REPORT A PROBLEM
I was in grade six when I lived in Nova Scotia. I remember a phonics test in which we were told to identify the different vowel sounds in the days of the week. For the ‘E’ sound I put down zero. I got the test back with that answer marked wrong. The correct answer, according to the teacher, was seven: Mondee, Tuesdee, Wednesdee, Thursdee, Fridee, Saturdee and Sundee. Given that, daylight would be DEElight. And right now I could not agree more. I am absolutely DEE-lighted to see daylight once again when I leave the office in the evening.
We are in mid-February of a full-blown Canadian Winter. Since the beginning of January we have had regular snowfalls without any significant melting in between. Really, in spite of all our griping about weather, we do not get that many days of true winter misery when you total all of them up. Most of the time, with proper clothing, winter is entirely bearable. And often it provides great delight. There is nothing like looking out over an expanse of fresh snow, glittering in the moonlight. Or seeing all the branches of the trees festooned with puffs of white.
This morning I shared a transit shelter with a shivering young man. It was -10C and he was wearing a version of a jean jacket in black canvas, which from the look of it probably only had a single layer of satin lining. Underneath it a cotton shirt hung out. No sign of a sweater. No hat, gloves or scarf. I am constantly amazed at people who would rather suffer freezing than take the trouble to add more warm clothes. He was the most marked example but there were others without hats or scarves, looking miserable waiting for the streetcar.
I guess I can understand not wanting to have ‘hat head,’ but even though I am a pretty vain person, there is no way I would go out in winter without a warm hat. It is frustrating to start out in the morning with nice-looking hair, only to have it flattened by the time I get to the office, but I would rather be comfortably dressed to brave the elements, than to arrive looking gorgeous. I fluff up my hair when I get to work, but it is never the same. A heated space helmet would be the answer!
Of course, the time of year when wearing a snug, hair-flattening hat is so necessary is also the time of year when hair is at its most fragile. Heavy-duty conditioners are required to keep it from looking like straw that a cow has mashed down in her stall. It’s not the best time for skin, either, with one’s face attacked daily by biting cold. And finger nails? Forget it. I just saw them down to the quick, otherwise they are like ragged claws that catch on any fabric they contact. It’s had to be beautiful in winter.
Not only do my finger nails crack and chip, but the tips of my fingers dry up and deep chasms form in them. They are literally like knife cuts and they hurt like hell. I have tried the thing where I slather Vaseline on them and wear gloves for the night. They feel great when I take the gloves off in the morning. But within an hour they are all dried up again, after I have gone about the various household duties to get the day started. What works is to pack them with cortisone cream and wrap them with bandages.
On any given day at this time of years, at least one of my fingers will have a bandage on it. This is a pain because I am a compulsive hand-washer. Most bandages, even the water-proof ones, do not last through a handwashing. So I am constantly re-applying the bandages, and therefore constantly buying bandages. There are some specially shaped ‘finger-tip’ bandages that work well, but it pisses me off that they come in variety packs with other shapes that I never use. So I have a stash of ‘knuckle’ bandages building up. Know anybody who can use them?
I wonder what people think when they see my fingers constantly dressed with bandages. Whatever they think, I am sure it is not helped by the fact that I have a cat who likes to sink her claws into my hands, therefore they are always covered with sores. Believe it or not, this is a sign of affection. When I am scratching my cat's neck, she goes into ecstasy, grabs my other hand and pulls it toward her in a passionate embrace. I guess it is sort of like those women who dig their nails into their lover’s back.
A friend of mine was telling me how she was unable to adopt a dog from the Humane Society. They can be very draconian there about who is allowed a pet. When we got our cat, a little gnome of a woman followed me around watching closely how I interacted with the feline hopefuls. I almost missed Cindy, who was hiding at the back of her cage. I opened the door and stuck my hand in. Cindy grabbed it and dug her claws in. “That is a sign of affection,” said the gnome. “I know,” I smiled. Cindy was ours.
Cindy was only a year old. I chose her because she was young and would likely last through the kids’ childhoods, avoiding any youthful trauma arising from losing a beloved pet. She had been found injured at the side of the road and brought to the Humane Society. When hit by the car she was been pregnant, and the accident caused her to her unborn babies to die, so they had to be aborted. At the same time they had spayed her. So adopting her, as opposed to another available cat, saved me the cost of having to do that.
The Humane Society makes you promise that you will never let your cat outdoors. But Cindy was already an outdoor cat. We tried aversion therapy to dissuade her from wanting to go out. Every time she meowed at the door we would take a spray bottle and spritz her. This would stop her for about ten minutes, then she would start again, loudly and woefully yowling. For months we were chasing her around the house night, spraying her, often losing sleep through the night, which was her favourite time for this game. Finally we gave up and let her out.
Cindy lived up to her side of the bargain. She will be 15 years old soon, having remained with us for 14 of those years. Cindy and this house go hand-in-hand because we got them at the same time. She is part of what made this house a home. She endured us in spite of our abusing her with spray bottles and the smothering love of two small children. She has born it all with great dignity and has become the unquestionable ruler of the roost, in spite of brutish attempts of our other cat, Vincent, at usurping the position.
There is this question that shows up from time to time in employment interviews. One of those ‘formula’ questions that are asked by HR people so out of touch with their humanity they are not able to judge character by talking to somebody. The question is: “If you were an animal, what would you be?” In one interview I answered that I would be a North American house cat, because there is probably no existence more comfortable. I was surprised when I got the job, I thought immediately after my truthful answer – who would hire somebody who only wants comfort?
I looked up the psychology behind the interview question where you are asked what kind of animal you would be. There is no wrong answer; it is supposedly an indicator of whether you are what the employer wants. If you say you are a wild animal, then you are aggressive and proactive; whereas if you say you are a domesticated animal, it means you are cooperative and obedient. In retrospect, when I said housecat, my control-freak ex-boss probably thought she was getting somebody she could keep under her thumb. I guess psychological profiling does not always work out. Sorry, bitch.
If It’s Your Birthday: “What is right and what is wrong? What is good and what is bad? These are the sort of questions you will be asking yourself over the coming 12 months, and the answer will surprise you. Maybe there’s no such thing as ultimate reality.” Haha – I have constantly asked myself those questions for as long as I can remember. Nice to know my horoscope says I will finally get the answers. Although it would seem that the answers may be slightly on the surreal side, I like that concept. But then, are they ultimately really answers?
In the Globe and Mail they have a regular item on page two about a memorable anniversary that is being marked on the current date. Today it is apparently the anniversary of Gary Bettman cancelling the NHL season in 2005 because of player demands. What a great birthday present! I hate hockey and I was very pleased to be spared of it that year, especially when CBC filled in the space where hockey would have been with movies. However, I did not realize until I read the paper today that he had actually done this wonderful thing on my birthday.
My mother took me out for lunch yesterday. When the waiter overheard it was my birthday, he brought me a glass of bubbly - on the house. Normally I do not drink at lunch. But I somehow felt obligated to consume it, since it was a gift given in goodwill. I find even a small drink during the day makes me light-headed, having the same effect as drinking two or even three alcoholic beverages in the evening. So I went back to work feeling rather woozy. I am thinking the waiter really should have checked whether I wanted a drink.
When I give gifts, in addition to thinking about what the person might want, I also fret about bestowing something they will not want. Sometimes a gift can be presumptuous. I am just thinking about the waiter who gave me a glass of bubbly for my birthday the other day. He presumed I was a drinker. What if I had been an AA member, trying to overcome an addiction? In my opinion, gifts should be small and delightful and not impose on the person receiving them. Giving an overly extravagant gift can do this by putting a friend under obligation.
Actually, these days, I usually do not even remind people it is my birthday because I do not want friends to feel obligated to give gifts. This year it happened circumstantially because I ended up writing about gifts since the topic came to mind because it was my birthday. Not that I do not enjoy receiving gifts, but I have come to a point in my life where the biggest gift is just having good friends and I feel no need for them to show their affection in material ways. Good wishes and good humour are enough. Make me laugh.
Being able to laugh is what helps me survive living among humans. Yes, I am human, too, but somehow I have never been able to understand a large part of human behavior. I knew Steve was the right guy for me when, early in our relationship, we went to a movie together and we both peeled out with laughter at the same piece of dialogue while everybody else in the theatre remained silent. I realized, then, that not only did we share the same sense of humour, but that Steve, too, felt the same sense of separation that I do.
My deadpan sarcasm often gets me in trouble. I have to hold myself back from delivering dry, feigned impolite, statements that I expect everybody will think are as ludicrous as I do. For instance, at the office one day, a staff member had been asking me for many ‘favours’ already, when he asked for one more. “You’ve had your quota of favours for today,” I quipped playfully. He shrank back, looking disappointed. I had to reassure him I was happy to help him. It scares me to think that a person might believe somebody would have been so seriously rude.
We are back to the cold and snow, but later this week they say temperatures will rise above freezing again. So we are into that phase of the season when spring starts fighting with winter to take over. I am not fond if this period because one starts to get a taste for spring and then winter briefly returns. Even when spring is taking the lead it can be miserable, with slush and ice forming, and all the snow banks turning black with grime. However, there is one thing we can count on - the battle always ends with spring triumphant.
The other thing that happens, just when one is getting used to waking up to morning light, is that Daylight Saving Time takes it away again. It is not long before the light creeps back and makes it easier to get up in the morning once more. But before that happens we have to suffer doubly by losing that hour of sleep that disrupts one’s rhythm for weeks. It is all worthwhile in the end, when summer brings us sunny mornings and bright evenings, but while one is enduring this torture it can be hard to keep that in mind.
It is sad the way humans find it hard getting used to reduced circumstances. We feel brutalized by small setbacks, like having to pay four cents more per litre of gas – that’s $2.00 per tank, people! I know somebody who got laid off temporarily. Two weeks without pay as a cost-cutting measure by her company. She makes three times what I do. I was thinking, "How nice to have some time off!" but she howled at the injustice of it. Mind you, when I have a choice between time and money, I usually go for the money.
It is ironic that the richer you are the more free stuff you get. If you can afford to travel you can collect points from airlines and hotels toward further trips. If you are not a member of the privileged class, you are lucky to scrape together the fare for a Greyhound bus ride. Then you might get to see a fellow passenger beheaded, as happened recently on a bus carrying unfortunate travellers across the prairie provinces. Although there are some who might think of that as a perk, after all people used to go to public beheadings for entertainment.
It would have been an unimaginable trauma for those who ended up witnessing the beheading of the unfortunate young man by the deranged person on that bus last year. Currently three of those passengers are suing Greyhound and the RCMP for not protecting them from this event. I am not sure what can be done to protect people against things that are completely unforeseen. Is there a way to guard against every random, freak occurrence that might possibly affect our lives? And if we filter out the bad, could we end up filtering out the good at the same time?
Along the lines of being prepared for the unforeseeable, I always remember the huge outcry after the unprecedented massive ice storm that paralyzed Quebec in 1998. People were indignant that all levels of administration did not have plans in place for a catastrophe like that… an event that had never occurred before in recorded history. And still to this day I see that no level of government has instituted a Ministry for the Unforeseeable, staffed with a bevy of high paid consultants dreaming up events never thought of previously, for which we should be prepared. This is a moral outrage!
It seems to me that the type of reactionaries who are constantly insisting they want less government involvement in their lives, are often the same people who are indignant when the government is not there to bail them out of difficult situations. And when that assistance is not provided, they scream for inquiries into what happened. Expensive inquiries that eat up a lot of the tax money that these very people resent having to pay. And inquiries that often last for years, even decades, and end up doing nothing more than to provide the answers that we knew all along.
The Tip Jar