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.

My Week 6 – Mennonites, Sweary-ness, and Normal Ken Dreams

Sunday: I ponder the wonderful world of Mexican Mennonites

I grew up with Old Order Mennonites. They were always around when I was a kid—at the market, driving along the side of the road, just a fixture on the landscape. I never really paid them much attention. As I got older, I wondered about them. For example, they like to go to auctions and buy pots and pans, and other household goods, I’m assuming to be part of a dowry or something, like “Here’s my daughter, a set of Lagostina cookware, two fuzzy blankets, and a goat”. Also, I often questioned their lifestyle—like why they couldn’t have electricity, but could use cell phones, or if you’re out on a Sunday in a buggy with a boy, does that mean you HAVE to marry him, or are you just trying each other out? But overall, I didn’t give them too much thought. That is, until we bought our cottage down by Lake Erie shore and were introduced to the “Mexican” Mennonites. OK, here’s the deal. They are not Mexican. They don’t speak Mexican. They certainly don’t look Mexican, They’re a splinter group of ‘regular’ Mennonites who went down to Mexico for some random reason, stayed there for a few generations, and now have returned to Ontario to share their glorious Mexican-ness with us. They are AWESOME. They should be the poster children for Mennonites, if the Mennonites were ever interested in recruiting. I spent some time gathering intel on this new brand of Mennonite—this is what I learned:

Appearance: They are all blonde and lithe. The men wear cool plaid shirts, ball caps, and jeans; women wear brightly coloured, floral dresses. Apparently they all have perfect eyesight. And teeth. They always look relatively happy, compared to their older order counterparts, who always look like they’re worried about getting the harvest in. I don’t think Mexican Mennonites worry about too much, especially the harvest, judging from their laid-back attitudes and lack of farm equipment.

Food: Mexican food! Very spicy, homemade Mexican-y goodness. Including gluten-free corn tortillas—these people are cutting edge. And they LOVE hot sauce. At the Aylmer Market, they make Hot Tamales, freshly wrapped in corn husks, and they have a food truck in PB called Dos Gringos, which may or may not be an insulting reference to white folk, but if it is, I admire their nerve. What do other Mennonites eat? German food? They make a LOT of maple syrup and sell it out of their buggies, that’s all I know.

Drink: I’m really hoping Tequila, but I don’t know—I’ve been told they don’t actually drink. If they did though, it would definitely be Tequila because Tequila is the FUN Mennonite drink (at least in my world).

Activities: These people are entrepreneurs. They have real estate companies, restaurants, grocery stores, and all kinds of businesses. They don’t have roadside stands. They DO have a lot of Chihuahuas. The teenagers rove around in gangs like Abercrombie and Fitch models waiting for a photographer. They lounge in their front yards, laughing, in co-ed groups. They always look extraordinarily happy. It could be the Tequila.

Small Children: Mexican Mennonites have large families. There was a group renting the house across the road from us in PB a couple of years ago, and they had a LOT of kids. I used to watch them play—they didn’t have any toys, but they made up the best games, like one day, they were all a bus, and they took turns driving it around the yard. The littlest one was a two year old girl, who was so adorable that it occurred to me that maybe a family with a lot of children wouldn’t miss one, and she could come home with me, but I never acted upon the impulse on the grounds that it would be highly illegal, obviously. The only thing I know about Old Order Mennonite children is that they seem to get lost in cornfields a lot, prompting OPP search parties.

I think I’ve made it very clear that to me, thinking about Old Order and Mexican Mennonites is like watching Lord of the Rings. You have the dwarves, who are short, stout, and dour, then you have the elves, who are exotic, athletic, and supremely confident. Neither group wants to interact with outsiders, but I’ll take the Mexican Mennonites hands down, if only for the awesome food. Because me, I’m all about the tacos.

Wednesday: I contemplate my sweary-ness.

I swear a LOT. I’ll admit it—I have a potty mouth and I always have had. One of my earliest memories is being told off by my dad for exclaiming “Holy Sh*t” at the number of cars in the K-Mart parking lot one day. (Which was kind of hypocritical, because where did I learn that expression anyway, Dad?) At any rate, I swear all the time, with one major exception—I rarely swear at work. I was just talking to a friend of mine from work, and I said, “Do you think I swear a lot?” and she said, “Not really.” Then I asked Ken the same question and he looked at me like the answer was obvious and said, “Uh, yeah.” But this is WHY I swear a lot—because I spend all day NOT swearing. In fact, I spend a lot of the day saying to students (hypocritically), “Watch the language!” I have to keep it all bottled inside so that when I get home, the real me comes flying out. I knew it was a problem when K was about 4 years old, we were with some friends who also had a 4 year old. We were trying to get a picture of the two of them, and Ken was taking so long that K finally blurted out, “Just take the frigging picture, dad!” (I was so proud. Also, it was good that it wasn’t me who had to point out that Ken takes way too long to focus). The other day I asked K if she thought I swore a lot, and she raised one eyebrow at me. I said, “Not AT you, just in general. I try not to swear AT you.” She agreed then that I don’t swear too much AT her, but I do swear a lot. I also reminded her that we’re mostly together when I’m driving, which might account for the extra-sweary-ness.

The problem is that I’m with teenagers all day and I have to be a good role model. It would hardly be professional if I peppered my teaching with the F bomb. (“So why isn’t your f*cking homework finished, Timmy?” “That answer was total bullsh*t, Sally.”) The only time I’ve actually sworn in class was a couple of years ago. I was in the middle of a lesson, and it was going really well, when all of a sudden, the overhead screen behind me scrolled up and almost snapped itself off its hanger. I was so freaked out that my immediate response was to exclaim “Holy Sh*t!!!” Then I turned and looked at the class, and they started laughing hysterically. One girl even said, “This is the best class ever!” Which proves that I DON’T swear in class, because it wouldn’t have been such a novelty when I did. It also proves that my first instinct is ALWAYS to use an inappropriate epithet, but that also I’m really good at suppressing my instincts. So Ken and K, and the rest of my family, have the joy of experiencing the F-bomb factory that is ME. Thank god they f*cking love me.

Saturday Morning: I realize that Ken is completely normal, even in my dreams.

I’m a very vivid dreamer. I have crazy movie length dreams that are like watching crime dramas, and sometime horror movies. Last month, I was watching a dream unfold where a patient in a hospital was extremely ill, and detectives discovered that she had been given an injection of “lupus alcoholis” by a guy who was stalking her, and this had caused her to become deformed and almost die. The doctor at the hospital formulated an antidote, and the detectives arrested the stalker. It was awesome, and cheaper than actually going to the movies. This happens to me all the time, and it’s wonderful and sometimes scary too, especially when the dreams involve K getting kidnapped or my mom driving a car into a river and me trying to rescue her (don’t worry, Mom, I saved you)—stuff like that. But for some reason, whenever I dream about Ken, it’s always the most perfectly normal dream you could have. In fact, they’re about as close to real life as you can get. Last night, I dreamed that Ken was driving me to work, but I forgot my cell phone so we were going back to get it, when he spotted a garage sale and pulled over. The only thing they were selling was these really expensive clock faces and Ken got super-excited, because he keeps talking about making his own clock (in real life, not in the dream). So I said to him (in the dream, not in real life), “Spending that kind of money on a clock face defeats the purpose of making your own clock.” He looked disappointed, but he agreed with me, and we carried on back home to get my phone. WTF kind of dream is that?! The only way it differed from real life is that Ken NEVER pulls over for garage sales unless I make him. In the future, I’m going to try a little “lucid” dreaming and introduce some zombies onto the field of play, just to see what he does. A minute ago, I asked him what he was doing, and he said “resting” (even though we just got up an hour ago), and in my head I was like, “Just see how tired you’re going to be after a night of The Walking Dead. Ha ha, Ken!!”