Tag Archives: friends

Next Please!

It occurred to me the other night as I stood outside waiting to get in to see one of my fav singer/songwriters that I spend a lot of time standing in lines. Some times for an hour. Sometimes more. Which made me think. If everybody just agreed to show up 45 minutes later we would all be standing here for much less time. And then I just started thinking about lines.

We’ve all been in them. Some short. Some long. Some excruciating. At the grocery store, the movie theatre, the bank, restaurants. And it’s not just the being there. It’s the getting there too.. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time in a traffic line trying to get to wherever it is you are going only to find a throng of people waiting to do the very same thing you want to do. Most often you wait. Outwardly calm, inwardly seething, until you hear someone say “next please” and realize that the mother with the rather exuberant toddler you mercifully let in front of you an eternity ago, is no longer there and it is, in fact, your turn to finally move forward and do whatever it is you came to do. And you hope against hope you can remember what that is.

Like you, I’ve been in my share of lines. All kinds of them. Anyone who knows anything knows there are lines that are well worth the wait and others that are not. There are lines that are fun and others that are not. And there are lines we want to be in and others that we would rather not. 

Like the line I stand in to pay my property taxes. Once a year, every year, I trapse down to City Hall, papers in hand, signed and ready to submit, imagining that I’ll be in and out having paid my dues (literally) in no time. And every year I arrive to find multitudes of like-minded citizens lined up to do the very same thing that I have decided to do. I mean what are the chances? It’s not like we called each other up and made a plan. How could we? Until this very moment I can honestly say that I didn’t even know these people existed, nor they I. So how is it that with all of us strangers heading to the same place at the same time, two of three cashiers have decided they no longer want to be where we are, leaving one lonely soul to work her way through, what at this point has become by anyone’s standards, a very long line. And to what end do we stand patiently waiting our turn? To hand over some very hard earned cash to a group of people who may, or may not, do with it what we think is reasonable to do. There’s no fun, no frivolity in this line. No friends to be made. It’s just a line one has to be, but doesn’t really want to be, in. But trust me. Not all lines are alike.

I’ve honed my line skills at some of the best. Like boxing day. What could be better than waking up long before the sun, piling on all (and I mean ALL) of your warmest clothing, jumping into your best friend’s car and plowing (again, literally) through the snow and ice to your nearest electronics store where you join what by this time is a very long line of people waiting in anticipation for the doors to open so they can possibly (depending on how close to those doors they managed to get) snag a deal on an item or two they failed to find under their tree. Did I mention that it’s also -30 degrees celsius? In case you don’t know, that’s the kind of cold that makes you forget you have fingers and toes. If you still do.  Surprisingly, this is a line-up you want to be in. People joking with each other, laughing (mostly at themselves for being there), sharing their hopes and dreams (as in “I’ve always dreamed of having an 40” TV (Come on! It was the 90s.) and I sure hope I”m close enough to get one”). Coffee and donuts being bought and shared among people who were complete strangers only moments ago. Stories told and retold. It truly is a wonderful bonding experience. Just thinking about it makes my toes start to tingle.

But even that pales beside the Mother of all lines. The one that will remain burned in my memory until I no longer have one. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Talk about lines. Honestly. I have taken trips that are shorter than the lines for the EFMF. Not only will you find yourself in an extraordinary line just to get tickets, you will also find yourself in a line that gets you a spot in another line. That’s right. You’re going to line-up to line-up. Now you would think this would be one of those laid back, folksy kind of lines, not unlike that one on boxing day, what with all the peace signs, tie-dye and flowers in the hair. Don’t kid yourself. There will be some bantering and bonding over your shared love of music. Maybe the sharing of a little something that makes the time seem to fly by. But after waiting 5 hours in the scorching sun for those gates to open nothing will stop your new found “friends” from bulldozing over everything in sight (including you) to secure their coveted spot on the hill. This line is not for the faint of heart. 

Now I know. Many of you are thinking “what decade is she from”? Who doesn’t pay their taxes online? And who in their right mind would line up to buy something? And what exactly were you sharing in that line anyway? More importantly, why would anyone line-up for anything? So the other day, finding myself in need of some assistance with my household electronics, I decided that rather than make my way to the bricks and mortar where I knew I would become one among many technically inept folks, I would ditch the line and give my service provider a call. A very nice lady with a rather calming voice answered and let me know a technician would be with me as soon as possible. To reassure me, she kindly mentioned that I was 57th in line and the wait would be a little more or less than 60 minutes. Just one question. Anyone got a little something to help me pass the time?

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Remember When

I’m not really the nostalgic type. While I am never one to speak for all, I’m thinking most shallow people are with me on this. At times I think the desire to recreate the past happens when we’re not so happy with the present. At other times I simply can’t remember what it is I’m supposed to be nostalgic about. Whatever, it seems to me that living in the here and now, not in the past or in the future, is best. So it was with some surprise to myself and others that I decided to go on the hunt for a manual (yeah, there wasn’t always a plug) typewriter. As expected, it wasn’t long before someone asked me “Why? Why would you want a manual typewriter?” To which I provided what seemed to me to be the most logical response, “because I want to write using a typewriter”. Which is partly true. I mean the idea of taking the time to tap hard on each key and having no easy way to correct my mistakes has an odd appeal to me. Possibly it could make me a more deliberate and mindful writer. I’d have to think carefully about each and every word, how to properly structure my sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into stories. I’d have to learn how to spell again. The other part is I have this handcrafted pine desk crying out for me to put something on it and I thought an old typewriter could be just that thing. More decor than function really. Regardless, this little journey of mine into the past got me thinking about how things have changed even over the relatively short time (come on…in the scheme of things) I have been living on this earth. So as I am wont to do in this cases, I will share some of these thoughts with you.

Remember when a phone was something you only had in your house? If it rang and you were home you normally picked it up as there was no way of knowing who was on the other end. If it happened that you were having one of your daily chit chats with your friend from down the street, catching up on all the comings and goings of that neighbour you were pretty sure, but not entirely confident, was having a fling with the grade 4 teacher, (it’s possible there was just some tutoring going on) your caller would get a busy signal (you can play it here if you don’t know) and be left to redial over and over again until their fingers got tired and the incessant sound of the rotary dial made the whole endeavour seem a little too onerous . And if you weren’t home at all?  Well if a phone rings when no one is home does it really make a sound? Now, short of putting your phone on “do not disturb” which no one really understands, there’s simply no escaping it. It’s with us everywhere and all of the time. For most of us hearing that catchy little jingle we have chosen triggers an immediate response. Like Pavlov and his dog. We text, we talk, we FaceTime, and we pretty much know exactly when that grade 4 teacher comes and goes.

Remember when a coffee shop was a place you could stop off on your way to work to grab a cuppa joe for a quarter? Pretty much always it was better than the sludge they percolated in the coffee room. Sure, sometimes you would linger for a moment to hear what Sam the owner, who knew everyone’s business and was more than happy to share theirs with you and yours with them, had to say.  But unless you were under five and could be entertained by continuously spinning on those metal stools that someone somewhere decided would be a viable alternative to a chair, it was a pretty uncomfortable place to spend your time. Now coffee shops are a destination. A retreat even. You go, you sit, you read, you meet, you greet, you make new friends, lose old ones and, of course, you spend inordinate amounts of money on drinks that bear only a faint resemblance to the roasted beans from which they came.

Speaking of friends, remember when they were people you actually knew? And liked. There was a time when making friends wasn’t so easy. First you had to identify people who were somewhat like-minded and with whom you had something in common. Like a shared interest. Or work. Maybe a hobby or two. Then you had to actually meet them. In person. Once that happened you would spend some weeks or months getting to know each other and somewhere down the line you would realize you had made a new friend. If you were really lucky you might find a few more people that you could call friends. Now I have 82 friends on Facebook (a paltry number by most standards) and I don’t even know where some of them came from not to mention how they have come to know me. One thing I do know for sure. They must really like me because they all seem to remember my birthday.

And we couldn’t leave this trip down memory lane without remembering when no one, and I mean no one, spoke openly about marijuana. Not that it wasn’t around. But if it was around you sure as heck didn’t want anyone to know. Apparently, (well this is just hearsay) to get some you had to know a guy who knew a guy and your guy had to be pretty sure that guy wasn’t from Precinct 52. And from what I understand, there were no choices. You got what pot you got. Unlike today where you can meander down to your corner weed boutique and find a litany of choices with enticing monikers like Moon, Forest Rain and Ocean View. Not sure if the names reflect the effect but if they do, might I suggest you stay away from something called Shark Shock

Finally remember when Barack Obama was President? I do and lately I have found myself pining a little for that time. So at the risk of sounding just a tad nostalgic, I would like to pose one question. Does anyone happen to know anyone that has access to a time machine?

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It’s simply too easy

For those of you who care, this is not a shallow blog. How could it be?

The last, and admittedly, only time I was in Pittsburgh was a few years ago. On our way out of town we stopped at a Starbucks for a bite. Like most people who are roaming around in large and unfamiliar cities, we were a little concerned that we might find ourselves in the “wrong” part of town. I mean we have been told over and over again that taking a right instead of a left can lead to all sorts of problems. Face it. In all cities there are places that are less welcoming than others. So when we stopped I did what I always do. I  took a look around, just to see where we were. And while we have stopped at more Starbucks than I can reasonably remember, I do remember this one. It was a Saturday morning, the sun was shining and as we sipped our coffees and munched on our muffins I looked out the window and saw, what for me, was the familiar sight of families walking by on their way to synagogue, men wearing their tallit and kepas, women dressed in their Saturday finest. And I felt, at that moment, that we had made the right turn. We were in a safe place. At least that’s how it seemed to me on that day. Today I wonder if some of those people I saw will never walk by that window again.

I have to say that I was one of the few people I know who wasn’t surprised that Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States. As a matter of fact, I kind of predicted it. Not sure why. I just had a feeling. Even when everyone assured me that it “just couldn’t happen” I seemed to know that it “just could”. And I was right. When it did happen I also told people not to get too concerned. I mean he’s just the president. Just one person in a much larger governing body. How much impact could he really have?  Look at Obama. Obama was never able to get anything he wanted done. And if Mr. T did try to do anything crazy, well there are checks and balances in place to stop him. After all, even with D.J. Trump at the helm the United States of America is still a democracy. It has a constitution that protects the civil liberties of the people. If nothing else he has more experienced politicians surrounding him for guidance. Surely they would help him to understand what is right and what isn’t. To do the right thing. And there are laws. Laws that prevent him from turning the place upside down. Boy was I wrong.

What I never realized is that no laws need to be passed, no policies enacted for the worst to happen. I never imagined that in this day and age, someone in a position of power would use words that are so caustic as to incite the kind of violence and unspeakable acts we are now experiencing at an unprecedented rate. Of course history tells us this can happen. But because we know, I thought we would know better. And yet here we are. Two black people killed as they shopped for groceries. Fifteen pipe bombs mailed out to critics of 45. Eleven innocent Jewish people murdered as they prayed. Many of us are left wondering what it is we can do to help. So we attend vigils. And  we express our disdain by posting on Facebook. By “liking” other people’s posts to let them know we stand by their side. But, it seems to me, this is simply too easy. This is not enough.

Because what isn’t easy is having to worry every time you go to get your mail. Or answer your door. What isn’t easy is having to bury your dead. The ones that died in horrific ways, too soon. And what isn’t easy is worrying about what might be next. Unfortunately on this one I don’t know how to be right or wrong. I just don’t know. But like everyone else, I do know that something needs to change. Fast. While we try to figure out what to do up here in the north country may I make a request to all of my American friends. On November 6th  go out and vote. Take a couple of friends with you. See what you can do to make a change. Even if it’s a small one. Please do this. For all of our sakes. 

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Pets are People Too

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since walking past the young woman wearing a Tee emblazoned with “Pets are People Too” as she made her way with her loyal companion to our neighbourhood dog beach. Named as such, I suppose, because its a place where you can let your dog frolic without the constraints of a leash and where no sane person without a dog would dare to venture.  As I pondered this sentiment of hers (I assume that’s why she donned that particular Tee) I came to the only conclusion that I could. Actually they are not. Pets are not people too.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, you need to remember that I have shared my home with cats (there have been 3) for the past 38 (yes, I counted) years. And I love, and have loved them dearly. I know from experience that we pet owners, cherish our pets. They become important members of the family. We pamper them, cuddle them, talk to them and give them our hearts. But I can honestly say that at no time over what has been a very long time, have I ever mistaken one of them for a person.

This might surprise you but as a shallow person I don’t come to conclusions lightly. Actually, I like to look at things from all sides mostly in the hope of never having to commit to one or the other. So when I started to think about pets being people I spent some considerable time pondering whether or not this could actually be true. The more I thought about it the more examples I came up with to disprove this theory. Think about it.

First things first. If pets were people at some point in their lives, hopefully sooner than later, they would figure out that it is rather inappropriate to “do their business”, so to speak, wherever and whenever they choose. Even the most resistant of children come to grips with going to the toilet before they reach, I’ll be generous here as some less demanding parents are, their 4th birthday. With pets however, we seem quite content to pick up after them ad infinitum. We don’t hesitate to load up our pockets with plastic bags each time we leave the house or start the day off, sieve in hand, over the litter box cleaning out the produce of the previous day. If pets were people, it seems to me that we wouldn’t be picking up their poop for the rest of their lives.

This too. If pets were people they certainly would not tolerate having us dress them up in silly outfits. Have you ever tried to put a hat on a baby? You put it on, they take it off. You put it on again, they take it off again. One more try. You put it on, with more authority this time. They start screaming and throw it on the floor. You pick it up and put it back in the closet. But not pets. Your pet (well let’s be realistic, this doesn’t apply to all pets) will not only let you dress them in a Halloween costume of your choice, they will also let you take a pic and post the goofy look on Facebook for all your friends to comment. Just try that with one of your kids and see what happens. If pets were people you’d be out that night trick or treating on your own.

And finally. If pets were people, dimes to dollars they wouldn’t be quite as loyal, compassionate, forgiving and non-judgemental as we all know they are. Let’s face it. When was the last time your pet looked at you as if to say “where did you find those 10 pounds?” Or chastised you for not having dinner on the table precisely at 6:30 pm? Who lays at the end of your bed all day long while you sniff and blow and moan and groan with that flu bug you didn’t get a shot for simply because they know it makes you feel just a little bit better to have them there? Who can you tell all of your secrets to and be 100 percent confident that they will never tell anyone else? And who’s there to greet you each and every time you walk through your front door no matter how long you’ve been away? I’ll tell you who. Your pet. Well unless it’s a hamster, a rabbit, some sort of reptile, a bird or a fish in which case greeting you at the door probably isn’t such a good idea. Can you say the same for the people in your house? That’s what I thought.

As you can see I have put quite a lot of thought into this and steadfastly stand by my claim that pets are not really people at all. And you know what? I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

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I Need a Plan

I’ve never been much of a planner. I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you that. After all, you’ve been reading about the life of a shallow person for many, many years now and, as such, I’m pretty sure you have some idea of how this little brain of mine works. What you may find a tad ironic is that I spent a good deal of my working life as a career planning counselor helping others figure out what they wanted to do when they grew up. But I suppose it’s not that unusual. You can liken it to the carpenter who never has time to build her own deck. Or fix the hole in the wall. Or finish the doghouse she promised to her pooch when she picked him up from his foster home. You get my drift. There are things you can do well for others that you never do for yourself. And for me, planning my life was one of those things.

It’s not that I don’t plan anything. Oh contraire! There are a plethora of things that I plan for. Like vacations. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m really good at planning vacations. There’s never anything spontaneous when I hit the road. By the time I’m done with that planning  I’ll know exactly where I’ll rest my head each and every night. Not only that. I’ll be able to tell you my estimated time of arrival, give or take a minute or two depending on traffic and road conditions along the way. I’ll have gotten the best possible price on the best possible hotel in the vicinity and likely know where I’ll be satiating my hunger that evening. The last thing I want is to end up sleeping in my car on the side of the Trans Canada highway somewhere between Princeton and Vancouver, in the pouring rain, because there are no vacancies due to an obscure peach (or other kind of fruit) festival being held, of all the silly times, on a long week-end in August. I mean who wants that to happen…again. So I plan my vacations.

To tell you the truth, I’m not too shabby on the financial front either. Not that it has made me rich beyond my wildest dreams. But I’m doing all right. Sure I’ve made some mistakes but nothing that has proved to be catastrophic. As it is, I have a lovely roof over my head, food on the table, jeans in my closet and enough left over at the end of the month to take one of those well planned road trips. All of which I am truly grateful for.  And while there may have been some luck involved, for the most part, it was planning that made it happen. Which probably leaves you wondering, why all the fuss and bother about not being a planner? Because on the surface it would appear that everything is hunky-dory. The important stuff has been worked out and as to the rest, well maybe I should just let the chips fall where they may. Of course, you’d be right. Except for one thing. You see, in the very next little while I will be retiring from my current job. And if I have to be honest with you (as I always am) that’s something I really haven’t planned for.

Don’t get me wrong. Like most, I’m looking forward to this new stage of my life. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed working. The truth is, I’ve always loved my jobs and the people I’ve had the privilege to work with. At least most of them. Which could be the reason I face this next adventure (as some would have me call it) with more than a little trepidation. You see, I’ve been racking my brain as to what I am going to do with all of the excess time I will find myself in the midst of. Yes, I know. Friends of mine who are retired tell me they are busier now than they ever were when they were working. Over and over I hear them exclaim “I don’t know how I ever had time for my job!” I can tell you how. They paid you to be there, so you were there.

The truth is, I have had no shortage of suggestions made to me. There’s volunteer work to be done (isn’t that just a job you don’t get paid for?), lunches to be had, books to be read, places to go, dishes to be washed. I get it. There’s lots to do when you retire. The question is, exactly what is it that I will do? I suppose I could say I will spend more time meeting my friends at  the local Starbucks but that just doesn’t seem to cut it. Not that I don’t want to see my friends, or spend my excess cash drinking fancy coffees. The thing about going for coffee is that it only works when you are taking a break from “something”, not from “nothing”. Some people have suggested that my new found freedom will provide me with much more time to spend writing this blog. I’m guessing they are mostly people who don’t read it.

So there you have it. Even for a shallow gal, the prospect of an uncertain future seems somewhat daunting. Sure. Over the next little while I figure something will come up that I can latch on to. I’ll take a class or two and see what happens. Do some sightseeing around this Island of ours. Reconnect with friends I haven’t seen for a while. But in the meantime, if anyone happens to know the name of a good career planning counselor, this would be a great time to pass that on to me.

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