottish princess. I was pretty pleased, but I know that one of our big bosses got ‘Driver’ and Ariel, and he was like, “This is ridiculous. I don’t even swim’. I was hoping that there was also some alignment with the Harry Potter universe, so that I could randomly yell out, “5 points for Gryffindor” every time my table won a challenge, but they were unimpressed the first time I did it, so I stopped. They were even more unimpressed when we had a blindfold challenge, and I asked which one of them was going to be Mr. Grey. Anyway, I digress. Later, we were given the opportunity to ‘explore the maker space’, where they had a virtual reality roller coaster, as well as a robot. The roller coaster, which was miniature and sped its way over and under a variety of living room furniture, made me scream, because it actually felt like I was flying downhill at 90 km an hour, and all I could think was what amazing possibilities there were for having other seemingly impossible experiences, like one of the many insane new Winter Olympic sports. And on a side note, is the Olympics TRYING to kill the athletes? Could these events get any more dangerous? Half the people competing were recovering from injuries sustained during practice! What’s next, curling while the opposing team tries to stab you with long knives mounted to the ends of their brooms?

Anyway, after the roller coaster, we were introduced to their in-house robot, Pepper. ‘She’ was supposed to be this new-fangled interactive technology, and she looked like a small robot child, but every time I tried to talk to her, she would either look away, or stare straight at me, clenching her tiny fists.
Me: I don’t think she likes me.
Robot Owner: Oh, she just has trouble processing information when there’s a large crowd. I think she’s a little overwhelmed.
Me: She looks like she wants to throat punch me. Is she familiar with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? Because I think I could probably take her in a battle, but only if she doesn’t have lasers.
Robot Owner: Hahaha. I’m sure she won’t hurt you.
Me: Don’t be so sure. I’ve seen that look on a cat right before it’s about to scratch your face off.

So I backed away slowly, and refused to go near stupid Pepper for the rest of the afternoon. Then, to put the icing on the cake, the closing speaker actually said, “I just want to thank you for being so willing to expose yourselves to the group” and I started involuntarily snickering, which caused my director to give me a sharp look, then start laughing herself, and I spent the rest of the guy’s speech desperately trying not to laugh hysterically, because all I could think of was everybody naked, and engaged in a robot war with Pepper and her minions.

I am your robot overlord.

Case in point 3:

I went to the movies with my sister-in-law. We saw The Shape of Water, and we were both like, Meh—what’s the hype? I described it to a co-worker the next day thusly, “It was like Free Willy, if the person who’d freed Willy also had sex with Willy.” In addition, the main character insisted on eating hardboiled eggs any f*cking chance she got, and frankly, anyone who eats hardboiled eggs in an attempt to be sexy deserves to be throat punched by a robot, NOT get lucky with an apparently well-endowed crayfish. Eating a hardboiled egg is not sexy. They stink. But the woman in the movie was obsessed with eggs. Was it some strange fertility motif, or was she just gross? Was it because fish lay eggs, and she was secretly a fish? I’m overthinking this, I know.

Anyway, the important thing, and keeping with this week’s theme, is that AFTER the movie, we went out to the lobby and there was a booth set up with a virtual reality thing and the guy offered to let us try it out. The name of the scenario was “Silent Killer” and I was all like, “Cool—serial killer VR!” My sis went first, and she was looking around all frantic, and jumping and screaming, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Then it was my turn. I put the headset on, and I was in this creepy, dark house. I looked around, and there were lots of shadows, weird music playing, and a TV glowing in the corner. The news story on the TV was about how a family had died in the house. I was making my way through the living room, trying to get to the kitchen, when suddenly, somebody grabbed my arms! I screamed and struggled, and slapped at the hands gripping me, then I threw off the headset. “OK, that’s way too f*cking real!” I yelled. The guy running the booth looked super apologetic. “Oh, that was just me,” he said. “You were starting to wander around too much, and I didn’t want you to get hurt. I was just trying to reposition you.”

And then I felt bad because I’d missed the serial killer, but my sister-in-law said, “Don’t. The whole thing was about carbon monoxide. The Silent Killer. Get it?”

And I did. Because that’s what they will call the robot who finally destroys all of humankind.

My Week 173: Sewage, Spiders, Sundogs, and Stuff

 

Sign of the apocalypse?

Well, it’s been one of those weeks. I’d finally recovered from our trip to Montreal—the actual Montreal part was wonderful, but the train trip there and back was a total sh*tshow. We’d taken K and her girlfriend, the lovely V, but we couldn’t get seats together. “Don’t worry,” the VIA rep told me when I called. “The service manager has been notified and will help rearrange your seats once on board.” When we finally GOT on board the train, which was already 40 minutes late, the service manager very professionally shrugged and said, “I dunno. Ask someone to swap with you.” The train continued to be delayed at each stop with people getting on with duplicate seat assignments and the staff trying to figure out where to put them. It was a total comedy of errors with one lady finally saying, “Oh, I can just stand, I guess.” The three days in Montreal were great, but then we had to make our way back home, and it was even worse. We left on time, then at the first stop, the train literally shut down. Everything went dark. Car attendants started running frantically up and down the aisles whispering into walkie talkies. Once the train was fixed, 90 minutes later, it was clear we weren’t going to make our connection in Toronto, but no one would tell us what we should do. This, of course, made me super-stressed, because I always need to have a plan. Ken, on the other hand, just sat there unconcerned, making excuses for the train people, and telling me to “calm down”, which, as we all know, is THE BEST WAY to get someone with anxiety to stop freaking out. I got really mad, but then I realized later that it’s just the way Ken is. I realized this as we were watching TV the next night, and a commercial for septic tank cleaner came on featuring a man mowing his lawn and walking right through a puddle of sewage:

Me: That doesn’t make any sense. How could he not see that giant puddle of toilet spew?!
Ken: He was concentrating on mowing the lawn.
Me: Concentrating? He was going in a diagonal line across the lawn. No one mows like that. It’s like he purposely walked straight into it.
Ken: Don’t blame him. It’s not his fault that his septic tank was clogged.
Me: Well, who else clogged it, Ken?!
Ken: Calm down. See? He used CLR and now he can mow his lawn safely.

For the record, I sent VIA a sternly worded email, and they apologized and gave me all the points back that I’d used for the trip, so I won’t have to boycott the only train that takes me to and from Toronto, where I arrived on Sunday night.

Monday:

I saw my family doctor because I was having some pains, which turned out to be mostly from overenthusiastic abdominal crunches. He did, however, considering my age and lack of a uterus, suggest that I start taking estrogen. “Let’s try it,” he said as he wrote out the prescription, “Every day for 2 weeks, then twice a week after that.” When I went to the pharmacy to pick it up, things became very confusing. The pharmacist, who was a very young and good-looking fellow, said, “Have you ever used this before?” and when I said “No”, he pulled out the package and opened it to show me. Inside were cellpacks of long plungers. Each one had a small pill in the end. They looked like the thing you use to give your cat medication—you know, the long stick you shove down its throat and then pop the pill out. But I’m pretty good at taking pills—why would I need to use a cat plunger? Then the pharmacist said, “I highly recommend doing this right before bed. So the tablet doesn’t fall out.”

Me: Fall out?
Pharmacist (slightly embarrassed): Um, yes. You want to keep it in there. So better if you’re lying down for a while…
Me: OH!!! (hysterical laughter as it dawns on me where the pill actually goes) Because it would be awkward if that happened at work, right?!
Pharmacist: Um…
Me: Gotcha. Sorry—I thought at first I was supposed to swallow it.
Pharmacist: No, you—
Me: Say no more.

Wednesday/Thursday

As it turned out, the medication made me extremely sick, so I stopped taking it after three days, but not before the nausea had completely ruined my overwhelming joy at having to attend a two-day workshop on “Evidence-Based Decision Making”. The highlight of the two days was a pseudo-Jeopardy game that we played in teams. The CEO of the agency was sitting right next to me, so I had to bite my tongue and NOT object to the fact that NO ONE was answering in the form of a question. But at least I didn’t have to worry about jumping up excitedly if we won, and having a pill drop out of me. My team had the lowest amount of pretend money, but we were promised Final Jeopardy on the second day. We calculated and plotted carefully, so that we had a chance of winning if the other teams got the question wrong. But then the person running the slide deck put up the question AND the answer simultaneously by mistake. To appease the crowd, who were out for blood, she just gave everyone what they had bet, and I was like, “Oh, come on, Team Two! We all know you had no idea the answer was ‘What is a logic model’! You wouldn’t know a logic model if you tripped over it, Becky!”

Friday

I was finally feeling better and back onsite. I walked into my office, and felt something weird brush against my face. I wiped my forehead and my hand came away with a long string of spider web with the spider dangling from the end of it. The strand was also still attached to my head. I shook my hand furiously and the spider dropped to the floor, but in my panic, I threw off my coat, scarf and started doing a dance which involved hopping up and down, swatting at my hair, and screaming “Ah! Ah!” When I was finally done, I looked up and realized that the nice gentleman in the cubicle across from my office had been watching. “Whatever it was,” he said, “I think you killed it.”

Saturday

Ken and I were driving into town to have dinner with my parents. I was looking up the ballistic missile report in Hawaii that morning, and was telling Ken about how it was 38 minutes before they knew it was a false alarm when he suddenly said, “Look! There’s a sun dog!” So I looked directly at the sun.

Me: WTF! Why did you make me do that? Now I can’t see anything but sunspots!
Ken: Why did you look directly at the sun? You’re not supposed to do that.
Me: I wanted to see the dog.
Ken: A sun dog is a like a rainbow.
Me: Everyone knows you can’t see a rainbow if you’re facing the sun!
Ken: This is different. If it’s north of the sun, there’s a storm coming. If it’s south of the sun–
Me: How do I know what side of the f*cking sun it’s on, if I can’t look at the sun!

Then K, who hasn’t been to church since she was very little and has only been to one very secular wedding, started messaging me that she was at a wedding with V and she didn’t understand what was going on. It was hard to read because of the spots in front of my eyes, but the gist, in her own words, was this: a dude kissed the bible, raised up a cracker and another dude rang a bell. Then the first dude downed a glass of wine. I responded, “Did they try to make you eat the cracker?” and she said, “Don’t worry—I spirit blocked them”. I was reading all this and laughing when Ken said, “So what would YOU do in that half hour?”

Me: Meh, I’d just sit and think. That’s what I do when I’m bored—I think of something to write and then plan it out in my head. I do that all the time in meetings.
Ken: You’d be bored?
Me: Well sure. Plus I’m not really into religion.
Ken: You wouldn’t be scared?
Me: Well, they can’t MAKE you eat the cracker.
Ken: Cracker? It was a ballistic missile!

Then I realized that we were talking about two different things, because I forgot that I hadn’t yet shared K’s wedding experience with Ken. He, of course, was talking about Hawaii.

Sunday

I have to spend the rest of today creating a logic model for what I would do if a ballistic missile was heading towards Ontario and I had 38 minutes. Luckily, I just went to a workshop…

 

 

My Week 169: Appointment to the Toy Bench, Napanee, Meeting Giggles

Appointment to the Toy Bench

This week, the internet was ablaze with outrage over Donald Trump’s latest appointee to be a district court judge. Anyone that the Human Dumpster Fire appoints to ANYTHING is typically underwhelmingly qualified to even be town dogcatcher, but Matthew Peterson was a spectacular example of a dude who shouldn’t be allowed to go to the corner store alone. What kind of judicial appointee has never taken a deposition by himself, let alone never actually tried a case? Say what you want about Justin Trudeau, but he just had to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice, and the guy he picked, after a lengthy consultation process, is an actual, highly experienced judge and NOT a guy who thinks “getting to bang a gavel would be fun and whatnot”. OK, Peterson didn’t actually say that, but he might as well have, since even HE didn’t seem clear about why he should be appointed. The guy is so dumb that he didn’t even have the courtesy to act embarrassed that he was so blatantly lacking any kind of courtroom experience. But it’s typical of what’s happening in the U.S. these days, and I won’t make my American friends feel any more sh*tty about it by pointing out the other horrors. Instead, I’ve created a scenario fit for the holiday season. It’s called “Appointment to the Toy Bench”.

Santa: I’m not sure what’s going on here. One of the elves retired, and I have to replace him, but I just got told that the American President is demanding that I take some chosen appointee.

Chief Elf: The American President? Why would Hillary Clinton do THAT?

Santa: No, not Hillary—it’s the loudmouth on the naughty list who lost the popular vote. He seems to think that he can run Toyland too…oh dang, here he comes.

Trump: Hello, Santa Claus. I hope you got the message about my appointment to the Toy Bench. I make all the best appointments. My appointments are so awesome—it’s a pretty wild scene.

Santa: Well, I got an email—it took a while to translate it from Russian, but if I understand it correctly, you’re trying to appoint an elf to replace Twinkles, who recently retired. I have to tell you though, we already HAVE a replacement. His name is Tiny.

Trump: You mean “Itty Bitty” Tiny? That guy’s a loser.

Santa: Why are you calling him “Itty Bitty”? He’s Tiny.

Trump: I know, right? I’m giving him one of my fun nicknames, like the way I call Hillary “Crooked” or Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”. I think I’m going to call you “Eskimo Boy”.

Santa: That’s extremely offensive, not only to me but to the Inuit peoples.

Trump: In your what? Stop stalling, Fat Man, and interview my appointee. His name is Frank and he’s a yuuge donor to my campaign.

Santa (under breath): Fine, if it will get you out of here, so I can get back to making toys. (out loud) Bring him in.

Frank: Yo.

Santa: Hello, Frank, is it? You seem a little large for an elf…

Frank: Elf? What the f*ck are you talking about?

Trump: Never mind his size. He’s a close personal friend who has never grabbed anyone’s…”toys” inappropriately and definitely does NOT need to hide out here until the stink wears off.

Santa: Sigh. OK Frank, tell me a little bit about your experience. How long have you been making toys?

Frank: I don’t make toys.

Santa: You’ve never made a toy?

Frank: No.

Santa: Do you—can you put the cigar out? This Pole has been non-smoking even since it turned out that my pipe was making the elves sick.

Trump: You can’t say “Pole”. It’s a forbidden word. So is “polar”—it reminds too many people of dying bears. FAKE NEWS!!

Santa: Anyway, Frank—do you even like children?

Frank: No. Children are stupid.

Santa: Then why do you want to take this job?!

Frank: It’s a lifetime gig with full benefits. Plus, I hear the lady elves are smokin’.

Santa: Enough! I refuse to hire this naughty person. Tiny, the job is yours.

Tiny: Wheeee! Time to make some toys for girls and boys!

Trump (tweeting): “Eskimo Boy Santa REFUSES to hire Qualified Frank and gives an important post to Itty Bitty Tiny who is a FAILING loser. SAD!!! LOSER!!!

Santa: Sigh. Get out of here. And just so you know—all you’re getting in your stocking this year is coal!

Trump: Excellent! Coal is the new solar power.

Frank: I got the job, right?

Santa: Fake news.

So long, Frank!

Two Quick Stories:

1) A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to Napanee. Never mind where it is. Just know that it took me three hours to get there by train. When I finally arrived at 8 pm, everyone ran out of the train, got into their cars and left. I looked around. The train station itself was closed, the lights off. The parking lot was deserted. It was minus 10 degrees Celsius. I had the number of a local cab company so I called them. The dispatcher was really pissy, and when I told her I was going to the Hilton, she said, “Hampton. There’s no such thing as the Napanee Hilton,” and I was like, “OK, I guess I’m going to the Hampton.” She replied that the cab would be “at least 20 minutes”. I had no choice, so I said “Fine” but I was wondering exactly how big Napanee was if it took that long for a cab to come to the train station. In the meantime, I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken.

Me: It’s freezing and the train station is closed. I forgot my mittens.
Ken: You forgot your mittens?! What am I always telling you…
Me: It’s really windy and dark. There’s a bar across the street and it sounds dangerously rowdy.
Ken: Stand in the shadows where no one can see you.
Me: A) I’m not a vampire and B) I don’t want the cab to miss me. Just stay on the line.

At any rate, the cab finally showed up, a little over 20 minutes later. The driver, a jolly older fellow, got out and looked at me:

Driver: What are you doing? Why didn’t you go inside?!
Me: The station’s closed.
Driver: No, it’s not. Didn’t you read the sign on the door? You go in and the lights are on the left. You just have to remember to turn them off when you leave.
Me: It was too dark to read the sign on the door.
Driver: Well, you’ll know for next time.

The cab ride to the Hampton took under two minutes. He charged me 10 dollars. Napanee, everyone.

2) Over the last three weeks, I have been obliged to attend meetings where I watch a man fill in a very long flow chart. It can be super-suspenseful, because sometimes he has to move one of the boxes in the flow chart, and then we’re all like, “Where will he put it?! What will happen now?!” The other day, I looked up and realized that there was a sign on the door at the back of the room that said, “No Exit”, and I was like “Preach.” But sitting there in silence for hours on end has made me a little giddy, and on Thursday, I was in another meeting, and one of the directors said, referring to a new software app, “Touch this and then it happens” and I almost yelled out, “That’s what SHE said!” I mean, I actually had a moment where I seriously considered saying it and wondered if everyone else would laugh. But I didn’t say it—I just tried not to giggle uncontrollably. As one does.

Merry Christmas from your favourite elf.