Thursday, 14 May 2015

In The Immortal Words of The Clash

Thursday Lunchtime
Much instability at work over past few weeks has led to fork in the road.

Can remain clinging to last roof shingle as water floods the bayou, or can leap off burning building and land in temporary safety net that has a couple of holes.

Neither option perfect.

Give self 48 hours to make a decision.

Friday Night
10 year old daughter T. comes home from evening out with BFF, BFF’s mother, grandmother, grandfather and two sisters.

How was your evening?

It was fun Mom except for the part when we forgot little sister E in the car.

FORGOT E IN THE CAR? What do you mean?

Well we all got out, and we were focusing so much on the grandpa and the grandma and making sure they were ok by the time we walked to the restaurant we realized that E was still in the car.

Isn’t E five years old?

Yeah. So anyway we all walked back to the car to get her and she was sitting there crying hysterically.


Yeah. And Mom what I don’t get is why wouldn’t she just get out of the car? If you forgot me, Mom, I would just undo my seat belt, open the door and yell HELLLO YOU FORGOT ABOUT ME. Or I would just run down the sidewalk to get you. Or, if it was a really sketchy neighborhood and I was scared I would honk the horn so you would come back. You had to see it Mom she was just sitting there crying.

(Beaming proudly): You are so right, T. Because that’s how I raised you. We are not the types to sit around and wait for someone to rescue us. We take action. We make things happen.

Lesson 1: If we are stuck in a car, we open the door and get out. We do not wait for someone to come and rescue us.

Saturday Morning
Beautiful Bar Mitzvah with the worst acoustics in the city. People talking during services, microphones not used, much background noise.

Rabbi opens his mouth to speak, complete silence blankets pews.

Rabbi just returned from mission to Poland and Israel.

Rabbi recalls the horrors of the concentration camps, the trains that brought Jews to their death, the showers that killed the Jews, the mass graves where they buried the Jews and the acres and acres of Jewish shoes and hair that are still on display to commemorate aforementioned atrocities.

Trip then went to Israel where Rabbi says the most inspirational sites were the shopping malls. The vineyards, the grocery stores and Aroma coffee fill the Rabbi with joy.

Not what we were expecting. 

He explains:

That a community can withstand a trauma like the Holocaust and go on to build such coffee stores that give you a free piece of chocolate such beauty is inspiring beyond any pile of rocks with someone’s name on it any memorial.

It is the drama – he says – of leaving a gut wrenching site of destruction and landing where Jews are selling t-shirts to other Jews that makes us buoy with hope.

Lessons 2, 3, 4:
2. Entire families perished in the Holocaust, I have no real problems.
2a. If you are a good speaker, you don’t need a microphone.
3. Jews are good at retail naturally resilient.
4. There is beauty in rebirth.

Sunday, Late Afternoon
Invited out for I’s birthday to restaurant that is completely pitch black.

It will be fun, she says. We will eat in dark, drink in dark and apparently it’s so dark that your eyes don’t adjust.

Sounds fabulous. I hope they have fondue.

Last time this couple picked the restaurant it was All-You-Can-Eat fish cheeks and braised offal. Blindness re-enactment has to be a step up.

Get to restaurant in pouring rain with rock bottom expectations and even less make up (no way am I putting face on to sit in the dark).

Turns out that you walk into brightly lit bar area where you can order drinks, put your phone and valuables in a locker (oh, that’s true, pickpockets probably love it here) and gawk at people who mistakenly thought it was all going to be dark and they didn’t need to wear lipstick.

You also look at menu and order before you go in.

Beet salad.

Stuffed shells. Steak sliced and drizzled. Roast chicken. Fall off the bone ribs.

And oh look How Perfect Is This.

Surprise option.

So you are eating in the dark and you will not know what you are eating.

You can order surprise app, main, and dessert. 

That’s for me.

Are you kidding? Husband asks. You said this was the worst idea anyone ever had  you weren’t excited about coming here and now you are ordering the Surprise option.

I don’t know if I will ever come back to this restaurant, I say. So I want to make sure that I get the full experience while I’m here. I’m not usually afraid to try new things except fish cheeks and braised offal. So why should this be any different. You know me, when I’m in, I’m all in.

Lesson 5: When I’m in, I’m all in.

Monday morning
Review lessons learned this weekend (including lesson 2a, not sure if you noticed, I threw it in as a freebie):

1. If we are stuck in a car, we open the door and get out.
2. Entire families perished in the Holocaust, I have no real problems.
2a. If you are a good speaker, you don’t need a microphone.
3. Jews are good at retail naturally resilient.
4. There is beauty in rebirth.
5. When I’m in, I’m all in.

Ladies and Gentlemen, looks like the decision is clear.

Let go of roof shingle.

Close my eyes.

And Jump.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Same or Different

Story A.

Guy I know looks at money and makes more money with it.

Drives multiple luxury cars one of which breaks down.

Fancy car company has it's own roadside assistance.

Fancy roadside assistance says We Can Meet You and take the car Sir but it will cost you $350 and we will need to take the car for three nights. We will give you a complimentary courtesy car.

There is no way you can fix my car tonight?

No sir.

There is no way you can fix my car tomorrow?

No Sir.

However, because we are Fancy roadside assistance we will bring the complimentary courtesy car right to you.

Grey Poupon? Sounds Great, says Guy. Why don't we meet at my brewery. You can give me the courtesy car and I will give you my broken luxury car.

Fancy shows up and Guy buys him a beer (yes only one and I'm sure it was small) (I'm not a narc)

Relax and chat about rich people things that you and I probably wouldn't understand.

Guy reaches into ermine lined pocket and hands Fancy his car keys. 

Fancy puts down his pint minuscule glass of beer and says On The Other Hand maybe we can fix your car right now.

Story B.

Leaving town for wedding and want to make sure my kids have their suits. 

Bring suits to dry cleaner on Tuesday. 

First words out of my mouth: I Need A Favour.

Leaving Thursday, must have suits, especially this one.

No problem. Thursday after 3pm.

Are you sure? Do you promise? We are leaving Friday morning at 7am. 

Yes of course Ma'am. No problem.

Thursday 3:20pm.
Everything hanging at dry cleaners except suit. Oh wait, suit jacket there. Pants missing.
 Kids have been known to go pantless before but at a wedding? Even we have our standards.

Clerk says Oh I'm Sorry. Pants Not Here.

What time are you open till tonight?

I don't think you understand Ma'am. Pants haven't been cleaned yet. No one here to clean them. They will not be ready today.

Well then I need you to find them for me. I need the pants for tomorrow at 7am. I will take them with me throw them in the washing machine, light a candle to Saint Veronica, patron saint of laundry and hope for the best.

Looks everywhere for pants. Can't find them.  

Thank you so much for trying to help me. I know it's not your fault. You weren't the one who promised me the pants. 

Well, Clerk says. There is one more thing I could do.

Picks up phone.

Calls owner.

Where? Seriously? Oh You're Right. Here They Are. Clean but not pressed. Hanging in the boiler room.

No she can't. She's leaving to a wedding tomorrow morning. 7am. 

I'll ask her.

Turns to me.

Can you stop here on your way to the airport tomorrow? We will have your pants ready at 6am.

Same or Different - Choose One:

A.  Different.  Guy you know owns a brewery and a Fancy car and your kids only have one pair of pants.

B.  Same. They probably drink too much beer at the Dry Cleaner and that's how your pants ended up in the Boiler room.

C. Different. Guy had to ply Fancy with free drinks offer Fancy a cool beverage while all you did was look kind of desperate express appreciation for the clerk.

D. Same. In both cases the company looked like they didn’t really care but in the end provided excellent customer service. Complaining effectively doesn’t always require an actual complaint.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Last Summer, In Italy

Waiter comes to the table.

We have grilled salmon with gnocchi, fettucini or spaghetti. We have bistecca romana with fettucini, or gnocchi.

Can I substitute spaghetti for the fettucini?

Yes of course. We also have shrimps, very nice, split open and grilled with a side of rice.

Can I substitute fettucini for the rice?

Yes of course. We also have chicken breast sautéed with sundried tomatoes, plum tomatoes and tomato ragu, on a bed of broccolini.

Can I substitute orchiette for the for the broccolini?

Yes of course. Finally, we have roasted pork, very tender, falls off the bone and that is served with fettucini or spaghetti.

Can I substitute bucatini for the spaghetti?

Of course.

What is this last special here?

Oh yes, of course. We also have donkey, braised for twelve hours and served with gnocchi.


Orders placed, food eaten, faces wiped, napkins crumpled.

My shrimp was delicious, C says. But I wish I had ordered the donkey.

Really? Because I thought it sounded vile and in fact thought the waiter was joking Really? Why didn't you?

Are you kidding? And eat the gnocchi. Gross.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

I Thought Rosa Parks Took Care Of This In 1955

Remember Miranda?

She's the one who let her kids go swimming without an adult even though they were underage.

Have no idea what we're talking about?

Click here to download the book so you can follow along.

Anyway Miranda's children are now boys. (Joined the Witness Protection program)

Older boy takes the bus to school.

Comes home one day and says

Strange Lady keeps talking to me on the bus.

Same people on bus every day?

Yes. Oddly enough. Live in mid size city and some buses come infrequently so people riding same route get to know each other.

Strange Lady insisting I give up my seat. There are a million other empty seats on bus. Strange Lady  says kids do not deserve to be seated on the bus.

Miranda doesn't like this at all. Plus after starring in a book about complaining effectively she feels compelled to - uh - complain effectively.

Calls 1-800-generic bus company phone number.

Bus Guy listens to her complaint attentively.

This is very serious Bus Guy says. We will send a patrol car to follow the bus and the bus driver will be notified.

Thank you Miranda says. I will be riding the bus tomorrow to make sure my daughter, oh right Witness Protection son will be okay.

Miranda boards bus with very low expectations and tasteful motivational music on her iPod.

Patrol car pulls bus over.

Patrollers board bus.

Strange Lady not there today.

Does not stop Patrollers.

They speak to Miranda. They speak to her "son". They speak to Bus Driver.

Wait, someone says in big loud voice. This must be about Strange Lady. She's not on bus but look over there - her Husband is here.

Patrollers take Husband off bus.

Tell him to tell wife to smarten up or she will swim with the fishes. (Not literally. The Fishes have closed pool for the season.)

Bus goes on to complete route.

Miranda calls Bus Guy to thank him for job well done and considers the matter closed.

Next day it's raining.

Miranda graciously offers to drive child to bus stop.

Guess who's waiting at bus stop again.

Yes, the Patrollers.

Follow bus. Strange Lady on bus with Husband.

Patrollers pull bus over again. Take Lady and Husband off bus and in the immortal words of Perry from the Wanderers tell them to Leave the Kid Alone.

Told Strange Lady if she bothers Miranda's son one more time this matter will be put into the hands of the police.

Complaint Question:  Why Did the Bus Company and Patrollers Take This Complaint So Seriously? (Choose One)
1. They just finished watching Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 and were feeling inspired.
2. They recognized Miranda from The Art of Complaining Effectively and knew better than to mess with her.
3. Bullying children on the bus is a serious offence and will absolutely not be tolerated.
4. Children in Witness Protection Program always get more protection

It Takes A

Read article about woman who wore the same thing to work every day for three years.

(Not literally.)

She bought 15 white silk shirts and an unspecified number of black trousers (her word - she's European).

Purpose was to simplify her life.

I'm in.

She said nothing however about accessories.

Clearly she was wearing classic and sophisticated pieces very bright and extremely large rhinestone jewelry so naturally I was forced to jump online and order some necklaces with oomph very understated colliers (again - European).

Necklaces delivered the next day.

First one fabulous.

Second one broken. Took it out of package and beads scattered everywhere. Plus oh no is that a cracked rhinestone the size of my wrist tiny seed pearl.

Jumped back on line and filled out comment form.

No response.

Posted on Instagram about how much I like necklace but one arrived broken and this white shirt black pants situation is not going to accessorize itself.

No response.

Four days elapse.

Finally post on Facebook make some inquiries asking if anyone knows the Jewelry People personally, and how lucky am I turns out someone says I Do.

A brief correspondance ensues and Jewelry People could not have been lovelier, agreeing to pick up necklace personally and repair, replace or refund.

Lessons Learned:

1. It's OK to ask for help. Complaining effectively does not necessarily mean complaining alone.
2. If you get no response the first time, it's OK to go back the second and third time until someone heeds your cry. Complaining effectively means not giving up.
3. If you wear black pants and a white shirt to work your life might be simpler, but people might ask you for Perrier with a slice of lime.
4. If you go to Old Navy and ask for trousers they may not know what you are looking for. They are clearly not European.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Rhymes With Oranges

In honour of my son B's 16th birthday tomorrow, I thought I would write a story about him wanting to go to a hockey game when he had an exam the next day.

(Oh wait. Already done and published. Click here to read.)

OK fine. I will write about the time B was terrorized by his French teacher, who told him he was so lazy he needed to see a doctor.

(Oh wait. Already done and published in my book. Click here to download and read.)

Alright, I will take him out for dinner to the same restaurant my mother (may she rest in peace) went to for her 16th birthday where the big treat was that she and her friends were allowed to smoke in public, and spent the entire night puffing on their cigarettes while ignoring their $50 steaks.

(Not good. Turns out smoking causes cancer. Teenage boys like to eat. And steaks there now actually cost fifty dollars.)

Plan B. A new story:

Playground. 2004. Five year old B holds out a gum wrapper. What do I do with this?

You need a garbage can, I say. Maybe there is one over there.

Person next to me rolls her eyes companionably. Give it to Mom. Always Mom. Mom is a garbage can.

No. I say to her. I am not a garbage can. I never accept wrappers from my kids. One of the first things I taught them was how to throw things in the trash.

Um she says scurrying away clutching daughter's wrist and looking at me like I have just told my child to make their own lunch.

Eleven years later B comes in from what was allegedly a walk for fresh air an innocent stroll through the park. Mom you gotta see this. Grossest thing ever.

Whips out his phone.

A garbage bag exploded Mom and there are SYRINGES everywhere. Bloody gauze. OMG Mom look at this - some of the syringes still have NEEDLES in them. This is DANGEROUS. Someone has to come and clean it up Mom. I'm calling Town Security.

Looks up number on his phone. Calls Security. Reports disgusting garbage explosion in park. Looks out window. Sees Security truck. Goes outside to meet the guy and show him exactly where everything was found.

Complaint Tie-In:
1. If you teach your children to throw out their gum wrappers themselves maybe they would know how to safely dispose of their bloody syringes.
2. By showing B where the trash can was as soon as he could crawl, I taught him that he can do things on his own, like complain effectively about hazardous waste in the park.
3. If you leave your son in the playground in 2004, eventually he will come inside.