I woke up old – how did that happen?

With age, apparently, comes wisdom.  I am a textbook case of the antithesis of this little pearl of knowledge.

I admit that despite passing the half-way mark to the century of life, I have done an admirable job at stubbornly hanging on to a younger me, at least in attitude and behaviour.

But I think I’m beginning to bore from the fight, or maybe I’m just getting too old to pretend that I’m too youthful to be 50.  There have been some signs lately that make me think that it’s time to embrace the inevitable.

For those who don’t know me personally, I ‘transitioned’ from strawberry blonde (ok, RED), to a bright white at an early age…way too early an age!  This is one of the hereditary traits my brothers and I got from our father, but we haven’t held much of a grudge about it, except for the occasional bad dye job.  There’s something about knowing you get to do the same to your offspring that takes the sting out of it.  Sorry kids!

I had a brief period when meeting new people, they thought I was naturally a blonde.  Lucky for me, there was always a good friend nearby to set them straight…”Blonde? Yeah, right!”.  Bummer.

Since then, I’ve had to deal with a barrage of ego-busting comments. The most painful are the ones offered up innocently.  Deliberate insults are expected – at least between guys.  Innocent comments really hurt.

Getting a hair cut, I was asked by a stylist much older than myself, if I was going to be getting the ‘seniors discount’.  WHAT???  Maybe she was hitting on me or something.  It didn’t work.  And she didn’t get a tip!

Several years ago, I was taking my daughter to swimming lessons at the local rec center.  While she swam, I would sit in the bleachers and watch or read a book, or do work.  At the end of the lessons, they had a ‘meet the instructor’ night.  My daughter was excited to have me come over, and told the instructor that her Dad was there to observe.

The instructor, about 17 at best, and clearly lacking any age judgement at all, responded to my daughter by saying, ‘Oh, that’s nice, since your grandfather has been bringing you all this time’.  OUCH!!

I know at least one of my brothers has faced the same type of age discrimination comments themselves.  The other ones had the bad dye jobs.

It’s really not fair, either.  Except for the hair, I bet I could pass for someone 10 years younger.  In fact, even at this ‘mature’ age, I still struggle with zits.  I mean, come on!! Grey hair and pimples?  God really does have a good sense of humor.  Me?  Not so much.

It’s been a hot summer so far, and with my fair skin, sunscreen and a good hat is the only defense against spontaneous human combustion in the blazing sun.

Ball caps are okay, but don’t cover my big ears or the back of my neck, so I went out shopping for a larger hat.  This is where I started to struggle with the demons of age vs youthfulness. This is also where I realized what a funny shaped head I have.  It’s not that big, but it’s kind of long from front to back, so hats usually look ridiculous on me, like I’m a little kid wearing an adult hat.  Because of my head shape, though, I still need a large hat or it won’t fit my football shaped skull.

I’m not really much of a country fan, so a typical cowboy style hat is out.  The kind that Chi Chi Rodrigues wore looks cool, but I’m not Chi Chi Rodruques, and I don’t have his shape of head.  Besides, I could never pull off his kind of cool.

So, now I’m looking at myself in the mirror, wearing one of those Tilly style hats with a chin strap, and the brims that buckle to the side, like some old Englishman on safari in Africa.

Standing in a store with this goofy headdress on, looking in a mirror and I’m thinking, ‘hey this is functional, practical, and it actually fits my head’.

Functional?

Practical?

Are you kidding me?  When did this happen?  When did I go from style-conscious to frumpy?  Did I just grow some man-boobs, and decide that as long as I’m comfortable, it doesn’t matter what I look like?

Am I going to get one of those cozy blankets with the sleeves, start wearing a fanny-pack, and cutting my hair with a ‘Flow-bee’ attached to the vacuum cleaner?

These transitions should take years – even decades to develop.  This new practical side of me just showed up one day.  No warning, no gradual metamorphosis from a butterfly to a dull ugly old caterpillar.  Just wham.

Of course, I bought the hat.  AND IT WAS ON SALE!  Woo Hoo!  My wife even snapped up one of the sides to make me look authentic.  Now I resembled that old side-kick guy on Crocodile Dundee for Pete’s sake.  All I needed was an ascot and khaki’s.  Actually, that sounds pretty good!

There I go again – totally lost my youthful edge.  I might just start shopping for some nice black knee-high socks to go with my sandals, and get those huge wrap around sun glasses that you wear right over your prescription lenses.  Now that’s a look!

Fashion isn’t even the worst of it.  Now I find myself trying to get free stuff from my neighbours, as if I’m some pensioner who went through the Great Depression or something.  ‘That’s a perfectly good shoe, hardly worn out.  Left right there on the side of the road.  I wonder what size it is?’…and I’m excited about it!

I actually got a total stranger down the street to give me a half-yard of limestone so I could do some landscaping in my backyard.  ‘Say, I see you’ve been doing some stone work’ (while leaning on the excess pile of limestone in his driveway).  “I was thinking of doing a little work myself”.  “How much does this limestone cost, anyway?”

Next thing I know, I’ve brokered a deal to take home everything he didn’t use…for FREE!

Sure, it’s great, right?  But at what point did I decide that instead of just going down to the garden center and getting my own dirt, I would strike up a conversation, hoping to get free things from people?  Young people don’t do this.  Old people do.

You know what else old people do?  Yard sales!! Oh, baby!  You could spend an entire weekend, driving at half the posted speed limit with your hazard lights on, trolling the suburban landscape looking for 10 cent treasures.  And the greatest thing about yard sale shopping?  It’s a license to park right in the middle of the street.

You could legitimately hold up an entire fire department if there’s some good finds on the lawn.  It helps if you’re driving a beige Buick.

Here’s a tip for you:  people will tell you that you should get there early, but the really wise shopper knows that they get desperate at the end of the day.  No one wants to put that junk back in the garage!  That’s the time to bargain – they’re practically giving the stuff away…and you’d still be home in time to have supper at 4 o’clock.

Oh God, someone help me….

I (heart) NY – Part 2 (my grand plan)

    I have an idea.

Everyone should be on vacation all the time.  People are relaxed, smiling, and enjoying themselves.  folks are less hurried, and prone to cooler heads.  We’re all a bit more agreeable when we’re on vacation.

Imagine if we conducted ourselves every day as if we were on a leisurely vacation!  Leave the ‘crackberry’ at home (or accidentally back over it with the RV), sleep in, have a coffee while reading the paper or favourite book in the warm morning sun…probably not very good for productivity, but hey, all great ideas need some compromise.

Now, I’m not so naive as to suggest that this is all possible, or even everyone’s idea of Valhalla.

I’m sure the ‘A’ types out there are breaking out in a cold sweat at such a suggestion.  ‘What?  No e-mail?  My head would explode!’

Here’s an alternative – maybe we could work different jobs on a rotational basis?  If you work in an office in the city, your rotation might be working the rental counter at a Moped shop in Spain, or busking on Coney Island.  The people who do this for a living take our jobs, slogging it out in traffic, wearing business attire in artificial air and light, or slugging heavy boxes in a hot factory all day long.

There might be a few jobs that this wouldn’t work so well on.  Specialized jobs, like the one my friend has, working in a nuclear power plant.  Pretty sure I wouldn’t want a pot-smoking, t-shirt street vendor in charge of highly dangerous radioactive material, even for a short while.

And I really don’t want to have an accountant serving me Mojito’s at one of those swim-up bars.  they’d scrimp on the rum for sure!

Okay, so maybe this idea needs a little more vetting before I can pitch it to the UN as a world peace initiative, but it has merit all the same.

Tell me you wouldn’t want to be in charge of the ‘start’ button on a roller coaster ride, or feed the dolphins at Sea World….I’ll bet you’re smiling already, aren’t you?

So there you have it – a brief mental vacation courtesy or yours truly.  You can thank me by offering to trade jobs some time….as long as you’re not a garbage collector!

I (heart) NY – part 1 of my summer vacation blog

We just returned from a short trip to New York City, and we’re on our way up to cottage country for a few days, so this will be a ‘mini-blog’ about our driving trip to Manhattan.

What an awesome part of the country!  Driving from the Eastern Toronto area around Lake Ontario, crossing the border at the 1,000 Islands area of New York State, all the way down to Manhattan was a long, but scenic trip.Scenic Drive

The area south of Syracuse, in through the Pocono’s of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey is a stunning drive.  Have your camera out (and have someone other than the driver taking the pictures).

With the help of a great navigation system in the car, we made it to Mid-town Manhattan without any scary detours – traffic in New Jersey, and getting into the Lincoln Tunnel was jammed, but otherwise the drive was smooth.

Manhattan is an amazing assault on the senses – all of them!  Brilliant colors, huge buildings, noisy streets, crowded sidewalks, pungent smells (especially in the late afternoon when the garbage bags hit the sidewalks…yikes!).

We signed up for a bus-tour of the city, which I highly recommend for first-time visitors, since there’s way too much to see on any short visit.  Our guide, ‘Dominic’, was a larger than life New Yorker, with the thick New York accent, sarcastic sense of humor, and great love of his home.Dominic in action

Unashamed, a touch crude, and willing to share the real history of the growth and changes of Manhattan, Dominic was the best of 3 guides we had during the tours.

We didn’t have enough time to do more than scratch the surface of this incredible place, so we’ll have to come back again with better walking shoes and more time.

Here are some observations that I gathered during this short trip:

  • New Yorkers are WAY more friendly and helpful than they want you to believe
  • The most important part of the car in New York is the horn (followed by the brakes)
  • After walking around Manhattan, I know where they got the inspiration for the video game ‘Frogger’
  • If you want to see the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island Ferry, which is free, and goes right past it
  • You could spend a week in Times Square and not see everything
  • The free enterprise system is flourishing in the U.S.  We saw ‘business owners’ who had no more than a 2′ space between buildings to set up their stores, selling belts, sunglasses, and cell phone accessories – everyone has something to sell
  • Businesses don’t fail here; they ‘fall on hard times’
  • If you’re on a bus tour in the summer – bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water, although there are always vendors selling cold bottled water at most stops – they’ll even pass it up to you on poles from the street!
  • Get some cupcakes from ‘Crumbs’ just off 8th Ave (around 40th).  Yum!

Suggestions for my American Friends (with all due respect):

  • What’s with the water pressure in Manhattan?  Spend a few bucks on water pumps –  the water towers aren’t working
  • There’s gotta be a better way to deal with the garbage – especially during the hottest days of summer – WHEW!!
  • Drivers on the I – 81 need to learn how to use cruise control

Go to New York if you get the chance – I promise you’ll want to go back again!

That’s it for this part of my summer vacation – next stop is my brother’s cottage up in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario…talk about a change in scenery!

Obsessing over my OCD

Here’s a quick test:  Can you tell why the person who lined up the M & M’s in the above picture does not have OCD?  Answer is at the bottom of this blog.

I think I’m pretty normal.  Now, don’t roll your eyes – I bet you think you’re normal too.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if I’m a bit off-center with some rituals and habits.  Of course, keeping things in order brings, well, order to what would otherwise be chaos.

So, why is it considered a ‘disorder’ if someone tries to keep things in order?  To me, that’s backwards.  The experts say it becomes a disorder when something becomes obsessive, unhealthy, or consumes an unreasonable amount of time or effort.  Come on people!  How can we keep order without diligence? Sounds like a conspiracy by the anarchists.

I started to notice a while ago, that I like some things kept, sorted, organized, or conducted in a specific way.  If not, I rationalized, some unknown chaos would ensue.  I like paperwork piled neatly with no stray corners. and in line or perpendicular to the desk. I think that’s called ‘right-angling’ or something…and the boards on my back deck aren’t completely perpendicular to the house.  I try not to look at it.  Other than that, any type of obsession I may have is just practical.

Case in point:  The dishwasher.

Lets get this argument out of the way right off the bat.  Tines DOWN!  It’s the only way that makes sense.  If the tines are up, you have to grab the eating part of the fork with your dirty fingers to unload the dishwasher, thus making the whole washing part irrelevant.  I don’t want to hear about the utensils getting a better cleaning if the tines are up – if your dishwasher can’t clean them the other way around, get rid of it.  Besides, if the tines are up, no matter how clean your dishwasher gets them, they are dirty the second you touch them.

We have a new dishwasher, and the utensil tray forces you to ‘hang’ the cutlery with the tines up…stupid, stupid, stupid!  If you come to our house to eat, you should probably bring your own utensils.

Its also very important to ensure efficiency with your loads by putting dishes, glasses, and whatever else in the dishwasher correctly.  There is an order to things, people!  I’ve been known to sneak into the kitchen after everyone has left and reorganize the entire thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love it when the kids actually put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  I just wish they could do it right.  I’ll open it up to see mayhem – various sizes and shapes just lumped together with no thought about efficiency or logic.   Filling the glass rack from the front?  Come on!  How are you supposed to fill the dishwasher if you put all your dirty glasses at the front of the rack? Start at the back and move forward…basic in and out principles.  I can’t believe I’m the only one who feels this way, right?

See?  No OCD here – just ensuring the proper order of things.

Okay,  grocery shopping.  My wife and I get the groceries together.  If I go alone, I make the mistake of getting what’s on the list, then leaving.  Apparently I’m doing it wrong, so we go together – I push the cart, load the belt, and pay.  My wife is in charge of filling the cart, and bagging the groceries.  Here’s where it gets a little complicated.

Unless you’re at Costco, the shopping carts aren’t all that big, so it’s critically important to load them properly.  The carts where we shop have a main basket level and a smaller upper basket level to them.  We start with vegetables and fruit – simple enough.  It all goes in the upper basket where the grapes won’t get squished.  Then we move on to bread – same deal.  Top rack.

As long as we move through the store in a logical order, and I place things where they belong, such as putting all the frozen food together (so they have a better chance of staying frozen longer), dairy together, and dry goods in their own sections, I’m good.  If, however, I’m asked to walk back to another aisle and pick up something we forgot (that wasn’t on the list to begin with), I come back to chaos!  It’s like the dishwasher.  OMG!  There’s frozen dinners mixed in with the dairy products!  And who put the dog treats in the top rack with the fruit and bread?  Now I’m breaking out in a cold sweat!

And what about those people who don’t pull over when they stop to read the label on a box of cookies?  What is wrong with them?  Move your cart fully to the right side!  On an angle?  Are you nuts?  The entire flow of the store is off balance now.  I only hope they didn’t park near me! Then, when they finally notice that they’ve blocked an entire aisle, they move the cart and offer a weak ‘sorry’.  And what do I do?  Like the stupid, polite Canadian that I am, I say ‘no problem’.  No problem?  The veins in my head are about to explode……gotta breathe.

I dare you to tell me this doesn’t make you even a little crazy!

You might think this is all a little OCD, but you’d be wrong.  Its all about order.  The aisles need to allow for fluid movement.  I deliberately put items in the cart a specific way for a specific reason – the loading of the belt at the cash register.  Again, start with dry goods – they go on first, so that they get packed first in the bags – makes sense, right?  Heavy cans at the bottom, lighter, perishable stuff at the top.  The last things that are loaded are the breakables (or squishables) – bread, eggs, and potato chips.  Somehow, though, despite my ritualistic effort, I’ll sometimes find an item that my lovely wife slipped in that I hadn’t noticed, like a large can of tomatoes that she grabbed on the way to the cashier.  Major stresser!  Now what? The dry goods are all loaded! Where the heck is the can of tomatoes supposed to go?  With the bread?  It’ll be a slaughter!  The bread doesn’t stand a chance with the canned tomatoes.  Crazy?  I think not.

Here’s an acid test to prove that I don’t have OCD, so before you send me replies with recommendations to 1-800-GET-SHRUNK, hear me out.

My garage – total disaster!  I have half-finished projects, tools laying around, broken household items not fixed, and dirt on the floor.  That makes me normal, right?  Especially if you knew how mad my father would be if he saw it.  Now that was an OCD tool guy if I ever saw one.  His tools were hung individually on pegboard hooks.  Each spot was outlined with the tool that belonged there, then the tool was colour-coded  with spray paint so that the tools in the garage didn’t co-mingle with the tools from the workshop, or the cottage, or his car (yes, he kept tools in the car, too).

Clearly, this obsession missed a generation.

Not convinced? Okay, how about my sock drawer?  Again – nothing in order.  Mismatched socks, missing socks, socks with holes in them that I should have thrown out, even things that don’t belong there – suspenders!  Who wears suspenders any more?  Larry King totally rocked them, but that’s about it.  They should go, but nope.  Still there.  Shoe laces!  What the heck are shoe laces doing in my sock drawer?   And I have no intention on tidying it up.  Obviously, no OCD here, so no need to worry.

Now, if I could only get my neighbour to straighten his fence boards, everything would be just right.   Maybe I’ll wander over one night…

ANSWERThe person who lined up the M & M’s does NOT have OCD, because although they are organized by color, the letters on the candy are not consistently straight on each one.  In the picture, they are randomly set.  Some sideways, some upside down.  Did you get it without peeking?  Maybe we need to chat…