Days Off … or Not?

glasses-calendar.jpgA couple weekends ago, my mother was telling me about this radio talk show host she sometimes listens to while she’s in the kitchen, doing whatever.

On the particular Saturday afternoon she was listening, one of the topics being discussed was the issue of time off from work. No, not vacation time. The two days off per week a lot of us in the workforce are supposed to get from our respective jobs.

I forget exactly how this transpired, but the host asked the afternoon news announcer (my friend) about this.

The announcer explained that when she’s on her days off, she doesn’t answer her phone. Because who wants to be at home on his or her day off, making plans, only to have his/her phone ring and have his/her employer on the other end, basically asking him/her to forget everything he/she’d planned to do and come in to work instead?

The host decided to challenge her on this and ask her if she wouldn’t ever, ever work if her place of employment called her in to work.

She replied that her days off are exactly that – her days off

I know where my friend is coming from. She works in an environment where more than half the time, she gets called in to work on at least one of her days off.

But let her just try to arrange to have some time off later on down the road to visit family or take care of personal affairs. It’s this whole song-and-dance. Not to mention that for her, it makes just having a life outside of work frustrating.

The host thought differently. He basically said, if your boss calls you on your day off, why shouldn’t you go in? Besides, he added, he only worked at the station for two hours a week and if it were him, he would go in.

Imagine his surprise when he opened up the phone lines to callers to respond to the subject. Apparently they gave him a bit of a lambasting.

I suppose it depends on the job or profession. There are sometimes periods in a work week where you can’t avoid working overtime or on days normally scheduled “off”.

But isn’t there a saying about happy workers being productive ones? How does that work when employees are working at all hours, and there’s no regard or thought to giving them a couple days off to re-group, regenerate and just take care of business they can’t (or aren’t allowed to) handle outside of business hours?

I now open this up for comments. Discuss.

What’s Behind Door # 3?

As I mention repeatedly, I commute between my place of work downtown and my home (with my parents) in the suburbs. And I’m not going to lie – lately, it’s really been getting to me.

In January, I made moving out one of the things I wanted to accomplish on my yearly wish list.  

So I started scouring the MLS listings. I’d go through the weekend condo sections in my newspaper. I’d pick up those free condo guides … and the resale home guides. And I’d look. At the houses … and the prices. And I’d sigh.

And then I’d look at some of the online listings for rentals. And I’d look at the prices. And I’d sigh again.

Last week, it really stressed me out. 

I’d already been putting pressure on myself because of the declaration I made on New Year’s Eve. And the commutes as of late had been taking a toll. On top of that, my friends have constantly been saying, “You’re going to move out this summer.” Trying to make the case for renting. Adding to the pressure I’ve already been putting on myself.

This past week, it was almost too much. I was talking with a co-worker, who is always kind enough to give me a lift halfway home, and I just blurted out how tired I was and how I was thinking of just sucking it up and renting a place. Understandably, she said why that wasn’t a good idea. I almost had a meltdown in the van.

That was when she suggested I should really sit down and talk with someone with financial expertise, to try and figure something out.

So yesterday, that’s what I did. I went to see a mortgage broker to have some questions answered, and finally get some hard numbers to determine if I could make goal # 6 happen this year, once and for all. 

The good news? I have awesome credit.

The not-so-good news? I cannot buy this year.

And the not-much-better-news: I could move out. But if I did, I’d probably be paying the equivalent of the mortgage I can not yet afford. And do I really want to move out, only to move back home six months from now because I can’t afford rent, utilities, food, etc.?

Friends – do you know what’s more “humiliating” than living at home with parents at the age of 31? Moving out because the pressure is too great, and then moving back home within a year because I can’t manage my money and pay the bills.

There is nothing wrong with renting. I went away to school, and although for shorter periods of time, I’ve lived in three apartments in two cities. (It was also cheaper than it is here in Toronto.)

But moving into an apartment, when I’m stressed and frustrated, would probably be the worst decision for me to make right now. I’d be even more frustrated and constantly worried.

(And it doesn’t matter how money you make. There are people out there with salaries in the high-five-figures, even six figures, who are practically bankrupt because they’re financially irresponsible. Moving out and renting will not instantly make me fiscally responsible. You have to be like that going in. If you’re not really good with money going in, that’s not going to immediately reverse itself when you get yourself a landlord.)

The mortgage broker did suggest one other option, one I’ve been staunchly opposed to: 

Learn to drive. Buy a car.

Anyone who knows me knows that I haaaaate driving.

I am the person who did not wake up on her 16th birthday and run out to the Ministry of Transportation to write the learner’s permit test for her 365.

I am also the person who, when everyone found out about the impending graduated licensing program in 1994 and ran out to get their full licenses before the deadline, didn’t bother to run with the crowd. 

Oh yeah – did I also mention that I’m the person who (a) failed her computerized testing once before getting her G1, (b) waited until almost a month before said G1 expired to take the exit test and passed by the skin of her teeth, (c) did the same thing almost three summers ago, went to take her G2 exit test, only to fail, and then by the same stroke of luck got the exact same examiner on her second attempt, and really failed?

That is the history between me and driving. Since my spectacular, humiliating failure, I’ve never again gotten behind the steering wheel.

However my pride is starting to make me pay.

Actually it started last year, when I kept looking at my expired licence (which still can be used as ID, so long as the Ministry of Transportation lovingly affixes a “official ID only” sticker onto the card before they hand it back to you). Back then, I was still getting by as a pedestrian. But that sticker was getting on my last nerve. So I thought, maybe I’ll just get a new one, just in case I do decide to give this driving thing another go.

So last June, I read my old-and-falling apart driver’s handbook, took a couple buses down to the Ministry, did my multiple-choice written test (they’re back to pencils and paper, folks) and got my ID. I thought that would do for now.

But in the last six months, Life decided to up the ante.

The number of transportation situations in which I’ve ended up saying to myself, “I could have avoided this, if I had a car”, have been multiplying. Transit that doesn’t work. Friends having functions in suburbs I never travel to.

And it’s really annoying me big-time.

Okay, people who have been saying to me, “learn to drive” … you were right. Okay? You were right. Consider this the first and last time you read me saying this, because it won’t happen again for a long time.

(I guess the only silver lining from failing my driving tests is that I wouldn’t have to wait a year to take my G1 exit test.) 

I’m still not entirely convinced yet that buying a car will be the remedy to the situation.

Amid all these thoughts swimming in my head, I’ve been reminded of the conversation a couple weekends back that I was having with a  pro-renting friend. She told me about friends who, like me, were also saying that they’d stay home and save money, until they could buy. And she said something to the effect of:

“They say that. But where’s the money going? It has to be going somewhere.”

That’s what I have to figure out. This is what is fueling my frustrating decision.

So in the meantime, I now have to set my goal and develop my plan. Crunch some numbers. Then take a deep breath … 

And suck it the hell up. 

Pistachio Etiquette

 pistachios2.jpg

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking through the halls at work and came upon three co-workers sitting in one of the common areas.

One of them – a friend named Errol – was picking through this container of nuts.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Trying to find some pistachos,” he explained.

“So are those communal nuts?”

“They were – or at least, I thought so, ” he said. “But someone ate most of them and then put the empty shells back into the container.”

“I don’t see what the problem is, ” said Al, Errol’s co-worker, who sat to his right.

“But why would someone do that? You eat the nuts, you throw the shells away, ” I said. “That’s just not right.”

“I know,” said Errol. “And now you have to hunt for them, but you might just end up with empty shells.”

I think they were all kidding around. But seriously, folks. Isn’t that a bit lazy and uncouth not to just throw the empty shells away? Who wants to work to eat some nuts?

Discuss among yourselves what the proper etiquette is (and comment if you like) …

But as someone who considers herself a lazy non-forager who doesn’t like going far distances for food …

Eat the nuts, then toss the shells.

I’m just sayin’.

Loquacious High Five, Buster Martin!

buster1.jpgHe smokes like a chimney … drinks like a fish …

And is training to run in the London Marathon.

Oh, and he’s 101 years old.

Say hello to my new boyfriend, Buster Martin.

Yes, you people across the pond (and some on this side, too) probably know all about him. But I was introduced to him only today, through the wonderful medium that is television. And I now wonder where he has been all my life.

At a time in my life when I grunt as I rise from a sitting position on the floor, Buster is running, doing his stretches and working out at his local gym.

When I’m groaning about getting out of bed, he’s already gotten up after a few hours’ sleep and is hard at work, washing the company vans. (Did I forget to mention he’s Britain’s oldest employee?)

I believe he already holds records for the oldest runner to complete a 5k, 10k and half- marathon (feel free to check and correct me).

Other fabulous facts about Buster:

Do you need more proof of his incredible awesomeness? Um, okay:

Buster. Martin. Recycles. Le siiiiigh.

Buster, no mas! You have stolen my heart and ruined me for other men. I now feel the need to make a T-shirt to declare my feelings for you.

In the meantime, the rest of you people that know nothing about this man can read more about him here.

*triple smaaaaack*

Lumpy Ladies Like Wrap Dresses, Too

Dear Esprit,

Let me just say, I do like your store very much.

But I had a problem which I hope you could one day address.

A few nights ago, I was in one of your stores downtown, desperately in need of a little retail therapy after a long week.

As I eyed rack after rack of stylish blouses, tees and skirts, I thought to myself, I must try and find myself a cute little wrap dress. Because frankly Esprit, I’d been feeling a little frumpy as of late.

So I went to your new collection and saw this one little number in burnt orange.

Orange! Ooooh! I LOVE orange. And I thought I just might be able to pull it off.

Not really knowing what size I might be, I pulled what was probably a medium or a large off the rack. Because your sizes tend to be, shall we say, a bit petite.

So I went in and tried it on. When I came out of the dressing room to face the mirror directly in front of me … well, I wasn’t pleased.

No, it wasn’t the neckline. Or the pinched pleating around my shoulders. It was – well, the dress. Forget anxiety about visible panty line – try visible wrap-dress line. And that was only one of the problems.

The sales associate helping me voiced what I was thinking, but was also kind enough to suggest that maybe I just needed to try it again in a smaller size.

So I repeated my changeroom exercise and came back out. Still. Not. Right.

I felt like a dude with a boxy physique trying to find a sassy outfit for his cross-dressing night out on the town. Or Halloween.

This brings me to my question:

Seriously, do you just design for 22-year-old, flat-bummed, no-hipped Asian girls or what? (No offense to flat-bummed, no-hipped Asian girls.)

I may not be 22 (although if I tried hard enough, I’m sure I could pass for 25). And I may not be flat on all sides. But why should I be denied a nice, head-turning wrap dress?

Sure, the sales associate was, again, gracious enough to find me another dress in another style. But it was brown and made me look like Mary Poppins with a camisole.

(And another thing: Who wears brown in the spring?? And I’m already brown. The last time I wore a brown dress, I was a Brownie.)

So please, Esprit. I’ve seen the models you use in your online shops – they could be my age, so I know you don’t just cater to the kids. But show those of us with the lumpy lady bits some love with your stretch and rayon numbers. We need a little retail love, too.

Sincerely,

Loquacious D

Loquacious High Five, Doraemon!

doraemon2.jpgSo the following is getting my High Five of the week, partially because it’s kind of cool, but mostly because it’s just more evidence the Japanese are crazy …

And every once in a while, I think even crazy should get its due.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – in an effort to educate the world about Japanese culture, lifestyle, customs, and anime cartoons – created a special “anime ambassador” post.

And whom did they appoint?

Well, it wasn’t really “whom”, technically …

But Doraemon – a robotic cat which has been a cultural icon since “his” creation almost 40 years ago – has been tapped for the job, to spread the word about anime and, by extension, understanding Japanese culture, as well as access to all the red-bean pancakes he can eat.

Honestly, how many cartoons have YOU heard of, getting plumb government posts like that?

*sigh*

Y’know, maybe I’m taking the wrong approach with my career. Perhaps what I should be doing is getting someone to make an anime cartoon about me, so that I can become a cultural staple, and then eventually score a prestigious job.

But really, I can’t top this. Can anyone?

Well played, Doraemon.

*smack* 

“Start the Car!”

If you watch way too much television as I do, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I’m not sure if this aired anywhere but Canada, but do you remember this IKEA commercial?

I think I got my first “Start the Car!” moment (as a friend of mine recently described it) today.

I went to Wal-Mart early this afternoon, searching for cheap fabric to make a last-minute costume for this party I’m going to tonight. So I’m rummaging around in the $1.77 bin, and I see this “Christmas Cotton” fabric – which doesn’t really look like it, unless you’re staring at the pattern long enough to think, “Oh, candy canes.”

I finally found a salesperson (who just happened to be passing by on the way to the garbage, when she noticed about 10 people milling about, looking for help) to cut me five metres of the stuff (don’t ask – long story). So the harried woman cut me the fabric and then scanned the barcode so she could staple a receipt for me to take to the cashier.

She then proceeded to tell me the fabric was not $1.77 per metre, despite it sitting in the $1.77 bin. Rather, it was something ridiculous, like $5.96 a metre. I said, “But it was sitting in the $1.77 bin.” She replied that maybe someone had put it there by mistake.

Sigh.

I’d been in the fabric department for something like 20 minutes looking for fabric so I could get the hell out of there and get home to work on this outfit. She asked me if I still wanted it, so I stupidly panicked and said, “Okay.”

Then I asked, “So what’s that, like, $25?” Um, no. Try $29.80.

It was right about at that moment when I felt like a big, sweaty chump whose friends probably paid a third of what she paid for fabric they’ll all only wear maybe once.

I was in a bit of a daze for a few minutes after that. An older sales clerk had just come over to the fabrics department to hang around for any potential customers. I went up to her and said, “I know this is a dumb question, but, um, once you cut the fabric, I have to buy it now, right?”

She nodded, probably looking at me and thinking, “What a moron.”

So I sighed, decided to cut my losses, grabbed some decorative flowers, and I sullenly made my way to the cash register. The school-aged cashier took my purchases and scanned them …

And while I pulled two $20 bills out of my wallet, he replied, “That’ll be $10.64.”

Still a bit dazed and trying not to look surprised, I handed him a $20 while simultaneously thinking, “WTF?”, got my change and left.

At first, I thought, Ten sixty-four! Eff YOU, Wal-Mart!

Then I thought, nah, that’s not right. There must be a mistake, and looked at my receipt. It said the material was $1.49 a metre, not the almost $6 I was quoted.

And then I was almost like, maybe I should tell the cashier there was a mistake

Except it was then I realized: the cashier didn’t punch in anything – he just scanned the barcode that was on the receipt.

I think under normal circumstances I’m an honest person. But after thinking I was getting robbed because I was going to have to fork almost $30 for fabric, I paid what the cashier – and the barcode – said I owed them.

As I strode farther away from Wal-Mart, all I could think was:

“Start the car, bitch. Start the car.”