Tag Archives: strangers

Never Hug A Stranger (Revisited)

A rather strange thing has been happening over the past week. Well at first I thought it was strange but now that things have turned a corner in this world I suppose it isn’t. As you may or may not know, WordPress (they are the guys that let me write and publish this blog and to whom, in the next few days, I will once again send my 24 bucks) lets me see how many people are reading my posts and which posts they are reading. Now as you know I have a small but loyal following and I really appreciate that many of you actually click on my posts when I post them. I don’t want to bog you down with technicalities so suffice to say that typically a new post will generate views for about 3 or 4 days, with the majority coming in around 3 to 4 minutes after it goes live (as they say in the biz) and waning fairly significantly thereafter. As time marches on it is not unheard of, but rare for anyone to revisit a post from the past and to be honest, I’m pretty ok with that. I mean I don’t even revisit them so why would anyone else? 

But this week things have been different. This week, much to my surprise, there has been a veritable flurry of visits to a post I wrote quite some time ago. These hits (that’s what we bloggers call them) are coming from all around the world. Now I don’t want to blow my own horn but I’m pretty used to having my posts read by people living in places like Canada, the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Australia. I mean I even know people in Australia so it’s not too much of a stretch to think they might give me a read once in a while. But when my reader map (yes, WordPress has that too) starts to register hits from countries like Bahrain, South Africa and Iraq well that’s when I take notice. That’s when I think something must be up. And when all of those hits are on the same post I gotta figure it’s more than a coincidence. Especially when that post is titled “Never Hug A Stranger”. If you happen to have a little time on your hands and missed it way back when, or if you just want a little reminder, feel free to take a look. The title speaks for itself. 

Now I’m the last person to indulge in self-aggrandizement because I know that people look for any port in a storm. So I’m pretty sure that my new friends from around this globe are not actually seeking the advice of a shallow person. But indeed, that’s where they landed, albeit through no fault of their own. And while I am wont to ask anyone to heed my advice or to suggest they adopt any of my idiosyncrasies this is the one time I suggest you do. While I’m never one to say “I told you so” and hindsight, as we know, is 20/20 somehow this time I sure seem to have hit the nail directly on its head. One day, if you insist, I’m sure you will be able to hug again but for now your only job is to flatten the curve. If need be send virtual hugs to everyone you know but keep those arms by your side. Chances are they won’t span the six feet you’ll need them to anyway.

There’s just one more thing. When all of this passes, and it will pass, please do me a favour and ignore my advice for just a bit. There are many, many people who are literally risking their lives to save ours. Health care workers, first responders, truck drivers, bus drivers, journalists, government workers, grocers, and a whole host of others. All of them, each and every one, deserve a hug from you, so go ahead and make both your days. With permission of course. And while you are at it, give them one from me too. 

Stay safe and be well!

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To go or not to go…It’s a question

reunionPlease don’t get me wrong. I’m not insinuating that any of you are shallow just because you read this blog. I know that many of you (and by all accounts there are “many” now) just want to know how the other percentage (small as it may be) lives. You’re curious and that’s ok. I mean, from the very beginning it’s what this blog has been about. At least I’ve always thought of it as a little window into the life of a shallow person. Sometimes you can see your reflection in a window, sometimes not. I suppose it all  depends on how the light falls. Having said that, something has recently happened to me that I would bet my bottom dollar has also happened to you. Because, like me, I’m guessing that each and every one of you attended elementary school. And this comes as a result of that.

As usual, before I get to the crux there’s a little something I have to say. For the most part, I have spent the time since elementary school, and there has been a lot of it, pretty much minding my own business. It’s not that I don’t think about my preparatory alma mater once in awhile.  I’ve even been known to take a drive by when visiting the old neighborhood, just to see if, like me, it’s still standing. It’s just that in the intervening years I have moved from my hometown, not once but thrice, each time substantially further to the west. As a matter of fact, at this point I’m just about as west as one can get in this coast to coast to coast country of ours and with each of these moves the chances of casually bumping into someone from the “good ol’ days” has substantially diminished, along quite frankly, with my memory.

It’s not that I have completely divorced myself from my long ago past. Of course I’m on Facebook and, as one or two of you know, there have been a couple of “blast from the past” moments where me and my former clarinet band mates have had a chance to get together to share some notes. But those connections have been few and far between leaving me, for the most part, with little recollection of my first grade teacher or the popcorn man or even whether I was chastised by Mrs. Elder for not having my sneakers as white as they should have been for gym class. Ok, clearly that one I remember. So with this in mind, you will understand how surprised I was to find out that this year is the 75th anniversary of my elementary school. (No, not my 75th, just the school itself.) And to discover that yes, there is going to be a reunion.

I don’t know about you but as a shallow person my head starts to spin just a little as I consider the implications of this event. It might not surprise you that one of the first things that crossed my mind was my closet. I mean just what might I have in that closet of mine that I would want someone who hasn’t seen me for the better part of 50 years to see? Keep in mind that I was raised in a rather tony part of the big city where parents regaled at the thought of having their six to twelve year old children wear a uniform lest it inhibit their fashion sense.  Oh boy, it’s all coming back to me!  Apparently I didn’t have as much at stake as others may have as now, with most of my days spent working from my home office on this laid back little island of ours, it’s a bit of a stretch to find much beyond jeans and a tee on those hangers of mine. Hence the conundrum. Does one  “come as I am” and not betray thy inner self, or would a trip to the local boutique to drop a bundle on some designer duds which, might I add, are likely put together in the same precarious third world building as that tee of mine, be in order? Honestly, as a shallow person I can go either way with this one. But that’s just one of the many questions that have popped into my head upon learning of this impending get together.

Like who’s going to recognize me anyway? Not that I’ve done anything in particular to look different. There’s been no cuts and tucks, no needles and pins in this face of mine. Heck, I’m lucky to take the time to draw on a couple of eyebrows every morning. Astonishingly, my hair is the same colour as it was way back when, but even so, I’m pretty sure time, in and of itself has taken it’s toll and there will be those who must  inconspicuously glance down to my “Hi, My name is ________”  tag that no doubt we will be asked to don upon entry.  As will I to theirs. Bottom line, if neither one of us truly knows who we are talking to is there really a point to all of this? I mean if I really want to talk to strangers I might just as well amble on over to my fav Starbucks, sit down beside someone who appears to be around the same age as I am and start up a conversation about times past. I won’t even have to worry about making that trip to the boutique.

As you can see this whole thing has caused me much consternation. So now, if you don’t mind, could you put yourself in my Toms for a minute or two and help me as I struggle with making the decision that underlies everything else. To go or not to go? Because, it seems to me, this really is the most important question of all.

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Never Hug a Stranger

no hugsSo I’m watching a special on Mary Tyler Moore while writing this latest blog post (it’s my kind of multitasking). Before I know it, what should come on but the most famous scene of all time, the group hug that takes place as Mary and her station mates close the door at WJM TV for the very last time. Go figure!. That’s exactly what I was writing about. No, not Mary Tyler Moore. I mean, I could write about her but I’d need more time to think about it.  What I happened to be writing about at that very same moment, and this seems to be beyond coincidence to me, is hugging. You see, I’m not exactly sure why, but there’s been quite a lot of hugging going on these days. Maybe it has something to do with this move of mine. Apparently convention dictates that when someone says goodbye they need to do so within inches of someone else’s body. Then again, it could have something to do with that 100th birthday I just attended in my old hometown, as saying hello seems to have the same effect on people as saying goodbye. They need to do it at very close quarters. And that’s something I just don’t understand. Mostly, and you can ask just about anyone who knows me, because I don’t like to hug. Not one little bit.

For some time now I have wondered why I have such an aversion to hugging. Sure. I’m shallow. But isn’t that all the more reason for me to go through the motions of what for most people, seems to have become an obligatory gesture regardless of the occasion? Because let’s face it. People hug other people whether they’re happy or sad, coming or going, winners or losers, meeting old friends or new acquaintances, really just about for any reason these days. There are even those who want to give away hugs for free. It’s become quite ubiquitous and, if I might be so bold to suggest, at least in some cases, a little hollow. So you would think I could get on board with that. But I can’t.

As long as I can remember (and that’s quite a long time on some days) there’s been a social norm around personal space. When we talk to people we like to have a foot or two between us, perhaps more depending on circumstances. We need that little piece of airspace to feel comfortable. So why is it that, all of a sudden, it’s ok to cross that imaginary line at the drop of a hat? Many times, for what seems to me to be some rather spurious reasons. Where a quick shake of the hand used to suffice now, before we know it, we find ourselves locked in an embrace with someone whose name has just alluded us. And it’s awkward. Because there’s always that “to hug or not to hug” moment when you’re not sure what’s going to happen next. Like when you’ve just spent five or so minutes in conversation with someone you know, I might add not all that well, and  you foolishly mention your impending move. Just as you are ready to wrap things up, turn and go on your merry way, you notice your compatriot taking a slight step forward, arms starting to raise from their side. You  think you know what’s going to happen next but how can you be sure? I don’t know about you but for me the upshot of this rather confusing moment is a somewhat inelegant dance in which I do my best to sidestep the inevitable. If I’m lucky, I’ll manage to escape with something that resembles a rather klutzy pat on the back, excusing myself with a smile and an apologetic “I don’t hug”, in the nicest way that I can.  If I’m not, well I’ll end up locked in the arms of someone I hardly know or worse yet, who I haven’t seen for a long time not entirely without reason, wondering how a couple of seconds can possibly go by as slowly as these.

There was a point in time that I was convinced that my aversion to hugging could be attributed to my somewhat less than average stature. You see when people like me hug, or are hugged by people like many of you, our face often ends up somewhere other than where we would like it to be. This is particularly true if there is a discrepancy of a foot or more between us. Just let me say that it can become a little uncomfortable. And while this was a plausible enough explanation for my hugging disdain, it didn’t really seem to fill the bill in all cases because while many people are, not everyone is taller than me. For the most part, I remained stumped as to why I disliked hugging so much. That is until I met up with an old cousin of mine who I hadn’t seen for many, many, years.

Remember that 100 year birthday I’ve been talking so much about? Well it turned out to be quite the family get together. As is oft to happen at these things, one has the chance to renew acquaintances with people they haven’t seen for a very long time. I get talking with this cousin of mine and we start to reminisce about our Fathers. Now let me  say that my Father was one of the wisest men I have ever known. So my cuz and I are sharing stories, remembering all the good times, working out the family history, mostly wondering why we don’t do this more often, when he turns to me and says “your Father always told me that our family makes great strangers”.  And that’s when it hit me. That’s when it all started to make sense.  In that one simple statement I found my answer to the question I have been asking myself for so long. Of course I hate hugging.  And honestly, no one should ever try to hug a stranger.  

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Looking for the update? You’ll find it here.

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There’s no such thing…

ghostYou’ve heard it before. You’re sitting around, chit chatting with a bunch of friends and before you know it the conversation turns to ghosts. Someone in the group has a story to tell about how their front door mysteriously opens and closes, once a year, at the exact same time as, coincidently, the previous owner “bit the dust”, as people are wont to  say. Then there’s the guy who swears up and down that every morning when he comes down for breakfast he discovers that the front burner on the stove is on and there’s a faint smell of burnt toast lingering in the air, and he never eats toast so there has to be ghost in the house. And a hungry one, at that. This conversation continues on for some time, because who doesn’t have a story to tell about a ghost?  But sure as the sun rises every morning, you know there’s gonna be one voice in the crowd, one Doubting Thomas who, before too long will emphatically declare “there’s no such thing as ghosts”. And while, in this particular case it’s entirely possible that the validity of this statement is open to debate, especially given all of the evidence you’ve just been privy to, I do believe there are circumstances when those who are so bold as to proclaim “there’s no such thing as” (and you can fill in the blank here) are, and I say this with the utmost respect, entirely wrong.  Let me give you an example.

In my line of work people ask a lot of questions. It’s only natural. Some people teach, others learn and on both sides of this equation there are lots of questions asked and answered. Most often, a great deal of thought and consideration is afforded these questions. Teachers, as an example can spend days formulating the kinds of questions that will compel their students to think carefully and deeply about the subject matter. Students, on the other hand, know that the right question can send their teacher off on a tangent that, with any luck, will take a huge bite out of class time thereby preventing any further questions being asked of them. In either case, these are usually what one would call “good” questions. But every once in a while, and this is not unique to the classroom, someone, and you may well have done this yourself, will preface a question they are just about to ask with the rather self-deprecating proclamation “this may be a stupid/silly question but” primarily, it seems to me, to pre-empt the possibility that someone else may be thinking the very same thing. The polite response to this admonition is, of course, “there’s no such thing as a stupid/silly question” which, I am going to tell you now, is unequivocally not true. Because, and I say this with a fair bit of confidence and not simply because I am shallow, there really and truly is. I know this because I am routinely asked stupid/silly questions. Like these.

  1. Do you know who you look like? For starters, while I am not particularly vain, I am prone to looking into a mirror several times each day. Let’s face it. If nothing else, more than likely I’m gonna wash my hands a few times and typically, there’s a mirror above the sink in which I am doing that. Intentional or not, at that point I’m faced with my face so it’s not all that hard to come up with the answer to this question. Without a doubt I bear a rather strong resemblance to my Mother and at least one of my Brothers, which makes sense given that my siblings and I are the progeny of the same, happy couple. Nothing out of the ordinary here and probably the case for many people.  Seems to me like a rather obvious answer to a somewhat silly question.
  2. Has anyone ever told you who you look like? Now I’m the first to admit that I’m no spring chicken which means I’ve been around the block more than once or twice. Barring the answer to that first question I have come to understand that I bear a striking resemblance to to a very popular chanteuse. Seems to be common knowledge at this point. So let’s think about this. If you who are asking me this question, have come to this conclusion all on your very own, why is it that you think perhaps no one else ever has? And if you see fit to actually come up to me, a complete stranger, to ask me this question, don’t you think it is possible that someone else may have done so as well over the very many years I have been on this planet? Fortunately, in most cases people answer this one themselves with “of course they have” relieving me of the rather tedious task of coming up with a witty response to what, now that I’ve explained it, you must conclude from my perspective, is a rather stupid question.
  3. Are you Barbra Streisand? Ok. I get it. You really want to meet a superstar and you don’t want to take any chances at missing out on your opportunity to do so. I will concede that the degree of stupidity of this question could be contextual. Let’s say you and I were to meet at the backstage door of the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night. We’re both dressed to the nines and as you glance over it suddenly strikes you that you may be standing next to the most popular singer, actress and director (not to mention a few other accomplishments), ever. You want to know for sure, so you ask. To tell the truth, this could very well be a legitimate question in this case. However, since I have never been in the above circumstance, I usually get this question in the midst of a somewhat more mundane activity. Like checking out at the Target. Or walking into Costco. Or stopping to go to the bathroom at some truckstop on the I-5. Or standing in line to check into my room at a hotel. Ok, so it’s a Hyatt. She still wouldn’t stand in the line. The answer to the question is, of course, “no”. But hey! You already knew that. Just seems a little silly to me.
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What I Want to Say

canada usI’ve been busy. Perhaps not in the conventional sense, or busy like many of you have been. But those walks on the beach each day take quite a long time, and then there’s coffee. Coffee is an event in and of itself. I mean who wants to hurry up and finish when there’s sun, surf and a nonfat, no foam latte all wrapped up in one? So that’s where I’ve been but, as you can plainly see, I’m here now and I have something I want to say.

I like Americans. Well probably not all Americans. I suppose if I had to pick one off hand who I particularly don’t like it would have to be, hands down, the Idaho State Trooper who saw fit to cite me for going a little faster than I should have been just moments before I would have been back in my own country and out of his hair. But then who likes all of anything really? Even in a box of chocolates there’s sure to be a dud. Besides, I spend a fair bit of time in the U S of A and overall, most of the people I meet are really lovely so I don’t have any complaints. Well maybe just one. It seems, and I say this with some trepidation as it’s based on a rather small sample, but nonetheless, it does seem that people here don’t know very much about Canada. Which is a little odd since we are, quite literally, attached at the hip.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Americans don’t know anything about my home and native land. As a matter of fact it seems to me that they are pretty good at identifying us, or at least those of us who quite unknowingly, and perhaps unwittingly, end at least one of our sentences within an entire conversation with “eh”. Who knew I did that, eh? But I must because, as soon as it happened my American friend popped the “so where are you from in Canada” question. Unfortunately, beyond that things get a little iffy. Especially when it comes to geography. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that most people here are geographically challenged when it comes to the large landmass to their north. Which surprises me a bit because here’s the thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no geography genius but ask me where, let’s say, Arkansas is and I can give you a pretty reasonable answer. More south than north. More east than west. And I’ve never even been there. So at the risk of tooting my own horn I’m going to go right out on that proverbial limb and say that I can pretty much do the same for any of the remaining 49.

Which is why I was surprised, and perhaps a little dismayed, to discover that the same can not be said for my southern compatriots who, having asked me where I am from are, more often than not, stumped when I reply, “Edmonton, Alberta”. In an attempt to assuage the inevitable blank stare, I further clarify my answer with “Canada”. To which the most frequent response is “Oh, it’s cold there, isn’t it?” Because that seems to be the constant, the one thing they are sure to know about Canada. Now even as a shallow person I know this is neither the time or place for sarcasm. I simply know that I shouldn’t say what I want to say. At least not then. Not while I am the sole representative of my entire country. But here. Well this is my blog and I can say what I want to. So let me tell you how some of these conversations go and how they could/should have.

American #1: So where are you from?
Me: Canada. And in an effort to be more specific, “Alberta”.
American: Oh, is that like another country?
What I said: Alberta? Oh no, it’s a Province in Canada. A province is similar to your state.
What I wanted to say: Yes. We call it Oil Country. At least we did. And I’m sure we will again one day.

American #2: When talking about our house in Victoria on Vancouver Island asks “how did you ever find that Island?”
What I said: Oh. Vancouver Island is quite well known in Canada. In fact, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia.
What I wanted to say: Actually, we didn’t. It was founded by Juan de la Bodega y Quadra and George Vancouver in the 18th century. 

American #3: While chit chatting in a line at a very popular amusement park asks “where are you from?”
Me: Canada. Alberta to be specific.
American: Oh, Canada. What language do you speak?
What I said: English. Although French is also an official language.
What I should have said: The same one you and I have been conversing in for the last ten minutes!

American #4: Where are you from?
Me: Canada
American: It’s cold up there isn’t it?
What I said: Yes, yes it is.
What I wanted to say: Yes, yes it is.

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