Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dining With Strangers

There are some solitary activities which cause people discomfort. Having grown up as an only child, I don't seem to have a lot of the same issues. I actually enjoy "alone" time. I can easily go to a movie or a restaurant by myself and be quite content, despite the oft sympathetic greeting of, "only one?", as I am quietly escorted to a discreet table for two.

About a week ago, I suppressed my inner vegetarian long enough to dine at one of my favourite steak restaurants. I sat on the rather long, vinyl padded bench which stretched across the back of several tables. That way, I was able to face the restaurant rather than sit in a chair and stare at a wall.

While studying the menu, a necessary formality even though I always order the same thing, I felt something wedge itself against my hip. I curiously tried to peek at the activities of the woman and the three men that had been seated at the table beside me. The woman had stood up and in so doing had shoved her enormous, "Coach" purse against me. She excused herself from the table and left for the restroom...without her bag! When she returned and made her way back onto to the bench, I felt another nudge and noticed that the purse was now almost entirely on my lap. I was flabbergasted. The next table was not that close, nor is that part of my anatomy particularly large. I was well within the confines of my tiny table space whilst she was seated at least four feet away.

I was tensed up but managed to stare calmly into the distance, pretending that I didn't see the intrusive item. I sipped my vodka martini, straight up with olives. Oh, who am I kidding? I gulped my martini and began thinking about my next move. I glanced surreptitiously toward her, then down. The purse was wide open. Oh no! She'll think I tried to get into it.

The olives helped to level my blood sugar so that I could come up with a few ideas. Plan #1 - Perhaps I should have another martini to overcome my shyness and ask her to move it. I looked over and saw the four clinking glasses and toasting each other. Hmmm...what would she think? Why couldn't she just see my predicament and take her bag away?  Plan #2- What if I tried to go to the restroom? That option is always a problem when dining alone. Besides, I didn't think I'd be able to move the purse without physically picking it up to do so. Plan #3 - Use one of my Zumba moves, fling my hip toward it and hope the purse shifts. That was it! Brilliant! Plan #3 it was.

I slid my back side to the left and hurled my hip in the opposite direction, right against the purse, just as a steak platter was placed in front of me. "Would you like another martini?" the waitress asked nonchalantly pretending not to notice my blushing face and odd behaviour.

"Errr...(tempted), no thanks, one is my limit. I have to walk across the road in rush hour traffic," I answered as if I needed an excuse not to imbibe further. She nodded and left. I nibbled my meal as I tried to visualize the viability of a new idea. Plan #4 - Get the waitress to ask her to move it.

As I adjusted the napkin on my lap I once again felt the offending purse brush against me. I gave it a shove with my hand, then another. Such a simple move had worked! I now had at least 6 inches of leeway between me and the bag.

Noting that the group was engrossed in conversation, I looked over to make certain that the purse had travelled a respectable distance away from me. As I did, I overheard one of the men, dark haired, middle aged, heavy set offering to sport a thong at the pool during their next business function.

I had no choice as the waitress approached. "I've changed my mind. I'll have another martini please."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Working Out West

For two weeks, I had the pleasure of living in a hotel and working west of the city. I was thrilled to dwell in the lap of luxury. My room had a spacious kitchen and breakfast nook. It was so large that I never did locate the fridge or microwave. Instead, I used a small cooler filled with ice and a coffee maker for hot water. As you can see, there was only a slight lack of kitchen cabinetry.

My living room, entertainment area and bedroom were equally plush. The colours were lovely...a distinctive shade of vintage (aka 1970's) orange. I won't go into detail about the powder room except to say that I had to turn sideways to get through the door and stand in the tub to brush my teeth. 

The view from my window was simply spectacular in every direction. Sometimes, I could see the CN tower. I felt that I could almost touch it...especially when I used the telephoto lens. 


CN Tower South View

Each morning, we were greeted by a coach to take us to our work site. I opted to walk the one mile uphill and down, through traffic, aircraft noise, chaos and across three highway ramps because I didn't want to be spoiled by the magnificent transit option. Besides that, I saw and learned so much along the way that I couldn't help but find each day's trek totally enjoyable.

For example, one day, I noted a police officer reporting on some damaged property. By the time I walked back later in the day, the problem had been if it had never happened.

Once at the work site/warehouse, we were treated to more lovely facilities. This is the female side.

I am pleased to say that I used some of my time creatively. I was the envy of the workplace when during one very cold day, I took my dollar store gloves and a knife which I had in my lunch bag. I invented a way of wearing my right glove while still allowing me to work.

All in all, it was a productive two weeks. For those who know what I was doing, great. For those who don't, it was a top secret government operation. I can't speak of it in further detail since I signed a confidentiality agreement. Lest you wonder, it had nothing to do with either Charlie Sheen or the royal wedding.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One of These Things is Not Like the Others...

I came back home from two weeks away at work and because of the upcoming long weekend, I went to pick up a few things at the supermarket. I parked around the side of the Metro store rather than in the busy front lot. When I came out of the store, this is what I saw. My car had multiplied !

I set down my grocery bag, grabbed the camera which is always in my purse and took the photo. As I did, I said to myself, "This is almost funny."

When I heard a voice behind me answer "No, it's not that funny,"  I realized that once again I had been speaking to myself far too loudly. I noticed a gentleman stare at the vehicles and select the one on the right.

I pointed at the styrofoam baseball on my car's aerial and announced, this time to the male audience, "I find this helps." He nodded, smiled and drove off.

"I also have a personalized license plate," I said smuggly before I caught myself and looked around relieved that there was nobody listening this time. I hopped into my car, gave the red air freshener sneaker a flick toward the mirror, smiled proudly and headed home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm Reading Writing, So I'm Rarely Writing

I am currently living away from home scoring tenth grade literacy tests. It has put a crimp in my blog writing time. I am however, gathering plenty of material for future use. Most days, I have walked a mile each way to and from the work site. I have seen much and learned much about the big city. Since I am living near the airport, I took this photo one evening while trekking back to my hotel.
A balance of tree, moon and airplane.
The picture looks so peaceful and yet, the sounds of traffic, jets and horn honking were deafening. I have learned that many city people have no patience. They honk or give others the finger for what I would consider no reason. Not that I haven't used the occasional "car word" under my breath while driving, but in the cases which I noted, there was no just cause to be annoyed. Many people are tourists and strangers around the airport area and hotel strip. Locals should realize that and be a little more considerate and tolerant when people slow down to search for a street or when they don't zoom through a light to make a potentially hazardous left turn in an unfamiliar area.
Hordes of Photographers

One of my adventures included going to the Doubletree Inn after hearing that the Prime Minister would be appearing there. Unfortunately I found out after the 1 p.m. deadline for registration. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan. I do like taking advantage of opportunites. After hearing of the latest Tory stunt, which was asking people to dress in "native" garb and show up for photo ops with the prime minister, I realized there might be some interesting happenings. Here's what I found.                                        

A multitude of protestors

One or Two Election Signs

People who try to say that either New York City or Los Angeles have congestion and terrible rush hours have clearly never driven on the twelve to sixteen lanes of  Hwy 401 in Toronto, And yes, I have driven in both those places as well as Washington D.C...also no picnic. Last night, I attempted to drive home. It was not a weekday and it was not morning or evening rush hour. It was in fact, a Saturday and it was late afternoon. This is how it looked. I was stopped, parked in fact when I took the photos.

After several hours of driving, I arrived home where hubby welcomed me with a martini and served me a lovely souvlaki dinner. This morning, the sun was shining. Reports on the weather channel claimed it was raining in our town...remnants of storms in Oklahoma they said. We decided to go for a walk at the lake. By the time we got there ten minutes later, clouds were blowing in, huge waves crashed onto the pier and birds flapped frantically in their attempts to fly. We noted evidence of work on the beach and wondered how soon the warm weather would come so that people might once again enjoy the lakeside area. When the hail started, we ran for cover.  


Tonight, it's back to the hotel for another four days of work. I can't believe that a whole week went by and I didn't have the energy to take advantage of being in the big city. I think that this week, there'll be a trip to the Rogers Centre by this Blue Jays fan. There's nothing I enjoy more than seeing my Jays trounce Adam's Yankees.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blogs of Note

I haven't checked out a lot of other peoples' blogs. That's mostly because I only know a couple of friends who write them, albeit not regularly. Beyond that, I don't often select a random stranger's blog to read. What I do glance at every few days are the blogs which have been given "blogs of note" status. I have no idea what the criteria is for a blog to be selected as a "blog of note". I have noticed, however, that there is such a variety out there, that there's something for everyone.

Many "blogs of note" have pictures and photos. Some blogs simply promote a business or hobby. Some blogs are made up entirely of cartoons, paintings, fashion or home decor. Some bloggers like to rant while others enjoy seeing their favourite curse words in print.

Having said all this, I have discovered one, just one stranger's blog which I look forward to reading. It was selected as a "blog of note" and I totally agree with the choice. I'm not certain why this blog appeals to me so much. Perhaps it's because I can relate to the issues and location. Maybe it's just that this person is young and I enjoy being a cheerleader as she describes her road to success.

From the first time I read Katy Mazur's "Baking My Way Through Germany", I was hooked. I immediately added her blog to my favourites. It was different. It was original. It detailed the life and struggles of a young adult female in a foreign land.

I do not know Katie. She does not write anything which the literati would consider profound or classic. She writes what she thinks and she writes about her day to day experiences. She writes from the heart. She tells about her baking, stolen bikes and about her struggles learning a foreign language. There is nothing pretentious about her. Her blogs are short and to the point. Sometimes, she includes recipes...a bonus.

Katie recently returned for a visit to her home in the U.S.A. I know this because I read her blog. She was taking a break from writing and I missed her, although I realized she was enjoying the company of family and friends. Today, I read about her holiday adventures in Philadelphia and I was happy that she was enjoying herself. I must admit though that I look forward to the day she returns to school and resumes baking her way through Germany. I'm certain that her 1,079 followers agree.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tags, Hags and Wags

I recently found myself wearing a scarf that had a rather large piece of cardboard dangling from it. The luggage tag sized rectangle hung like a flag out of the front of my coat as I headed confidently to an appointment. It said "Machine Wash and Dry Gently" and in underlined letters "Do Not Iron". As if that weren't bad enough...acrylic and polyester. Imagine my surprise as I followed the tag and string to a medium sized safety pin. Red faced, I looked around to see if anyone was watching and I immediately removed the offending label.  Why hadn't I noticed it before? This wasn't the first time I'd worn the scarf. On the other hand, hubby hadn't noticed either and he's the one who should be looking at me.

Once again, I shared my frustration with him. "You never look at me. Why don't you tell me when I look weird leaving the house?"

"I didn't notice your hair until just now," he says.

"My hair? My hair? What's wrong with my hair?" I ask. And so it goes.

I remember another incident where I walked around for the better part of the day with makeup brush bristles on my face...not little bristles, but great big long black bristles. I have since purchased a new blusher brush with horsehair blonde fibres, but that's not the point. I have also learned to check my face in the brightness of the car visor mirror whenever we leave the house.

On Sunday, we went to church. Hair was intact, no face bristles, powder blue blazer, navy blue silk shirt and matching pants. Fantastic. I felt good. After I descended from the van, I reached for my pants pockets to check for tissues lest it be a particularly rivetting and emotional sermon. I groped around looking for the pockets and when I finally reached into them, I realized that both of my hands had a firm grip on my own buttocks. I waved at the church greeters as I darted past them to the rest room where I removed and reversed the offending pants. Whew, that was close.

The big test came the other day when I decided I needed to make a hair appointment. I walked up to hubby, who was engrossed in work in his office. My hair was sticking out in 52 different directions, a feat in itself since I only have 48 hairs on my head. Looking like some kind of Anime cartoon character, I said, "Look at me. What's wrong with how I look?" He rolled his chair slowly back from his desk, stretched and looked. I saw his eyes gaze down, beginning at my stretchy slippers, then to my mismatched socks, moving up to my Lululemon yoga pants, then my oversized baggy t-shirt. He seemed baffled as to what to say. OK, so it wasn't the best look but nonetheless. Glancing at the overall picture would have made it obvious.

"My's my hair. Can't you see it sticking out everywhere? It's totally unruly. I need to make a hair appointment!"

"OK. Make one," was the response. The chair rolled back to the desk and he once again hunched over his computer.

So I find myself making excuses like, my menial issues aren't important to him. He's so busy I shouldn't bother him. No wonder he doesn't notice. He doesn't care what I look like because he loves me even with bristles, sticking out hair and backwards pants. I was momentarily appeased as a result of my rationalization. Then I heard it. "Oh, my poor little puppy...look at that crusty eye. Let's just clean it out for you. Let's cut off this little knot I see under your ear. There, what a good girl. Are you my girl? Look how nice you look now."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blogging Through the Tears

I've had a little trouble blogging this past week. I wanted to put something into words but had no idea how to write about information that I have found impossible to wrap my mind around. I shall try.

I was driving toward the gym one week ago today, Friday, when I heard a news report on the car radio. I was in shock. I was nauseous. I cried and was unable to continue driving. I heard a name that was far too familiar. I had to have proof and I had to have time to absorb what I had just heard. So I went home and flicked on the computer to find the police website and dispell my fears.

Each day of our lives, terrible news surfaces. We see and hear radio, tv and internet items which are incomprehensible and horrendous. Since we aren't connected to the suspects or the victims involved, it becomes just another piece of information, bad news someplace in the world or perhaps even closer, but nonetheless, just news.

After confirming last week's report and trying to figure out how all parts of it must be totally inaccurate, I also remembered "innocent until proven guilty." I decided that news reports are always exaggerated. News reports are over dramatized. News reports often contain way too much incorrect info. News reports can ruin peoples' reputations and lives. There had to be an explanation.

Then, I read the police report and continued to wonder how these facts could possibly be true. I know that police often charge people with many more things than they think will "stick".  I sadly realized that there must be some speck of evidence to proceed with their allegations and charges.

As a mother, I feel unsettled, frightened and appalled. As a close friend of the mother, I feel sadness, disbelief, and confusion. When you have known and worked alongside a family for a very long time, when you remember the pride, the accomplishments, the creative minds and the stellar reputations, it is difficult to accept that something like this is even possible. 

We are friends. We are moms. We have worked together, laughed together, and we have celebrated together. Now, we are crying together.