My Week 262: All Along The Watchtower

A few weeks ago, I decided to decorate my bathroom. Well, I didn’t really DECIDE to do it; it was more of a defensive reaction to Ken constantly complaining that he hated the wallpaper. Personally, I love the wallpaper, which is a Waverly print of large cabbage roses, but for some reason, Ken finds it off-putting and outdated. Fair enough, since it’s been the same since we moved into the house 15 years ago and perhaps it was time for a change. So I scoured the decorating magazines that I regularly receive in the hope of finding inspiration. What my brain really wanted was something in cool, gray neutral tones, featuring a vanity with a marble top and brushed silver accessories like this:

Unfortunately, my heart had other ideas. I’m convinced at this point that in another life, I was a very gay Victorian man, if my interior design sense is any indication. And that’s not a stereotype—if you know anything at all about Oscar Wilde, you would know that his Aesthetic style was pretty much the way any man of certain proclivities back in the day would decorate:

And while a dining room like this (not mine…yet) might be horrifying to many of you, it fills me with joy. I will die on a hill of Persian rugs to defend this. And so it was that, instead of a sleek, modern white vanity with a smooth white marble top, I was immediately drawn to this particular monstrosity, which I ultimately decided that I couldn’t live without:

Plus it was on Facebook Marketplace and it was a great buy. Ken and I went out on Friday night after work to pick it up. Unfortunately, the granite countertop can’t be removed, so while Ken and the seller loaded it into our SUV, once we got it home, we were stymied. I don’t have anywhere near the upper body strength to help unload it, so it’s currently still in the vehicle.

At the same time, I was contacted through Marketplace about a small antique cupboard that I’m trying to sell. I’m only asking $25 but I can’t even GIVE the damn thing away. I had a woman who was supposed to come for it and stood me up twice, then gave ME a bad seller rating, and on Saturday, I once again was waiting for some rando to take it off my hands. Which brings me to the point of the story, which is less about furniture and more about why, on Saturday morning, I got out of the bath that I had just stepped into and ran downstairs to the door in my housecoat. As I had just been about to sit down, I happened to look out the window and saw two women coming up the walkway, and I assumed it was the person who was buying the cupboard arriving early. It wasn’t until I got downstairs, leaving wet footprints in my wake, that I realized one of the women was carrying a bible. But before I could beat a hasty, soggy retreat, they saw me and smiled and waved, so I had no choice but to open the door. They were, as you might have guessed, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and here is why they were standing on my doorstep:

A few years ago, the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by our house for the first time. I was never comfortable with the usual reaction that many people have to this circumstance, which is generally to tell them to go away and shut the door in their faces, so I politely took a pamphlet, thanked them, and wished them a good day. In retrospect, I think Option A might have been the better choice, because now they come by regularly, and they know me BY NAME. Let me just point out that the woman who came to our house on Saturday was accompanied by another younger woman, a complete stranger, yet she had the intel on us, like a religious Mata Hari, and called Titus by name. It occurred to me long ago that they imagine me as a new recruit. “Her dog licked me this time,” they might report back. “It’s a good sign—tell Jehovah that she could be one of the 144,000, and let Bob know he probably just lost his spot in Jehovah heaven.” Little do they know that Titus will lick anything–in fact, I just had to tell him to stop licking the refrigerator.

But I don’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness. That sounds really whiny and self-centred, since I’d be such a victory for them and whatnot, but there are some serious drawbacks to joining them. First and foremost, I like Christmas, and I hear that you can’t celebrate Christmas or your birthday either if you’re JW. What kind of f*cking religion is THAT? No Christmas or birthday presents? Presents are great—even Jesus got presents. Second, they don’t drink. Right away, I foresee a problem with this—I would almost immediately rebel, and it would become obvious really quickly. “Hey did you see that sign of the apocalypse?” “Uh, no sorry, I was opening another bottle of wine…” (Actually, I just looked it up and they ARE allowed to drink in ‘moderation’, but unless ‘moderation’ means ‘as much as I want’, it’s pretty much a deal-breaker.) And lastly, and maybe most importantly, I could never get Ken to buy into whatever the JWs believe in, so he’d have to leave me. And I say it like that because I have no plan to move after all the decorating I’ve done, so he would have to get an apartment. But I’m a sucker for door to door salespeople, this is the problem. Once, Ken and I had some people over, and we were drinking ‘moderately’ when a guy came to the door selling golf packages to a local country club:

Me: Ken, this is a great deal. I’m totally buying one of these.
Ken: But we don’t golf.
Me: Yes, we do. We’ve golfed.
Ken: We went golfing once. And you were more interested in driving the cart than hitting the ball.
Me: You’re crazy. I love golf.
Ken: *rolls eyes*

So I bought the golf package. It’s still on my desk, two years later. I think it’s expired. Which brings me back to the fact that, just as I’m a lousy country club member, I would also be a terrible Witness. I would suck at going door to door and talking up Jehovah to people. I think it’s pretty well-known by now, if you come here often, that I’m not a huge fan of talking to strangers. I tried being an Avon lady once, but I never made any sales, and people LIKE Avon. I’d just end up throwing Watchtowers onto people’s porches and running away, like I used to do with Avon catalogues. (My favourite edition of The Watchtower was “Satan—is he real?” The article started, “Like carbon monoxide, Satan is invisible, very hard to detect, and extremely dangerous.” So if my carbon monoxide detector goes off, does that mean Satan is in my house? Should I call the fire department or a priest?) Ultimately, since I just don’t have it in me to be rude to people who are so pleasant (even though they are secretly scheming for my eternal soul), I think the best thing to do is leave a recycling bin on the porch full of wrapping paper, ribbons, and liquor bottles, and train Titus to stop licking strangers. Otherwise, I’ll be coming to a neighbourhood near you soon.

By the way, I just paid to have the ads removed from my site. Let me know if you’re still being harassed by pictures of foot fungus.

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”.