Bizarre Snacks and Bluetooth Insanity

Ok, so I have officially eaten the most bizarre flavour of potato chip. Here in Canada, we are liberal in government but fairly conservative in our potato chips. The most outrageous we’ve ever gotten was when Lays ran a contest and Swiss Chalet Sauce came out on top (with maple syrup being a close second). The taste was like a sweeter BBQ sauce but nothing that the taste buds couldn’t handle. But the British? Is there a single thing that the Brits will NOT use to flavour their crisps? Kate was already obsessed with “Roast Chicken” flavoured Lays, which we can only find in specialty shops here, but on Boxing Day, my aunt brought me two packages of Walkers chips that a friend who’d recently returned from England had given her. The first one was “Pigs In Blankets”. I’m never quite sure what that is—in North America it refers to hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury crescent roll dough, which is already disgusting on its own, but in the UK, it can be “a variety of different sausage-based foods…depending on geographic location.” That sounds kind of gross for a potato chip, unless it’s the Scottish version, called “Kilted Soldiers”, which consists of sausages wrapped in bacon. Now that’s a flavour I could get behind. What I can’t get behind is the other bag my aunt gave me, which were BRUSSEL SPROUT FLAVOURED. Yes, the British have taken the most disgusting vegetable known to humankind (aside from beets) and turned it into a potato chip. And the best part was the bag, because the bag features the company logo surrounded by swirling sprouts in the shape of a Christmas tree with the caption “Brussels Sprout”, and I don’t know if that’s a typo or if it’s because they’re “sprouting” out of a green gift box on the front of the package. But the best thing, like the ABSOLUTE BEST THING, is that beneath all the sprouts it actually says, “IMAGE OF SPROUTS FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSE ONLY. PRODUCT CONTAINS NO BRUSSEL SPROUTS”. Like someone was seriously going to buy these and then be like “Cor Blimey! Where are all the sprouts wot I was promised?! It’s bloody Christmas–this is bollocks!!” At any rate, I DID try them. They were green, very salty, and had a terrible aftertaste. Just like real Brussel sprouts.

You might not have noticed it, but I’ve spent the equivalent of several days revising all my blog posts so that they have metatags. I read somewhere that having tags on each post might increase traffic, so I set about adding them to every single post. I have so far written 276 posts as mydangblog, with each one between 1000 and 2000 words and I had to read every one of them to decide what tags to use. And I have NO idea if I’m doing it right, because it was mostly just me going “Hmm. This one’s about poop so I should use that as a tag.” So far, the tags I’ve used the most are Humour, Wine, Titus, Bathrooms, Worst Case Scenarios, and Star Wars, and that list alone should tell you everything you need to know about me. Here’s a picture of the Baby Yoda cookies Kate and I made, just so I can add a gratuitous Star Wars tag to this post too.

I decided that I probably shouldn’t use Porn as a tag, even though I have several posts related to porn, because I already get enough spam enticing me to click on a link to see hot college co-eds. Will tags make any difference? Only time will tell, but at least I got to read some funny sh*t that I’d forgotten about.

And speaking of funny sh*t I’d forgotten about, on Friday, I was driving and my 6 year-old niece Cecile tried to FaceTime me. I couldn’t answer, so I tried calling her back, but my Bluetooth was acting REALLY weird. I asked it to call Cecile, and the woman’s voice just kept saying “Pardon?” The third time I said her name, the woman said, “Ok, calling Phil” and I was like “WHO THE F*CK IS PHIL?!”And this reminded me of the last time I rented a car. (I had to rent it in the name of Queen Elizabeth because I work for a secret agency. This is not a joke. In fact, I had to call the rental agency to verify something, and the guy couldn’t find the car under my name, so I said, “Try “Her Majesty the Queen,” and he was like, “Oh yeah, here it is.” I’m glad the Queen wasn’t actually driving with me, because she would have been less than impressed by my relationship with the woman who ran the Bluetooth system. In my own car (under normal circumstances), when I want to make a call, the woman simply says, “Ready,” and I say “Call”, and she says “State the name or number.” So I tell her, and the next thing, I’m talking to someone, usually Ken. I don’t know what kind of sick, evil mind designed the system in this Nissan Sentra that I rented, but here’s what happened when I tried to make a phone call:

First attempt

Woman: Please say a command. You can choose from Call, Redial, Call Phone Book, Recent Calls, Location, Hang Up, Try Again, New Command, or Help.
Me: Uh…I…can you just call someone for me? I’ve forgotten what the options are already.
Woman: That command is not recognized. Hanging up.
Me: WTF! (presses button again, listens to list). Call!
Woman: Please specify from the following list. Name, Phone Number, Redial, Call Back, Hang Up, or Help.
Me: 519-555…
Woman: Command not recognized. Disconnecting.
Me: Wait, what?!

Second Attempt

Woman: Please specify from the following list. Name, Phone Number, Redial, Call Back, Hang Up, or Help.
Me: Name.
Woman: OK. Hanging up.
Me: What?!

Third Attempt

Woman: Please specify….
Me: Phone Number.
Woman: To dial, please speak 3, 7, or 10 digits. Say “special number” to dial 24 digits, including special numbers like star, pound, or nuclear launch codes.
Me: What the f*ck?!
Woman: You have requested the digits 254. Please say the next 4 digits to dial or choose from one of the following options. Correction, Redial, Call Back, Take Me To Funkytown, or Help.
Me: Help me…
Woman: Command not recognized. You are either speaking too loudly, too softly, or in Mandarin.
Woman: OK. Calling Ken.
Me: Sigh.

(Update: I tried the Pigs in Blankets chips last night and they tasted remarkably and unfortunately just like hot dogs. Ugh. Cor blimey.)

My Week 242: Swearing an Oath

Recently, the secret agency took on a group of summer students. They’re a delightful bunch, young, enthusiastic and eager to learn. I like to check in on them every so often to make sure they’re doing ok, and last week one of them said to me, “Yes, it’s been great so far. But it was so weird–did you know, I had to swear an oath to the Queen?” And I was like, “Oh yeah–we all did that. It’s no biggie–it just means that if she needs you, you have to fly over to England. Sometimes she gets lonely. A couple of years ago, I got the call and when I got there, all she wanted was someone to listen to her gripe about Philip. Apparently he snores and spends WAY too long in the bathroom.” The girl looked at me in shock so I had to explain that I was kidding. But it reminded of me of how I reacted when I first hired at the secret agency and took the oath myself…

Because I just saw Avengers’ Endgame.

Before I started the job, I had to meet first with my Human Resources contact to fill in a lot of paperwork. We were filling in the usual forms—contact information, computer log-ins, keys, and other stuff, when she said, “Oh—although we’re a secret agency, you’re technically a public servant, so you have to take an oath of allegiance.” She said this kind of matter-of-factly, like I took oaths every day. (This is the beginning of me going off on a very long tangent, so sit back and enjoy.) Actually, I HAD just taken an oath recently, because that December, I fought a traffic ticket. I got nailed by a red light camera going through an intersection on the red light. BUT, to be fair, I was only going 40 km/hour, and didn’t think it was right that I had to pay almost $400 for NOT running a red light, but more like sauntering through it—honestly, I just didn’t see it, which I know is a lousy excuse, but I felt like someone needed to know that I am NOT by nature a red-light runner. So I went to traffic court, where they give you the option of swearing to tell the truth by either putting your hand on a bible, or by just saying it VERY SINCERELY without the bible. I opted for the latter, since I don’t think that anyone’s god particularly cares whether or not I lie in traffic court. Plus, they had a picture of my SUV and my licence plate actually IN the intersection where the light is clearly red, so there would be no point in lying anyway, since I was caught dead to rights. What could I possibly say? “Your Honour, this picture is obviously photoshopped. Your James Bond-ish hightech team is super-clever, but that’s not my truck.”? Long story short, it turns out I didn’t even need to be apologetic, because before I got to say anything, the court officer immediately announced, “We’re reducing your fine to $150.” I felt like he kind of stole my thunder, but I was in no position to complain. Then I had to go in front of the judge and plead guilty, but I qualified it thusly, “Guilty, your honour, but I didn’t mean to do it.” And the judge dismissed the case “with costs” and I wondered if that would also work for more serious crimes, like “Yes, your honour, I stole the puppy from the pet store, but I didn’t mean to do it. Look, he’s so snuggly” and the judge would be like “I completely understand. Give me one hundred dollars. So what are you going to call him?” But that would lead to anarchy, with people stealing puppies everywhere and whatnot, and also I would call him Alistair.

Anyway, so there I was, wondering what kind of oath the Human Resources person was talking about. Was it an oath where I promised not to look at porn or run an online dating service on my work computer? Because I have no problem with that kind of oath, since I have no interest in doing either, and can’t imagine what kind of person WOULD think this is OK to do at work. But wait—it was NOT that kind of oath. It was a pledge of allegiance to the Queen. Not a queen like Guinevere or Latifah, or the band Queen, or even a Disney Queen (by the way, I just googled Disney Queens and one of the search hits was “Why Drag Queens are better role models than Disney Queens”. I am DEFINITELY going back to read that one later.) No, it was THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Actually, I had a choice—I could either pledge my allegiance to “the Queen and all her heirs in the eyes of god”, or I could just pledge my allegiance to old Lizzy herself. So I chose the latter, again on the premise that I don’t believe that anyone’s god particularly cares about my relationship with an aging monarch. But the pledge was very vague, and I didn’t know what the ramifications of all this might be. What exactly are my responsibilities? If she commands my presence in England as one of her loyal subjects will she pay for the flight, or is that just one of the expenses that go along with being one of her servants? If she gets in a Twitter war with the Queen of Jordan, do I have to post nice things about her in her defence? Or worse, post mean things about the Queen of Jordan (who seems like a kind of cool queen herself)? Babysit all those grandkids? Walk the Corgis? So I guess the next time she’s having trouble picking out a hat for the Queen’s Ball or whatever, I might have to be there to help out. I mean, I took an OATH.

I picked out that hat.

My Week 79: Naptime at Batman Versus Superman, The Queen and I Rent a Car

Wednesday: Napping at the movies

The other night, Ken and I rented the latest James Bond film, “Spectre”. I was kind of excited, because I love Daniel Craig as 007—he’s my favourite Bond, although when he retires, I will be totally pulling for Idris Elba, just for the record—and I’d been wanting to see the return of Blofeld for a while. We settled in to watch it and it was pretty good, but part way through the fortieth car chase, I said to Ken, “I’m having serious déjà vu right now. You know, like I feel as though I’ve seen this before.” Ken said, “But when would you have seen it? You’ve been talking about renting it for about three weeks. Did you watch it in Toronto without me?” But that wasn’t possible because there’s absolutely nowhere in Toronto anywhere near my condo that rents movies. So we kept watching, and the feeling got stronger until I said to Ken, “I don’t know how I know this, but in about 1 minute, they’re going to walk away from that building and it’s going to explode in the background.” I know there’s a lot of explosion-y stuff in James Bond movies, but it happened just like I pictured it in my mind. Then I was pretty well able to predict what was going to happen in the rest of the movie with some accuracy, but I still didn’t know HOW I knew. Until Wednesday, when my brother came over. We were going to have dinner and then see “Batman Versus Superman”. I thought it was a long shot, but I asked him if there was any way that we had seen “Spectre” together. My brother has a PhD, which also means he has a really awesome memory, and he very quickly reminded me that yes, I’d gone with him and his wife to the VIP theatre to watch it about three months ago, and that we’d shared a bottle of wine and had pulled pork poutine for dinner. And that I’d fallen asleep almost immediately at the start of the movie, which they thought was pretty funny. It all came flooding back at that point—well, the memory of falling asleep anyway—but it must have been a light enough doze that my subconscious was aware of what was happening in at least SOME parts of the film. I was a little embarrassed, but then I got really worried, because it had been a long day, we were drinking wine, and now we were going to see ANOTHER action movie. I determined that I was NOT going to fall asleep this time. The previews came on, then the movie started. Everybody was pissed off at Superman, including Batman, for a reason I have yet to comprehend. And then I was like, “Since when is Gotham right across the bay from Metropolis, but Superman and Batman have never met?” Next thing, a crazy Mark Zuckerberg was talking about some painting being hung upside down, and a bunch of other random things happened. But then suddenly, the world was being attacked by space harpies, and Superman’s evil twin was trying to pull Ben Affleck’s heart out through his chest, and then he woke up and realized he was sleeping, and I was like, “What the F*CK is going on here?!” And I realized that yes, I’d also been asleep, yet again, for an indeterminate amount of time, and now I had no idea what was happening. Now, in my opinion, there’s NO WAY that missing 30 minutes of a six hour film (well, it felt like six hours) should make it incomprehensible, but maybe it was that way to begin with. The only good thing was that it was really dark and my eyes were hidden behind 3D glasses, so I’m pretty sure my brother, despite his PhD, had no clue that I was yet again taking a nap. But the problem was that by the end of the movie, I had more questions than answers. Like, why was Batman so pissed off at Superman? Why did the angry Facebook guy want to kill Superman? What was the point of two superheroes, both of whom are impervious to physical damage from the other, insisting on trying to beat the sh*t out of each other for three hours when it’s obvious that NO ONE is going to win? What was with the gratuitous 15 minute scene of a shirtless Ben Affleck doing pull-ups and hitting a tractor tire with a sledgehammer? (Sure, he was very muscular, but also a little hairy and sweaty, and not in that GOOD way). What kind of coincidence is it that Superman and Batman both have moms with the same name, and that once Batman finds out, they immediately become best friends instead of two guys trying to destroy each other? Did they have the SAME mom? Are they actually half-brothers or something? How does an underground lake turn a normal, dead guy into a gigantic, disgustingly slimy superhuman who can only be killed by kryptonite? Where the HELL did Wonderwoman come from and why did she look so happy to be there? And don’t even get me started on Aquaman and that weird-ass cameo where he looked like a character from Game of Thrones and came out of his little cave looking all sleepy and blinky, then stabbed the camera and swam away. But the biggest question I had of all was this: Why did no one, in the entire movie, punch Jessie Eisenberg in the face? Because I sure as hell wanted to, mostly because of his bad acting (dude, you will NEVER be Heath Ledger, so don’t even try), but also because he’s just so f*cking annoying in everything he’s ever been in. At the end, Batman goes to see him in the “lunatic asylum” and he’s got his Batman brand all ready (by the way, when did Batman start branding people like cattle?), and I was like, “Please, god, just do this one thing for me,” but instead, Batman punched the wall and left. And then the last scene of the movie was a zoom-in on the same bizarre painting of the same space harpies from an earlier scene, only now it was hung the other way, like it was an omen, or maybe a flashback, or maybe foreshadowing, only I was like, “I’m done. I can’t even.” And then we left the theatre:

Brother: That was great! Did you like it?
Me: Yeah, I guess. It was a little long. I was kind of bored by the end.
Brother: Bored? Really? What about the scene where…
Me: Oh yeah! That was a great scene!
Brother: And the scene when…
Me: I know, right? Talk about crazy!
Brother: I loved the part where…
Me: Me too. What a moment!

The best part was that he seemed to have no idea that I’d been asleep for any length of time. Of course, if he reads this, he’ll know, but at least then I can get some of my questions answered. (Actually, the real best part of the night happened when we were leaving. The ushers asked everyone to return their 3D glasses to the bins outside the theatre, and on the way out, my brother spotted a receptacle that said ‘Thank You’ on it. He turned to me and said, “Here’s where we’re supposed to leave our glasses”, and he tossed them in. I went to do the same, but looked in first and said, “Dude, that’s the garbage.” Then we both said, “Oh sh*t!” and the people behind us started laughing hysterically.) Ultimately, I should try harder to stay awake during movies, but honestly, in this case, I don’t think it would have helped.

Thursday: I rent a car for the Queen

Starting on Sunday, I’ll be working away from the office at a different site for about three weeks. And because I’ll be transporting a couple of coworkers, I was told that I should rent a car, and that my company would reimburse me. The only qualifier was this: “When you rent the car, you have to list Her Majesty The Queen as the lessee. The car will be in her name, and you’ll be listed as the driver.” This might sound strange, but I work for a government agency, and I was assured that this was common practice and had something to do with liability. Actually, that doesn’t make it sound any LESS strange, but remember, I also had to take an oath to her in order to work at my new job. I definitely had some questions though. Like, what if the Queen suddenly came to Canada? Would I have to drive her around? Or was she one of those people who would insist on taking the wheel herself? I hear she still likes to bomb around in her Land Rover when she’s at Balmoral. And what if she got caught drinking and was charged with a DUI? Could I still rent the car? Or would they be like, “I’m sorry, but the person whose name the car is in has to have a valid licence.”? Even worse, she’s pretty old—what if she suddenly died in the next three weeks? Aside from the world mourning the loss of a great monarch, would I also have to mourn the loss of my rental car or would Prince William just inherit it along with everything else? Questions aside though, on Thursday night, I called a local car rental company, Enterprise. A woman answered and I told her that I needed to reserve a car for a certain number of days.

Woman: Whose name will the car be leased under?
Me: The Queen.
Woman: What queen?
Me: The Queen of England.
Woman: The Queen of England?
Me: Yes, that one. I’ll be the primary driver though.
Woman: Um…
Me: No, seriously, I work for a government agency.
Woman: Right…sure you do.
Me: Is this the Woodstock location?
Woman: No—this is the central call centre. In Nevada.
Me: Oh. I should probably just go to the Woodstock branch.
Woman: They’re closed. Indefinitely.
Me: But I just drove by there the other day…
Woman: No, they’re definitely closed.

The next day, I called the Woodstock location. A man answered, and when I expressed surprise that they were open, he said, “No, we’re not closed down. That’s weird.” And then I realized that maybe the woman in the States thought I was pranking her or something. I told the man how many days I needed the car for, and gave him my name. “No worries—you’re already in our system from the last time you rented from us. I can get the paperwork all ready for you. The total will be–” But then I had to tell HIM about the queen and I got concerned that maybe he would think I was making a crank call too.

Me: Um, there’s one other thing…
Man: Sure, what?
Me: I have to rent the car in the name of Her Majesty The Queen.
Man: Oh. That changes everything.
Me: You sound really ominous. Seriously, I’m not joking!
Man (laughs): No, I know. It just means that you get a better rate.
Me: What, like the Seniors’ Discount? She IS around 90, I think.
Man: No, there’s just a special corporate rate. I’ll give you the new total.

I went there today to pick up the car, and the first thing he asked me was, “So how’s the Queen doing anyway?” I replied, “Oh you know—holding her own.” I hope she likes Nissans, because they didn’t have any Land Rovers.

keep calm