O Canada!

Happy 147th, Canada! Couldn’t think of anything new to say, so I’m reposting my O Canada blog from last year…

The Lighter Side of Life

This Monday, July 1st, Canada will turn 146.  This blog is a list of all things Canada for all those who are Canadian and still suffer from an identity crisis, or those who are not Canadian, and want to know what Canadians are really like.

I’m dedicating this blog to our Canadian family living in the Seattle area, and doing a great job of integrating into their new surroundings. I’m sure the locals don’t suspect a thing!

This is being Canadian…

  • We do say ‘eh‘ a lot, but we think it’s more polite than ‘what?’, or‘huh?
  • We don’t often say ‘No Doubt About It‘ (sounds like ‘nuh doot aboot it’ – it helps with the pronunciation if you purse your lips while saying it)
  • Almost none of us have even seen a real igloo let alone lived in one
  • We get really excited…

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Grumpy Gus

grumpyI know I keep promising to write a witty, funny, sunny sort of blog soon, and I will – I swear.  It just won’t be this one.

I’m starting to amass a list of things I don’t like.  Not a real list, like the ones my wife sticks on the fridge, computer, front door, toilet seat, or wherever I can’t pretend I didn’t see them.  This is a mental list, and it’s growing.  Not good when your brain cells are dying off faster than you can say ‘Old Fart’.  There’s limited space in the old gray matter cavern, and it’s mostly taken up with computer passwords, anniversaries and peoples names.

Most of you know how I feel about Spring and cats (notwithstanding the hilarious feline antics that some fellow bloggers post), but I have a couple more things to add to my ‘dislike’ list.

The first addition has been pending for quite a while now, but I’m sure after the last couple of weeks, it’s a permanent member of the ‘things I don’t like’ mental list.  It’s also, like springtime, nothing I can do anything about – at least not practically.

It’s Tuesday.  That’s right, the day after Monday.  You might think it odd that the most despised day of the week is not on the list, but the day after is.  I have my reasons.

We already know what to expect on Monday.  First day of the work week for most of us, so everyone’s tired and burned out from the 2 day fun marathon we call the weekend.  Monday sucks, but we all know that, so there’s a grace period for sloggy, dumb behavior. It’s like a goof amnesty.  You’re late, or say something completely stupid, and you get a pass on it – it’s Monday after all.  It’s a life version of a Mulligan.

Tuesday though.  Oh, boy! You better be on your game, buster!  It’s down to brass tacks on Tuesday.  No forgiveness, no Mulligans.  Heavy, brain-sucking meetings take place on Tuesdays.  Traffic is ALWAYS the worst on Tuesdays.  And no one is gonna let you in!  You would’ve gotten the polite wave on Monday, but Tuesday?  Suck it up, Buttercup!

It’s usually also the worst day for weather – in fact, around here, we’ve had tornadoes touch down twice this month – both on Tuesdays.  Even if it’s sunny, it sucks, because instead of being out there in it, you’re stuck in your dull cubicle, having the life-force evaporated from your soul.

Bills are always due on Tuesdays.  I have no way to prove this, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

Tuesdays suck – and there’s nothing we can do about it, unless we move the weekend forward or back a day or two.

The second thing that bugs me is a little more seasonal.  No, it’s not the weather exactly, but what happens when the weather is nice.  On all of our roads and streets, they have hatched in huge numbers – maybe because of the excess snow we had last winter, or possibly because of the late spring, but it’s undeniable.  There’s a plague of them out there.

Of course, I’m speaking of scooters.  Mopeds, Vespa’s and the like.  Annoying, buzzing little traffic snarlers, blocking lanes and impeding the civilized flow of vehicular traffic around town.  They’re even worse than cyclists!  At least with bikes, you can flip them off based on the way they dress in those ‘leave nothing to the imagination’ smug biking shorts.

scooterWith scooters, it feels like you’d be making fun of people in a wheelchair or something.  They ride around at the speed of government, with over-sized bodies and over-sized helmets, tiny little tires, and usually carrying something that has no business being on something that small.

I actually saw a guy on a Moped once, carrying home a Christmas Tree! No lie!

No one in a car knows how to deal with these uber-slow traffic cones, either.  Can you pass them?  I don’t know.  So, most of us follow along at idle speed, hoping they turn into a driveway or onto the sidewalk.  Usually, they’re headed exactly the same way you are, so you eventually have to veer around them like Mario Andretti, hoping not to be seen by the police.

There should be a minimum speed limit law, like they have in Quebec.  You know things are bad when you use Quebec as a standard for logical legal examples.  It’s like the Canadian version of Texas.

I guess I should stop now.  I think I’ve managed to annoy enough groups, one province and the Lone Star state, but I feel better…until I have to add to my list again.

I’m really very charitable…really!

charityI refused to help homeless children, and I’m totally okay with it…..really….maybe.

Okay, let me qualify.  I do believe in giving back for those rich gifts that have been given to me.  I really do.  I’m all about paying it forward, sharing my time, talent and treasures – all that good sharing of God’s gifts kind of stuff.  Maybe not as much as I should, but I do what I can.

But there has to be a limit to saying ‘yes’ to every handout, right?  Those kids at the door with chocolate covered almonds, or the skip-a-thon, or whatever.  They’re endless!  You have to pick and choose carefully, or you’ll go broke and become one of the charities yourself.

It’s tough!  Guilt is a great motivator, and a lot of charities leverage it perfectly.  Send kids. How do you say ‘No’ to a little kid?  Add in some tasty treat that you’re craving, and you can’t resist it.  You reach into your pocket and hand them $5 bucks for a bland piece of candy you could have bought for $1.

So, you’re pressured to help others (guilt), add in some tasty treat (temptation), and sell it through the eyes of a cute, innocent little kid and you’re doomed!  It’s the trifecta of sales tactics.  You can’t resist it.  About the only other thing they could do is be holding a puppy at the time.

There’s a commercial out right now where a little girl is trying to sell donuts door-to-door.  donuts With a syrupy-sweet voice, she stands like Vanna White, showing off the doughy goodness while batting her cute little eyes and says; ‘Donuts?’.  The lady manages to resist the temptation, thanks to a low-calorie cereal bar….yeah, like that’ll work in real life.

My wife loves this commercial.  Not because of the product they’re selling, but she uses the same ‘Donuts?’ voice on me when she wants something or wants me to have a snack with her.  Apparently, it’s not bad to sneak a snack if someone else does it with you.

A few years ago, I was walking out of a store after buying some adult beverages for a dinner party we were hosting.  As usual, some kid had set up shop outside, and was hitting people up to buy a chocolate bar or something so he could do whatever he was trying to do – I don’t even remember what it was.  I said, ‘No thanks’, and walked away.  Just then, the little kid dropped his head down in rejection and muttered;

“I’ve been standing here all day and no one has bought one”….CRAP!

As I ate the stupid chocolate bar on the way home, I wondered if that was one of his lines to make a sale.  I may never know, but I gotta say that it was effective.

I decided a while ago that I would no longer succumb to the door-to-door pitch whenever possible, mostly because I think it’s a lousy way to get a kid to go on a school trip or pay for a hockey tournament.  I also did it because I have to, like most of us, watch my budget.

I have a couple of standard lines I use:  ‘sorry, I don’t have any cash on me right now’, or my favourite; ‘I have a nut allergy’, while standing recoiled behind the door like some vampire being shown garlic.

Usually, I don’t even answer the door any more.  How sad is that?

But you can’t escape them for long.  I was standing at the checkout at the grocery store the other day, with hundreds of dollars in extravagant items – steak, seafood, my favourite potato chips.  Even a decadent dessert that I clearly could live without,  and the cashier asked the dreaded question:

“Would you like to give $2 to help homeless children?”

What do you do?  How do you, standing there with an audience of shoppers silently judging your goodwill, put your foot down and refuse such dastardly trickery?

The ethical and social pressure is immense.  And no one wants to hear your excuses, either.  They just want you to pay up and get your groceries off the belt.

I didn’t have a need to say ‘yes’.  I should feel no guilt, no shame in deciding that what I do regularly is good enough, so I replied, quietly and with no eye contact, ‘Not today’.

So, why do I feel so guilty?  I even wrote this blog, trying to clear my conscience.

Please tell me that I’m not a bad person for not giving $2 to homeless children.  That sounds bad, doesn’t it?

Dads – Perfectly imperfect

dumb dadsSince the beginning of time, the male of the humanoid species have endeavored to achieve awesomeness.  Early man created tools of hunting, war, and fixing broken toasters.  They did this so they wouldn’t have to call on someone else to do what they had no business doing on their own.

Fiercely proud, even early man insisted on being the sole ‘go-to’ guy for his families needs.  Tracking wild game never included pulling over to ask a stranger for directions.  They’d rather die of starvation in a quarry than admit they lost the scent of the animal.  No, even our ancient ancestors had a keen sense of stubbornness.  It’s a wonder we ever made it this far!

Luckily, today’s Dad’s don’t often die in quarries looking for food for their families.  We still won’t ask for directions, though.  In fact, even with super high-tech satellite guidance systems, we’ll decide our route is better than the one on the Navigation system we payed hundreds of dollars for.

‘That stupid machine doesn’t know anything!’

Our hunting is usually limited to parking spots – another task that has it’s own weird science to it.  My SUV has retractable side mirrors.  I love this feature!  Because of this sweet little bit of modern technology, I can shoe-horn my gas guzzler into spots reserved for mopeds.  Opening the doors is a bit of a challenge, but hey – look how close we are to the mall entrance!

tight parkingOne thing today’s Dad’s share with our ancestors is the need to pass along life-skills to our kids. It’s this disposition that drives Dads to teach their offspring on how to survive. It’s a fundamental need, developed deep within ourselves as a pseudo immortality, ensuring the manly skills of our forefathers are passed along.  Strangely enough, this need has a blow-back effect, in that while we try to pass along life-saving skills and advice, those very lessons usually involve tasks that could, in themselves, have fatal consequences.

Take swimming lessons for example.  While few can argue about how learning to swim is a significant survival advantage, it also provides great health and recreational benefits.  Where it gets dicey, is in how Dads help us to develop that skill.  It would stand to reason that a parent would register their children for board certified lessons, in a supervised and well equipped swimming pool, that had been tested for cleanliness and life-saving equipment.  It would stand to reason….except for Dads!

That could take years, and cost hundreds of dollars.  Why?  How did we learn to swim?  Pushed off the dock in a semi-polluted pond with no life-saving equipment, ladder, or detailed dry lessons on how to kick your feet.  It was sink or swim, mister!  It built character, and possibly a paralyzing fear of H2O.

They were practical lessons.  We didn’t learn about power tools by taking a class in safety, followed by simulations and ‘role-playing’.  Dad would fire up the saw, hand us a piece of wood, and say ‘don’t cut off any fingers’.  Instant carpenter.  If you were successful, you had the run of the tool shed.  If you weren’t, well, you were learning to write with the other hand…and it was your fault.

Dads don’t live as long as Moms, statistically speaking, so we have limited time to do our data-dump of life knowledge.  Some things just need to be taught on the fly.  We don’t know when our number will be up.  Waiting for little Billy to decide if he wanted to learn a sport was a waste of time.  It was ‘Here – catch!’.

hit with ball…and if you didn’t?  Your fault.

There’s also some key differences in how Dads give advice from how Moms give the same advice.  A Mom might say, ‘Don’t do anything that we wouldn’t be proud of’.

A Dad, giving the same sage advice, would make one small change to that suggestion; ‘Don’t get caught doing anything that we wouldn’t be proud of’.

See the difference? Mom’s advice is absolute – no wiggle room.  Dads are more pragmatic than that.  They know you’re gonna do dumb stuff.  They just don’t want you to get caught doing it.  If you do, they have to make an example out of you, and that means repeating a lesson they already taught.  Dads HATE having to do things twice.  Any time a Dad can cut a corner on something, the better life is.

That probably explains this:

Dad cutting cornersEven fixing that toaster often had a unique and dangerous aspect to it.  If you’ve ever seen footage of a brain operation, the surgeon often has the patient awake, so they can be sure they’re snipping the part of the cortex that is causing the problem, and not the one that controls breathing.  Well, Dads tend to follow that same logic.

If the toaster is unplugged, how will you know if you’ve fixed it?  Common sense.  If it’s good enough for a brain surgeon, it’s good enough for Dad.

fixing toasterDads have a way of getting things done without those pesky instructions.  Sure, there’s the odd extra bolt left over, but the mental triumph over stupidly complicated directives more than makes up for the questionable safeness of said project.  This is what Dads teach us.  Sometimes you just have to throw away the script, wing it, and rely on your ancient instincts to guide you.  Trust in your gut.  Those thousands of years of evolutionary trial and error suggests that your gene pool is deeper than most, just by the fact that you’re alive and reading this.

It’s those shortcuts and bypasses that really are the fruit of living, aren’t they?  How boring life would be if we didn’t get the crap scared out of us once in a while.  Take the path less traveled – even if it’s less traveled because it leads to quicksand or some other potential catastrophe.  These are where our great memories are formed.

We all should thank our dangerous, spontaneous, and sometimes insensitive Dads this Father’s Day.  They keep the spark alive…sometimes with a knife in the toaster.

It’s all my fault

cropsI have a confession to make – I’m to blame for everything.

You see, when I shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, I want only the best, ripest, and freshest produce for my family.  Because I only pick the best, freshest and ripest, the rest of the fruit gets left behind and is eventually thrown out by the store.  I don’t want it, and I won’t pay for it, so they have to get rid of it.

Because this is how I shop, the store owners tell their suppliers not to give them any old, bruised, marked, or otherwise ‘unattractive’ product.  The suppliers comply.  It’s about me.  I’m paying, so they have to do what I want.

Now, the supplier is going to go back to the farmer.  He’s going to tell the farmer not to pick anything that has a mark on it, is bruised, or has signs of insects or other natural diseases.  The farmer has to comply, since the supplier won’t buy it from him otherwise.

The farmer, faced with fields of growing crops, needs to yield as much perfect produce as he can, or he’ll go broke.  I won’t buy anything sub-par for my family, so the grocery store won’t buy anything sub-par from the supplier, who won’t buy anything sub-par from the farmer….you get the idea.

Standing out in an open field, exposed to the elements, the farmer has few choices, since his crops are what feeds his family.  He needs to ensure that everything he grows can be sold, otherwise he’s growing nothing but debt.

With few options, the farmer employs the help of chemical sprays to ensure his crops look perfect.  It’s my fault.  I’m the guy standing at the road-side stands, checking each cob of corn for worms.  I’m not bringing those nasty bugs home to my family, so I guess I’m willing to have the corn sprayed, even if that’s not a conscious decision at the time.

McDonalds is my fault too.  Sorry.  Sometimes I’m in a hurry, or just too lazy to cook.  I asked for quickly prepared food – so quick in fact, that I can drive up to a window and have it handed to me, hot and salty within a minute.  I told McDonalds that this is how I want my food, so they complied.  I know it’s not healthy, but sometimes I just need to scarf down some grub while I’m on the run – and if pushed I’d say that I sometimes really crave the taste of a Big Mac.

The big-box stores?  You know it – me again.  I needed variety, long hours and cheap prices for all those toaster ovens, back massagers and iPhones. Sure, there were little stores that had them, but what a pain in the butt, having to drive from store to store.  And I didn’t know when they were open or if they had good prices.

I know, I should have supported the local business owner, but heck, who has time for that?  When I need a left-handed spindle crank, I can’t risk going to a store that doesn’t have it in stock and in 3 colours.  Nope – big box is the way to go.  I don’t know why that strip mall near my house looks so deserted though.  Must be the economy.

Although I’m not a photographer, I’m also responsible for the paparazzi attacks on celebrities.  I just can’t get enough of those tabloid magazines while standing in line at the grocery store.  A 3-headed baby that sings like Elvis?  Are you kidding?  Who’s got the latest ‘baby bump’, and who looks worse in a bathing suit? I crave this stuff.  Because I do, the photographers will do almost anything to get the picture that will entice me buy their magazine.

I was probably the one responsible for Princess Diana’s tragic death.  Can’t get enough of the Royals – I sent those photographers on motorcycles to capture an image of Lady Diana stepping out with her new beau.

See, the thing is, I would love to blame the farmers, or the fast-food places or the big box stores for how they’ve poisoned and cheapened our planet – they’re an easy target.  In the end though, it was me, the consumer, who decided to exercise the greatest power I had.  I gave them my business.  My money.  I told them, through my humble purchasing decisions what I wanted, and they complied.

So, I want to confess.  It’s my fault these things are the way they are.  I was the one making decisions that landed us where we are today.  I hope you can all forgive me.

Anything you’d like to get off your chest?