Thanks For Sharing

Well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and I’m grateful for many things, not the least of which is no longer having a strange man taking up residence in my kitchen. “A strange man?” I hear you say. “How intriguing!” Let me assure you that it was not. Here’s the story:

A few weeks ago, I got sick of looking at how worn my kitchen cabinets looked. They’re painted white but chipping everywhere because the original owners of the house didn’t get them properly primed. The cost of replacing all the cabinets was astronomical, so we hired a company to paint them. Enter Mike, he of the numerous tattoos, faux-hawk, effusive personality, and, despite him being the same age as Ken and me, numerous children under the age of 5 who kept him “running around like crazy”. Mike assured us when we signed the contract that in 3 days, with his spray technology and oil-based lacquer, we would have “a brand new kitchen.” But on the night before he was due to start painting, he called to tell me that he had come down with shingles and was running behind schedule. Bear in mind that we had to take every single thing out of the kitchen to prepare for the spraying and the house now looked like a disaster zone:

Me: I’m so sorry to hear that.
Mike: Ya, it’s super painful. Worst pain I’ve ever experienced and I’ve broken every bone in my body,
Me: Wow.
Mike: Ya. And if I can be honest with you, I MANSCAPE, and let me tell you, it hurts like hell.
Me:

And I don’t know what it is about me that compels people to tell me very private things, things that I really don’t want to know, but it happens all the time

Like the tattoo artist that Kate and I went to (my fifth tattoo—the Tree of Life, and her first, a cool graphic she designed herself). It was a reputable parlour, but the artist himself was a little off kilter. My appointment was before hers, and the tattooist, a very short man with a slight build, regaled me with stories about his “Chippendales dancing days”, where he claimed that he “didn’t have a great body like the rest of the guys”, but he “had the best moves”. I was like “Uh huh” and silently begging him not to demonstrate. Then when he was tattooing Kate, 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?

Then there was the last time I went to the dentist. I’ve been going to the same dentist for years, but I didn’t realize that they have a completely different staff on Saturdays. The receptionist WASN’T Nina, for starters, although the Saturday receptionist seemed quite nice. But when the hygienist, Cindy, came out, I became more suspicious. “Where’s Serenity?” I asked. Let me just tell you that Serenity has been my hygienist for many years. She’s a lovely woman, and completely suits her name. We like all the same TV shows, and she has a wonderful knack of carrying on a two-sided conversation about Sons of Anarchy or Better Call Saul with me, even with her hands in my mouth, kind of like this:

“Did you see the latest episode of _____?”

“Eh—i wa o ood”

“I know, right? Could you believe it when____?”

“I ow. I uz azy.”

The new, unfamiliar hygienist said, in a very bubbly voice, “Oh, she’s on her honeymoon. But she doesn’t work Saturdays anyway.”

Well, all right. Cindy seemed very professional and competent, so I decided to give it a go. I got comfortably seated, and then the deluge began. By the time we were done, I literally knew EVERYTHING about Cindy’s life: where she went to high school, how she met her husband, his career ups and downs, their respective families and where they all lived…she was very entertaining, and the appointment just flew by. I don’t think she actually took a breath for 25 minutes. But the best part was this:

“So my husband lost over 80 pounds in the last year. I’d known him for so long that the weight just crept up on us, then one day, he decided to lose 30 pounds, but I think he got addicted to weight loss because now he’s really thin and worries about his skin flaps but I just keep telling him to tone up and not worry about the weight. He ran his first marathon last year. The only thing is that I REALLY like to snack and I NEVER gain weight, but if there’s snack food in the house, he’ll binge-eat it all so I have to hide it. I had this really great hiding place in the baking cupboard, but somehow he found it and ate everything and I know he MUST have been looking for it because why would he be in the baking cupboard since he never bakes, right? So then I was hiding all my snack food in the car, but now it’s getting too warm and I’m worried things will melt or go bad. So the other day, I found the perfect spot, and if he finds it, I’ll KNOW he’s been deliberately looking, because I put everything in a TAMPAX BOX IN THE GUESTROOM BATHROOM. If those chocolate bars disappear, I’ll know he was searching the house for food, because why would he want a tampon, right? My only worry is that I might have a girlfriend staying over and she might need a tampon, and then she’d be like, “Is this what you’ve been using? How does THAT work?”

I didn’t know who to feel more sorry for—her, her poor snackless husband, or the unsuspecting house guest. At any rate, I was laughing so hard that I barely felt my gums being ripped open by the assortment of picks in her arsenal. And I had no cavities. Yay me.

As for the kitchen, despite Mike’s promises, he didn’t finish until end of day Friday. The cabinets look great, all fresh and white. Some areas of the walls are also white, as is the perimeter of the ceiling and a lot of the window panes because the one thing Mike DIDN’T tell me was that he was an indiscriminate sprayer. Which, I suppose, I should be grateful for.

And please don’t feel sorry for that sad-looking puppy. He just ate, and thinks if he pushes his empty food bowl into the middle of the floor, someone will feed him again. He’s such a little trickster:-)

My Week 159: Weird Service Calls, Thanksgiving Throwback

Last week, when the temperature suddenly plunged to around 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for anyone still using the Imperial system), I wanted to put our gas fireplace on, but it wouldn’t start. I did what I normally do, which was to utilize my incredible fireplace knowledge. In other words, I removed the screen, opened up the door at the bottom, and wiggled the wires. Nothing happened. I said to Ken, “I thought you had this thing fixed in April. Why won’t it work?” When we looked closer, we realized that one of the wires was loose. It looked all shock-y and dangerous, and Ken, who can normally do electrical work, plumbing, carpentry or generally anything trades-related, didn’t want to touch in on the grounds that “it looks weird”. So he called the fireplace people and on Friday, I had a visit from the fireplace repair guy (the actual name of the company is Lloyd’s Electric and they’re very good).

I also had to take Titus to the vet that afternoon, so I was concerned about how long the repair might take, and also a little stressed about loading Titus, the 100 pound monster-dog, into my Chevy Sonic. At any rate, the guy called at around 12:45 to say he’d be there in a couple of minutes. I hung up the phone, walked into the kitchen and realized that he was in our driveway like he’d just teleported there, and I was super impressed at his translocation skills. I had Titus safely stowed away in the back room (for reasons which will be revealed later) much to the monster-dog’s objections:

Titus: What’s with the baby gate?! I just want to say “Hey”.
Me: You “just want to” lick his pants. I know you too well.
Titus: Well, maybe they’ll taste like licorice. You never know.
Me: I can 100% guarantee that his pants don’t taste like licorice.
Titus: Why? Have you tried them?
Me: NO! Just stay back there.
Titus: This baby gate is stupid. I could knock it down just like that, you know.
Me: OK. Go ahead.
Titus (whispers): It makes a scary sound when it falls over…

Anyway, the guy came in, and I explained that the wire was loose and needed to be fixed. Then I went around the corner into my office. A couple of minutes later, he started yelling, “Hello! Hello!” and I was like, “I’m right here.”

Guy: Where’s the thermostat?
Me: Oh—just up on the right hand side.
Guy: Thanks.
Me: If you need me for anything else, I’ll just be in my office.
Guy: Oh no, that’s OK—I’m done. See—it’s working now.

Done? That was it? He explained that all he needed to do was pop the wire back into the thingy (he used a more technical term, but I was completely distracted by the flames and the warmth) and that all that was left now was to clean the glass. I actually got him to clean the glass on our other fireplace too, as well as check for carbon dioxide, because you can never be too careful, plus I was paying for his time so I might as well take advantage, am I right?

He needed to go out to his truck to get the CO2 detector, and he saw Titus, who was going crazy behind the gate, all hopped up with licorice-expectations. I asked if he was scared of dogs, and he said, “Of course not!” so he and Titus got to know each other quite intimately (at least on the dog’s end). Then the guy went back into the living room, and suddenly I heard Raven meowing in the most excited way, and I heard the guy exclaiming, “Oh my! Look at you! Aren’t you precious?!” and cooing to her in a really lovely way. We chatted for a minute more about cats (he has two—a calico and a tabby), then he was on his way.

“Why am I telling you this?” I hear you ask. Because this was the MOST normal service call I’ve ever had. Normally I hate it when repair people come to the house since I’ve had so many bad experiences. And here, for your reading pleasure, are the top four worst:

4) When we first bought our house, we inherited two beautiful claw-foot bathtubs which had been “professionally refinished” by a company called Porcelain Magic. After a couple of years, the bottom of the tub in my bathroom started to look a little pitted, with two small spots the size of a pencil eraser making themselves apparent. We had a certificate for the LIFETIME WARRANTY on the refinishing, so I called the company to come out and take a look. The guy showed up and told me he just needed a few minutes alone to “diagnose the issue”. When he called me back, the bottom of the tub looked like he had taken a chisel to it. There were giant sections of damage to the finish, like he had peeled everything back. This would be because he had. When I objected, he just shrugged and said the repair would be $600. Then he left. I called the company immediately, and I spoke to the owner, who actually said this to me:

Owner: Well, why did you leave him alone in the bathroom?
Me: He said for me to leave while he “diagnosed the issue”!
Owner: Well, if you’d stayed in the room, this wouldn’t have happened. This is really your fault, but I can give you a 20% discount on the repairs since you’re a repeat customer.
Me: NO, I’M NOT!

I went to the Better Business Bureau and reported them, but they fought it every porcelain inch of the way. Eventually, I bought a new tub at a garage sale, and gave the old one to someone in our neighbourhood who wanted to plant flowers in it.

3) Several years ago, we had a repair guy in for something—I don’t remember what exactly. The only thing I DO remember is that he was DEATHLY afraid of dogs. I had our yellow Lab locked the back room (with the same baby gate), but she barked when the guy came in. As soon as he heard her, he turned absolutely pale and started shaking.

Guy: Do you have a dog?!
Me: Yeah. She’s locked in the back. Don’t worry.
Guy: Can she get out?!
Me: What? No, it’s fine. Besides, she’s really friendly. She won’t hurt you.
Guy: I doubt that. Just keep her away from me.

The whole time the guy was in the house, he was shaking like a leaf and kept eying the back room like Saxon was some kind of rabid canine vampire. Seriously, if you’re that afraid of dogs, maybe you shouldn’t be in a profession where you have to go into houses where THERE ARE DOGS.

2) A few years ago, our dishwasher went on the fritz. It was a Kitchenaid, so we called the company and they sent someone out to look at it. “Oh, no problem,” the guy said. “I just have to order a part.” Sounds simple, right? Except for the next three month, he would call and say the part was in, then he would come to the house, open the box, and be like, “WHUT? This is the wrong part!” The first time it happened, we were very understanding, but after the third time, it was like, “What the hell? Don’t you look inside the box before you drive out here?!” In recompense, the company offered us a knife set in its own fancy butcher block. I was like, “Do you really want me to have knives right now?!” After two more repair visits, the dishwasher finally got fixed. Ironically, all the knives eventually broke from being washed in the dishwasher.

1) The absolute weirdest, creepiest experience I ever had was the time we called someone to service our water softener, which is in our really old basement. The guy who came was very chatty, in a kind of creepy way, but he went down to the basement and left me alone for a while with the dog, the same yellow Lab from the previous story, Saxon. Then suddenly he reappeared:

Guy: You’re not going to believe this! You have an old cistern down there, and it’s almost completely full of water. You should come down with me and see it!
Me: No, I’m good.
Guy: No, really—it’s so cool. Come down to the basement with me.
Me: No, that’s OK.
Guy: No. I really think you should come down to the basement and see it.
Me: I would, but my dog would be very upset. She looks really friendly, but if I leave the room, she might get violent. I wouldn’t want her to attack you or anything.
Guy: Oh. Well, fine then, if you don’t want to see it. I’ll just be going now.

And when his back was turned, I gave Saxon the signal to bark, because she would bark ferociously on command, and with that, he scuttled away. I have no idea if he actually fixed the water softener because I was too freaked out to ask.

So you can see why having someone come to the house and actually fix something quickly, and without terrifying me, is something to celebrate.

Thanksgiving:

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and as always, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a wonderful family, great friends, a job I Iike, food on the table, a roof over my head, and a Prime Minister who’s a pretty decent guy. So Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and here’s a throwback to Thanksgiving 2014:

Monday, when Ken and I ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving:

So we just celebrated Thanksgiving, and Ken and I were driving down to the cottage. It occurred to me that it was weird that we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans celebrate it in November, and what’s it all about anyway? And this is the conversation that ensued. Just for the record, Ken and I aren’t fussy about the accuracy of our facts:

Me: So why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans do it in November? What’s with that?
Ken: I don’t know—maybe their harvest is later than ours since they’re further south. They’re both just about giving thanks for a good harvest anyway.
Me: That’s not why the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving—they didn’t HAVE a harvest, that was the whole point. The Puritans came over here completely ill-equipped to survive—they were really good at praying, but not so good at gardening, apparently. They were literally starving to death, and the Indigenous people shared THEIR harvest with them, and basically saved their lives.
Ken: Oh yeah—“Thanks so much for your generosity—in return, here’s some small pox.”
Me: I know, right? “And some alcohol and genocide.” That’s gratitude for you. Do you think the Native Americans “celebrate” Thanksgiving, or do they secretly call it something different, like “The Day We Wish You’d Never Shown Up”?
Ken: All I know is that Sherman Alexie just tweeted out that in celebration of Columbus Day, he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a time machine, so that he could go back in time and stop Columbus from finding the New World.
Me: Seems about right.

 

My Week 3 – Thanksgiving and Irrational Fears

Monday, when Ken and I ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving:

So we just celebrated Thanksgiving, and Ken and I were driving down to the cottage. It occurred to me that it was weird that we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans celebrate it in November, and what’s it all about anyway? And this is the conversation that ensued. Just for the record, Ken and I aren’t fussy about the accuracy of our facts:

Me: So why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in October and the Americans do it in November? What’s with that?
Ken: I don’t know—maybe their harvest is later than ours since they’re further south. They’re both just about giving thanks for a good harvest anyway.
Me: That’s not why the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving—they didn’t HAVE a harvest, that was the whole point. The Puritans came over here completely ill-equipped to survive. They were literally starving to death, and the Indians shared THEIR harvest with them, and basically saved their lives.
Ken: Oh yeah—“Thanks so much for your generosity—in return, here’s some small pox.”
Me: I know, right? “And some alcohol.” That’s gratitude for you. Do you think the native Americans “celebrate” Thanksgiving, or do they secretly call it something different, like “The Day We Wish You’d Never Shown Up”?
Ken: All I know is that Sherman Alexie just tweeted out that in celebration of Columbus Day, he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a time machine, so that he could go back in time and stop Columbus from finding the New World.
Me: Seems about right.

Wednesday: I realize that I’m even worse at small talk than I am at actual conversations.

I know I’ve already demonstrated my shortcomings when it comes to contributing to conversations with people I know, but that pales in comparison to my struggles with small talk. Here’s an example. I had to get my car’s thermostat replaced last week, so I took it to the car dealership, and they gave me a rental car, since I’m now a “VIP” by way of the fact that I’ve bought 3 cars from the same car guy (mostly because now I know him and we NEVER HAVE TO MAKE SMALL TALK). He’s great, and he doesn’t mind if I text him at dinner to see if I can test drive stuff (As a side note, I thought he was still at work, and when I realized that he was at home, I was horrified because I absolutely avoid imposing myself on anyone except my family, but he was really nice about it, and set up the test drive anyway).

Anyway, they called for a shuttle driver, who wanted to talk about the weather, and traffic, and that was OK because all I had to do was say, Mm hmm, and Right, and Really? and things like that. But then I got to the car rental place, and the rental guy was one of those SUPER-FRIENDLY people who wants to chat, and that‘s when things got uncomfortable. I’m kind of an introvert, and I was tired, and it was the end of a long day, so I can’t really be held responsible for the verbal fiasco to come. He proudly announced that he was going to give me the “brother” to my car, so I was kind of hyped up, thinking I was getting an awesome ride, then he took me outside and presented me with a Chevy Cruze. It was navy blue, and kind of scruffy. He looked at me expectantly, and I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “A Cruze. My dad says it has a good engine.” Then the conversation took a bizarre turn. (Mom, I need a favour. I know that you’ll be reading this before Dad, so I need you to promise to read this story OUT LOUD to him, and when you get to this part, skip over it. Make something up, like the guy asked me out and I initially accepted because I was so flustered, then I had to break it to him that I was happily married. Seriously. I swear to God I will do anything for you, including taking you to the casino if you do this for me.) OK. The rental guy looked at me and asked, “Oh, does your Dad work for GM?”  and then I became confused, (because how is that in any sense of the word, a LOGICAL connection?) and I said, without thinking, “Nuh, he’s just some old guy.” I knew as soon as I said it that it wasn’t even close to being an appropriate response, and to make things worse, the rental guy gave me a funny look, and said, “OK then,” in that kind of dismissive way people have, and I tried to make things better by explaining that my father was a retired teacher, etc. and not even that old, but VERY SMART when it came to cars. This, unfortunately encouraged him, and he started talking about his wife the teacher, and how she had to teach some students whose family got blown up on a boat (?) but I wasn’t really listening and just fell back on Mm hmm, and Right, and Really? which seems in retrospect to always be the safe, non-offensive choice for someone who isn’t good at small talk.

Friday: I catalogue some of the things I’m irrationally afraid of, and Ken makes them worse.

I don’t suffer from any kind of anxiety, I really don’t, but for some reason, I have certain irrational fears that I can’t explain, like being afraid of stepping on a nail sticking out of a wooden board, falling onto a table saw, and other highly improbable things involving sharp objects. I can usually quell these fears, except that I’m married to a man who takes extreme delight in making them worse. Case in point: I have a morbid fear of nail guns. Ken was using one this weekend, and I had to keep going into the bedroom because I was afraid of getting shot with it. When Ken pointed out that it was absolutely impossible that he could shoot me with it because of its safety guard, I reminded HIM that that was exactly what he said about the electric staple gun, right before he shot a staple past my head and that I didn’t trust ANY so-called “safety technology” regarding sharp, missile-like objects when it was in his hands. Sure enough, not much later, he dropped the nail gun on the floor, tip-down, and came close to shooting a nail into his foot. (He will claim that I am exaggerating in a “lying” kind of way, but I’m just telling it like I saw it.)

Aside from sharp things, the other source of my panic is the idea of someone kidnapping my child. My 16 year-old, six-foot-one, blue belt in Kung Fu child. But still. Even today, I worry to the point of hyperventilating if she goes to the store around the corner (literally around the corner) by herself. I take great pride in disguising these feelings, and try not to worry overly about her leaving school property and being accosted by a gang of human traffickers. But a few days ago, I was telling Ken about this, and he quite calmly informed me that he would NEVER pay a kidnapping ransom, because according to MacLean’s magazine, you only embolden the kidnappers and cause them to kidnap more people when you pay their ransom demands. I pointed out that we only have one child, so there wouldn’t BE any more kidnappings, but he said he had his principles and I just had to accept them, and that if I was ever kidnapped, he wouldn’t cough up the cash for me either, and that I would have to understand the nature of his sacrifice. “I’d be doing it for the good of all society,” he said. Now, I’m pretty sure he was just teasing, but then it occurred to me that this might be the nail gun thing all over again, so I plan to start saving up, just in case.