Ever The Optimist

Every so often I buy a lottery ticket. There are several different lotteries here, and the prizes are starting to get really big, so I figure, Why not? I mean SOMEONE has to win, and what are the odds that one day I might? Pretty astronomical actually, but still, a girl can dream. And the best part is that you don’t even have to wait to find out if you won because there’s an app you can download onto your phone that lets you scan the barcode on the ticket and find out almost right away, which completely satisfies my need for instant gratification. Like, you know those obnoxious scratch tickets with 3 separate play areas that advertise themselves as “hours of fun”? All you have to do is scratch the barcode, scan it, and you’ve saved yourself a hell of a lot of time, which is a win all on its own. Also, because Canada is a bilingual country, if you DO win, you’re told by a very excited woman’s voice in both official languages, and I think it’s some kind of Pavlovian thing that if an Ontarian ever hears someone say “Winner!”, their immediate and automatic response is “Gagnon!” If you don’t, you’re a spy or an alien or an alien spy or whatnot.

But as I was scanning my ticket last weekend, I discovered something interesting. As I was waiting for the results, I realized that I was pretty sure I was going to win, and when I didn’t, I was genuinely disappointed, like What? Really?, and that I feel that way EVERY SINGLE TIME. What does this mean? Is this the true irony of my life that I, the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios is, at heart, an eternal optimist? That the woman who has mentally laid out, in painstaking detail, plans to survive bear attacks, bouncy castle misadventures, high speed train derailments, cars plunging off bridges into icy water, and thousands of other potential disasters, is secretly convinced that there is a BEST CASE SCENARIO?

(Side note: Speaking of Worst Case Scenarios, the other day some of us met with a group of people who came to the secret agency to do some research. They started by going around the table and telling us who they were and what their backgrounds were. It went like this for the first 5 people: Accountant, IT Support, Accountant, Business Analyst, Programmer. Then the last person, a man who looked about 25, said, very casually, “Before I came to Canada, I was a Colonel in the army, responsible for training other military units in confirmation and identification of biological warfare agents as well as combatting potential nuclear strikes.” There was a pause, then I said, “OK, this guy wins.” Everybody laughed except me, because I was IN AWE, and also if I was single and about 25 years younger, I would have dropped to one knee and proposed right then and there.)

But back to my point—if anyone remembers what it was. Oh right—I’m always certain in my heart of hearts that I’ve won the jackpot, and when I haven’t, I console myself by saying, “Next time” and “What would you do with 50 million dollars anyway? It’s just too much for one person.” But that is, of course, bullsh*t. I could very easily enjoy that much money, and could find numerous things to spend it on. Once, Ken and I were talking about winning the lottery:

Me: If I win the jackpot, I’m buying a helicopter to take me to work. F*ck the train. I could get there in like 15 minutes by helicopter. The only problem would be where to land.
Ken: If you won the jackpot, why the hell would you keep working?!
Me: Ooh. Good point. Can I still buy a helicopter?

One of my friends at work has an article pinned up in her cubicle about a woman who won millions of dollars and the headline is the winner saying, “I’ll Keep Flying Economy”. And my friend was like, “See? People like that don’t deserve to win the lottery. If you’re not going to change your life AT ALL, you shouldn’t be allowed to keep the money. There should be a quiz, only instead of a skill-testing math question, you should have to describe the things you’re going to do to make life better” and I was like, “There’s a F*CKING MATH QUESTION??!!”

Still, I agree with my friend. If you’re not going to at least fly first-class and sleep in one of those cool pods, you don’t deserve the money. Stop being all humble and sh*t and just go around screaming “I’m rich!!” I’ll be checking my lottery ticket from last night very soon, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m going to be writing about next.

Update: I just checked my ticket and you won’t believe this!……

……I just found out that the word “acai” is actually pronounce “ass-eye-ee” and if that isn’t something to giggle about every time I see a bottle of Blueberry Acai Vitamin Water, I don’t know what is. Also, I didn’t win the lottery and I’m really shocked. But there’s always next time.

Oh, by the way, I found out a couple of days ago that a site called Feedspot has my blog listed in their Top 100 Humour Blogs, so thanks Feedspot! I’m currently number 93 but that’s better than not winning the lottery.

My Week 204: Vacation Planning “Worst Case Style”

Ken and I are about to go on vacation. We’re flying to Calgary. Then we’re driving to Edmonton. Then we’re getting on a train to Vancouver. Then we’re taking a ship to Alaska. This whole ‘adventure’ has kicked my obsessive need to plan for the worst into high gear. I already figured out how to survive a train derailment when we were in Spain, and the lifeboat drills on a cruise ship are a tremendous comfort to me. The plane I know I can’t do anything about unless it lands in water but I booked an aisle seat just in case. (Ken: You should wear running shoes on the plane in case it crashes and we have to go down the slide. Me: I’m wearing flip flops in case we’re in water and I have to use them like flippers.) But there are other forces outside of my control that are making me very stressed; for example, I already found out three weeks ago that the train will be arriving in Vancouver 9 hours late. It hasn’t even left the damn station yet–how do they know?! The best I could do was build a 24-hour buffer into each of these segments of our journey because anyone who knows me well, knows that I always plan ahead. In fact, if you’ll remember, in an earlier blog I talked about buying Kate a book called The Little Book of Worst Case Scenarios so that even she, as a young child, could start to plan for disasters such as:

a) Bear Attacks: Make yourself look as large as possible and scream loudly to let the bear know you could take it in a fight. Do not run—bears are, apparently, very gazelle-like.

b) Driving a car into a river: Find an air pocket, wait for the car to be submerged, then open the door and swim to the surface. Kate was like “I’m seven years old–why would I ever drive my car into a river?” I DON”T KNOW, KATE. But if you plan for these things, you might SURVIVE them, and now that you’re twenty and have a driver’s license, it’s a damn good thing you know about this.

c) Bouncy Castle Mishaps: The survival rate for a bouncy castle you’re playing in which suddenly becomes untethered and floats away (which apparently happens more often than you think) is very poor. That’s why my child had boring but safe birthday parties.

So after years of careful consideration and planning, I feel ready for almost anything, like wrestling an alligator or even escaping from a burning bus. For example, I have hammers in strategic places around the house, which prompted Ken to ask, “Why do you have a hammer in the bathroom?” Answer: in case there’s a fire, and I can’t get to my new fire extinguisher, and I have to smash the bathroom window and crawl out onto the porch roof. Obviously. Here’s another example–in the winter, we put a wheelbarrow over the pond so that Titus doesn’t fall through the snow into the frigid water. This happened to our previous dog, prompting a very heated argument which had followed this earlier argument:

Ken: I’m going to dig a 3-foot deep pond.
Me: Don’t be ridiculous. Someone will fall in and drown.
Ken: No one is going to fall in. You’re worrying for no reason. It needs to be deep so the fish can survive the winter.
Me: I’m serious. Please, I’m begging you, don’t make it so deep.
Ken: I’m totally disregarding your emotions and I’m going to do what I want. Screw you. (OK, he didn’t actually say any of THAT, but he DID continue to dig a 3 foot deep pond despite my objections).

6 months later, we let the dogs out into the back yard. The pond was covered by a healthy layer of snow, and about ten minutes later, we realized that we couldn’t see one of the dogs, the really old one with bad arthritis. Yes, she had fallen into the pond, and it was too deep for her to climb out. Ken rushed outside and rescued her, prompting this heated argument, which I will sum up in one sentence:

Me: OMFG!! I TOLD you this would happen!! And the fish are all DEAD!!

Hence the wheel barrow which straddles the pond all winter. As you might already know, I also have a baseball bat under my side of the bed. This is the scenario for the baseball bat:

1) We wake up in the middle of the night to strange noises coming from downstairs.
2) Ken, as one does, offers to investigate. He puts on his housecoat and goes down with the dog, who is clearly agitated.
3) I wait, wracked with fear. There are shouts, commotion, then nothing.
4) I assume that the intruder has tied both Ken and Titus up, and is taunting them as he steals our stuff.
5) I quietly get the baseball bat out from under the bed and sneak downstairs. The intruder has his back to me.
6) Ken sees me, but luckily, he’s gagged so he can’t do what he would normally do and say something like, “Why do you have a baseball bat?!”
7) I swing, connect with the intruder’s head, and down he goes.
8) I free Ken and Titus, we tie up and gag the intruder, and then we call the police. Ta dah!

Would it happen like this in real life? Hopefully we’ll never have to find out.

So you see, I have impending disasters carefully planned, even in Toronto, where I live in a high rise building on the 34th floor during the week. This, of course, has led to a whole new set of worst case scenarios. For example, I have a balcony. Everyone is always like, “Awesome, you have a balcony—I’ll bet you can’t wait until it’s nice enough to sit out there.” Are you f*cking kidding me? Do you think there’s ANY way I will EVER sit out on a precipice that is over 400 feet from the ground? And here’s why. It occurred to me that the balcony figures prominently in several worst case scenarios, which I am slowly working my way through. Here’s the one I solved during my first month there, as I lay awake listening to the baby next door screaming like it was being throttled (it wasn’t, of course; when I politely inquired after its health in the morning, the mother told me they were “sleep training” him, and he was “very unhappy” about it. Oh yeah? I’ll bet he wasn’t as unhappy as me.) Anyway, I suddenly had this horrible thought that, say, I did take someone’s advice and try to grow pots of basil on the balcony. I go out there to water my plants, and somehow the door closes and locks behind me. I don’t know how that would actually happen, but say that it did. What now? I’m stuck on a 34th floor balcony, wearing only pajamas (because that’s what I was wearing when I started trying to solve this problem).

Option A: Scream for help. No, because I’m 34 floors up. No one on the ground can hear me, and the neighbours’ eardrums have been damaged by their ‘unhappy’ child.

Option B: Take off an article of clothing to wave around and attract attention. Well, I’m only wearing pajama bottoms and a T-shirt—which one do I use? I guess I have to decide HOW MUCH attention I actually want. But who will see me that high up anyway?

Option C: Start tossing the basil pots down to the ground until someone looks up and sees me (either topless or pantless) and calls the cops. This solution is unlikely because my experience with people downtown so far is that many of them are either completely self-absorbed and oblivious to the world around them, or looking down at the ground for cigarette butts.

No, the only sure thing is Option D: Keep an extra hammer out on the balcony. Then I can smash the glass in the patio door and get back into my condo. The hammer people must love me. Not only do I have several scattered around my house, I’ve purchased two for Toronto as well. I should probably put one in my desk drawer at work too, just in case. Fun fact: Via Trains are equipped with tiny hammers in boxes to smash the windows in case we are somehow trapped in the train. Nice to know they’ve been paying attention. Now if they could only arrive on time…

Update: Ken and I are in Vancouver right now, about to get on the boat. Man, do I have some stories for you when we get back!

My Week 171: New Year’s Eve and International Chip and Dip Day

Well, another year is almost over. And yes, I’m aware that 2017 was NOT the kind of year that many people will look back on fondly. Personally, it was kind of a good year for me, all things considered. I still remember New Year’s Eve 1999, or “Y2K” as it was nicknamed, when we were all told that because of some computer glitch, at the stroke of midnight, the world just might come to an end. Apparently computer scientists are either not as smart as we give them credit for, or are incredibly pessimistic because rumour was that there wasn’t enough room in their computers for the extra zero in the year 2000. It was probably MUCH more complicated than that, but we didn’t have Twitter back then so that celebrities could explain it to us. Being the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios, I made Ken buy lots of bottled water, canned meat, and wood for the wood stove, just in case. Of course nothing actually happened, except that one minute after midnight, neighbours down the street screamed, “We’re still alive!” and we screamed back, “So are we!” Then the next morning, we went skating on our pond without coats on, because it was over 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees for my Imperial readers) which was VERY warm for that time of year here in Ontario. Of course, climate change was just a glimmer in its daddy’s eye 18 years ago, and now it can drink. And like most teenagers, it doesn’t handle its liquor well.

Anyway, we just got back from Montreal, Quebec, and while the three days we spent there were lovely, the train trip there AND the train trip back were the worse sh*t shows in the history of rail travel. But I’m going to leave that for another day, because I have to write a sternly worded email to Via Rail based on the tweet I sent them last night, to which they responded asking for more details.

But even though we had a great time in La Belle Province, for some reason, I woke up each morning wracked with anxiety, the source of which I couldn’t put my finger on. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a hair trigger for weird stress—maybe it’s just the thought that another year is done and I’m another year older. Maybe it’s that I have no idea what’s going to happen in 2018 and I would really like to hammer this sh*t out ahead of time, but I can’t and it makes me nervous. Or maybe it’s squirrels. Who the hell knows? So in honour of the fact that it’s New Year’s Eve, here’s another celebration that freaked me out:

International Chip and Dip Day:

At work, we have a social committee. They plan fun and interesting events, like ice cream socials, drinks after work, etc. At the beginning of last week, they sent out an email announcement that they were hosting a mini-celebration for International Chip and Dip Day. Now, I never knew that this was an actual festival, but it made total sense, because who doesn’t like chips/and or dip? I was really pumped for it, but then the stress started. We had to sign up at reception on a big, totally PUBLIC flip chart, and say what kind of chips we liked, and what kind of dip we were going to bring. This was a COMMITMENT. I take these things very seriously, so right away I should have known there would be issues. Here they are in chronological order:

1) I was excited to sign up, but when I got down to reception, there was only one other person signed up before me, and I didn’t want to seem too eager, so I left and waited until there were more people on the list. I spent a lot of time peeking my head around the corner, and when there were about 5 people ahead of me, it seemed appropriate. Yes, I realize that I was overthinking this in a very big way, completely disproportionate to the event itself. Thanks for pointing it out, Ken.

2) I had to specify what kind of chips I liked. In public. Were there chips that would make people think I was weird? If I asked for quinoa chips, would people think I was a little elitist? Would BBQ make me seem kind of redneck-y? I went with my gut and wrote down “Anything bacon-flavoured”. (This was after I figured out how to use the magic marker, which had a button that you slid up and down to get the marker nib out. It was very complicated and I almost threw in the towel right then and there, but there were chips and dip on the line so I persevered). Then it was time to commit to a dip. I panicked and wrote down the first thing that popped into my head, which was “Ranch Dip”. OK, cool. I had specified a chip and made a promise regarding dip. Now all I had to do was wait until the night before, and buy dip. Awesome. I totally had this.

3) Three days later, I had a panic attack. I had forgotten to buy dip, was working off-site, and had no way to get the dip to the office, even if I had it. When I finally confided to my co-workers that I was overwhelmed by guilt, they reminded me that Chip and Dip day wasn’t until Monday. Crisis averted.

4) On the weekend, I completely forgot about International Chip and Dip Day until I was driving to have coffee with a friend. I pulled a U-turn, and ran into the nearest grocery store, where I purchased two tubs of ranch dip. I decided that if I kept it in my car, then there was no way I would forget to take it back to Toronto, and I was only mildly worried about it staying cold. Which is weird in retrospect, because you’d think I would be more concerned with NOT giving my colleagues salmonella.

5) Sunday Night. I put the dip in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, all ready to take to work the next morning.

6) Monday Morning, 7:45 am: I left my condo and forgot to take the dip with me.

7) Monday Morning: 10:15 am: I popped out of work to run to my condo and get the dip (the party didn’t start until 2:00 pm—I thought). When I got back to work, I put the dip in the refrigerator and then realized that my colleagues had disappeared. When I finally found them, they were all in a VERY important meeting that had been called while I was out getting the dip. I didn’t know where the meeting was, and ended up coming in noticeably and embarrassingly late. Stupid dip.

8) At 2:07 pm, I looked at the clock and realized that the party had started, and my dip was still in the refrigerator. I took off from my desk, ran to the kitchen, got my dip, and went to the boardroom where the party was being held. The only person there was someone from a different department who was carefully arranging chickpeas in a circle around a glass, flowered plate of homemade hummus. She gently reminded me that the party didn’t start until 2:30. I cracked the lids off my tubs of dip nihilistically, and left her there, lovingly spooning out her decorative chickpeas.

9) As it was coming up to 2:30, I made a decision. It was all more than I could take, and I refused to start worrying about when would be the right time to go to the boardroom ie: if I went right at 2:30, would people think I was over-anxious (yes, I get the irony), but if I waited until closer to 3, would I miss the party altogether? I was done. The only way I was going was if someone came to my desk and personally invited me. Screw it. But at exactly 2:30, members of the social committee began going to everyone’s desks, inviting them individually to come to the International Chip and Dip Day celebration. A couple of my colleagues were feeling guilty that they had forgotten to bring dip for the party and didn’t think they should go, so I said, “Hey, no worries—I brought two tubs, so we can say it was a group effort.” They were like, “Excellent!” so we all went to International Chip and Dip day together, and I was so relieved that it was finally over that I barely cared that most people had brought home-made dip, while I had cheaped out on Philly.

Happy New Year to all my wonderful followers. May your 2018 be filled with joy. And if you ever get stressed about something small, and it makes you feel super-anxious and silly and alone, just remember that you now know someone who freaked out about chip dip.

My Week 170: It’s Coming From Inside the House

Last week, I started my holidays early. I had banked some time off for the end of the year so that I could have at least five days to write while Ken was still at work. I’m writing a second novel, and my plan was to get Chapters 16 to 20 finished before January. It’s been going well, despite the constant interruptions which are mostly me surfing the internet and going Christmas shopping. But I decided that I needed to be more disciplined, so on Wednesday, I sat down at 9:00 am to hammer out Chapter 18.

The house, as always, was extremely quiet. We live in a small town, and the house itself is not only on a large property, but it’s set well back from the road. I normally don’t worry about being alone here, since I have Titus, who’s very loud and intimidating when he needs to be. I also have, to a lesser extent, Raven, who is neither loud nor intimidating, but she WILL react to strange noises by lifting up her head and then placing it back down again. Recently though, there has been a spate of car break-ins, and someone outside of town had their house robbed. Plus, three weeks ago, Ken was away at a conference in Montreal, leaving me by myself for three nights, which would have been OK except that on the first night, I had a terrible nightmare about being attacked by intruders, and it set me on edge for the rest of the week.

But it was broad daylight, and I shouldn’t have had anything to worry about. It was around 11:00 am and I was about three quarters of the way through the chapter and feeling pretty good about where it was going, when suddenly, I heard the sound of something being knocked over in the back of the house. My office is in the front of the house, so I stopped typing and listened intently for a minute. I heard another sound, like a shuffling of some kind. I started to get a little panicky, but I calmed myself down by telling myself it was only Titus. He likes to sleep on the couch in the family room; he probably got up to stretch and knocked something off the coffee table.

I got up from my chair, and made my way to the kitchen. Sure enough, there was Titus, wagging his tail. He walked over to the courtyard door, and I said, “What have you been up to, buddy?” just as something else fell in the family room. I froze. I could hear movement, and the sound of the ornaments in the window being knocked down. There was someone back there.

You know that feeling of utter terror that you used to get when you were little and lying in bed, imagining that there was something in your closet? Or as an adult, when you almost have a car accident? That was me in that moment, as I listened to the sounds of someone moving around my house. I was wearing my housecoat and slippers, waiting until I’d finished writing to get dressed. Now, I felt really vulnerable. Titus didn’t seem to be bothered by the noise, which was unusual, but I turned away from him and took a step forward. The floor creaked under my slipper and I stopped, contemplating whether I should continue on bare-footed. I decided against it in case I had to flee the house—there was a lot of snow, and the last thing I needed was frostbite on top of everything else.

I moved quietly into the kitchen. The noises continued in the back, as if someone was rummaging around, tossing things aside that weren’t worth stealing. I reached out and silently slid the largest knife we had out of the butcher block. Then I went to the door of the kitchen and peeked around the corner, knife held out before me, almost faint with fear.

“Holy F*CK!!” I screamed. There, on the window ledge of the back room, was a huge, black squirrel. It took one look at me and tried to climb the wall, then it fell back down, hit the floor, and ran towards me.

I let loose another string of excellent swear words, including references to mothers, lady parts, and things that a squirrel might do to itself, as I grabbed the baby gate we use to keep Titus out of the kitchen and shoved it against the entrance to the room. The squirrel stopped, ran back to the window, and leapt up onto the window sill with one swift jump, making me realize that the baby gate, which was only about 2 feet off the ground, was virtually useless as a means of keeping the squirrel from attacking me. It didn’t seem too bothered by the knife either, so I put it down.

I was in an absolute panic—at the sound of the baby gate, Titus had come running and was now barking his head off and trying to get past the gate into the back room. And as satisfying as that might have been, the last thing I wanted was a massacre on my hands. Titus OR the squirrel—it could have gone either way at this point, the squirrel was so freaked out. Finally it ran out of the family room and into the back room where it ran around in circles and tried to climb up the back patio door.

I stayed behind the baby gate for a minute, thinking and silently swearing to myself, then I climbed over the gate carefully, keeping the squirrel in clear view. It was more concerned with the back door, and it occurred to me that it was probably just as scared as I was. So I opened the kitchen door and held the screen wide.

“Here, squirrel,” I shouted, trying to get its attention. “Here, Mr. Squirrel—the nice door is open. Come on, let’s go!” It just stopped and stared at me, like there was no way it was coming near me, even if I was holding the door open. I patted my leg, hoping to convince it that I was gentle and kind. No dice. Finally, I went outside (thank god I’d kept the slippers on—there’s an advantage to being the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios), and held the screen door from the outside where it couldn’t see me. Within about ten seconds, the damned thing shot through the family room, straight out the door, and up the nearest tree, where it sat chittering at me like a small demon.

Demon-spawn

I ran back into the house, slammed the screen door shut and screamed, “F*CK YOU, TREE RAT!!”

Then I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken:

Ken: What’s up? Why are you hyperventilating? Is this a “sexy call”?
Me: I just pulled a knife on a tree rat.
Ken: What?!
Me: I thought it was a burglar.
Ken: You pulled a knife on a burglar??!!
Me: No, a squirrel. There was a squirrel in the house. Oh my god, I’m dying here. I was so scared. How the f*ck did it get in the house?!
Ken: Probably came in through that old chimney in the back room. Check it and see.
Me: No f*cking way! What if there’s another one? I can only do this once!
Ken: I can’t believe Titus didn’t freak out when it was running around the family room.
Titus (from kitchen):  I THOUGHT IT WAS THE CAT!!

Raven or squirrel?

I spent the rest of the day watching out the window, as the squirrel ran around the yard. It looked like it was plotting another foray into the house, so when Ken came home, I demanded that HE check the old chimney. He got up on the back of the couch and opened the door to the cupboard where the chimney opening was. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like that squirrel had to push through a nest of leaves and sticks to get in here.” And then I was like, “Oh my god, this is reverse Narnia!”

1) Instead of a small child hiding in a wardrobe and crawling through coats from a big house into a magical snowy land, a small squirrel from a snowy land hides in a chimney and crawls through leaves into a magical big house.

2) Instead of a small child meeting a giant squirrel wearing a waistcoat, a small squirrel meets a giant woman wearing a housecoat. (Ken says it was actually a beaver, but I’m ignoring him because that doesn’t fit the narrative. Also, “giant beaver”. Snort.)

3) Instead of meeting a talking lion, the squirrel meets a talking dog. Is the dog god? Only time will tell.

Yesterday, I looked outside, and the squirrel was sitting on an old tree stump, staring at the house. And last night, I was half-asleep when Titus wagged his tail, and I jumped out of bed, thinking it was the squirrel back to attack me. Anybody know where I can find a White Witch?

*You might have noticed I’m posting a day early. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and it’s a busy time for mydangblog and the gang, so have yourself a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thanks to all my wonderful followers—let’s hope 2018 is like this:

2016: It can’t get any worse.
2017: Hold my beer.
2018: B*tch, sit back down. We can work this out.

 

My Week 136: Intruder Alert, Bad Slogan or Great Awareness Campaign?

Friday: Intruder Alert

I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios. My intense planning and preparation ensures that I WILL survive a bear attack, sniper fire, a bouncy castle mishap, or a myriad of other assorted and unexpected situations. My friends and loved ones are no strangers to my forethought—a few months ago at work, I discovered that a co-worker’s brother was a firefighter:

Me: Your brother is a firefighter?! Can you text him and ask how high the ladder on the truck goes? Cuz I’m on the 27th floor and I’m worried about how I’ll get rescued if the building sets on fire.
M: OK…he says ‘Not that high’.
Me: But what do I do then? Is there like a giant fire crane that can get me out? This is real.
M: Um…he says ‘No. You basically just have to wait for the firefighters to come up the stairs and get you, because 27 is too high up for anything else’. Sorry.
Me: Ask him if I should get one of those rope fire ladders with the hooks. I could hook it around the top of the balcony then climb down to the next balcony, and so on, until I was low enough for the ladder.
M: Aren’t you afraid of heights? Are you really going to swing down on ropes from 300 feet up in the air?
Me: So it’s just wet towels under the door and wait for rescue along with everyone else from like the third floor up? I’m so f*cked. I ALWAYS get served last.

And it’s true. My food at restaurants always comes after everyone else’s, and on the train, no matter where I’m sitting, the bar cart will come down the aisle, and I’ll be like, “Can I have—“ and the conductor will say, “We’re starting at the other end, but we’ll be with you soon,” which is always a lie because inevitably there are a dozen people who all want coffee and hot meals, then want to pay with credit cards and suddenly we’re in Brantford and I haven’t even had a glass of wine yet.

But then I googled “How do people who live in high rises get rescued from fires?” and I got a couple of helpful hints, like did you know that high rises have interior fire-separated stairwell shafts? There were also instructions for creating your own “High Rise Fire Survival Kit”, so now I have to buy a whistle and a white pillow case to signal for help (or to indicate surrender in case of an insurgence).

Anyway, long story short, I like to plan for the worst, which is why there is a bat in my bathroom. No, not a sonar-using, flappy, mammal/reptile/dinosaur ancestor, but a wooden baseball bat. It used to be under the bed, which seems like a solid place to keep a bat (and also handy for poking out the remote control if it fell back behind our headboard), but one day, I was in the bathroom, and it occurred to me that if someone snuck into our bedroom, the intruder could easily just crawl all the way around the base of the bed, hidden by the bedskirt, and I’d never know until it was too late to get my bat. I don’t know why, but I get super-jumpy sometimes when I’m alone, like as soon as I come home to my condo, I call Ken and then look under the bed and in the closets to make sure I’m alone. Yes, I know that Ken couldn’t do anything via telephone if there actually WAS someone under my bed, but at least I could scream I LOVE YOU! before I bashed the intruder’s brains in with the hammer I keep on my nightstand.

But Ken has a lot to answer for himself, particularly because he knows how easily startled I am. A couple of weeks ago, I was chopping vegetables when he suddenly appeared out of nowhere:

Me: Jesus Christ!! What the f*ck!!
Ken: What? Didn’t you hear me coming?
Me: NO, KEN, I didn’t hear you coming, because you snuck up on me on PURPOSE!
Ken: No, I didn’t. Can you please put the knife down?

At which point I realized I was subconsciously brandishing the vegetable knife rather menacingly. But he WILL wander around the house like a stealth ninja. I should have known it was Ken, though, because I have Titus trained to recognize strange noises and react to them:

Me: What’s that?!
Titus: Just the neighbourhood kids. Put “Friends” back on—this is The One with the Sandwich. I love sandwiches.

But on Friday morning, having taken the day off, I was looking forward to a good sleep-in. Titus had come back upstairs and was settled comfortably in next to me and we were having a nice doze, when suddenly I heard the sounds of someone walking around in the hallway. I jerked up, and so did Titus.

Me: What’s that?!
Titus: I don’t know!
Me: You go see and I’ll get the bat!

Titus bounded off the bed and headed into the hall, while I ran into the bathroom. I grabbed the bat and tiptoed out with it high over my head…to find Ken standing in the middle of the room in his bathrobe.

Me: What the f*ck, Ken?!! Why are you still here? It’s quarter after 8!
Ken: I had a late meeting so I decided to hang out with you for a bit. Were you seriously going to hit me with that bat?
Me: I still might. You scared the sh*t out of me.
Ken: Why would you think it was an intruder? It could have been K.
Me: Don’t be ridiculous–i
t’s only 8:15! There’s no way K would be up this early. And you’re supposed to be at work. Besides, you fooled Titus too.
Titus: Yeah, dude. Not cool.

But at least I know the system works. And the next time there’s a fire alarm in my condo building, I’m going to try the stairs and see how far I get.

Also Friday: The worst slogan ever or a clever awareness campaign?

On Friday, K and I planned an afternoon of lunch, movies, and shopping for books at Chapters. She’s finally home from university for the summer and I hadn’t had much of a chance to spend time with her, so it was wonderful. But at the restaurant, while we were waiting for our food, we saw something that made us at first bemused, then later hysterical. The hostess showed three people, a man and two women, to a table across the room, and as they passed, we both saw the slogan on the backs of their matching T-shirts and were both like, “What?!”

And before I tell you what it said, I just want to reinforce that I would never make fun of someone with cancer, or make light of any kind of cancer, but honest to God, the backs of their royal blue T-shirts said this in large white letters:

“Cancer touched my butt, so I kicked it’s”.

And I think they must have been home-made T-shirts because of the “it’s” (it is) instead of the possessive “its” (as in the butt belonging to cancer, which makes the whole thing even weirder). Also, we wondered if they were in some kind of butt-cancer club together, which would explain why they were they all wearing the same T-shirt, like maybe they had just done a fundraiser for butt cancer? I mean, I know there are several types of cancer that affect the posterior area, including cancer of the buttocks, but is “Butt Cancer” really a good catch-all term for them? Like, you donate money for research and you get a tax receipt thanking you for helping to stop Butt Cancer? I suppose it would probably be even more disconcerting to be wearing a T-shirt that said, “Cancer touched my rectum so I kicked it’s”, and at any rate, they seemed to be really happy and healthy-looking, so I guess they really DID kick cancer’s butt.

But in the car later, on the way home, K and I began to imagine other body parts that one could substitute for butt and there were definitely a couple that would have made the slogan even more eye-catching—the two frontrunners were “balls” and “boob”. Then I looked up “Cancer touched my butt… and discovered there are TONS of T-shirts that say “Cancer touched my breast/boob so I kicked its butt!”, but none for “balls”, which frankly would be an even better slogan ie. “Cancer touched my balls so I kicked it in the nuts”. There was a hoodie though that said, “Cancer touched my butt so I had to kick its ass” and even though it looked professionally done, it still sounded weird, but it had a blue ribbon on it, so apparently that one was talking about PROSTATE cancer. I don’t know about you, but “Cancer touched my prostate…” doesn’t sound much better than butt, and it still makes me wonder why the two women were wearing the T-shirts too, if it really was about prostate cancer. The important thing though, is that I spent over 48 hours wondering about this, and looking it up, so if those people were going for an awareness campaign, it totally worked. I am now more aware of Butt Cancer than anyone else I know, and I share my awareness with you. You’re welcome.

 

My Week 102: True Colours, Disappointed by the Dump

Tuesday: I get my colours done

When I got back to work after my sojourn abroad in August, I received an email notifying me that I needed to attend a mandatory True Colours workshop, seeing as I’d missed the last two and needed to “catch up” before our All-Staff meeting on Wednesday. I went to my manager and asked if I really needed to go. “I already know my colours,” I said. “I’m a Winter.” But no—this wasn’t about my wardrobe. She explained that True Colours is a personality identification system. “Well, I’m a Scorpio,” I said. “And an ISFJ—I know that because I took a 5 minute internet quiz. Also, if I was a Game of Thrones character, I would be Arya, and if I was a geological thing-y, I would be ammolite. How much more analysis do I need?!” A lot, apparently, and there was no wheedling out of the workshop. I could have scheduled another surgery, and the trainer would have come to my bedside, that’s how seriously the agency is taking it. So on Tuesday afternoon, I walked over to the hotel with all the new employees to find out exactly who the hell I am.

The first thing we had to do, according to the trainer, who was the most cheerful and perky woman I’ve ever met, was to look at 4 cards and order them according to how much I liked them. The yellow card looked like a nasty mustard-coloured quilt. I would never put it on a bed in my house, so I set it aside for the time being. The blue card looked like water going down the toilet, and the orange card reminded me of what I see when the eye doctor flashes that strong light at you and you can see what’s inside your own eye. The green card was OK—it reminded me of that really cool computer screen image in The Matrix with all the dripping numbers and lines and stuff. I love The Matrix—the costumes and special effects are amazing, the characters all have awesome names like Trinity and Cipher, and Hugo Weaving is a total super-villain. So I picked the Green card, then the Gold quilt-y one next because even though it was yellow, you could probably display it with the right décor. I picked the Blue one third, because it was kind of tropical once you got past the 2000 Flushes vibe, and the Orange one last because, well, something had to be last. Then we had to rank a bunch of adjectives and assign them numbers from 1 to 4 based on how much we agreed with the words. And then we had to ADD UP THE NUMBERS. At which point, I got confused, because my numbers refused to add up to 60, mostly because I did it wrong and gave some things all 4s instead of ranking everything. So I just eyeballed the whole thing and decided that I was Green. Which meant I had to go and sit at a table with people I didn’t know and talk about myself and my feelings, because why WOULDN’T I want to do that? I’ll tell you why—because I’d rather gouge out my own laser-perfect eyes than do that. Especially since we had to, as a group, fill in columns in a chart about our Joys and Strengths and Weaknesses as the Greens in the room. But the other people at my table seemed nice, and after some very hesitant offerings, we were able to put two or three things on our chart paper. Of course, the Blues had two full pages, the Golds had everything in organized subheadings, and the Oranges, who had finished before everyone, looked restless.

Before we started sharing our answers with the whole group, the trainer told us that True Colours was totally legit, that it came from the work of Carl Jung and was based on his theories about temperament. And I was like, “Great. I just had my personality mansplained to me. Thanks, Carl Jung.” According to Jung, or whoever is making money off his theories, Greens “seek knowledge and understanding, live by their own standards, need explanations and answers, value intelligence, insight, fairness, and justice, and are non-conformists, visionaries, and problem-solvers.” I was like, “Just because I picked the Matrix card?!” But it WAS a fairly good description, especially since I’m not adventurous, overly emotional (unless my only child has just abandoned me to go off to university), or nitpicky (well, maybe a LITTLE nitpicky, but Gold is my second colour).

Then we started sharing our chart paper answers, and the trainer filled in or re-spun things if we got them wrong ie: “What the Green group means when they say they value family is that they LIKE them, but they don’t NEED them every day.” This made us Greens a little annoyed, since it was completely inaccurate, but we tolerated it because we didn’t want to come off looking all emotional and what-not like the Blues. My own feelings were more than a little ruffled though, when she told everyone that Greens are often perceived as robotic and impersonal, kind of like Dr. Spock. Plus, I SO badly wanted to yell out “MR. Spock. MISTER!” I was glad I didn’t though when, later, we read the list of Green traits and “quick to point out other people’s mistakes” was one of them. Coincidentally, I had recently done an online quiz “Which Star Trek character are you?” and I HAD gotten Mr. Spock. But only because 1) I had chosen the blue uniform because there were no black leather ones like in The Matrix and 2) I chose “Transporter” as the best invention because what is there NOT to love about being able to get from place to place in under 30 seconds? Have you ever tried to go ANYWHERE on the 401? I’ve wasted more hours sitting on that damn highway than I’ve spent taking personality quizzes.

spock_fascinating

Overall, things weren’t going too badly for me, but then the worst part of the afternoon happened when we had to also do a checklist to decide whether we were introverts or extroverts. I already know the answer to that, thanks to years of hating crowds and feeling socially awkward around everyone but my family. The trainer was circulating, and stood looking at my finished checklist, which had me at 39 Introvert points and 6 Extrovert points. Now, you’d think as a professional trainer in this sh*t, she would know better than to single out a Green Introvert, but she called out to the whole group and asked who knew me well enough to say whether they agreed with my calculations. But as I’d mentioned, the rest of the people there were either new employees or worked in different departments, and had just met me. Finally another manager said, “I thought she was probably Gold,” and I was like “Fair enough!” because I do LOVE details and lists and things, but mostly because I really needed the attention to not be focused on me. Finally, the afternoon was over, and I was awarded a binder and told to bring it to the All-Staff meeting the next day.

The following morning, our entire staff gathered together for a variety of important announcements, then we were instructed to sit at tables with other members of our “Colour” group. I found myself flanked by two psychometricians, an editor, a Math team member, and someone from Layout. I was all Sesame Street, like ‘One of these things is not like the other,” and started getting more and more uncomfortable as the morning progressed. The first activity was called “The Bear”. We had to decide what we would do if we were confronted by a bear. Now, if you visit this site regularly, you’ll know that I’m the f*cking QUEEN of Worst Case Scenarios, and I have a plan for everything, including bear encounters and bouncy castles that somehow become untethered. So I said, “Make yourself as large as possible and make as much noise as you can to intimidate the bear. Playing dead doesn’t work worth sh*t, as Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Revenant can attest to. Believe me—I’ve researched this.” The rest of the group accepted my logic and wrote it down. But when we had to share with the staff, we came very close to being accused of not really being Green, because our answer was wrong and Gold-ish, apparently. Thank god the editor had added, “Resign yourself to the idea that you’re probably going to die,” or we would have been called out as frauds. Especially since the OTHER Green table was obviously trying too hard and wrote down, “Why is there a bear? Where did it come from? What kind of bear is it?” This is how Greens are supposed to react, according to the science of it all. And sure, if I ever DID encounter a bear, the phrase “Why the f*ck is there a bear here?!!” would be running through my mind as I was simultaneously screaming and trying to look bigger than I am.

After the excitement of the bear attack, which had the Blues huddling together for comfort, and the Oranges sacrificing a member of the team so the rest of them could run away, we had to write down the things that stressed out our colour and what other people could do to help us. The Blues right away were like, “It stresses us when people take a tone, or aren’t nice to us.” The trainer asked what would help them, and the Greens all muttered under their breath, “Stop being so damned over-sensitive. That’ll help.” But that was another wrong answer because the whole point of the workshop was to help us understand each other so that we could work more effectively together. That made total sense to me, and then I was like, “OK, Bob—I will try to be more understanding of your Orange-ness when you don’t have a plan and won’t stop distracting us with your jokes, mountain climbing analogies, and popcorn machine.” Sigh. It’s so hard being Green when your main stressor is “people who aren’t logical” because there’s so much illogic in the world. Take, for example, racism. I hate racism in any form, not because I’m all sad about it and sh*t, but because it doesn’t make any logical sense to look down on an entire race of people because their skin has more melanin in it, or because they believe in one God or five gods or no god at all. If we all treated each other equally, the world would have more peace than war. Quite frankly, it’s a lack of logic that makes the world such a difficult place. And bears.

Saturday: I am disappointed by the dump

Ken has spent the last few weeks building a new lawnmower shed to replace the sh*tty little metal one with the broken door that stood at the back of the patio for ages. But he had to do it in fine Ken style, which is to say that the new shed is a gorgeous rustic barnboard structure, over twice as big as the previous shed, and decorated with trim and interesting salvage materials. As you can see from the picture, It’s beautiful, and you could easily use it as a small cottage, and I’m a little jealous of my lawnmower now.

new-shed

In the process of cleaning the previous shed out, he put aside a couple of boxes of old paint and things which couldn’t go out in the regular garbage, with the intention of disposing of them once the new shed was finished, which happened last week. So on Saturday morning, he woke me up.

Ken: I’m going to the dump to get rid of that old paint and the old stereo. Do you want to come?
Me: The Dump?! Hell yeah! I love the dump!
Ken: Slow down there. It’s just the transfer station in Salford. You’re not allowed to take stuff.
Me: Then WHAT is the point of going? What if I see something I want? I can’t touch it?!
Ken: They’re pretty strict about that kind of thing.
Me: But that’s not logical. Why should something stay in the garbage if someone else can use it?
Ken: You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.
Me: FINE, KEN. I’m coming to the dump.

I remember when I was a kid, going to a junkyard with my dad when he needed a part for something. Dad was a toolmaker by trade, and could make you just about anything with an Allen key and scrap metal. I don’t know what he was looking for, but I remember staring in awe at all the cool junk, and wishing I was bigger and had a shopping cart. Plus, at the time, I was obsessed with a series of novels called “The Three Investigators”, whose office was a trailer in a junkyard owned by the main character’s uncle. I wanted to be just like Jupiter Jones, live in a junkyard, and solve mysteries. Unfortunately, that never happened—I can’t even solve The Mystery of the Salt in My Hair, or The Case of the Missing Earring Back. But still, a girl can dream. Then a couple of years ago, Ken and I went to a local dump, where we found a grandfather clock in a bin. We drove the car up close, and I opened the door to shield Ken from the sightline of the woman in the office while he went down into the bin and retrieved the clock. So I know that rules can be broken if you’re sneaky and careful, and I was secretly excited about the trip to the transfer station. Who knew what treasures awaited us?

None, as it turned out. The place was super-regulated, with workers EVERYWHERE. We got told to pull up to the building with the pink computer monitor (technically it was neon orange, but I’m trying to curb my Greenness and not be so quick to point out people’s mistakes), and unload our boxes. The guy said, “You don’t have to wait—you can leave.” It was heartbreaking—as we drove away, I was sure I saw an old wooden door sticking out of a bin, and I was like, “Noooo…..” as we went through the gates. I was really feeling glum and disappointed when Ken decided to take one of his notorious “short cuts” down a side road. We passed a little house set back from the road, but on the front lawn, there were two tents with tables set up. “It’s a yard sale!” I said. “Go back!”

“I don’t see a sign,” said Ken.

“Trust me. There are random things on tables, and an old guy sitting in a chair. Go back.”

And I was right. It WAS a yard sale. Most of the stuff was pretty crappy, but among the detritus, I managed to find a 19th century lavender dip-molded bottle and a turned wooden bowl. Together, they would have been $6, but the guy let me have them both for 5 bucks. And the moral of the story is “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.” Also, “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.” And finally, “Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness has never been to a yard sale.”

My Week 95: Weird Dreams, Raven the Pokemon

Saturday: I have weird dreams.

I’ve been a very vivid dreamer since as far back as I remember. In fact, I can still recall the first nightmare I had when I must have been about six. In the dream, I was lying in bed, watching a TV screen which had appeared on my wall. The setting was a small town, where a killer had poisoned all the food and drinks. When people ate the food, they turned completely white and died; when they drank anything, they turned completely black and died. It was a black and white TV, so that’s all I got—they might have actually turned red or yellow—who am to say. Nevertheless, I screamed so loudly that my mom came running in, and slept with me for the rest of the night. I still have a catalogue of dreams in my head, going back years—one of the downsides of having a somewhat eidetic memory—and I’m still a vivid dreamer, although my nightlife isn’t always as sinister anymore. You may remember not long ago, when I described a really funny dream I’d had where I was explaining algebraic concepts to a group of students. Okay, I realize that doesn’t sound particularly funny in and of itself, but the actual hilarious part of THAT dream was that my explanation was correct, considering how bad I actually am at math. I would love to know how I can understand something in a dream and be so completely sh*tty at it in real life.

Case in point: yesterday, we had a birthday party for Ken and K. Ken was turning 50, and K had just turned 18, so it was a milestone occasion. Almost the whole family came, and it was a lovely day, except for the fact that I still wasn’t feeling well, and Ken was running around setting everything up, serving people, and generally doing all the stuff I would normally do if I was more mobile. All the guests were helping out, but still—it was Ken’s party, and I was feeling really guilty for just lying in a lounge chair with a glass of wine. I was also feeling super-anxious, because we were sitting outside on the lawn, overshadowed by this gigantic ash tree which had recently succumbed to Ash Bore Beetle disease. So yeah, it was a big-ass dead tree which has been dropping more branches than microphones at a Kanye West concert. Which is to say, randomly and without any apparent reason. We’re having it taken down soon, but if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m the f*cking queen of Worst Case Scenario Plans. So I had one for the tree, obviously. Then Ken’s mom remarked that the tree looked like it was dead.

Ken’s Mom: Is that tree completely dead now?
Me: Yes, but don’t worry—I have a plan. If it starts to fall, we can all run around the side of the house. The house will protect us from being crushed by it.
Ken’s Mom (dark, ominous laughter): None of us can run that fast.

So yeah, my anxiety was peaking, and I’m going to use that as an excuse for the ridiculously awful attempt at a speech that I made after Ken and K had opened their presents. Ken started to thank people for coming, but I was like, “Wait—I have a special toast.”

Me: This has been a year of milestones for our family. I mean, like, since last July, not since January. A calendar year, let’s say. Anyway, last year, Ken and I celebrated our 50th anniversary—
Everyone: 25th!!
Me: What? Oh right, of course. Ken’s 50. We’ve been MARRIED for 25 years. Anyway, then I turned 50, and now Ken’s turned 50 and that’s really special because 25 and 25 is 50…
Everyone: ??
Me: And of course, K is 18 and an official adult, which is also really special, and now she’s going to university. So.
Ken: Yes. It occurred to me the other day how important these connections are to us all. I look around and see these people who are so important to our lives, coming together in kinship and love, and it’s a very special thing. Thank you all for coming.
Me: Wait! I’m not done yet! Anyway, Ken and I now have been together more than half of our lives, since we’re both 50 and well, half of 50 is 25—wait, is that MORE than half? Regardless, it’s been a wonderful first half—
Ken’s Mom (dark, ominous laughter): The next half might not be as good though.
Me: Anyhow, I’m drunk.

I wasn’t actually drunk, but being intoxicated was a better excuse than being sh*tty with numbers. I learned two things that day. First, instead of winging it, you should always plan your toast carefully and ensure there is no MATH in it. Second, that Ken’s Mom is a lovely woman but she’s kind of like Donald Trump at the Republican Convention, all gloom and doom and “the apocalypse is coming” at parties. Frankly, I would have preferred it if she was more like Melania—even if it meant getting Rickrolled.*

*MY mom is going to read this and be like, “I don’t understand the ending. What does “Rickrolled” mean?” It’s when someone pranks you by getting you to click a link that takes you to a clip of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Melania Trump included words from that song in her plagiarized speech, and it seemed like someone had done a little Rickroll there. Glen Beck claimed someone did it deliberately to humiliate her, but I don’t think she needed any help. Love you, Mom.

So back to dreams. In my dreams, not only am I good at math, I can cut my own hair, fall from great heights without dying when I hit the ground, speak and understand foreign languages, and escape from serial killers. I’m also a pretty competent firefighter. The other night I had the following dream: my parents were at our house, and I was telling them about a dream I’d just had (yes, within the dream I was currently having) where they were dressed as detectives in trenchcoats and fedoras and carrying giant magnifying glasses (although it seems to me now that my mom was wearing a pith helmet instead of a fedora. She’s got great fashion sense.). Anyway, as I was describing the dream to them and they were laughing, I looked out the door and saw that there was a pick-up truck on fire on our lawn. I ran outside, grabbed the garden hose and started to spray down the truck (it was a vintage 50s pick-up, turquoise with white stripes and trim, just in case you’re wondering). Unfortunately, the hose tap wasn’t turned on all the way, so I started screaming for K to come out and turn it up. She, of course, was wearing her gaming headphones and didn’t hear me as usual, so I had to do it myself, all the while yelling at my parents to call 911. As I was putting out the fire, I saw a figure lurking in the bushes and realized it was the arsonist. I was just about to discover the person’s identity, when Ken woke me up. AND NOW I”LL NEVER KNOW, KEN!! It makes me crazy how I can’t stay AWAKE for the ends of TV shows, and I can’t stay ASLEEP for the ends of dreams.

My favourite dream of all is a recurring one, where I discover that our house has a secret wing. It’s a long hallway with three bedrooms on the right, and two bathrooms on the left, one on each end. It’s always SUPER-creepy and very cold, because no one has been in it for years, but it changes, and that’s what makes it fascinating. Sometimes the rooms are filled with antique furniture, sometimes they’re completely barren except for a few odds and ends in the closet, and sometimes the dresser drawers are full of vintage toys. The bathrooms—you don’t go in them. You can look in, but you just know better than to go in, like in “The Shining.” And even though it’s kind of scary, I always wake up happy that I’ve been able to explore it again.

When I came out of the anaesthetic after my surgery, I was dreaming that I was at a rock quarry with a group of friends and family. I was sitting on a rock, contemplating going in the water, and it was a beautiful day. I was really happy because I thought, “Either I’m still alive and dreaming, or this is a pretty sweet afterlife.” Then the nurse woke me up. Or DID she?! Maybe this is the dream, and the quarry is the reality. Either way, I’ll still suck at math.

Sunday: Raven the Pokémon

Raven: What the hell? Why did you just lob a tennis ball at me?!
Me: I’m playing Pokémon Go. I’m adding you to my collection.
Raven: Is that why the stupid fish has been calling me “Catchou”? That scaly little bastard! You know, I read his tweet. The reason I sneeze all the time is because my ancestors were so f*cking overbred that my nose is flat. YOU try breathing with your face all smushed in.
Me: C’mon, play along. Jump in this bag.
Raven: You and your non-virtual version of a virtual game can piss off. I’m trying to sleep here. Go find “Titusaurus Dix”. I’m sure he’ll play.
Me: You’re no fun, you know that?
Titus: Throw the ball, throw the ball!
Me: It’s nice that SOMEONE wants to be a Pokémon.
Raven: I think your gonna need a bigger bag.
catchou2

My Week 54: Back on the Train Gang, Conversations

Friday: Back on the train gang

Recently, I started taking the train to Toronto on Sundays and back home on Fridays. This has saved me an intense amount of stress from trying to figure out how to beat a rush hour that starts at noon. The trouble with the 401 is that it’s a great highway when no one else is on it. I can make it door to door in less than an hour and a half if the roads are clear. But that NEVER happens. There’s always a slowdown, for a variety of incomprehensible reasons. Here is my list of top ten favourite circumstances which might cause traffic on the 401 to come to a complete halt:

10) It’s raining.
9) It’s windy.
8) Is that a running shoe? Slow down!!
7) Look, an airplane. Coooool.
6) There’s an accident on the OTHER side of the road.
5) What a weird-looking bird…
4) That guy is changing his tire. What do we do?
3) Are those cloud shadows on the road, or is the beginning of the alien invasion?
2) A bus is on fire.
1) (And this is absolutely true). Radio announcer: Be careful out there today, folks. That sun is really shining brightly!

While a couple of these are legitimate—like a burning bus, or slowing down to avoid hitting someone at the side of the road, the rest are stupid. If people would just drive like normal humans instead of trying to break the landspeed record, none of the other things on the list would a) come as a shock and b) force traffic to a standstill. So, yes, I started taking the train, which is a much more civilized and safer way to travel, albeit not without its own quirks. For example, VIA has a policy that you have to present your boarding pass BEFORE you board at some stations, but not others. At Union Station, you have to have it scanned before you can get on the train. At unstaffed stations, like the one I arrive at, you can get on the train and a conductor will scan it at some point during the trip. If you take a chance and sneak onto the train without paying, there’s a pretty hefty fine. It never occurred to me that anyone would actually TRY this, but on Friday, here’s what happened: I was standing in line, getting ready to board. I’d been standing there for a while, and contemplating the nonsensical nature of me and all the other hundred people standing there, because we all have assigned seating, yet as soon as one person lines up, the rest of us panic and follow like sheep. And then we stand there for half an hour. Waiting. And talking about why we’re standing in line. I said to the woman behind me, “Why are we lined up?” and she said, “I don’t know. I just saw everyone else doing it, and figured I should too.” Anyway, I was standing there like the follower that I apparently am, lacking in free will and all that sh*t, when I noticed a man out of the corner of my eye. I was close to one of the columns that holds up the roof, and pretty close to the front of the line, and he had sauntered over very casually and was now standing against the column with his wheelie bag, looking all innocent. But I knew what he was up to. “Bastard!” I thought to myself. “He’s going to try and cut in. I haven’t been waiting here for almost 40 minutes so this guy can jump the queue. At least not in FRONT of me. I don’t care if he cuts in behind me. Someone else can deal with that.” So, you see, I was equally enraged AND mercenary. Then, the line started to move, and sure enough, the odious little jerk slid in right behind me. Everyone noticed, but we were all too polite, being Canadian and everything, to tell him off. But as we were getting close to the escalator and the conductor, he kept trying to pass me. So I did what any red-blooded Canadian would do—I swung MY wheelie bag out wide to slow him down, forcing him to stay behind me. But this is where things got interesting and supremely karmic. I showed my boarding pass, and got on the escalator with him hot on my heels. Then I heard a voice—“Sir! Sir! I need to scan your boarding pass!” I turned, and a conductor was climbing up the escalator towards us. The man announced, “You did already,” but the conductor was adamant. “No, I didn’t. Let me see it now, please.” At this point, the butt-er reluctantly held out a very crumpled boarding pass. “Sir,” the conductor said with a hint of anger in his voice, “you don’t have a ticket for this train. You’ll have to come with me.” The man protested, but had no choice. As he scurried back down the escalator, I shook my fist in triumph, and actually said out loud, “HAHA! I knew it!!”, much to the delight of the couple ahead of me, who had also noticed that he was up to something. We all smiled knowingly at each other with the smugness of those who had legitimately purchased tickets.

Then there are the “regulars”. Seriously, it’s like Cheers, when Norm walks into the bar. “Hey, Norm”, everyone yells, and all the non-regulars are confused, and a little jealous that they aren’t part of the gang. The first time I took the train, this happened to me. I was sitting near a group of the regulars, and it was like homecoming weekend. The conductor was supremely pleased to see them, and they were all laughing and high-fiving and sh*t. Then she asked if there was anyone who was unfamiliar with train safety procedures, because I guess it’s a requirement of the job, and they were all like “Haha, safety requirements! Right, Ellen!! HAHA.” But you know me, and my need to figure out the worst case scenario, so I was like, “Excuse me. I am unfamiliar with the safety procedures and I would like to hear more about it.” So she started telling me about what to do in case of an emergency, but the gang kept interrupting her, and she would giggle and be like “Oh, you guys!” until finally I said very sternly, “I’d actually appreciate being able to hear what you have to say.” At which point, she realized that maybe she needed to stop being flirty and do her job. So she explained to me that in case of an emergency, there was a little green hammer located next to the rear window, and that I would have to hit one corner of the window with the hammer, then hit another corner to get it to break out of the frame, then use a cushion from one of the seats to push the glass out. How is this even a PLAN, VIA Rail? The train derails, and I’m tossing bodies out of the way, looking for a seat cushion to push out the window with? The window I broke with a LITTLE GREEN HAMMER?! I have the exact same plan at home in case of fire, but it doesn’t involve pillows as much as me shattering things like The Hulk using a much bigger Thor-like hammer (there’s your random Avengers reference for the week), and not caring so much about glass cuts than SAVING MY FAMILY.  Then she was like, “Don’t worry—it’ll never happen. It’s just a precaution.” Oh really, conductor lady?! It’s called a ‘worst case scenario’ for a reason. From now on, I’m bringing my own damn hammer.

But you meet all kinds on the train. There’s the girl who walks down the aisle on her cell phone, loudly alerting all of us to her weekend party plans and spends the next hour calling friend after friend to let them know she’s “on the train but can’t wait to get smashed at Kyle’s house later”, the drunk Blue Jays fans who yell out the names of all the stops, the business men and women whose companies are too cheap to spring for anything more than “economy class”…. Me, I don’t care where I sit, as long as it’s quiet, I can have a glass of wine (hell yeah—they serve wine on the train, which is why I referred to it earlier as a civilized way to travel), read my book, and think my thoughts. This, however, did NOT happen on Friday. I was seated behind a woman and her 6 year-old daughter, who was quite possibly the most obnoxious child I’ve come across. Mainly because the mother seemed to have no idea that children can actually be taught, through patient care and a lot of work, to NOT be f*cking obnoxious. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE kids, I really do. I have a charming and well-behaved one of my own, and I’ve been successfully working with kids of all ages for over 30 years, so I have a pretty good idea of how to deal with them. The first sign of trouble came about 20 seconds into boarding, when “Cathy” began yelling, “SING SING LALA SING LALALA” over and over again. And to clarify—she wasn’t actually singing—she was yelling the words Sing and LaLa. Finally, the mother admonished her with “Shhhhhh.” “NO!!” came the reply, with a continuation of the racket, until Mom distracted her with the menu. Things went downhill from there. “I want THIS and THIS and THIS!”

Mom: You can only have one thing. You have to choose.
Cathy: NO!! I WANT EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING!
Mom: You can’t have everything. Only one. Which one do you want?
Cathy: I WANT EVERYTHING. I’m going to kick this seat until you get me EVERYTHING! (kick kick kick kick)
Conductor: Can I get you anything?
Mom: Yes, I’ll take this and this and this….

Good work, lady.

Halfway through the trip, I finally had to put my headphones on and drown out Cathy with loud music after this particular conversation:

Cathy: What does ‘technically’ mean? Mommy, what does ‘technically’ mean? MOMMY! Don’t you know? Are you stupid? Mommy, what does ‘technically’ mean? MOMMY!!

You know, I get that people are tired, and it’s really easy to let kids get away with a little cheekiness at the end of a long day, but kicking seats and calling names are a certain sign that little Cathy is going to have BIG trouble if she thinks the rest of the world is going to treat her like Mommy does. She’ll be the one trying to cut into a line, and she’ll be shocked when people like me won’t let her. That’s karma, Cathy.

But I have met some really great people on the train. There’s the kid who’s in Pre-Law at U of T, but who would give it all up to be a rock star with his band–he was visiting his girlfriend at Western and had never taken the train before so we helped each other figure out where the subway was in relation to the train station…The girl who finished a Security course and did a practicum at a northern men’s penitentiary, which taught her that she really didn’t want to be a prison guard and was now working with a pharmaceutical company…The Kinesiology student whose 8 year-old sister lives with her and goes to school in Toronto all week, then goes to London on the weekends to stay with “relatives”–she’s 18 years old but pretty much a surrogate mother, and a very good one at that, judging by the way she cares for little Hailey…The man who’s an accountant by day, but races short track with his classic car on the weekends down in Windsor in a full firesuit and helmet–his brother is his pit crew…the list goes on, and for every annoying Cathy, there are three different people with fascinating stories and lives that you can glimpse into for a brief moment, and realize that the world can be a pretty decent place if you let it. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Best elevator conversation of the week:

Guy in Elevator: Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Carol Burnett?
Me: Uh, thanks—it must be the haircut.
Guy: Kids today have no appreciation for Carol Burnett. The other night I was at a bar and I was being hit on by someone a LOT younger than me. So I said to him, “Sorry, honey—I’m Carol Burnett and you’re Lady Gaga. It will NEVER work.”

Worst elevator conversation of the week:

Guy in Elevator: Ungghh—I could sure use a big cup of coffee!
Me: Um…ok.
Guy: Wow! Look at all your rings! I really like the big one you have on!!
Me: I got that one in Spain—oh look, here’s my floor. Bye.

Best conversations with street people this week:

Me: I’m going into Loblaws. Can I get you anything?
Homeless Guy: Can I get some smoked oysters?
Me: Uh….ok…
Homeless Guy: And a Coke? Thanks.

Me: I’m going into Loblaws. Can I get you anything? Maybe some juice?
Dan: Oh…could I have a jar of Cheez Whiz? I love Cheez Whiz but I can never afford to buy it.
Me: Sure thing.
Dan: Thanks, dear.

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. In fact, one year for Christmas, I bought K a book called “The Little Book of Worst Case Scenarios”, and I forced her to read it so she would know what to do in case she was ever chased by a bear (make yourself look as large as possible and scream loudly to let the bear know you could take it in a fight. Do not run—bears are, apparently, very gazelle-like), drove a car into a river (find an air pocket, wait for the car to be submerged, then open the door and swim to the surface. K was like “I’m seven years old–why would I ever drive my car into a river?” I DON”T KNOW, K. But if you plan for these things, you might SURVIVE them), or if the bouncy castle she was playing in suddenly became untethered and began to float away (which apparently happens more often than you think, prompting our local school board to ban them from school property. They also banned dunk tanks. Because of all the drownings.) Sorry if that was ramble-y, but that’s the mood I’m in.

Anyway, 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.