Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Young People Not Allowed!

One of the news broadcasts they were advertising yesterday for the Six O’clock slot was about a “seniors only” park. I missed the actual story but was intrigued by the little clip. It showed sprightly seniors standing/sitting around a fishing pond, each with pole in hand, casting aimlessly.

I told my mother that her generation is selfish. Hogging a park and making it out of bounds to youngun’s (anyone under 65) is selfish.

“Wait until your generation is my age! Then we’ll see who’s selfish.”

Maybe I’ll be happy to have a Seniors Only Park in a couple of years. I envisioned driving my mother to the park in the morning on my way to work.

“You have a fun day Mom. I’ll get you later.”

“Don’t leave me out here all night like you did the last time.”

Right, I did forget her that day. I was so distracted with my job and trying to pick up Melissa that I completely forgot about her. My sister didn’t help either when I called and asked her to pick Mom up.

“What?! No I can’t go get her. I’m busy. I have to pick up Matty. You know that. Geez Shelly, she’ll be ok. You can get her tomorrow.”

No maybe it won’t be any use to me. I can see it’s going to be more bother than it’s worth. She’ll just have to be happy in the apartment with the computer and television for entertainment.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Virtual No More

Ring, ring.



“Hi Jerry!”

“Uh Shelly, I’m just calling to tell you that we can’t make it.”

“You can’t?!?”

I then heard that unmistakable giggle and I knew he was teasing me, yet again. Jerry and Brenda were staying with Brenda’s family in St. Catharines, relatively close to my home in Mississauga, so we had made plans before their trip from Calgary to Missouri and then to St. Catharines that we would finally meet when they were in Ontario.

It was hard to believe that the day was finally here. I was excited. I have maintained a cyber relationship with Jerry for about four years. We first met on a message board that is now defunct. I was new to the message board concept and was surprised at how well you could forge friendships with people by reading their posts and responding etc.

Jerry was always good for a laugh. We added each other to our messengers to keep in contact and throughout the past four years we have chatted as well as talked on the phone. I was not nervous about finally seeing Jerry in the flesh because I felt as though I knew him very well after all the communication between us.

Brenda and Jerry took the bus from St. Catharines and would arrive downtown just past 11:00. I said I would be there when the bus arrived but true to my nature, I was late getting away from the apartment.

Destiny made me late; I would realize that later. It was 11:52am when I pulled into the parking lot on Gerrard across from the Delta Chelsea Hotel.

“What time do you park to? You park to 6:00?”

I wasn’t sure why the Indian parking attendant was asking me this. I glanced down at the sign that posted the rates and times.

He suddenly waved his hand in front of the sign.

“Don’t look there. Listen to me. What time you want to park?”

“Uhmm, I’m not sure.” I was stammering, not sure how to answer.

“It’s early. You park now. You get your car by 6:00pm. You go drive around for eight minutes, come back here because I’m nice guy, you park till 9:00pm.”

It was finally sinking in what he was trying to tell me. I quickly stole a glance at the sign with the rates and times and could see that if I parked before noon, it was a charge of $10.00 but I had to have my car out by 6:00pm. If you park at noon or later, the charge is $10.00 until 9:00pm.

This was most likely my best bet because I wasn’t sure of our plans for the day. I knew we were also meeting up with Pete (another cyber friend) and his family from Belleville, but they wouldn’t be arriving until later on in the afternoon.

“Ok, so I’ll drive around and come back in eight minutes.”

“That’s good choice ma’am. You come back here to park, cause I’m nice guy. I save you money. I don’t have to tell you this; I do because I’m nice guy.”

“Yes, I’ll come back. See you soon.”

I backed out of the parking lot and decided to go pick up Jerry and Brenda who were waiting at the Eaton’s Centre and then drive back to the parking lot. That should waste at least eight minutes.

I was able to secure a piece of the curb behind a Rav 4 that had their hazard lights on. Perfect. I wasn’t so worried about getting a ticket or being asked to move since I wasn’t the only one stopping here.

I couldn’t see Jerry and Brenda but thank god for cell phones. I was able to direct them right to my car. After explaining the parking dilemma I did a U-turn and got us on our way back to the parking lot.

Jerry looked exactly like his photo. I would have recognized him immediately.

It was almost surreal to have them sitting in my car, in Ontario, talking and laughing like it’s a commonplace occurrence.

We decided to go have lunch first and then we sort of hung around waiting for Pete and family to arrive. Unfortunately, when they got there, they were anxious to eat because they were hungry. We found another restaurant and visited while they ate.

Our weather has been basically cold and rainy for the past few weeks but Saturday was hot, sunny and humid. I swear that Jerry brought the Missouri weather here with him. I was happy that it wasn’t raining but I am not a lover of hot, sticky weather. I tried not to complain too much. If I did, they were all so polite that no one yelled at me to shut up.

After our second lunch, we walked up Yonge street and looked in Sam the Record Man’s, HMV and a poster store. Pete is a Beatle’s fanatic and he was hoping to find a new poster for his music room. He wanted the poster of the four lads standing in front of a door which is apparently the album cover of “Hey Jude”.

We were unlucky with our search, but we did get an opportunity to stand for long periods of time outside the shop in the hot, humid, weather while Peter and family hunted through the hundreds of posters inside.

I became a little nervous when I noticed that the pedestrians on the street were slowly evolving from tourists to gang members as the sun started to sink.

“I think we should call it a day and get going now.”

Everyone seemed ok with my suggestion. It had been a wonderful visit but the heat and humidity was starting to make us all feel weary.

I had suggested to Jerry and Brenda that they forget about their return bus ticket and allow me to drive them home so that I would be able to show them where I lived and we could extend our visit a little longer. They agreed after a brief familial debate.

My mom and Melissa enjoyed the opportunity to meet them and luckily for me, my sister showed up for a visit and agreed to come along for the ride so that I would have company on the way home.

It was exactly a one hour drive from my place, so after leaving here at 10:30pm, I dropped them off and was back at home by 12:30pm.

Acquisitions from HMV and Sam’s during the visit:

Ron Sexsmith - Time Being (Love this album!)
Joni Mitchell - Both Sides Now (to replace my cd that I lost)
James Hunter - People Gonna Talk (I am in love. What a great album.)
Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins - Rabbit Furcoat (EXCELLENT!! They were playing this in Sam’s and I absolutely loved it. I just couldn’t leave without a copy for myself.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Calling Softly


I could hear a male calling my name softly. He was very close to me. He did not respond to my reply.

When I realized I was still in bed, my eyes flew open.

There was nobody in the room. The apartment was quiet. Everyone was asleep.

Who was that? The voice did and did not sound familiar all at the same time. I don't recognize the voice, but when I heard it call my name I was not alarmed in any way and it seemed to be coming from someone that I know.

Falling back to sleep was almost impossible.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dream Job

I check myself out quickly in the mirror on the wall in the lady’s change room before heading downstairs to start my shift.

I hate wearing this stupid net. I look like an old lady. Stop blushing. Don’t be so nervous. It’ll be ok. Maybe Mrs. DQ will be working today instead of that old prick.

I almost collide with Mr. DQ as I step out of the change room. He is standing outside the door. I can feel my hair stand on the back of my neck and I quickly mutter a hello and run downstairs to the store front below.

He’s a miserable old prick and I don’t know why he makes me so nervous but he does.

I’m in my first week of training for the position that I had waited a long time to get. I bugged and bugged my parents to let me apply for a job at the local DQ and finally they agreed. My mother told me that I should just enjoy being a kid for as long as I could, but I wanted my own money to buy the clothes that I wanted to wear and this was the place that all the kids hung out at. What could be better than working at the local hangout?

My previous dreams about this job seem so silly in comparison to what it was really like to work here. There were so many things to remember; how much a small cone should weigh, how to make that perfect DQ curl, how much chocolate sauce to put on a hot fudge sundae, how to cut the bananas for the splits, the steps to make the Dilly Bars and Buster Bars; I wasn’t sure I would ever get it straight.

Something as simple as putting that finishing curl on top of the cone seemed an unsurmountable task. I would always start the cone-filling procedure with such optimism, but as the ice cream mounted higher and higher I would start to panic about how to slow it down and end it with the flair of the experienced DQ girl. My cones inevitably were thrown into the trash, too big, lopsided or short and squatty with no curl.

The owner stood beside me, her evil eyes burning a hole in the side of my head, her hot breath breezing over my flesh as she whispered orders to me through clenched teeth in her fake customer-friendly smile. I could feel the flush in my cheeks getting more intense as I went over the technique in my mind while I was filling the umpteenth cone, destined for failure.

I almost cried when she grabbed the cone from my hand and looked at the top of it with disgust, threw it on the scale and then immediately in the garbage because yet again I messed up on the weight and the finishing touch.

“Watch me!”, she hissed.

I turn to steal a quick glance at the customers to see if they are aware of my failure. Lucky for me they appear not to have noticed. I start to imagine ripping my apron off and telling Mr. And Mrs. DQ where they can shove their job and I can feel the flush in my cheeks start to dissipate.

“That will be $1.25 please.”

The torture is over and I’m taking the money for the cone. I feel confident with this part of the job. I’m good at taking money and making change. I’m in my element now. I can still feel eagle eyes watching my every move though and the feelings of inadequacy start to overpower my short-lived confidence.

“Go to the back and bring out a case of bananas. Better get another jug of chocolate sauce too.”

Thank god. I think I can handle this. I look at the clock hoping that my time is almost up but I’ve only just started my shift. I have another four hours to go. How am I ever going to be able to stand this until closing?

I take longer than need to gather the supplies just to get away from the scrutiny for a little while.

“Shelly! Come out here, we need those bananas. Where in the hell are you?”

Eyes down, cheeks burning once again, I hurry out to the front and as I pass pimple-faced Billy at the hamburger grill, I hear him snickering. I turn and give him the most nasty glare I can muster up. That little fruitcake is laughing at me. Bastard.

I look up as I get near the front counter and I almost drop the case of bananas on the floor because standing at the counter watching every move I make is my crush. His blue eyes are dancing with laughter as he says hello.

I want to tear the hair net off my head and apply fresh makeup, but it’s too late. He has seen me in my worst possible state. I’m a mess. I have bits of ice cream, chocolate, strawberry sauce and assorted other sweets plastered all over me.

Why did I think this was going to be a great place to work? I’m stuck behind this counter with a witch and warlock for bosses and my crush is out there free to chat up any of the available girls that are hanging out at the picnic tables in the parking lot.

I’m going to quit. I can’t take it.

The thought of giving my notice helped get me through to closing time. I would have to tell my parent’s first, but I am not prepared for their reaction.

“You don’t quit a job because it’s tough. You haven’t given yourself a chance to learn it yet. It’ll get better, you just wait and see.”

“But Mom I can’t work there . . .”

“You are NOT quitting.” “You wanted a job, and now you’ve got one.”

I did try. But it was not my destiny to be a DQ girl. I flooded the floor with Mr. Freezie liquid when the machine wouldn’t shut off; continually made cones, sundaes and parfaits too big; I could not make the curl on top of the cone no matter how hard I tried and I felt like a bull in a china shop on most days.

My way out came via another employee, the owner’s son to be exact. He was working with me again. It seemed to me like he was always working with me. He was a nice guy, older and I thought he was quite cute, but he had a girlfriend and I knew it was only a look but don’t touch kind of relationship that we had.

“Shelly, I’ll handle the register, you go out back and get some more cones, we’re getting low out here.”

“Oh ok.”

As I was walking back out front, I noticed Cute Guy putting the money from the customer in his pocket instead of the till.

“What are you doing?” I was indignant.

“Just mind your own business. This is how I get a little extra spending money from my parents.”

I knew then that I would get my parent’s blessings on quitting. If he always worked on the same shift as me and his parent’s started to notice that the money was short then who would they blame but me? My reputation was on the line. I could see a bleak future in my small hometown as I searched for jobs only to be turned down because nobody would want to hire a thief.

Suddenly I realized why the $50.00 bill was sitting on the edge of the sink in the ladies change room. I had noticed it on that very first day and my boss seemed irritated with me when I told her about it. She told me to shush and leave it alone. I thought that it belonged to a co-worker and that they had inadvertently forgotten it there.

After three or four days it finally disappeared and there was never a mention of it.

That was a test. They wanted to see if I would steal it. They must know someone at the store is stealing money and they have no idea that it is their very own son. They wouldn’t believe it either if it came down to my word against his.

It wasn’t hard to convince my parents that this was not the right job for me after telling of this newest incident. I was given permission to quit and I happily obliged by calling the DQ owners immediately.

They did not want me to work my notice period but said it was not necessary for me to come back.

It was a long time before I ever went back to the store as a customer. I no longer looked at it as the “coolest” place, because now I knew that dark secrets hide behind phony smiles.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ottawa Part 2

My first night alone in the hotel was a little lonely, but I managed to enjoy a long walk with my neighbour across the hall and then a long soak in a lovely hot bath.

I've realized lately just how much I despise being on my own. Most people look forward to the peace and quiet and the opportunity to do whatever they want. I dread long periods of alone time and get antsy instead of restful.

I had made plans to catch up with my friend's Ana and John on the Friday night and we spent the evening in a bar called the Honest Lawyer which is located in the Market area. It was game 3 of the playoffs between Buffalo and the Senators. I must say that the Ottawa crowd certainly knows how to show support for their local Hockey team. There were quite a few Senator jerseys in the crowd and every goal was greeted with a deafening cheer.

The bar was packed to capacity and we decided to leave during the overtime. I was stunned that they ended up losing that game. It was 3-2 for Ottawa during the final moments and then Buffalo managed to get a goal. It still was one of the most aggravating games I've ever watched. Anyway, the food was good and the company was great even though I had come home that day from training with a huge tension headache. I layed down for a nap before Ana and John arrived and was semi refreshed when the phone rang signalling that they were downstairs.

Unfortunately, I was not up to a wild night of partying and I said goodnight to them around 10:00pm. I couldn't believe that I was turning my light out before midnight on a Friday night, but the training was really zapping every ounce of energy out of me.

The next day I had to myself and I spent it shopping at the Rideau Centre and relaxing and then Ana and I went to a bar called Tuscon's, where her friend's husband was playing in a blues band. The band is called Myer's Brothers and it was fabulous. We had a great time again, but it was another early night.

I bunked at Ana's and the next day we went to Home Depot and then Ana puttered in her garden while I watched. ;o) Her friend Annette invited us to her place for a BBQ Sunday evening and it was absolutely delicious.

The balance of the week flew by and I was very happy to see the end of it. I had quite enough of sleeping in a hotel room and not being able to cuddle with my kitty cat. I had heard from one of my calls home that Molly was missing me terribly, which made me feel even worse.

I decided on Wednesday that I needed to get home as soon as possible, so I changed my ticket to Friday return from Saturday. It was a good choice because I was able to be home for two days before going back to work yesterday.

Here are a few more pictures.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ottawa Summary Part 1

I chose to take the train to Ottawa over the plane. It meant a 5-hour trip rather than an hour, but I figured that once you factor in getting to the airport early and the wait to go through security etc., that it would most likely work out to be the same. Besides the train station was a 10 min ride to the Hotel where the airport would have been a half hour trip.

The train was leaving at 9:30 and my sister picked me up at 8:00 am so that I could be there an hour prior to departure. I hadn’t slept much the night before because the Dell technician had made a visit to my place to replace my hard drive. I didn’t want to leave my mom and Melissa without access to a computer for two weeks, so I stayed up late installing programs and documents. It was close to 1:00am before I turned off the lights.

My plan was to sleep all the way to Ottawa and arrive refreshed and ready for training. I was one of the first people on the train because I had arrived so early at the station; I was the third person in line.

We did not have designated seats for this trip so I chose a cluster of four seats and hoped that I would not have anyone seating across from me. Within moments of settling into my seat, a young woman with a smile on her face sat next to me. She was very friendly and we ended up talking the entire way to Ottawa.

After an hour of chatting, I asked her why she was going to Ottawa and was surprised to hear that she was going for a job interview with my department. At the end of the trip, we exchanged information and I hope to hear from her about her interview. She is exactly the type of person any employer would want to have on staff, friendly, passionate and motivated.

I checked into the hotel at 2:30 pm and had nothing planned except rest because my mother and sister would be joining me around 11:00 pm. In spite of my lack of sleep, the train left me energized and the afternoon sun was beautiful. I decided to take a walk to see how far my training facility was from the hotel. The instructions that we had received was to take a taxi the first morning and they would provide us with bus information. I personally wanted to walk if it wasn’t too far because it would help me with my weight loss efforts.

Not long after I started my journey, I noticed a Loblaws grocery store and was happy to see that it hadn’t closed yet. When I checked my watch, it was already closing in on 5:00 pm and I know that most grocery stores close early on Sundays. I decided to abandon my original destination for this new one and grab some groceries so that my mom and sister could have something for breakfast or lunch while they were staying with me.

My suite was equipped with a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, living room and bedroom. My mother and sister would stay for four nights, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and leave on Thursday while I was in class. The hotel was only charging an additional $20.00 per person for their stay, which I thought was quite reasonable.
I gave them the bedroom, which was equipped with a queen bed, and I took the sofa bed for those first nights. My plan was that while I was in class, they could do the tourist thing and then in the evening we would enjoy a meal.

That is exactly how it worked out for the most part. My sister wanted me to partake in the Imax theatre one evening because they were showing a film about Greece. I have always wanted to see Greece so I agreed.

The theatre is located in the museum of Naturalization in Hull and to get there was not a real problem, although the cab driver had to take his sign off his cab, but getting back, I thought we would end up walking the entire distance because there were no taxis outside the museum.

We started to walk and when I saw a taxi going in the opposite direction, I waved to him. He had a passenger and just stared as he whizzed by. I resigned myself to the walk when he pulled up slowly beside us and stopped. He had dropped his passenger and turned around to look for us. Luckily, we hadn’t made it too far. It was really cold and windy that evening and I’m sure that I would not have enjoyed the trek once we were on the bridge back to Ottawa.

I was sad to say goodbye to my family on Thurs morning. The time had flown by so quickly and as irritating as it may have been when I was trying to fall asleep at night, my sister was wide-awake, and wishing to talk, I knew that it was going to be very lonely for the balance of my stay.

My evening meals would definitely be much quieter. It was usually a debate while we strolled through the Byward Market looking for a place that served something we all would like. I have a broader appreciation for different foods than my sister and mother. They appreciate a more bland culinary experience. The Market is a wonderful place to find a variety of different cafes and restaurants and many of them are on the Cajun/Seafood theme.

The first evening was a prime example. That was Monday night. I was tired from a full day of class and starving. They were very hungry from walking around all afternoon, so we did not want to venture too far and thought that we would be able to find something in the market easily.

I am not sure if it was the hunger that made the task too daunting or not, but after an hour of walking, we still had not come across a place that we could all agree on. My sister and mother did not really want to go into a pub type restaurant, but that is what most of the establishments were. I had a hard time convincing them that we would most likely find food to their taste in a pub.

In the end, we went into a restaurant that was located in the basement of a seafood restaurant called the Fish Market. We went to the Wine Cellar. The menu outside showed a larger amount of non-seafood assortments and in particular one item that caught my eye was the $12.00 fries with a strip loin steak on top.

My mom’s arthritis is getting worse and I was not sure if she was going to manage the steep stairs down to the restaurant. I was behind her and my sister who was supposed to be the safety net in front had abandoned her duty and ran ahead after the waiter to the table. She chose the seat at the back of a booth type of table. My mother slid in on the other side and the only seat left was a wooden armchair, which looked uncomfortable. I looked at the chair and made a comment that I was not sure if I would be able to sit on it for long because my back gets sore after awhile. Because I live with my mom, she is more in tune with my idiosyncrasies and caught on even before I had the words out of my mouth. She started to tell my sister to change seats with me but my sister did not understand what she wanted.

Therefore, my sister tried to maintain her spot while my mom moved closer and closer to her pushing her out of the way while I slid in beside my mom. Finally, my sister found herself ousted from her seat and standing where the chair was.

The entire time a table of two men next to us stopped talking to each other so that they could observe our spectacle. Debbie was pissed right off that we had made her move until I leaned over and told her that my ass was too big for the chair and my mother yelled out, "Yes, didn't you see it move when Shelly stood up?"

We all started to laugh so hard that I thought she was going to end up on the floor. The giddiness may have been a result of lack of sleep, lack of food or just being too tired to be angry, no matter what we had many of these types of moments and it made the three days with them very enjoyable for me.

Here are a few pictures that I took while I was there.