Creative Writing Wednesday – What Remains

I normally don’t post mid-week, but I thought I might start doing it once in a while. You all know I write this weird-ass blog, and that I write novels. I’ve posted some of the short stories I’ve had published in the past in different literary mags, but what you might not know is that I also write poetry. It’s not very good poetry, and I don’t submit it anywhere because it’s not really what the lit mags are looking for, I don’t think, but I like doing it anyway. So today, I’m posting this piece I wrote over the last couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy it. I showed it to Ken and he said, “…Interesting” and then I showed it to Kate and she thought it was about fish migrating. IT’S NOT. Anyway, take from it what you will.

What Remains

We speed along the black river
The wires on shore buzzing
And cutting into our flesh
Across the distance
Full of secrets.
We hide on the water
Tight to the bank
Where the towers can’t see us.
You tell me to slow down
“The faster we go
The more noticeable we are.”

 We race along the black road
Through pine and spruce
And hard rock
Whispering our names.
The tar sticks to our tires
Melting the treads.
Up ahead the wires spit
And crackle out a signal.
You tell me to veer left
“This way is safe.
Drive until dawn.”

 We sift through the black sand
Not on a beach
But in a desert
Hidden under an ocean of stuttering stars.
With desperate hands
We pull conch shells from its depths
And then bones.
They are our bones
The bones of our parents
And the bones of our children.
You tell me to gather them up in my arms
And fill my pockets.
“We’re home.”

Originize! and a Poem About Clocks

Earlier this week, I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by my friend Tom from Tom Being Tom, who is an amazing blogger and human being, and I love all of his dogs almost as much as I love him. He nominated people based on the names of Santa’s reindeer and I got Dancer, which was OK, but if I’m being honest, I wish he would have invented a new reindeer named Player One, who would have supplanted Rudolph at the head of the sleigh team due to her speed, and also it would have made up for my sadness over the fact that my fantasy hockey team, which is also called Player One, is currently at the bottom of the league. I think. Because the hockey app on my phone stopped working and I can’t access the standings anymore, but no one at work is approaching me ominously and saying oddly sexual things like, “Don’t get too comfortable being on top”, so I assume I’m no longer a threat to JEFFREY.

Anyway, as part of the award, I have to provide my origin story and offer two pieces of advice to new bloggers. First my origin story, which is nowhere near as cool as like, The Avengers or whatnot:

About 5 and a half years ago, I was going through a hard time at my previous workplace because of a group of extremely nasty people, so to save myself and my sanity, I started focusing on the funny things that were happening each week, and started writing them down. I already had a WordPress site that I’d been using professionally, but I completely revamped and reinvented it so that I could share my humour with the world, which also explains why the blog is mydangblog but the domain is educationalmentorship.com—I can’t for the life of me figure out how to change it and I quite often forget that Educationalmentorship is actually me because it sounds way too professional and fancy. But being able to do that, to shove aside the negativity and revel in life’s absurdities, is what drives me to write. Even though I’ve changed jobs and now I work with some truly awesome people, I still write the blog because humour is important to me.

Two Pieces of Advice:

1) Whenever you are full of self-doubt, picture yourself as a supermodel on a catwalk. Play the song “Cover Girl (Put The Bass In Your Walk) by RuPaul in your head. Then walk down the street, or down the aisle in your office like the fierce f*cking queen or king you are. I do this regularly and it’s amazing how effective it is.

2) If your dog tells you that he hasn’t been fed yet, don’t believe him—he’s a notorious liar and just stole half a chocolate log cake off the kitchen island when you were out buying an antique stained glass window, then claimed it was “the fairies” when you accused him of eating it. Ignore the specificity of this piece of advice—I’m sure it’s true of all dogs.

(Nobody said the advice had to be about blogging. Here’s an actual piece of blogging advice: Write because you love doing it, not for any other reason.) And now I’m supposed to nominate other people, but some of you don’t like awards (weirdos, but I love you anyway) and some of you have a bunch already, and there are so many of you who are wonderful, so here’s my challenge: Post your own origin story and two pieces of random advice, and say that I made you do it.

On Friday, I was getting ready for the day, and I looked up at the clocks in my bathroom. They both said 11:34, and it completely freaked me out. Why? I hear you asking. Shouldn’t the clocks both be telling the same time? And the answer would normally be yes, but in this case, one clock works and the other DOES NOT. And isn’t it an amazingly strange coincidence, or a harbinger of doom perhaps, that I happened to look at both of them when they were showing the same time? Or maybe it was a good omen, I don’t know. At any rate, nothing particularly good or bad happened the rest of the day, and also don’t judge me for not getting ready for the day until almost noon, because I’m ON MY HOLIDAYS.

But then I started looking around the house at all the clocks. It’s a very large old Victorian house, built in 1906, complete with a front staircase AND a back staircase, which is apparently fascinating to young children who will spend hours doing a circuit involving going up the front stairs, running through the upstairs of the house, going down the back stairs, and running through the main floor of the house. Then repeat. I know this because over the last few days, we’ve hosted several children who all took tremendous delight in this activity which, I have to admit, is pretty fun and I do it myself on occasion. In fact, I did it on Saturday as I was clock counting. You may be surprised, and somewhat alarmed (best pun ever) to learn that I have 43 clocks in random places around my house (and I’m not even counting phone, computer, microwave or TV clocks). 16 of them work, and 27 do not. 1 of them was actually just in a drawer. And out of the 27 that don’t work, I found two more that had stopped around 11:34-ish, and another two that had stopped at 6:57, which looks frighteningly like 11:34-ish from a distance. I should probably mention at this point that I collect vintage alarm clocks and most of them are wind-up, and do I have time to wind up 27 clocks? No, I don’t. Plus all that ticking would drive me crazy. But why are some of my clocks fixated around the 11:34-ish mark? Is that when the ghost in my house died? I may never know, but anytime something either wonderful or terrible happens, I’ll be sure to look at one of the working clocks to see what time it is.

Me: What time was it when you ate all the cake? I know it was you, so stop trying to blame “the fairies”.
Titus: Fine, fine. You left at 11:30. It was a few minutes after that.
Me: Are you feeling sick yet?
Titus: A little. I’ll probably throw up tomorrow morning, say around 11:34.
Me (whispers): Harbinger of doom…

Here’s a poem I wrote about clocks:

Unwound

Clocks that don’t work
Have a certain charm.
They remind us
That time is a construct,
An imposition on our freedom.
When clocks are silent,
They can’t tick down our days.

My Week 237: 3 AM Eternal Revisited

So I’m going through another bout of insomnia, a condition that I like to call “3 AM Eternal”, because I wake up around 3 o’clock in the morning and I think, “That’s OK—I still have a couple of hours until I have to get up”, and then I lie there for a f*cking ETERNITY before I fall back to sleep. And sometimes I DON’T fall back to sleep and then my mind just wanders down any number of bizarre paths. ‘Why don’t you get up and watch TV, or read a book or something?’ I hear you ask. The answer is simple: I love lying down. I mean, I am never so happy as when I am prone, snuggled under warm covers in a soft bed. Maybe it’s because so much of my day right now is spent standing and walking around a giant convention centre (which is also absolutely contributing to the insomnia), but the fact is that I am a horizontal person. And I’m sure that vertical people are very smug and proud of their defiance of gravity and whatnot, but they will never understand the pure and existential delight that I feel when I am flat on my back, glass of wine in hand. Yes, it IS difficult to drink wine while you’re lying down, but it’s a skill that many of us have carefully honed over the years. And if any of the wine happens to spill, Titus is always hovering nearby in the hope of lapping up a few precious drops (speaking of Titus, I’m alone in the house right now and he suddenly raced from the back family room to the front living room, where he leapt onto a chair and stared out the window. I said, “What’s wrong, buddy?” He didn’t answer. I looked out the window too, and saw nothing. A few seconds later, he muttered, “Never mind”, jumped down and ran to the back again. He’s a terrible guard dog.)

There’s nothing there. He’s just being a jerk.

But as I said, whilst I’m enjoying the wide-awake comfort of my bed, my mind tends to stagger from one absurd topic to another:

1) Is one of my co-workers a spy?

The other day, I was talking about motion sensor lights with a colleague and he said, “Oh, I have those. I also have security cameras all around the outside of my house.” “Ooh,” I said, “are you a spy?” and he laughed and said no, but kind of like, “Ha ha ha. NO.” And now I’m not sure, because isn’t that exactly what a spy WOULD say? Then he showed me his phone with four different screens displaying the view from each of his exterior cameras, and all I could think was what I would see if I mounted cameras all around the outside of MY house and was able to watch remotely: several tree rats doing sexy squirrel stuff (because it’s spring and tree rats are super-slutty), Jehovah’s Witnesses ringing the bell and then looking sad as they stuff The WatchTower between my doors, the meter reader trampling through my privet hedge to get to the gas meter, that one possum…frankly, it wouldn’t make for very scintillating viewing. Also, I had to google whether or not possums are nocturnal—the jury is out on that, but apparently people are very interested in possum trivia.

Possums are fascinating, I guess.

2) How much German do I know?

I took German for three years in high school. It’s remarkable how much I can remember at 3:30 in the morning. Ich gehe—I go. Ich spreche —I speak. Ich liebe—I love. Ich sehe—I see. I could conjugate German verbs all night. Ironically, I can’t remember the German word for ‘sleep’. My favourite German saying is “Das Mädchen hat Toilettenpapier auf ihrem Arsch“. If you want to know why, go back to My Week 146. My second favourite German saying is “Fritz fing fünf frische Fische” which is a tongue-twister that my high school German teacher used to make us say. It means “Fritz caught five fresh fish”. When I was in high school, I was pretty snarky (‘Just in high school?!’ I hear you say), and I used to mutter under my breath “F*ck Fritz and his five fresh fish” but now I have a lot of sympathy for Fritz, having to spend all day fishing just to feed his family, and I’m grateful that the fish are fresh and not frozen, because that would be frustrating for Fritz.

3) How hard would it be to learn to drive a forklift?

I don’t think it would be very hard. It looks like a golf cart with arms, and I can totally drive a golf cart—in fact, being able to drive the golf cart is the ONLY reason I ever go golfing. How fast does a forklift go? Could I drive around town with it? If Ken got one too, could we have Transformer-style battles? So many questions. But you know what would be even better? Remember in Aliens how Sigourney Weaver wore that human forklift suit? That. That’s what I want. I haven’t gotten a Hamacher Schlepper catalogue for a while but maybe they’re selling them next to their insanely priced life-size fake robot. And now I know what I want to do when I retire—being a human forklift would be the best job ever and it wouldn’t affect my pension like working at a private school would. Also, not as dangerous as planning warehouse heists.

My retirement plan

4) Here’s a poem I wrote at around 4:30 am when sleep became a hopeless desire and I had a panic attack at the thought of being so tired that I might fall asleep driving:

Are you afraid
When you see the clock move
Forward
Marking out the remainder
Of your life
In incremental pieces?

5) It’s fifteen minutes before my alarm goes o….why are there dozens of Asian children doing some kind of line dance in this parking lot to a Gary Numan song?! Why is it my job to bring them individually wrapped chocolates every time the music stops?! Why are the children I don’t get to in time disappearing into oblivion?! Why can’t I just dream about puppies? Sigh.

By the way, if you’re reading my blog and you see an ad for the “Gut Doctor”, I can save you the 45 minutes it takes to find out what his three superfoods are. They are chicory root, probiotic TCPs, and Vitamin B Complex. He never actually tells you what vegetable to throw out, FYI. And I don’t make a single cent off any of his sh*t.

My Week 224: I Am Nothing If Not Resolved; Tagged

You’ll have to forgive me for being a little bleary-eyed this morning because Ken and I were up a bit in the night. At around 2 this morning, we both woke up to “Beep!…Beep!”

Me: It sounds like the battery in the smoke alarm is dying.
Ken: I’ll pull the battery out and get a new one in the morning.
Me: OK.

5 minutes later: “Beep!”

Me: Is it the carbon dioxide detector? I thought it plugged in.
Ken: It has a battery back-up. Hang on, I’ll go unplug it and pull out the battery.

5 minutes later: “Beep!”

Me: I think it’s the one in the living one.
Ken: I’ll have to go outside and get the ladder.
Me: Can’t you just stand on the coffee table?
Ken: No, the ceiling is too high. I’ll be right back.

10 minutes later: “Beep!”

Me: What the actual f*ck?
Ken: It’s either the smoke alarm in the back room or the carbon monoxide detector downstairs. God, I’m still freezing. Hang on—I’ll pull both of them.

5 minutes later:

Me: I guess it must have been one of the ones downstairs. Did you put the batteries back in all the other ones?
Ken: No, why?
Me: We’re completely vulnerable. What if there’s a fire or a gas leak while we’re asleep? WE’LL NEVER KNOW, KEN!
Ken: Sigh. I’ll be right back.

Anyway, that isn’t the topic for today, but it might explain why I’m so tired. Today’s topic is actually about New Year’s Resolutions, which I do not make, mostly because if I want to change something about my life, I do it when I think of it, not on some arbitrary and imaginary date line. But still, the moving forward of time does give one pause, and by “pause” I mean “let’s stop and think about what the f*ck we’re doing and do we want to keep on doing that?” So here are a couple of things I will or will not be doing in 2019:

1) I will no longer be distracted by things when I’m having a serious conversation with someone. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a colleague in my office when I realized that there was something in my boot, like a small piece of gravel or a large piece of lint. Mid-sentence, I reached down, took off my boot, shook the gravel out, looked inside the boot, put it back on my foot, and continued with the conversation. I’m extremely fortunate that I work with people who don’t seem to care about things like that, but still, it must be disconcerting to find yourself in the middle of a performance of Waiting for Godot. Or maybe she was impressed by my multi-tasking skills. Another time, I was in a meeting, and someone said, “It’s like an icebox in here” and I started thinking about what if we were actually holding the meeting IN an icebox, and would there be sides of beef just hanging there, and could we see our breath and whatnot instead of focusing on performance measures. I didn’t say anything out loud–I’m not that weird (or maybe I am–don’t judge me). Either way, I feel like it’s a slippery slope from boot examination to toenail clipping. Ken said he had a similar situation once when he was talking to a woman who, during the conversation, reached up under her skirt and hoiked up her pantyhose. I asked what he thought, and he said, “I guess it was really bothering her. I mean, you do what you have to do, right?”

2) I will continue inventing words. You may have noticed that, in the previous paragraph, I used the word “hoik”. I use this word all the time. It means “hoist and yank”. I thought it was a real word until I used it the other day when I was telling the very nice gentleman I work with about my roommate and how she had broken my toilet:

Me: She must have really hoiked on that handle!
Very Nice Gentleman: Did you say ‘hoik’? What does that mean?
Me: Hoik? You know, like this! (*mimes hoisting and yanking and makes the appropriate hoisting and yanking sound, which is ‘hoyk’*)
VNG: I’ve never heard of that word.
Me: Well, I didn’t just make it up.

Turns out that I did. I googled it and there’s no such word. But it’s a damn good word, useful for many occasions, and since I am very good at the made-up words, I will continue to invent them. My latest is “stabscara”, which is when you poke yourself in the eye with a mascara wand, as in “Oh my god! I just stabscara-d myself!!” or “I love your new eyepatch.” “Yes, I happened to stabscara myself but it all worked out in the end.”

3) I will stop being so bad at potlucks. We have potlucks at work all the time, and I don’t have a lot of fancy cooking equipment and whatnot at my condo, so whenever we have a sign-up, I just put “Drinks”. And while you might think that would make me popular, I learned my lesson after the liquor-filled chocolate fiasco of 2017, and by drinks, I now mean 2 cases of Perrier, which is terribly boring and probably a let-down for everyone who saw HOW I had signed up for the potluck in what appeared to be a very boozy way:

Go home, Suzanne–you’re drunk again.

People were bringing in crockpots and crystal trays and poinsettias and wreaths, and I was like, “Here. Stow these babies in the mini-fridge”. Well, they all got drunk—the cans, not my colleagues. In the future, I will try to be a little more creative, like putting bows on the Perrier boxes or something. Also, I would love to have the confidence of the person who simply wrote “Something Special”:

Me: So what did you bring to the potluck, Cathy?
Cathy: Something special.
Me: Processed cheese on Ritz Crackers?
Cathy: It’s special.
Me: But it’s just–
Cathy: SO SPECIAL.

4) I will continue to write. My only purpose in writing this blog is to make people happy, so I will keep on trying to do that. I am nothing if not resolved.

Tag!!

So I got tagged by Lille Sparven by way of a recommendation from Mona at Wayward Sparkles to answer three questions.

Question 1: What is the first thing you remember writing?

It was a poem about a windy day that I wrote when I was in about grade 3—I think my mom still has it. It was something like this:

What do you do on a windy day
When the wind is pushing you on your way?
Why, you should quite simply say,
Wind, oh wind, just let me play!
Then oh wind, do as you please,
Take me to fairyland with the breeze…

I can’t remember the rest but it was probably also very 8-year-old-ish, with several more youthfully optimistic exclamation marks. I also remember writing a really cool story about a rollercoaster which my teacher slashed up with red pen because of my use of fragmented sentences. For emphasis.

Question 2: Do certain dates (births, deaths, anniversaries of all sorts) carry great weight and significance for you, around the calendar, or do you tend to observe them as things come up at any point in time and remind you of those people and events?

No. I’m terrible at this. I struggle to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and anything like that. Ken is always the one who’s like “Guess what day it is today!!” and then hands me a card and a gift and I’m like “Oh f*ck”. But my brother told me a great trick the other day for when you forget an occasion—you just quickly go on Amazon and buy something, then show the person the item and say, “It hasn’t arrived yet because of the postal strike, but it will be here soon. Sorry to spoil the surprise!” And if the person says, “What postal strike?”, you just say, “You know, the one in California.” No one can prove or disprove that statement and you look considerate instead of like a dick.

Question 3: What did you do the first day you had your driver’s license and unaccompanied access to a car, keys in hand?

Oh man. I got my license 37 years ago. It took me three tries because I couldn’t parallel park. I can tell you that the first thing I did NOT do was parallel park anywhere, and I have never had occasion to do it in 37 years. Most likely, on the first Saturday night after I got my license, I told my mom I was going to the roller rink, and then went to the dance club I’d been going to underage for months—only this time, I screwed myself. I had to come home early because the car had a curfew. Not me—the car.

Thanks for the tag, Lille—I hope you enjoyed my attempts to answer!

Here are three questions for any of my friends to answer:

1) What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?
2) Alien or Predator?
3) What would you bring to a potluck?

My Week 221: Noteworthy Nonsense

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

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

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

1) “Christmas Candle Scents”

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

2) “Don’t Rub Your Banana On Me”

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

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

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

3) “Trophy Wife”

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

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

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

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

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

5) “True”

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

6) “15 divided by 0 equals bacon”

Because it always will.

I get ALL THE BACON.

My Week 158: Management 101, Throwback: Titus and I Watch the National Dog Show 2015

A few months ago, I got a promotion at work. It was great for a while, but eventually these things catch up to you, and a couple of weeks ago, I got an email that said I was registered to take a two-day course off-site on Management. And I was like, “How the hell did they know? I have done NOTHING to deserve this.” I mean, it’s not like I’m not interested in being a good manager, but I’ve done courses like this before—this isn’t my first time around the management block. So I asked my Director if I really had to go, and she laughed and said, “Yep. Everyone who’s new has to take it.” When I reminded her that I was only an interim manager, she said, “Well, it’s tied to your merit pay. It won’t be that bad.” MERIT PAY? I didn’t even know I got that, let alone that I would be exploited into taking a two-day course to earn it. I’d already taken a bunch of other on-line courses on topics like “The Union Is Your Friend” (untrue), “Workplace Violence and Harassment” (I’m already an expert—see below), and “Hazardous Chemicals and How To Avoid Them” (if only the stench of egg salad was considered hazardous, my life would be SO much better). Online courses are great, once you figure out that the “quiz” you have to take at the end is a huge lie. Which is to say, the first time, I listened SUPER-carefully, and then when the video was done, I was all prepared with my notes so I could pass the test. The “test” consisted of 1 question: “Did you watch the entire video?” I answered yes, and a screen popped up that said “Congratulations! You have completed this course and it will be entered into your record.” And I was like, “WTF kind of quiz was that?! I STUDIED! If I’d known I didn’t have to pay attention to what my union dues were used for, I could have been watching Rick and Morty on Youtube.”

At any rate, I had merit pay hanging over my head, so on the Wednesday morning, I got up bright and early to get there on time, since the email notification had stated very ominously that the course started at 8:30 SHARP. After a tussle with the door (turns out it was a push, not a pull), I flew into the room and got a seat in plenty of time, next to a colleague of mine who was in the same boat so at least I had someone I knew to talk to. At exactly 8:30, the instructor, Donna, started the course. At exactly 8:31, someone started jiggling the door handle. I can forgive someone for being, like, one minute late, but this went on for the next half hour, with people arriving and struggling with the door, and the instructor stopping to go over and open it until I wanted to yell two things: a) What don’t you understand about 8:30 sharp?! and b) Jesus, Donna, can you just leave the goddamned door open?!

We finally all got settled and underway, and the first thing Donna asked was, “So how are you finding being a manager?” One woman immediately put up her hand and said, “Well, the person who was in the Acting position didn’t get the job and I did, so things have been a little uncomfortable. She won’t really talk to me.” Then Donna asked the rest of the room if anyone else had had experience being treated badly by a colleague that you supervised, and I was like, “Won’t really talk to you?! Hold my f*cking beer” because, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I left my previous position because of Bob, the nutcase who wanted my job and would harass me by text, email and even call me at night:

Bob: Why won’t you answer my emails?!
Me: What? It’s 10 o’clock at night! Why are you calling my house?
Bob: I’ve sent you 6 emails. I know you’re online because at 8:47 you liked something your mom posted on Facebook. Why are you ignoring me??!!
Me: You got me out of bed. Can we discuss this tomorrow?
Bob: You’re so mean! (click)

I would have loved it if the worst thing that dude had done was “not really talk to me” instead of dragging me to the union for taking him off Facebook. Anyway, we got all the triggering stuff out of the way, and got down to the meat of management, which is of course, dealing with unions. Then the worst thing happened—Donna decided that, instead of discussing things with our table groups, with whom we had grown comfortable, we should “find someone in the room that you haven’t spoken to yet”. This, of course, is my own personal vision of hell, where you wander around, being forced to meet new people and then converse with them. I stood up—there was a rather pleasant-looking tall guy coming towards me, and he pointed, smiled and mouthed “You and me?” I nodded enthusiastically, relieved at how easy that was. Then his face fell, and I realized that he was talking to the young, beautiful blonde behind me, who had just been swooped up by the guy who worked in a prison and who had endless (I mean ENDLESS) stories about testifying at grievance hearings.

Me: Oh, is it OK if we—
Tall Guy: Actually, I was wanting to talk to HER, but…
Me: Oh. (pause) Well, I guess you can talk to me if you want to…
Tall Guy: Sigh. I suppose.

Thanks, Tall Guy. Also, nice wedding ring you’re wearing.

Overall, the course was pretty good, and I think I learned a lot about “supporting my team”, but there were a couple of things that befuddled me:

1) We were given plenty of time for breaks and lunch. On both days, the person sitting on the other side of me brought in full tubs of very spicy, pungent food, which he insisted on eating by hiding it under the table, then quickly shoveling it into his mouth when he thought no one was looking. He would have been successful if first, the food hadn’t smelled so strong, and second, if he hadn’t made really loud squeaking and squelching sounds the whole time he was chowing down. I don’t usually notice people chewing, but the noises coming out of him were bizarre.

2) Why do people use the term “buckets” to refer to categories of things, as in “I’ve put all the soft skills into the Management Bucket on the slide deck.” As a visual metaphor, “bucket” doesn’t work for me, because I always think of a mop bucket. Also, the word “bucket” is just plain silly, like “smock”. Listen: bucket, bucket, bucket, bucket, smock, smock, smock. If you didn’t laugh at that, I don’t know why. Here’s a limerick about a bucket (mostly because all the limericks I know are about a man from Nantucket and bucket rhymes with Nantucket):

There once was a man with a bucket,
Who lived in a town called Nantucket.
He wore a white smock,
And he fell off the dock,
And he dented his bucket, so f*ck it.

I never said it would be a GOOD limerick.

Another piece of “manager-speak” that always confuses me is when things get a little heated or complex, and someone says, “Let’s take this off-line.” In a face to face meeting. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to yell, “You’re not ON-line! How can you take it OFF-line?!” Seriously people, be precise—just say “let’s speak privately about this”.

3) We were given the following scenario: You wake up late, you’re racing around to get to work, and you finally make it to your office. You’re in the elevator and someone jostles you, and you spill your coffee all over yourself. So now you’re in a terrible mood, and Marcia chooses that moment to come into your office and tell you how WELL her initiative went the day before. This is a tough situation, and it will be hard to be happy for her. How do you react?

People were answering things like, “Hey Marcia, can you come back later?” or “Jesus, Marcia, can’t you see I’m covered in coffee?” or “I’m having a bad morning, Marcia, so I’m having trouble caring about your sh*t” and so on. I was confused by all of this, and finally put up my hand and said, “I guess maybe I’m just easily distracted, but being happy for Marcia would make me forget about being late for work. Also, coffee is Satan’s brew. We should all drink wine in the morning, just like Jesus.” Ok, I didn’t say that last part, but coffee IS gross. And I don’t know if Jesus really drank wine in the morning, but if HE had to sit through two days of “Disciples Management 101”, I’ll bet he would have.

I’m superproud of you, Marcia.

 

Throwback Sunday:

Friday: Titus and I make fun of the National Dog Show 2015

Titus: Watcha doin’?
Me: Watching the National Dog Show.
Titus: Cool. (jumps up on bed) So what’s going on?
Me: It’s the Working Dogs right now.
Titus: (snorts derisively) Right.
Me: What?
Titus: That dog never worked a day in his life. His paws look all soft.
Me: And you’re Mr. Blue Collar? When was the last time YOU did any work?
Titus: Excuse me? Just yesterday, you were all like, “Where’s the Piggy, Titus? Can you find your Piggy?” And I DID. I AM a Retriever, you know. It was hard work. That pig was like all the way upstairs in the guest room.
Me: Maybe because that’s where you left it. Now be quiet so I can watch this. It’s the –
Titus: Holy sh*t, that dog has dreadlocks! WTF?!! Is that even REAL?
Me: Yes, Titus, it’s a Komondor, a real dog.
Titus: A “Commodore”? What, like Lionel Ritchie’s dog or something?
Me: Yeah, that dog belongs to Lionel Ritchie. Obviously. Now stop talking—it’s the Toy category now.
Titus: I can see why they call them “Toys”. None of those dogs are real either. That one looks like a cotton ball blew up in the microwave, that one looks like Raven coughed it up, and that one is like something out of a Japanese anime cartoon. You want to see a real dog? THIS is what a real dog looks like. Check me out.
Me: Good god.

My Week 116: Holland America’s Eurodam, Mishima is Pissed, I’ve Got A Little List

Cruising on Holland America’s Eurodam

Well, if you looked up “weary traveller” in the dictionary, you would see my sunburned face and crazy hair, after the night I just spent trying to get home from the cruise I was on with my parents and my aunt, thanks to Delta Airlines, who have to be one of the most incompetent and weird airlines I’ve ever flown on. After a comedy of errors involving plane delays, transfers, flights into cities across America trying to get back to Canada during a snowstorm, lost luggage, closed border bridges, and freezing rain, I finally made it back home to the loving arms of my family (most of them), only to be greeted with this:

Mishima: You’re back. What the f*ck was THAT?
Me: Sigh. You’re mad about last week’s blog. I TOLD Ken to include you. This is NOT my fault.
Mishima: I am the linchpin that keeps this motley platoon together, and no one wants to get MY perspective on anything?! This is as bad as the day I said we should “go over the top” but nobody listened, and we were stuck in a trench for 3 weeks.
Me: Um…that’s not ringing any bells.
Mishima: Lest we forget, baby—lest we forget.
Me: You’ve completely lost me, which is not surprising. Anyway, I’m sorry about the blog, but it wasn’t my fault. I brought you back this cool seashell for your tank though.
Mishima: Is there a tiny mermaid trapped within it, and when I rub the shell, she’ll grant me three wishes?
Me: No. It’s just a seashell.
Mishima: You disappoint me once again, woman. And I’ll bet you can guess what the first wish would have been.
Me: So many options…

But aside from Mishima’s disgruntlement, I was glad to be home. Not that the cruise wasn’t great, because it was. In fact, here are the reasons why I would highly recommend Holland America:

The staff: If you’ve ever felt Downton Abbey-ish, and wished for the more simple days when people treated you like royalty for absolutely no reason, you’ve come to the right place. I was called “Milady”. Every f*cking day. Like, “Would Milady like more wine?” Um, yes. Obviously (and by the third day they stopped asking and just poured it). The general staff on this boat were not only adorable, but they were the nicest people on the planet. The majority of them came from either the Philippines or Indonesia, and I don’t know whether they actually liked us or not, but they always acted like they did. I’ve never seen a more cheerful group of people—they had great senses of humour, did whatever they could to help you if you needed it (like how many times did I have to ask Agus, my cabin steward to let me in the room because my keycard had gotten de-magnetized again?), and had the uncanny ability to immediately remember ALL our names after meeting us only once. A huge shout-out to the crew of the Eurodam (and especially our wine steward, Lester)—you guys were awesome and made us feel like we were all in this together.

Here’s an exchange between my mom and our dinner steward, Tomo:

Mom: Could I have the fried chicken, corn, and salad, but without the fried chicken?
Tomo (confused): Milady? You don’t want the fried chicken that comes with the fried chicken?
Mom: No, I’m not that hungry. Oh, and I’d like Jello for dessert.
Tomo: Well, only if you eat your corn and salad…

The next night:

Mom: I’d like the rainbow trout, carrots, and mashed potatoes, please.
Tomo (deadpan): Without the trout. Yes, Milady.
Mom (laughing): No, I’d like the trout.
Tomo: Of course. If you eat it all, I’ll bring you Jello again. (winks).

Seriously—these guys were AWESOME.

The food: The food was bountiful and delicious. Almost TOO bountiful. A word to the wise—just because it’s an “All You Can Eat” buffet, doesn’t mean you should eat ALL of it. After the first day, I realized I needed to pace myself, because they literally give you food all day, and there are only so many times you can walk the deck in an attempt to burn it all off. Me, I’m not too consumed with food, so I was able to have my cereal and yogurt for breakfast, a salad or something small for lunch, then have a good dinner. But there were people, a LOT of them, who you’d think hadn’t eaten for a week the way they were shoveling down the crab legs and prime rib—at breakfast, no less! I guess for some folks it’s as much a food-cation as a vacation.

The passengers: As it is in any situation, you will always meet really nice people that you might normally never have much to do with. Personally, my favourite was Jan, a hulking 77-year-old retired aviation instructor who asked to join our trivia team the first day (trivia is the driving force behind everything that happens on the ship—people literally plan their entire days around when the Trivia Challenge is taking place. The prizes are crap—a cruiseline pin, or a mug, but these people are hardcore, all guts and glory). Jan proved to be invaluable on occasion, knowing the colour that the majority of original Corvettes were (white), or the name of the Wright Brother’s first plane (I said “Kittyhawk”, but he reminded me that was where they took off from, not the name of the plane, which was the Wright Flyer). Our whole team won three times and came in second or third on most other occasions so we were like minor celebrities in the world of cruiseship trivia. On the last night, we won and got free drinks, so it made the struggle to remember how many teeth a shark loses in a year worthwhile.

The room: The room was fantastic, with a great balcony. But the best part was that every night, we’d come back after the room had been turned down, and someone had put a towel animal on the bed. One night it was an elephant, another night a crab—you never knew what you might find. The last night, I walked in, and a towel monkey was hanging from a coat hanger attached to the ceiling vent. I laughed my ass off—I may or may not have been drinking pina coladas during Happy Hour—but it’s the kind of thing that just adds a little bit more to the experience.

monkey

Overall, it was a great trip—we did some amazing shore excursions (seriously, can I LIVE in Key West?), my dad and I went snorkelling together (his first time and my second), I got to pet a stingray, and visited a rum factory. Of course, it wasn’t all fantastic—being aboard a floating hotel with 2500 other people can be a bit of a challenge, and there was a serious lack of on-board entertainment (if you don’t count eavesdropping on people debating over whether or not Donald Trump is great, or will ruin the United States—we stayed out of that sh*t because who wants to ruin a good holiday with politics? Am I right?). So I wrote this little ditty for you, based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, and the song “As Some Day It May Happen (I’ve Got A Little List). Here’s a link so that you can listen to it first (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NLV24qTnlg).

The song is updated with each production of The Mikado so that it’s contemporary and relevant. And now, you can apply my own lyrics, based on Holland America’s Eurodam and the people who are on MY list:

As some day it might happen that a victim must be found
I’ve got a little list. I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And never would be missed
No, never would be missed.

There’s the couple from the lower deck whose stateroom “smells like mould”,
The people who can barely walk because they’re so damned old,
The 30-something single gal who’s travelling on her own
Who talks and TALKS to anyone but “prefers to be alone”
The buffet line enthusiasts who simply can’t resist—
I’ve got them on my list and they never will be missed.

There’s the gentleman from HBO who’s “smartest on his team”,
Whose wife just lets him brag away but always looks quite steamed,
The ladies playing dominoes whose faces seem so grim,
The people hogging hot tubs but who never want to swim,
The man who calls you “Honey”—f*cking misogynist–
I’ve got HIM on my list and he never would be missed.

There’s the smarmy cruise director who won’t pay you any mind,
Until it’s time to fill the survey card in, THEN he’s kind,
The folks on shore excursions who forget their boarding cards
Despite repeated warnings—hey, is listening THAT hard?
The husband-wife piano team who simply won’t desist–
I’m got them on my list, and they never would be missed!

Well, that’s all. I still have my sea legs, and it feels like the whole room is swaying as I’m writing. Or it could be the pina coladas…