The Skater Tsunami, The Dining Wrestler, A Well-Combed ‘Stache and Silly Bus Riders

Last Wednesday:

Passing through Simcoe Park (near Front Street, just outside my building), I almost walked smack-dab into either a skate camp or impromptu skaters’ convention. Could’ve been guys making a skating video. There were, like, 50 of them. Skateboarders landing tricks, a couple of them filming the stunts on cameras.

One of them apparently landed a really good trick when I wasn’t looking, ’cause there was a cheer and scattered clapping from the skating comrades seated around the outer edge of where the action was happening.

I started making my way west towards Blue Jays Way. That’s when I heard it: the sound of 200 little wheels bolted to boards, whirring, grating and scraping against the concrete. I turned around to see the legion of skaters making their way west on the sidewalk, lead by their fearless commander, who was kicking, pushing and coasting his way in between cars in the middle of the street.

Almost like a swarm of hornets, most of them jumped the curb onto the street, diagonally crossed over to the other side, and just as deftly got up on the sidewalk on the other side and did an almost simultaneous group dismount, jogging up the far-western stairs of the Metro Convention Centre complex – in the direction of the CN Tower and Rogers Centre, from my guess.

An urban symphony, if I ever heard or saw one.

Last Thursday:

Met Shakespeare for dinner (begrudgingly). After he called the first time to say he wouldn’t make it until 8:30, I made my way to the Chinese restaurant we were meeting at. As I was being seated by the window, I noticed this white guy with long hair, sitting with this young woman. It didn’t take me any time to figure out it was Bret Hart, a.k.a. “The Hitman”. I think I did a pretty good job of not gawking or staring, but I was thinking, “Dude! I watched you when I was, like, 11 !”

I kept sneaking glances at him eating with his lady friend, even when I got hungrier, wearier and more annoyed as Shakespeare took longer and longer to arrive (finally making his grand entrance at 9:24 p.m.). The funny thing? Even though I was having my own disagreement and drama at dinner, a couple of brain cells still managed to detach themselves and scream with delight, “Dude! I CAN’T believe Bret “The Hitman” Hart is EATING at the same restaurant!” To which a couple other brain cells replied, “Relax, man. He’s just a dude in town, eating dinner with his girlfriend. He puts on his shorts one leg at a time like everyone else. Stop looking.” I still kept glancing over the divider at the other table. I couldn’t help it.

And he was there a long time. He and his friend stayed just as long as we did. They left before us, though.


Waiting for the bus to arrive – I was just glancing around and spacing out to pass the time, when I glanced to my right, just in time to see this middle-aged man in the midst of combing his moustache, and then whipping his little banana-yellow comb back into his pocket.

This isn’t a judgement against someone keeping a neat appearance in public. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone combing his moustache before. I’m sure men do that sort of thing every so often, right? I mean, there are probably some dudes out there whose ‘staches are begging and pleading for a combing. I just thought it interesting.


After running an errand, I caught a second bus home. As the second bus pulled up and the doors opened, all I could hear was the driver yelling, “Don’t push the door! DON’T push!” And there was this dude, pushing at the back door. And it wasn’t one of the newer buses that requires you to push the bar to open the door. And I could hear the little bell going off, and the driver yelling, “You want to push?!” and I didn’t hear the rest of it – he was probably telling him off.

So the guy pushed his way off the bus, I got on, and by the time I got to the back, the driver was on the speaker, giving bus riders a Lecture about NOT pushing the door when they get off the bus.

Fair instruction, right?

About five or seven minutes later, this passenger makes her way (from her seat in the front half of the bus) to the back, where – when the bus had slowed down to her stop — she proceeded to push at the door. Several people, including this middle-aged dude sitting closest to the back door, proceeded to say, “Don’t push! Just wait!” I even heard myself saying aloud not to push (but not loud enough).

But apparently she knew better than everyone else, because she stubbornly (or stupidly) continued to push on the door. The middle-aged guy, probably a bit exasperated at her stubbornness/stupidity, said, “Hey, don’t push! Just stand on the step and the door will open.” The annoying little dinging bell rang. The doors eventually opened, and she got off. I looked at the passenger directly across from me, and we both smiled and shook our heads.

And despite all that, there were still a couple other “pushers” on following stops.

People. Sigh.

Fooled by Best Buy … again.

So it turns out Best Buy led me on. Again.

I called this afternoon, hoping to hear the magic words, “Why yes, your camera is ready for pickup.”

Last week, they said it was “in transit”. Today the guy on the phone tells me it hasn’t even made it into the delivery truck from the depot yet.

It’s been almost 7 weeks. If I wasn’t sane, I’d swear they were waiting until my original warranty runs out to get it back to me (and it happens to expire three weeks from now). That way, when I drop it the next time, they can shrug and say, “Well, nothing we can do”.

I swear, next time, I’m going to Henry’s to buy my camera. My friend’s Nikon stopped working properly; she tried to get it fixed and ended up getting a newer model replacement. No charge.

That’s the way you treat a customer, Best Buy. If he or she drops a few hundred dollars to buy an expensive product AND the good-for-nothing extended warranty package you hawk on them, the LEAST you could do is offer a little expeditious service.

Just a suggestion.

Geek Magnetism

If you thought I was being overreactive and shallow with my ranting about Shakespeare last month, here’s further proof I attract plain men I don’t mutually find attractive:

Walking along Front Street yesterday afternoon to meet a friend at our office building, I was waiting for the traffic light to change, when I made the mistake of looking over to my left into the eyes of a stranger. A mousy, thin-haired, bespectacled office-type with thin hair.

I tried to look quickly away, but not before he said, “Hi,” smiling at me wanly.

“Hi,” I said to be polite, quickly looking away. But the mistake had already been made.

“How do you do that to your hair?” he asked, orthodontic elastics stretching in his mouth as he spoke.

“I don’t do it myself. Someone does it for me,” I replied. C’mon green light, I thought.

“So it must take hours, then?” he asked.

“No, three hours. Not too bad, ” I said back, reaching my limit.

The light finally changed and we crossed the street. I started to stride a little bit, but apparently Mr. Mouth-Elastics wasn’t finished talking to me.

Mr. Mouth-Elastics: So, which team are you rooting for in World Cup?

Me: Um, none, really. I don’t really watch soccer.

MME: Oh. So, you’re probably more into hockey, then?

Me: I don’t really watch sports.

MME: Ohh … Well, you’re into arts, then. You look like an artsy person.

Me: (For the LOVE of ) Um, well, I don’t really do anything artistic … I’m more appreciative of other artists.

MME: Oh.

Thank GOD we were nearing my building when I spotted my boss leaving. I did a quick, “Gotta go, bye,” and the torture was over.

Karma, if you’re reading this: I give up. No mas! Uncle!! I’m not asking to run into models on the street. But couldn’t you just give me a little more Wentworth Miller and a little less Barney Miller?

I’m good with an iota of Ryan Reynolds. Taye Diggs? Gimme somethin’ to work with here. For serious. Help a sista out. I’m open and willing to negotiations. Just make the geek parade STOP.

Almost whole again!

I called Best Buy on Thursday afternoon to find out the status of my camera, which I’d dropped at my cousin’s wedding in Florida in April.

After more than a miserable month, I’m FINALLY getting it back next week. Woot! No more lame Google Images! (Well, not as many.)

You’ll hopefully see some original pictures here soon, kids. All in good time.

Subway Pet Peeves (or, how to keep from getting stabbed)

I have been wanting, nay, waiting to write this post. I almost didn’t ’cause it’s not exactly original. But in light of the stabbings in New York (two were subway-related) and the long trek home today (damn police investigation at St. George), it seemed almost fitting.

As an increasingly-seasoned commuter, I’m used to the subway and most of its quirks. But as someone who’s admittedly neurotic, there are just some things that, on top of delays and suddenly out-of-service trains, can turn the TTC into the Crankypants Express.

So if you don’t fancy getting attacked by a crazy commuter at her wit’s end, wielding a nail file or Swiss Army knife she stole from a fellow passenger, then I suggest maybe NOT doing any of the following:

1 Mouth noises. The sub-categories:

a) Loudly smacking, cracking and/or popping gum.
My biggest pet peeve. Ever. It’s the ultimate aural assault. I’m not sure who exactly thought it was a cool idea to use chewing gum to demonstrate their impression of a Christmas cracker, but it needs to stop. Okay, okay. Hearing you chew your gum when I’m four metres away or less? Almost understood. Hearing you half a subway car away? Oh, hell no. Why do I have to listen to the oral percussion? Do you know how many 15-minute naps I’ve missed out on ’cause of you guys? Oh, if there was a way to put all the gum-poppers in designated cars so the rest of us could have some relative peace, man, I would. But since I don’t have that power … I. Don’t. Want. To. HEAR. You.

b) Open-mouthed gum chewing.
Sometimes accompanies a), but just as annoying as hell on its own. Maybe you think you’re just chewing gum. But in actuality, you look like a COW. It’s. NOT. Attractive. I saw a young woman early the other morning on the subway doing this. She’s probably quite pretty, but you wouldn’t have known, since she looked like she was preparing her cud for her second stomach. I don’t care if you think smacking your lips together and rolling the wad around inside your mouth gives you more attitude or whatever. It doesn’t. And I’m sure it gives you premature age lines ’round your mouth.

c) Open-mouthed food chewing.
Like b), only worse. Also saw – or rather, heard – this on the subway the other morning, and was glad I only had to endure it for a few stops. But MAN was it painful. I didn’t know this man two seats away had just unwrapped his morning meat sandwich until he started eating it. Smack-mack-smackety-smack … gaaaaah! Makes me want to smackety-smack you! Listen, I understand the life of a commuter. If the trip is long, we all need to eat, whether on the way down to work, or to tide us over until we get home. But you don’t need to let me know! Quit it with the slack-jawed mastication.

d) Phlegm-fighting (a.k.a. guttural noises, horking, etc.).
It’s disgusting. If it’s in your nasal passages, use a tissue and blow it out.

2 – Nosepicking.

How old are you, six? What’s next, eating school paste? How is it possible that grown adults are digging for gold while sitting or standing in what’s essentially a public venue, and they don’t for a minute think they’re being watched? And then the same folks will hold on to the subway poles as they’re standing to leave the train. It’s like SARS never happened. Psst … hey. People are watching. No, I’m for serious. They’re watching, and then going to work or home and talking about you and how disgusting you are. If you do it ’cause you fidget, then find a hobby for those idle digits! Learn to knit! Do a puzzle! Finger yoga? I’m sure they have some special exercises for that. Scratch your nose if you must. But please don’t pick.

3 – Loud talking/cellphone conversations. It’s a given – everyone’s gotta talk. Sometimes, you need to communicate on your phone. But hello?! Why the hell do I need to hear you on the other side of the subway car? Or bus? Or streetcar? What you have to say to your friend(s) or girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse is none of my business. And I’m sure if I was turned your way, attentively listening to your conversation, you’d either give me cut-eye or ask me what the hell my problem is. Bottom line: if you can’t have a conversation without shouting, you shouldn’t be having it. Either wait for a period of peace and quiet when you can hear – and talk – properly or take it elsewhere.

4 – Rushing subway doors as they’re closing. I admit, I’ve done this. But I’m reformed. I’ve learned that rushing the doors slows the train down. Worse: if you get a Crankypants Conductor, you get The Lecture. Translation: 30 extra seconds of your life is wasted, because you have to listen to someone who dislikes his job, telling you that you’re wasting his time. It’s so counterproductive. Sometimes, it’s kinda dangerous. I once saw this dude rush the doors at Kennedy Station. He almost made it. He was stuck in the straps of his teal knapsack, which was wedged between the doors, and had to wait until the train reached Warden for him to free himself. He looked like an ass. (Man, I wish I had a camera.) Just wait for the next train.

Honourable mentions:

Singing/Whistling/Loud music listening. These are my personal neuroses. But somedays I don’t want to hear any of it. In the case of loud music listening: I shouldn’t be able to know exactly what you’re listening to. Either get earphones that don’t leak or get your hearing checked. There’s nothing that’s going to be sadder than a generation of 30-somethings who can’t hear ’cause they punished their eardrums.

Farting. I know. Disgusting. But if you don’t want someone pulling the emergency alarm, either fart in your seat when you’re sitting down, or lean up against something. Don’t be holding a pole near bucket seats and think no one’s going to notice if you let one rip.

All that aside: I’m not actually saying that any of this will get you stabbed like the two poor dudes did in New York. But they literally were stabbed for no reason at all. They were minding their own business. I can’t think of what would be a good reason to stab someone. Can you?

So here’s my public service announcement: If someone asks you for your money, cellphone, whatever. Don’t fight them. Just give them what they want.

Unless you’re bigger than your attacker and think you can take him no problem. In that case … I don’t advise dudes high on machismo. You’re on your own, sucka.

An Ode to Calvin

As a suburban commuter who doesn’t let the subway schedule dictate my own, I rely on cabs to get me home.

Sometimes, I find it’s the cab driver who dictates whether the ride will be pleasant, or if I’ll be resigning myself to taking a nap in the back seat.

Commuting home from downtown the other night, I decided to catch a cab at the end of the subway line because the rapid transit I usually take home had finished its run for the night.

I plodded up the escalator and made my way along the queue of taxis to the one in front.

Usually, I never expect to get a particularly talkative cabbie. That night, I was in luck.

Calvin had to be one of the nicest cab drivers I’ve ever met. A 38-year-veteran, he’s a lot of things in his time. He even owned a part of the cab company he drives for, but decided to get rid of his share.

As I’m sure is the case with a lot of professions, some people at that stage would just tire of the same job and look forward to getting out. Not Calvin. I think he said he was semi-retired, but he still loves to drive, which is why he’s still in the business.

Even as his line of work seems to be getting more dangerous, he seems to take it in stride. He told me a story about this one passenger he picked up at a police station in the east end.

He was a young guy, Calvin said, whose parents own a popular West Indian restaurant. And the man seemed pretty cordial, very nice. He took him where he needed to go, but then the passenger asked him to wait as he stopped off somewhere, then got back in the cab and told him he needed to go to another destination.

He asked Calvin if he could have a smoke. Normally in a cab that wouldn’t be allowed, but Calvin obliged. It was only a short while before he noticed a change in the passenger’s behaviour. He started getting increasingly agitated, and just started giving Calvin all sorts of erratic directions. Turns out he’d been smoking crack and he was high and crazy.

Things came to a head when the guy lunged over the front seat and grabbed the steering wheel. Calvin managed to regain control of the car, and from what I can remember him telling me, he safely stopped the car and tossed the guy out.

As startled as he was, Calvin took a day off and was back on the road again. He even found the guy again and went to speak to him. For peace of mind, I think he said, and to make sure the guy was all right.

Despite that incident – and all the attacks on cabbies that have happened in recent months -Calvin says he’d never get a protective shield for his taxi. If that’s not unyielding faith in the goodness of complete strangers, I don’t know what is.

So one of these days or nights, if you ever take an East End taxi and happen to get a nice Trinidadian man who wears fingerless driving gloves, don’t ignore him. Have a chat with him – it’ll make your ride that much more worthwhile.

Well, dang.

So this morning, I’m on the University-Spadina subway to work, and I sleepily gaze over at someone reading one of the commuter dailies, when through my blurred vision, I see a really familiar face.

I wasn’t sure I was seeing it properly, so I grabbed a copy lying nearby and got a really good look.

Guess who’s staring back at me?

Well, dang, Wentworth.

You mean to tell me you rolled up into my hometown yesterday to promote my favourite show, and you couldn’t even holla at a sista? What’s THAT all about?

No, I’m serious. If you’re going to be my pretend TV boyfriend, the least you could do is dial a couple of digits. And NOT 9-1-1, neither. I don’t think I’m asking a whole lot and last time I checked, your fingers weren’t broken.

When you were up in your frou-frou VIP tent downtown and listening to the adoring throngs of squealing girls and women over at Massey Hall, know what I was doing? Just guess. No, go ahead. Guess. Don’t know? No? Give up?

Here’s an image for you, sweetie: Me. In my workout gear. Slumped over my HUGE knapsack. Sleeping on my long, lonely subway ride home. Slobbering on my own arm.

For someone my age, that’s neither attractive, nor funny. At ALL.

Do you know where I could’ve been? Down. TOWN. You could’ve prevented the aforementioned image of pity. The outcome could’ve been different. You let me down, dude.

Stop smirking! Stop it! You really have some nerve! I’m really beginning to think you’re playin’ games. You say you’re too busy to call, you can’t come and see me ’cause of your hectic schedule, and then next thing you know, you whisk through town.

Like I WASN’T going to notice. You didn’t think someone wasn’t going to take a picture? Seriously? You’re all over Just-friggin’-Jared-dot-com!

Oh n-no. Don’t you start gazing at me with that Blue Steel! Not this time. You’re not getting off that easy. The sleepy eyes and hint of a slow smile may work with all the other women, but not me. Nuh-uh. You know what you are? You’re a cad, a scoundrel who uses his good looks like a sexual weapon. You, sir are a … a … Ooooh!

You make me so mad I could just … I … I … I …


Okay, fine. FINE. I give up. I’m letting you off this time, mister. But next time, call.

Crazy people LOVE me

I’ve always believed I attract crazy people. Case in point:

While standing at my desk this morning, the phone rings.

It’s one of the security guards downstairs.

Not just any guard – it’s Dan. We’re on first-name relations. Why? ‘Cause the one person we both dread seeing has dropped by the building. For the fourth time. In three weeks.

It’s this middle-aged Korean lady who wanted me to find someone to do a story. She’s somehow here in the country illegally, because she tried to get from her native South Korea to the United States, but she says her immigration attempts were foiled by her country’s government.

What else? Ummm … she came up with this medicine, which she tried to get patented, but to no avail, because the Korean government interfered with that, too. And her secret serum somehow ended up in the hands of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners for Chemistry. (I barely know how to spell “chemistry” on my best days, let alone understand it.)

I’m sure some of you have sympathy for her. I did, too. At first. That was mainly because her English – spoken or written – wasn’t the best.

Then I found a colleague who speaks Korean – and has better judgement than me – to talk to her and translate.

She thinks everyone is conspiring against her. I’m not just talking about her homeland’s government. I mean, the U.S. Patent Office, and even her own family, who’s tried to put her in a mental institution. Twice. And disowned her.

She even gave me one week to get back to her and decide whether we can interview her. And I called her back earlier in the week and left a message at the place she was staying and said, “No interview.”

Apparently to her that translates to, “No interview today. Try again tomorrow.”

I even said to her face, “We can’t do this story. No interview. None.” I explained to her why. Or, at least I tried.

I’m waiting for the phone calls to start.

THAT was close.

Ever had someone threaten to storm or destroy your place of work?

No. I don’t mean in a crank-call-the-school-principal’s-office way. I mean, in an-Al-Qaeda-kill-lots-of-people way.

Well, it happened to me and my fellow employees yesterday.

The Coles Notes version (if you don’t want to read it here): Authorities arrested up 17 people last weekend, suspected of being part of a homegrown terrorist cell that was concocting an attack on the country. Over the next few days, they were corralled into court.

On Tuesday, during such proceedings, a lawyer for one of the suspects rattled off a litany of allegations by the Crown, including beheading the prime minister, and storming and/or destroying various buildings, ours included.

Most of this would have just left people shocked, speechless and just plain scared.

My response when I heard?

“Whoa! Our building was a target?!”

Imagine the above phrase inflected with a mix of incredulousness … and something closely resembling awe.

Even when I reached home, my parents asked me about it. And I still kinda brushed it aside.

My dad relayed what he’d heard. I was a bit nonplussed about it.

I repeated what I’d said earlier in the day to my mom.

“Target? Um, you could have been a hostage,” she replied.

So what’s shocking? What almost happened? Or how I reacted?

I mean, some of us at work were half-joking about it. To an outsider, I’m sure we’d be labelled a bunch of insensitive clods. But working where I do, I think being exposed to countless hours of radio and television desensitizes a person with time (at least, a little bit).

Pair that with the fact the plan was foiled before it was executed. Had someone actually made it to the front lobby of our building and some scuffle or takedown had ensued, perhaps it would have been different.

Frankly, I can’t speak for anyone else, but any attack since 9/11 has seemed completely surreal to me. Like some sort of a prolonged sort of shock or denial. Despite reading about it, or watching it, it’s like part of my brain thinks it’s some big elaborate … I don’t know, global play?

It’s not that I don’t think people attacking other innocent people is a horrible thing. It’s dastardly and the most gruesome, dispicable form of hate and cowardice imaginable.

Perhaps part of me is still holding on to tiny threads of the past, from The Time Before Everything Changed.

Or perhaps despite all this horrible stuff, I’m still optimistic about life and people.

Because for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I’m not more worried.

Someone please call 6-6-6 …

(Apologies to Wyclef and Mary J for the above title)

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (courtesy of Wikipedia):

A fear which originates in the belief that the Biblical verse, Revelation 13:18, indicates that the number 666 is linked to Satan or the Anti-Christ. Outside the Christian faith, the phobia has been further popularized as a leitmotif in various horror films.

Number one on my “To Do” list today is done.

Now all I have to do is walk under an open ladder while holding a black cat, open an umbrella indoors and break a mirror with the handle, and spill a shitload of salt without tossing any over my shoulder.

Cue the hail, frogs and locusts.