Elf On A What?

Last week at work, we were talking about the upcoming holiday season, and a couple of people referenced the new Christmas ‘tradition’—the Elf on a Shelf. This merry little fellow is a posable doll, dressed in a red and white elf costume, which can offer hours of fun for parents, and apparently hours of terror for children. Every morning, the child will get up and find the elf in a new position, having done something clever or naughty during the night. And during the day, there is the reminder that the elf is “watching over you” from somewhere in the house. This, from what I gathered, allows parents to apply leverage to their little ones ie: “You’d better behave—Marcel (or whatever name the parents give the tiny spy) is keeping an eye on you, and if you don’t stop poking your sister, he’ll tell Santa in his daily report!”

While this may sound cute and festive on the surface, it has really insidious undertones. Isn’t it bad enough that “Santa” already knows when you’ve been “bad or good”, sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake? At least Santa is at the North Pole, and might be too busy to constantly monitor whether or not you fed all your vegetables to the dog. But now, there’s a creeper in your own home, who stalks you every minute of the day and reports back to the Big Guy for even minor infractions like colouring outside the lines or drinking straight from the carton or whatever. And there are hundreds of websites devoted to sharing things that people can do with their elves (and quite a few are NOT very PG 13). I took a look at some of them and here are the more disturbing places that the Elf on a Shelf can be found:

1) In a Nativity Scene: These irreverent parents replaced the baby Jesus with their elf, named DJ. He towers over all the other figures like a jolly, stocking-capped god. The shepherds look terrified, and the Wise Men look pissed off, like “We came all this way for that?” Mary just looks confused.

2) Trussed up in a toilet paper roll, wrists tied together, and hanging from the shower curtain rod, having been gagged with what looks like his own collar. This might be the first clue that your parents don’t really like the Elf on a Shelf—or that they’re serial killers.

3) Lying in a drunken stupor on top of a picture frame, after having used black marker to draw devil horns and tails on a family portrait. What kind of behaviour are you trying to role model here? Satan worship or vandalism? And then you wonder why, ten years later, your teenager is playing records backwards and spray painting the neighbour’s fence with pentagrams.

4) Reading the Bible: Not that reading the Bible is disturbing, but it kind of sends a mixed message. Does God have elves or angels? Plus it adds another layer to the paranoia you’re creating in your child. Now the little tyke is being watched by the Elf, Santa, AND GOD. I would just lock myself in my room and never come out.

5) In the hot tub, with a couple of Barbie Dolls: He looks REALLY happy. Maybe because all the Barbies’ hands are under the cellophane water. “Daddy, what are all those ladies doing to Buddy?” “Don’t worry, honey—they’re just jingling his sleigh bells.”

There also seem to be a lot of pictures of the elf defacing walls with crayon, gorging on maple syrup and candy, writing on mirrors, squeezing out toothpaste all over the counter, pooping out Hershey’s Kisses, and writing messages in spilled hot chocolate powder, which makes me think that parents are having way more fun with the Elf than their kids are. Sure, sure, I know that kids get really excited about ANYTHING to do with Christmas, and probably get a kick out of the Elf to a certain extent, but it’s all just a little too Orwellian for me, like the Thought Police have invaded Christmastown. If we really want to draw an analogy to 1984, then Santa is Big Brother, the Elf on a shelf is O’Brien, your child is Winston Smith, and your house is the Ministry of Love (which sounds like a very nice place, but that’s where all the torture-y stuff happened, in case you never read the book). Do you really want your children to wake up Christmas morning chanting, “2+2=5”? Santa was always good enough for me, cuz I loved Big Brother.

Eventually we’ll just blend Hallowe’en, Black Friday, and Christmas all together into a new festival called “Overconsumption”, where adults wearing elf costumes fight to the death in a two-month long tournament to win candy, toys, flat screen TVs and vegetable steamers for their kids. Overall though, I guess if you want to do the Elf on the Shelf thing with your kids, play up the fun, and tone down the fascism. And the sex. That’s my advice.

(As a side note, I would never have an Elf, but I DO have “Sock Monkey in the Wine Frig”. His only job is to make sure no one steals my wine.)

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My Week 268: In Space, No One Can Hear You Drinking Wine

The other day, Ken and I were watching the news and there was a story on about the International Space Station. It was due to receive a shipment of supplies, among which was 12 bottles of fine French wine. “See,” I said, “I could totally be an astronaut if there was wine involved.” And then the story continued to explain that the astronauts wouldn’t be DRINKING the wine—it was an experiment to see how wine AGES IN SPACE. First of all, does anyone actually age wine? Aren’t you just supposed to drink it right away? I mean, the only time I EVER aged wine was when I had a bottle of Chardonnay and somehow it rolled under the couch, and I didn’t find it until we were re-arranging the furniture. And let me tell you, a Chardonnay that’s been lying next to a heating vent for three years pretty much tastes like cat piss. Well, at first anyway—then you get used to it. (Just kidding—I threw it out after the first glass).

At the wine store where my family “makes” wine, the owner is always telling me off for not filling the bottles high enough, because “too much oxygen will get in and, over time, will spoil the wine”, and I’m like, “How long do you think this case is sitting around for? Cuz I’ll be back next month.” And I put “makes” in quotations marks because our role is to order it, pay for it, then come back after 4 weeks and bottle it. What happens in between, I have no idea. All I know is that we show up at our appointment time, and put the wine in the bottles like a well-oiled Rube Goldberg Machine, with me filling the bottles, Dad corking, Mom as the label affixer extraordinaire, and Ken melting the foils on. We have it down to a fine art. (Fun Fact: I couldn’t remember the name of the Machine initially, and all I kept thinking of was a “RuPaul Machine”, but that would involve us the four of us being in drag and throwing shade at each other while we worked, and MY GOD, wouldn’t that be f*cking awesome?).

At any rate, as soon as we heard about the wine being aged in space, I said, “Well, I guess I couldn’t be an astronaut after all if there’s no wine. Watch—I’d get caught sneaking it and NASA would send me home on the next Russian shuttle” and Ken laughed and said, “That’s the ONLY reason?!” and he was right. Here are three other reasons why I could never be an astronaut:

1) I hate countdowns.

I’m the kind of person who thinks counting down is stressful. Like, when they say, “3, 2, 1, Blast-off!!”— do we blast off when we SAY “Blast off” or right AFTER we say it? And I know that some people HATE it when you ask questions for clarification and will get irrationally angry at you (*fake cough* NASA *fake cough*), but if I’m pushing a button that will launch me into space, I should probably know the EXACT moment to do it.

2) I abhor a vacuum.

I’m very much like nature in a lot of ways. For example, I have done several Facebook quizzes and know that if I was a fossil, I would be ammonite, if I was a dinosaur, I would be a Triceratops, and if I was a flower, I would be a lily, which is a weird coincidence because my first name is Hebrew for Lily. Anyway, just like nature, I hate vacuums. They are extremely noisy and yes, I know that a space vacuum is completely different, but I’m sure I would hate it too.

3) There are no Fluevogs in space.

Fluevogs are very fancy shoes, with only around 300 made in each style, and I have just discovered them. A couple of weeks ago, some of the women I work with went on an expedition to the Fluevog store, but I had to catch the train and couldn’t go. The next day they all came in wearing these outrageously cool shoes, all in different styles and colours—I heard someone once describe Fluevogs as the kind of shoes you would wear to an Alice In Wonderland Tea Party, and it’s true. I was super-jealous, and I wanted a pair too, but there was no way I was getting to the store anytime soon, so I checked the local Facebook Buy and Sell site and wouldn’t you know it? There was a pair in my size being sold for HALF PRICE by a woman who was a mutual friend of one of my friends, which meant we were almost sisters, and her house was on my way home from the train station. She’s only worn them once and they were gorgeous, so I bought them. When I got home, I showed them to Ken who said, “Aren’t those heels a little high? How are you going to walk in them when you have arthritis?” Silly Ken. You don’t WALK in Fluevogs. You just stand there feeling glorious. I don’t think NASA would appreciate me wearing pose-y shoes with my space suit, and I sure as hell couldn’t do a space walk in them, but DAMN they are f*cking fabulous. My Director saw them and called them “Bathroom Shoes” because you wear them somewhere special where you only have to walk to the bathroom and back in them. But wait—if space is a gravity-free environment, I COULD probably wear them all day.

So hey, NASA, if you’re interested in a middle-aged woman who’s ready to drink all your wine, is named after a flower, and who is prepared to drive your spaceship in the most kick-ass shoes you’ve ever seen, give me a call in 3, 2, 1…

My Week 255: Exercising Restraint, Fun At Home

I know that a lot of workplaces have group obsessions: some are fixated on a certain TV show, like Game of Thrones or Survivor (mostly because a lot of offices FUNCTION like Game of Thrones or Survivor, where they’re constantly trying to either stab each other in the back for control over Westeros or vote each other off the island), some have football/basketball/bowling pools where they discuss results ad nauseum, and some are relentless in their discussions about certain kinds of special diets and recipe swapping. I was never very much interested in any of these types of group activities—I might be in the hockey pool but my only contribution to any discussion about hockey is “That guy has a cool name. Why didn’t I pick him?!”— and I find myself in the same boat yet again. My colleagues are lovely people, a highly professional and somewhat esoteric group, who don’t watch a lot of TV, don’t follow sports, and aren’t really the “recipe-swapping” type. But they DO have a group obsession, and unfortunately for me, it’s EXERCISE. These people exercise ALL THE TIME. They talk about exercise, they have fitness plans, they are the most physically fit people I have ever met. It puts me to shame. I have to tell you right up front that I don’t exercise. EVER. My idea of exercising is pausing Netflix, walking downstairs to the refrigerator, and pouring another glass of wine. The closest I ever came to having an actual fitness plan was once, a few years ago, I bought a recumbent cycle, which is a kind of exercise cycle where you can sit in a comfortable reclining position while your feet do all the work. So it’s like walking fast, but the rest of your body gets to take a break. Awesome. And the best part is that you can drink while you do it. It was the most relaxing fitness plan ever—I would pour a glass of wine, sit in my Lazyboy/exercise machine and peddle away until I had burned off enough calories to offset the wine. After a while, the machine broke (I may or may not have spilled some Chardonnay on the control panel), and I moved on to a more satisfactory level of exercise, which is to say, none at all.

10 reps each side and don’t spill any!

But now I feel the peer pressure of working with people who LOVE to exercise. They all have these electronic wristband things that tell them how many steps they’ve taken in one day. How many f*cking STEPS, you heard me. Last month, after walking the perimeter of the conference centre where we were working in order to discuss plans for the day, one of my colleagues cheerfully announced that we had just put in 3, 000 steps. I was like, whuh? And she explained that her goal was to reach 10,000 steps each day so now she only had 7,000 to go. I wanted to ask if there was like a medal or some chocolate as a prize, because I would be all over that, but from what I gathered, it’s simply an intrinsically motivated goal, which is to say, THERE IS NO PRIZE AT ALL.

Then the other day we were sitting at lunch, and everyone was sharing their plans for later. One person was going to Zumba class (I thought Zumba was the name of the elephant in A Jungle Book, but apparently it’s some kind of weird Latin fusion/cardio/dance thing). Another person was going to Aquafit, which is exercise that takes place in the water. I call this “having a vigorous bath”, but apparently Aquafit is also a cardio thing for people who need low impact exercise, having blown out their knee last year doing extreme yoga. EXTREME YOGA? WTF? I can’t even sit cross-legged anymore, never mind “extreme” cross-legged sitting. Someone else was taking tennis lessons and was gearing up for a sweaty evening on the court. The last person was “going for a run” because she needed to get back into shape for a marathon next month. (Who in their right mind “goes for a run”? The only time I run is if something is chasing me). Then they all started reminiscing about other types of classes they had taken in the past, sharing war stories about step class, and crazy instructors who went too fast or were too demanding, and so on. Then there was a lull in the conversation, and they all looked at me expectantly. What was I going to say—“I tried kickboxing once but the gloves were too heavy”? So I smiled nervously, stopped eating my cheesecake and said, “Does anyone have a good recipe for quinoa?”

Fun At Home 1

Me: (*goes into Ken’s bathroom): Ergh! Why are all the toilet paper rolls white?! How am I supposed to make my toilet look like it’s smoking a cigar?
Ken: What?!
Me: Nothing. (*leaves bathroom)

10 minutes later

Me: Come and look at my toilet. I saw how to do this on Facebook.
Ken: Haha! Hey, the paper towel rolls are brown. We could use one of those and it would look like the toilet was smoking a cigarillo.
Me: See, this is why I married you.

Anybody got a light?

Fun At Home 2

Ken: Aw, the screen on this door is ripping.
Me: Good job I bought some spline the other day.
Ken: Yes, I used that spline on the kitchen door.
Me: It’s good spline.
Ken: Very good spline.
Me: Do you think we just like saying ‘spline’ A LOT?
Ken: Yep.
Both: Spline, spline, spline, spline, spline!!!
Me: What a great word. Do you think it’s out of our system now?
Ken: I should spline so.

 

My Week 244: The Need To Exorcise

Sometimes it seems like I’m just a weird magnet. And by that, I don’t mean you can stick me on your fridge where I will proceed to talk only to your dog and demand wine; I mean that I seem to have the uncanny knack of attracting all the weird things.

On Thursday, I was sitting on the train, minding my own damn business as one does, when a well-dressed young girl around 20 years old sat down next to me. She reeked of perfume to the point that I was almost gagging. Now, I’m not ALLERGIC to perfume—in fact, I rather like it, but being enveloped in a napalm-ish cloud of it was death to my sinuses. Unfortunately, the train was packed and there was nowhere else to go. Out of the corner of my watering eye, I saw her put down her seat tray and place her cell phone on it. Then she pulled a red velvet pouch out of her purse. I was initially impressed, like, ‘Hmm—what a great idea for making sure your headphones don’t get all tangled up with the other sh*t in your purse’ and I was mentally doing a walkthrough of my belongings at home and wondering if it would be too pretentious to keep earbuds in a Tiffany’s or Pandora pouch because I didn’t have a plain one on hand, and I spend INORDINATE amounts of time unravelling my earbud cord and getting my fingers all caught up in it and whatnot. Then the girl patted her forehead and her chest with the pouch, and I moved away slightly because maybe the heavy perfume was covering up the fact that she was REALLY SWEATY, and I’m never sure whether things like that are airborne and her sweat could somehow get on me, and I have enough trouble being locked in a hurtling tube with 100 other people and all their germs in the first place.

But she put the pouch down on her lap, and pulled out a long string of something, and I was thinking, “Those are the strangest earbuds I’ve ever seen” when I realized it was a string of beads. She gathered them up in her hand, closed her eyes, and started fingering each bead in turn. She was praying. And then I had a terrible, sudden thought that maybe she knew something I didn’t know about the train, and I was like, “OMG are we going to crash??!!  Is her weird bead-worship the only thing standing between me and a fiery derailment?!”

This went on for over almost half an hour, her in silent contemplation of the divine and me in silent worst case scenario mode. I had located the emergency hammer and definitively concluded that if we DID crash, I was jumping over her perfume-y ass to get out of the train, when she opened her eyes and put down the rosary. She started swirling her hands around her head like she was fake-washing her face, and I moved even further away in case she wanted to wash mine too–I was having a particularly good mascara day, so hard pass. When she was done with the air-grooming, she patted herself with the bag again, and I realized that she was, in fact, crossing herself with it. Then she put her hands in her lap and stared straight ahead for the next half-hour until we arrived in Toronto and I didn’t know whether to thank her for saving us all with her “Severus Snape at the Quidditch Match” level of concentration, or tell her to ease off on the Ysatis.

This event was simply the cherry on top of all the weirdness that I’ve been experiencing lately. Last week, I came downstairs in the morning, and there was a lovely, tiny origami frog/butterfly type of thing right smack in the middle of the kitchen counter.

“Aw,” I thought. “I didn’t know that Ken knew how to do origami. How sweet!” So when he came down, I thanked him, and he said, “I didn’t do that—I thought YOU made it.” And after the Mysterious Case of the Mouthguard on the Landing, which was NEVER solved, by the way, you can only imagine how I reacted to this, which was to insist that we search the house for an intruder with fine motor skills and bad teeth.

But wait—it gets worse. The other night, my mom was away so I invited my dad for dinner. I was running a little late so I called Ken and suggested that he go and get some Swiss Chalet take-out. I was close to home, so I said, “You can either take Dad with you or leave him at the house—I won’t be long.” So about 15 minutes later, I pulled into the driveway. From my car, I could see someone in the kitchen—it looked like he was pouring a glass of wine. But by the time I got through the door, he was gone. “Dad! I’m home!” I started yelling, but there was no answer. Maybe he was in the bathroom. I wandered around downstairs, Titus dogging my steps, but there was no sign of him anywhere. So I did what any normal person would do—I went out on the porch and I called Ken:

Me: Um, is my dad with you?
Ken: Yep, he’s right here!
Dad: Hi!!
Me:
Ken: What’s wrong?
Me: There’s someone in the house! I saw a man in the kitchen–it looked like he was pouring a glass of wine and now he’s gone. I’m staying out here until you get back.
Ken: It’s just your imagination. Your mind EXPECTED to see your dad standing at the counter pouring a glass of wine because that’s what he ALWAYS does.
Dad: Hey!
Me: It WASN’T my imagination!
Ken: Go back in and look around. If Titus isn’t worried, I doubt there’s anyone in there.
Titus (from inside): I’m a terrible guard dog! Don’t rely on me!

Anyway, I went inside and got my pepper spray and a glass of wine (like father like daughter), then sat in my office with my back to the wall so I could see anyone sneaking up on me, waiting for them to get home. And now I’m wondering if that girl on the train was really praying, or maybe she was trying to perform an exorcism.

The other weird thing that happened last week isn’t so much unsettling as it just made me go “Huh?” I pulled into the train station parking lot and there was a truck bed camper up on blocks next to the dumpster.

A Clockwork Camper?

It hadn’t been there the day before, and I didn’t pay too much attention until suddenly, the door swung open and a guy stepped out. He stretched and looked up at the sky. And that’s when I realized that he was dressed EXACTLY like the main character from A Clockwork Orange, from his bowler hat to his white outfit to his cane. He started kind of skipping across the parking lot, swinging his cane (I’m guessing in time to the song ‘Singing in the Rain’), then he disappeared. I wonder if he knows origami?

Exactly how he was dressed.

My Week 235: Home Alone

For the past few days, Ken was at a conference in one of our western provinces, and I had to come home early to take care of Titus, which meant being in the house by myself, something I despise. Even in Toronto, I have a roommate because I hate being alone at night (also, the rent is outrageous and I couldn’t afford to live there without her). When I first moved to Toronto, my condo was paid for by my company because I was on temporary contract, so I didn’t have a roommate, and it was awful. I came home from work every night and literally searched the entire condo, which didn’t take long because it was only 600 square feet. Still, I would call Ken while I looked in the closets, under the bed, and behind the giant column in the corner where only a very thin robber could squeeze. I don’t know what I thought would happen if I actually DID find someone—put Ken on speakerphone and have him sternly order the intruder out? Say “You’ll be sorry when my husband gets here–in two hours”?

It’s even harder at home because we have a very large, late 1800s Victorian house with a full walk-up attic, and searching it would take a really long time. There are 6 doors leading to the outside on the main floor alone, and a balcony door upstairs, although I doubt a burglar would bother climbing up to the porch roof when there are SO MANY DAMNED ACCESS POINTS ALREADY. Before I go to bed, I make sure ALL of them are locked, and that all the outside lights are on. And then I’m locked IN the house, which creaks and makes weird sounds. Oh, it’s not haunted though—I used to live in a house that was haunted and this one definitely isn’t, which is one good thing at least, and if you’re interested in the haunted house, you can read all about it in My Week 69: Ghost Stories.

I was talking to one of my aunts last night, and she hates being alone in the house too.

Aunt: Is everything locked up?
Me: Yes. I double-checked. And I can lock myself in the bedroom now—there’s a hook on the inside of the door.
Aunt: What kind of weaponry are we talking about?
Me: A baseball bat in the bedroom, another one by the toilet in the ensuite, and a hammer on the window ledge.
Aunt:
Me: Too much? I know it sounds crazy.
Aunt: Oh no—I was just wondering why you didn’t mention the pepperspray.
Me: Damn! I left it in Toronto.
Aunt: I keep mine in my bedside table.
Me: Ooh, good thinking.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one in the family who is well-armed.

But wait, I hear you say—you’re not BY YOURSELF; you have Titus. Well, let me relieve you of any delusion you may have had that Titus can be counted on in a crisis. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that he has no problem with intruders in the house—our doorstep has been crossed by bats, birds, squirrels, raccoons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and he has batted nary an eyelash. In fact, the last time a squirrel got in the house, I was convinced it was a burglar, and as I was creeping towards our family room with a giant knife in my hand, trembling with fear, he lay on the living room couch and barely lifted his head when I shrieked in horror at the sight of the tree rat climbing my wall. In fact, the only time he DOES lift his head is when we’re lying in bed all locked in and cozy, and suddenly he pretends to hear a noise and jumps off the bed:

Me: What?! Why are your ears up?
Titus: I thought I heard something.
Me: Like what?
Titus: Oh, uh, like a…hey, open the door and I’ll go see.
Me: Don’t lie. I’m not letting you out of here.
Titus: But I’m bored!
Me: It’s 3 o’clock in the morning!! How are you ‘BORED’?! Go the f*ck to sleep like a normal dog.
Titus: OK, ok, I’ll stay in here. Can you at least put Netflix on?
Me: Fine, but no cooking shows—I don’t want you drooling on the bed.
Titus: Is there any wine left?
Me: What do you think?
Titus: Lush.

Who’s the lush?

As you can see, he’s not much use in the watchdog department. For all his formidable size—100 pounds of extra-tall black Lab—and intimidating bark, he’s pretty much a big suck. But I’m sure if there WAS someone in the house, he’d be all over them. Especially if they had wine.

Here’s a quick, funny story for you:

Once, when I was teaching, my class was studying Lysistrata by Aristophanes. The students were seniors and it was an academic class, so the kids decided they wanted to act it out. Authentically. If you know anything about early Greek theatre, all the parts were played by men, and they differentiated between the sexes using masks, and because this was a comedy, the ‘men’ were also identified with exaggerated fake phalluses and the ‘women’ with exaggerated fake boobs. So on the day of the performance, the students all dressed up, with the girls taking the male roles and vice versa, just for fun. So there they were, all wearing togas made out of bedsheets, Hallowe’en masks on their faces, the girls swinging long balloons and pool noodles strapped around their waists and the boys strutting with balloons and basketballs tied to their chests. Just as the largest boy in the class said his line in excellent falsetto, “Indeed, I believe I could—I practice the kick-dancing!” and demonstrated thusly, the classroom door opened and my new principal walked in. She stopped and stared:

Principal:
Me: We’re doing a play.
Principal:
Me: It’s Greek…
Principal: I needed to talk to you about something but it can wait.

She left, and as soon as the door shut, the whole class erupted in laughter. I didn’t know what would happen next, but when I saw her again, her only comment was, “It looked like they were having a good time.” I mention all of this now, because I was reminded of it last week when I yelled the word “Herpes!!” across the aisle to a colleague just as one of the big bosses was walking by. She also stopped and stared, and I explained that it was something I was reading. I showed her and she laughed, kind of like “Ah. Ha ha ha” and walked away. Sigh. At least I didn’t say ‘penis’ again.

My Week 228: Dishing It Out

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks and I know I have a lot of catching up to do, mainly because I got tagged for a couple of things by some blogger pals. I try hard to keep track but I only post once a week, so sometimes I have to go a ways back to remember what I’m supposed to be doing, and I only respond to these things if a) the questions are interesting or b) I can just make sh*t up. I don’t have an “award-free blog” which I recently learned is a thing, and frankly it befuddles me. It’s like celebrating Christmas but telling people “don’t buy me any damn presents” or being the Jehovah’s Witness of blogging (and in a strange twist of fate, they actually just came to my door right now to battle for my immortal soul, as they do fairly regularly. I won, as I also regularly do, but they took a moment to remind me that Jehovah loves me anyway, which is an award in and of itself, am I right?). Anyway, I guess some people have their own agenda or whatnot, and blog awards interfere with that, but me, I’m always looking for a topic that I can turn into something mydangblogggy, and just have a good time with it. Now, I’m not fishing for any more nominations—I’ve been tagged in a few awards already and it’s just the nicest thing imaginable to me that someone cared enough about my writing to do that, especially since I know that I’ll never get a Pulitzer or even a White Pine Award (that’s an Ontario thing) but goddammit, I’ve been nommed for the “Made My Dish Award” and I’m super-pumped. This award was totally invented by my friend Cecelia at Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks because I made dinner using one of her recipes, and it was delicious (I used gluten-free pasta but don’t tell her because I don’t want to give this award back). So now I have to answer her three questions, and they’re very good ones:

Unwrapped? Hard pass.

1) When you leave a restaurant, do you look for a bowl or mints or candies?

I might look for them, but I would NEVER touch them. Have you never seen those exposés where they take a blacklight and shine it on the candy bowl? There’s enough feces on those fruit drops to give you a nice healthy dose of dysentery. It’s a sad fact that a lot of people don’t wash their hands after they use the bathroom on the grounds that “I never actually touched anything” but YOU DID, BOB. And then Bob touches the candies with his poopy hands and it becomes a dish of norovirus-covered nougat. I have a strict policy to never deliberately ingest anything that is offered to me in an unwrapped state (see below for details). I also sanitize the handles of shopping carts, as well as the headrest and tray of my airplane seat. I recently watched a documentary about airline cleanliness, and it was a shock that not only are airplanes hotbeds of bacteria, but that the headrest is the dirtiest part of the plane. Who knew?

2) What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

I assume that means “on purpose” because I have eaten a lot of stuff I never intended to. In fact, the other day, I was walking downtown and it was really windy. In Toronto in the wintertime, they lay down salt on the sidewalks so heavily that it’s literally inches thick, but people walk on it and crush it until it’s as fine as sand and intermingled with dirt and other unsavoury elements. So there I was, walking along and talking to Ken on the phone:

Me: So I’m taking the 4:35 train on—oh my god!!!
Ken: What’s wrong?!
Me: The wind just gusted and blew sidewalk salt into my mouth! Argh!
Ken: Eww.
Me (spitting): It’s stuck to my lip gloss! Oh my god, it’s from the SIDEWALK. People PEE ON THE SIDEWALK!  I’m going to get so sick!

And I did. I just spent the last week on antibiotics, and I don’t know if it was the dirty sidewalk salt, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

3) What is a candy that should be invented/sold?

If there was a candy that tasted like a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I would be happy, although I know you can get ice wine chocolate, so maybe it’s already been invented. I used to really like salted chocolate but right now, that’s giving me terrible flashbacks.

And as you know, if you answer any or all of these three questions in the comments, you can also claim a “Made My Dish Award”, the dish in question being a blog.

Also, I was tagged by my pal and fellow Canuck (with an abiding love of Denmark), Cyranny of Cyranny’s Cove for the Solidarity Blogger award, so thank you for that. There’s only one thing I have to do for this, and that is to talk about what solidarity in blogging means to me. So I’ll get serious for a moment and say that if it wasn’t for this wonderful blogging community, I would never visit other countries, try great recipes, learn about art and graffiti, read incredible poetry, listen to great music, laugh (especially at the adventures of Alistair and Alexis), cry, commiserate, rejoice, grieve, think deeply about important topics, and mostly try to bring a little levity to YOUR world.

Synergy:

Ken and I have been married so long that sometimes we don’t have actual conversations. We just KNOW.

Me: That.
Ken: Yes.
Me: I know, right?
Ken: Uh huh.

The other night, we were driving home, and we passed a sh*tload of pylons:

Me: What?
Ken: Couldn’t get a building permit.
Me: Parking lot then.
Ken: Mmm.
Me: That fire.
Ken: Yeah.

The one thing we DON’T have synergy with, though, is music. Especially when we’re driving and Ken has control of the radio.

Me: What IS that? Is that a documentary? Like, on the radio? NO.
Ken: She’s an author. It’s interesting.
Me: She’s crying because she got divorced and her mom won’t forgive her. Her mom needs to be more supportive and you need to find something else to listen to…OK, I’m not 60—try again…this sounds like elevator music…Disco is DEAD, Ken…not COUNTRY!…put on Virgin Radio…you just switched the channel from one commercial to another…go back—that was Nirvana…yes, I know you hate that Calvin Harris song, but I like it—don’t be so judge-y.

We usually just end up compromising on the Comedy Channel:

Ken: Is that?
Me: Yeah. I love him.
Ken: That one joke.
Me: I know, right?

And just this morning:

Ken: The doorbell rang?
Me: Yup.
Ken: Jehovah loves you.
Me: Obvs.

Synergy.

My Week 202: I Excel at STEM, An Update

STEM, if you didn’t know this, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There’s a lot of concern about getting more girls into STEM fields and rightly so. But recently, I realized that I’ve become very STEM-y as I’ve aged:

Science:

Up until a little while ago, I really struggled with directions. Not directions like “Twist off cap and pour”, but the actual compass directions. If somebody told me to go North, I would just look at them blankly and be like, “Which way am I NOW? Is North left, right, up or down from here?” But then I realized that I shouldn’t take pride in being perpetually one step away from being lost in the woods, so I decided to become better at navigation. It’s easy in Toronto, where Yonge Street acts as a permanent point of reference: towards the lake is South and the other way is North. Then I can just mentally orient myself from there. I’ve been practicing in my head, and the other day, a tourist approached me when I was out at lunch for directions to Bay Street. I very confidently told him to go west one block. Then I went back to the office and looked it up just to make sure. Luckily, I was right or that poor guy would have ended up in a very sketchy neighbourhood. I’ve also been working on this at home based on which way our house faces. It’s West, by the way. We’ve lived here for thirteen years, and I just found that out yesterday. I’m a work in progress.

I’m also very good at telling the difference between real science and pseudo-science. Many years ago, Ken and I lived in a different house with a well that kept going dry. A neighbour suggested that we get a water witch to come out. Apparently, this witch—well, warlock really—had a great reputation at locating the ideal spot for a new well. So he came to the house with his dousing rods, wandered about for a bit waving them around, and then said, “There’s so much water on this land!” He said this while standing next to a 12 foot deep pond, and 100 yards away from the Otter Creek. Thanks, Merlin.

Technology:

The kitchen faucet in my condo in Toronto won’t work. I called a plumber who told me that a service call is $160 just to look at it, then $160 for every hour after that to fix it. I was appalled, and also a little disappointed that I hadn’t gone into the skilled trades. My roommate was like, “What are you going to do?” And I said, “Imma fix it my damned self.” That’s a direct quote. I don’t know why I phrased it like that, but in retrospect, it was a tad overconfident.

I watched a couple of Youtube videos, in which I learned that the first thing you have to do is turn off the water. So I got back from work, and pulled out the pot drawer (actual pots, not marijuana, just so we’re clear), and I looked for the shut-off. Then I did what any normal person would do. I called Ken.

Me: I just sent you a picture of the underneath of my sink. Which way do I turn the knob?
Ken: Are you sure that’s the right one? It looks like it goes to the dishwasher.
Me (crawling inside the cupboard): Oh yeah. The pipes come in from the bathroom. Hang on a minute.

5 minutes later…

Me: I took the drawer out of the vanity and I see the taps. I sent you a picture.
Ken: The valves are right there. Turn them to the right.
Me (crawling inside vanity): They won’t move. They’re stuck.
Ken: Do you have any WD-40?
Me (pleasantly surprised): Why yes. Yes I do.

To make a long story short, after about half an hour and half a can of WD-40, the shut off valves moved and I turned off the water. I used an Allen key to remove the faucet handle, and I could see the set screw. I was almost at the cartridge thing-y that the guy on Youtube said was the problem. But then, the stupid set screw stripped as I was trying to take it out with my rather suspect “universal screwdriver”. I ended up having to put the whole thing back together, all angry and sweaty from being inside very small cabinets; otherwise we would have had no water in the condo at all. So I called my landlord and he said to call a plumber, but if the plumber says, “Huh—the set screw is stripped—this is going to cost a LOT more money”, my response will be “Do I look like the kind of lady who could take apart a tap?!” But at least I tried.

Engineering:

No one knows what Engineers do. I probably do a lot of Engineering type things without even realizing it, and I’m most likely VERY good at them.

Math:

Right now, Ken is building a new porch for the front of our house. It’s an exciting project, and every day he gets a little bit more accomplished. I’ve been helping out where I can, passing screws, holding a piece of wood straight or whatnot, but it’s getting harder because now he’s asking me math questions.

Ken: I need to build three more steps. They’re five feet wide with a run of 17 inches between them. How many linear feet do you think I need?
Me: How fast are the trains going and what time did they leave the station…?
Ken: I need to buy wood for the steps. I’m thinking of 2x8s.
Me: But if the steps are 17 inches deep, then that’s only 16. Don’t you want them to hang over a little? What about getting 2x6s and using three per step?
Ken: Ooh, you’re doing grown-up math!
Me: F*ck off.

People tease me about not being proficient with math, and I make fun of myself all the time too, but the fact is that I’m actually very mathematical when I put my mind to it. For example, I know based on scientific calculations that my favourite wine glass will hold five ounces of wine if I fill it to a certain level and thanks to careful research (Google) with white wine at 120 calories per five-ounce serving size, I know exactly how much I can drink every day. I hope you’re impressed because I’m just f*cking dazzling myself with my math/wine prowess. Also, earlier, I had to write my mom a cheque for the deposit on a cruise I’m taking with her and my dad this fall, as well as the money for my brother’s birthday present. And as a math prodigy, I used the tools at hand to make the calculations. And I mean LITERALLY at hand, because I wrote the numbers ON MY HAND and added them up.

Palm Pilot

 

See how I even carried the one? I write things on my hand all the time, and I used to tell people that it was my “palm pilot”, which I thought was quite witty and clever, but no one ever laughs at that anymore.

But I MUST be getting better at math, because on the way to the lumber store, Ken handed me a piece of paper and asked me to “check his calculations”. I said that it was very nice how much confidence he had in my math skills. Then I added everything up on my hand and said, “Looks right to me.”

A Quick Update

So I still haven’t gotten up the nerve to ask my colleague “Jim” how exactly I’m like Jeffrey, but I’ve been doing a little ‘detective slash stalker’ work. I sent a LinkedIn invite to Jim and when he accepted it, I looked up all his other contacts until I found the one guy named Jeffrey, who also has a ton of mutual contacts with me and Jim, so it must be him. His profile said that he was “creative and agile”. I agree with ‘agile’ considering how much time I spent crawling in and out of cupboards this week. ‘Creative’ on some days, OK. I am, however, not bald in the slightest. The quest for truth continues.

Black and White Challenge Week Five

 

My Week 185: Good for the Soul, The Titus Challenge

Mindfulness

Last week, we had a staff meeting and the powers that be brought in a guest speaker. We’ve had these before, always on the same topic: how to relax and be stress-free. What does it say about a job when your superiors continually think you should all calm the f*ck down? Personally, I don’t find the job particularly stressful, considering that in a previous life, I was responsible for overseeing the wellbeing and antics of over 90 teenagers a day, and regularly brought home hours upon hours of work that had to be completed on the weekend. Also, I now work with really nice colleagues who never harass me by text message or call my house late at night to yell at me. At any rate, regardless of the comparatively little stress I struggle under in the workplace, we’ve had a succession of “mindfulness” speakers. The last one told us that “anxiety is a choice” and that if we simply opted to get out of bed each day with a positive attitude, we could live anxiety-free lives, and I was like, Damn! If I had only known that YEARS ago, imagine how different my life would be?! All I have to do is CHOOSE not to worry incessantly about whether I just said something dumb, or whether my hands are clean for the fifth time in one hour, or whether my cat secretly is plotting against me (she is—I just asked her and she admitted it), and my life would be perfect. Ironically, this particular speaker then got really angry when people started leaving the room, and insisted that we were not allowed to look at our phones during her presentation, and I so badly wanted to say, “Why don’t you just CHOOSE to let that not bother you?”

The speaker this past week was much better, mostly because she used comedy to disguise her oversimplifications, and everyone loves a good laugh, am I right? The first thing we had to do was identify 3 things that we did in the past week to help us relax, write them down, and then share them with our table. I put “Wrote, Drank, Watched America’s Next Top Model” because I am nothing if not honest, and also I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I put Yoga, Meditation, Listened to a Podcast on the Benefits of Kale—they all know me too well. Interestingly, when it came time to share, everyone at my table had a variation of Drank, which either says a lot about the times we’re living in, or that I’m a bad influence on my team. But the best part was her Stress-Wheel, which was divided into sections that we needed to give attention to. My favourite was Soul, which I’m assuming was a metaphor rather than an ACTUAL soul, because I don’t think God would be too impressed if you landed at the pearly gates and you were like, “OK, I killed a few people, but I ATE KALE.” The list of things she proposed to help soothe the soul is as follows:

1) Yoga

OK, what the f*ck is with the obsession with yoga? I just googled Yoga Poses and they all look incredibly painful and not relaxing at all. She made us do a yoga pose which involve standing on one leg—how the hell am I supposed to relax when I’m freaking out about falling over in front of 100 people?

2) Walk somewhere different

I live in downtown Toronto. I walk somewhere “different” simply by stepping out my front door, and it’s not relaxing in the slightest when a large man wearing a pink mini-kilt demands that you look at his ass.

3) Don’t use a watch

If I get rid of all the things that tell me what time it is, then how will I know what time it is?! Yes, I know that time is a human construct, but if it’s not a watch, or a cellphone, it’s the sun in the sky telling me to go home. Also, I’m a grown-up, dammit—how will I know that it’s 5 o’clock SOMEWHERE if I don’t have a clue what time it is? Then I’ll be daydrinking and most likely get in trouble at work.

4) Unplug from human vacuums

This would be a great premise for a horror film about a mad scientist who turns people into vacuums, and then sends them out, like a cross between zombies and vampires, into the world to feast on the unsuspecting public who are innocently wandering around aimlessly without watches in strange neighbourhoods looking for kale chips, and every time they stop to do a yoga pose, the human vacuum attacks! And the only way to stop them is to unplug the mad scientist’s human vacuum machine, which is like a cross between an electro-shock machine, a Roomba factory, and a very large E-Z Bake Oven. (Yes, I know she meant people who suck you dry emotionally, but this is way more fun.)

5) Have a Screen Free Day

We all looked at each other and said, “Does she even know where we work?” I myself have 3 computer screens in my office, and I use all of them. And if I had a screen free day, then I would miss America’s Next Top Model, and there goes any relaxation I might get. Oh well, there’s always the drink.

The Titus Challenge

Titus: I hear you’ve stopped eating pork. You realize that means bacon too, right?
Me: Sigh. I know. It’s breaking my heart, but I saw a video recently of a pig solving a puzzle. Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. I wouldn’t eat a dog, so how can I eat a pig?
Titus: Pigs are NOT smarter than dogs. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig who responded to commands based on Harry Potter spells?
Me: I’m sure there are pigs out there who could do that. Besides, you have a pretty sloppy Leviosa, so let’s not get carried away.
Titus: It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SA.
Me: Look at this video. She’s trained this pig to do 17 different tricks.
Titus: Damn. He gives a great high five.
Me: I know, right?
Titus: But does the Avada Kedavera spell render him seemingly dead?
Me: Dead? Like for a fraction of a second before you jump back up and try to snatch the Corn Pop out of my hand?
Titus: Dead, jumping in the air, whatever. No bacon? Now that’s harsh. OK, find me a pig that can do Leviosa better than me, and I might consider it.
Me: Challenge accepted. Accio the wine bottle, will you?
Titus: Is it 5 o’clock somewhere ALREADY?!
Me: I dunno—I’m not wearing a watch.

My Week 176: First Thursdays, Naptime at the Movies Part Deux

First Thursday

Sometime in January, I made the fatal mistake of saying to one of the Directors at the secret agency, “Whatever happened to First Thursdays?” ‘First Thursdays’ is NOT, as you may have imagined, a clever code name for a secret agent, but refers to a social event that is held on the first Thursday of every month. After work on this special day, we would all head to the nearest bar for drinks and food. It was a great way to mix, mingle, and watch senior management get tipsy. The event had fallen by the wayside over the last year, but we had a lot of new staff, and for some crazy reason, I thought I should bring it up.

“Oh yeah!” he said. “That was always a lot of fun.” Then he said the 5 words that filled my heart with dread. “Why don’t you organize it?”

He was a Director—I couldn’t very well say no. So I pondered for a while, and thought, “Well, OK.” Actually, my first thought was “Oh, F*CK”, but then I remembered how nice First Thursdays was for new staff to get to know people, so I decided to do it. A couple of weeks ago, I composed a really good email, using Broadway font as the banner, you know, to catch people’s attention. I’m normally a Times New Roman girl, or Calibri if I’m being lazy (my secret shame being that I was a diehard Comic Sans user for years until I was the subject of a font intervention, but that’s another story), so this was thinking outside the box for me. I sent the email to the Director in question for his approval. He emailed back right away with “Cool! I’ll be there!” But then I realized that I had no idea how to send an email out to over 100 people the way he used to do. Later that day, I bumped into him:

Me: So was the email about First Thursdays all right?
Director: Yeah, it’ll be fun.
Me: How do I send it out to everyone? Is there some staff link I can use?
Director: Oh, you can’t send it out in an email.
Me: Why not?
Director: Well, we wouldn’t be much of a secret agency if someone hacked our email and found out where we all were after work, would we?
Me: If someone hacked our email, doesn’t that mean they already know where we work, and could find us HERE?
Director: Well, there are liability issues…
Me: Can I put up posters?
Director: Um…I’d just spread it by word of mouth.

This was turning into a bit of an ordeal. I didn’t really have much choice though—at this point, the only two people who knew about the upcoming First Thursday were me and the Director. If I didn’t spread it around, February 1 would come, and he would go to the bar and be the only one there (since I had no plan to actually go myself under the circumstances). So I told a few people in my immediate vicinity, until I came to one of my more outgoing colleagues who said, “Why aren’t you using the chicken?” And I’m going to pause for a second so that you too can experience the complete lack of understanding that I felt in that moment. Ready now? OK, so “the chicken” is a rubber chicken wearing a sign around its neck that can be used to advertise social events. The sign tells people where to go and at what time, and instructs people to “pass the chicken on” to the next person. Brilliant, right? So I created a sign, stuck it on a rubber chicken, and gave it to someone to start passing it around. My job was done. And that was the last I saw of the chicken.

On February 1, after work, I headed down to the bar. There were a couple of people there, and after a while, a few more showed up, including the Director who’d started this debacle, until there were about 10 of us there. I thought it was a little strange, considering there are over 100 people working at the agency—10% turnout was lower than I’d expected. But we had a good time, drinking and eating and conversing awkwardly (well that was me, of course):

Colleague 1: Aren’t you drinking?
Colleague 2: No, I had drinks the last two nights.
Me: Don’t feel bad—I’ve had drinks the last 300—700—wait, when did I have that surgery and couldn’t drink…?
Colleagues: *awkward silence*
Me: Well, I don’t DAYDRINK.
Colleagues: *awkward silence*
Me: I’m kidding, OBVIOUSLY.

I just let that hang there so they could decide for themselves which part I was actually kidding about.

The next day, I was at a meeting and the subject came up:

Manager 1: Did anyone go to First Thursday?
Me: Yeah, it was good. There were only about 10 people though. I thought the chicken was going around.
Manager 2: Is that what the chicken was for?! It was creepy.
Manager 3: I think someone hung it up by a string in the break room.
Me: Next time I’m putting up posters.
Director: OK.

Naptime at the Movies: Part Deux

Last week, Ken and I went to see the movie Jumanji. I’d had a very trying day, being right in the middle of a short story—I know how I want it to end, but I can’t figure out yet how to get there. I was exhausted. We went to the VIP theatre, you know, the one with the reclining armchairs where there are waitresses who bring you wine and poutine. The movie was hilarious, but afterwards, I realized that there were definitely some gaps in my memory between the beginning and the end. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that a) I have a bad habit of falling asleep during the movies and b) not long ago, I played a pretty good prank on my brother for doing the same thing during Bladerunner 2049 (I told him that Ryan Gosling’s character actually had wings, and I was so convincing that he had to google it later to see if I was lying or not—here’s the link if you want the full background story.). So the next day, Ken and I were driving to his parents and discussing the film:

Ken: I thought Jumanji was really funny. I like the part about the cake.
Me: Me too. And those guys on motorcycles were crazy!
Ken: I know, right? And their leader—talk about nasty, the way he vomited up mice.
Me (pause): Uh huh…the mice–yuck.
Ken: And how he was made out of giant bugs, and at the end, when he was defeated, the bugs all fell apart and scurried away.
Me: That IS really nasty.
Ken: It was crazy how he kept popping up out of nowhere because he had those wings.
Me: Oh yeah, those wings.
Ken: Seriously? You’re going with the wings? You WERE asleep! Oh my god, wait until I tell your brother!
Me: You jerk! Ok, but was Nick Jonas actually in the movie? Because I feel like that was part of some weird dream.
Ken: Yeah, he was there. With wings on. HAHA.

My Week 175: Adventures in Rooms

Last week, I went on an adventure. To a castle. I hope right now that you have a vision in your head of mydangblog, dressed in golden armour, engaged in swordplay on the battlements of a stronghold, a handsome squire (named Ken) tossing me a stick with a studded ball attached to it, which the squire insists is called a “mace” and he won’t give me a cooler weapon, or at least one with a cooler-sounding name, but despite my handsome squire’s insolence, I defeat Sir Loin of Beef and his cow army and we celebrate with a barbeque…

OK, in reality, I went to an Adventure Room at Casa Loma. For those of you to whom either of those things is a mystery, let me explain. An Adventure Room is a live-action game where a group of people work together to solve puzzles and escape from a room that they are trapped in. Casa Loma is a stunningly beautiful, ACTUAL castle in Toronto. It was built by a wealthy financier at the turn of the last century, and it rivals anything you might see in Europe. Or Disney. I went with a group from work, and I was really excited to go—the week before. On the actual day, true to introverted form, I was overwhelmed with the usual dread of social interaction. But I’d played it smart—it was $48 and I had no intention of forfeiting that much money just to go home and watch Season 3 of Elementary all tucked up in my cozy bed…which would have been a lovely option too.

But I work with really nice people, and I’ve known most of them for a while, so off we went on our adventure, which actually began with trying to figure out, over dinner and drinks, how to actually GET to Casa Loma. That involved a subway ride, then a streetcar (no one was sure of the stop, so we kept jumping off, panicking, and jumping back on, much to the amusement of the other passengers. Actually, they were more annoyed than amused, but we’d all had a bit to drink at the restaurant, so WE thought it was funny), then a 10 minute walk. In Canada. In the winter. At night. So yes, by the time we arrived, we were freezing, and in need of first, a bathroom, and second, more to drink. The first we got. The second—well, I asked the woman who greeted us if there would be “an opportunity to purchase some beverages”. Her response was ‘No’. Seriously, what kind of adult adventure room doesn’t allow you to sip a nice glass of Chianti whilst codebreaking?

Then we were ushered into a movie theatre, where we were to watch a film that would explain our upcoming adventure, described thusly: “The war is over, the fascists in Europe have lost, and it’s time for celebration in Toronto; or so it would seem. Deep beneath the gothic exterior of Casa Loma, there lies a secret. You and your closest friends stumble upon the soon to be decommissioned Station M. Within the hidden workshop of failed projects and confidential experiments, you find one last mission. Be careful who you trust, and make sure you have an escape plan.” Sounds cool, am I right? We would also be accompanied by a character who was part of the scenario, and we would meet him after the film. “But,” warned the young man who was explaining this to us, “you can’t touch him. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN YOU TOUCH HIM. Do not EVER touch him. Are there any questions?” And all I could do was whisper, “So many…” because then we were ushered into a hallway and I couldn’t ask them, but here they are:

1) Why can’t I touch him?
2) What do you mean by “touch”? Does it count if I accidentally brush against him? Is it OK to poke him to see if he’s real, and not animatronic or whatnot?
3) Can I touch him if he touches me first, like in retaliation?
4) You said, “Under no circumstances”. But what if there’s a fire? Can I grab his arm and pull him to safety or do I just leave him to fend for himself? What if he falls down? Can I help him get up or do I just stand there staring at him?
5) Is this a rule you created because someone in the past slapped him for not giving them enough help with the puzzles? Is he really that unhelpful, or is he just a smartass?
6) What happens if I DO touch him, like he’s being funny and I lightly punch him in the shoulder, like one of those “Oh you!” kind of gestures? Will he taser me?
7) Is this part of the game? Is this a clue? Like when someone says, ‘Don’t think about elephants’, and then you absolutely do? Because now all I can think about is poking this guy, and I haven’t even met him yet.

And then I did meet him. He was in his early twenties and dressed in an old-fashioned suit. His name was ‘Steven Rutledge’. He claimed to be a spy or a secret agent or something, but I’m not really sure because I was trying not to touch him. We were in a room that was full of really cool antiques and things, but it was hard to concentrate because everyone else was running around looking for clues. I wasn’t sure for what, since I hadn’t really been paying attention, but suddenly someone yelled in triumph, a door opened, and we were all in ANOTHER room. Apparently the first room was like the launch pad for the actual adventure in ‘Station M’, which was to save a scientist from his Russian kidnappers. We had to get a radio to work, so I said to Steven, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” in an attempt to lighten the mood, but he gave me a weird, kind of dirty look. I wasn’t sure if he was just ACTING like he didn’t get it, or whether he really didn’t get it, so I said, “R.E.M.? It’s a pop culture reference,” to which he replied, “Pop Culture?!” and rolled his eyes. Then I knew why we weren’t allowed to touch him, because with THAT attitude, he would get slapped a lot.

Anyway, we solved a lot of puzzles, and Steven was actually pretty helpful, dropping cryptic hints and whatnot, until finally we were at the last puzzle. The timer was counting down, people were running around, it was madness, there was an air raid siren going off, lights were flashing, Steven was trying to avoid being touched, and then—we ran out of time. It wasn’t really a letdown, except that the scientist was still at the mercy of his Russian kidnappers, but it was a lot of fun. Casa Loma has two other adventure rooms, and I would totally do it again, because it finished early enough that I still had time to watch Season 3 of Elementary in my own cozy bed afterwards. With a nice glass of Chianti.