Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Eve

My aunt called us all on December 23rd to confirm that she had electricity at her house and the party would proceed as scheduled.   This annual birthday party has recently been upped from a bi- to a tri-, since my cousin's new husband has a birthday around Christmas just like my mother's mother (Bubbe) and Ken.

I arrived early to help my aunt with last-minute preparations.  This consisted of setting the table (twelve chairs crammed around a table that can comfortable accommodate six - it gets a little cozy), and then keeping an eye on Pepper to make sure he didn't do any table-arranging of his own.  This is Pepper.  He's a good boy.

Pepper says: "Mrow?  Mrow?  Mrow?  Mrow?"  which translates roughly to: Pay attention to me I can haz pats? I can haz salmon?  I can haz salmon? I can haz salmon?

Nutmeg is an old lady and spent the evening snoozing on her pillow by a heating vent.  This is Nutmeg.

My aunt refused most of my offers of help in the kitchen because she was too disorganized and panicked to do more than one thing at a time.  Dinner was a little delayed on account of the chaos, but that was no problem.  When it was finally served (rice with fried mushrooms, green beans, butternut squash, and, obviously, salmon) it received rave reviews.

My Bubbe was pleased.  This is my Bubbe.

It was her 93rd birthday.  She's looks good for her age, doesn't she?  Also, she looks a lot like The Queen.  Don't you think?  This is The Queen.

They have the exact same nose!  Isn't that freaky?  Just slap a little lipstick on my Bubbe, and an enormous red hat, set her hair, and throw some pearls on her, and there would be nothing to distinguish them.  MY BUBBE AND THE QUEEN ARE TWINS SEPARATED AT BIRTH.  Don't tell anyone.  It's a secret.

In the end, Pepper did not get to taste the salmon, but he did get a lot of pats on the head.  And now that I have resolved the only dramatic tension in this non-story...  THE END.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Next Plague is: Ice

I am cozily tucked up in fleecy jammies and sheepskin booties in my warm, bright home.  Lucky me!  CBC news estimates that a quarter of a million people in Toronto are currently without power, and some of them may not get it restored until Christmas.  Bah humbug.

I can never quite get my head around calling this type of weather an ice storm.  It's not at all stormy.  If the air temperature were a few degrees warmer, it would be nothing more than "persistent drizzle".

Ice has been building up slowly but surely since yesterday evening.  I almost wiped out on a slick patch on the way to my friends' house.  But that was on a little-used walkway in my condo complex. Once I got to the main streets things weren't too bad.

Arriving at my friends' house, I left my open umbrella on their porch.  When I emerged again, several hours later, it was encrusted with ice.  I had to do a little extra work to collapse the canopy.  It was crispy.

We took the drive home slowly.  The roads had enough traffic on them to keep them above freezing.  But a few miles from home we hit a blacked out zone.  No street lights.  Dark homes.  I assumed we'd get through it, but on and on it went.  We looked hopefully for electric lights, but only saw them on in a few institutional buildings, of the type that has backup power.  By the time we were almost home and still in the dark, I had steeled myself for a long, cold night.

We saw a greenish flash light up the sky as a transformer exploded.

But lo and behold, two blocks from home we discovered: electricity!  Our neighbourhood, which we affectionately refer to as Condotropolis, was just outside the blackout zone.  Like I said, lucky us.  I do feel badly for all those people who weren't so fortunate.

We're not completely off the hook yet.  There's more freezing drizzle in the forecast, and, just as worrisome, gusting winds.  Ken and I have flashlights, candles, and extra blankets laid out, just in case.

Here's where I wish I could post the photo I took of a gorgeously ice-encrusted tree outside my window, however I can't get any cell service today (clearly some ice-related issue), and I'm too lazy to start downloading apps to make my Android phone talk to my Mac home computer, so that's that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Flushed with excitement

N.B. There are references to poop in this post.  If poop offends you, please do not proceed.


As you all know, a little while ago there was a fire in my workplace.  The following week, we had flooding, as a blockage 60 feet down the sewage lines caused every toilet in the place to start overflowing almost simultaneously.  (Someone had to stay until 2:30 in the morning to get that one sorted out, but fortunately it wasn't me.)

Logically, what follows next?  Drought, of course.

On Thursday morning, when the early shift (6:00 am) arrived at my workplace, there was no running water.  A water main break had flooded the street overnight, and the process of repair required us to be waterless for a few hours.  Luckily the water was turned back on by 8:30 am.  Business could continue as usual.  No problem, right?

You know how when the water's been off for a while, when it comes back on the faucets spit and kick?  Because air bubbles are being delivered along with the water at high pressure?  So, that was happening.  Again, whatever, you let the water run for a little while, stand out of the way of the spurts, and eventually it normalizes.

One girl who I work with headed to the ladies' room as soon as the water came back on.  She had to do a couple of numbers.  After taking care of business, she stepped on the flush lever.

Two offices over, another two ladies were standing together having a discussion.  A muffled sound stopped them in mid-sentence.  One turned to the other and asked "Did you just hear a bang?"  As the words hung in the air, the girl who had been in the bathroom ran past their door.  Shards of white ceramic were sprinkled in her hair.

The toilet had literally EXPLODED.  When girlfriend flushed, a monster air bubble shot into the part of the toilet where the metal pipe fastens onto the ceramic bowl, and literally blasted that area to pieces.  Fortunately, the bowl itself remained intact.  Unfortunately, girlfriend's poop (along with a goodly amount of water) was blasted out of the bowl.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  Unfortunately, "someone" (she eventually went back to do this herself) had to chase down her poop, which was floating around on the floor, and tidy that up before anyone could witness her humiliation.

When one of my employees told me over the phone that a toilet had exploded, I thought she was exaggerating.  I thought: she must just mean that it overflowed, or it made a loud gurgling noise, or something.  When I got to work, and saw for myself that chunks of porcelain were scattered on the floor, I could hardly believe my eyes.

The emergency plumber couldn't even believe it.  He's never seen such a thing happen before, and that's his job.  I am seriously starting to think that my workplace is cursed.  Why am I still working there?  I have no idea.  In the past several weeks alone we've had fire, floods, a fight, the lawsuit, and now an exploding toilet.  I mean, what the...?  What is going on here?

It also got me thinking about all the things that have exploded at my workplace over the past two years.  There was the toner bomb, which wasn't technically an explosion, but which had similar results.  Then there was the battery explosion, which was an honest-to-goodness detonation.  And now this.  How many things have exploded at your workplace in the past two years?  Anything at all?  A bag of microwave popcorn at the worst, probably?

I had no idea that being an office manager could be so fraught with danger.  I'd probably be better off working in a sawmill, or being an electrician.  An electrician working 80 feet up with no safety harness on high-voltage wires, over a lake of lava swarming with evil lava-gators.  Sheesh!

Appendix A:  Cross section of toilet.  The area that exploded was the chamber at the upper left-most corner of the diagram.  In case you were wondering.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Remembrance Day

This week, at work, a fight broke out in the waiting room.  Fortunately, it didn't get physical.  Unfortunately, there were raised voices, swearing, and name calling.

Some people on staff ran into the middle of the fracas to break it up.  The entire event was over in the course of only a minute or two.  I joined another manager to speak with the instigator in a private room.  She, the instigator, wrapped up her side of the story all pretty for us, and put a bow on it.  We asked to make sure it didn't happen again.  Then I thought I was done with the issue.

It was after noon, and I was just clearing off my desk for a lunch break, when a receptionist came to me and said that one of our clients was still upset about the fight, and wanted to speak to me.  I invited the woman into my office.  I didn't think that it would take long to sort things out.  Frankly, I was hungry, the morning had been a long one, and I just wanted to get it behind me so that I could relax properly on my break.

The woman in my office had never been to our facility before.  Nice first impression we were making.  She had travelled a long way to get there.  She was a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan.

I have been following current stories in the news media of young veterans in the U.S. and Canada: their PTSD and troubles readjusting to civilian life; the lack of adequate support systems for them; the agony their families go through trying to help them.  Never before had I sat down face to face with a real, live veteran.

I'm not going to get into the details of exactly why this situation had upset her.  Suffice it to say that it had already been a long day for her, and the conflict seemed to have stirred up memories of other injustices.  She told me "I have seen my friends die.  I have fought for this country.  How can someone speak to me like that?"  Or words to that effect.

Obviously I didn't have any answers for her.  All I could do was listen, and echo back what I was hearing to show that she was understood.  I said "I cannot imagine what you have had to endure."  I agreed that most civilians don't know how to behave or discipline themselves.  She fought back angry tears and struggled with a mighty effort to hold herself together.  She said, of the woman who insulted her, "She's lucky I didn't lose my temper.  She is just really lucky that I didn't lose my temper."

It's been a long time since I looked into the eyes of someone in such a raw state of woundedness.  She spent 20 minutes in my office, and by the end of it I was almost ready to start crying along with her.  I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for everything that she has done for our freedom.  It was difficult, and I was left shaken by the experience, but I am grateful to have had the chance to say thanks in person.  At least that one good thing came out of it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


There's a show on Oprah's TV channel called "Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal".  I've watched a few episodes.  Each hour is split into two 30-minute segments, and each segment tells one couple's story of how an affair affected their relationship.  There are some moderately spicy re-enactment scenes. Most of the stories end in a reconciliation of the married couple.

The stories are surprisingly alike.  Couple falls in love.  Couple marries.  Stress is introduced into their relationship via kids/finances/health problems/fear of commitment.  One or both individuals allow themselves to respond to the flirtations of another man/woman.  The attentions of this third party makes the cheater feel temporarily fulfilled.  Things get physical.  "I knew it was wrong, but I wanted to do it anyway, so I did."  They don't expect to get caught.  But they get caught, and by the time they realize the consequences, it's too late to go back.

I have never been involved in an affair, as a cheater, or a cheatee.  (To the best of my knowledge.)  I mean, one time my high school boyfriend said he couldn't take me to a dance because he was going to a family gathering, and then I found out that he had been out with some of his guy friends and that other girls were there, so I screamed at him in public and ran into the nearest washroom sobbing my face off.  But that's about it.  Hey, we were teenagers.  It's par for the course.

I did allow another man to kiss me once, right at the very end of my first marriage.  But I didn't just "let it happen" without any forethought.  It was planned.  The plan included not going beyond kissing.

The situation was that I had been with my first husband for 12 years (married for 5), and due to a multitude of factors my self-esteem was very low.  So low, in fact, that I wasn't sure if I could even attract another mate, if I left my marriage, which I was already considering. I also wasn't sure if I would want to be involved with anyone else. I figured that with so much at stake, I needed to run an experiment.  I needed to base this life-altering decision on proper data.

I picked a guy I'd been friends with for over a year who seemed safe, i.e. if I succeeded in getting him to kiss me, he'd stop when I told him to.  And that's exactly what happened.  I proved that I was still attractive (at the ripe old age of 28), and that getting involved with other men might actually be fun.  And also I called a halt to the proceedings after a bit of kissing, because I was only willing to go that far while I still had a wedding ring on my finger.

I gave myself one week to think things over thoroughly.  Then I told my husband that I was leaving him at the first proper opportunity.

What happened to the guy I kissed?  Believe it or not, I ended up marrying him next.  Yup, it was Ken.  Apparently I just don't do casual relationships.

I still can't get my head around the thought process, or lack thereof, that leads someone to pursue a full-on affair.  I think I'm constitutionally incapable of it.  Seriously, one man in my life is quite enough.