Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No Discretion

My current abundance of oustanding parking tickets and my search for a laptop computer have yielded memories of when I used to work at the computer store.

The reason I have a lot of parking tickets right now is because Toronto's parking enforcement people are ruthless. I arrived in an area at about 7:00 AM and pay parking didn't start there til 8:00. The machine won't even dispense tickets until 8:00 AM, so I came back around 8:20 to put a ticket in my window. There was already a tag (that's what the city of Toronto calls parking tickets, I guess so as not to confuse them with the tickets you buy from the machines) on my windshield. It had the time 8:06 on it. Ruthless.

So, back to the computer store. One day a cop came in, in uniform, with a laptop in need of repair. I had noticed that a few weeks before the parking officers started wearing bullet proof vests. Up until that point, I hadn't ever noticed a bullet proof vest on a parking enforcement officer.

Apparently the cops don't feel any more kindly towards the parking people than I (or I suspect most of my fellow Torontonians) do.

"Hey, " I said, "do you know if there was a shooting incident with a parking ticket officer?"

"I didn't hear of anything, " responded the cop, "but I wouldn't doubt it. Those guys don't have any discretion: they'd ticket their own mothers."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mysterious Ways

I had dinner at my favourite Thai restaurant last night. It reminded me of the time that C, my girlfriend at the time, and I were making pad Thai and I said there had to be sweet peppers in it. She swore up and down that there just weren't supposed to be peppers in pad Thai. We asked a jury of our peers and the verdict came up that no, in fact, there simply weren't peppers in pad Thai.

We went out for Thai food a few weeks later and I order pad Thai, as usual. And lo and behold, in it where nice strips of sweet pepper. C decided that prior to that there never had been peppers in pad Thai, but the Universe had changed, in accordance with my insistence, and now there had always been peppers in pad Thai.

I was out for Thai food last night because I had two friends in from out of town, J and S.

I have known S since grade 3. She and I competed all the way through grade school and highschool and are as close as brother and sister now. She always won the popularity contests — she's way hotter than me — but I kicked her ass at calculus. S is now back living in our hometown and working at a really cool consulting company.

J has been one of my best friends steadily since about grade 10. His birthday is a week after mine, so we have managed to make sure that no matter where we both live, at the very least we have a joint birthday party every year. One year we celebrated by driving to Queens University and... creatively redecorating parts of the campus. J is now living in Ohio and doing his dream job — designing boats.

J actually drove a company truck up to Toronto this weekend to make a delivery somewhere just outside the city. It worked out nicely cuz he got to come visit and didn't have to pay for gas or put any miles on his car. S was already in town when J arrived and he managed to find us walking up Spadina. We ran out and jumped into the enormous company truck and road with him up to the parking garage. He'd expression some concern, prior to this point, that his truck might not make the clearance for the garage.

"How tall is the truck?" I asked.


"Well, how are we going to know if it'll fit in the garage?"

"Only one way to find out!' enthused J.

It turned out there was about 3 inches of clearance. We nearly clipped a number of cars and ran over a group of pedestrians trying to make the turn into the garage off the crowded, cramped street. In the end it was alright. We had a bit of a scare when the antenna scraped a few beams, but you get used to the noise of metal scraping across cement after a while.

I've been asking the Universe for a lot of non-pad Thai-related favours lately. This weekend I asked it help S run into a nice man so that she can move to Toronto and be happy. Evidently, the Universe felt this was a funny request. While the 3 of us were at the Eaton's Centre, instead of running into a nice man for S, we managed to run into a guy from our hometown, which is about 200km from here, who was in town for the day with his wife to see Phantom of the Opera. What are the odds?

As we were walking home from the Eaton's Centre, up a side street that I almost never walk on, who should walk by but my ex-girlfriend, C, and her boyfriend. She managed to not even say hi to us and only made eye contact with J, not S or me. I hadn't realized we weren't on speaking terms. Ouch.

I suppose I should stop asking the Universe for favours for a while. Fortunately, I've already fixed the pad Thai problem.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Eat The Brick

So I was posted to on-call duty this week at work. This means that I get to carry around the work phone and whenever something breaks at work, I get a call. Luckily, knock-on-wood, nothing really terrible has happened. There's still tonight — I get to give it up at noon tomorrow.

So to make sure the phone is a useful tool, the company bought a "smart phone." This, to me, feels like a bit of a misnomer. I have instead dubbed the work phone "the Brick," mainly because it is about the size of a regular housing brick and weighs as much. It feels utterly ridiculous to talk into. I feel sort of like I'm talking into a laptop, but not by the usual method of microphone and headset, rather, by holding the entire stinking notebook up against the side of my head.

The software for this thing is ridiculous. When I received the phone on Monday, a holiday in Canada, it was in this weird state, where, despite having an infinite number of non-phone functions, the only one that would actually work was the phone function.

"Try rebooting," suggested M.

I did. No such luck.

On Tuesday I showed the phone to T, my boss.

"Did you try rebooting?" asked T.


"Here. Lemme try." He started up google maps, the first internet application he could find. It told him it was going to have to reboot. Bam. Down it went. Then it went to a screen I don't remember seeing when I rebooted it. Came back up. Suddenly e-mail and web worked.

"You know there are multiple levels of rebooting to these things," chided T.

"Yeah, you know what else would reboot it? Putting it under a streetcar," I pouted back. "Smart phone my rear end."

Sunday, May 20, 2007


In a previous entry I have talked about my Friday lunch ritual. In case you don't care enough to go back and read it: some of my coworkers and I go to the same restaurant, very near where we work, every Friday. It is our Friday lunch ritual. It started with just 3 of us, but these days we usually wind up as 6 or more.

There has, in the last few weeks, been a bit of interplay between a particular waitress and I. It began when I called her my hero for bringing me waffles. Mandingo were they good waffles.
The week after that we were originally seated in her section and then were moved to another section. I said she was shunning us. Then two weeks ago I was sat in the back corner of our table. When she came to serve our food, I tried to get a rise out of her but she couldn't hear me over the din of the rest of the table. She accused me of shunning her.

So last week I made sure to sit near the outside of the table. "So you can hear my catcalls," I told her.

"Oh, great," she rolled her eyes in reply.

She told one of the other servers to watch out for me because I'm trouble. A short while later she presented me with a nametag which read "Trouble". It was not an official nametag, but it had the logo sticker and had been printed with the same labelmaker they use for their own nametags.

We have 3 university students at work for the summer. I invited them along to Friday lunch. The rest of the crew went on ahead while I waited for the students because one of them was having trouble saving her file. "Two years of engineering education," I asked, " and they didn't teach you how to save a file?"

By the time we got to the restaurant, the other crew had taken a table for two too few people. "No problem," I said, and dragged a table halfway across the restaurant to create a table for four. I sat down with the summer students. We were jokingly refered to as "the kiddie table." Or maybe not so jokingly.

Although my hero was not serving us this week, she made a special trip over to chat with me. I guess she's just a glutton for punishment. I chatted with other servers. The owner came over and accused us of not being loud enough. I said it was because M and I had been split up. He has officially forbidden us to sit at separate tables from now on.

Through all of this the three summer students, who are all a little shy, I think, were watching, somewhat astonished. "At what point do you start forming these relationships?" one asked.

"Well, for me, pretty much as soon as I walk through the door. You know, they just sort of... happen automatically."

"So, " another observed, quite astutely, "you harass them until they find it amusing?"

"Pretty much," I replied. "How's it working on you guys? Not that bad, I guess. I mean, you accepted my invitation to lunch."

"Ah, " the third cut in, "but the real test will be whether we accept next time."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Live Here, But It Helps

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is very near where I live. It's also very near where I went to university. There are frequently mentally ill people hanging out around it. CAMH, that is, not the University. Well, I guess there, too.

All the U of T engineers get hard hats during F!rosh week. It is traditional to decorate them and wear them around to look... well, engineery. I, of course, attached light-up devil horns to mine.

One day as I was going to 7-11 during F!rosh week, wearing my behorned hard hat, someone out in front of CAMH actually got down on his knees and started worshiping me as the devil. I don't think he was joking.

The other night, E and I were walking around after a nice rainfall, chatting. We were walking pretty aimlessly, the goal being to hang out and talk, not to get anywhere in particular. At one point, E pointed to a sidewalk that went towards some of the CAMH buildings and said, "let's take this path, which leads to crazy people."

"Arguably," I interjected, "all paths lead to crazy people."

"Yes," retorted E, "crazy people are the new Rome."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hello Mudder...

As today was Mother's Day, to maintain my position as the Good Son, I took a trip to visit the 'rents. I made my stepdad keep it a secret that I was coming. I got up extra early so I could arrive in time to help make brunch. When I got to their place, they were out on the deck having their morning cigarette. All my mom could see was that someone was walking up the driveway with flowers. My stepdad refused to tell her what was going on and told her to go answer the door. Given her unshowered state, she was not impressed. Until she realized it was me.

My brother, T, and his girlfriend J and her son T showed up a little while later. "Now all my favourite people are here," exclaimed my mom. I looked at my brother. "Plus this guy," I said.

It is sometimes traditional for my family to have caesars in the morning on the weekend. For those of you who don't know, this is an alcoholic beverage made with Clamato, spices and vodka. Before the Ts and J had arrived, my stepdad told my mom they were nearly out of vodka. "Maybe T will have some," he suggested.

"T isn't going to have vodka," my mom responded.

"I dunno, he's pretty responsible these days," returned my stepdad.

"So," I deduced, "being responsible means always having vodka on hand? I wonder why my morals are warped."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Nothing To Blame But Blame Itself

We got a new guy in today, too. The boss was parading him around the office to introduce him to everyone. I had met him earlier. I asked if he remembered my name. He hadn't. I reminded him. The boss then told him that he would remember my name because I am the office clown. I feigned feeling hurt for about 1 second and then realized that I was wearing my Heelys and the shirts that caused another coworker to give me the nickname Nephew because I remind her of her 12 year old nephew.

I have only myself to blame for this reputation.

I'd been hemming and hawing about buying a travel mug from Starbucks. I drink a lot of coffee and a friend of mine pointed out how much waste I'm generating by throwing those cups out all the time. My morning Starbucks had these really fun little travel mugs up by the register. They were all bright and colourful with shiny monkeys on. I really liked the blue one.

"You don't have those in any larger size, do you?" I asked.

Nope. The ones by the register were the only ones they had. I complained to my friend T that I really liked this mug but it only came in tiny, so I wasn't sure about it. She said I should probably get it anyway. Finally yesterday I broke down and got it. I love it. I took it into my afternoon Starbucks and with great pomp and ceremony put it down on the counter and asked them to fill it with the mild. That coffee tasted better than ever out of my new monkey mug.

I took the mug to show T last night. "So cute!" she exclaimed upon laying eyes on it for the first time.

After a brief pause she kind of crooked her eyebrow and said, "You do realize that this only comes in small because it's for children?"

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Taste of Primer

I've been going pretty strong lately. Living at the speed of life, as it were. So this weekend I decided to take it slow. How's that workin' out for me?

Friday night I got off early for the first time in God-knows-when. I met up with E at the Eaton's Centre and then he and I wandered around a bit. He had dinner plans at 6 so we parted ways then. I got home and saw that E's roommate, S, was on MSN. I asked what she was up to. She said she was going to the Bloor Cinema later to watch the Found Footage Festival and no one would go with her. So much for Friday night in. The Found Footage Festival was, incidentally, hilarious.

You will recall from my last entry that I had to go rescue my patio furniture from Waterloo. I left it in Mississauga with my aunt and uncle. I drove my Camaro out to their place Saturday morning. I could swear that when I moved the patio furniture to Waterloo in the first place that I did so in my car. After several minutes and a lot of swearing I decided that I must not have moved the patio furniture in my car and asked my uncle if I could borrow his truck. I think he likes it when I do that cuz he gets to cruise around in my Camaro all day.

So the reason I had to move the patio furniture is that my friends T and J just bought a house. With a yard. So my patio furniture has a home for this summer. They've promised to take good care of it. We set up the patio furniture. I had to go buy allen keys to put it together. I really like their neighborhood hardware store. It does my heart good to know that they are well taken care of in that department now. We also put together and subsequently used their new BBQ. For some reason they refuse to put the side shelf on so there is a side burner but no side shelf. It's so asymmetrical. It sort of flops around the deck like a pigeon with a broken wing. It does make a mean burger, though, shelflessness not withstanding.

They are also painting about every last square inch of the house in the week before they move in. It turns out that, of all the people helping them paint, I am the tallest. It therefore fell to me to paint all the high and awkward spots. It ALSO turns out that, of all the people helping them paint, I am the biggest slob. Have you ever had one of those moments where time slows down and you can watch something really stupid happen to yourself in slow motion, from outside your body? I watched this huge glob of primer drip off my brush and into my mouth. It was fantastic. It tasted a little bit like bitter rubbing alcohol. H, T and J's toxocologist friend said I'd be fine.

After painting all afternoon and then driving the truck back to Mississauga, I had to return a movie. It turns out my friendly neighborhood video store has replaced their counter with a gelatto freezer. What? This does not bode well for our hero. I think they should change the name from "The Little Video Store" to "Diabetes Corner" or perhaps "Sit On Your Ass And Gorge".

This morning I woke up to go paint some more. I decided that the painting crew might like breakfast, so I whipped up French toast and fruit salad. This required going into the market as, with the exception of milk, I had NONE of the makings of French toast OR fruit salad. I threw it all together as quickly as I could and then put the hot French toast and cold fruit salad in my car. It took me 10 minutes longer than it should have to get there because this month's Direction Of The Month is South. For the whole month of May it will be damned-near impossible to drive South. It is exceedingly difficult to reach the highway or Lakeshore without going South from my house. Fortunately I found a street they forgot to block. Suckers.

I wound up having to park way down the street from the new house. T said I probably made them the envy of the whole block as I had to walk by everyone's house carrying breakfast. We painted, ate (not primer, this time) and then painted some more. Then I rushed home to meet up with my little brother and his girlfriend who were in town for a wedding last night. We sat in my apartment and caught up. It was nice.

Then the Usual Suspects called about dim sum, which has become something of a Sunday tradition. When I arrived not everyone was there. We had to request a table for 8 plus a baby. And before you ask, no, they weren't talking about me. R and I had their baby with them.

After dim sum we lost a few people and the rest of us hit Starbucks and sat around being all urban. Then we walked down to the gelatto store, which is a long way from Chinatown, but well worth the walk, especially on an awesome day like today. I suppose I could have just gone to my video store which is a lot closer, but they have some pretty exotic flavours at the place we went to. I had blackberry and ferrero rocher, which, when combined, taste exactly like a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Comfort gelatto.

After that, little more wandering and some light window shopping. By the time I arrived home and it was about 6:00. All-in-all, not bad for a lazy weekend.

Except I can't figure out why, after such a lazy weekend, I'm so exhausted.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

You Can't Get There From Here

When I moved out of Waterloo, I left behind some patio furniture and power tools because I had nowhere to put them in Toronto. My former roommate has finally moved out of the place we lived there so I had to make an emergency trip to rescue my stuff from being left behind. There's nothing more awkward than showing up to a houseful of strangers and opening with, "hi, I used to live here, and by the way, that chair you're sitting on is mine. Can I have it back, please?"

I was reminded of how horrible navigating Waterloo is. I used to call directions to my place Xeno's Directions because you have to take 4 or 5 right turns in a row after getting off the highway to get there. You just sort of spiral in, getting a little closer each pass — but you can never truly reach the house.

For anyone who has never had the joy of living in or having to navigate the streets of Waterloo and Kitchener, I'm fairly certain that the city planner simply took a picture of a plate of spaghetti and started naming the streets. Parallel has no meaning. King St and Weber St, which are two fairly major streets which run "parallel" to each other have 3 intersections and also start off as the same road. "Meet me at King and Weber," is possibly the most confusing instruction you could issue. And, because this is Ontario, saying, "the one with the Tim Hortons," fails to clarify the situation at all.

So Kitchener and Waterloo are adjoining cities. Maybe I'll get into what I think about them at some other time. The important thing for this post is that their grids (what grids there are to speak of) are at a slight angle to one another. On top of that, neither of them runs truly North-South. So you wind up with all the major streets taking a slight jog in the middle and the same street which is considered to run North-South in Waterloo is thought to be an East-West street in Kitchener. For example, you can run from the North end of Waterloo to the South end of Kitchener and be on King St N, then King St S for a short stretch, then a tiny bit of King St W and finally you will end on King St E. Which turns into the highway. Also, Weber St E. Honestly.

The other clever thing is that to get to Waterloo from Mississauga I got on Hwy 403 West, then 407 East and then 401 West, without ever actually backtracking. Look at a map. It's ludicrous.

This reminded me of when I was down in San Jose and we were driving back from SM's house in Berkeley. We were going down the highway, minding our own business, when I realised that the signs read "580 East / 80 West."

"Great," I noted, "we're going East and West at the same time."

I confirmed this on the map we had. "Does this highway do anything else neat?" I asked, putting on my best, serious navigator voice, "Ah, here we go: we can go East and West at the same time and also travel through time. The next exit is for July, 1972."