Stressed By Nature

Well, the weather is FINALLY starting to be more acceptable for Canada in May, which of course means that you only wear a sweater in the morning until about 1 pm, then you can take it off for two hours and then put it back on at 3 o’clock. The nice thing about my home office is that it’s drenched in sunshine all morning, which I hate to complain about, but it’s hard to see the computer screen for the glare. Still, as we say in Canada whenever we can, about literally all weather, “It’s better than snow”. Also, from my vantage point, I can watch the woodland creatures like a stalker-y Snow White, but I have to say that nature is stressing me out.

Last week, I decided to be kind to the squirrels and bought a big bag of shelled peanuts. I put them out and the little fellas were having a great time until the Blue Jays showed up. (For those of you picturing a group of strapping young men tossing a baseball around my yard, believe me, I was just as disappointed as you.) They kept swooping in and stealing the nuts, even though there’s a BIRDFEEDER 20 feet away. It was infuriating, and between meetings, and sometimes during them, I was shaking my fist and swearing like a baseball player. So Ken suggested that I move the peanuts to a spot under the trees next to my window:

Ken: It’s a great spot. You can watch the squirrels eating their nuts while you’re working and the branches hang low enough that the jays can’t swoop in and upset you.
Me: Well, it IS upsetting. They’re like those people who were hoarding toilet paper. And now those same people are hoarding tofu. TOFU!!

(Slight tangent: It’s true. The other day I was at the grocery store and I wanted some tofu. There’s been a rumour going around that meat is getting a bit low due to problems in the processing plants but it looked fine to me. I’m not a vegan—I mean, you’d know if I was because I would be telling you about it every week—but I actually really like tofu, so I went to the vegetarian cooler where there’s usually a plenitude of soy products, and all the tofu was gone. Well, not ALL the tofu—they still had the soft stuff, which is disgusting, and something called “Dessert Tofu” and I was like, “I’m not a monster, so no.” I guess the last laugh is on all the people who cleaned out the cooler because a) you can’t keep 40 bricks of tofu in your laundry room cupboard in case you need to wipe your ass 4 months from now, b) it doesn’t taste like meat, even if if says it does, because that’s a lie, and c) if you’re a man and you eat a lot of tofu, which contains estrogen, you will grow boobs. It’s a scientific fact which I just googled.)

Anyway, I put the aluminum pie plate filled with peanuts under the tree by my window, and everything was fine for a bit. The first squirrel came along, zigzagging the way they do, like they’re pretending they don’t have a clue that there’s a cornucopia of nutty delight just waiting for them. Then he found the nuts, picked one up, and gave it a sniff. ‘Aw,’ I thought, ‘That’s so cute.’ But then the squirrel took the peanut, hopped a couple of steps away, and BURIED IT. My pleasure turned to perplexity. The squirrel zigzagged back to the pie plate, took another peanut and buried that one. And another one. And another one, until half the plate was gone. Just then, I got a Zoom notification and had to go to a meeting:

Colleague 1: Good morning, Suzanne! How are you?
Me: I…there’s this squirrel stealing all my nuts out of the pie plate under my window.
Colleague 2: A squirrel is stealing all ze nuts?
Me: Yes, and burying them in the grass!
Colleague 3: Maybe it’s putting them away for winter.
Me: But winter is over 3 months away! (*This is Canada, remember?*)
Colleague 1: Maybe you should put the nuts somewhere you can’t see them.
Colleague 3: I agree. You don’t need this stress.
Me: It’s not fair. He’s hoarding them and now the other squirrels can’t have any.
Colleague 2: Ah, oui—just like ze toilet paper.
Me: And the tofu!

(I had to take a quick break from writing this post because Ken interrupted me:

Ken: I’m going down to the basement to fix the sum pump.
Me: The sump pump?
Ken: Sum pump?
Me: I think it’s sump.
Ken: Sump. Yeah, I think you’re right. That’s what I thought too but it sounded weird.
Me: Weirder than sum?
Ken: What does sump stand for anyway?
Me: Um…Subterranean…underwater…mechanical………pump?
Ken: Does it?
Me: Absolutely. I just googled it. It’s a scientific fact.

Back to writing.)

Then on Thursday, Ken and I were in the back yard when we heard this beautiful birdsong. We looked around just as a goldfinch flew past us and landed on our patio door screen.

“Quick!” I said, “Get a picture!” Ken got right close and took a picture of it, and it didn’t show any sign of flying away, so I crept closer until I was able to reach out a finger and pet it on the head. It still didn’t move—it just kept singing away. So I took another step and stroked its feathers. It was still for a minute then it launched off the screen and tried to land on my arm, at which point I think it realized I wasn’t a Disney Princess but was, in fact, a human woman, freaked itself out, and tried to escape by flying into my hair, which freaked me out, and we both kind of screamed, and I ran into the house and the goldfinch flew into a tree. But it was a nice moment. For a moment.

As a final note, I just want to say thank you to everyone for all your words of comfort and support last week. And I need to tell you that I will never ever again write about our new young neighbours in any critical way because when I stumbled to the end of their driveway sobbing a week ago last Wednesday and told them our dog had just died and that Ken needed some help moving him, they immediately and without question (although I’m sure they had MANY), dropped what they were doing (literally–it was a hose and they were washing their truck again but that’s not a criticism; in fact, it’s nice that they take such good care of all their vehicles, right?) and ran across the street to help us (yes, we maintained social distancing). And a couple of nights ago, I looked out my kitchen window and could see them in their breezeway. “Look,” I said to Ken. “The new neighbours are dancing!” and with that, we saw him pick her up in the air and twirl her around and she laughed, and it was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen in a long time. So it turns out that we’re the weird neighbours after all, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

If You Build It…

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Via Rail, Canada’s national passenger railway, that the train that was supposed to take us out to the Maritimes IN AUGUST was cancelled. I was shocked—we’d planned the whole trip around the train voyage, and I’d already booked hotels, a ferry to Newfoundland, and a couple of bed and breakfasts. The vacation planning, of course, had all taken place before the great lockdown. And aren’t events around the world just doing their damn best to tell us that the end of days is nigh? There’s a plague of locusts in Africa, Murder Hornets have landed on the shores of North America, the world is infected with a terrible pestilence, and now it’s snowing in f*cking May here. If I see a horse galloping down my street, I’m immediately going to live in a cave.

Anyway, I was super disappointed that our trip had been cancelled, even though they refunded all the money and points I’d used to pay for it. “Peut être ze next year,” the Via rep said in a thick, French accent, which certainly didn’t leave me feeling very optimistic. But then I had a thought.

Me: If we have to do a stay-cation, that’s OK. We can always get a hot tub.
Ken: What?
Me: Hot tub.
Ken: Hot tub?
Me: I feel like this conversation is circular. Like this hot tub. Look…

So I showed Ken the Canadian Tire website, where they had fairly inexpensive inflatable hot tubs on sale. Now, if you’re not Canadian, you’re probably wondering why a tire store sells hot tubs. But Canadian Tire sells tires in the same way that Walmart sells walls or Winners sells lottery tickets, which is to say that the majority of things they sell are not tires. “OK,” Ken said. “Where will we put it?”

“On the back patio,” I answered. So I ordered it, and Ken went to get it. Canadian Tire was only doing curbside pickup, which meant that he had to pull up to the door, show them his order number and receipt, then go and park while someone brought it out. When he pulled into the driveway and unloaded the big box, I was super-excited, but then he said something to me that filled me with dread.

“I’ve decided to build a gazebo for it,” he announced. At that moment, thunder may have rumbled ominously in the distance, the birds may have stopped singing, and the hydro might have flickered.

“How—how long will that take?” I whispered.

“I’ll have to order the wood first,” he said cheerily.

“Just a square gazebo, right? Or rectangular? Something easy to put up?” I held my breath, hoping for the best.

“No! Octagonal!” he cried, leaping into the air and clicking his heels together.

“Aw, f*ck,” I said to no one in particular. A squirrel laughed darkly, as if to say, “You will never sit in the soothing waters of the hot tub. NEVER!!” (It wasn’t THIS baby squirrel who’s currently living in my yard, but he’s too cute not to show you.)

So THE NEXT WEEKEND, Ken and I went to get the wood from Home Depot. Once again, we had to show our receipt and order number for curbside pick-up, then park and wait. After half an hour, an elderly woman came to our window. “Would you mind pulling up by the contractor’s entrance?” she asked apologetically. “Only, there’s so much wood that I can’t push it out here myself.”

“So much wood,” I whispered, as Ken loaded it all onto our trailer.

The weather all week was gorgeous, but no sign of activity on the back patio, and no lovely warm waters to soothe my weary soul. Then on Friday afternoon after work, Ken announced that he was going to lay out the frame see how it looked. Immediately, it started to hail. I feared the worst, but Ken was determined, so he put on a parka, and began framing the base. It looks pretty good so far. And at this rate, barring a shower of frogs falling from the sky, I’ll be soaking my cares away by the time we were supposed to be on a train heading to Nova Scotia.

Just for the record, I want it known that I have no doubts about Ken’s abilities; it’s just his timelines. For years, our front door only had an overhang; here’s the porch that he put on, all by himself (with a little help from me, Kate, and my dad). It took him two summers but it’s gorgeous.

 

 

My Week 253: Squirrelling Around And Other Tales

I’m very tired right now. I know I’m very tired, because when I get very tired, I also get very swear-y, mostly at inanimate objects. To whit:

At the computer: “Why are you so f*cking SLOW?! Come on!!”

At the raspberry bushes in the garden: “Do you think I don’t see what you’re trying to do? Touch me again and I will DIG YOU OUT, you nasty piece of sh*t!”

At the driver ahead of me: “It’s a f*cking CORNER! Get around it—are you trying to make a goddamned meal of it?!”

At the movie last night: “Are you seriously trying to tell me that Dumbledore’s mom was some random lady who was LOST AT SEA?! That makes no f*cking sense, J.K. Rowling!”

At my car’s Bluetooth lady: “It’s KEN!! It’s always KEN! When will you f*cking LEARN??!!”

Yet despite my absolute fury at things that can’t talk back, I keep it all to myself when it comes to people. For example, yesterday I passed our dining room and noticed that Ken had draped all the cloth napkins that he had washed over the back of a dining chair literally 6 inches from the drawer WHERE THEY ARE KEPT. Did I yell and swear at him? No. I quietly put them away myself, because it was his birthday. But there is a middle ground, a “no man’s land” if you will, between inanimate objects and actual human people. This territory is known as The Squirrel.

I’ll be honest with you right up front. I don’t like squirrels. And I can already hear you protesting, “Aw, but they’re so cute!” and let me stop you right there. No. They are not “cute”. I have had many encounters with squirrels in my lifetime, and at no point was I distracted from their destructive behaviour, obnoxious attitudes, bizarre habits, or sarcastic temperaments by the thought, “Well, at least they’re cute”. Squirrels are the serial killers of the rodent world, the stuff that nightmares are made of. This actually happened to me when we had a cottage. A squirrel with an incredible sense of entitlement decided that she owned the place and she was super-intimidating. I started calling her “Charles Manson” until Ken pointed out that she had two rows of squirrel boobs, so I changed her name to “Squeaky Fromme”. One day I looked up at the roof, and saw her halfway in and halfway out of a little hole under the eaves, just hanging there staring at me like a furry gargoyle. I started screaming, and she took off. Later, Ken and I were sitting on the porch—I had my back to the driveway. Suddenly, I heard a noise, like a demon muttering, and I turned around—Squeaky was actually sneaking up on me. It turns out that she had taken up residence in our attic, where she had some babies who were also little dicks, running around and chewing on things at all hours of the day and night. We finally live-trapped them all and drove them out to the country. This is not a euphemism—even if I don’t like them, I would never deliberately hurt one.

But now, I’m experiencing déja vu, because the other day Ken called me to the window and said, “Look at that squirrel with a huge chunk of grass in its mouth. It’s climbing up the downspout—what do you think it’s doing?” and my response was “That little m*therf*cker!” because it was BUILDING A NEST under the decking of my balcony. So I went out and yelled “Hey!” and its head popped out, startled.

We stared at each other, and in that moment, we both knew the game was on. I ran upstairs and out onto the balcony, which caused Squirrel-y Dahmer to scramble out and run to the corner of the roofline where he sat, staring at me like I was some bee that he was worried about, which then prompted me to point at him and yell, “I SEE YOU! Don’t think for a minute that I don’t know what the f*ck you’re up to!!” because all I could keep thinking about was him popping up between the decking and biting my toes. After a few days of me randomly going out onto the balcony and stomping around, sending Titus out to intimidate him, and blasting heavy metal music at him, he seems to have run away, never to be seen again.

So, tired, yeah.

Here are some random notes from my phone.

1) Porta-potty relief

No, this is not the happy ending to a constipation story. What happened is this: When we work off-site, we have to have an extra outdoor bathroom trailer because many of our temporary staff are women and as we all know, women go to the bathroom constantly, especially if they don’t think they’ll be able to go to the bathroom for a while, even if they don’t really need to. So the line-up to the women’s bathroom is always extremely long. The problem is that the trailer is never level, but on an angle severe enough that I’m afraid to use it for fear of it toppling over. This wouldn’t pose a problem except that the windows and doors are always on the side that would hit the ground, thereby trapping me inside and causing me to drown in sewage. This is weird, yes? But not so weird that I don’t have a pact with a colleague who feels exactly the same way in which we notify each other when we’re going out there with the promise: “If I’m not back in 5 minutes, check that the porta-potty hasn’t fallen over.” But when we arrived at the site this time, she came to me very excited:

Colleague: The portable toilet trailer is here!
Me: Ergh. How bad is the angle?
Colleague: Pretty bad, but it’s set up perpendicular to the building this time so instead of toppling over, it would just roll down into the parking lot, hitting a bunch of cars!
Me: THAT is excellent news.
Colleague: I KNOW!!

2) I was thinking about the size of Siberia and I got scared.

Personally, I had never even considered the size of Siberia or why that should be frightening but I overheard a guy on the train say this to someone he was talking to on the phone, and it sounded very intriguing. Then later, I heard him say “It’s a monster but it’s in the form of a deer standing perfectly erect” and I didn’t know if he was still talking about Siberia or something else, but the whole conversation made me realize that my porta-potty story was pretty normal.

It’s actually terrifyingly large. Who knew?

3) Meeting Cindy Bankstock

A few weeks ago, some of us from work went to a presentation. We walked in and were met by a woman who introduced herself as Cindy Bankstock (not her real name). I was immediately incensed. Not because of her name, silly—I’m not THAT tired. No, last year, I had applied for a position with another unit, the manager of which was Cindy. I love my job, but this was exactly the same kind of job AND only a 40 minute drive from my house, so it would have been perfect. I had all the qualifications, including having done the same work before, but surprisingly, I didn’t even get an interview. So I emailed Cindy, expressing my thanks for her consideration of my application and my regret at not being interviewed. I wasn’t expecting anything, but she wrote back and offered to give me feedback on my application. I thought it wouldn’t hurt, so I agreed. She sent me an official telephone meeting invite for the next week, but it was on Easter Monday. Still, she had sent the invite so I figured she was happy to do it on our day off. I had family over, but I disappeared upstairs at the designated time and waited for the phone to ring. And waited. And waited, until it was obvious that she wasn’t calling. So I emailed her and said I was sorry we hadn’t been able to speak—perhaps we could reschedule? And I never heard from her again, until I came face to face with her at this presentation. She introduced herself, as I said, and then I introduced MYSELF. I enunciated my name very slowly and clearly, then I stared at her. And like a squirrel, she stared back. Then she ran away, never to be seen again, leaving the rest of her team to do the presentation. And I didn’t even have to stomp around.

My Week 170: It’s Coming From Inside the House

Last week, I started my holidays early. I had banked some time off for the end of the year so that I could have at least five days to write while Ken was still at work. I’m writing a second novel, and my plan was to get Chapters 16 to 20 finished before January. It’s been going well, despite the constant interruptions which are mostly me surfing the internet and going Christmas shopping. But I decided that I needed to be more disciplined, so on Wednesday, I sat down at 9:00 am to hammer out Chapter 18.

The house, as always, was extremely quiet. We live in a small town, and the house itself is not only on a large property, but it’s set well back from the road. I normally don’t worry about being alone here, since I have Titus, who’s very loud and intimidating when he needs to be. I also have, to a lesser extent, Raven, who is neither loud nor intimidating, but she WILL react to strange noises by lifting up her head and then placing it back down again. Recently though, there has been a spate of car break-ins, and someone outside of town had their house robbed. Plus, three weeks ago, Ken was away at a conference in Montreal, leaving me by myself for three nights, which would have been OK except that on the first night, I had a terrible nightmare about being attacked by intruders, and it set me on edge for the rest of the week.

But it was broad daylight, and I shouldn’t have had anything to worry about. It was around 11:00 am and I was about three quarters of the way through the chapter and feeling pretty good about where it was going, when suddenly, I heard the sound of something being knocked over in the back of the house. My office is in the front of the house, so I stopped typing and listened intently for a minute. I heard another sound, like a shuffling of some kind. I started to get a little panicky, but I calmed myself down by telling myself it was only Titus. He likes to sleep on the couch in the family room; he probably got up to stretch and knocked something off the coffee table.

I got up from my chair, and made my way to the kitchen. Sure enough, there was Titus, wagging his tail. He walked over to the courtyard door, and I said, “What have you been up to, buddy?” just as something else fell in the family room. I froze. I could hear movement, and the sound of the ornaments in the window being knocked down. There was someone back there.

You know that feeling of utter terror that you used to get when you were little and lying in bed, imagining that there was something in your closet? Or as an adult, when you almost have a car accident? That was me in that moment, as I listened to the sounds of someone moving around my house. I was wearing my housecoat and slippers, waiting until I’d finished writing to get dressed. Now, I felt really vulnerable. Titus didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise, which was unusual, but I turned away from him and took a step forward. The floor creaked under my slipper and I stopped, contemplating whether I should continue on bare-footed. I decided against it in case I had to flee the house—there was a lot of snow, and the last thing I needed was frostbite on top of everything else.

I moved quietly into the kitchen. The noises continued in the back, as if someone was rummaging around, tossing things aside that weren’t worth stealing. I reached out and silently slid the largest knife we had out of the butcher block. Then I went to the door of the kitchen and peeked around the corner, knife held out before me, almost faint with fear.

“Holy F*CK!!” I screamed. There, on the window ledge of the back room, was a huge, black squirrel. It took one look at me and tried to climb the wall, then it fell back down, hit the floor, and ran towards me.

I let loose another string of excellent swear words, including references to mothers, lady parts, and things that a squirrel might do to itself, as I grabbed the baby gate we use to keep Titus out of the kitchen and shoved it against the entrance to the room. The squirrel stopped, ran back to the window, and leapt up onto the window sill with one swift jump, making me realize that the baby gate, which was only about 2 feet off the ground, was virtually useless as a means of keeping the squirrel from attacking me. It didn’t seem too bothered by the knife either, so I put it down.

I was in an absolute panic—at the sound of the baby gate, Titus had come running and was now barking his head off and trying to get past the gate into the back room. And as satisfying as that might have been, the last thing I wanted was a massacre on my hands. Titus OR the squirrel—it could have gone either way at this point, the squirrel was so freaked out. Finally it ran out of the family room and into the back room where it ran around in circles and tried to climb up the back patio door.

I stayed behind the baby gate for a minute, thinking and silently swearing to myself, then I climbed over the gate carefully, keeping the squirrel in clear view. It was more concerned with the back door, and it occurred to me that it was probably just as scared as I was. So I opened the kitchen door and held the screen wide.

“Here, squirrel,” I shouted, trying to get its attention. “Here, Mr. Squirrel—the nice door is open. Come on, let’s go!” It just stopped and stared at me, like there was no way it was coming near me, even if I was holding the door open. I patted my leg, hoping to convince it that I was gentle and kind. No dice. Finally, I went outside (thank god I’d kept the slippers on—there’s an advantage to being the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios), and held the screen door from the outside where it couldn’t see me. Within about ten seconds, the damned thing shot through the family room, straight out the door, and up the nearest tree, where it sat chittering at me like a small demon.

Demon-spawn

I ran back into the house, slammed the screen door shut and screamed, “F*CK YOU, TREE RAT!!”

Then I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken:

Ken: What’s up? Why are you hyperventilating? Is this a “sexy call”?
Me: I just pulled a knife on a tree rat.
Ken: What?!
Me: I thought it was a burglar.
Ken: You pulled a knife on a burglar??!!
Me: No, a squirrel. There was a squirrel in the house. Oh my god, I’m dying here. I was so scared. How the f*ck did it get in the house?!
Ken: Probably came in through that old chimney in the back room. Check it and see.
Me: No f*cking way! What if there’s another one? I can only do this once!
Ken: I can’t believe Titus didn’t freak out when it was running around the family room.
Titus (from kitchen):  I THOUGHT IT WAS THE CAT!!

Raven or squirrel?

I spent the rest of the day watching out the window, as the squirrel ran around the yard. It looked like it was plotting another foray into the house, so when Ken came home, I demanded that HE check the old chimney. He got up on the back of the couch and opened the door to the cupboard where the chimney opening was. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like that squirrel had to push through a nest of leaves and sticks to get in here.” And then I was like, “Oh my god, this is reverse Narnia!”

1) Instead of a small child hiding in a wardrobe and crawling through coats from a big house into a magical snowy land, a small squirrel from a snowy land hides in a chimney and crawls through leaves into a magical big house.

2) Instead of a small child meeting a giant squirrel wearing a waistcoat, a small squirrel meets a giant woman wearing a housecoat. (Ken says it was actually a beaver, but I’m ignoring him because that doesn’t fit the narrative. Also, “giant beaver”. Snort.)

3) Instead of meeting a talking lion, the squirrel meets a talking dog. Is the dog god? Only time will tell.

Yesterday, I looked outside, and the squirrel was sitting on an old tree stump, staring at the house. And last night, I was half-asleep when Titus wagged his tail, and I jumped out of bed, thinking it was the squirrel back to attack me. Anybody know where I can find a White Witch?

*You might have noticed I’m posting a day early. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and it’s a busy time for mydangblog and the gang, so have yourself a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks to all my wonderful followers—let’s hope 2018 is like this:

2016: It can’t get any worse.
2017: Hold my beer.
2018: B*tch, sit back down. We can work this out.

 

My Week 104: Some Stories Should Never Be Told, A Mysterious Visitor

Wednesday: There are some stories you should never tell.

On Thursday afternoon, one of my coworkers came over to my department. “Do you want to hear a funny story?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” I said. “I love a good story.”

“OK,” he started. “So I had this graph—“

“I’m stopping you right there,” I said. “There is NO funny story that starts with ‘I had a graph’.”

But he persisted, and it turned out that the story WAS pretty funny, involving him and an editor who disagreed on the information in the graph to the point where my colleague removed the original of the item in question and sent it back to edit. 5 minutes later, the editor came to his desk to ask him if he knew what had happened to the first copy. When he feigned innocence and said, “No”, the editor pointed to the recycling bin under his desk and asked, “Isn’t that it right there?” because he had tossed in the blue box FACE UP. His only resort was to say, in mock surprise, “How did THAT get there?!” I don’t think the editor was fooled for a second—they’re a wily bunch.

I realize that you’re probably not laughing as hard as I was when he told me the story, mostly because there’s a lot that gets lost in translation between a story that you try to write down after someone tells it to you. My colleague DOES tell a good story, graphs notwithstanding, unlike other people I’ve known, including myself, who is renowned for being “just not that funny in person” as I am when I’m writing. It put me in mind of the end-of-year staff breakfasts we used to have in my previous workplace, where one of the VPs was always invited up to give his “Top 10 Funniest Moments” of the school year. They were always, without exception, anti-climactic and often lacking any discernible punchline.

VP: So we caught the young couple in the throes of amorous foreplay in the middle of the football field. The girl’s mother, naturally, was furious. So much so that we had to call Child and Family Services. I hope that group home they sent her to was nice…

VP: The young man was so high that he couldn’t stop laughing. At least until the police showed up. Then it was just tears, tears, tears…

tree-of-life

Yep. The guy did NOT know how to tell a story. Like the tattoo artist the other day that K and I went to (my fifth—the Tree of Life, and K’s first, a cool graphic she designed herself). It was a reputable parlour, but the artist himself was a little off kilter. I went first, and he regaled me with stories about his Chippendales dancing days, where he claimed that “he didn’t have the body like the rest of the guys, but he had the best moves”. I was like “Uh huh” as I was clenching my teeth. Then when he was tattooing K, he launched into this gem:

Tattoo Guy: My sixteen-year-old stepson just got his first girlfriend.
Me: Oh, that’s nice.
Tattoo Guy: Yeah, I found a condom wrapper on the floor of his room.
Me: Gosh.
Tattoo Guy: So I said, “Where did you get a condom from, anyway?” And he said, “I found it on the path.” So I told him, “NEVER use a condom that you found on the path.”
Me: Words to live by, that’s for sure.
Tattoo Guy: I know, right?

And just to cement the fact that he really was slightly off-kilter, he tattooed the top bit of K’s tattoo on an angle, noticeable enough that K has to get it fixed, much to her dismay. As K said, “He was essentially just tracing lines—how could he have f*cked it up that badly?” My response? “Just look at the US Election campaign.”

But it occurred to me after all the weird storytelling this week, that there are other storystarters that really can’t ever be funny. Here are my top 5 things which, from my personal experience, will never lead to a good laugh:

1) Here’s a funny story—you know the sound a cat makes right before it vomits…?

A long time ago, we had a cat named Chaucer who would puke on an almost daily basis. We had him tested for all kinds of things, but there was nothing discernible wrong with him. Yet almost every day, he would announce the upcoming projectile with an unearthly yowling. Then we had to race around the house looking for him, trying to put something under him before he ruined yet another carpet. We were having a dinner party once, and we were just in the middle of appetizers when the conversation was interrupted by “OWLLLLL, MEOWWWWWLLLLLL, MRONNNNNNGGGGGG !” Everyone looked terrified. Ken leapt up and ran out of the room with his napkin. I took another bite of salad and said, “It’s just the cat. He’s going to throw up. Sigh.” This went on for years, until our dog died (the same dog I wrote about last week who used to leave his food in his bowl all day). After a few weeks, we got another dog who ate every piece of kibble in under 10 seconds, and miraculously, the pukefest stopped. Then one day, we heard Chaucer sounding the alarm and found him next to a piece of dog kibble that had rolled under the counter. Turns out that he had been eating the dog’s food every day for years, and it made him sick every time he did it. Cats are stupid in general, but Chaucer was dumber than most.

2) Here’s a funny story—so there was no wine left…

This is always a tragedy. The only way this story will ever be funny is if it ended with you finding more wine. I was at a wedding yesterday, and there was an open bar, which sounds fantastic, but all they had was hard liquor and tropical coolers. It would have been tragic, but then I realized that there were wine glasses on the table. And at dinner, the servers all came around with multiple bottles of wine and I was overjoyed. But the white wine was a Muscat, which is supersweet and almost undrinkable, and then I was sad again. It was an emotional rollercoaster, let me tell you.

3) Here’s a funny story—I was at this strip club last night…

No. The only time I was ever at a strip club was when I went, ironically, to a Chippendales show for a friend’s stag-ette party. The guys came out, all sweaty and gyrating, and the women went wild. But then the guys starting shoving T-shirts down their sweaty pants and throwing them to women in the crowd. My OCD hygiene issues kicked in full force and I literally had to leave, running and dodging as I went. The ONLY good thing about that night was that the doorman asked me for ID. (I related this story to my tattoo artist/former Chippendales dancer and he responded with “I know. We used to be so much more classy.)

4) Here’s a funny story—it occurred to me when I was reading the Bible…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found anything about the Bible, New or Old Testament, remotely funny. Maybe because of all the smiting and death and sh*t. And that’s a total lie, because I can find humour in everything, but people who are very Bible-y don’t have the same light-hearted attitude. I remember once writing about how I saw a billboard that said “Take Jesus on vacation with you”, and I wrote what I thought was a very funny post about what would happen if you DID take Jesus on vacation with you, like to Great Wolf Lodge. But I had a couple of readers who were devout Catholics (like there’s any other kind, haha) who were like “That’s not funny. Jesus would never go down a waterslide.” And I was like, “But all the water would be holy”, and they were like, “Just stop.” Luckily, they unfollowed me BEFORE I wrote about the high diving Jesus on the church door across the road (see My Week 63 for reference—or irreverence).

5) Here’s a funny story—I was looking at the roof and a squirrel came out…

This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. This actually happened to me when we owned a cottage. This entitled squirrel decided that she owned the place and she was super-intimidating. I started calling her “Charles Manson” until Ken pointed out that she had two rows of squirrel boobs, so I changed her name to “Squeaky Fromme”. One day I looked up at the roof, and saw her halfway in and halfway out of a little hole under the eaves. I started screaming, and she took off. Later, Ken and I were sitting on the porch—I had my back to the driveway. Suddenly, I heard a noise, like a demon muttering, and I turned around—Squeaky was actually sneaking up on me. She had taken up residence in our attic, where she had some babies who were also little dicks. We finally live-trapped them all and drove them out to the country (this, unfortunately, is not a euphemism—Ken was all like “Oh, we can’t just kill them…” and normally I would agree, but that squirrel had devil-eyes, to borrow a phrase from the great Tracy Morgan).

I’m sure you all have story starters that will never be funny—I have a lot more but Ken wants to go shopping so I have to wrap this up. As a side note, I asked Ken to think of a story starter that would never be funny:

Ken: Ummm…
Me: You can’t say ‘death’.
Ken: Oh. OK, what about “So I was in the hospital waiting room…”
Me: What did I just say?
Ken: Right.

Thursday: Mysterious visitors in my condo

When I came back to Toronto after my extended vacation/recovery from surgery, I found a rolled up piece of tinfoil on my coffeetable. I didn’t know where it had come from, but Ken had been there with me for a couple of days in August, so I asked him if he’d left it there. “Maybe,” he said. “Did it look like a chocolate wrapper?” It kind of did, so I didn’t give it more thought. Then, a couple of weeks ago, when I went back for the week, it was really hot. I’d had the air conditioning on the night before, but I shut it off before I went to work. When I came back, the air conditioning was on full force, and I got a little worried. After searching my condo, which took about 20 seconds since it’s only 600 square feet, I was still worried. But then I realized that I was probably being ridiculous—what kind of intruder waits inside your condo all day for you to come home and at some point is like. “Gosh, it’s hot under this bed—I should turn the air conditioning on while I wait”? When I told Ken, he was like, “Come on—you probably just forgot to turn it off. Don’t worry—just keep the chain lock on when you’re home.”

But then the other night, I got ready for bed. I turned off all the lights and put the fan on. I fell asleep, but a couple of hours later, I woke up like a shot for some reason. Then I realized that the hall light was on, and the FAN WAS OFF. I freaked out and did what any reasonable person would do—I called Ken. But he didn’t answer, being that I thought the clock said 5 minutes to 11, but it really said 5 minutes after 1. I searched the condo again, even more worried because, thanks to Ken, my chain lock WAS on, which meant that I was potentially LOCKED IN with someone nefarious who hated both the dark and cool breezes. So there I was, phone to my ear, ringing and ringing, while I flung open closet doors and threw aside bed skirts. Nothing. Finally, I just went back to sleep, still a little freaked out. Ken messaged me in the morning to ask why I’d tried calling him at 1 in the morning and I answered, “Here’s a funny story—”