Thursday, July 21, 2016

More Zoo Memories and My First Vacation

Every generation complains about the next one. I know my parents had a difficult time. It wasn't easy for immigrants, speaking a different language, in their late teens, with a child to pull up roots and begin again. I can't imagine doing that and I appreciate how difficult their struggle was.

It's interesting how during my more youthful years, when we wanted something, we were willing to take extra jobs on weekends and holidays to earn the money. We did what was necessary. We didn't complain that we were working too hard. We didn't obsess over the meaninglessness of whatever the job was. We didn't try to do as little as possible and get something for nothing. We simply took care of business. I don't want to go so far as to say today's generation is spoiled or generally like that. Not all are. There are those who struggle and put in multitudinous hours to achieve their goals. There are many who are successful and accomplished in their twenties. I am always amazed at some of the olympic athletes, just as an example.

While working part time at the zoo (see previous blog), I did a lot of research. Since Al Gore had not yet invented the internet, and googling, was far into the future, I had to go to the library and find information in books...the kind with paper pages and print. Each week, I tried to research the plants and animals and an area of the zoo in which I was working. Visitors asked questions and I was glad to be able to give them intelligent answers. My official title was "guide" although my job consisted of making sure nobody abused any flora and fauna in the facility. I believe I had a shoe box sized walkie talkie assigned for this purpose, adding to the official look of my lovely brown uniform.

After only a few weeks at the zoo, they downsized, deciding that fewer employees were essential. I panicked. I had not yet saved enough two dollar and twenty five cents' or centses or pennies (a monetary unit in the 70's) for our planned vacation. Fortunately, I was one of the employees to be retained.

I actually enjoyed the diversion so much, that I ended up keeping this summer and part time weekend employment for several years. Then-hubby was hired later and the two of us sold tickets and memberships. We even sold zoo maps, partly on salary and partly on commission (3 cents per), until someone realized that our eager, loud, and enthusiastic shouts of "get your zoo maps here. You can't see the zoo without a map,"gave us far too much income and was cutting into zoo profits. Then back we went to the membership sauna (see upcoming booth description).

The zoo became so popular and crowded in the summer, that extra cash booths sprung up outside the gates. These little wooden structures were something akin to a Finnish sauna, complete with solar heat, but no cold lake water. A greenhouse might have been a more comfortable working environment. Breaks were few and far between. But alas, I didn't complain. There was always the additional income.

On one occasion, I worked an entire weekend and earned nothing thanks to a dishonest customer who bilked me out of twenty dollars and absconded with it into the crowd. I had been momentarily distracted while wiping my dripping brow. It was then that my view of the world started to change. Did people not realize or care that any shortages would come out of my pay? Too many shortages could result in termination of employ. That's how things worked at one time.

Nonetheless, eventually, we earned enough for the big trip to the Bahamas. We were there at approximately the same time as our neighbours and their friends, although, our resort was considerably more modest in We boarded a $99 non inclusive night flight (available back in the day). We also filled our luggage with food. The frozen loaf of bread began to perspire more than we did as we dragged our soggy suitcase through Bahamian customs. The officers must have felt sorry for us because once they were assured we weren't smuggling anything more than tuna and peanut butter, they sent us on our way.

It was a memorable job and an even more memorable trip. I had my first taste of conch chowder and my first experience in the gorgeous, not to be forgotten, Caribbean.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Memories of the 70's and Metro Toronto Zoo

After a year or two of working at my career, some debt, and a serious lack of savings, then-hubby (as opposed to now-hubby), and I moved into a brand new, almost completed, high rise. There was an Otis strike, so the elevating device had not yet been installed. We were fine with it because we lived on the tenth floor and it saved us ten dollars per flight a month in rent rebate for what ended up being quite a length of months or so if I recall correctly. 

We received moving help from the superintendant and a couple of other apartment employees. It amused us to see many of our second hand furnishings hauled  by a rope up the outside of the building. Thankfully, the dresser containing our drawers of undergarments, or just our drawers as it were, made it. I didn't think I needed to empty the unit, just as it didn't occur to me that my scanty panties could possibly end up parachuting into a parking full of cars, or worse....passersby. Of course this activity always attracted oglers. A few items were carried up to the apartment. My glass coffee table was one of the choices. It however, met its fate around the seventh floor when the superintendent squeezed the ends of the unit a bit too hard. He needed stitches. It needed the trash compactor. 

As I mentioned, our rental was on the tenth floor so we not only saved money, but became physically fit, and experts in planning. After all, who wanted to make that trek several times when something was forgotten? We soon got to know most people in the building, nodding our heads or grunting in passing while panting (this "pant"ing having nothing to do with aforementioned drawers) on our way up the stairs. When the fire alarm went off, (thankfully not too frequently), everyone perspired as they hustled down the stairwell, keeping their small, illegal pets, mostly cats, hidden under their coats. The coats were a must for this feline deception, even in the summer. And yes, we had a cat too.

Before long, we met our immediate neighbours. They were a lovely couple, our age... with a cat. They invited us to join them at their place for drinks. As it turned out, we were not only neighbours, but she and I were going to be work colleagues. At some point they introduced us to more friends and told us about their upcoming vacation to the Bahamas.

This pronouncement made me not only envious, but restless. Because of years of education, our holidays to this point had consisted of either working in the summer or, after I was married to then-hubby,  going to visit the in-laws in Kitchener. They in turn treated us to delicious home cooked Mennonite meals...capon (not to be confused with Capone), pigtails, or pot roast. Sometimes we went to a steakhouse and that was even more special even though I still ordered the pigtails. 

I was fortunate to be gainfully employed...for ten months of the year. The details surrounding the acquisition of this much coveted job, will require another blog in which I will surely elaborate on one of my current pet peeves, youth entitlement. Alas, I digress. On with the story.

It seemed to me that we too should be able to formulate a plan to earn extra funds during our two months of financial drought. We had the time. We had no cash. Unfortunately, then-hubby was tied up with summer courses, a promise he made to advance his unemployed state to that of small income earner. I on the other hand, had no such obligation, so when I heard about the opening of the Metro Toronto Zoo, I decided to apply. 

On August 15. 1974, when The Metropolitan Toronto Zoo opened its doors, I was a proud member of the original staff. The job had actually begun earlier because of visiting dignitaries and the like, but this was the official start date.                              
The uniform requirement was brown shirt and khaki pants...any brown shirt and pants. Fashion gurus would have been appalled. Brown was simply not a colour of choice in 1974, and whenever I asked, sales clerks thumbed their noses at me. So much for shopping at fancy department stores like Biway. 

Tilley Endurables was still six years into Alex Tilley's future...not that I could have afforded it anyhow, and thrift stores sadly, not yet part of my repertoire. Eventually, I somehow assembled an outfit that was passable for about...gulp...$12.

I was already in deficit mode...deduct $ for zoo clothes. Next, there was the transportation. Fortunately, I had been forced to learn to drive when acquiring and accepting my first  job in the village of Uxbridge. The trip to the zoo wasn't far, but nonetheless there was cost involved.  Minimum wage $2.25 ...gas 53 cents..probably per gallon at the time. So the elephant and I were working for peanuts, We both had a goal in mind. We wanted to find somewhere nice and warm to relax. (The elephant found his way to California some 25 years later). I managed eventually to save enough  to get on a cheap flight to the Bahamas with then-hubby.

At this point I'm not certain whether to continue with my zoo adventures or describe our fabulous $99 Night Flight vacation to the Bahamas so I'll give my muddled brain a rest until I can remember where I was going with this story.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hospital Misadventures

I have been going through a time of considerable fatigue. After  huge amounts of planning for special birthday events, much company, some travel, and six months of hives, I couldn't muster the strength to write even the simplest of blogs.

Finally, things calmed down and I found myself suffering from severe pain on the left side of my body. There is nothing more boring than being awake at all hours of the night and not being able to concentrate on reading, writing, or any other time passing activity. I played Candy Crush and some other mindless games to try to distract myself.

It was a long weekend and I needed to visit the hospital. Immediately, they hooked me up with stickers, wires, and machines before abandoning me in an emergency room. Eventually, I was informed that my heart was fine The doctor examining my level 9 pain diagnosed a pulled muscle. "Take Tylenol", was the suggestion. Only problem was, I had participated in no known activity that would pull a muscle.

Fast forward a few days and nights. The days were bearable, the nights were level 11 pain.  I know, the scale only goes to 10 but this was definitely level 11, allowing  me to sleep about an hour or less per night. Tylenol didn't do much...well, it did something that caused confusion on my next hospital trip.

I hauled myself and my "pulled muscle" back to the hospital. This time, I was x -rayed, had an ultrasound, and was once again hooked up to the heart monitor. The doctor noted a small rash and went on to tell me I was constipated. I was baffled as I sat in agony and was prescribed a laxative.

My daughter (a med student) looked at my rash, followed it around my body and immediately gave me a lecture about derma, nerves, and other complex vocab that |I didn't understand. Then she made
the pronouncement "You probably have shingles. That would explain the pain and the rash."

I had heard about shingles and the associated pain, but on the other hand, I had the vaccine. How could this be?

My appointment with my doctor confirmed the diagnosis. Zostovax is only effective in 80% of the population and I was one of the lucky 20%. I discovered that there's antiviral medication which, if taken immediately at the beginning of symptoms, would shorten the term of the suffering. I was now too late, having been told at the hospital that  I had a pulled muscle and was constipated.

Armed with a prescription for an arsenal of drugs, I left the doctor's office. I am now able to function....not fully, but somewhat. I need to problem now that I have stronger meds.

So I ask is it that a medical student and a family doctor are more readily able to diagnose something so simple and two doctors at emergency at the hospital could not? Shingles is a common ailment particularly in an area where the population is on the "elderly" side of the spectrum.

I believe I would be very concerned were I in a situation where I had an actual emergency and had to rely on this facility. On the other hand, perhaps they're experts in trauma, wounds, vehiclar accidents, just not common, almost eradicated diseases. Who knows?