Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shopping fracas from 1-8

Food shopping is a nightmare at the best of times. I mean think about it. You buy the food, bag it, bring it home, unbag it, store it; then you're too tired to cook it.

I live in Toronto where it has been -29 degrees for weeks with no sun and everyone is grouchy and praying for spring.  I am giving this weather detail up front so I might not be judged so harshly. I live right next to the University of Toronto so I often sink to the Metro food store where all the University kids shop. I wound up there last night  which  was a Saturday and there were thousands of students shopping for frozen Mcnuggets and Kraft cheese slices.

I really don't cook so I only buy things like raspberries for munching and milk for my tea. I never buy more than 8 items so I can get in the short 1-8  express lineup.   There were 21 people ahead of me and the lineup snaked into the baked goods aisle. The guy in front of me ( who happened to be black as was the check out woman -- this is important for the story) had way more than 8 items. He had 15 items.

My anger was rising as I crept forward in the outrageous line. I was sweating in my unbreathable winter gear. Finally when we got up to the conveyor belt I could stand it no longer and said to him  "You have more than 8 items and should be in another line up."

He turned to me and said in a really loud voice, "There are 500 people here. Why did you choose me to say that to?" Now everyone was looking.  Almost everyone was from another country so they just looked at their carts. No one wanted to get involved. I responded, "Because you are in front of me and my anger has been building." I looked at the check out woman for verification but she just looked at me as though I was a member of the Klan.   Then the black man said, "Well, now I know you don't think I can read, but I actually wonder if you can read.  He pointed to a sign and said,  "Ok, honey let's sound this out together. Then he read the sign slowly pointing to each letter with his finger. It said 1-16 ITEMS ONLY.

Oops. I said "Wow, how long has that been there?"  The check out woman said "I don't know lady but it was here when I came 6 years ago." I said 'That is weird because I have been coming here for 30 years and never saw it. She said, "The 1-8 aisle is next door." This was all said with a scowl on her face.

This was like a social science experiment like the ones I used to be involved in when I was a psychologist.  I figured the truth was the best at this point, "Gee, I guess I had free floating anger and it glommed onto the extra 8 items in your cart. "  He shook his head and I added, "Maybe I need checkout rehab." He said , "Lady you could never find the sign to get there."  The clerk said, "Move this idiocy along" as she snapped on the conveyor belt and it was over. I sheepishly crept my Visa in to the machine and crawled out.

After that contretemps I needed a tea so I slipped across the street into Tim Horton's.  There was the black man with his 15 items in a bag at his feet. I got my tea and when I went to my table I couldn't resist saying "Hey this table is reserved for the handicapped."  We both broke out in gales of laughter.  He said "Dear Lord, you are everywhere."  I joined him uninvited. He was about my son's age and is  in the faculty of education hoping to be a teacher.  He said he was hoping to teach children to read, but now he realized he had to broaden that mandate.  Any way his name is Raf and he swore he would come to my upcoming book launch.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2 cappuccinos -- Canada Post

- Hey did ya hear the news?
- Ya mean Peter O'toole died?
-Not that.  His liver packed it in back in the 90's.
-What then?
- Canada Post is no longer goin' to deliver the mail.
-You're kiddin' --Fabulous!
-Right. No more shovelling the snow.
-Yeah, no tickets for ice.
-Another Christmas present off the list.
-No more bills.
-Now you can buy more at Christmas.
-For sure. Bill comes-- just press delete.
-Yeah, perfect
-Did ya read  the whining in the Globe?
-Who reads the Globe anymore?
-They're riled up about old people gettin' their mail.
-What did old people do when the Milk man stopped? Go dairy free?
-I almost forgot --we're old.
-Jesus Christ, you're always on top of the news.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eulogy for a best friend

One of my best friends, Susan Eckert Avner, known as Ecky-- a woman I have known since I was in junior high passed away this week. She died alone in her condominium and it was days before anyone discovered her. It was only because she was not posting on her Facebook that we, her high school friends from across the country, became alarmed. The fire department broke in to her home in Kansas City, and  found her dead at 66 years of age.  Cause unknown.

I have written a bit about her on Facebook, and I could write a lengthy eulogy, but instead I want to describe just one afternoon we shared that  I will always remember.  It was a wonderful memory because it was vintage Ecky.

It was a hot day in June in 1963.  Both Ecky and I were sixteen year olds in high school in Buffalo.  It was a great moment for me because I'd just received my  driver's  license that day.  My mother let me take her car to school. It was a Monday and  Ecky and I, both Irish Catholics, had to go to the dread of all dreads-- religious instruction. She went to Saint Benedict's and I went to Christ-the-King. I agreed to pick her up  at a corner after what we called the  'hell-on-earth" class was over. We'd planned to go out to dinner.

My mother never made a meal and  she had to go to her study club that night.( She studied the Congo.) So she gave me money for dinner and enough to take a friend so,  as she said, " I wouldn't be lonely".  Ecky's mother abandoned the family forever when Eck was around seven and  basically left Eck in charge of her younger brothers. Thus we were on your own with our new Impala 409 Convertible.  What is better than two teenage girls in a convertible with no parents in sight out who are out  on the town for the first time?

We decided to go to Pat's Hot Dog Stand, a local hangout for 'older boys with cars'  and we planned on breezing in on two wheels with the top down, cigarettes a blaze.  I decided before we made our grand entrance we should get the car washed at one of those new fancy drive-thru car washes on Niagara Falls Boulevard.  Ecky, always the cautious one, said maybe we should think twice before driving in since we hadn't done it before and I'd only had my license for a day.  I replied, "How hard can it be."

We pulled in and there was a line up of cars.  I drove in to the spray and neglected to read the sign that said, TURN OFF MOTOR AND PUT CAR INTO NEUTRAL. I decided to blast through in drive and to rev the motor.    I also missed getting into the track that pulled  you along.  Once we got in the middle  the car stalled; I'd screwed up the clutch; flooded the car and it would not start again. People were beeping at us to move as the cars were piling up. Ecky and I started laughing and couldn't stop. We were out of control. ( You know that kind of laugh that only teenage girls can have?) We were surrounded by giant red automatic round slapping machines that were in revolt. They kept making loud gear grinding sounds and then they reversed direction and water came at us from all angles.

Ecky lowered her window to yell,"HELP," but the water flooded  into the car  due to the fact that  it was coming in from a sideways angle.  The water pressure shot  her over to my side of the car.  We were now in complete paroxysms of  laughter. No one could get to us because the machines were stuck on our car, beating it and spinning around.

Finally, between cycles, I screamed "MISSION ABORT!" and we tore out of the car hoping to make it  out without a wax coat. Well, the second we got out of the car, we heard the  Puerto Ricans who worked there yelling at us in Spanish, "Go Back." Sorry boys-- too late.

Suddenly the huge brushes started buffeting us all over the place. Many people would have cried from the pain of the slaps, but Ecky was still laughing hysterically and screaming, "McClure, we are going to die with really clean skin!"

As we moved toward the exit, having abandoned the car in the suds department, we were thrashed with wax from above. I 'd paid for the extra wax and we got it.  It took two weeks to get that wax out of our hair.  Our eyelids were heavy with wax and it was  hard to keep them open.

Eck screamed, "McClure, I see sunlight ahead!" We just had  to get through the dry cycle.  We continually kept flying into one another.  The air was so hot and so powerful our faces were  beet read and we were  sandblasted. Eck yelled over the din, "My freckles are gone and my nails curled upwards."

Finally we heard an eery silence, the lights flashed  and the whole car wash ground to a halt. Someone had pulled the emergency switch.

The owner came running up to us screaming that we had to pay for all of his damaged equipment and there now was a line up of twenty cars waiting to enter, blah blah.  We couldn't  stop laughing and  Ecky had such an infectious laugh that the guys who worked there started chortling  at  the wax coating on top of our suds.

I wanted to argue with the angry owner, but Ecky, always far wiser, made him see how funny it was.  She said, "Hey now you'll have a story to tell your wife, The day the girls from Amherst went through the car wash without the car." Finally, Ecky broke him down and even he was laughing. He   got the car moving and we pulled out to everyone's cheers.

Never deterred from my original plan, no matter how awry it has gone, Ecky and I drove along to Pat's Hot Dog Stand.  We put the top down and let our long white waxed hair flap in the breeze. I already had white hair, but Ecks was black and the white wax made her look like one of those wax dolls that you used to buy for a penny that had kool aid inside.

When we got to Pat's Hot Dog's, which was only a drive-in-stand, with a huge parking lot surrounded by tables on a scrappy piece of yard, we  each had to lay down on a picnic table to dry out before ordering.  Naturally, since we were encased in suds and wax we were the centre of attention.  Neither of us acted like we were in any way unusual. Ecky just said to some boys who left their Corvettes to see the mummified wax figures,  "You guys should go through the car wash on Niagara Falls Boulevard,  It's a riot!"

When we dried off, we got our long dogs, curly fries and cokes.  We laughed so hard the cokes came through our noses.  When were got home, the best part of the caper was that no one noticed that we looked even slightly different. All anyone said to either of us was "Hi, how was your day?"

Although our lives took different paths, I moved to Canada and Ecky to  Kansas City, we got together every year.  Once when we were in Florida getting our nails done, the manicurist asked us if we wanted a Brazilian wax for the beach. We both burst out laughing and Ecky said, "No thanks we've had a Buffalonian.

Two years ago I picked Ecky up at the Buffalo Airport in my new car  and  told her I had a plan for lunch.  Fifty years later we drove through the car wash and then drove to Ted's Hot Dog Stand. ( Pat's was gone now.)
 It was full of teenagers and we were 63 and 64.  Still we laughed so hard that coke came out of our noses.

Eck, I still hear your laugh and always will. May you wax eloquent in heaven.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Two Cappuccinos --Movie deal

-Gettin' my novel optioned as movie.
-Which one?
-That the Darwin and Freud thriller?
-Do they love it?
-Say they do.
-Keepin'  it as is?
- Almost. Takin' out the Freud.
-Too fifties.
-And the Darwin?
-He's axed as well.
-Too highbrow?
-They say they want it to be accessible.
- Accessible, scary word, that.
-Right. Terrifying as family fare.
-Keepin' the detectives at least?
-No. makin' it into a children's series.
-Least you get paid.
-That's why I have coffee with you.

Two Cappacinos

-Kids drivin’ me nuts.
-Yeah, well look on the bright side.
-Motherhood -- a bright side? You're holdin' out.
- You could be Mrs. Ford.
-You kidding, I’d love it! She’s not worried.
- What the hell is there to worry about?
- All little Robbie needs is a driver.
- Lose a few pounds.
- Bob’s your uncle.
- No one's goin to call her  a helicopter parent.
-She's a bloody role model.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

people to avoid

The world is full of people and sometimes you have to make snap decisions on who to befriend or even have as an acquaintance. I often make my snap unfair judgements based on linguistic grounds. There are certain words that put my nervous system on alert. Since these are legion, I will only name the top  six. I won't bother with explanation. Either you get it or you don't.

1. People who refer to their BUCKET LIST.

2. Those who apologize by saying MY BAD.

3. When something is funny they say, LOL

4. Those who say, WHATEVER DOESN'T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER. They need to meet people who have post traumatic stress disorder and are not stronger.

5. Those who refer to a coincidence as a COINKIDINK.  ( Oh no! Spell check recognizes it.)

6. Colleagues who meet you at a business meeting and say NAMESTE.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hong Kong Reprimand

Interesting incident at my hotel in Hong Kong. Before I relate it let me tell you what I have read in all of my guide books about interacting in China and Hong Kong. FACE is a term everyone uses. You must never embarass anyone or point out their faults. THEY HAVE TO SAVE FACE. Even if you are right never say you are right.  It is up to the wrong party to take action. If you point out an error, the person stonewalls you, smiles and never forgets the slight-- for their WHOLE LIFE. 

Now with that cultural tidbit under your belt, let me proceed. The other day I got a note from the General manager of the Hotel under my door  actually it was a formal letter saying that there has been 'an incident'  and we needed to meet. Husband #1 said that I have been writing a blog critiquing the government and now they were going to throw me out.  David, #2-3 son suggested that they were going to tell me that I was annoying. With that family support I trudged to the desk and at the time appointed on the  letter.    When I went to the desk of this giant hotel all of the hotel clerks said they were waiting for me. They called the general manager who wore a black formal tux and white gloves. They all surrounded me to listen to the manager. 

The manager said there was an incident with my lampshade and then he produced two giant pictures of my lampshade. One was before I damaged it and One was when it was intact. The conversation follows with 12 clerks watching and nodding.

Manager:  Do you see the damage to the lampshade

Me:  yes it has a water mark on it.

Manager:  I see it as well.

me:  I guess we both see it.

Manager:  nods and no one says anything.

me:  Actually I was drying my laundry and placed my almost dry socks on the lamp because the lamp was near the sunlight coming through the window. I see that the socks have left an imprint on the lampshade damaging it.

Manager:  Yes I understand. It was very smart of you to find the light for your socks. It was warmer there. 

Me: I do it at home and this has never happened.

Manager: so  you did it here thinking it was the same. Drying things my hand saves on energy and that is good.

Me: Yes but I damaged the shade and would like to pay to have it repaired or cleaned.

Manager: Oh that is very nice of you. It would not be much. Just $200 Hong Kong dollars ($30 Canadian) 

Me: It would be my pleasure and thank you for contacting me. 

Manager: We will add it to your bill since you suggested it.

The next day when we were checking out there was nothing added to my bill. I think they wanted me to confess my wrongdoing and offer to deal with it. WELCOME TO HONG KONG!

See pictures of the lampshades presented to me below: