Sonic Boom or Bust?

Last week, Kate and I went out shopping for “cute fall sweaters”, because the weather here has suddenly gone from heat wave hot to bone chilling cold, as it does here in Canada, and if there was a prize for the country with the most ridiculous weather, we would win every year. Don’t complain to me about YOUR heat—we have that. And your rainy season? We have that too. Arctic vortex? Absolutely. Can we have all three things in the same 48-hour timeframe? You bet your ass we can. And we’ll throw in some fog just to make driving even more exciting and dangerous.

Anyway, Kate and I went shopping, which was tremendous fun, because we did that thing where we each put on something, count to 3, and come out of the change room at the same time like Ta-da! and then compliment each other on our fine fashion choices. We hit the checkout with several cute sweaters then went out to the car. I may have mentioned my car on a couple of occasions—it’s a black 2013 custom Chevy Sonic Turbo with a red trim kit and racing stripes. I adore it, and it only has a little over 80085 kilometres on it (not quite 50, 000 miles, but that doesn’t look as fun on a digital readout), which isn’t bad for a 7-year-old car.


As we approached the car though, I noticed something on the windshield, something which was, more precisely, tucked under the windshield wiper. It was a piece of notepaper torn out of a notebook.

My heart immediately sank, thinking that someone had hit my car in the parking lot and left a note either of apology—“I’m so sorry I hit your adorable car. Please forgive me”—or of defiance—“Your stupid, albeit adorable, car was in my way and I had no choice but to hit it. Next time, park somewhere else”—but in neither of these scenarios was there anyone standing around looking sheepish or angry, holding insurance papers. I pulled the paper out from under the windshield wiper with trepidation and turned it over. Written on the paper were four words: Ontario Sonics On Facebook.

My sunken heart rose again, like a ship that had hit an iceberg, floated down to the bottom of the seabed, and was then winched back up by one of those other ships that they use for documentaries on shipwrecks and treasure and whatnot, and to make a long analogy short, I went from worried to excited. A Facebook group JUST for Chevy Sonic owners? I mean, I’ve never been a club-type person—I don’t suffer from FOMO, the fear of missing out, as much as I have a FOBI-a, which is the fear of being included. But still, I’d always secretly envied those people on motorcycles who always give a knowing wave when they pass someone else on a motorcycle. And now, I could be just as cool, nodding my head approvingly or flashing my lights as I passed another Sonic on the road (although it’s often hard to tell if a Sonic is approaching you until it’s close enough to read the tiny chrome nameplate).

The second we got in the door, I raced over to the computer to look up the Ontario Sonic group on Facebook. And after a few minutes, I came to the undeniable conclusion that it doesn’t exist. Cue heart sinking again, like it was a shipwreck full of treasure and whatnot, and the winch that was bringing it up to the surface of the ocean had suddenly snapped because Carl, the guy responsible for keeping the winch all lubed up, had a hangover and had forgotten to oil it, or whatever you do with winches anyway. There were several things that came up in my search: Ontario Antiques and Collectibles, Master Gardeners of Ontario, and Ontario Tornado/Blizzard Watch (it has hundreds of thousands of members, proving my previous point about the weather here, where you have to simultaneously watch out for tornadoes AND blizzards). And all I can do now is wonder: Why would someone write the name of a non-existent Facebook group on a piece of notepaper in turquoise ink and then put it under the windshield wiper of my car? Or…was it a suggestion? Perhaps the anonymous admirer was hoping that, with some encouragement, I would CREATE a Facebook group for Sonic owners. Alas, I would be the worst person to start a Facebook group, mostly because I would never go to the meetings I’d scheduled and would bring gluten-free cupcakes to the bake sale. But I would JOIN such a group if it existed. And now I’m off to join the Ontario Tornado/Blizzard Watch group. I hope they like gluten-free cupcakes.

(Update: Apparently there IS a group–thanks to Babbitman for his intrepid sleuthing. I’ve sent a Join request so we’ll see what happens next. To be continued…)

(Update to the Update: I am now a member. It’s a very strange group and I don’t think I want to be part of it. Someone posted asking about a “catless downpipe” and another person is asking for help to perform a “second cat delete”, and all I can think is these people hate cats…)

Weather Or Not

I woke up on Thursday morning, looked out my window, and was immediately outraged. “Nobody said it was going to snow!” I yelled. “Where the hell did all the snow come from?!” And my overreaction reminded me, yet again, that weather is arbitrary and weird and, despite the best efforts of every weather person out there, you never know what’s going to happen. For example:

A few years ago, Kate and I were driving back from town and the sky was really dark. Sure enough, the heavens opened up, and the resulting downpour turned roads in rivers, and parking lots into lakes. Literally. People had their basements flooded, and cars were floating in the streets. It didn’t last long, and the flooding was mostly due to backed-up storm drains, but on the news that night, the weather reporters were thrilled, having earlier predicted that a very large storm system might wreak havoc in our part of Ontario. Why “thrilled”, you ask? Because the week before, tornadoes had touched down in cities south of here and there had been NO WARNING from the weather people (we call them “Environment Canada”). In fact, the outcry was ridiculous, with people calling for an investigation into the most “egregious failure” of the year.

The weather people defended themselves by claiming that 90% of our weather comes from over the border, and that Michigan hadn’t alerted us to any impending storm systems, that it had just “popped up out of nowhere”. Sure, blame the Americans. But frankly, the whole thing is silly, and is yet more proof that we’ve become irrationally obsessed with weather. The mere fact that there is an entire segment devoted to the weather on every single news show is evidence of that. And the first part of the segment is invariably reporting on what the weather was like THAT DAY. I don’t need to know what the weather was ALREADY like—I WAS THERE. Then we move to “the current forecast”, which I ALSO know, because I’m looking out MY WINDOW. Finally, we get to “tomorrow” and the long-range forecast. But for all the technology, the radar, the system trackers, the low and high front graphics on the weather screen, being a weather person in Canada is a relatively simple task and these people are way overpaid, because, let’s face it—there’s not a lot of variation in the weather here:

News Anchor: So Bob, what’s the situation with the weather?
Weather Guy: Well, today it was f*cking cold. Tomorrow, it will also be f*cking cold.
News Anchor: You’re sure right there! What about the long range forecast?
Weather Guy: In a couple of months, it will be f*cking hot, with an increased chance of it getting even more f*cking hot.
News Anchor: Do your magic-y weather skills predict anything else for the near future, Bob?
Weather Guy: The only other thing on the horizon is periods of “when the hell is it going to rain?” interspersed with “when is this goddamned rain going to stop?” That’s about it, Nancy.
News Anchor: Thanks for those insights, Bob. We’ll get back to you later for a recap.

I honestly think we expect too much from weather reporters. Blaming them for sudden weather events is like blaming the sportscaster when your favourite team unexpectedly loses. You’d never do that—it would be irrational to call the Toronto Maple Leafs losing yet another Stanley Cup the most egregious failure of TSN Sportsdesk ever. Yet weather reporters get blamed for all kinds of things. For instance, you’re having an outdoor birthday party and it clouds over then starts raining. Suddenly it’s open season on the weather reporter, with people running around trying to get the cake inside before it gets ruined, and yelling, “Was this predicted?! I don’t remember Bob saying anything about rain! Now the f*cking piñata is all mushy! What the hell is this world coming to when you can’t even count on Bob for a good party?!!”

But you CAN’T count on the weather report. Weather reports are just filler in a broadcast, the same way that talking about the weather is just filler in a conversation. Consider how many times in your life you’ve had random and inconsequential conversations about the weather because you felt like you had to talk about SOMETHING or be seen as anti-social? This happens to me all the time in the elevator at work, when someone I barely know gets on. After “Hello”, what the hell else is there to say, except “Can you believe the weather?” And the other person will say, “Oh, I know. It’s just terrible/gorgeous out there.” The weather is safe and quick and makes us all feel that we’re capable of normal human interaction.

Again, though, I don’t think we need an entire network devoted to the continual reporting of the weather. An entire network, you say? Yes, because not only is every single news broadcast littered with weather clickbait (“Coming up next: Sharon will have some exciting information on the current state of the weather. Find out here first!”), we also have The Weather Network, where you can satisfy your need to know about the state of the environmental nation 24 hours a day. Local forecasts, regional forecasts, national forecasts—hell, you can even find out what it’s going to be like in Madrid tomorrow using an app on your phone (for the record—14 degrees and mostly sunny). My favourite, though, has got to be when, for want of anything else to talk about, there’s a “50 years ago today” segment, where the weather from the 70s is compared to the forecast today, and the reporter is like, “Can you believe it? The high on January 15, 1970 was 3 degrees lower than it is today. What a world we live in!”

A hundred years ago, there were no weather reporters. There was just your crazy old aunt, who claimed her gouty toe could predict when a storm was a-coming, or the one guy in every town who hung out at the General Store chewing on a hay stalk and muttering ominously, “Pine trees are puttin’ out cones early. Gonna be a hard winter.” And they were about as accurate as weather reporters today, who, despite all the bells and whistles, still can’t always predict when a tornado will develop. I like the guy they interviewed after that tornado who said that he hadn’t heard about it, but he looked out his window, saw it coming from across the field, and got his family into the basement. Then he went back upstairs and recorded the tornado with his cell phone. He predicted a tornado almost hitting his house better than Environment Canada did—The Weather Network should hire HIM.

My Week 193: Buddy, Where’s the Fire?

Two weekends ago, I had to put the fireplace on because this is Canada, and the weather can be minus 5 one day, and 30 degrees (38 with the humidex) the next. We literally had a heat wave from last Monday to Friday, then yesterday morning, it was 8 degrees Celsius (about 45 Fahrenheit for people who don’t have to worry about everything being in fancy wizard math), and I was wearing a sweatshirt instead of sweating.

Anyway, mandatory Canadian weather reference/complaint aside, two weekends ago, it got quite chilly, even for May, so I tried to put our gas fireplace on. It wouldn’t start, mainly because it’s old and you have to wiggle the wires underneath it to ignite it. I tried a couple of times, but Ken is the master wiggler, so he came in, performed his magic, and voila! There was heat. (And rereading those last two sentences back, it might seem that yet again, this blog has deviated into some kind of strange Canadian weather-related porn, but I AM talking about the fireplace.)

His work for the moment finished, Ken announced that he was walking to the corner to get gas for the lawnmower that he has been trying to fix for 6 weeks. (Give up, Ken. We can afford a new lawnmower.) While he was gone, I was in the back room talking to Titus about whether or not he was a good boy, as one does, when suddenly I heard this awful screeching sound. It was coming from the fireplace in the living room. I ran in and came around the corner just in time to see black smoke pouring out of the fan vents. Now, that might not be weird for a wood fireplace, but this one is gas. Naturally, I freaked out. I ran over, giving the front a wide berth in case it chose that moment to explode, turned the thermostat off so it would be less flame-y, then I did what any normal person would do—I started yelling for Ken.

Ken didn’t answer. I ran up and down the sidewalk but no response. I was terrified, but I went back in. It was still making the same deafening screeching noise and I could smell something burning, so I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. I explained to the operator that I needed the fire department in a kind of staccato “Fireplace—smoke—gas—send help—“ way, and she told me the fire department was coming and to get out of the house. I grabbed Titus, put him in the back yard, then ran to the front, phone in hand and tears running down my face, still looking for Ken. I found him chatting with the next-door-neighbours. I screamed, “There’s something wrong with the fireplace. I called 9-1-1!” He came running, ran right past me and towards the house.

Me: What are you doing?! The 9-1-1 lady said NOT to go in!!
Ken: I’m going to turn off the breaker!
Me: You’re not allowed to go in!
Ken: It’s fine! It’s probably just the motor!
Me: Don’t go in! I order you to stay outside—
Ken: *disappears into the house*

Anyway, he turned off the breaker and the screeching stopped. There wasn’t any more smoke, although the air still smelled charred, but there was no smell of gas, and that was a good sign. We stared at the fireplace for a minute. It seemed like it was no longer about to explode, so I tried cancelling the 9-1-1 call, but it was too late. The next thing, firetrucks are pulling up to the house and some very nice firefighters helped us check everything out. Apparently, there was a tag on a wire next to the fan, and when we were wiggling the wires, the tag got dislodged and ended up in the fan blades, causing the fan to overheat. Embarrassing as it was, the firefighters were really great and they waited while we turned it back on to see what would happen. It came back on quietly, and all was good, so the fire department left.

Ken: When I saw you, I thought someone had died.
Me: Well, I was pretty upset. I thought the house was going to blow up. I was screaming for you—I can’t believe you couldn’t hear me. You were right next door.
Ken: It was windy. I couldn’t hear you over the wind. You were “downwind”.
Me: The wind…what?!
Ken: Never mind. What did you do with Raven?
Me: She’s around here somewhere. I didn’t have time to look all over for her then try to catch her and carry her around with me. We probably need a plan for her in case there’s ever a real fire.
Raven: I should f*cking hope so.

This is your clever plan?

I was still pretty mad at Ken for just running into the house when the operator said to GET OUT AND DON’T GO BACK IN, even though it was all fine in the end. But Ken has a very fortuitous relationship with fire, having almost immolated himself on more than one occasion. Once, about twenty years ago, he was cooking dinner and I was upstairs. Suddenly I heard him screaming “Help! Help me!” I came running into the kitchen and he was rolling around on the floor, his shirt on fire. I grabbed a tea towel and started trying to put him out. Between the rolling and the vigorous slapping, I extinguished him. Turns out, he was leaning against the stove, his sweatshirt touching one of the burners. Next thing, POOF! Up he went. Luckily, he remembered to “Stop, Drop, and Roll”, but man, did he leave scorch marks on the pine floor.

And then on Friday, he did the following in this exact sequence:
1) Start a fire in the burn pit.
2) Get gas for the lawnmower.
3) Fill up the lawnmower with gas.
4) Try to start the lawnmower.
5) Defend the lawnmower to his wife thusly: “It’s not broken. It always takes this many pulls to start it.”
6) Finally get the lawnmower started.
7) Begin mowing the lawn around the burn pit.
8) Ignore his wife’s screams. Yell “I can’t hear you over the lawnmower! You’re downwind!”
9) Push the gas lawnmower onto the burning burn pit in an attempt to cut the grass around it as close as he can.
10) Be forced to turn the lawnmower off when screaming wife (see number 8) stands in front of the mower to berate him.

Ken: What?!
Me: What the f*ck is wrong with you? You just filled it up with gas! It could explode!
Ken: Why are you scolding me like I’m a five year old?
Me: Why are you mowing the lawn like you’re a five year old?!
Ken: What? That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Don’t mow the firepit!

Words to live by, am I right? Anyway,  he finished mowing and at a certain point, I heard him trimming the edges of the flower beds with the weed whacker. After a while, the noise stopped so I went out to see if he wanted a drink. The weed whacker was lying in the exact middle of the patio and Ken was sitting on the deck staring at it with a mixture of  bewilderment and dejection.

Me: What’s wrong?
Ken: The weed whacker set on fire.
Me: What?!
Ken: Yeah. It started smoking and then flames literally shot out of it. I think we need a new one.
Me: Ya think?

Yesterday, we went out and bought a fire extinguisher. It’s small, so I can carry it with me everywhere. Just in case.

Prepared for the worst case scenario.

My Week 189: I’ve Got The Power

I don’t know about you, but I’m frankly very sick of all this extreme weather. Two weeks ago, we had ice storms. Ice storms in April. As T.S.Eliot once famously said, “Oh my f*cking god, April—you truly are a dick.” I believe that was in his greatest work “The Wasteland”, or “Etobicoke” as it’s known today. (I tweeted this out at the time, and it didn’t get a single like, as opposed to my lame tweet about Canada being ready to defend its sacred Maple Syrup, which got over 200 likes and numerous retweets, all of which taught me one thing: that people don’t appreciate obscure literary references and I should stick to tweeting about Maple Syrup). And then of course there’s terrible flooding out East in Saint John or St. John’s— I’m not sure which one. I initially thought that it must be the height of Canadianism to name two provincial capitals practically the same thing, but then I looked it up and the capital of New Brunswick is actually Fredericton, so I guess the height of Canadianism is to NOT know all the capitals. I DO know that up until recently, Canada had 9 teams in the Canadian Football League, and two of them were called the Roughriders. One of them was the Roughriders, and the other was the Rough Riders, just so you could tell them apart. This would be like if the NFL, for some bizarre reason, named half its teams The Patriots. Can you imagine the play-by-play (which I have to do because I have never watched the CFL)?:

Commentator 1: And the Roughriders take the field.
Commentator 2: As do the Rough Riders. Go teams!
Commentator 1: And the Rough Riders have scored a touchdown!
Commentator 2: Aw—now the Roughriders are behind by 22 and a half points.

Anyway, about the weather. I came home early this week with the intention of getting some writing done. I had the remaining chapters of my new novel laid out, and I’m itching to get it finished because I sent some sample chapters to my publisher and he said they’re definitely interested in it. But then I sat down to write and realized that I had forgotten about the chapter I had started BEFORE working 16 straight days in Etobicoke, and I had no plan for it. So that meant a lot of pacing, and thinking, and sitting and staring into space while the whole thing crystallized in my mind. By Friday morning, I knew what I was doing and I sat down at the computer. I was getting close to finished when I noticed that the wind outside had REALLY started to pick up, like the trees in the yard were whipping from side to side in a rather alarming way, and things that used to be on the porch were now in the middle of the yard. Then the power started to flicker. Then it went off. I tried to call Hydro but the line was busy, as always. But then the power came back on, so I stopped panicking and finished writing. Ken came home, and we went out to see Infinity Wars at the VIP theatre with K and her girlfriend. It was pretty good, even if I hadn’t seen all the other movies and had no idea who half the people were. Luckily, K was with us, so I could ask her, even if it meant being subjected to a LOT of eyerolling:

Me: Who’s that?
K: That’s The Falcon.
Me: The what? I don’t remember him from the last Avengers movie.
K: Which one was the last one you saw?
Me: The…Avengers? Who’s the guy with the mechanical arm? I feel like I’m really out of touch here.
K: Bucky. Stop talking.
Me: Where’s Batman? I heard he dies in this movie.
K: Mom! Batman is DC, not Marvel. They’re two different universes!
Me: So no Aquaman? You know what this movie REALLY needs? The Wonder Twins.
K: Sigh.

But then the Guardians of the Galaxy showed up, and I was like, “This is so unfair! How come the raccoon and the tree are here, but I can’t have Batman?!” But apparently, the Guardians are “Marvel” too, but just from a different franchise, and I had to resign myself to drinking wine, eating my poutine, and silently wondering where the f*ck Vision and Wanda came from.

After the movie, Ken and I drove home. But as we got into town, I noticed something terrible. There were no lights on anywhere. No street lights, no house lights, nothing. And sure enough, the power was out in the entire town and surrounding areas. I checked Facebook on my phone and someone had posted that power wouldn’t be restored until the next day at 6 pm.

So I did it all by the numbers.

1) Get out all the jar candles.

I have a drawer in a desk in the living room, where I keep jar candles. I currently have 23, all in varying shapes, sizes, and states of use. Why, you ask? Because the POWER MIGHT GO OFF. I started lighting them with a lighter wand thing, which ran out of butane by number 17. I haven’t used matches since I was a teenager, and I couldn’t get them to light on the sandpaper strip on the box, so I just stuck them in the open flames of the other candles. I am nothing if not resourceful. Candles lit. Check.

2) Find all 8 flashlights and realize that none of them work. Look for batteries. Try to install the batteries into the flashlights by the light of a “White Linen and Vanilla” jar candle. Remind Ken that “the pioneers might have been way better at living rough than me, but I bet their houses didn’t smell as good”.

3) Also remind Ken that under no circumstances should he open the fridge in order to keep the food from spoiling. Open the fridge myself to get out a bottle of wine.

4) Lie in bed in the dark, drinking wine and plotting my revenge against nature by candlelight. Eventually blow out all the candles so that I don’t set the house on fire.

Day Two

In the morning, we checked again. Now Hydro was saying the power wouldn’t be back on until Sunday at 6 pm.

5) Have a minor meltdown, and order Ken to take me out to buy a barbeque so that we could cook dinner (our previous bbq had broken during the winter when I rather vigorously threw open the lid and it snapped off). I also bought one of those big camping lanterns. The only instructions for its use involved three pictures that were all upside down. After ten minutes, I lost my sh*t and called for Ken. He looked at it, then pushed the button and it came on. “You have to press harder,” he said.

“Yeah, well, just wait until you have to put together the barbeque!” I responded. Which he did. In under the time suggested in the instruction manual.

6) Call my mom and complain about the lack of electricity.

7) Call my aunt and complain about the lack of electricity.

8) Post on Facebook complaining about the lack of electricity.

9) Realize my phone battery is almost dead.

10) Remember that our neighbour has a generator. Message her to ask if I can use it to charge my phone. She says yes.

11) Take my phone and a bottle of wine across the street. Spend a couple of very pleasant hours with my neighbour, talking and drinking while my phone charges.

12) Go home and light all 23 jar candles again. Lie in bed, drinking wine and plotting revenge against Ontario Hydro, who will rue the day they ruined my plan to kick back and watch Netflix so that I could get caught up on The Avengers movies. Enjoy the aroma of “Lavender Sky” mingled with “Christmas Berry”. Read the fifth book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and get seriously pissed off at being over halfway through and still not knowing who the f*cking Wolves of Calla are.

13) Blow out all the jar candles and go to sleep. Wake up sometime in the night and realize that the hall light is on. Wake Ken up to tell him, but he already knows and has been watching Netflix without me. I forgive him, silently rejoice, and congratulate myself on being hardy like a pioneer. Make plans to buy my own generator. Just in case.

My Week 126: February is Too Hot, Canadian Politics Are Getting Severely Abnormal


Saturday: Global Warming

This morning, I had a hot bath, then I washed my hair with hot water. Then I started to dry my hair with a hot hair dryer (wait—it WILL get funnier). After about two minutes, I was sweating and unhappy. “WTF?!” I may have yelled to no one in particular. “Why am I so HOT?!” So I did what any normal person would do under these circumstances. I called Ken.

Me: Ken! I’m too hot!!
Ken (from other side of the house): Open your balcony door then!

So I took his advice and opened the door to the balcony off my bathroom. Why is there a balcony off my bathroom, you ask? Well, my house is over 100 years old, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my bathroom used to be something else, just like my kitchen used to be a bedroom, and my media room used to be an old woodshop with a giant cistern underneath it which I try NEVER to think about while I’m watching horror movies. Anyway, I opened the door, and a huge square of sunlight hit me, accompanied by a draft of warm air, making me feel even hotter, and more miserable. And while this wouldn’t be unusual during other months of the year, THIS IS F*CKING FEBRUARY. FEBRUARY—the month of winter doom in Ontario, where normally it’s 19 below instead of 19 above (for my American readers, that’s like plus 70 vs. minus a gazillion—I’m not great at math or exchange rates, obviously). So, to anyone who believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated on us by the Chinese, let me assure you that there were no Chinese people in my bathroom, and that things are way too warm for February. I asked everyone yesterday on the way home from my mom’s birthday party what they thought about global warming:

Me: So what are our thoughts on global warming?
Ken: Do you mean “climate change”? Because technically–
K: Dad, are you mansplaining global warming to Mom?
My Mom: It’s extremely cold in England right now, so I don’t know about “warming”.
Ken: CLIMATE CHANGE. That’s why it’s called “climate change”.

At any rate, whatever you want to call it, this warm weather in February is a real problem. Yes, I know it’s lovely outside. Yes, the weather continues charming. However, it’s just not fair for a couple of reasons. I live in both the country AND the city at any given moment of the week, and warm weather this early is a real problem in both settings.

The country: I pulled into the driveway yesterday, and my lilac trees were budding. I actually yelled at them, “No, stop it! Next week, we’ll be back to minus 10, and those buds will die! Don’t be fooled by this crazy warm sh*t!” Warm weather in February only sets us all up for disappointment—let’s face it, there are still at least two more months of snow and ice before we get to the “real” spring and summer. The current temperature is just creating false hope, hope that we really don’t live in an area of the country where there are only two seasons (No, not “winter and construction”, like a lot of people will tell you): Summer, and the rest of the miserable year. The last thing I want is for all my trees and flowers to start budding and then have those buds killed by the next frost. Trees—they’re so gullible.

The city: You’d think a warm February would be glorious in the city, but no. First, it takes a slow thaw for all the garbage to disappear. Right now, all the melting snow is revealing a multitude of cigarette butts, food containers, and for some reason on my street corner, about 200 old lottery tickets. The street cleaning machines won’t be on the roads for at least two more months, so we’re stuck with sidestepping all the crap until at least April. But even worse is the detritus of the human bodily kind, which becomes more noticeable the hotter it gets:

Me: Oh my god, why does it smell like pee out here?!
M: Why WOULDN’T it smell like pee? This is downtown Toronto.
L: If it didn’t smell like pee, how would we know where we are? How would we find our way back to the office?
M: We’d totally lose our bearings. We’d be wandering around all afternoon, not sure where the office was.

And see, this is a conversation that I would normally have with my work partners in May or June, but it was just a few days ago. I should probably clarify though—it’s the subway station that regularly smells like urine and our office is right in front of the station entrance. So the smell of pee is to us as breadcrumbs are to Hansel and Gretel. Except no pigeon wants to eat THAT.

Long story short—I cannot rejoice over this weather. I feel like the polar bears must when they’re stuck on an iceberg that broke off and is floating in the middle of the Arctic Ocean—which is to say, completely disoriented, baffled, and hungry (because I never eat breakfast until I finish writing). And the weirdest thing is, I don’t even LIKE the cold. In fact, I HATE winter with a passion, but winter is an absolute necessity because I hate mosquitoes even more, and a mild winter results in way more mosquitoes than normal. So f*ck you, global warming and your impending plague of locusts. Me, I long for ice and snow until at least March Break.

Sunday: No, YOU’RE the weirdo.

Last week, Conservative Leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, the new queen of white nationalism, held a rally at a Christian college against a motion proposed in the House to strike a committee to look into Islamophobia and other forms of racism on the grounds that it’s “against Free Speech”. Not sure how she’s making that leap, but as she likes to boast, “I have 22 letters after my name. They’re all great letters, the best letters, in fact. I have all the important letters.” Actually, if you take away all the letters that don’t mean much, like the initials of the political party she’s a member of and whatnot, there aren’t that many. I myself would have MORE than 22 if I included not only my degrees and professional affiliations, but my Twitter handle, my official title of “Perpetual Ruler of the Ensuite Bathroom”, and my stripper name, which is Perky Cyrus (the name of my first pet and the street I lived on as a child—try it for yourself. It’s fun). Anyway, she introduced herself and then said, “It’s great to be in a room full of SEVERELY NORMAL people!” And I was like WTF, Lady? What is “SEVERELY NORMAL”? And yes, I have to keep typing it in cap-locks, because that’s how she said it—like it was all in capital letters, because the SEVERELY NORMAL don’t recognize how “special” they are unless you yell it at them. But before I go on to discuss what SEVERELY NORMAL is, I’d first like to say that Kellie Leitch is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of someone who is highly educated, but despite that, is as stupid as the people who think global warming is a hoax perpetrated on us by the Chinese. Oh, she’s cunning, I’ll give her that, but “cunning” and intelligent are not always bed-fellows. She’s cunning AF because, as a Member of the Canadian Parliament, she didn’t object when the exact same type of motion against Anti-Semitism was presented last year in the House. And she didn’t hold a rally for SEVERELY NORMAL people at a Christian College when the same type of motion regarding Islamophobia was passed by the House last October. But now that the leadership race for the Conservative party is heating up, suddenly she’s the poster girl for “Canadian Values”, and whining about free speech over a motion which she knows damn well is only to strike an exploratory committee? Well, unfortunately, she’s currently second in the polls behind Kevin O’Leary, that weird little wannabe Donald Trump (you might know him from the TV show Shark Tank), who lives in Boston and hawks blended wine on US shopping channels, and who believes that being rich is great because it makes poor people look up to him and become inspired to work harder, and that union leaders should be thrown in jail. That these two people are currently at the top of the polls for the leadership of a major political party should scare the sh*t out of the rest of us completely normal people, because Canada is supposed to have one of the most educated populations in the world, yet all those people who attend Leitch’s rallies, and espouse her brand of “Canadian Values” seem morbidly uninformed and earnestly believe her when she tells them that they are not “the fringe”. Um…Yes. You are. All I can say is this though: You can be SEVERELY NORMAL and believe Leitch’s appeals, which are to the lowest common denominator of hatred and mistrust, or you can be just be a regular Canadian who believes that no one should be discriminated against and that we’re all happier, healthier, and ABSOLUTELY normal when we start using our brains and stop listening to idiots who confuse SEVERELY NORMAL with “extremist white nationalism”. But you just know that her cunning plan was that the people who follow her are going to start embracing the term and start using it as their Twitter handles, like @BobSEVERELYNORMAL and wearing ball caps that say Make Canada Great Again. Me, I don’t want to be severely anything. I just want to be Canadian. But it’s all good—it’s not as if someone like her could EVER become the Prime Minister, right?  There’s been no other country where someone got elected by lying to people and using hateful rhetoric, right? No other candidate for the leadership of a country got to pull this sh*t while the other candidates just sat back and watched, and the media snickered while the ratings were high until suddenly it was too late, right? Oh, wait…


My Week 85: Grinder Week

Thursday: I am at least two of the seven dwarves.

I think we were all really sleepy and grumpy this week for some reason. It seems like it’s been a long spring, without much hope of warm weather yet. In fact, the other day, my work partner and I were going down to Loblaws, and we were debating whether or not we needed our coats. I said, “When the hell is that question going to be moot? At what point will we just be like, “Let’s go” and our coats don’t even come into the equation?” And then we were happy we wore our coats because it was ridiculously cold, even for May, and I decided that no matter how much I love being Canadian, the weather here is beyond stupid and can very easily ruin any “I love Canada” moment you might be inclined to have. (Also, just for the record, when I say “work partner”, I don’t mean like “work wife” or “work husband”. I mean the person who is the other member of my work TEAM. If I HAD a work husband, I would want it to be someone like Patrick Stewart or John Cho, which would mean I’d have to change careers and somehow try to get into the acting profession—god, these work relationships can be so complicated….)

So I think the general trend towards sleepiness and grumpiness is natural, all things considered, and this is how I know that it’s been an unusually grinding week for everyone I know:

1) I got some really good news on Monday. I was over the moon, but Ken was at some “important” meeting, and my parents were away, so I did what any normal person would do—I called K.

Me: Guess What?! I just heard from the publisher. They’re publishing my novel!!
K: Oh, sweet! That’s so cool!

We chatted for a little while longer, then I told her I’d call her later, after her exam. So at 4 pm, this was the conversation.

Me: How was your exam?
K: Pretty good.
Me: I’m still really excited!
K: About what?
Me: About what I told you this morning!
K: Did we talk this morning?
Me: For like over 5 minutes. I told you my novel was getting published.
K: It is?! That’s awesome!
Me: Were you in bed when I called you?
K: Um, maybe. Sorry, I honestly don’t remember talking to you. I HAD just written my 9th exam in 8 days. Yay for you though…

But I forgive her, because I got to experience her happiness for me twice in one day, and when you have a teenager, that doesn’t happen very often.

2) Later in the week, I found myself being so tired that I was having trouble processing simple conversations. People would try to explain things to me, and I would just nod and pretend I was totally on board with everything. The final straw came on Thursday, when I found something online that I really wanted to keep.

Me: God, this is a perfect example. Remind me later that I want to use this.
L: Write it on a sticky note in case I forget.
Me: Um, how is THAT going to work?
L: What?
Me: Well, the sample is on the computer. If I put a sticky note on it, the second I navigate away from it, the sticky note is useless.
L: Did you seriously think I was suggesting that you put a sticky note on your computer screen?
Me: No…?
L (slowly): Write all the details about the sample on a sticky note. Then stick it somewhere you will see it later. Not on your computer screen. Somewhere ELSE.
Me: Oh right. That makes sense.
L: Sigh.

sticky note

But I know I’m not the only one because on Friday, I took the train home. First, a work colleague and I were taking the same subway to the train station, and he wanted to leave earlier than I normally do, which was OK because it’s nice to have company on the subway. So I waited for him to pack up. It was an arduous process, as he looked for his glasses case, tucked away miscellaneous work items, cleaned his desk, checked his wallet for his driver’s licence and made sure his cell phone was charged. We finally got down to the subway platform and he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh no!! I forgot my train ticket!” I was like “Where?” because I was pretty sure he’d gone through every drawer in his desk already. But he had to go back to the office, leaving me to ride the subway alone in rush hour, and having to wait in line for the train longer than usual. And then I got super grumpy, not at him, because he’s a really great guy and my track record for remembering things last week wasn’t stellar either. So in a continuation of the things that grind my gears:

3) Why the hell am I waiting in line at the train station? The train I take has assigned seats and you can’t get on without a previously purchased ticket. Yet, without fail, everyone hurries to line up for half an hour, and because I always worry that they know something I don’t, I end up in the stupid line. Then I get mad at myself for being a lemming. And there’s always that ONE person who tries to cut into the line, even though we all have seats. A woman did that to me on Friday—she was sitting in the waiting room, then just casually got up and slid into line in front of me. LIKE THE LINE DIDN’T EVEN F*CKING MATTER. I was simultaneously outraged AND jealous of her refusal to acknowledge the bizarre line-up protocol that the rest of us have established for absolutely no good reason. And of course, there are always the people from the “business class lounge” who get “priority boarding” and just stroll right past all of us, which makes me want to yell, “Hey—it’s a Via Rail train, not the f*cking Orient Express. Take your smugness down a notch.”

4) I finally got on the train and it was the ride from hell. Normally, my fellow passengers are a normal bunch, who respect the rules and keep the ride pleasant, but it was Friday the 13th unfortunately. I was thinking it would be a great ride initially, because the bar cart came around right away, which doesn’t always happen. But then everything became a surreal nightmare. The guy across the aisle from me started peeling and eating hardboiled eggs and drinking what looked like a smoothie made from compost. And to make matters worse, he was flicking bits of shell onto the floor. Then I caught a whiff of something nastier than “demon egg” (because of the sulphur, right?), and I looked to the other side of me—the nice-looking elderly lady who was my seat companion had decided to TAKE OFF HER SHOES and was sitting barefoot. The smell was a cross between talcum powder and death. I took off my headphones to read, because I can’t concentrate on a book and music lyrics at the same time, only to discover that the woman behind me was carrying on a very loud running commentary of inanity to the child sitting beside her:

Woman: You’re a really good artist.
Child: Thanks.
Woman: You know who else is a good artist? Your dad.
Child: Is he?
Woman: And so is your aunt. She’s a really good artist.
Child: Really?
Woman: And so is your other aunt.
Child: Uh huh.
Woman: And so is your uncle. He’s a really good artist too.
Child: Oh.
Woman: Your grandmother was a really good artist.
Child: *silently drawing*
Woman: Oh—you know what?!
Child: What?
Woman: Your cousin Frank is a really good artist.

And so it went on in the same vein. When I finally got to my station, I collapsed into Ken’s arms. “I’m so tired”, I said. “I was on the verge of losing it on the train—“YOU, stop eating your damn baby chickens and pick up their skins, YOU, put your damn shoes back on, and YOU, shut the hell up—there’s a collective noun for that sh*t—‘Everyone in OUR FAMILY is a good artist’, and be done with it!!!” Ken just looked at me in wonderment, and perhaps a little fear.

“I ordered pizza and wings,” he said.

“Can we eat them in bed?” I asked.

“Um, ok,” he answered.

Best. Husband. Ever.


My Week 74: Canada Goose Coats, Soap Opera Confusion

Monday: Canada Goose coats

The temperature lately has been pretty nasty, hovering around the minus 10 or minus 12 degree mark. Most people can deal with this, but apparently, from what I’ve seen, things are MUCH colder in Toronto. I mean colder in like a philosophical or hypothetical way, because it’s really no colder there than anywhere else in the province, but Torontonians always seem to feel more put upon by winter than anyone else. The second the thermometer plunges below zero, out come the heavy duty parkas. People are bundled up like it’s the North Pole, with scarves wrapped tight around their faces, earmuffs, big woolly hats, giant mittens, and mukluks. And that’s just the guys—the women are even worse, layering woolen capes on TOP of their parkas. It’s ironic, because most people in the downtown core are coming in by subway and have to walk a maximum of two blocks to get anywhere, yet you would think they were all competing in the Iditarod. Now I know that last week, I was complaining about how cold I was, but I was dressed like a normal, human person, and had to walk almost two kilometres. Unlike the majority of Torontonians who are swanning around in their Canada Goose coats (that’s an awesome mixed metaphor about birds, am I right?).

About 6 weeks ago, I began to notice a strange trend on the streets of the downtown core—2 out of 3 people that passed me by were wearing these parkas with a big, red patch on the arm. Then, at work one day, I overheard a colleague say to another, “Ooh, your Canada Goose coat finally came in! Let me see it!” I was intrigued and really excited, wondering if the coat was either a) made in the shape of a goose with wing-like arms and a goose-y hood that had a beak on it or something, or b) had a big, colourful picture of a Canada Goose on it. On a side note, I have to say that I’ve never been very impressed with the Canada Goose as a national symbol—they’re annoying, honky birds, they sh*t all over the place, and have started refusing to go south for the winter because they are the biggest lazy-asses on the planet, so now we have to deal with their feces and honking all winter long. Anyway, the coat was produced, and I was sadly disappointed to see a dun-coloured parka with a fake-fur edged hood. Then I noticed the big, red patch on the arm, and I was like “Oh—THIS is what all those people are wearing.” So I asked, “Where did you get it from?” “Oh, I had to order it specially on-line, because I wanted it in a different colour than most people.” And it’s true—so far I’d only seen navy blue or black versions, but this one was like a dull brownish-green khaki colour. A bold choice if I do say so myself.

canada goose coat

But then it occurred to me that maybe I should be more Toronto-ish and get one of these coats. They couldn’t be THAT expensive, since so many people had them. There are university students in my condo building who wear them. So I asked a friend, “Do you know anything about these coats? How much are they and where do I get one?” “Well, I know you can get them at Holt Renfrew,” she answered. “I think they run around $800-$900.”

900 f*cking dollars for an ugly parka? Was it lined with gold dust? For $900, I could buy my own portable generator and heater, and hire someone to carry them next to me, blasting hot air at me. So I decided to investigate a little and find out exactly what the deal was, why they were SO expensive. My research resulted in the following:

1) Canada Goose coats are actually made in Canada, unlike many other so-called Canadian products. Once, Ken and I wanted to buy a leather couch and we were determined to “buy Canadian”. We went to a store and picked out a couch we liked. Until the salesperson admitted that the leather and wood were FOUND in Canada, then everything was put on a container ship and sent to China, where it was assembled. Apparently, it was cheaper to hire a boat, take a 10 day voyage, and use sweat shop labour, than actually BUILD it in Canada. So this could explain why Canada Goose coats are so expensive—adults make them, as opposed to 6 year-old children.

2) The coat weighs 7 and a half pounds and has been scientifically tested to withstand temperatures up to minus 75 degrees. I can see why this is important in downtown Toronto, where people regularly take their sled dogs to work or slog through the Arctic tundra to reach the office. Like I said though, Torontonians are convinced that their city is much colder than anywhere else in the province. I’ve mentioned before that most buildings have signs obsessively ordering you to use the revolving door so as not to let the precious heat out. As far as I’m concerned, though, if the temperature ever DID fall to minus 75, it would be like that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, where people just freeze on the spot, expensive coat or not. (As an interesting side note, the Canada Goose coat made its film debut in that very movie and its weight was probably the reason that one guy fell through the glass mall ceiling to his death.)

3) It’s not a coat, it’s a way of life. The Canada Goose website refers to their coats as “luxury apparel”, which is great if your idea of luxury is a choice of three blah colours, and having to see a chiropractor from carrying its weight all day. The website extolls the “values” of the Canada Goose coat owner, who are known collectively as “Goose People”. Seriously. Goose People are “everyday heroes who strive for excellence.” They “dream big dreams” and have “can-do attitudes which inspire us”. Dude, it’s a f*cking coat, not a missionary trip. It just goes to show you what a great marketing campaign can do. The biggest dream I have about a Canada Goose coat is actually being able to afford one, but if I had that kind of disposable income, I’d spend it on more practical ways to beat the cold, like alcohol and those little hot pads that go inside your boots and mitts. Plus, I have a $50 down-filled parka, which, although it was most likely NOT made in Canada, I bought locally, thereby supporting a Canadian business. It works just fine, is not in the least pretentious, is a lovely shade of red with gold buttons, and it definitely“embodies the spirit of adventure” if your idea of adventure is surviving the subway during rush hour.

Friday: Soap Opera confusion

On Friday, K and I went to our local car dealership to have snow tires installed on her car. The day before, in the wake of a snowstorm, she had gone off the road into a ditch at the outskirts of the city where she goes to school. She called me, and I arranged for a tow truck and for my dad to go out and stay with her. I was freaked out by the whole thing, and wondered if she had been scared, but K calmly pointed out that she was a teenager, and they all thought they were immortal, so when the car went slid down the incline sideways, she really wasn’t that worried. Unlike me, who announced, “I’m buying you snow tires. Don’t argue.” I was just grateful that she wasn’t hurt. (On a side note, here’s the conversation I had with her school when I called to say she wouldn’t be in that day.

Me: I’m just calling to validate my daughter’s absence.
Secretary: Is she sick?
Me: No, she had a car accident. She’s a little shaken up so I told her to go home.
Secretary: So, I’ll just call it “parent-approved” then?

I’ll leave it up to you to understand how I felt that the person on the other end of the phone didn’t ask if she was injured, and seemed to believe that I had somehow AUTHORIZED her to have a car accident.)

Anyway, we were at the dealership waiting for them to install the tires. In the waiting lounge, there’s big screen TV, and since it was the middle of the afternoon, there was a soap opera on. I’ve never actually watched a soap opera, but I recognized it from the strange way it was filmed. K had never seen one either, and we weren’t very interested at first, reading stuff on our phones, until suddenly K poked me and said, “What the hell is this crazy show?” I looked up and a man and woman were talking. She was fully made up with bright red lipstick and he looked like he’d been crying. Then the camera pulled back—they were both standing on the ledge of a building. I always thought soap operas were about romance and rich people, but this was really weird, so we started to watch. It’s hard to pick up a storyline midstream but here’s what we gleaned.

The girl on the ledge, or the guy, or both have been shot. She wants him to jump off the building with her for some unknown reason. She is wearing a hospital gown, and they both have matching bullet wounds. They argue then gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

A blonde woman is arguing with a doctor. He’s been keeping secrets (about what, it’s not clear), but the name Tony is mentioned. She’s upset about Kiki being shot. Who the hell is Kiki? How is Tony involved? Did he shoot Kiki? They gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

Another blonde woman is talking to a man called Sonny. Her hands are covered in blood. He seems to be a gangster type—is she his wife? She’s also upset about what happened to Kiki, and seems to be accusing him of having something to do with it, prompting K and me to ask each other, “What happened to Kiki? Do you know?!” Neither of us do. We all gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

An older man comes into the room where the first blonde woman is waiting. She slaps him across the face and tells him that none of this would have happened if he hadn’t blackmailed her into…smuggling guns? Is he Tony? Did he shoot Kiki? In the foreground, a nurse with a heavy German accent says to a doctor, “Zere is someone on ze roof.” They all gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

We’re back on the roof. The girl and the guy are arguing more heatedly. Another man comes to the door and sees the guy. “Tony, what are doing up there?” he asks. Finally, we know who Tony is. “Oh, Kiki, I can’t live without you, and I can’t live with what I’ve done to you,” he replies, looking at the girl. “Who are you looking at?” asks the other guy. The camera pans back, the girl is gone, and Tony no longer has a bullet wound. K and I look at each other and gasp. The girl is a figment of his imagination! The other man backs through the door, leaving Tony alone on the ledge. Nice friend, that one. Maybe he shot Kiki and doesn’t want Tony to know. Tony gazes into the distance. The camera cuts away.

The second blonde woman is now in a public bathroom. She finds a scrub brush and starts scrubbing the blood from her hands. Suddenly a really hot, half-naked man appears. Apparently, this is a MAGIC bathroom. They argue about doctor-patient confidentiality and he wraps her hands in bandages because she’s scrubbed them raw. Did the blonde woman shoot Kiki? Could this be an homage to Lady Macbeth trying to scrub the guilt from her soul? Are the people who make soap operas really that well-read? We all gaze into the distance and the camera cuts away…

…to a police precinct where apparently only two woman work because there is literally no other cop in the entire building. They are arguing. The older woman is begging the younger cop for a favour. “Just give me a few weeks,” she says. “Then I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Sonny, and Don, and Carlos, and Andy.” Ok, we know who Sonny is, but who the hell are all these other guys? Suddenly the older man from the previous scene who blackmails people into gun smuggling appears. “Captain, what can I do for you?” says the female cop. Captain?! He’s blackmailing people into arms dealing and HE’S the Captain of the police precinct? They argue and he tears up a warrant that she has for the first blonde woman. “I’ve given her immunity,” says the Captain.  For what?  we wonder. Did SHE shoot Kiki? Because at one point, we were sure she was Kiki’s mother. This is getting more confusing. They gaze into the distance. The camera cuts away.

We’re back on the roof. The doctor from a previous scene is there, trying to talk Tony off the ledge. Suddenly Sonny appears. It turns out that he’s Tony’s father. He jumps up on the ledge with Tony and… offers to jump with him. K and I hope he’s bluffing—we’ve grown quite fond of the both of them. More people arrive, and finally, Tony comes down off the ledge and into the arms of his gangster dad. The credits roll.

K and I look at each other. “So who the hell shot Kiki?” she asks. “Damned if I know,” I reply. We gaze into the distance.

My Week 73: Quirky Conferences, Motion Detector Lights

Thursday: I go to a conference

I was lucky enough this week to have been given funding to attend a local education conference with a colleague. The conference overall was an excellent experience, but not without some quirks. I’m not sure if this is typical of all conferences in general, but it was my first time attending one of these things and it was at times, bizarre. It was at a local hotel, and I decided on Thursday morning that walking would be a good idea, which it totally wasn’t, since the temperature was like minus 12 degrees, or what I like to call “f*cking freezing”, which is a technical term we use in Canada for pretty much anything below minus 5. By the time I arrived at the hotel, I was dying from that insane itchiness you get when you’re out in the cold then you come into someplace warm and your skin feels like it’s being eaten by piranhas. Plus, I was ten minutes late because I have a TERRIBLE sense of how long it takes to get anywhere, and this is not made any better by the strange Torontonian idea of what a “block” actually is. In most towns, a block is the distance between intersections, but in Toronto, the intersections can be at least a kilometre apart, so when someone says, “Oh it’s only three blocks away”, that can mean 40 minutes of what I call “lost walking”, where you walk and walk, the whole time feeling like you must have gone past your destination, and you keep asking people how much further it is, and they just keep saying, “Oh, it’s like one more block”.

At any rate, I was in pain, but happy to be inside, and I made my way to the registration desk. A very cheery woman took my name, gave me a lanyard with ID on it, then told me to hand in my ticket at another table for my “swag bag”. Swag bag?!! Now this was more like it—I was really excited because I know at the Academy Awards, the swag bag has things in it like make-up, and expensive jewelry, and coupons to Pizza Hut. After paying $3.50 to check my coat (I know, right?! What a rip-off), I presented my ticket and was handed a red, plastic bag, like a grocery bag. It felt pretty light, like it was filled with paper. “Is this the swag?” I asked the woman.

“Well, it’s the bag,” she said. “You can use it to put things in.”

This was sounding more and more like when I got my eyes lasered and thought the blue bags everyone was getting must be full of treats, but it was just cheap sunglasses and an eye drop schedule. Which was still one step up from this bag, which was, upon further examination, filled with paper. At least my laser bag had sunglasses in it, even if they weren’t Chanel or Dolce and Gabbana. And I already had a bag to put things in. So I shoved the plastic bag inside my own bag, feeling a little let down by the lack of swag, and went into the conference. Over the next two days, here are some other things that bewildered me, prompting me to ask the following questions:

1) Is it normal and not-rude for people to just walk out of a session while the speaker is still speaking?

The first thing I did that morning was see the keynote speaker, a famous, former football star who now spoke about his previous career and the importance of finishing his education. He was wonderful, very funny, and obviously had worked hard to put this speech together. I was standing at the back because of the lack of available seats, and wishing that someone would leave, so maybe this whole thing was my fault, because after about ten minutes, people just started getting up and walking out. I was happy at first—like a ninja, I quickly and silently slid into a vacant seat. Then it got super-distracting, as people just kept getting up and leaving, you know, with those little apologetic half-smiles as they make their way down the row to reach the aisle then scurry away like no one noticed them. By the time the football player was nearing the end of his speech, which was entertaining, funny, and emotionally moving, so definitely NOT boring, gangs of attendees were fleeing. And when he got to audience questions, people weren’t even QUIET anymore. They acted like it was the end of the movie and the credits were rolling, leisurely sauntering out and discussing where they were going for dinner. I wanted to yell, “Sit the f*ck down!” because I had checked the schedule and there were no other activities for another 45 minutes. Where the hell were they all going? It turns out—NOWHERE. The same people who were scuttling out of the grand hall were just standing around in the mezzanine when the session finally finished.

This happened on more than one occasion over the next two days, when attendees started abandoning the room with about ten minutes to go, causing the poor presenters to have to talk over the noise. Some of them would speed up their presentation, as if talking faster would make people more interested. It was really stressful—you could see the self-doubt on their faces, like “Am I boring?” No, but it’s almost lunchtime, and god forbid the tables in the food court are all taken.

2) Do presenters practice their presentations so they know how much time they’ll need?

The answer to this question is apparently not, as every session I attended finished with “Oh my god—I have so much more material to cover! How much time do I have? 3 minutes? OK, let’s see how many more PowerPoint slides I can whip through—I only have 50 left, but I think we can do this…” It was an unfortunate truth that the main point of each presentation got glossed over in the last few minutes. One poor woman was literally freaking out and exclaiming, “This is SO stressful! I’M SO STRESSED OUT!” I felt like saying, “You’re not the only one.” So, a word to the wise—plan accordingly, and time yourself so that you can end with the ending, not with the middle.

3) Am I really old?

I ask this because I came prepared to each session with a notepad and a pen. I took notes, old school style. Unlike the majority of the people in the room, most of them younger than me. Whenever a PowerPoint would go to the next slide, cell phones and Ipads would quickly rise above the crowd and everyone else would snap a picture of what was on the screen. EVERY screen. Presenters kept saying, “All of this information is on my website,” but it didn’t make any difference. It was like being at a rock concert but instead of screaming and lighters being waved around, it was eerie silence and cameras hovering in the air.

4) Are gluten-free meals the same as vegetarian meals?

Yes. At least at the Sheraton. I went to the keynote breakfast on Friday morning, featuring a marvelous Canadian writer. When I registered electronically, I indicated the gluten-free option for the meal. When the food came, it was an omelette topped with a poached egg, smothered in some kind of sauce. Aside from the overabundance of ovum, I was worried that the sauce might have flour in it, so reminded the waiter that I needed the GF meal. “Can you just bring me one with the omelette and nothing else on top?”

“Oh, don’t worry—we have special meal for you,” he said.

What he brought me was this: a plate of potato wedges, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes (fine), with a bowl of plain, poached eggs swimming in water (absolutely, pukily disgusting). I couldn’t even look at them—it was like the eyes of death staring at me. I should probably clarify at this point that I have an EXTREME aversion to any type of egg where the yolk and the white are not completely blended. Yes, I know it’s weird, but it’s based on childhood trauma. Once, when I was little, I looked into the refrigerator and saw a bowl containing a perfect canned peach half floating in delicious syrup. I didn’t question its existence—I just did what any child would do. I dipped my finger into the syrup then licked my finger. It was NOT a peach. It was an egg.  So, blech.  I made the waiter take away the eggs and ate the vegetables, which were fine and NOT vomit-inducing. Then I looked around and realized that my meal was apparently the fallback for the vegetarian option, as well as the kosher meal. Now as far as kosher goes, I think it has something to do with how animals are slaughtered, so I guess the eggs were cracked properly? But as for it being vegetarian—I ask again, as I have in previous blog posts (see My Week 60: Facebook Quizzes), since when are eggs vegetables? Just because they don’t have legs now doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have grown up to be actual animals if Farmer Brown hadn’t stolen the mother hen’s babies. I was talking to a guy later that day, and he was like, “Oh yes, I’m a strict vegetarian, although I do sometimes eat things with eggs in them, like cake and stuff.”

5) Am I five years old?

This is the opposite of number three. I ask this because A) in the Exhibitor’s Hall, I was accosted by someone dressed as “Clifford, The Big, Red Dog” in one of those Disney-like animal costumes, and a photographer who wanted to know if I’d like my picture taken with him. Why would I ever want that? I had no small children with me, and I don’t have a “furry” fetish, which is where you want to make out with someone dressed in a fur costume, but trust me—that dog was nowhere near hot enough. Sweaty, yes, but hot, no. B) I arrived at a session and took a seat at a table near the back. “No!” said the presenter. “You can’t sit back there. I need you to sit at this table near the front.”

“But I don’t want to sit there,” I said. I might have sounded a little petulant, but I hate sitting near the front—what if I need to go to the bathroom? Then everyone watches you leave and it’s really embarrassing.

“Well you have to,” she ordered.

It wasn’t long into the session when she showed us a movie trailer which ended with a donkey being hit and killed by a car. “I probably wouldn’t show that to a lower elementary class,” she said.

Really? Maybe because a donkey just got murdered? I didn’t want to see that, let alone exposed small children to it. Then she told us we were going to watch it AGAIN. But I couldn’t even sneak out, because I was sitting NEAR THE FRONT.

6) Is a presentation more enjoyable when there’s a sign language interpreter?

Absolutely! My last session on Friday featured a well-known guru with great ideas, but who spoke in a bit of a monotone. Fortunately, there were two sign language interpreters with her, who more than made up for her lack of style. These women were SO expressive and enthusiastic that I listened to the speaker but watched THEM the whole time. Way more entertaining. I don’t know where they get their training, but the way they were signing, it must have been the Royal Shakespeare Company. There was comedy, betrayal, death, and romance—never has “Developing Non-Fiction Writing Skills” been so exciting. Like Game of Thrones meets the Weather Channel.

Overall, it was a great time, and a wonderful learning experience. As for the swag, I DID get two free books and a USB stick, which was almost as good as a Cartier watch and made the bag completely useful.

Friday Night: Motion detector lights

On Friday night, I came home from Toronto. I went into the walk-in closet to get changed, reached up to pull the chain on the light to turn it on, but couldn’t find it.

Ken: The chain broke this week.
Me: How do I get the light on then?
Ken: I installed a motion detector light bulb.
Me: But I’m IN the closet. Why hasn’t it come on?
Ken:  You have to come out of the closet. Now walk to the right, along the side of the bed. Now walk to the left and move towards the bathroom door. Take two steps forward, then hop one step back on kind of an angle.
Me: What?
Ken: You did it wrong that time. Try it again. This time, make it more of a 30 degree angle instead of a 45 degree angle.
Me: Can’t you just get another chain?
Ken: No, this is way better. Oh, by the way, when you’re finished, you have to shut the closet door. If Titus walks past, he triggers the light.
Me: I didn’t realize Titus could do Country Line Dancing.
Ken: You’ll get used to it.

Ken was right. Now, if I want the closet light on, I just hum “Achy, Breaky Heart”, the magic takes over, and it’s all good.

My Week 7 – Worst Case Scenarios, and Titus the Dick

Sunday: I get the best birthday card ever:

Specific types of birthday cards are a tradition in my family. My parents always buy me cards with beautiful messages on them, and I always appreciate the sentiments, because they are from the heart, and I love my parents tremendously. My aunts, on the other hand, endeavour to find the funniest cards possible, which are also from the heart, albeit another area of the heart, and I also love them tremendously. This past weekend, my family threw me an early birthday party, and one of my aunts gave me the BEST birthday card ever. I share it with you now, so that you can copy and paste it into any card you want (don’t tell the copyright police). I opened it up and this is what it said:

• Okay, I’m not sure this will work, but let’s try it.
• Act like you’re reading something personal that I wrote in your card.
• After a couple of seconds, laugh as though I wrote something very funny. In fact, tilt your head back when you laugh so it looks extremely funny.
• Now nod your head as though I wrote something very serious and heartfelt. Maybe touch your heart and exhale, but don’t make it look forced.
• Okay, now close the card, look at me and mouth the words “thank you”.

So I followed the directions, and you wouldn’t believe the reaction. Everyone was like “What?!! What did it say?!!” Then I passed it around the room and other people followed the directions too (an Oscar to my brother, who has a PhD and it’s not even for acting!), until everyone who hadn’t read it was freaking out. Try it for yourself—it’s better than “pin the tail on the donkey”, that’s for sure.

Wednesday: Worst Case Scenarios are My Life:

So I was talking to Ken on the phone the other morning, and as we were saying goodbye, his parting comment was, “It’s really windy out. Be careful”. And he said it kind of ominously. But this was the completely wrong thing to say to me, because anyone who knows me understands that I go immediately to the worst case scenario any time someone tells me to be careful. So when Ken said that to me, my first response was confusion, then my mind immediately jumped to one of two scenarios: a) Either he meant that it was so windy that I would need something heavy to hold me down so I wouldn’t be whisked away by a howling gale, in which case I seriously started looking around the house for something heavy to take with me. The dog weighs 95 pounds, but I would have to be tethered to him by his leash, and could I hold on for long enough? Or b) that the wind was some kind of bizarre polar vortex, and if I didn’t run fast enough to the car, I would freeze on the spot, like the characters did in The Day After Tomorrow, which is a great movie, and totally based on meteorological facts. At any rate, when I had recovered from my frightful befuddlement, I asked him, “Why are you telling me to be careful? That’s just weird.”, and he was like, “Because you never dress warmly enough, so make sure you wear a scarf, OK?” At which point, I really felt like saying, “Are you f*cking serious? You freaked me out over a scarf?! There’s NOTHING in the Little Book of Worst Case Scenarios about scarves.” But then it occurred to me that a scarf might be the only thing standing between me and deathly hypothermia, and I realized that Ken must really love me to give me scarf warnings.

Friday: I realize that my dog is a bit of a dick.

So let me just say first that I love my dog. He’s awesome. We got him about 2 months ago, and he’s this big, black Labrador Retriever that another family had to give up. Now I know why. No, just kidding. Titus is actually like the best dog ever, but he has some bad habits that make me crazy, and I’m just going to vent a little.
• Tonight, he licked my pants FIVE times. Seriously. Five times. Do you know why? Because I dropped a Dill Pickle flavoured rice cake on my pants. I picked it up and gave it to him, which apparently is dog-ese for “lick the pants that thing landed on.” (When Ken read this, Titus was sitting next to me and tried to lick my pajamas. When I objected, Ken told me I was like “a human smorgasbord.” He gives the dog a little too much credit.)
• Two days ago, he ate an entire bag of pitas. He has a voracious appetite. Since we got him, he’s eaten 2 full unopened bags of dog treats, a package of tortilla shells, 4 boxes of chicken bouillon cubes and a can of beef bouillon powder, a bag of grapes, a box of cherry tomatoes, an unopened box of Vegetable Thins crackers, and so on and so on. We have learned the hard way to make sure there is no food left out ANYWHERE, because he also has no issue whatsoever with vomiting. When there is no food, however, he will steal dishes out of the sink and carry them around the house. (Just for the record, we DO feed him his own food.)
• He likes to sleep on our bed. We’ve never had a dog that wanted to do this. I wouldn’t mind, except that he weighs almost as much as me, and insists on sleeping between Ken and me. And he likes to SPOON.
• He thinks the cat is another toy. She, however, does not appreciate his playful nature. Have you ever heard a very small cat growl from the depths of her soul, like a demon? Titus doesn’t seem to understand her objections to him, and wants to smell her ladyparts whenever possible. Naturally, this is putting up a barrier between them.
You’d think this would be another “worst case scenario”, but he also does this thing like when you’re petting him and you stop, he puts his nose under your hand and flips your hand up, so you understand that he still wants you to love him. And whenever he eats something he shouldn’t, he looks guilty (right before he throws everything up.) And when he jumps on the bed, slides over and puts his head on your chest and his arm around your neck, you’d forgive him just about anything. Well, I would. I can’t speak for the cat.