Monday, May 31, 2010

It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Today was a great day for walking. I learned from a lady at a local clothing store that my map is outdated...just as I feared. Apparently, there are many more streets to cover than I originally thought. It's ok though because today and for some days to come, I'll be working on the south end of town and south means Lake Ontario. How peaceful and serene it was.

This is part of "The Waterfront Trail". I was nearing a dead end road and I noticed a path through the trees, then the bridge. Since I am curious, not to mention easily distracted (adult onset attention deficit disorder), I slid down the hill and wandered along the water. These tranquil quiet times are putting me behind schedule, but they are definitely worth it. Despite my best "google" effort, I am only able to identify this as "Cobourg Creek".
I decided to spare everyone my photo of the dead fish. There were a few along the shore of the creek. There were also raspberry bushes, birds singing, ducks swimming, wind rustling, squirrels playing and me, trying to keep from getting muddy.

While heading north toward my house, I spied and smelled hundreds of wildflowers in varying shades of mauve and purple. Just lovely.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Flushed With Excitement

When did using a public restroom get so complicated? Once upon a time, there were toilets with handles that flushed. There were sinks with knobs that turned and there were a couple choices to dry your hands...a push button hand dryer and cloth or paper towels. Pull and voila, the next one popped out. These weren't always perfect, but they usually worked.

I'm not certain when I first noticed a change. It was probably one day when I attempted to flush a public toilet and couldn't find a handle or knob, but instead discovered a glowing red electric eye, peering at my backside from the shiny chrome. Flattered and yet slightly annoyed that aforementioned back side was apparently not large enough to activate the electric eye, I searched tirelessly until I finally located a tiny button which did the job. Following this, I went to wash my hands in the same facility, only to discover that there were no sink knobs. I waved my fingers frantically around the basin area imagining some elf like creature that would turn the water on as soon as giant hands came into view. Unsuccessful, I peered under the faucet as if the singular act of staring would cause it to release the clear liquid staple of all life. No luck. I observed enviously as one after, women simply placed their hands under the tap and out poured the water. Finally, one person announced that she didn't think that mine was working. Phew, absolved, I moved over to one of the previously used sinks and scrubbed off the germs. When I went to dry my hands, I realized I should have paid closer attention. Again, I waved my digits around what appeared to be an electric eye on a paper towel holder. I tried to turn the knob at the side. I pushed the lever at the bottom. In frustration, I pried open the lid and pulled a fragment of paper towel out of the top.

A short time later, I discovered another new fangled gadget at a road side rest stop in Ohio. It was an all inclusive hand soaper, washer and dryer. All you needed to do was put your hands in and short of rubbing them for you, the machine did the rest. Hands in, soap squirts, function delay while you scrub, rinse water, dry. Clearly, this was the way of the future...or was it? I noted that two of the three cavernous sinks had "out of order" signs posted on them.

My most recent surprise came when I was at the train station. The delapidated bathroom had normal facilities and sinks. The hand dryer however was reminiscent of a muff that ladies wore to keep hands warm back in the 1800's. I stared at it. I tried it. How many potential options could there be? Since there were no buttons, hands had to go in the top or hands into the sides. Although I don't remember the secret now anymore, I did figure it out. Once I did, I was blown half way to the CN tower by the force and noise of this new type dryer.

At a minimal cost to taxpayers of $400,000 Toronto now has a pay toilet. While downtown, individuals are able to locate this one seater facility, and enjoy its comforts for an entire 20 minutes. The price? A bargain at 25 cents. Not only that, it cleans itself! According to my calculations, it should make a profit in about 600 years. I wonder how many shocked foreign tourists there will be, since by all accounts, the door flies open after a designated amount of time. There is a countdown and there are warnings....all in English.

My all time personal favourite new age lavatory can be found in a certain Canadian travel clothing store. It is computer controlled and state of the art. Without elaborating too much, it has heated seats and a complex system with temperature controlled water and wash/dry/cleaning capabilities (and I'm not talking about washing your hands here). Although I have not had the nerve as yet to try all the functions for fear that given my history, something will go terribly amiss, I just might go for it one of these days. Now that's toilet technology to which I can relate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Streetwalking Update...what I've learned.

I read that people who set goals for themselves, with deadlines for completion, have an 89% lower risk of developing alzheimer's. I read this in a women's magazine, so it is probably about as valid as an article that would suggest that I'll be the next Prime Minister of Canada. On the other hand, where's the harm? I have now set an end of the year deadline for my streetwalking (see February 2/10 blog). This is a good thing because circumstances have caused me to slack off in the last month. Part of my new found motivation is a fear that with the rapidly encroaching housing developments, new streets will be built before I am able to conquer the current ones. Another worry is that the dreaded winter season might be a bit more aggressive next year than the previous, thus providing fewer hiking opportunities. Finally, and more honestly, if I don't get on with this, I might lose interest. So now I have a deadline. To date, I have completed walking about one fifth of the town's roads.

I have learned a few things during my journey.

After climbing over an assortment of mudpiles where roads were supposed to be, I learned that maps are not always accurate. There are many streets that have "no exit" but show great promise (in some mapmaker or developer's imagination that is).

My map did however help me with a challenge that I've experienced ever since moving here. I finally solved a mystery.

There is a clearly visible water tower with our town's name etched across it just before our highway exit. This same water tower sits a few streets north of here. In the past, I have walked downtown on numerous occasions, "attempting" to use the tower as a landmark. Obviously, I thought, turning in the opposite direction of the water tower would send me on a southerly path where 3.8 km later, I would arrive downtown. Apparently, obvious is not always so obvious.

Over and over again, on every trek, I walked in circles, making no progress toward my destination. How would I ever get to the library, the bank, or any store that might be having a sale? I've heard one definition of insanity as "repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different result", but in my defence, I knew I had to be correct. It had to work one of these times didn't it? The water tower was north and downtown was south. Obvious. When I would eventually pass the local elementary school for the third time, I'd usually resort to asking a lawn mowing local for help. I would immediately be directed to streets that couldn't possibly work, nonetheless, I listened to the instructions and magically, they always got me downtown.

So when I began my formal streetwalking in February, I started on some of the familiar roads in my own neighbourhood. I suppose I could have cheated and crossed off the ones that I had toured so often with and without the dog. Nope, I decided to start fresh. Map in hand, off I went. I highlighted every step I took so that I knew precisely where I was. And where I was when I saw it, was definitely, unequivocably, without a doubt, facing east! There it was, looming large, right in front of me...the water tower. How was that possible? Baffled, I turned north to go around the block and back home. That's when I saw it, through the bare trees, looming large, right in front of me...the water tower. I almost gave myself whiplash flipping my head back and forth, back and forth to confirm my discovery. Suddenly, my many circular trips made sense.

Heading home, I grumbled to myself, "What town needs two water towers anyhow? Stupid. Confuse me all those times. Hmmmph". So here ends, "The Tale of Two Water Towers".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Yes, I'm Old Now...

After rereading the previous blog, and noting a friend's comment I realized that I hadn't actually finished with my thoughts. Those who know me well also know that I'm never really finished with my thoughts.

It seems odd to be able to remember things like the Commodore 64 computer with the tape cassette attachment. It seems strange to realize that my first LP was "Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and that I played it on a homemade...thanks dad...portable record player. I look back and remember with fondness, a large white helmet looking radio/tape player where I listened to the latest thing, 8 tracks! What a joy it was to hear Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" and Abba's "Waterloo" on this piece of modern technology. Then came the cassettes and the cds !

I was always one to be on top of the latest technology especially when it made life easier. In fact, I was among the first to complete report cards on an electric typewriter and later on a computer while others panicked and ran around saying "What's wrong with using a pen?"

Well, I suppose I'm not exactly saying "What's wrong with a pen?" I am however wondering whether all new technology is necessarily good or essential technology. Is it better or more efficient because it's "the latest"?

I recently went into an electronics store and asked for something akin to a transister radio. In fact, I even described what I wanted in fine detail and explained to the young clerk that I realized it was no longer in vogue. "It's for listening to AM, my favourite oldies station and sports while I'm out walking."

The teen sales person looked at me as though I had sprouted horns. Then he sighed as he clearly thought, "another old person trying to buy something from the middle ages".

"We don't sell anything like that, sorry. Would you like an MP3 player?"

"No thanks," I replied. "I have one of those but I use it strictly for hard rock, heavy metal and Bon Jovi."

I did happen to find exactly what I was looking for in a nearby department store. For only $8, I got a teeny tiny radio with duck shaped earbuds. Great.

I still have a cell phone that's a full three years old. It doesn't connect to the internet, turn off my appliances, take out the trash or park my car. Alas, the "apps" are limited. I use it mostly for (insert gasp here) telephoning. I admit, that I make fairly extensive use of texting and it has, I have discovered, the capability of taking poor quality photos.

I own both a portable cd player (as mentioned in "Who You Calling An Antique") and a cassette player. I find these to be quite necessary while I am out and about (see blog "Streetwalking"). Most libraries still carry books in both cassette and cd form. I also own a Wii , a Nintendo DS and a GPS. So you see, I'm not totally "out of the loop" as yet. Each item serves a different purpose and each is equally useful.

I read somewhere that over 90% of technology ever created has been developed since and is a result of space exploration. That's definitely during my lifetime and it's a small speck of time on the continuum.

How do gadgets that perform a multitude of tasks and never give your brain a rest make life easier? Sometimes I wonder who, other than the manufacturer, is actually benefitting from the latest craze. It's amazing how the hype each time a new device is unveiled attracts people who are actually willing to line up to be the first for the new toy. They purchase items that weeks down the road will be *discarded as outdated when the newer better "thing" comes along.

Well, all I can say is that when all my neighbours are sitting around wearing goofy glasses and watching their new 3D t.v.'s, I will not be among them.

*landfills, trash and wasting of resources...a whole other topic

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Who You Callin' An Antique?

I was recently in a hotel elevator, when two well dressed gentlemen in their 40's got on. "Wow, there's an antique", said one to the other while glancing my way furtively.

Shocked by the comment, and feeling particularly offended, I felt the need to reply. "Well, some antiques still have a lot of life and usefulness left in them." I rushed out at the 4th level and in my haste banged into the still opening elevator doors.

Ah, how satisfying when you are instantly able to come up with just the right comment in response to someone's rude observation. What ever happened to standing quietly, pushing a button and staring at the floor or ceiling in an elevator? Wouldn't that have been preferrable? "Yes indeed, I sure told them," I muttered as I strode down the hall quite pleased with myself.

As I reached for the room key card, I realized that I was holding my rather conspicuous 15 year old Sony walkman CD player in one hand. Oops. I could feel my face redden. Oh well, my comment still worked didn't it? In my head though, I instantly reverted to my teenaged years when dumb things coming out of my mouth were the norm. As a result, I decided to avoid taking the elevator for the next few days lest I bump into those same "boys".

Saturday, May 1, 2010

So Many Questions...

*Clarification of asterisks at end of blog.

Have you ever noticed how some people always manage to look terrific? Not only that, they seem to remain assembled and intact for the better part of a day or evening. Their clothing is neat, clean, stylish and in good repair. They've shaved or plucked all stray facial hairs, their socks match, their makeup and nails are meticulous and they have salon perfect hair. These same people never have spinach, poppy seeds or other foreign objects wedged in their teeth nor do they have toilet paper stuck to their shoes or dresses tucked into their pantyhose. They could walk through the eye of a tornado and come out looking unscathed.

Sadly, I concluded long ago that I have been born without the prerequisite gene.

In the spectrum, I fall more closely toward *Pig-Pen than to *Bree Van de Kamp.

How is it possible I wonder, to leave the house feeling confident only to show up at work or at an event looking as if I've had several cats walk across my clothes, face and hair? How is it possible, to arrive at a social gathering and realize that I am wearing matching shoes but in two different colours? How is it possible to cement my hair with $10 worth of spray, gel and mousse only to discover that every photo at a function shows me to have an *Alfalfa-like fountain sprouting out of the centre of my head? How is it possible to spend double the normal time on my makeup, in this case a full 2 minutes and not notice that at least a half dozen bristles have fallen out of my makeup brush and decorated my face all day?

Then there are the days when I make it out of the house unaffected. Does dirt actually fall from the sky and land only on certain people? Is there a lint fairy that envelopes only me while I am innocently driving down the road? Am I the only one who can't drink out of the tiny slot of a take-out coffee cup without decorating the front of my shirt with unflattering brown spots? Do buttons only fall off when I'm out in public? Is it possible I haven't done them up properly in the correct holes in the first place?

Could it be that there are others like me? Could that in fact be the reason for the surge in the popularity of public pajama pant wearing? Could it be that one day soon, humans will be divided into two groups...those who get out of bed looking perfect and those who just get out of bed and don't bother? I believe I have just solved another of life's myteries. Now excuse me while I go shopping for a wardrobe of colourful flannel pj bottoms.

*Pig-Pen is the character who walks around surrounded by a dust cloud in the Charlie Brown comics.

* Bree Van de Kamp can only be described as the most "Stepford Wife" like character on the tv show "Desperate Housewives".

*Alfalfa in this case refers not to the grain, but to the character in "Lil Rascals". This group existed waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy before my time of course, but I am aware of them.