Signs of the Apocalypse

No, the title of this post does not refer to coronavirus, or Covid-19 as it’s now being call in order to spare Corona beer from further stock losses. Although, if you want an absolute sign that the end is nigh, take a look at this picture I took at the grocery store on Friday of the toilet paper aisle.

 The fact that people are fighting over TOILET PAPER in the face of a global pandemic is a very good indication that a great many human beings are simply too stupid to live—if hoarding bleached paper to clean your ass is what’s most important to you, then I weep for our civilization.

Anyway. Last week, Ken and I were driving north to see his parents, and to get there, we have to go through this cross-country corridor of weirdness where people with more money than brains spend their time erecting signs, some of which simply boggle the mind. Here’s the first:

1)

Just in case you can’t read it, this sign says, “Don’t B!tch About The Farmer With Your Mouth Full!” and underneath it asks “What’s Your Contribution?” Now, none of this makes any sense at all. First, you can’t b*tch about ANYTHING with your mouth full. If you try, no one can understand what you’re saying and then they get mad at you for spitting potato or chicken or whatnot at them. Swallow first; complain later. That should be the motto of all whiny people. Second, I’m 54 years old and I’ve LITERALLY NEVER heard anyone complain about ‘the farmer’. Like who’s going around saying, “Those goddamn farmers and their CROPS. They should be ashamed of the way they make sure we get calcium from their UNHOLY MILK”. Where did the animosity on this sign come from?! Is it, like, one disgruntled farmer fed up with being kept down by ‘the man’?

The Man: Hey Farmer Bob, your combine is blocking my driveway again. Would you mind moving it?
Farmer Bob: DON’T B!TCH ABOUT THE FARMER, DAN.
The Man: I wasn’t b*tching, I just—
Farmer Bob: IS YOUR MOUTH FULL, DAN?
The Man: What? No, I only—
Farmer Bob: I WILL MAKE A SIGN. WHAT’S YOUR CONTRIBUTION, DAN?
The Man: I’m not giving you any money for a sign; I need you to move your combine.
Farmer Bob: TYPICAL OF THE MAN.

The most ironic thing about this sign is that it’s not on a farmer’s field—it’s actually next to a railroad bridge in a swamp, so I guess Farmer Bob has bigger worries than Dan The Man. (For the record, Ken grew up on a dairy farm, and I love farmers, obviously, and if anyone ever b*tched about them in my presence, I would set them straight.)

2) And then there was the sign in a small town we went through that had two words on it: Landfill Cenotaph. There was a single arrow pointing down a side road. So the cenotaph is in a landfill? Or is it a memorial TO a landfill? Either way, that’s not very respectful to our veterans, and it makes Remembrance Day ceremonies awkward:

MC: Let’s have a moment of silence in remembrance of all of those who fought—hey! Can you turn off the bulldozers for one hot second?! Jeesh!

3) One of my favourites is this sign advertising a garden centre in Listowel:

Gardening with Attitude? Do drag queens work there? Surly teens, perhaps? All I could think of was this:

Customer: Hi, I’d like to buy a shrubbery. One that looks nice, and not too expensive.
Garden Centre Worker: F*ck off!
Customer: Wow, that’s some attitude you have there.

4) Finally, there are always the ‘Come to Jesus’ billboards and my absolute favourite is the one that reads, “Jesus said, ‘The only way to my Father is through me’:

Me: Did you see that sign? I don’t believe Jesus said that.
Ken: What? Why not?
Me: Well, don’t you think it sounds a little violent? I never think of Jesus like that. You’ve read the Bible. Did Jesus really say that?
Ken: I don’t remember.
Me: No. From what I know about Jesus, he would have said something more like, “It would be really nice and super swell if you could let me help you find your way to my Dad”. Something non-aggressive, you know. That sign makes it seem like there’s going to be a bar fight, and Jesus is all like, “Hold my beer! You’ll have to get through ME to get to HIM!” like Liam Neeson or The Rock or something.
Ken: OK…
Me: Or John Wick—ooh! Like John Wick 4: The Resurrection!
Ken: You really don’t know much about the Bible, do you?
Me: I saw Jesus Christ: Superstar. I could totally picture John Wick Jesus kicking over those moneylending tables in the temple then pulling out a machine gun–
Ken: That’s not what happened.
Me: But in John Wick 4: The Resurrection, it would be a flea market where unscrupulous grifters were selling hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer for outrageous prices.
Ken: I’d watch that.

I was trying to think of what people could do with the hundreds of rolls of toilet paper they bought once the pandemic is over and I have a couple of ideas—instead of hunting for Easter candy, you can hide toilet paper around your house and watch the kids squeal with delight as they locate each one. Or you can do my favourite thing of all—make a Toilet Pirate. Meet Captain John Crapper:

My Week 244: The Need To Exorcise

Sometimes it seems like I’m just a weird magnet. And by that, I don’t mean you can stick me on your fridge where I will proceed to talk only to your dog and demand wine; I mean that I seem to have the uncanny knack of attracting all the weird things.

On Thursday, I was sitting on the train, minding my own damn business as one does, when a well-dressed young girl around 20 years old sat down next to me. She reeked of perfume to the point that I was almost gagging. Now, I’m not ALLERGIC to perfume—in fact, I rather like it, but being enveloped in a napalm-ish cloud of it was death to my sinuses. Unfortunately, the train was packed and there was nowhere else to go. Out of the corner of my watering eye, I saw her put down her seat tray and place her cell phone on it. Then she pulled a red velvet pouch out of her purse. I was initially impressed, like, ‘Hmm—what a great idea for making sure your headphones don’t get all tangled up with the other sh*t in your purse’ and I was mentally doing a walkthrough of my belongings at home and wondering if it would be too pretentious to keep earbuds in a Tiffany’s or Pandora pouch because I didn’t have a plain one on hand, and I spend INORDINATE amounts of time unravelling my earbud cord and getting my fingers all caught up in it and whatnot. Then the girl patted her forehead and her chest with the pouch, and I moved away slightly because maybe the heavy perfume was covering up the fact that she was REALLY SWEATY, and I’m never sure whether things like that are airborne and her sweat could somehow get on me, and I have enough trouble being locked in a hurtling tube with 100 other people and all their germs in the first place.

But she put the pouch down on her lap, and pulled out a long string of something, and I was thinking, “Those are the strangest earbuds I’ve ever seen” when I realized it was a string of beads. She gathered them up in her hand, closed her eyes, and started fingering each bead in turn. She was praying. And then I had a terrible, sudden thought that maybe she knew something I didn’t know about the train, and I was like, “OMG are we going to crash??!!  Is her weird bead-worship the only thing standing between me and a fiery derailment?!”

This went on for over almost half an hour, her in silent contemplation of the divine and me in silent worst case scenario mode. I had located the emergency hammer and definitively concluded that if we DID crash, I was jumping over her perfume-y ass to get out of the train, when she opened her eyes and put down the rosary. She started swirling her hands around her head like she was fake-washing her face, and I moved even further away in case she wanted to wash mine too–I was having a particularly good mascara day, so hard pass. When she was done with the air-grooming, she patted herself with the bag again, and I realized that she was, in fact, crossing herself with it. Then she put her hands in her lap and stared straight ahead for the next half-hour until we arrived in Toronto and I didn’t know whether to thank her for saving us all with her “Severus Snape at the Quidditch Match” level of concentration, or tell her to ease off on the Ysatis.

This event was simply the cherry on top of all the weirdness that I’ve been experiencing lately. Last week, I came downstairs in the morning, and there was a lovely, tiny origami frog/butterfly type of thing right smack in the middle of the kitchen counter.

“Aw,” I thought. “I didn’t know that Ken knew how to do origami. How sweet!” So when he came down, I thanked him, and he said, “I didn’t do that—I thought YOU made it.” And after the Mysterious Case of the Mouthguard on the Landing, which was NEVER solved, by the way, you can only imagine how I reacted to this, which was to insist that we search the house for an intruder with fine motor skills and bad teeth.

But wait—it gets worse. The other night, my mom was away so I invited my dad for dinner. I was running a little late so I called Ken and suggested that he go and get some Swiss Chalet take-out. I was close to home, so I said, “You can either take Dad with you or leave him at the house—I won’t be long.” So about 15 minutes later, I pulled into the driveway. From my car, I could see someone in the kitchen—it looked like he was pouring a glass of wine. But by the time I got through the door, he was gone. “Dad! I’m home!” I started yelling, but there was no answer. Maybe he was in the bathroom. I wandered around downstairs, Titus dogging my steps, but there was no sign of him anywhere. So I did what any normal person would do—I went out on the porch and I called Ken:

Me: Um, is my dad with you?
Ken: Yep, he’s right here!
Dad: Hi!!
Me:
Ken: What’s wrong?
Me: There’s someone in the house! I saw a man in the kitchen–it looked like he was pouring a glass of wine and now he’s gone. I’m staying out here until you get back.
Ken: It’s just your imagination. Your mind EXPECTED to see your dad standing at the counter pouring a glass of wine because that’s what he ALWAYS does.
Dad: Hey!
Me: It WASN’T my imagination!
Ken: Go back in and look around. If Titus isn’t worried, I doubt there’s anyone in there.
Titus (from inside): I’m a terrible guard dog! Don’t rely on me!

Anyway, I went inside and got my pepper spray and a glass of wine (like father like daughter), then sat in my office with my back to the wall so I could see anyone sneaking up on me, waiting for them to get home. And now I’m wondering if that girl on the train was really praying, or maybe she was trying to perform an exorcism.

The other weird thing that happened last week isn’t so much unsettling as it just made me go “Huh?” I pulled into the train station parking lot and there was a truck bed camper up on blocks next to the dumpster.

A Clockwork Camper?

It hadn’t been there the day before, and I didn’t pay too much attention until suddenly, the door swung open and a guy stepped out. He stretched and looked up at the sky. And that’s when I realized that he was dressed EXACTLY like the main character from A Clockwork Orange, from his bowler hat to his white outfit to his cane. He started kind of skipping across the parking lot, swinging his cane (I’m guessing in time to the song ‘Singing in the Rain’), then he disappeared. I wonder if he knows origami?

Exactly how he was dressed.

My Week 238: It’s A Miracle

As I told you last week, I’m working off-site with no days off except for yesterday. I’m really tired and it’s making me a little punchy. I know this, because on Wednesday morning, I turned on my laptop and actually yelled at my computer boyfriend Carlo because once again, he pronounced my last name wrong, and I was like, “SAY MY NAME RIGHT, B*TCH!”. Luckily no one was around to hear me because I arrive at the site incredibly early to avoid rush hour. I normally don’t mind that Carlo says the last part of my surname like ‘Why-Talk’ instead of ‘Whit-ick’, because who would even think that was correct in the first place, but in retrospect, I think he might just be passive-aggressive, because he has no trouble with the part that I own; it’s the part that Ken owns that seems to irk him, so maybe it’s subtle jealousy. Or maybe it’s just Ken’s name in general, because even my Car Phone Lady has a problem with it:

Car Phone Lady: Ready.
Me: Call.
Car Phone Lady: Please say the name or number to call.
Me: Ken.
Car Phone Lady: Did you say ‘Karen’?
Me: No.
Car Phone Lady: Did you say ‘Joe’?
Me: NO! Ken. Call Ken!
Car Phone Lady: OK. Calling ‘Maria’.

I call Ken at least twice a day from my car when I’m commuting, but she always, like literally EVERY TIME, makes me confirm that I do indeed want to call Ken despite the fact that I never have to confirm anyone else, including ‘Mom and Dad’ or ‘Jong Uk Park’.

So there are several things irritating me, and when I told Ken last night that I was feeling punchy, he looked at me questioningly and I said, “That means I might punch you”, which I did at about 2 am when he wouldn’t stop snoring. Finally, I said, “You know what?! I’m going into the other room and I’m taking Quackers and Brian with me!!” and he said, “GOOD! Then you can’t hit me with them anymore!” (Quackers is a duck and Brian is a shark, in case you’ve forgotten.)

But the one good thing about being away from the office is that I’m almost next to the airport, and watching an airplane take off is something that never gets old for me. The other day, I was walking to the plaza to get lunch. I looked up as a huge jet roared by, and I thought ‘People are so smart. Look at that airplane. A monkey couldn’t invent an airplane. They aren’t even particularly good butlers.’ And I know this because I have done quite a bit of research on the topic “How to Train Your Monkey Butler” and let me tell you, it doesn’t sound very promising. So I was on a huge ‘people are so smart’ high until yesterday morning when I heard some cars pull up and I looked out my bathroom window at the church across the street. We live kitty-corner to two churches—I call them the “Platform Diving Jesus Church” and “The Other Church”. As you may guess, I don’t attend either of them. I got their names from the fact that a couple of years ago, the doors of the church directly across from us were painted with an angel on one side, and Jesus on the cross on the other, both in gold paint. It looks very nice up close (well, the angel does, but I always feel sad for Jesus), but from far away, it looks like Jesus is about to dive off a cliff or whatnot.

Am I right?

Anyway, from my bathroom window, I could see five men standing around a piano which was sitting on a flat cart on the church walkway. It looked like they had just unloaded it from a rather small mini-van—a feat unto itself, I would imagine. I could hear yelling, so I opened my balcony door. The men had surrounded the piano and were having a very loud discussion in what sounded like German. Were they an angry yet musical Saxon mob intent on a good sacking? After a few minutes though, it seemed like their intention was to put the piano INSIDE the church. And I say ‘seemed’ because they kept just wandering around the piano, staring at it dubiously, and talking a lot. I had nothing better to do, and it was a beautiful sunny morning, so I went out onto the balcony to watch.

After a lot more Germanic discussion, the youngest-looking guy ran over to the mini-van and brought out a long strap, which he looped around the piano. ‘Here we go,’ I thought. Nope. They all just stood back and stared at it again. I wanted to yell, “Just push the damn thing, for Christ’s sake!” which seemed appropriately church-y, but then the guy ran back to the mini-van. He reappeared with what looked like a gas can and at first I thought maybe they were going to set the piano on fire and claim an angel spoke to them from within it, like a ‘burning bush-type scenario’, so that they could blame God for not getting it inside the church. However, it was only a toolkit. The young guy took out a hammer and started hammering at something while the rest just stood around. One of the other men put his hood up, like he didn’t want to be recognized, and frankly I don’t blame him because I was at the point where I just wanted to march over and push the piano through the doors myself. Then the one with the hammer ran back to the mini-van and grabbed what I thought was a blanket of some kind, but it was just his coat, which he randomly donned, then he looped some kind of harness around his shoulders and waist. ‘Aha!’ I thought. ‘He’s going to hook himself to the piano and pull it in like a team of oxen’ but again, I was disappointed. And then I was really confused because they started pushing the piano down the walkway and I had a moment where I thought they were going to take a run at the door with it, but again, NOPE. They wheeled it back towards the mini-van and I was like “What? Don’t give up Hans, Karl, Kristoff, Otto, and Gunther!” (which is what I had affectionately started to call them in my head), but then they wheeled it PAST the mini-van and kept going. Down the street. I watched until they were out of sight, then I quickly got dressed and hopped in the car to see where they went, but they, and the piano, had disappeared like some kind of vaudevillian miracle. But then I had a terrible thought–what if I had just witnessed a crack German heist squad, not unlike the villains in Die Hard, actually ROBBING the church?! So I tried dialing 9-1-1, and the Car Phone Lady said, “OK. Calling Ken.”

 

My Week 186: Deathly Foods, Weird Signs

Currently, I’m working in a foreign land known as Mississauga, so I leave you with this–I hope you enjoy!:

Wednesday: I make a list of things that I’ve ingested that made me feel like I
was dying.

I can often succumb to peer pressure, when it’s about something that’s
supposed to be good for my health. For example, I haven’t eaten gluten (well,
except for the occasional juicy, wheat-y pizza) for almost two years because I
have arthritis and someone told me it was better for my joints. It was hard at
first—gluten-free baked goods, especially tortilla wraps, can taste a lot like
cardboard. Also, everything is made of rice. To be honest, I do feel better for
it, and I’ve found alternatives that are almost as good as the real thing. But the
other day at work, a colleague was extolling the virtues of Oil of Oregano as a
cure-all and preventive for almost everything known to humankind. It can cure
the common cold, prevent Montezuma’s Revenge, and apparently turn water
into wine. A bunch of us decided that, with super-busy days coming up, and it
still being flu season and all, we would troop down to the health food store en
masse to buy some of this miraculous elixir. Little did I know what I was in for.
I like oregano—I grow it in my garden, and I sprinkle it on pizzas, and use it to
season pork tenderloin, among other things. How bad could an oil made from
oregano be? The man at the health food store said it was a distilled oil and
could be “pretty strong”. Well, I have a hardy constitution—I’ve eaten haggis–
so what the hell? The directions said to put four drops under the tongue. I did
that. My immediate reaction was, “This isn’t so bad. I—OMFG!!” Then I
thought I was GOING TO DIE. My tongue went numb for about 20 seconds,
but then the sensation came back, and that was worse, because all I wanted
to do at that point was rip my own mouth out with my bare hands. Perhaps Oil
of Oregano was meant to build one’s character as well as one’s immune
system, you know, under that old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you
stronger”? I had always previously thought of that as a metaphor for dealing
with nasty people, but if Oil of Oregano was a person, then it would be
SATAN. Then it occurred to me that I had been here before, doing that same
“Kill Me Now!” dance. So I decided to make a list of the top food type things
that I had ever ingested that made me also feel like I was dying.

Death by herb

1) Gorgonzola cheese. Once, Ken and I were overseas, and the person we
were staying with, a wonderful host and one of my favourite people, made us
dinner. It was gnocchi tossed in melted gorgonzola cheese. I loved gnocchi
and the whole thing looked fantastic. Then I took a bite. Some people claim
that they quite like gorgonzola—I call these people LIARS. Gorgonzola
cheese tastes like mold growing on sweaty socks—the black mold that
medical dramas always tell you will kill you. I didn’t know what to do because I
didn’t want to be offensive, so I choked down as much as I could stomach, then claimed that jet lag had made me too tired to eat. Jet lag is a good
excuse for just about anything, especially avoiding food you don’t want to eat.
The other really good excuse for that is “I just had those dilating drops put in
my eyes at the optometrist and I can’t see what’s on my plate.” I pulled that
one out as a child to avoid eating veal—don’t tell my mom.

2) Barium. Remember, this is about things I’ve “ingested”, not things I’ve
eaten. No one in their right mind would ever willingly want to EAT barium (OK,
you could say the same about gorgonzola cheese) but still, barium is like a
medical thing, not an actual food substance. If you ever have stomach
problems, you might have to go for a procedure called a barium swallow.
Notice that it’s not called “Olive Garden’s Lunch Special” because the
expectation is that you will NOT enjoy it—and no one is going to treat you like
family while this procedure is happening. Barium is a mineral or something,
and according to Wikipedia, “has a low toxicity”, which means it has more than
zero toxicity, so it’s only SLIGHTLY poisonous. But still, if you’ve ever had a
barium swallow, it feels like you’re being FULLY poisoned. I had to have this
procedure done once. The nurse handed me a gigantic glass of what looked
like pink chalk pureed with a little water. I looked at it dubiously, and she said,
“You have to drink the whole thing. Don’t worry—it’s Strawberry Flavour.”
Strawberry Flavour, my ass. Next time, flavour it with a little Drambuie—it’ll
still be death in a cup, but I’ll feel better about it. After I had choked and
gagged the whole thing down, and my eyes were tearing from the effort, it
suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how my body was going to get the
stuff back out, and I had this horrible feeling that I would never be able to use
the bathroom again—that it would sit in my stomach like concrete for decades,
laughing at me.

3) Deep-fried squid. Deep-fried squid actually tastes really good. I had it once
at a restaurant where we were having a “sampling” menu. I love sampling
menus, because you can try something, and if you hate it, you don’t have to
eat any more of it. So I tried the deep-fried squid, (one little piece because it
was a French restaurant where I guess they expect you to smoke so many
Galois that you aren’t hungry enough for full portions), which came with spicy
peanut sauce. Squid is delicious. It is also, as I found out later, a member of
the mollusk family, and I’m severely allergic to shellfish. After about 20
minutes, my lips started to swell, and on the ride home, I was feeling dizzy
and out of breath. By the next morning, I was extremely ill and the inside of
my mouth felt like someone had taken a flamethrower to it. I had no idea what
was going on, but Ken did some research, and we discovered that there was
a good reason why I felt like I was dying–because I just might have, ha ha.
Thank God for tasting menus with very small portions.

4) Eggs that are not scrambled. Eggs are interesting. Essentially, they’re
imaginary chickens. I can never understand how people who say they’re
vegetarian can eat eggs, but some people do on the premise that “they were
never fertilized”. But aren’t they still animal protein? Anyway, I love scrambled
eggs and omelets, basically anything where the white of the egg and the
yellow part are mixed together so you can’t taste either of them separately.
Together, they are a heavenly component of the “All Day Breakfast”, one of
my favourite meals. Separately, they are like death on a plate. The white part
tastes like the sulphurous fires of hell (in other words, like eating flatulence),
and the yellow part is—well, I don’t know because I’ve never tried the yellow
part because its simple appearance is enough to put me off. That liquid-y,
slimy thing that some people love to “dip their toast in”. Why the HELL would
you dip your toast in a liquid baby chicken? So gross.

5) Extremely sour candies. Isn’t that an oxymoron? What is it with people and
extremely sour things? The other day, I was in a store and on the candy
display were bags of “Extreme Sour Gummi Bears”. The “i” in gummi was in
the shape of a lightning bolt, and the slogan was “Try to eat more than one”.
The gummi bears on the bag had FANGS. Where is the pleasure here?
Candy is supposed to be a treat, a reward for doing something good, like
using the potty. Can you imagine how long kids would be in diapers for if you
gave them rewards that made them scream in agony? Depends-Nation.
Candy is not supposed to be scary. A couple of months ago, some of our
summer students brought in ‘extreme sour candy’ and challenged me to try
one. They were all grimacing and gagging, but I have more “mature” taste
buds, so I accepted the challenge. Let me tell you, there is no taste in nature
like an extreme sour watermelon candy. Within 10 seconds, my extremities
went numb and I could no longer feel my face, either inside or out. Very
casually though, I plucked it out of my mouth and gently put it in the garbage
can. Never let them see you sweat. Or swear.

Friday: Weird signs that I’ve seen (NOT of an apocalyptic nature).

Yesterday, I was in the Bay, and I had to use the ladies’ room. As I was
leaving, I noticed a sign on the door that read, “All criminal activity in this
bathroom is closely monitored.” I stared at it for a minute or two, trying to
figure out exactly what it meant. First, what KIND of activity are we talking
about here? The only people I’ve EVER seen in that bathroom are elderly
ladies. I mean, the Bay is not exactly Forever 21. Could there be a gang of old
toughs who frequently gather in said bathroom to fence their stolen Hudson’s
Bay blankets and Estee Lauder cosmetics? And what does “closely
monitored” mean? Are there security guards looking at hidden cameras
whose reaction to every criminal transaction is “Huh. Take a look at that.
Interesting. We’d better keep monitoring this. CLOSELY.”

Of course, one of my all-time favourite signs is one I saw a few years ago, outside a
church, which said, “Take Jesus on vacation with you”. Ken and I were
planning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with K, and I went into this reverie about
what would happen if you literally COULD take Jesus on vacation with you to
the waterpark. Would you have to stop him from trying to baptize the kids in
the wave pool? Would all the water in the park automatically become Holy
Water? Would he get annoyed if strangers kept splashing him? Would he be
like, “OK, I’ll go down the waterslide as long as I don’t get my hair wet?
(Because that’s what I always say.) Would he multi-task, and deliver a quick
sermon while he was on the white water raft with a bunch of other people? At
the end of the day, I could picture him in a lounge chair, surrounded by small
children, telling them parables until it was time for Pizza Hut and Pay-Per-
View. At any rate, it would be a hell of a lot better than taking Satan on
vacation to the waterpark with you. He’d be “that guy”, you know, the one who
wears the super-tight Speedo, always does the cannonballs into the pool, gets
everyone in a 20 foot radius soaking wet, and laughs like he thinks he’s so
cool. He’d hog the Jacuzzi, make all the water boil, then force everyone to
take Oil of Oregano. No wonder Satan never gets asked to go on vacation.

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 162: Indigenous Discussions, Scientology, and the Cultural Appropriation of Iceland

This will be a quick one, because I spent most of this weekend at a conference. It was sponsored by the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Education Association. It was a humbling experience, and I really learned a lot. The biggest thing I learned was that Indigenous people are angry AF. And with good reason. Of course, they express that anger in a very polite, articulate, and dignified way, but there’s no question that they are supremely pissed.

I’m going to give you an analogy that will demonstrate the reason for their anger, but first a little context: This past week, the Church of Scientology took over a building in a town near here, a building that used to be a community centre, and they have converted it into their cultish administration offices which “will serve as a rallying point for Scientology activities across the country.” In case you’ve forgotten, Scientologists are a weird-ass cult founded in the mid-50s by a not-particularly-talented science fiction novelist, and they believe that aliens led by a dude named Xenu, “tyrant ruler of the Galactic Confederacy”, came to Earth 75 million years ago in giant spacecrafts. Then the aliens blew themselves up in volcanoes using hydrogen bombs, and their evil souls to this day try to inhabit regular people bodies. Now, if you don’t know anything about Scientology and think I’m making this sh*t up, I’m actually not. I guess in the long run, their belief system isn’t any stranger than most religions and it might be difficult to differentiate it from other belief systems, except that I doubt Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and all those other guys were failed writers who were trying to make money and evade taxes. The founders of most religions aren’t even aware that they’re founding ANYTHING at the time, unlike L. Ron Hubbard, who actively petitioned to have his science fiction tale recognized as a legitimate faith. At any rate, the people of Guelph organized a peaceful protest, and then the Grand Swami of Scientology (OK, she’s not really called that, but it sounds like it would fit nicely into their idiom) made a statement discrediting the protesters as a “hate group”.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the analogy. Let’s imagine that a couple of Scientologists come to your house one day, and they want to borrow a cup of sugar.

“No problem,” you say. “Here you go.”

“Gosh, thanks,” say the Scientologists, giving you the Vulcan salute or whatnot. “We might need more someday.”

“That’s fine,” you say. “I have lots. I’m happy to share.”

The next week, they come back, only this time there are 50 of them and they have phasers. They drag you out of your house and force you to live in the garden shed out back. Then they kill your dog, take your children away, sending them to weird-ass Scientology school, and you never see them again. Oh, and they also give you smallpox.

Are you mad?

The issues of our Indigenous people are certainly more complex than this (and don’t actually involve Scientology), but I hope you take my point.

I also went to a workshop on cultural appropriation, and it was really timely because right now it’s almost Hallowe’en, and Indigenous folk are really sick and tired of “Indian Princess” costumes. Even the name is offensive. I was actually shocked this summer when I went to a conference in the States, and one of the presenters actually referred to Indigenous people as “American Indians”. I was like, “You mean people from Southeast Asia who now live in the United States? That’s a very specific subgrouping.” But no, he meant Indigenous people. And they would really, really appreciate it if everyone stopped dressing their kids up like cultural stereotypes. If you really want to dress your child in the costume of another culture, may I recommend “Icelandic Stewardess”? When we flew back from the UK last summer on IcelandAir, they were actually selling “flight crew dresses” for girls aged 2 to 7. Apparently these are “elegant hats and dresses in the style of an Icelandair flight attendant”. They also cost 50 Euros, which is about $75 Canadian, so I guess they’re better quality than the Walmart Icelandic Stewardess costumes. Also, shoes seem to be optional.

The other interesting thing that happened was that I was standing in the hallway waiting for Ken to finish his session (yes, we were both there for work—nothing more romantic than spending the weekend together at a conference), when a woman (non-Indigenous) and her male companion stopped close by to me. All of a sudden, the woman burst out with, “The f*cking British. They ruined the world! F*ck them.” I was a little taken aback, and really wanted to respond with “The British? Don’t you mean the Romans?!” because the Romans were basically the master colonizers, and did to the Celts and many other cultures exactly what the Brits eventually did. But no one ever blames the Italians for ANYTHING, except taking a dive in soccer. Anyway, I was really perturbed by this and would really have loved to discuss it with her, but she seemed super angry and aggressive and swear-y so I left it alone. Then, as luck would have it, she ended up in my last session. She still seemed angry and aggressive, admonishing someone in our group that “our task wasn’t to make comments, but only to ask questions as per the protocol”, but I thought I might broach it with her at the end of the session, you know, just for fun like. But at the end, she went up to the session leader and suddenly burst into tears. Turns out she had been given a Native Studies class to teach. She was starting “Residential Schools” on Monday and had no idea how to teach it properly, knowing what she knew now. And I get that—it WAS overwhelming, and hard, and beautiful but I’m sure as hell glad I went. Meegwetch.

 

My Week 146: I Need To Learn German, Happy Anniversary!

Well. It’s been a fairly hectic week, what with me having to drive on the highway to and from home. The upside is that I get to spend more time with Ken, Titus, and Raven. Notice that I didn’t mention K, because she’s working in an auto parts factory for the summer to make money for next year. We have her tuition covered etc., but I was like, “If you want to keep buying light sabres and land in Scotland, then get a job, kid.” I’ll explain the Scottish real estate thing later. The downside of all this driving is, of course, that I have to drive on the worst highway in the world. I’ve already said plenty about that in previous posts, so I won’t pursue it any further except to say that it gave me time to think of some pretty random things for this week’s foray into the world of the absurd.

1) Last week, I went back to Toronto on the train. During the trip, I had to use the nasty train bathroom. They always smell of pee, mostly because the train is very wobbly. It’s not a problem for me, since I SIT on the seat, but if you’re one of those people who likes to stand and try to aim at the opening (male OR female—I’m not judge-y), I can guarantee you’re going to miss at some point and get your urine all over the place. As a result, I line the seat with toilet paper just in case. After, I sat back down in my seat. Then I got off the train, and took the subway home. I must have looked pretty cute because I was getting a lot of looks, like “Hey girl,” and “Nice, old lady”. When I got to my stop, I walked to my condo, and it was all good. Then I got into the apartment and realized that I didn’t have any milk for the morning, so I decided to pop down to the Loblaw’s on the corner. I was standing at the light, waiting to cross, when a German couple approached me. I could tell they were German because they were saying things like, “Das Madchen hat Toilettenpapier auf ihrem Arsch”, which I didn’t understand, having a limited amount of high school German, but I assumed they needed directions. Then the woman said, “Excuse me,” and I was like “Sure”, thinking she needed to know where the CN Tower or the Eaton Centre was. But then she said, “You haf some papier on your back.” I tried to see where she was talking about, and the guy she was with was pointing and saying, “Das is right zere,” until finally, I got a glimpse of it, and was able to pull it off. It was a square of toilet paper. I had been walking around with a square of toilet paper hanging from my waistband for the last hour. Well, no worries—it was gone now, and I could buy milk without shame. I laughed and thanked the German couple and went merrily on my way. They seemed pleased, having helped me, and yelled out, “Es gibt noch mehr Toilettenpapier!” which I assumed meant, “We gave you help with the toilet paper!” so I waved and gave them a thumbs-up. Unfortunately, my German sucks. When I got back to my condo, finally, I started to change into my pajamas, and discovered to my horror that I had only pulled off the LAST SQUARE of toilet paper and that there were 6 additional squares that I had unwittingly tucked into my waistband in the train bathroom and which were hanging down like a paper tail the whole time I was in the grocery store. And now I need to learn more German.

2) Last week, a colleague of mine and I were having a conversation about why he was bailing on going out for a drink on his last night before leaving the secret agency for good because he and his wife just had a baby. “I have to pick up something that I found on Kijiji,” he said.

“What could possibly be so important that you’re not coming for a drink? I’m buying, for God’s sake!”

“Exactly,” he said. “It IS for God’s sake. This couple is advertising all of their daughter’s baptism and communion stuff, on sale for super-cheap. I know it sounds weird, but it was only used once and it’s generic, with the dove on it and all, so I might as well get it now rather than pay twice as much later.”

Me: Why do Catholics have pigeons all over everything?
Colleague: Not pigeons. Doves. There’s a slight difference.
Me: I’m not seeing it, but OK—why doves?
Colleague: The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes fire shoots out of its head. If you ever see a dove breathing fire, you know you’re in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Me: Either that, or in the latest Harry Potter movie, like “Harry Potter and the Fire-breathing Pigeon”.
Colleague: Dove. It’s a dove.
Me: OK.

The next morning, I went into my office, and there on my desk, was a little dove planter, with a fern in it. My colleague popped his head in:

Colleague: I got you this as a going-away present.
Me: Cool! Does it breathe fire?!
Colleague: No, it’s only ceramic. But the plant is fake, so you can’t kill it.
Me: You know me so well. I’m going to miss you more than you know.

And I will.

3) Yesterday, I was at the mall, and I decided to buy some Cinnabons for a treat. K loves them, and I could take some to my parents for dessert that night. So I went up to the counter:

Me: I would like some of those little Cinnabons please.
Woman: THEY ONLY COME IN BOXES OF 9 AND 12.
Me: Oh. How many of the big ones can I get?
Woman (sighs): THEY ONLY COME IN BOXES OF 4 AND 6.
Me: Um, okay. Can I get a box of 4?
Woman (rolls eyes): THEY’RE RIGHT DOWN THERE. YOU GET THEM YOURSELF.

So I grabbed a box from below the counter. I’m not an expert in buying ‘bons’, so I thought she was pretty mean, and very yell-y. But I got her back because just as she was packing up the box of 4, I said, “You know what? I changed my mind. I’ll take the box of 9 little ones.” And then she rolled her eyes really hard again, and gave me back the box, which I switched out. Then I paid and told her to “have a good day” but I might have said it slightly sarcastically, so I totally SHOWED HER. When I got home, I told K and Ken that the woman at the Cinnabons counter was very rude to me, and K said, “Was it the old lady with the short white hair?” and I was like, “YES!!”, and she said, “She’s always really rude to us too, when we go there.” So at least I know it’s not just me, and now I REALLY wish I knew German because I could have just smiled at her and said, “Du hast Toilettenpapier auf deinen Arsch”.

4) On Friday, it was our 27th Anniversary. Ken said “Happy anniversary” first, but I was the first one to post it on Facebook, so I thought I won. Then he posted a picture of two puzzle pieces which said “You” and “Me”, and I was like, “Aww—that’s sweet!” But then I realized it was a gif, and when I watched it, the two little puzzle pieces moved towards each other and fit together. Which sounds really cute, but the one puzzle piece had a part like a very large phallus, and the other one had an opening, so when they fit together, it looked super-dirty. And then I also realized that the puzzle piece with the phallic bit said “You”, as in me, and the apparently-lady piece said “Me”, as in Ken, and that was even more disturbing in terms of what Ken intended:

Me: I think you got the genders on those puzzle pieces wrong. At least I’m hoping. I think we’re both too old to be trying stuff like that.
Ken: What are you talking about?!
Me: That gif was a little dirty.
Ken: It was two puzzle pieces. What’s dirty about THAT?
Me: Did you watch the animation? Very pornographic.
Ken: They fit together! It’s cute, like “we’re a perfect fit”! Get your mind out of the gutter.
Me: Super-dirty. What WILL our friends think?
Ken: Happy Anniversary, weirdo.
Me: Yeah. Ich liebe dich. That means “I love your–”
Ken: No, it doesn’t.