Category Archives: A Little Laugh Turneth Away Wrath

Necessary Evils

There are lots of things that I don’t like and they seem to fall into two categories – those things that I don’t like but have to put up with, necessary evils, you might say, and those that I don’t see any reason for putting up with at all. Today I’m going to whine about the “necessary evils” category. In no particular order, here are the top ten irritants that can really get under my skin and make me grit my teeth in irritation (clichés, anyone? I’ve got lots.)

1. Housework. I HATE housework. It doesn’t help that I also hate dirt and clutter and feel compelled to clean it up. As M says, I’m a bit of a germophobe. There’s probably a psychological explanation for this but I don’t know what it is. OCD, maybe? Maybe I’m turning into Howard Hughes? Hope not. He was weird. Actually, I think I’m better than I used to be – I can now tolerate a little slobbery.

2. Politicians. If ever there was a necessary evil, they are it. Most of them don’t give a hoot about the job they are supposed to do and only care about re-election and/or getting a plush post-political job somewhere. They can interfere – and often do – in the democratic process by throwing up obstacles to change and improvement in order to further their personal agendas and those of their cronies/henchmen. If the alternative wasn’t so dire, I’d advocate getting rid of them.

3. Tax Abuse. I actually don’t mind paying my taxes. We need schools, roads, hospitals and lots of other things. What pisses me off, though, is when I find out that some politician has used my (and your) tax dollars to stay at an incredibly expensive hotel while attending a conference that she didn’t attend. Then she has the nerve to change to another, more expensive hotel because she can’t smoke in the first expensive hotel. What are we running here? A smokers’ playpen?

4. Shopping. I am definitely not one of those women who can “go shopping” all day. It’s boring, crowded and hot. My mother loved to “go shopping.” As a kid, I sometimes had to go with her. She could do it all day, from store to store to store. She might come home with some mundane item such as a pair of hedgerow clippers, or most frustrating, nothing at all. I like to get in, buy what I need and get out, as efficiently as possible.

5. Big Box Stores. This is closely related to the above. They are gargantuan, crowded and hot and you can lose your car in the parking lot. (Gosh, I’m starting to wax poetical!) I can never find what I’m looking for and store employees don’t seem to know, either. All they can focus on is to get me to sign up for some thing or other that I don’t want but will only cost me $10.99 a month. I usually leave empty-handed.

6. Christmas Shopping. Noticing a trend here? I did a post about this one.

7. Airport Security Lines. You practically have to undress. No shoes. No belt. No this. No that. I once watched an elderly couple being put through this indignity and really felt for them. The man was in a wheelchair and they made him stand up. They at least could have done this in private. Now they want you to undergo some sort of looky peeky right through your clothes and skin in that machine that looks like it’s going to teleport you to Venus. What’s next? Taking us apart piece by piece?

8. Eating Fruit. I like my vegetables. I really do. But I’m not much of a fruit eater. I have to make myself eat this stuff. Some people think that this makes me crazy. Maybe I am and living in some sort of Matrix world. Knowing my luck, however, I’m living inside a cheap snow globe.

9. Doing Yard Work. The outdoor version of #1. And to add insult to injury, I don’t have a green thumb, but at least I don’t have to do it year round.

10. Working with Someone Who Drives You Batshit. I REALLY hate this one. It’s likely someone who wants to be your friend, too. They’re needy and often not very good at their jobs. I feel sorry for them. I try to be polite without being encouraging but this usually doesn’t work. Then I try to avoid them, a difficult proposition if you have to do a project with them. ARRGH!

What necessary evils make you want to scream into your pillow at night??

On “Being” Canadian, Part 2

So I was noodling, mulling over how I was going to fashion part two on “being” Canadian, when Barack Obama put his size twelve tootsies  into his  mouth, both at the same time, and provided me with the perfect fodder.

It seems that while giving a speech on Israeli/Palestine relations, Mr. Obama compared the two warring nations (question – Is Palestine now considered to be a nation?) to Canada and the U.S. What he meant was that Canada and the U.S. sometimes disagree about things but that we eventually figure it out without resorting to violence, and that Israel and Palestine should get over themselves and do the same. What it sounded  like was that we are at each other’s throats and that Toronto is Baghdad‘s sister city.

Twitter is beside itself with glee. The twittersphere is busy twitting, sorry, tweeting, about a movement called #TheCanucksAreComing. Sounds like a bowel movement to me.

Some of the comments are really funny. Some are just plain stupid. Some are using this incident as an excuse, oops, forum, to complain about Quebec. 

Remember my comments from part one about how we can be smug and arrogant and have a self-esteem issue all at the same time? Well, some people might say that this goes a long way to proving it. The Canucks Are Coming?? In what way, exactly? According to the twits, sorry, twitterers? tweeters? it’s going to look something like this (with my respects to the originators of these comments, I have taken some liberties and made some twits, er, tweaks):

Washington will need a wash after it has been set awash in a sea of poutine. [Will we need a pipeline for this??]

All U.S. hockey players are part of a sleeper cell. [Especially Tampa Bay.]

We will change the alphabet from “eh” to “zed.” [And add an indiscriminate “u” tu euery wurd.]

The Americans will face maple syrup bottle projectiles as militants of the Canadian Intifada cross Lake Erie. [We will cross with the guidance of the ice road truckers except by dog sled. More authentic that way. Waiting for Lake Erie to freeze, however, might be like waiting for, well, hell to freeze over.]

Wayne Gretzky is an embedded spy. [Which is why his hockey team can’t get to the Stanley Cup.]

There were lots of other comments about Tim Horton’s coffee and burning down Washington, all of which give some insight into the Canadian psyche. While many were quite funny, they also had something of a scathing edge to them.  A little hurt, maybe; maybe even a little bitter.  A little bit pissed off that the U.S. doesn’t pay more attention or isn’t more respectful or doesn’t turn to us more often for advice or help. After all, we have all the answers!

And we also need to grow up about it, too.

What do you think?

Barack Obama, President of the United States o...
Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, with Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On “Being” Canadian, Part 1

So, it’s soon going to be spring and I live in Canada. I know that mentioning that fact will conjure pictures of palm trees and sandy beaches snowshoes, sled dogs and hockey players for you.  Oops. Sorry. I went off on a flight of fancy there. The fact is that this country is so big that you can’t make any generalized statements like that.  Actually, the same is true for small countries, which only goes to show that stereotyping is just a form of intellectual laziness and convenient labelling. But I’m digressing again.

I have never gone dog sledding in my life. Ditto snowshoeing.  I watch hockey now and then but have never played it.

I hate poutine. Worst of all, since I’m half French I’m supposed to like this crap and have secret family recipes for it hidden in the attic. Soggy  fries (I am NOT going to refer to them as French – they never were and never have been) buried under some sort of packaged sludge masquerading as “gravy”.  Would probably work as a below zero lubricant for your snowmobile.

Then this mess is further assaulted by a load of  “cheese curds.” Yuck. See attached picture. Jamie Oliver would choke if he saw this stuff. And yes, we let our kids eat it. Encourage them, even. Whoever invented this dreck should be buried in it.

I like maple syrup but I don’t collect it and turn my back yard into a frozen syrup arena.

Most of us do not live in igloos, but some of our first nations people are trying to hang on to the knowledge of how to build one, along with other knowledge that we attempted to either beat out of them or steal from them, including the game of lacrosse. We changed it, called it hockey and then wouldn’t let them play it.

Some of us get terrifying winters and some of us don’t. I live in a part that used to be fairly predictable but isn’t any more. Global warming, anyone?

Summers can be ridiculously hot in some places and beautifully temperate in others. We actually have “desert zones” and “rain forest zones.”

Not all easterners grow potatoes and wrangle lobsters. It’s true that some of them have a pretty strong accent, but so what?

Canada produces some of the best ice wine in the world. Go figure.

The Tim Horton’s coffee shops are really popular in this country. They’re named after a hockey player.  Some people think that this is classic Canadiana. I do not.

Sometimes, other nationalities think that we’re a sort of watered down version of the U.S.  I once heard Canadians referred to as “plastic Americans.” Ever mistaken an Austrian for a German? They hate that and can respond rather ferociously to it.  We feel the same way about the assumption that we’re Americans.

Some Canadians think that in order to be a “success” you have to go to the U.S.

We can often be a rather smug and even arrogant bunch about how great things are in our chunk of the world, but we have our problems, just like everyone else. I’m sometimes viewed with suspicion because I have a French name. Is she a separatist? (No, I’m not.)

What about the tar sands and the oil pipelines? An environmental disaster? I believe so.

Some people say that we have a self-esteem issue.

Our politicians leave a lot to be desired and they exploit holes in our electoral system that you could drive an aircraft carrier through. We aren’t doing much about it.

What say you? What’s your opinion? Where do you live? What stereotypes do you face?

Montreal poutine from La Banquise in Montreal
Montreal poutine from La Banquise in Montreal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hanging On By One Fingernail

So I haven’t posted for a while. Since January 20th, to be exact. I’ve been trying to keep up with my reader, but even that is proving to be difficult. So let me tell you, dear readers, what I’ve been up to.

First of all, there were my water troubles. For those of you not familiar with Chez d’Arty’s love/hate relationship with water, I refer you to a couple of earlier posts called Homeowner’s Bliss, Parts One and Two.

So anyway, my water troubles are sort of fixed. My shower still leaks. My kitchen sink still leaks. But a lot of the other leaks are fixed. The CIA would be proud.

But then I had to go to another city for a 9-day work assignment. And I got sick. I wasn’t feeling too hotshot before I left but while there all the little virus particles decided to really let go, literally. I didn’t think that it was possible to spend that much time in the bathroom. The worst part is that I was in a hotel room without the familiar comforts of home: The dog lying next to me, burping and farting. The plumber trudging up and down the stairs and probably envisioning a lifetime’s worth of work in my soggy basement. My neighbour, swearing loudly as he shovels the sidewalk. I can’t tell you how glad I was that I was in a hotel room.

Actually, that’s not very true. I was really missing M. but also glad that he was in no danger of getting infected.

And on top of it all, I had to keep working.  Since I was not long back from medical leave I didn’t think that it would be a good thing to claim further illness, so Immodium became my best friend. Yum.

I got back home to a pile-up at work and having to face the fact that I’m not really better yet. I am awaiting the results of further tests.  In the meantime, I have actually done some catch-up reading and am amazed anew at the creative abilities of those I follow – and others of you, as well.  You really are a talented lot. Thanks for making me laugh and for making me think.

The -foot ( m) diameter granite CIA seal in th...

I appreciate you all.

Homeowner’s Bliss, Part 2

So here I am again and still suffering from my water troubles. I’ve decided that I should consider plumbing as my next career. Reading law? Forget it. Medicine? Too many late nights. Plumbing. Now there’s your ticket. You will be a contented millionaire who is able to take early retirement at age 35. People will come from afar and worship at your altar of mysterious, netherworldly knowledge. You will be loved and revered. And best of all, you will understand and be able to fix your own plumbing.

When I last left you, dear readers, I had been informed that I would have to pay $1000 to fix the weird-ass pipes that the plumber wanted to take pictures of. That was back when I had nerves. Now I don’t have any left. They are distant memory, smothered in the vague notion that once upon a time, I didn’t have water troubles and life was good.

A complex arrangement of rigid steel piping, s...

Anyway, God came  the plumber came. He worked for six hours. He charged me $1000.00. He told me the shower was fixed. Then he told me that he needed to do another six hours of work. That a lot of it is temporary, like the temporary filling that the dentist gives you. I’ve always wondered about that. Why is it that they just can’t give you the permanent filling right from the start? Why do you have to go through this temporary bit? Anyway, I’m digressing, but I asked him the same question – why the temp job? So he gave me a lot of explanations that I didn’t understand about angles and corners and how he wanted everything to work, at least temporarily.

So the next morning, I took a shower. As I was towelling off I was startled by a loud bang. Then there was another. I soon came to believe that the Battle of the Bulge was being re-enacted in my basement. Shaking, I grabbed at the phone to call the plumber. “Expansion in the new pipes,” I was told. “Calm down and have a drink. ”

“It’s  eight o’clock in the morning,” I shouted, “I’ve got to go to work!”

“Have one when you get back, then, ” he said, chuckling. Those plumbers and their off-beat humour. Imagine, laughing at me and my plumbing while in the background, the pipes are expanding at a rate that would put a machine gun to shame.

As you might have guessed, all that banging did nothing for my nerves. I’m convinced the pipes have entered into an alliance of terror and have ganged up on me to reduce me to a quivering pulp. I knew this because whenever anyone else was around, they would lapse into a sullen silence.

Then a couple of days ago I knew I was in for it. There was a loud burp, followed by the sound of a fair-sized river running around the perimeter of the house. Then the heavy shelling started. I didn’t know if I should call the plumber or the armed forces. Then there was a gurgle followed by a loud hiss and then the machine guns and loud bangs went off  together in a big flourish reminiscent of the 1812 Overture. 

I grabbed a broom for defense and ran down into the basement. Water was pouring over the floor underneath the fixed shower stall.

I told the plumber about this new development and he has told me that my shower has to come out, that it’s leaking into the walls or something. I’m convinced that I don’t need a plumber, that an exorcist would work just fine. But calmer heads attached to functioning nerves have prevailed.

The plumber comes again tomorrow and I’ve stocked up. I have tranquilizers, earplugs and lots of whiskey. If you don’t hear from me again, send the army, or better yet, the navy. I’m sure they could use the live-fire practise.

 

Homeowner’s Bliss

Scottish Canadian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have water troubles. No, not that kind, the other kind. The kind that you find dripping in the basement. A lot of my troubles seem to start there.  If you remember, dear readers, I once found rats down there. If you don’t remember, you can read about them in a post I did called, curiously enough,  A Rat’s Tale.

Let me admit right from the start that I am a complete infant when it comes to the management of domestic machinery. Even the operation of the sink is a bit of a mystery.

However, ever since I moved in here it seems that there has been a conspiracy between two of the scariest bits of the house: the pipes and the furnace. I’m sure that they’re colluding to turn me into a sweating, quivering mass and get me wheeled out of here a la Amityville Horror, if a little less grandly.

The first fall I was here and still in the honeymoon stage of new homeowner’s bliss, I turned on the heat but didn’t get a wink of sleep. Every time I started to drift off there were these loud bangs and the sounds of water running. Now, you might say to yourself, it couldn’t have been that bad, but believe me, it was. Close-range artillery had nothing on it. And then there was the fear that I might have to build an ark.

So I got a plumber, a guy who grew up with Moses and knew more about pipes than the oil industry. He poked, prodded, stared and blinked. Then he stood by the back door and spat. “Old system,” he said. “Air in the pipes. Need to take the pressure off. One hour. $100.00.”

It turns out that I’ve got something called “radiant heat” which circulates hot water around the house. During the Roman days it was a good system but mine dates to the 1960s, a time when engineers felt they had to tinker with perfectly good stuff and screw it up. That’s what I have. Not the old-fashioned, really good, reliable version. The screwed up version. Air gets into it and it makes a lot of noise and a river runs through it.

The situation I’ve got going on now is a lot worse, though. Everything has sprung a leak. I keep wondering if there’s some sort of message that I’m not getting. There’s one from the kitchen sink. One from the dishwasher. One from the bathtub. One from the shower. There’s also some sort of problem with the venting. If you didn’t know already, as I did not (big surprise), improper venting will cause all kinds of water to back up, particularly all over the floor.

The plumber who came in to take a look initially tried to be polite and keep a straight face but later I could see him choking back gales of laughter. He was red-faced and almost suffocating. He was holding it in so hard that if he had let it slip, he would have blown his teeth out. I thought that I might have to get the portable defibrillator.

He wanted to take pictures. I kid you not. There’s probably some secret website or other where they share plumbing stories. There are probably gasps of awe and wonder as they gaze in astonishment and exclaim, “What the hell is THAT?”

I apparently bought a house with not only a weird furnace but also with the worst plumbing on the planet.  He estimated that at least four different people had had a go at it, and not one of them had read “Plumbing for Dummies.” My ex-narcissist, supposedly an expert on pipes, was one of the four. Why am I not surprised? Then I heard him muttering to himself something about it being a “handyman’s nightmare.”

The next thing he said was that if Mike Holmes saw my plumbing, he would have a heart attack. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Holmes is a renovation god who goes all over Canada fixing shoddy workmanship. His motto is “make it right.” Usually, he takes your house apart to do it. Now for me, hearing the words “Mike Holmes” and “heart attack” in the same sentence brought up one word: money.

“How much is this going to cost?” I wailed.

The plumber, a friendly young guy who was earnestly trying to be professional, starting shifting from one foot to the other.  As we stood there, another leak sprouted. I skipped nimbly back and in the process mashed several toes on a storage box. He swished through the water and started listing out all the stuff that had to be done.  I started hyperventilating, whether from the mashed toes or the cost or both.  In the end, after several big drinks of whiskey, I was able to recover, if a little unsteadily and still trying to stave off visions of bankruptcy.

He’s either replacing, moving or repairing six pipes. Then there’s the vent. It’s going to cost $1000.00. Since it’s such a strange get-up, I temporarily had thoughts of  throwing it open to the general public for a small admission fee, but he’s actually coming back in only a couple of days. Shot down again.

I’ll let you know how it goes and how the whiskey holds out.

A Plague of Narcissists

  

English: The Plague of Flies, c. 1896-1902, by...
English: The Plague of Flies, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), gouache on board, 6 15/16 x 7 3/8 in. (17.6 x 18.7 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m really not sure why this didn’t come up as one of the ten plagues of Egypt. I mean, it would have been a really good one to have.  These people look perfectly normal but are harbouring some of the worst characteristics there are. They could have been a sort of fifth column or Typhoid Mary. Good use could have been made of their natural talents.

They love drama and could have been fomenting plots.

Since everyone wishes they were them, they could have exercised some tenacious mind-control.

They seriously hate themselves and then they project it. So, there could have been a lot of tooth-nashing, mind-controlled followers who were constantly looking over their shoulders for back-stabbers, and therefore completely distracted.

Their constant re-invention would have made them difficult to track down.

Even if they were tracked down, their sense of superiority and ability to fly into a rage would have been very intimidating, crushing any attempts at bringing them under control.

They could have charmed all the kings, pharaohs, despots, crackpots, and so on into giving themselves bankrupt.

 Since they’re mostly a bunch of misogynists, they certainly would have had those women where they belong.

Their natural gift for instability would have had them organizing newer and better wars.

Their lack of gratitude, respect or humility for anyone but themselves would have made them impervious to tampering, tinkering or cajoling.

The shame they feel would have lead the populace to feel sorry for them instead of taking them down.

English: The Plague of Frogs, engraving publis...
English: The Plague of Frogs, engraving published in “La Saincte Bible, Contenant le Vieil and la Nouveau Testament, Enrichie de plusieurs belles figures/Sacra Biblia, nouo et vetere testamento constantia eximiis que sculpturis et imaginibus illustrata, De Limprimerie de Gerard Jollain” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A plague of narcissists? Yikes! Forget the frogs and flies and meteorites and boils and sores. Those Old Testament guys would have been in real trouble. Or maybe that is what they had to contend with. The pharaohs weren’t exactly a bunch of diffident, self-effacing humanists.

Maybe that’s what a lot of us have to contend with on a basis that’s much more frequent than we realize.

The person in the cubicle next to you who is jealous and envious.

The “friend” who likes to complain about your other friends.

The neighbour who sets two other neighbours against each other.

The boss who smiles at you one second and rips you apart the next.

I don’t know how much narcissism most of us have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but it seems to be awfully widespread and at the root of a lot of the crap that goes on in the world.

So, if I wish anything for this new year, it’s that we start to realize how much egoism and self-absorption there is and that we all start to work on it in our own little ways and maybe start a cultural shift away from the selfishness that causes so much pain.

Top Ten Signs That You’re Living with a Narcissist

Carson as Carnac the Magnificent, one of his m... Carson as Carnac the Magnificent, one of his most well known routines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since this is the time of year for top ten lists, here’s mine, with my respects to the late Johnny Carson.

 In reverse order, here are the top ten signs that you’re living with a narcissist:

10. While driving, he constantly looks at himself in the rear view mirror. This has resulted in a lot of rear ends.

9. His “bragging wall” now covers the entire house.

8. He’s always singing “I’m too Sexy for My Shirt,” even though there’s a picture of himself on his shirt.

7. You’ve taken to using an oxygen tank as he sucks up all the air in the room.

6. He’s in the Guinness World Book for the greatest number of cosmetic procedures ever performed on a single human.

5. He’s looking into starting his own country and you’re helping him to find an abandoned, isolated island for the purpose.

4. All the mirrors in your house have greasy spots from his nose and lips.

3. He admires the evil queen from Snow White and wants to steal her looking-glass.

2. He believes that Christopher Hitchens is much too mild-mannered for debate and that really, he could beat him in ten minutes, if Hitch was still alive, that is.

And the number one sign that you’re living with a narcissist:

1. Donald Trump is his hero but really, if he were “The Donald,” he would have been much better at it and would have made more money.

And that’s it, dear readers. I wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2013!

May the Force Be With You

David Prowse as Darth Vader in The Empire Stri...
David Prowse as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, it could have been worse, I suppose. I could have been lying on a cold, rock-strewn slope, the victim of an avalanche with two broken legs, gangrene setting in, wolves gathering in the closing twilight and no coffee left. On the other hand, it could have been a lot better. I could have been lying on a beach in the Dominican Republic, gin and tonic in hand, with nothing to do but crisp in the sun. Or I could have been sitting in a little Montreal bistro with a nice glass of wine while waiting for some beautifully prepared boeuf bourguignon. But nooo.

I think it’s probably apropos for me to spare some of you the gruesome details, but if only one person is saved by what I have to say here then it will have been worthwhile for me to have re-lived this horrific experience.

I was not lacking in gear, preparation or organization. I had plenty of re-usable, environmentally friendly cloth bags. I had a list. I even remembered to bring the list along. I arrived early, budget firmly in place. I was well-rested and fed. I had comfortable shoes, a water bottle and a thermos of coffee. I was ready!

Yes, dear reader. I was tackling the – cue the theme from Jaws – Christmas shopping list. I finally gave in. It had to be done. There was no way around it.

I entered the mall at nine thirty in the morning and noted that at that hour, the place was quiet and almost deserted. A lone security guard strolled nonchalantly, occasionally glancing in the windows, yawning and taking sips from his coffee cup. It was the perfect time to get the dreaded operation done. Yes!! I congratulated myself and patted myself on the back and grinning and chuckling to myself I started poking about, mentally comparing the wares on display with the requirements of my list. I hummed some old tunes and loafed along, secure in the knowledge that soon I would be safely back home, mission accomplished and feeling a certain degree of superiority over the lesser types who wait too long or are too late or both. I was, of course, tempting fate, Murphy’s Law and all manner of biblical imprecations about pride going before a  fall and all that.

I arrived at “Santa’s Workshop,” famous in song and story as the scene of many family breakdowns while parents force their bawling and terrified offspring to sit on the Bearded One’s lap and have a photo taken. I don’t blame them. Who wants to sit on some weird-looking stranger’s lap while he booms ho ho ho at you in a thunderous voice that could scare the crap out of you and often does? What makes parents think that this is cute? The poor kid may as well be sitting on Darth Vader’s lap. Afraid that I might start having flashbacks, I nipped past as quickly as I could, even though all was quiet and Santa and the elves were hiding somewhere and sleeping it off.

As I turned a corner, I ran into an old friend who invited me to join her and her husband in a cup of Christmas cheer. They were so gracious and kind that I couldn’t refuse. We wound up sharing the cheer much later than I had anticipated, but I declined their kind offers of a lift home. If one is going shopping then one is going shopping, and no joking about it. I assured them that I would take a taxi home and wandered out of the restaurant and into the now crowded and noisy mall. Since I was all mellow, this ceased to bother me and I fished my trusty list out of my pocket for further perusal.

I was meandering down a perfume aisle, lost in the contentment of my mellow mood when I both heard and smelled a small boy who was bawling and roaring for his mother. He was either so scared that he had pooped his pants or he had been forced to sit on Santa’s lap. I tried looking around for his mom but couldn’t spot anyone nearby except for a rather large security guard one aisle over who was energetically chastising two adolescent boys for slinging hockey pucks at each other. 

I tried to get the guard’s attention while hanging on to the small child so that he wouldn’t wander any farther, but this was proving to be difficult as he screamed even louder and tried to squirm out of my grasp. I was becoming less mellow by the second. Suddenly the guard turned toward me and impaled me with a look that would freeze mercury. He came striding over and demanded to know what I was doing. I was somewhat mesmerized and distracted by his unibrow which hung over his face like a kind of awning. What Period is this guy supposed to be, anyway? Triassic? Jurassic? He had lots of stuff all over his uniform – about four different kinds of radios, mace, handcuffs – have you noticed lately how the police and security types have about 50 pieces of crap dangling from their persons? It must take two hours to get ready to go to work, and especially this guy, who would also have to spray-paint his eyebrow into place. 

He had a mean look about him. A frustrated look. The kind of look that says, “I may have flunked out of police school but this mall is mine and I’m going to get you whether you did anything or not.”

I tried to organize my thoughts enough to explain that the little boy had lost his mom but I was cut off in mid-babble with, “Have you been drinking?” Visions of spending a night in a concrete room with alien roommates danced through my head, but didn’t impart any sense of caution, or sugar plums, either. 

I didn’t know that the Temperance League was out and about and chasing down malefactors. In fact, I didn’t even know that they still existed. I was about to make a sophisticated and sarcastic retort along the lines of “fuck off”, but was interrupted by the return of the boy’s mother, who when she saw him also started bawling. The two of them kicked up a racket that could be heard on Easter Island. I backed slowly and carefully away – I saw my chance to escape and took it. Stumbling out to the main entrance I flagged down the first taxi I could find and headed home.

I count myself as lucky. Like people who escape a cult consider themselves lucky. I got the message, and it’s one I’m happy to receive. Avoiding Christmas shopping is like avoiding narcissists – may the force be with you and protect you from yourself.

A Rat’s Tale

people breeding or how rats view us?
people breeding or how rats view us? (Photo credit: Willie Lunchmeat)

I had been troubled for some time with rats. Not those cuddly, disease-free, pink-eyed ones with the delicate whiskers and digits that you find in the pet store.

Oh no.

Mine were some sort of mutant beings, probably from the planet Xenon and likely an advance team come to reconnoitre our planet’s value as a source of fuel.

Let me tell you, dear reader, how it all started, which was with a garbage strike. Now, given the amount of legislated recycling that takes place around here, I wouldn’t have thought this possible, especially the speed with which it happened, but it did. However, the people thusly employed knew that it would, and had decided that the entire populace would exert tremendous pressure on city hall after only a few days of exposure to the most eye-watering, pungent odour the second you stepped out your front door and tried to negotiate your way down the public thoroughfares. The shimmer from the mounds of refuse lead to such mirages that the citizenry had to double-check with each other just to make sure that they were going in the right direction.

Drastic it was, and gag-inducing, but highly effective.

The mayor had to hire an armoured car just to go for groceries and in order to protect himself from the angry crowds encamped in front of his office. He eventually succumbed and dragged his weakened carcass in front of the press cameras and announced his defeat. He may have expended a lot of hot air getting into office, but it was the methane that finally did him in.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did I mention that this occurred during the height of summer? There was a run on gas masks from the military surplus stores. Birds were keeling over, well, songbirds were, but not the crows and gulls, who in huge numbers and voice announced their immediate ownership of this nirvana, although that didn’t stop the infighting. And flies! Bluebottles that I’m sure escaped from Jurassic Park and should have been asking for clearance to land.

Trying to cook a steak at the old back yard barbecue meant suiting up in a hazmat outfit to avoid all manner of airborne assaults, especially from those aforementioned crows and gulls, but if the heat in there didn’t get you, the raccoons surely would. Brazen, and in great crowds and mobs, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat with any living thing that dared to enter their domain. The neighbours’ rottweiler entered a state of anxious fear and needed therapy just to go outside for a pee and a poo after the whole ordeal was over. Some people see raccoons as cute, with their little bandit faces and ringed tails. I do not. I have a lot of respect for raccoons. Bandits?? That’s like saying that George Clooney has nice features. They’re smarter than the average politician and with a little more training, could tell Tony Soprano exactly where to go and what to do with himself when he got there.

Just when I thought that the whole thing couldn’t get any worse, it did. As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. I had my feet up after a long day at work and an even longer day of battling to get home through the corvids, raccoons, flies, surly populace and olfactory assaults. I was done in. I was getting all mellow from a nice glass of wine when I heard it – a distinctive rustling sound emanating from the basement.

Now, having been raised on Hollywood movies, I decided that instead of immediately calling the constabulary and leaving the premises, I should grab a kitchen knife and decend slowly into the basement, with blade raised and lights off. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, there it was again – that rustling sound! Actually, it was very much like the crinkling sound a garbage bag makes when it’s being moved around. Hah! I clicked on the light, hoping to surprise the intruder, and was startled to see  the equivalent of a small beaver nonchalantly poking his head out of one of the garbage bags that I’d stored in the basement for safe-keeping. Rats!

Now, at this point I should probably explain why my garbage was in the basement. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time – keep it inside in the cool basement instead of letting it percolate in the hot garage. Do my bit to keep down the raccoons, gulls, crows and flies, and all that. What I didn’t count on was the wily prowess of the rodent squad, which up until that moment hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Now what was I going to do? I stared at the rat and the rat stared back. Then he was joined by his buddy – his much larger buddy, and it dawned on me that these two were probably father and son. Another sound, like air leaking from a tire, and I realized that the daddy rat was hissing at me through his big yellow teeth. Hissing? Rats hiss? And then I thought, what do you know about rats other than that you might get the bubonic plague?

That was enough. In a state of panic and revulsion, I leapt at the bag and quickly turned it upsidedown so that pa and son were trapped inside and I ran that bag up the stairs and dumped it on the back lawn. Let them fight it out with the raccoons, I thought; they’re certainly big enough to stand up for themselves. Then I stuck the rest of the garbage in the garage, went to a hardware store and got a couple of the biggest humane traps that I could find – I think the guy behind the counter thought I was on crack when I tried, through my shuddering and quaking, to explain how big these rats were – and set them up in the basement in case some family members were left behind.

Then there was the clean-up – bleach was my best friend. Those rats had been down there for a while and I hadn’t realized it, and I’d had a nasty experience, but I was on the mend.

Like narcissists, wild rats belong outside with the crows and raccoons, not in your home. Too bad the narcissists are not as recognizable.