Monthly Archives: June 2012

Up in the Air

I travel a fair bit for both business and pleasure but as much as I like the “being there” I’m not quite as crazy about the “getting there”. There’s just something about being locked up for hours in a very large metal tube that is wholly dependent upon a multitude of computerized parts that I find disconcerting. It’s not that I really think space junk will fall from the heavens and hit us smack on the nose, it’s just that if it does it has occurred to me that I don’t know how to fly. And at 37,000 feet off the ground that’s not, as Martha likes to say, “a good thing”. Nonetheless, for much of my adult life I have ignored these rather inconvenient thoughts, pulled on my lucky jeans, said a few prayers and made my way to the airport. Oh yeah, and popped a little white pill.

You see for the past 20 years or so I have been reliant on “a little something to keep me calm” as I make my way across the big blue. Now I don’t really have a problem with altering my state of mind for this, and only this purpose. As a matter of fact, the first time I went to fill my newly acquired prescription at the pharmacy the conversation went something like this:

Pharmacist: So have you ever taken this medication before?
Me: No, I haven’t.
Pharmacist: Are you certain you need to take this?
Me: I’m only taking it to get on an airplane.
Pharmacist: Oh! That’s different! We all take it to get on an airplane. Have a good trip.

I’m not sure that made me feel a whole lot better but I took some solace in knowing I was not alone in my plight. And since that day, although things usually go well in the air, they sometimes fall apart at the far side as, depending on the length of the trip there are times when I am not quite my rational self when we land. And that’s when the problems start. Like the time I had to pick up a rental car in Vancouver and when told I had been allocated an Impala, which in retrospect I know to be a fine car, I leaned over the counter, looked the poor unsuspecting clerk in the eye and without even the hint of a smile said “nice try my man, but I like small foreign cars”. Or while unexpectedly grounded in Denver with nothing much to do but shop, I came to the rather expensive, as it turns out, conclusion that my next cup of coffee would taste much better in a $20.00 Ferrari mug and the cat would look smashing in a Harley-Davidson vest.

So a few months ago I made the rather courageous decision to fly “au naturel” without the assistance of any synthetic aides. Surely I thought, there are skills I have honed as a shallow person that could help me deal with this situation. And that’s when it came to me. Maybe this is the time to exploit my propensity for small talk, my uncanny ability to carry on a conversation about essentially everything and nothing because honestly, that’s what shallow people do most of the time. Want to talk about your kids? I’ve got some too. Interested in politics? How about that Obama! Going to university? I work at one. Don’t like flying? Boy, do I know how you feel!

And so it was that on my first foray into substance-free travel I was fortunate enough to sit beside a woman who not only had children attending university out of town (mine too, and can that ever get expensive!) in Ontario (hey, I used to live there) but was also employed by the same institution as I am (let’s see, who do you know?). And it worked. Four hours later as we touched down at our destination I realized that not once had I thought about the possibility that a bolt could come loose on the left wing causing it to fall off in mid-air. Of course there is no way of knowing who you’re going to get so you have to be flexible and roll with the punches. And since you may have to be the one that initiates the conversation take my advice and have a quick peek at Yahoo News just before you board.

Yes I know some people use their travel time to do a little work, lose themselves in a good book or just catch up on some well-deserved sleep. But the next time you find yourself sitting in the seat next to a “Chatty Cathy”, be kind. Because although they may not be as interested in you as they appear to be, you just might be their “little white pill”.

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Give Me an “A”!

Letters photo credit:mwookie, stock.xchngI had a feeling from the get-go that this blog could get me in trouble and, as luck would have it, I’m afraid that it has. Not only are some of my readers questioning my ability to remain shallow while being as introspective as I have been, I find myself wondering whether I have made a slight move to the dark side, as I like to call it. So I’ve been thinking that now might be a good time to take stock of the ways that I continue to live shallowly. Hopefully this will remove any shadows of doubt.

Since I have been steeped in academe for the past 20 years or so I decided the best way to approach this task was to identify key outcomes, set up some criteria by which to measure performance and finally, assign a mark to each. So here I go and I’m keeping my fingers crossed I get a passing grade.

TV: I watch a fair bit of TV which in and of itself may not add up to much since, as we all know there are plenty of PBS documentaries, Discovery Channel educational programs and political debates on the schedule these days. And if I was watching those I’d be concerned, but I’m not. Nope, and as much as it pains me to say this out loud, over the past few years I have learned a) how to lose 200 pounds in less than a year which btw, I sincerely hope I never have to do; b) how to outwit, outplay, and outlast which could come in handy should I ever find myself on a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific with 17 strangers and; (perhaps least helpful and most inane) c) how to find the perfect mate by “getting to know” and systematically vetting 25 bachelors or bachelorettes over a period of 10 weeks all the while looking great for the TV cameras. (Do they really sleep with 4 different people in 4 nights just to be “sure”?) At first blush it looks like I could be in line for full marks on this one but since I have to be entirely honest to make this work, I must include on my list Jeopardy, “the thinking person’s game show” and Mad Men which, even though I watch primarily because Peggy and I have, or in my case “had” surprisingly similar taste in clothes, is likely the most critically acclaimed show currently on the air. A .5 deduction for each seems fair, don’t you think?

Grade: 4/5

Facebook: I’m on it which imho is worth about 3 points but I’m pretty sure I can score more than that in this category. My primary reason for going on FB was to stay connected with my nephew in Toronto which I know sounds like a contender for a significant deduction, but before you judge, I did so by becoming his neighbor in Farmville. After about 6 weeks he tired of the game and stopped playing and had I too called it quits at that time I could be underwater on this one. Fortunately, I stayed the course and continued to play for the next two and a half years, during which time I managed to recruit a number of my highly educated and sophisticated friends and colleagues. To solidify my rating I will now disclose that a significant number of my FB “friends” are actually FV neighbors who I don’t know but keep in the hopes that they will read this blog. Please don’t “unfriend” me now.

Grade: 4.5/5

The Treadmill: This one could get me in real trouble if I was actually going on the treadmill for the multitude of health benefits known to be associated with this type of activity. No doubt a woman of my age should not only be thinking about reaping the cardio advantages of a 5km walk but also of the potential gain in bone density that is known to be the result of vigorous exercise. However, since the sole purpose of my travaille six nights each week (I do go out once in a while) is to lose weight I think I’m safe. Just in case there are still some doubts, we’re not talking life saving, “you’re on the brink of serious health problems if you don’t slim down” kind of weight loss. No, this quest is to lose the one, maybe two pounds I need to get back into those designer “boyfriend” jeans I bought on a “skinny day” in California last year (of course everyone looks slightly more attractive in California…I think it has something to do with the mirrors). And really, while I can still squeeze into them in my present condition, I am simply trying to avoid turning into an uncharacteristic shrew (trust me, the world would be a better place if we all wore slightly looser jeans) while wearing them on the six minute drive from my home to my favourite Starbucks. Since in spite of my singular intention I will probably still accrue the aforementioned health benefits, I’ll concede to a .5 deduction here.

Grade: 4.5/5

The Blog: My initial thought is that I get full points here. I know there have been some inconsistencies and I have stuck with the blog for longer than I ever imagined I would. But let’s face it, surely anyone who spends this much time and effort convincing other people of how shallow they are deserves full credit for their efforts. I’m going with my gut on this one.

Grade: 5/5

So there you have it. I’ve scored 18/20 or 90% on this objective assessment. Yes, there’s room for improvement but there always is. For now I think I’m going to be just fine.

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Shallow in a sad world

I write this post while thinking about my dear friends who have recently suffered the loss of a parent. Last week I drove Kevin and Randy to the airport so they could attend Kevin’s Father’s funeral and the other morning I picked them up as they made their way to the funeral of Randy’s Mother. It’s a straight road to the airport with surprisingly little traffic during what would be rush hour in most cities of this size. I like being alone in the car, singing along to my favourite artists, watching the all too familiar landmarks whisk by, cursing just a little as I find myself behind a farmer who thinks it’s ok to use this high speed highway to move his tractor from one corner of his property to another. But on this drive I find myself thinking about the blog, my lighthearted treatise about all things shallow, and I wonder how it is that I can possibly continue amongst all of this sadness. How can I write about being shallow when so many people around me are hurting? I’m not sure I know how to be shallow in a sad world.

There’s not much time at the airport for niceties as we load bags into the car before the parking monitor notices I am stopped in the middle of the lane, but as the door closes and we exchange our signature “Hey Friend” greeting I am comforted in knowing that everything seems to be the way it should be. I’m taking my two friends home. There’s no beating around the bush, no polite banter. In this car we get right to the point.

“How”, I ask, “do you expect me to write the shallow blog amid so much sadness?”
They both laugh and without any hesitation say, “Guess you’ll just have to write about being shallow and sad.”
“Sure, I can do that…Sure”.

Well, I’ve thought about this for a couple of days and have finally come to the conclusion that it’s ok for shallow people to be sad sometimes. The loss of a parent is very sad. All of us who have been there know this to be true. My Father passed away more than 21 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, what he might say, advice he might give. There is no doubt that he lives forever in my heart. And that’s the way it should be. As sad as it may be there is an order to life and this is it. At least we hope it is because anything else would be unbearable. We grieve and slowly but surely we return to the normality of our daily lives. We are living proof that life does go on.

And so today it’s too hard to be lighthearted. Today I am sad for my friends who have lost their parents. But before too long I’ll get back to writing the shallow blog in the manner to which you and I have become accustomed. I’m ok with that and I hope you are too.

I’ll be back…soon

You’ve probably noticed a bit of a lull on the shallow blog. Like everyone, shallow people have their ups and downs and I’m afraid this week has been one of the latter as it began with the passing of my BFF Kevin’s Father and ended with the tragic shooting at the University of Alberta, where I work. As a result, I have taken a break. Rest assured I will be back and your patience is much appreciated.

While you’re waiting you might want to join me in taking a moment to be reminded that despite the headlines there are still lots of good things going on in this world. Better still, if you can, do some good by making a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society or another organization that is near and dear to you.

And remember, even shallow people have to stop and take a deep breath once in a while.

Coincidence?

Another day, another blog post? As patterns go this has not been mine but you will recall that in my inaugural post I mentioned that I would write when I had something to say and after what happened last night, I have something to say. As a matter of fact, if I don’t get this out I think I’m going to plotz! (if you don’t know, look it up).

I’m sure you remember that yesterday I wrote about my experience as a Barbra Streisand look-alike and the effect it has had on my life. Hopefully you will have also recognized how, at the end of the post I craftily embedded some discreet references to Ms. Streisand’s musical prowess, particularly as it applied to her work in “Funny Girl”, a movie which I must now reluctantly admit I had never actually seen. Until last night, that is.

I’m not sure how many of you are night owls like me, but if you are you will know that Saturday night/Sunday morning is not the best time to be trying to find something inspiring to watch on TV. As I flipped through the stations trying to avoid yet another Zack Braff movie (I like him, it’s just that three in one night is a bit much) there she was in all of her glory. Fannie Brice, a young Jewish woman making her way from the streets of New York to become the star of the Ziegfeld Follies, played spectacularly by none other than Barbra Streisand. She sang, she danced, and she was funny. Boy, was she funny! And I thought I was going to die the first time Omar Sharif showed up at our her dressing room door.

When I woke up this morning I got to thinking how ironic it was that on the very day I wrote a blog, not only about Barbra, but with specific reference to the songs from “Funny Girl”, the movie showed up on TV. Now I know there are lots of Streisand reruns. I myself have shed tears during “The Prince of Tides” and “The Way We Were” more times than I care to count. But this was not your run of the mill “Fockers” rerun. This was Funny Girl! From 1968! What are the odds?

As any good shallow person would do I have concluded that there is a direct correlation between my blog post and last night’s TV schedule. It may have been the Barbra Streisand tag I added to the post, I can’t say for sure. Just consider that on its busiest day this blog had 52 hits so you never know who could be dropping by. Some might label this conclusion delusional, whereas I would prefer to consider the impact I have had on mass media, and what is reality if not one’s own perception of the truth. This blog is making a difference in more ways than I could ever have imagined. Not to mention the boost this recent event has given to my self-esteem. And if you are still searching for a reason to be shallow, the ability to so easily build up your self-esteem could be reason enough.

Again, sorry for bothering you with two postings in a row but now that you have read what I had to say I am sure you can understand why I needed to write again. I’ll do my best to hold off for a few days but I can’t make any promises. You never know when something important like this is going to happen again.

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