Friday, August 22nd19.8°C
Old as dirt. Twice as gritty.


There was a time many years ago when I was willing to go shopping. ‘Willing’ meant I’d go if nothing could stop it from happening, and the willingness came dressed in whines, “Okay, okay, I’ll go, maybe, sure, I guess so, as long as we stop for coffee and goodies every 1/2 hour or so. Also, I’m tired now.”

Somewhere along the way something changed, and I morphed from that willing happy-go-lucky shopper to a shopping-phobic desperado. Thankfully, Jim is not much better, and accordingly we have become something of a standing joke. This is how a shopping spree for us goes:
We get up, fired with energy and determination. We eat very little because we will grab a bite in town. We hop in the car and start driving. Our mission? To buy any one of the much-needed and long-overdue items such as clothes, aging computers, or whatever is currently at the top of the list. 
We start out feeling pretty positive, one would almost say ‘gung-ho’ except for the sound of my mantra, ‘do we really need to do this, do we really need to do this, do we really need to do this, we could be bike riding, do we really need to do this’. Jim thinks my mantra sounds as though I am resisting, but really, I’m just asking a reasonable question. He uses the bait of lunch out somewhere as a lure. This fails, because eating out has also lost its shine for me.
We get approximately ten kilometers down the road, at which point the real conversation starts:
Me: "Man it's so sunny (or rainy) out, do you *really* want to go shopping?"
Jim (serious tone): "Yes, we really need to buy (whatever it is)."
Me: "But I wonder, do we need to buy it *this* weekend?"
Jim: "Well, we should."
Me: "But do you *want* to go shopping today?"
Jim: "Not really."
And home we come. 
It’s a truly awesome system, both in terms of angst-reduction and saving money. 
And yes, we are pathetic. We're shop-nots.
Some items have gone several years without being bought, and one item, a boat, is fast approaching an entire decade of not being bought.
Some of the delay periods:
  • Boat - eight years
  • Bed replacement - four years 
  • Computer replacement - four years (2007 Mac)
  • Laptop replacement - six years
  • Telephone replacement - two years 
  • Bedroom chair replacement - three years
Jim is something of a wildcard in this efficient system. He has become so desperate to spend some money, any amount will do, that if I so much as look fondly at something, he buys it for me. I’ve learned to add ‘but I DON’T WANT IT’ to any admiring statement I make about anything. 
The happiest moment for me is when we finally do buy something then return it. Return-shopping puts money *in* the bank instead of taking it out, what could possibly be more fun that that? If all my shopping could be return-shopping, I would be an avid shopper.
Why this aversion to spending money? I’m not really sure. In some ways it is because most things aren’t worth what you pay, not to mention most things aren’t really needed all that badly. 
I’d be happy to replace my computer, for example, if it wasn’t working properly, but it works like a dream. Replacing it would almost certainly jinx things, as regular readers may remember from the fiasco of the infamous avocado-green toaster:
Jim’s laptop doesn’t work well at all, it sort of runs on wistful thinking, but it still fires up and staggers along in a sort of random spastic way, and that’s not too shabby a thing for an antique.
The bed? Well, we can still sleep at night, so why do we need to replace it?
The phone hasn’t worked for two years. It is a trick-phone, it will sometimes take messages but other times it will play the outgoing message then *pretend* to take the incoming message while actually deleting it entirely. People think they’ve left me a message, and are then annoyed when I don’t return the call. I am so fascinated by the weirdness of this glitch that to replace it until I figure out what it’s doing and why seems defeatist. 
But hey, enough with the procrastination. We are going to go shopping this instant, no more dilly-dallying. We’ll do it right this time. Why, we’ll buy everything on the list! We’ll go mad with it! We’ll . . . wait, do we really need to do this?


I'm sick

The other day I took a life-changing test on facebook. Oh come on, stop dissing facebook tests, how else would I know what kind of appliance I am (blender) or what kind of car I am (Volvo station wagon)?
At any rate, this particular test was ‘Guess Who I Am’, and it authentically and scientifically reveals who you really are. 
Turns out I am a male in my late teens. 
That means I’m sick, man. So sick. No, no, I feel perfectly well, thank you, I’m just sick. You see . . . oh never mind. 
Thing is, a teen boy gig is totally cray. I mean, come on, a teenage boy? How easy is that? Sure I’m a noob at it, but how long can it really take to figure out how to say ‘sick’ several times in a paragraph, find baggy pants 20 times too large, and scout out a tube of acne cream? 
I’ve got to figure out the pants, though, because it looks to me as though those things just hang there suspended around the knees or thereabouts. They seem to stay up via good intentions and very little else. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to stop them from falling the rest of the way down, but hey, do I care? I’m a teenage boy. And YOLO, man.
Wait, I’m going to need me a board. And thinking about those skate parks, maybe some insurance. 
Best-up about this gig is that I no longer have to wear out my face smiling all the time. I just have to don a righteous scowl and voila, I’m set for the day. 
I don’t need any scrilla, either, because my mains will back me hundo p, they’ll do me a solid. If they don’t, that’s okay too, because hey, I’m a teenage boy. I’ve got my XXXXXXXXXX large pants, my scowl and my board. What else do I even need, in this best of all possible worlds? Oh yeah, the acne cream. If she were still alive, my moms could maybe give me some scrilla. Maybe  she wouldn’t, though, because she’d be all, like, “Yo, get outta my face, bro”, or something.
Now my mains, well, I’m kinda worried there. I’m wondering how they’re going to handle the new me. Maybe there’ll be some derps in the mix who’ll be chirpin’ at me, but hey, I’ll moss. And if there’s some serious haters, well, I’ll just dip.
Hold on, good lookin’ boy that I be I’m going to need a shorty to go with. If the shorty is really sick, she can be my wifey. We’ll bounce our way down YOLO Avenue, and it’ll be so, so sick.
You know, I think I can pull this off without an epic fail. Hell, unlike my new yute friends, I don’t even have to worry about POS while I type this, although a certain amount of rolling-over-in-grave is probably happening. Yo, Moms? Pops? You’ve been pwned.
It’s the bomb diggity, man. Now I gotta bounce, yo.

Baby, you're so hot

There shouldn’t be a need to write this particular column, yet for some insane reason there is, because no matter how many times the message is put out there, people are still leaving their babies and dogs in enclosed cars on hot days. The disturbing part is that despite the intense ‘awareness’ campaign going on, incidents like this are on the rise - it’s almost as though awareness of a very bad idea has given some people the idea to try it out. In fact, they appear to be united in an effort to prove to the rest of us just how stupid ‘stupid’ can get. 
“Omigod, did you see that article about the baby who died after being left in a hot car?”
“Yes, it was soooooo awful! Whoa, there’s a sale on, let’s go shopping, lolz. Awwww, look, little Johnny is asleep back there, let’s leave him in the car, we won’t be gone long.”
These people don’t just leave the kid or dog, they make sure the car is locked up tight, presumably to ‘protect’ the child or dog from a potential kidnapper. Their fear is legitimate in one sense, because there is a kidnapper - the heat - waiting by the car, and ready to snatch away the helpless trapped inside. The heat is a far bigger danger than some wildly-imagined bad-ass human. 
And the odd thing is, when babies or dogs die as a result, there are rarely charges. Often, the guilty person, mewling that they ‘didn’t mean to do it’ and is ‘super sorry and sad’, even gains sympathy from the public and media, at which point the crime is cited as a ‘mistake’ that ‘could happen to anybody’.
I get that people feel the pain. We think how we would feel if we made such a horrific ‘mistake’, but should leaving your child to roast like Sunday dinner really be labelled a ‘mistake’? It is a ‘mistake’ akin to the bar patron who makes the ‘mistake’ of driving drunk and ‘accidentally’ flattening a pedestrian. Do these people deserve sympathy or do they deserve jail-time for criminal negligence? 
The question is academic, of course, because the person will get off lightly in this halcyon world of sweet no-accountability. If someone leaves his dog in a closed car for several hours only to find a crispy critter when he gets back to the car, is it his fault? Or just a mistake? By the mantra of no-accountability, it is a mistake. He just has to say, “Sorrrry, oh man, I ain’t gonna do that no more”, forgive himself, then go get another dog. In no-accountability land, the thing you’re not supposed to do is feel guilty - no matter what you’ve done - because that would be ‘counterproductive’. 
What of the parent who simply ‘forgets’ their kid? The media tells us, ‘this could happen to anybody’. Really? How do you forget your kid? No, seriously. You load up the little bugger when you get in the car. You arrive at your destination. You remember your purse or briefcase. But you forget the kid? 
Nobody suggests the obvious, that you get yourself a brain. Instead there are suggestions to help cope with the obvious challenge of remembering what’s in the back seat. For example, there’s the ‘shoe’ method, in which you put one of your shoes in the back seat with the kid so that when you get out of the car, you are ‘reminded’ when your bare foot hits the ground (hopefully on a rusty nail). Now, I’m guessing that the person who can’t even remember they have a kid in the back is probably not going to remember to put a shoe back there at journey’s onset. It’s just a guess, but I’m guessing I’m right.
Instead, you could just take a look-see at your family member decals stuck on your back car window. Are all the people accounted for? Let’s see now; Daddy is at work, the dog died last week when it was left in the hot car . . . oh wait, what about little Johnny. “Where’s little Johnny???? OMG he’s been kidnapped! Oh! Oh! Oh wait, that’s Johnny in the back seat where I put him when I got in the car today.” 
See? Wasn’t that easy? 
However, I have a better way to help the clueless. Let them find out what it is like for a dog or kid to sit in a hot car, waiting in a pool of sweat and misery for someone to come for them. I decided to do a test run. It was about 25 degrees outside, and I sat in the car in the direct sun for 20 minutes with windows closed, engine off (ie no air-conditioning). The first five minutes were okay, after which it grew increasingly uncomfortable. After 10 minutes, I really wanted to open a window or door, it was hard to breathe, hard to focus, sweat was pouring down. What stopped me from copping out was an image of the kids and dogs who don’t get that option to simply open a window or door. After another 10 minutes, though, I had to spring myself out of my self-imposed oven. 
I thought of those trapped kids or dogs helplessly waiting for their trusted protector to come for them. The fear they felt, the dizziness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations, eventual shutting down of internal organs (how does that feel?). I guess by the end, a victim’s thoughts would be too foggy to focus on much, and the pain would be too great, but I can bet you this: Their last thought would be a vague memory of their protector who didn’t come back in time. And as they lay there dying, they’d never get a chance to see how ‘sad’ the fool felt when he or she finally returned to the car and carcass.
I recommend to anybody who leaves their kid or dog in a closed car in summer: Try it yourself for 15 minutes before you let your kid or dog do it. Better yet, go for an hour. Please.

The day I shamed B.C.

I have a confession to make. Several years ago, my daughter and I were on a summer road trip traveling across the Canadian prairies. In Saskatchewan we had to take a detour because of road construction, and we managed - don’t laugh - to get lost. Yes, in Saskatchewan. We were on a secondary (or thirduary) road fast approaching nowhere, so we decided to stop for directions at a farmhouse situated about halfway between nowhere and more nowhere.
It was a pretty farm, all wide-open and flat, a little mirror image of the province itself. Heather and I were in great spirits, because you just know you’re in friendly territory on a remote farm in Saskatchewan. Everybody in Saskatchewan is friendly, it’s a rule, I think, but the farmers must surely be extra-friendly. Dour looking but kindly and good. It’s not like a remote farm in B.C. where the backyard is probably piled high with graves from murdered victims and the farmer looks as though he is ready to add another once he sees you. No, this was friendly Saskatchewan.
As we sat in the car doing a final check of our map, we felt all B.C.-humbled by the vast expanses of flat farmland around us. We thought we might take the time to tell Saskatchewan Farmer about mountains, and the way they can really frame a scene. Saskatchewan Farmer would chuckle at our B.C. charm and wit, and then, being a friendly Saskatchewan farmer, he would probably ply us with homemade pie and coffee, after which he would tell us how to get back to the main road.
So, we got out of the car, breathed in the fresh country air, then headed to the door. And that’s when bad things started to happened.
We were ringing the bell, waiting for Saskatchewan Farmer to open the door to meet two fine representatives of the mighty (and mountainous) province of B.C.. He didn’t answer though, and we were suddenly aware that everything was deadly quiet except for an ominous sound of . . . something.
A movement to our left caught us off-guard. Then a movement to our right. We spun around to find that we were completely surrounded by giant monster killer flying black things from hell. They were everywhere, and apparently they were annoyed about something because they were all buzzy and bouncy. My guess is, they hated people from B.C., or at least the two hapless souls standing at the door. The remote farm in B.C. with the backyard body count started to seem pretty good by comparison.
For a long nanosecond, Heather and I just stood there staring at each other.  
After the nanosecond had passed, we started to make strange squeaky sounds, a kind of ‘eek, eek, EEEEEEEK, eek-eek-eek-eek, ack ack, eek, omg omg omg OMG’ that the black beasts mistakenly took to be a mating call, because suddenly there were about one billion more of the creatures flying around us, being aggressively buzzy and bouncy. Only their unease at our strange antics kept us from being eaten on the spot.
And you know, to this day I have to wonder what Saskatchewan Farmer must have thought as he watched from behind his curtain. One thing is clear, he was far too knowledgeable about B.C. crazies to open his door to us and our billion companions, which only goes to prove that the whole ‘friendly Saskatchewan’ schtick is something of a scam.
Unless he was covering his eyes in horror (possible) or couldn’t see for laughing (probable), he would have seen two women madly leaping around his driveway, flinging themselves about in a sort of frenzied ritualistic dance complete with frantic flailing arms and legs and guttural barely-human sounds that only animals in great pain and people from B.C. beset by giant black flies could possibly make. He would have watched us going step by backward step back toward the car, reaching it at last, clawing desperately at the doors with an fervent energy he had probably never associated with famously laid-back B.C. Our antics once inside the car did not let up, because several of the vicious black devils had flown inside with us. Was Saskatchewan Farmer worried? Frightened? Annoyed?
I have a feeling he was laughing.
We have no way of knowing for sure, though, because he never did come to the door. Maybe he was too beside himself. Two women babbling incoherently and flinging themselves about in a driveway is a scene that would probably slay the dourest of Saskatchewan farmers, but continuing just as crazily inside a rocking car must have pushed him right over. 
Sometimes I wonder, does he still tell people about the day Saskatchewan’s black flies took on two of B.C. innocents and won? Has he stopped laughing yet? Probably not.

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About the Author

This bio was written by Jo Slade. As you can see she has written about herself in the third person. What normal person would do that? They just wouldn't. Who knows how many other persons might be involved in this thing, a second person? Another third? I worry about it. I - she - we - can't even keep it straight, this paragraph is a damn mess, there are persons all over the place. Round 'em up and shoot 'em. That's what I'd do, and by golly I think that's what Jo Slade would do as well.

Biographic nutshell: Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she'll just say words instead of writing them, it saves on paper.

This column: The columns that will appear here are of a highly serious and scholarly nature, therefore it is advised that you keep a dictionary and ponderous thoughts nearby.

If, after reading the column, you find yourself tossing and turning at night, burning with the need to email me, just do it. I answer to [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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