My Week 187: Things I Say That No One Understands

I’m currently navigating myself through the 7 circles of hell, also known as Mississauga, and I think I’m at about 5 and a half, so I’ve moved on from wrathful to just damned sullen. Here’s a little something to make you giggle.

Wednesday: I have a lot of sayings that apparently no one else understands.

So a while ago, I was talking with some colleagues about the similarities between two pieces of writing that we were looking at. I happened to remark, “It’s probably just a coincidence—you know, a million monkeys and a million typewriters, right?” Everyone looked puzzled and a little confused, so I clarified—“If you give a million monkeys each a typewriter….?” In retrospect, this was NOT a clarification, and everyone continued to look at me with confusion. I tried again.

Me: If you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, eventually one of them will write the bible. You’ve heard that saying before, right?
Colleague: Why would a monkey write a bible?
Me: No, it’s a saying. It’s the idea that random events can happen if you have enough time—and monkeys. So eventually, after hammering away, one of the monkeys might just randomly hit the right keys to recreate the words in the bible…sorry, it’s just a saying. I’m not implying that the person who wrote this, or the bible, is a monkey…

At that point, I started to get panicky, because I want my colleagues to think that I’m at least a little bit mentally competent, and I was starting to sound kind of like a crazy monkey-lady, which is like a crazy cat-lady, but with monkeys. Obviously. Then it occurred to me that I have a lot of strange sayings that I expect other people to understand, but a lot of the time (I’ve come to realize) they DON’T.

Once when I was still teaching, I was discussing Hamlet with my students. It was the scene where Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, gives him back all the ‘remembrances’ he’s given her, under the direction of her father. Hamlet freaks out, tells her to get to a nunnery, and curses her out, even though he loves her. So I said, “That Hamlet—talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, right?” The kids were like, “Why would Hamlet cut off his nose? What does that mean?” So I went into this lengthy explanation of how if you’re mad at your face and you cut off your own nose just to piss off your face (I didn’t say piss, of course, but something innocuous like ‘tick’), then all you’ve done is wreck your own face, because you’re mad at yourself, and now you’ve made yourself more unhappy—AND noseless. I said, “Come on—none of you have EVER heard that expression? No one’s parents or grandparents have EVER used that expression?” To which one student replied, “My grandparents aren’t that old.” Ouch. Wow, really? Because I’ve inherited a lot of my weird sayings from my family, over the course of many years. Here are a few of my favourites, and I’ll be honest—even I’m not sure exactly what they mean.

1) “If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.”

I have, after many years, interpreted this to mean that if you go to the Lagostina store a lot, you put pot-repair people out of business. This saying has numerous applications because it sounds very charming and clever, and it makes people think twice before they wish they had more pots.

2)“If hell was in Yoker, you’d get over for a penny.”

Where the hell IS Yoker? Plus, I would think that going to hell wouldn’t cost a measly penny—it would cost your ETERNAL SOUL. That one, I don’t even begin to understand. My dad knows what it means, mostly because I think he made it up. Or one of his Scottish ancestors did, when he was drunk on Scotch at a bar in Yoker.

3) “You’re such a dog in the manger.”

This is a very unusual saying, and I don’t know where it comes from (Ken), but it refers to a dog that doesn’t really want to BE in the manger (which is like a cattle stall), but he stays in there only because he doesn’t want the cow to enjoy the manger. Ken grew up on a dairy farm, so I imagine this happened a lot, with people constantly chasing dogs out of cattle stalls and whatnot. In human terms, this would be like a person who has called dibs on the long spot on the sectional couch, then won’t give it up to someone else, even if they’re really uncomfortable after watching the first 5 episodes of “Stranger Things Season Two.” Of course, I would NEVER do that.

4) “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

No they wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen of the local panhandlers in my neighbourhood, if wishes were horses, beggars would sell them for a hot meal and a warm bed. What would a panhandler do in downtown Toronto with a horse? First, they would have to feed their horses, and most of them don’t have enough money to feed themselves. This would most likely result in people sitting on sidewalks with signs that said, “Help me feed my horse.” Would you feel sorry for someone with a sign like that? My favourite homeless guy, who sits outside of Loblaws, has an adorable little terrier named Onyx, but he’s smart enough to keep a bag of dog treats next to his sleeping bag as a way to engage people. When someone says, “What a cute dog,” he asks if they would like to give Onyx a treat. Then people feel so sorry that Onyx is homeless too that they give him money to help feed the dog. And it works. Over the last 2 weeks, I must have given him at least 10 dollars, and one day he remarked that he had just run out of treats for Onyx, so I bought him a bag when I went into Loblaws. He was very grateful and blessed me, which was nice, all things considered. I can’t see that happening with a horse though. I definitely wouldn’t buy a bag of apples for a homeless guy’s horse. Even if he was my favourite panhandler like Francis (that’s not actually his name, but it’s what I call him in my head). I have a least favourite panhandler too—he’s the guy at the entrance to the Gardiner Expressway who has a sign with the Macdonald’s logo on it that says “Hungry and not lovin’ it”. While the sign is clever, he isn’t—he runs in and out of traffic with the sign and a coffee cup, banging on windows, and almost causing car crashes. A lot of panhandlers try to brand themselves with signs like “Can’t work, brain injury, please help”, or “Give a nickel for a kid in a pickle”, but Francis is more subtle—he doesn’t have a sign. He just sits wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a ball cap in front of him, and then he just smiles at everyone and says “hello” in a very pleasant way that makes you WANT to give him money. I’ll bet if he had one wish, it wouldn’t be for a horse, it would be for world peace, because that’s the kind of guy Francis is. I think.

5)“What you lose on the roundabout, you save on the swings.”

I love this saying. It basically means the same as “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”, so essentially, everything balances out. But it makes me think of carnivals, and that puts me in a festive mood. Of course, it could also refer to people with inner ear disorders, like Ken. Once, we went to a carnival in New Hamburg and I convinced him to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl. So we paid “for the roundabout”. Then he got so sick and dizzy that he couldn’t go on any more rides. I had to half-carry him home because he could barely walk. Except we didn’t really “save on the swings” because we had already bought tickets for some other rides, and ended up giving them away to random people because Ken was like, “Ooh, I feel like throwing up. Ooh, please take me home.” So technically, we lost on the roundabout AND the swings because Ken was a big baby. A big, nauseated baby.

I asked K what kind of sayings I use that she thinks are weird, and this was the conversation:
K: Well, you say f*ck a lot.
Me: That’s not a saying, that’s a swear word.
K: But I tell my friends, “Like my mom always says, ‘F*ck.”
Me: *laughs hysterically*

When she read this, she got upset and said I was making her sound like she talked with an English accent. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but I encourage all of you to imagine that she DID say all that with an English accent. And speaking of English accents, I leave you with this saying, in the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying”.

My Week 143: Awkwardness at Work, 2 Quick Tales

I am sometimes awkward at work

Anyone who knows me (or visits this site frequently) knows that I can be a little awkward around other people. I quite often misinterpret the things other people say, mostly because in my head, life is like a Monty Python sketch, which is to say it’s weird, and funny, and quite often self-referential, like if you haven’t watched the show before, you might not understand the joke. For instance, the other day, I was going through some materials with a co-worker, looking for common patterns, when another colleague walked in and asked, “Have you found anything?”

“Well,” I answered, “it could be something, or it could just be a case of a million monkeys with a million typewriters.”

“Writing the bible. Right,” replied my colleague. And I so badly wanted to say, “Ah, you’ve seen this episode before,” but I didn’t, because that would be pushing my luck. And also, I wanted to hug her, because mostly when I say that, people think I’m either obsessed with monkeys, or don’t like the Bible. Not that I actually LIKE the Bible—I’m kind of ambivalent towards it, like if I was to review it, I would probably say something like “Choppy style, but interesting plot. A little too preachy for this critic. 3 out of 5 stars.”

Anyway, recently I got promoted, so I’ve gone from being able to wallow in my comfort zone to being right out there in the spotlight. And it’s hella uncomfortable. In work situations, I normally like to sit and listen, just observe, and I only say something if I think it’s important. In my head, I like to think I’m perceived thusly: “She doesn’t speak very often, but when she does, we all should listen.” Unfortunately, the reality is probably more like, “What the hell is she talking about NOW? It’s always monkeys, monkeys, monkeys.”

But since the promotion, when I’m in meetings, instead of just being able to sit there, listen, and make notes, I’m REQUIRED to speak. And it’s usually when I least expect it.

Director: And then the 4th quarter targets….
Other Director: The memo about this requires a decision note…
Chair: And now for a report from mydangblog.
Me: What?! I…We are an EFFECTIVE team.

You can tell that I was lost in thought, going through Tom Cruise movies in my head. Thank goodness I was stuck at Oblivion, and not Jerry McGuire, because “Show me the money!” might not have gone over as well. (Just for the record, they don’t actually call me ‘mydangblog’ at work, but it would be super-funny if they did.) And the other day, we were having a high up meeting, and we were told not to let people into the office without escorts, because it IS a secret agency, and there are a lot of confidential materials in the office that are not for the public’s eye. “In fact,” said one of the Directors, “this came about because last week, we discovered that a former employee was in the office, and no one knew about it.”

Me: What?! You mean, like, for days? Was he hiding somewhere? I KNEW we needed to clean up that storage room!
Director: No. He was only here for a couple of hours. He wasn’t hiding—he just wasn’t being escorted by the person who let him in.
Me: Oh, good, because otherwise that would have been REALLY disconcerting.
Director: Yes. Sigh.

Now that I’m a manager, I’m also responsible for a budget. And it’s a HUGE f*cking budget. When I was a high school department head, my total budget was $12 000, and I was responsible for every penny. I had an Excel spreadsheet with two columns: ‘What I Have’ and ‘What I Spent’. My only job was to make sure that ‘What I Spent’ was never more than ‘What I Have’. When I first saw my new budget, I was completely freaked out, and my first thought was, “I’m gonna need a bigger spreadsheet.” So I asked to have a meeting with the Manager of Finance:

Me: So I’m a little concerned about how I’m supposed to keep track of all this.
Finance Manager: Keep track?
Me: Well, there are over 200 budget lines with like another 500 sublines. Does the spreadsheet you sent me automatically calculate debits or do I have to do that manually? I think I should probably pin the calculator to the task bar if that’s the case, cuz this is gonna take a LOT of time.
Finance Manager: Uh, no. This is just ‘for your information’. We have a whole department that deals with budget calculations.
Me: Oh. OK. Cool.

And speaking of cool, the person who had my office before me had a big-ass fan. Me, I’m always cold, so I haven’t used it yet, but last week it was getting pretty hot, so I decided to turn it on.

Step 1) Plug fan in and press ‘Power’ button.
Step 2) Hold hand up in front of fan to see how cold the air is.
Step 3) Look at fan skeptically.
Step 4) Change the setting to high and place hand in front of fan again.
Step 5) Look at fan skeptically.
Step 6) Change setting to “Oscillate” and place hand in front of fan again.
Step 7) Turn fan off and then back on.
Step 8) Realize that fan is not a computer and that turning it off and on again made no difference.
Step 9) Pick up fan to shake it and discover that fan is facing backwards.
Step 10) Turn fan around so that it is no longer blowing cold air at the wall.

And finally, the coup de grace of my awkward week:

I work with a very nice gentleman about my own age. On Wednesday, I was having trouble with my computer, so I went over to his desk. He’s lucky, in that he has a window, but also unlucky, in that it looks right over into the highrise building next door. I was in the middle of a conversation with him when this happened:

Me: So are you having trouble with your drives? I can’t get anything to load.
Very Nice Gentleman: No, mine seem–
Me: Holy sh*t! There’s a girl in that window and she’s completely naked!
VNG (clears throat): Oh, gosh. Anyway–
Me: No, seriously. Good lord! Okay, now she’s putting on underwear. Doesn’t she know we can see her?!
VNG: Um, I actually can’t from where I’m sitting. So, have you tried restarting your com–
Me: She’s right there! Just stand up a little bit!
VNG: No, that’s OK.

So I stood there for a little while longer until the girl was dressed and gone. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the poor guy was probably mortified and all like “Can’t we just talk about monkeys?!” And now, I feel terrible for trying to make him look at naked ladies . But probably not as terrible as the girl would be, if she knew that she can be seen in all her glory from our office windows.

Two Quick Stories:

Crazy for Adjectives:

Right now, I’m going through resumes for a position I’m hiring for. The one notable thing is that people really go a little overboard with their superlatives. Either that, or they REALLY want to work with me. I started making a list of things that people say that will not get them a foot in the door. First, there are the people who are ‘delighted’ to be applying for the position. These people are also possessed of ‘great enthusiasm’, as well as ‘great eagerness’. Then there are the people who are ‘extremely knowledgeable’ and are ‘highly adept’. Finally, there are those who tell me that ‘As you can see’, they will be an ‘excellent addition’ and a ‘valuable member’. Then I got the feeling that maybe they all thought they were applying for a position as “puppy petter” or “ice cream truck client”. I mean, my office is a great place to work, but it’s no kitten farm, so dial it back a notch, Skippy.

Nickels and Dimes:

I was on the train Friday night, and we were sitting in the station waiting to depart, when the guy in the seat across the aisle from me suddenly starting talking VERY LOUDLY to someone on his cellphone. It was his bank. He was angry because he had paid for something by cheque from his line of credit which he rarely did, and he was charged a service fee, which he had NEVER been charged before. Then he gave the person on the other end his account number and the answer to his secret question, AND the dollar amount of the cheque, which was $2, 226.00 and I was like, “That service charge must have been huge for him to do this in front of everyone”, and also “I could totally hack his account”, at which point, he said, “It was twenty-five cents. I don’t understand why I’m being charged to use my line of credit. I want it credited back to my account immediately.” I actually snickered out loud at how serious and pissy he was. Then the train left the station and he was quiet for a while, so I assumed the bank’s customer service representative told him he was silly, and to go away. But suddenly, after about 10 minutes, I heard him say, “Yes,” and I realized he was STILL on the phone. Then he said, “Thank you. I hope this never happens again.” I just love that the customer service rep. kept him on hold for so long, hoping that he would hang up. Yet, he persisted.

My Week 2 – Smokehouses and Country Vets

Sunday, When Ken and I Have Yet Another Fascinating Conversation:

When we’re driving in the car together, Ken and I often have fascinating conversations about the things we see. I like talking to Ken more than pretty much anyone I know, because we can talk about anything with complete seriousness. Like this:

Ken: Did you see the barn we just passed? There’s a big sign on it that says “Smoke Barn”. I wonder why.
Me: You mean “Why is it a Smoke Barn?” or “Why label it?” Because to answer the first question, most likely because things get smoked in it, tobacco leaves for instance. Or maybe it’s where people who work on the farm are allowed to smoke.
Ken: No, I mean why put a sign on it? If it’s YOUR Smoke Barn, why tell other people about it?
Me: Maybe the owner is really proud of it and wants people to know that he finally reached his goal of owning a Smoke Barn.
Ken: It just seems weird.
Me: Maybe it’s a liability thing, like for insurance. In case someone breaks into the barn, gets overcome by the smoke and dies, their family can’t sue you because you warned people that it was a Smoke Barn.
Ken: I think that if you break into a Smoke Barn and die, it was pretty much your own fault.
Me: I don’t know about that—I remember hearing about a robber who was on the roof of a house trying to break in when he fell through the skylight and broke his back. He sued the owners for having a faulty skylight and won.
Ken: That’s crazy.
Me: Maybe they should have put a sign on it.

Tuesday, The Day I Pretend To Be A Country Vet:

So I was reading the latest issue of my favourite magazine “Country Living”, because I live in the country but need help, because I’m not really a “country” person and this magazine helps me figure out how to decorate and cook in various countrified ways that make me feel like I can keep up with the other country people around here, although technically I live in a village with a gas station, a video store, and two restaurants. I say two, but there is a currently a plaza being built on the edge of town which is, like, two blocks from my house, featuring another gas station as well as a Pizza Pizza store and a Country Style Donuts place, because of course what every small village needs is national franchises that will run local businesses into the ground. I’m going to digress from my Country Living opening and complain for a minute about the new plaza because a) it’s been under construction for over a year and at this point I’m convinced that the owners only work on it when they win money at the Woodstock casino, and b) we already have some great restaurants in town as well as a gas station called the Diva (a tremendously cool name, right?) run by this lovely East Indian family, as opposed to drag queens which would also be fabulous, and which has amazingly cheap gas as well as dollar store stuff. These people are all local and I will NEVER buy anything from the new plaza. (Unless the gas station is full-serve because I hate pumping my own gas. I would like to be more loyal, but the truth is, I can be pretty mercenary when it comes to avoiding getting gasoline on my shoes.)

Anyway, back to my original topic—I was reading Country Living magazine and it features a column called “Ask A Country Vet”. And based on the questions that are asked of said veterinarian, I can only assume that SOME people in the country don’t get out much. This month’s issue featured the following question: “How can I prevent my cat from sleeping in the laundry basket on top of my freshly laundered clothes?” I’m going to give you a minute to re-read that question. Because I had to re-read it more than once to confirm that I wasn’t imagining that I was in an alternate universe where veterinarians had to actually answer bizarre questions like this. Then I pretended that I was the veterinarian and answered the question thusly: “After you freshly launder your clothes, PUT THEM AWAY. Then your cat can’t sleep on them.” It seemed like a pretty obvious response to me, as someone who has owned cats for many years, but wait—the vet responsible for this column apparently has never owned a cat, and very seriously responded that the best solution was to put a SHEET OF TIN FOIL on top of the laundry so that when the cat leapt into the laundry basket, the sound of the tin foil would startle it to the extent that it would become afraid of the laundry basket, thereby avoiding it. My immediate response to that was WTF??!! because in my experience with animals, scaring the crap out of them does not lead to a happy co-existence.

But the main reason why you do NOT want your cat in your clean laundry is this: Cats are filthy. They poop in gravel and then drag it around your house. I love my cat, but when she jumps up on the bed and wants to cuddle, I try really hard NOT to think of the billions of bacterias that are swarming all over the quilt, and I never, ever high-five her like I do the dog. Now, here’s what I imagine will happen in this whole tinfoil scenario—your cat uses the litter box, and is about to drag some of that poopy gravel into your freshly cleaned laundry on its little poopy paws. Then your freshly cleaned laundry scares more poop out of the cat, ONTO your freshly cleaned laundry. Instead of pissing your cat off, why don’t you try the simple, hygienic trick of putting the laundry away? Then it occurred to me that maybe the editors of Country Living magazine make up these questions because a few months ago, somebody asked this following gem: “Why does my dog chase his tail?”

Friday, The Day I Discover My New Favourite Phrase:

I’m currently binge-watching a show called “Elementary,” which is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes series. The dialogue is very witty at times, and today, during one episode, Sherlock, played by Johnny Lee Miller, who is very awesome, says to Watson, played by Lucy Liu, “Opinions are like ani, Watson—everybody has one”. It took me a second, then I figured out what he meant and it became my new favourite phrase. My previous favourite phrase was “This is not my circus; these are not my monkeys” which I would say to myself whenever the case called for it, which was fairly often. But my new favourite phrase can also be used for a variety of occasions, and sounds pretty innocent until you look up what “ani” means (it’s pronounced ayne-eye, by the way). When I started writing this, I looked up the spelling because I didn’t know if it had one or two “n”s in it, and I discovered another interesting fact, thanks to dictionary.com, that while it means the plural of “anus”, the word “anuses” is more commonly used. Really, dictionary.com? Because I’ve never in all my life had the need to refer to more than one anus, so whoever is making its usage common is beyond me. Maybe people who work at hemorrhoid cream factories. Or proctologists. Then I thought about something similar that happened in class the day before (absolutely NOT involving the word “ani”), when I remarked that someone had used two different mediums in their artwork, and one of my students, in the way that only teenagers can do, corrected me and said I should have said “medi-ahhh”, because that was the plural of medi-ummm. So I did what all great teachers do when they’re caught making a mistake, which is to totally make something up on the spot, and I told the kids with absolute confidence that when you are using a specific number in front of a word like that, you use the singular noun form, not the plural, because it was Latin. And nobody questioned it.