Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sleeping in Seattle

Seattle skylinePicture this. You’re in the shoe department of Nordstrom’s on Black Friday and, in most people’s books, it’s pretty frenetic. Not that there are shoes flying everywhere or anything like that. I mean this is *Nordstrom’s* where a live pianist replaces the drone of the mood-altering Musak and shoes range in price from “ok I can do that” to “maybe not, I’d still like to eat this year”. And everything considered you gotta know that they’ve done this before because things go like clockwork. I mean you nonchalantly pick up a shoe and before you know it there’s someone with a loud speaker summoning help on your behalf. Almost instantaneously they provide you with not only the “E.T.A.” but just about all of the information you need to become good friends with your “shoe consultant” (their term not mine) which, in my case of course, might just happen. All in all, given the circumstances, it’s not a half-bad experience and, as my Mother would say, worse things could happen to you. This however, is apparently a sentiment not shared by the woman I unfortunately came to know when paying for my purchases.

I should make something clear. The shoe consultants at Nordstrom’s all work on commission which explains the great service you get and the fact that you are bound to walk out with more than you had planned. But who can’t use an extra pair or two of Tom’s especially when the design is exclusive to Nordstrom’s so there is no way you are going to pick them up once you are north of the 49th and anyway, you’ve just bought yet another few pairs of shoes for children in need. (Note: excessive shoe purchase justified.) And for the most part, they are nice people just like you and me who simply want to do the best job they can even on days like Black Friday. Which is why I found the “woman from New York City”(WFNYC), as I have now come to know her, particularly heinous.

I’m not one to make generalizations about extremely large populations of people but, according to WFNYC, all people in New York move quite a lot more quickly than the rest of us. And by the rest of us I mean (and again, I defer to her judgement here) the people of Seattle. Now I am aware that there is a slight tendency for those who are partial to life on the Pacific to be a tad laid back but I am not certain there was evidence of this in the flurry of activity I was witnessing behind the cash desk at Nordstrom’s on this, the busiest shopping day of the year. And yet, her conversation went something like this:

Shoe Consultant: Let me ring this up for you. Was there someone helping you today?
WFNYC: I can’t believe how slow things are here. Just ring the f—— thing up! (Might I add here that this is the first time since the inception of this blog that any such language has been used or alluded to but in this case I am afraid it is germane to the telling of the story so please accept my apology on her behalf.)
WFNYC: I’m from New York! I’m not used to this! Everyone is so slow here!
WFNYC: I can’t believe how slow they are here! I’m from New York! This would never happen in New York!
WFNYC: It’s so slow here! WTF!!!! I’m not used to this!!!!

Well as you can see this was a rather one sided conversation but more importantly, and what should be noted, was that the WFNYC was not only speaking like this to those of us who had the misfortune of being able to hear her but also to whoever it was that she was simultaneously talking to on her phone which solidified for me just how busy a person she really was. And how a delay of even a few seconds was eating into her otherwise “chock full of important things to do” day.

But wait. Isn’t this Black Friday? Is this not a holiday in the U.S. of A? Are not all of the businesses, other than retail closed on this day? And didn’t she mention once or twice that she was from New York? Would it be reasonable then to assume that she was not on her lunch break from work where, if she was a minute late to return would risk being fired on the spot? So where exactly was she going? Now I can’t say this for sure but given the day and the circumstances I’m thinking she was going to do more shopping. Which leaves me to wonder why it was that she couldn’t take a second or two to let the cashier know who had helped her buy her multiple pairs of boots and shoes so that sales person could be appropriately rewarded for their time. Because it seems to me that if you are sleeping in Seattle you should at least take the time to be decent to the people who live and work there.

And then a rather frightening thought occurred to me. For one split second I realized that I may just have met the person who is better placed to write this blog than I am. Good thing she will never have the time to do it.

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My New Friend

This week something very special happened to me. I made a new friend. A real, in person friend. Not one of those people who finds you on Facebook by searching “people who at some point in time lived in my city, went to my school, worked for my employer, and/or has a somewhat tenuous connection to me through a friend of a friend of a friend”. Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of those too which is fine since there’s not much maintenance and at least a couple of them probably take the time to read this blog each week. And sometimes it might even make sense to find friends that way.

The other day I went searching through the computer generated list of “friend possibilities” on FB and there amongst all the people who know people I know, was someone whose only common characteristic is that we share exactly the same name. Which I guess is not such a bad thing on which to base a friendship and, I will have to admit, almost made me want to send her a “friend request”. Because I started to imagine what would happen if everyone on FB friended everyone else with the same name. In my case it would generate nine new instant friendships but for some people I would imagine it could run into the hundreds. Think about it. All the people in the world who share the same name could eventually be friends. And every once in awhile they could arrange a get together in one of their cities and it would be really easy for them to meet each other because it eliminates a multitude of problems. No more embarrassing moments trying to put a “name to a face”. No more worries about where to place those silly “Hello, My name is…” name tags that often interfere with the presentation of your painstakingly put together ensemble. And if you have so much to drink that you can’t remember your own name, well there’s going to be someone around who can help you out. I’ll admit that checking in at the hotel could be a little problematic but you have to agree it does shine a whole new light on finding a place where “everyone knows your name”. But I digress.

For many of you who know me well you are probably surprised to find out that I have a new friend since you are accustomed to hearing me say that my “friend drawer is full”. And for the most part, it is. But there are times when you just have to find a little extra space, to make room for just one more paperclip in your mountain of office supplies. And this was that time. This week I made my new friend at the mall while paying for my purchases. Somehow during the usual vacant chit chat that occurs while totals are being tallied and credit cards are being charged, the cashier and I bonded. I mean really bonded. In that very short time I learned enough about her to know we have a ton of stuff in common.

She is 33 years old (ok we don’t have that in common) but she told me that she has lots of older friends so it’s ok. She has a university education and so do I. She recently moved to our city from my old stomping grounds in Ontario. She likes her new digs but she doesn’t like the cold, and I’m with her on that. She likes the same clothes that I do which kind of goes without saying since I was shopping in her store. And she loves a good sale which is how we met in the first place. This relationship moved along so quickly that before we knew it we were planning a shopping trip to Seattle which is, coincidentally where I am going this week, but since she can’t get the time off at such short notice will have to wait until next time.

Now I know some of you are thinking this may not be as real a friendship as I think it is and that I might be better off focusing on connecting with the same name people. But I’m happy with the arrangement that me and my new friend have. I mean let’s face it. She’s always going to smile when she sees me coming; she’s going to do whatever she can to help me out; and no matter what I put on, I’m pretty sure she’s going to tell me that I look great. And as Ms. Warwick would say “that’s what friends are for“.

But you know, now that I think about it, she doesn’t even really know my name.

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Food is Food

Washing machineSo I know you have been waiting with bated breath to find out how things went in Denver and I thought I would use this space to fill you in. First, and I’m going to come right out and say this because it’s my blog and I can say what I want to, it seems to me that the right guy won. Second, the whole “birthday away from home” thing went better than expected with lots of people buying me drinks and making quite the fuss but most importantly, reacting with disbelief when I told them the milestone I have reached. I know! I don’t believe it either! And last but certainly not least, I learned some more stuff at the conference. And here’s a tidbit I would like to share with you.

On the last day of the conference I decided to go to a talk on how to make engaging presentations. Having attended numerous other sessions over the first few days I wondered to myself why this particular topic hadn’t been scheduled much earlier in the program however I figured it was better late than never and entered the room. Now please don’t misunderstand. If I have to say so myself (and sometimes I do) I am a pretty awesome presenter but I also know that there is always room for improvement so I listened intently to what our speaker had to say. While there were lots of good tips and tricks provided the one that really stuck with me was her suggestion that in order to create a connection with your audience it is important to share something personal to help people get to know you. In essence, you want to make yourself “real” to those who have taken the time to listen. And as she said that I thought, maybe that’s what I need to do on the blog. Maybe I haven’t become “real” enough to my readers. And so today I want to tell you something about myself that you may not already know. Here it is.

My one and only household responsibility is doing the laundry and I’m really good at it. Every Sunday you will find me and the cat in the basement sorting clothes into neat piles of colours, whites and delicates. I know what goes in the dryer and what needs to be hung up to dry. I know exactly how much clothing I can safely add to a load and how it needs to be distributed in the washing machine to prevent it from sounding like a mild earthquake is taking place in my basement during the spin cycle. I have detergents for regular washes, detergents for delicates and detergents for keeping black clothes black. I have fabric softener. I check pockets carefully to ensure there is no homework left behind. I will admit that very occasionally I discover, after the fact of course, that I missed finding a tissue that lay in some deep recess of someone’s clothing and when it happens it is enough to put me into just a little bit of a funk for the rest of the day. Most often however all goes well and there are no serious incidents to be reported. And that’s all that I do around the house. I don’t clean and I don’t cook because there are other people who do that for me. Which is a good thing. And here’s why.

I’ll start by telling you that the cleaning part is not the real issue. I’m a pretty good cleaner when I have to be but I just don’t like it. So best to let someone else take care of that. It’s the cooking that really becomes problematic because, as a shallow person I have for some time held on to the somewhat admittedly draconian belief that “food is food”. If someone cooks it for me, I’ll eat it. Because I have to. To me the whole concept of  eating is rather utilitarian and not something to be fussed over. I mean if a little cheese and crackers will do the trick, well get out the cutting board and make some. If it’s greens you need, chop up a lettuce, add a couple of carrots and you’re done. If it’s a lack of fibre that’s got you down, eat some bread. And in this house that’s how we would all be eating if it was left up to me. And that’s why it isn’t.

I know it’s hard for you to believe that someone like myself, someone who is otherwise so sophisticated and discerning, would feel this way about food so perhaps to alleviate some of your dissonance I should let you know that there are a few things I don’t like. For example, butterscotch always seems to give me a headache, and I have developed a distinct and surprisingly ferocious dislike of coconut which perplexes me a little because it wasn’t always this way. Not to mention that rather deadly MSG allergy I need to contend with. And it’s not like I don’t eat good things. Why just the other night I had an opportunity to sample “duck fat fries” and not long before that a rather pleasant helping of “fish in a bag” which, for those of you who don’t know, consisted of gulf fish, caramelized onions, fennel and crab fat  all steamed in a parchment bag creating a rather delicate and delightful sauce. And I eat sushi for lunch at least once a week. And while it’s all good, to me it’s still just food that does one thing. It fills me up when I’m hungry. And no one wants someone who feels this way about food cooking for them.

So that’s why I don’t cook. And that’s why you’ll find me in the basement on Sunday doing what I’m good at. And with any luck, my sharing of this otherwise little known personal tidbit about myself has made me feel just a little bit more “real” to you.

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The Big Day

By now you will note that my customary “Sunday” post has this week moved to Tuesday. That’s because days like today don’t come around that often and I wanted to celebrate, and to share my thoughts with you on this rather auspicious occasion. There’s an excitement in the air that you can feel, almost touch, as the anticipation builds with a new optimism for what’s to come.  Today we look forward to resurrecting possibilities, and once again to the promise of hope and change. Because on this day our dreams are rekindled and we believe in a brighter future, one that is being reconstructed with new ideas and new potential. It’s time to stop peering through the rear-view mirror on what has been, and to begin to focus on what can and will be. There has been much fanfare leading up to this event, so much that I am hoping for all of our sakes that the outcome is not anticlimactic. And while I know that for some this day, like any other day, may bring more disappointment than joy, more sadness than happiness, more tears than laughter, as the evening falls upon us let’s all raise a glass to new hope, new beginnings and to good times for the coming years.

Yes, November 6, 2012 is a big day because (are you ready?) it’s my birthday! Happy Birthday to me! For those of you who know me well you are aware of just how big a day this is. For those of you who do not, may I remind you that ignorance is indeed bliss. In either case please rest assured in knowing that I love having birthdays if only because the alternative is not all that appealing to me.

And now I am off to a conference in Denver where 5 to 6 thousand people will have the chance to celebrate my birthday with me.  Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I’ll probably drop by the local pub tonight to see who’s going to be the next President of the USofA because I guess this is going to be a big day for one of those guys too.

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