Cursed By Santa

I’m currently in quite the state, due to the fact that I just got a new laptop after 9 years. This one is fast and shiny, but there is no discernible way to remove the password requirement from MY OWN DAMN COMPUTER. I’ve literally spent an hour this morning watching tutorials and carefully following instructions and all I’ve managed to do is create ANOTHER f*cking account under MY OWN NAME that has become the default account and now, when I restart my computer, not only do I have to put in a password, I have to switch accounts. And then suddenly, all my apostrophes turned into accented ‘e’s and I finally figured how to stop that, but whatever I did now makes it impossible to create an ‘e’ with an accent so apparently I’ve lost my alt keyboard and can no longer speak French.

Anyway, this is NOT about how much I hate my computer; this is about how I finally figured out why my life is so weird, which is to say that I think I was cursed as a very small child by Santa Claus. And what led to this bizarre, albeit obvious, conclusion? Last week, my parents came over for my mother’s early birthday dinner. At the end of the evening, right before they left, my mother pulled a card out of her purse and said, “Ooh, I found this the other day, and I thought you might want it!” On the front of the card, it said, “Christmas Fairyland” and on the inside was a picture of me at the age of 2, sitting on the lap of a Santa Claus. “Oh, that’s cute,” I said. “Thanks,” and I put it aside.

But then the other day, I opened it up and took a closer look. And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t really Santa. I mean, I KNOW it’s not the real Santa Claus, obviously—what I mean is that I think the lap I was precariously perched on belonged to some kind of demonic creature a la Stephen King. (Note that I couldn’t put the accent on the ‘a’ because my keyboard is no longer bilingual. Sorry). It’s like in It, when the kids realize that Pennywise is in all the historic pictures of Derry going back hundreds of years, except MY clown is dressed in a Santa suit. Don’t believe me? Take a good look at those dead eyes—they follow you wherever you go. They’re the eyes of a man who wants nothing more than to devour your soul. And look at ME—it’s like he just whispered, “You will be cursed with a mind that never shuts off” and I’m like “Get me off this guy’s lap and also, is Fred Flintstone based on a real caveman? Will people be able to live in space some day? Will I ever get a robot butler? Which bathroom stall is the best one? Wouldn’t Player One be a fantastic nickname? Oh my god, it’s already started!” So now you know.

In Other News…

Speaking of bathroom stalls, we’ve been having a problem at work with Stall Number 3. If you’ll recall from a couple of years ago, there are five bathroom stalls in the ladies’ bathroom. Stall 5 is my favourite, because it’s against the far wall with no other stall to the left, so if Stall 4 is empty, I ALWAYS use Stall 5. However, if Stall 4 is occupied, then I immediately go to Stall 2 if the ones on either side are both empty. I NEVER use Stall 1 because a ghost lives in it. Stall 4 always smells weird. Also, I heard that the number 4 is considered unlucky in some cultures, and no one wants to be unlucky in a public bathroom. I WILL use Stall 3 in an absolute emergency. But now, Stall 3 has supplanted Stall 4 as the worst non-haunted stall because twice in the last two weeks, it has been plugged up rather badly and won’t flush. And I don’t know what’s wrong with the person who’s been plugging it up (aside from the need to reduce the vast amount of fibre in their diet) because they’re not leaving a note saying Out Of Order or anything—all they’re leaving is A LARGE PILE OF POO LYING ON A GIANT BED OF TOILET PAPER. And this has forced me to go not once, but TWICE to the young woman who looks after facilities and have this conversation:

Incident 1

Me: Um, hi Deirdre. The third stall in the bathroom doesn’t seem to be working. It’s full and won’t flush.
Deirdre: OK, no problem. I’ll call the plumber.
Me: It wasn’t me. I swear.
Deirdre (laughs): OK.

Incident 2

Me: Um, hi Deirdre. The third stall in the bathroom doesn’t seem to be working again. It’s full and won’t flush.
Deirdre: OK, no problem. I’ll call the plumber again.
Me: It wasn’t me. I swear. Seriously, I know that it seems like it’s always me reporting it, but I didn’t do it. This is NOT a “Blame your fart on the dog” kind of situation.
Deirdre (laughs harder): OK. I believe you.

It really wasn’t me. I swear.

Let Me Be Frank

So on Thursday, we were trying to figure out how to get home because all the Via trains were cancelled (long story) and a bunch of us took a GO train halfway home then figured we would share a cab to Brantford from there. We were looking for one more person, and I saw someone I knew standing further up. “Frank!!” I called out, loudly enough that everyone else stopped talking. The man turned and started coming towards me. IT WASN’T FRANK. But he kept looking at me and getting closer, and my friend next to me whispered, “Why aren’t you saying anything?” But I didn’t know what was going on with Man-Who-Looked-Like-Frank-But-Wasn’t-Frank, so I kept very deliberately staring out the window until he was right in front of me.

Me: Um…hi?
Man: Do we know each other?
Me: No, I mistook you for someone else.
Man: But you called my name.
Me: You’re FRANK?
Man: Yes.
Me: Sorry—I meant a different Frank.

And I don’t even know how to end this story except to ask how many completely bald, short men wearing huge headphones and a trench coat named Frank are out there riding the trains every day? Are we in The Matrix and this is a Mr. Smith-type situation? Because if this is The Matrix, I want my damned robot butler.

All Hail The Rat Queen

This giant stuffed rat dressed in a pioneer costume sits atop a cardboard box in the middle of the warehouse used by the secret agency to house our secret stuff. It’s been there for years. No one knows why, and if you ask anyone why it’s there, they just shrug. And I’m not sure if it’s there to WARD OFF the rats like a bizarre eyeless scarecrow or if it’s there for the rats to worship. But SOMEONE OR SOMETHING has been leaving it offerings of paper flowers and I will think about this every day for the rest of my life, and that’s my curse.

My Week 149: Getting Ready to Vacation, Hammacher Schlemmer Revisited

Can I just stay home?

Is “vacate” the verb form of “vacation”? Because that’s what I’m in the midst of right now—getting ready to vacate for a vacation. I’m not good at the whole down-time thing, but I have to say I’m getting a little excited. Ken, T, and I are going on the Queen Mary over to the UK with our whole family, including Mom and Dad, and my brother (the one with the Ph.D) and his family. The worst part of the whole experience, aside from worrying about EVERY worst case scenario possible, is the packing. I’ve been struggling for days with what exactly to bring, and how I will fit it all in one suitcase for two weeks. The Queen Mary is a super-fancy boat, and then once we dock, we`re going to be hiking around Wales, so it’s one extreme to another. I basically just took everything I had, and rolled it all up into tight balls, so now I have room for shoes. I have a LOT of shoes. Mostly flipflops, so they don`t take up much space. But Ken’s in a jam because he has to take “formal wear”. I can roll a dress into a tight sausage, but a suit isn’t that easy:

Me: Are you going to put your stuff into a garment bag?
Ken: I suppose…
Me: Why are you acting skeptical? It’s a garment bag, not a Tauntaun that you cut open for warmth.
Ken: What?!
Me: Nothing. Do you think three pairs of black flipflops is too many?

Random Star Wars references aside, Ken and I are T minus 11 hours away from departure. We’re also minus K, because she’s having a last farewell with her girlfriend, the lovely V, before she goes off the grid for a few days. But she promised to be home for Ken’s birthday dinner.

Meanwhile, Ken decided that he wanted to take photographs to submit to a contest held by a local ice cream company. His grand plan was to use Titus and me as models on the porch of our garden house. I had to sit there in the boiling sun with a “Yukon Bar” dripping down my arm until Titus decided he’d had enough, grabbed it out of my hand, and pulled the whole thing off the stick:

Me: What the f*ck??!!
Titus: Did you seriously think you could keep waving that at me and I WOULDN’T steal it? Whoa—ice cream headache!!
Me: Serves you right, you dick. Also, it was chocolate ice cream, so don’t come crying to me if you get sick.
Titus (whispers): It was so worth it.

Anyway, that sh*t is boring AF for you, so I’ll get to the point. I’m vacating the country for a while, and it occurs to me that I don’t really want to go anywhere else. I know that Canada isn’t perfect and that there are horrible people here too, but in the last couple of days, I’ve had some particularly Canadian experiences.

1) Yesterday, I was waiting in line for the train at Union Station in Toronto (the biggest train station in the country). When the line started to move, the woman in front of me looked down at some bags at her feet, then moved them to one side, and we all kept walking. The guy behind me was a little worried and said to me, “Do you know who those bags belong to?”

“No,” I answered, “but this is Canada. No one’s going to take them.”

“True enough,” he agreed. A couple of minutes later, I saw a man come running over breathlessly and grab the bags, smiling at the people in line, who smiled back and let him in. Which is a big deal, because Canada has some pretty stringent line protocols.

2) Over the course of the last two days, I’ve had a door held open for me by at least 10 people, some of them young people, which doesn’t surprise me—I mention it only as a counter-measure against those who continually whine about millennials.

3) This morning I was in the neighbouring city getting a few things for the trip. A couple had a shopping cart at the top of the stairs leading to another plaza. They carried two of their bags down but left three cases of water in the cart. As I walked by, the people behind me said, “Oh, someone’s forgotten their water!” Then the couple came hurrying back. “Don’t worry,” I said. “No one’s going to take it.”

“Oh, I know,” the woman replied. “I was just worried that the cart might be in someone’s way. Plus if someone DID take it, I guess they needed the water more than me, so that’s OK.”

4) I went to Shopper’s and forgot my points card. The cashier said, “Don’t worry—it’s Senior’s Day” which initially had me like ‘Dear God, do I look that old?’ but then she explained that she gave my points to the woman ahead of me in line who was a senior and who HAD her points card, and gave both of us the senior’s discount. “I pretended that you were her daughter and gave you the discount. Just say ‘Thanks, Mom’ to her, and we’ll call it even,” she said. So I did.

5) My hairdresser is openly gay, and her partner is a transgender person. We all live in a small town of 500 people, and no one gives a sh*t. Try getting an appointment with this girl—she’s booked solid every day. Although she DID fit Ken in for a straight razor cut because she just took a course and he’s one of the few guys in town who shaves his head.

And while I imagine these kinds of things happen in other places in the world, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they happen in Canada. But that worries me too, because there are good people everywhere, and things are still pretty sh*tty in other countries, so who’s to say that Canada won’t be next, or whether to some people, we’re already as bad as other countries? You can blame social media all you want for giving assholes a platform that they never had 20 years ago, but the fact is that assholes still existed then—they just made the people in their IMMEDIATE vicinity miserable instead of tweeting out their idiocy to a wide audience, or making ludicrous and ill-informed comments on national news articles.

At any rate, it’s time to see more of the world and find those little pockets of decency where I can. Because I know they exist. So have a great week–I’ll be coming to you from the UK for the next installment of mydangblog at the point where I eventually have wifi.

And now here’s a throwback to November 2014 that you might not have read on the weirdness of mail-order catalogues…

Wednesday: I wonder who exactly buys things from mail-order catalogues.

On occasion, we get mail order catalogues delivered to our house. There’s Added Touch, which features jewellery, clothes, and furniture. Why would I order anything from them, when I can buy the same things from actual stores, without having to pay shipping? We also get Signals, offering logic games and clever T-shirts with saying like “Don’t trust atoms—they make up everything” on them, and Bits and Pieces, which sells really cheap plastic garden ornaments and jigsaw puzzles of kitty cats and thatched-roof cottages. But the icing on the mail-order cake came on Wednesday, when we got, for the first time, a catalogue called Hammacher Schlemmer, which I think is German for “sh—t that you’ll never buy because it’s stupid and way too expensive”. Aside from the assorted remote control spy drones, the ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, and the washable cashmere bathrobe (only $399.95), there were some really bizarre things available for purchase. Here are a few of my favourites:

Page 5: The Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter, $129.95. It’s a tiny doghouse for cats, which comes with a heated floor. It’s waterproof and can be plugged into any grounded electrical outlet. This, to me, is a paradox. You don’t like your cat enough to let it in the house when it’s cold or wet out, but you’ll pay $130.00 for a cathouse? Do you love your cat or hate it? Maybe it’s like Schrodinger’s cat—you simultaneously love AND hate it—either way, you probably shouldn’t have a cat.

Page 60: The Faux Fireplace, $69.95. The description of this item reads: “The removable fireplace decal that instills instant ski lodge coziness to a room otherwise devoid of winter’s most heart-warming tradition.” While the prose is lovely, let’s be clear—it’s a STICKER that looks like a fireplace. You just paid seventy bucks for a giant sticker, friend. It will not warm your room. The flames don’t move. The picture in the catalogue is of a man sitting in a wingchair, staring at the fireplace. Let’s be realistic—he’s staring at the wall. For the same money, you could buy a space heater, if it’s warmth you’re looking for, or for another hundred bucks, you could go to Canadian Tire and buy an electric fireplace with fake flames that actually move. If I was ever going to stick anything on my wall, it would be a life-size Johnny Depp. (I asked Ken if he was OK with that, and he said only if he got a life-size sticker of someone too, but he wouldn’t tell me who because he “didn’t want to be judged”).

Page 64: The Cyclist’s Virtual Safety Lane, $39.95. This ingenious invention consists of two laser beams that you mount on your bicycle to provide motorists a “visual indicator of a cyclist’s riding width”. This is also known as the “target zone”. Don’t people on bicycles already have enough problems with inconsiderate car drivers almost knocking them off their bikes without providing them a clear indication of exactly where you have to drive to do that? I admit, I’m not a huge fan of fanatical cyclists who zip around in their fake sponsorship outfits and torpedo helmets (I went through a post-Olympic phase of yelling “Where’s the peloton?!” out my car window when Ken and I would pass one of them on the road), but still, I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. And neither does Hammacher Sledgehammer, because on page 71, for an additional $199.95, you can also get a Bicycle Rear View Camera, just so you can see who’s bearing down on you and the rest of the peloton.

Finally, the most incredible and most useless item in the catalogue can be found on page 59. For the low, low price of only $345,000 (yes, over a third of a MILLION dollars), you can order a 6 foot tall robot. In the catalogue, it’s described as a “Celebrity Robot Avatar”, and has apparently appeared in movies, TV shows, and music videos. As a purveyor of pop culture myself, I have never seen this robot anywhere on screen. And just to clarify—it’s not actually a ROBOT. It’s a battery-powered, remote control metal can. It doesn’t do anything on its own. It’s controlled with “an intuitive wireless remote that is small enough to escape detection”. You can make it move forwards, backwards, and spin, as well as make it seem like it’s talking by speaking into a “discreet wireless microphone”. What kind of money do you have to make to spend $345,000 on a puppet? For 50 bucks, I’ll dress in a robot costume, come to your party, and have ACTUAL conversations with your guests. That’s right—I’m your robot butler, baby. Your swear-y, angsty robot butler.

My Week 8 – Grumpiness and Mail Order Catalogue Weirdness

Friday: I am a very grumpy sick person and I know it.

I don’t get sick very often, and when I do, I often don’t get very sick. But there are times when I get really, really sick, and this is one of them. I’ve had laryngitis and a death-defying cough since Monday, and at a certain point, I realized that I’m not nice when I ‘m sick. I realized this at approximately 10:30 last night. I was watching TV, and waiting for something decent to come on when I saw a news clip of an American Republican member of Parliament, or whatever they call them down there, criticizing Barack Obama for a new immigration policy that offered amnesty to illegal aliens. He was yabbering on about how it would destroy American, at which point, I yelled, “Go screw yourself, stupid Republican!” and changed the channel. In retrospect, I think my sentiment was dead-on, but this goes to show that I’m just not myself. I don’t even know what a Republican is, particularly, except that they apparently don’t like immigrants. Are they like the Conservatives? Can someone clarify? But the fact that I yelled at the TV is somewhat alarming, especially since I always tell my grade nines that there’s no point in talking to the characters in movies since they can’t actually hear you. So at this point, I looked back over the last couple of days, and came to the conclusion that I must be very sick because I’m very grumpy:

• On Wednesday, I accused the cat of being a diva, and called her an “asshat” for using the litterbox in my bathroom. In fairness, I should point out that she has another, perfectly good litterbox downstairs, but she doesn’t like it as much as the one which is situated in the room next to where I SLEEP. Anyway, she came into the bathroom, and sat and stared at me until I looked and realized the litterbox needed to be scooped, which I did. The second, the very SECOND it was clean, she jumped in and took a fresh dump. Hence the name calling. She didn’t actually hear me though—she was too busy pretending the wall was made out of litter and if she scraped it hard enough, it would magically cover her poo. She does this most often at 3 o’clock in the morning, because who doesn’t love being awakened by the sound of a cat trying to dig her way to China?

• On Thursday, I managed to whack myself in the chest with a chalk brush (don’t ask—even I’M not sure how this happened), and then told the chalkbrush how much I hated it. “I hate you, stupid chalkbrush!” were my exact words, as I brushed chalk off myself, looking around to make sure none of my students had overheard me. They hadn’t (mostly because I have laryngitis and can’t speak above a whisper). Thank god, because how do I explain that one, especially in light of how I always tell them not to talk to the TV, and here I am cussing out a chalk brush?

• Earlier on Friday night, as I was washing my face, something fell out of my medicine cabinet, and my immediate response was “F*ck you! I’m sick of your sh*t!” I don’t even know WHAT fell out, but the epithet-laced response was most definitely out of proportion to the actual event, which tells me that yes, I am a very sick woman, and I need some rest.

The one saving grace is that I direct my illness-driven misery at mostly inanimate objects (except for the cat, and she agreed that yes, she is a diva, and that I’M an asshat for a not cleaning her litterbox out more regularly). Hopefully, I’ll recover from the Black Death soon, and the items in my medicine cabinet can rest easy. But the Republicans can still go screw themselves.

Wednesday: I wonder who exactly buys things from mail-order catalogues.

On occasion, we get mail order catalogues delivered to our house. There’s Added Touch, which features jewellery, clothes, and furniture. Why would I order anything from them, when I can buy the same things from actual stores, without having to pay shipping? We also get Signals, offering logic games and clever T-shirts with saying like “Don’t trust atoms—they make up everything” on them, and Bits and Pieces, which sells really cheap plastic garden ornaments and jigsaw puzzles of kitty cats and thatched-roof cottages. But the icing on the mail-order cake came on Wednesday, when we got, for the first time, a catalogue called Hammacher Schlemmer, which I think is German for “sh*t that you’ll never buy because it’s stupid and way too expensive”. Aside from the assorted remote control spy drones, the ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, and the washable cashmere bathrobe (only $399.95), there were some really bizarre things available for purchase. Here are a few of my favourites:

Page 5: The Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter, $129.95. It’s a tiny doghouse for cats, which comes with a heated floor. It’s waterproof and can be plugged into any grounded electrical outlet. This, to me, is a paradox. You don’t like your cat enough to let it in the house when it’s cold or wet out, but you’ll pay $130.00 for a cathouse? Do you love your cat or hate it? Maybe it’s like Schrodinger’s cat—you simultaneously love AND hate it—either way, you probably shouldn’t have a cat.

Page 60: The Faux Fireplace, $69.95. The description of this item reads: “The removable fireplace decal that instills instant ski lodge coziness to a room otherwise devoid of winter’s most heart-warming tradition.” While the prose is lovely, let’s be clear—it’s a STICKER that looks like a fireplace. You just paid seventy bucks for a giant sticker, friend. It will not warm your room. The flames don’t move. The picture in the catalogue is of a man sitting in a wingchair, staring at the fireplace. Let’s be realistic—he’s staring at the wall. For the same money, you could buy a space heater, if it’s warmth you’re looking for, or for another hundred bucks, you could go to Canadian Tire and buy an electric fireplace with fake flames that actually move. If I was ever going to stick anything on my wall, it would be a life-size Johnny Depp. (I asked Ken if he was OK with that, and he said only if he got a life-size sticker of someone too, but he wouldn’t tell me who because he “didn’t want to be judged”).

Page 64: The Cyclist’s Virtual Safety Lane, $39.95. This ingenious invention consists of two laser beams that you mount on your bicycle to provide motorists a “visual indicator of a cyclist’s riding width”. This is also known as the “target zone”. Don’t people on bicycles already have enough problems with inconsiderate car drivers almost knocking them off their bikes without providing them a clear indication of exactly where you have to drive to do that? I admit, I’m not a huge fan of fanatical cyclists who zip around in their fake sponsorship outfits and torpedo helmets (I went through a post-Olympic phase of yelling “Where’s the peloton?!” out my car window when Ken and I would pass one of them on the road), but still, I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. And neither does Hammacher Sledgehammer, because on page 71, for an additional $199.95, you can also get a Bicycle Rear View Camera, just so you can see who’s bearing down on you and the rest of the peloton.

Finally, the most incredible and most useless item in the catalogue can be found on page 59. For the low, low price of only $345,000 (yes, over a third of a MILLION dollars), you can order a 6 foot tall robot. In the catalogue, it’s described as a “Celebrity Robot Avatar”, and has apparently appeared in movies, TV shows, and music videos. As a purveyor of pop culture myself, I have never seen this robot anywhere on screen. And just to clarify—it’s not actually a ROBOT. It’s a battery-powered, remote control metal can. It doesn’t do anything on its own. It’s controlled with “an intuitive wireless remote that is small enough to escape detection”. You can make it move forwards, backwards, and spin, as well as make it seem like it’s talking by speaking into a “discreet wireless microphone”. What kind of money do you have to make to spend $345,000 on a puppet? For 50 bucks, I’ll dress in a robot costume, come to your party, and have ACTUAL conversations with your guests. That’s right—I’m your robot butler, baby. Your swear-y, plague-ridden robot butler.