NOW can I start the petition ?

So there’s this story I read this morning, which says that Canadians work a lot.

“So what?” you’re sniffing. “Lots of people work A LOT. Duh.”

No. Seriously. We do. A few numerical examples, courtesy of the Canadian HR Reporter:

1,751: the number of hours Canadians worked in 2004.

43: when translating the above number of hours into days, how many more of those days we worked in one year than the Dutch, French, Danes and Germans.

6 (per cent): Using an example, how much less the Irish worked than us in a year.

14 (per cent): Using the same example, how much more the Irish contributed – because of their work – to their country in dollars and cents than we did in a year.

1956: The last time Canada got its last big cut in working hours.

6: the number of days per week Canadians used to work 50 years ago.

24: the number of vacation and statutory days Canadians get. (We lost one between 1980 and 2000.)

36: the number of vacation days Europeans get. (Between 1980 and 2000, they gained six days. Six.)

What’s that? Still think Europeans are a bunch of lazy suckers? I beg to differ, especially when dealing with these numbers:

32 million: the number of vacation days we Canadians fail to take ANNUALLY.

$5.2 billion: the amount of money we give away to our employers because we decide to suck it up and NOT take aforesaid vacation days.

19: the average number of vacation days we’re entitled to in 2006. We’re better than the U.S. (they only get 14) and Australia (17 days). But we’re among the lowest in the developed world.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the link to the story which boasts this figure. Do you STILL think you’re just tired ’cause you’re not getting en0ugh sleep?

Yes, there are jobs out there which don’t afford the luxury of a nice work week. I understand that. It comes with the territory. But there are people out there who are genuine workaholics. And guess what? You’re kinda ruining it for everyone else.

Honestly? Someone needs to find a way to not only shorten the work week for a LOT of people, ESPECIALLY those burned-out people with families to support, working jobs with crappy hours (and crappy jobs with crappy hours) – and to compensate them accordingly.

Give them more money, and some more time off, for crying out loud. The jobs they commute to aren’t the ONLY jobs they do once they leave their places of business for the day. They’ve got other people to answer to at the end of the day: their families. How on earth are they supposed to do a good job at work when they’re cranky, walking zombies all the time? And how are they supposed to be a good members and pillars of their communities when they’re too dead to stand on their feet at the end of the day?

Here’s one last observation from the Canadian HR Reporter piece to leave you with (not a number):

The expert was paraphrased as saying “that working long hours might also increase the likelihood of people making mistakes.”


(Postscript: Perhaps I shouldn’t be kvetching, given the millions, nay, billions of people worldwide that have it a millon times crappier than we do, with horrendous wages and horrific conditions, just skim the tip of the tip of the iceberg … but that’s a subject which deserves a post all its own. One of these days.)

Happy remainder of Victoria Day!

I know it’s late in the day, but I was doing what I do best on long weekends: nothing.

But for those that had today off, enjoy the rest of your day off.

For those that had to work – seriously, I feel your pain. Thanks for your hard work and service. Your day off is coming.

Enjoy the fireworks, BBQs in the cold and cheesy movies!

Shakespeare, Reconsidered (kinda)

So, I went out with Shakespeare and a friend of mine last week.

I think he may have met his match with my friend who, aside from being a co-worker, is an artist in her own right, in her spare time. It was kinda funny when Shakespeare and I went out for drinks afterwards and he said, “Your friend is pretty intense.” (This coming from someone I find overwhelming.)

I asked, “You’re not scared, are you?”

“No, ” he replied. “She’s definitely passionate about things … she’s just a bit overwhelming.” (I tried not to smirk. Do you know how HARD that is for me?)

So I softened up a bit after that. So I think things may be a bit better. Or it could’ve been because I was tired and it was late. But who knows?

I got my friend’s impression of him, later on that week. She described him as “rather cool, if a bit anal.” He’s a man of conviction, she concluded, but he’s surprisingly set in his ways, and narrow-minded.

He apparently also exudes “total bachelor” who hides behind his fusspot personality to test people. Guess he’s not someone who easily trusts people, which can be understandable. And I guess as a result of that he doesn’t have many friends, and is clinging to the ones he makes.

She added we were from completely different worlds. I definitely agree with her assessment. I don’t think he knows or understands that. I wonder how long it’ll be before he sees that, too.

So essentially, he needs to meet more people. Then he won’t rely on me so much. At least, that’s what I understand.

And I must amend slightly what I said below. If the impression I gave was that I dislike poets, that’s not what I meant. I just think I attract strange people. All the time.

I have — and will — occasionally talked to people I meet on the street. All types of people. I’m sure a lot of other people have. I’m just tired of attracting the eccentric ones who think I’m a kindred spirit. (Believe me, I’m boring. Move on elsewhere.)

Boycotting Da Vinci

I’m probably going to be one of the few non-religious people NOT going to see The Da Vinci Code. Ever, if I can help it.

Yes, I actually read the book (and am not ashamed). It’s not spectacular. But it’s a light, Sunday afternoon page-turner.

While I don’t believe the “history” of the book’s storyline to be true (if it was, then it wouldn’t be fiction), I like the fact there are ideas which suggest the truth might be different to what’s currently out there. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person.

What I really don’t like is how Hollywood likes to turn most published bestsellers (or TV shows, for that matter) into movies. And we ALL know there’s rarely (if EVER) been a case where a movie’s stayed true to the vein of a book. It’s Hollywood.

So, I’m not going for two reasons:

1. Despite what critics have said, this Hollywood schlock is going to do well anyway. It will just have to do so without my $10 to $13.

2. Tom Hanks as Prof. Langdon. Tom Hanks?? What?! I like Tom Hanks. I will more readily shuck out money to see Tom Hanks in a movie over Tom Cruise, period. But I’m sure that as soon as Ron Howard found out Dan Brown optioned the movie rights to that book, he was on that bad boy like lice on lint. And since he and Tom are buddies, I somehow don’t think he even bothered auditioning anyone for this part.

I’m keeping my summer blockbuster movie quota for the summer to two or three, and I’m certainly not starting with this one. When Nacho Libre and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest are released, then we’ll talk.

Secret Punctuation Militia?

I was working out at the gym yesterday when I saw these two girls working out nearby. Probably sisters or friends who just looked alike.

The weird thing? One of them had a question mark tattooed on her left upper arm. The other girl, I could’ve sworn, had a semi-colon — this thing: ” ; ” — tatted on her right bicep.

You know, I also read Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I thought it was a fabulous book. But seriously? It didn’t make me want to permanently etch a comma on one wrist and a full stop on the other.

Don’t usually people get some kind of cool script or symbolic image? Maybe I’m not hip to the jive. Or … maybe they’re part of some sort of covert punctuation military order.

Somewhere, I’m sure there’s someone with a tattoo of an exclamation point on her forearm waiting to beat me up.

Road chivalry isn’t dead

Earlier today, my dad and I were sitting at a stop light when, out of my rolled-down car window, I heard a woman in the next lane over say, “Excuse me.”

My dad and I turn to the right. She’s a blonde woman in what looks like a Toyota Tercel. Her front-seat passenger looks like it could be her mom.

“I’m trying to get on the highway going east and I’m in the wrong lane,” she explained. “Would I be able to get in front of you?”

“Sure,” my dad said.

As the light changed, and she made her lane change, she said, “Thank you.”

I’m 29, and I’ve never seen that before in my life. Not even in an educational video.

Too bad she’s not from around here. I wish there were drivers like that in Toronto.

No couplets please – I’m into free verse

When it comes to relationships, everybody knows the one repeatedly-asked, often debated, cliched question: “Can men and women just be friends?”

If you asked me that question this morning – when I read that very thing in a commuter paper on the way to work – I would’ve stuck by my long-standing response: “Uh, yeah!” I firmly believe that …

Or I did. Later in the day I was reminded of why I should really change my answer to: “Depends.”

I have this acquaintance, who’s a poet and writer-in-residence at my old university. I say “acquaintance”, ’cause I believe we see our relationship differently.

For posting’s sake, I’ll call this dude Shakespeare. (Yes, I know he’s a playwright, but he also wrote poems, thereby making him a poet. Stop splitting hairs!) From my perception, Shakespeare seems to think we’re friends who were drawn together ’cause he considers me a sort of kindred spirit. Or something.

Me? I don’t trust him. Which warrants a backstory (with as many details as I can remember).

Picture it – late November, 2005. I’ve left work, and am minding my own business. He stops me on the street because he’s looking for an optical; his glasses are broken.

Being nice, I tell him where the nearest one is. As I escort him partway, he explains what he does, why he’s in town, where he actually lives, etc. He mentions my alma mater, so I pipe up, “Really? I went there!”

Before I realize it, he says he wants to get to know me better; says he wants to meet up on the weekend; I decline; we end up exchanging cell numbers; and I leave him, the tiny red light flashing in my brain, and me intending never to call him.

Fast forward three weeks. I’ve completely forgotten. (I also intended on switching phone companies – and hence cell numbers.) He calls me while I’m on my way home. I forget the conversation that transpired, but that’s probably The Point At Which I Sat On My Inituition, Smothered It And Left It For Dead.

I decide to give this weird little guy a chance at friendship. People make friends in circumstances like this, I reasoned with myself. Right?

It started with e-mails, then some picture-swapping, then more phoning (on his end, not mine), and then – MSN. In January he says we should meet. Ookay, I think to myself. I’ll go. I need to suss this guy out. (Maybe this eye twitch I’m involuntarily having is just an allergic reaction to dust.)

He comes into town and eventually picks a day to meet – the day before he goes home. I’m working late, it turns out. Anyone else would’ve rescheduled. Not him.

We meet in the coffee shop in my building. He talks. Waaay more than I do. I miss half the stuff he stays ’cause he’s also a bit of an academic.

(Guys, please note: if you choose to speak uni-English and in broad academic concepts instead of plain English, women like me will have a narcoleptic episode and pass out. Big hint: glazed eyes.)

In between all that, he apparently tells me he likes me and would like to pursue something with me. (This was probably the part where I spaced out. I thought he was talking about the type of woman he wanted to pursue. Oops.)

If by now you’re not reading another blog because you’ve figured out I’m a complete idiot, wait. There’s more.

I finally figured out what he was getting at. When he broached the subject again over MSN one night, I told him I wasn’t interested. Believe me, he’s persistent, for lack of a better word. I said if I changed my mind I’d let him know. I was being sarcastic. MSN doesn’t translate sarcasm well. (The MSN people should really work on a feature that does that.)

It was probably a couple more weeks before he started up again (didn’t I say he was persistent?) and I told him I wasn’t interested. Period.

Which brings me to the present. He says he’s okay with being friends. Given the epic I just re-told, I don’t truly believe him. I think he’s holding out to see if I’ll reconsider. I may also be just imagining things.

So it’s almost mid-May. And he’s in town again. And he wants to meet up with me. Again.

Given the fact I’ve pretty much bound and gagged my intuition, I’m going to do what any spineless, neurotic twenty-something would do: get an outside opinion. I’m hoping to drag him to meet a friend of mine for dinner, and I’ve asked her to read the vibe she gets off him.

She could very well give me a positive response, which would mean I’m overreacting and being unfair and shallow (which I won’t completely deny, but still).

But if she reads something else … he’s got to go. Given that I’ve gone past the normal range of tolerance for strangeness, I’m not how I’m going to do that.

Note to guys: Wearing a woman down until she gives in is NOT sexy. It’s stressful. It’s draining. And it probably takes a couple years off her life expectancy.

Note to self: In future, trust your intuition. Distrust strange poets you meet on the street.

D’s Phrase of the Week: Food City Chicken!

I was sitting in front of the TV at home with my mom, watching Larry King Live.

The subject: that creepy polygamist Warren Jeffs, who’s just graced the FBI’s Most Wanted List. (Personally, I hope they find him and string him up by his toenails.)

As Larry was talking with each of the guests, the show interspersed some visuals related to the story, including file pictures of the homely bugger himself – obviously taken at the local portrait studio at different points throughout the years.

“Ugh,” I said. “What an ugly man.”

My mom shuddered in agreement. “What a young mackerel,” she said. “A Food City Chicken, that one.”

I let out a laugh, as I hadn’t heard that one in a while.

If you grew up in Ontario – in my case, suburban Toronto – in the 1980s, you’ll know that Food City was a supermarket chain. (It eventually was gobbled up by a larger chain — I think A&P, but I’d have to check that out.)

Going to the supermarket on grocery day, your mom — if she wasn’t vegetarian — would at some point have eventually ended up in the meat section. Cuts of pork, beef and chicken, all neatly arranged in that huge cooler thing they had, divided according to types of meat.

In the chicken section, you had your packaged chicken parts, but also your whole chicken. And of that whole chicken, there were two varieties.

There was the hearty, plump, thick, juicy chicken that’d make your mouth water just thinking about what it would taste like cooked. (My mouth’s watering just recalling it.) Most shoppers snapped this meat up without a second thought.

And then … there was the Food City Chicken: the puniest, homeliest, wimpiest looking chicken around. This was obviously a piece of poultry that, when alive, was too scared to eat in the hopes it wouldn’t meet its slaughter, but it did anyway — resulting in the meatless, emaciated wonder sitting in the meat cooler before you. These were the types of chicken my mom probably looked at, picked up, looked over, and glanced at the price tag before slightly turning up her nose and tossing it back with the other sad fowl.

And it was especially bad on grocery days when this section was half-empty and the meat guys hadn’t yet rolled out with the big metal tubs of the newest meats, ’cause chances are whatever was left was the oldest, about-to-expire cuts of chicken … and The Food City Chicken. Shoppers who were picky either circled around until the meat guys laid out the newest cuts, or waited until one of them would come out from the back and ask if they had anything new. They would do ANYTHING, except take the Food City Chicken.

So if you ever hear myself or anyone like me call someone as a Food City Chicken, go ahead and laugh if you’re not on the receiving end … and be very concerned if you are.

Death of a colleague

My early afternoon started off with a bit of a shock, and a reminder of how short life is.

My mother said she’d overheard on the news segment on a local talk-radio station that a former co-worker had died in a snorkelling accident in Thailand.

I honestly didn’t believe her, until I saw it for myself on TV. It makes tears spring to my eyes, but I still can’t quite process that it’s happened.

While I didn’t really know him that well, I had worked with him on a number of occasions. The impression I’ve always had of him was one of a consummate professional who loved what he did (probably the one thing I want for myself).

Even more than that, I got the sense he was someone who, despite this crazy business we’re in, kept his good soul intact. And that’s probably what has affected me the most.

My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.

If you wish, you can read about him here.