Ruled by Cards

It’s been said that things like clothes or personal opinions can say a lot about a person.

I am a believer in some of those things. But I also think you can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their wallet.

And based on this logic, I have a problem with being able to say no.

Case in point:

Thursday morning before work, I went to the card store to pick up some cards for those two weddings I’m attending in about a month, as well as a birthday card.

The place was empty, so I luckily didn’t have to wait in line. As the cashier/saleswoman told me the total, she piped up, “If you buy six cards, you get three free …”

Are you kidding? I thought. I said, “No, I can’t think of anyone else I need to get cards for at this point. Thanks.”

She then swiftly asked, “Do you have a Card Club card?” I said no. “Would you like one?” she continued, and then made her spiel on the free rewards I could get with the card.

And for some reason, I didn’t say no. I figured it was easier to say yes, because I didn’t want to be late for work. But that logic didn’t seem to sit with me as I filled out the form with information she’d later put into the system.

As I left the store I thought, suckered again! Like I need another card.

Come to think of it, I’m beginning to wonder if I have a card for EVERYTHING. Everytime I go to the cash register at the store, I feel as if I spend more time fishing around in my wallet to find my Air Miles card than I do finding the $20 to pay for my purchase. 

Since that happened, I’ve wondered exactly how many cards I have.

And after emptying my wallet in the last 15 minutes, the answer’s apparently 22. 

Six are actually essential and worth using – credit cards, social insurance, health card, bank card, driver’s license.

One’s a library card. Another’s my union card (which I never really look at anyway).

One’s my Starbucks “debit” card. (For cookie-related emergencies only … which have been happening more frequently as of late. Don’t judge me.)

Yet another is a games card for Jack Astor’s, which I think I may have last used several years ago.

Four are membership cards, although one is for a store.

And the rest, believe it are not, are points cards. You know. The Aeroplan card. Air Miles card. The Body Shop card. Staples card.

And now this one.

Twenty-two cards? Who has that many in their wallet?

I think I’m letting plastic rule my life. I am a card-aholic. And I think I might need help.

Maybe there’s a Cardholders Anonymous group out there for people like me. ‘Cause this is gettin’ scary.

Portrait of a Strike

“You folks taking the TTC?” asked the server at the pub my friends and I had just finished eating at. We’d been sitting around waiting for him to return my friend Morgan’s credit card.

“Yeah,” said my friend Christine. “Why?”

“TTC’s going on strike as of midnight.”

“What?” I said in a semi fatigue-and-cider-induced haze. “Are you kidding?’ (I’m sure there was a cuss word in there somewhere.)

“I just heard it on the news. They’re shutting down the subway at midnight.”

I looked at my oh-so-stylish plastic Casio. The time read 11:22.

Aw, HELL no.

I’d just begun a really decent Friday night after surviving a stressful work week. I’d gone to the Eaton Centre for some retail therapy. Met my friends for dinner.

And now this.

We quickly made our way to Queen subway station. While waiting for the next train northbound to Bloor, I truly couldn’t believe what the server at the pub had been so kind to tell us. So I went up to the burly guy in the ticket booth and asked: “Is it true the TTC’s going on strike?”

“Yeah, it’s true,” he said. “I just found out myself.”

Essentially he went on to tell me the deal (which union boss Bob Kinnear had proudly announced earlier in the week – prematurely, as it turns out) wasn’t as good as everyone had been led to believe. And he apologized, albeit half-heartedly.

My friends and I made it to Bloor, went down a floor to the Yonge station platform and parted ways as the subway to Kipling arrived. An eastbound train arrived for me just a couple minutes later.

I was a bit concerned about how far I’d get, because the train stopped longer than usual at a couple of stops along the way. But as luck would have it, the train pulled into Kennedy Station in the opening minutes of the strike.

I made a hurried dash up the stairs, down the hall, through the turnstile and up the escalator to the taxi stand running parallel to the Eglinton Ave. bridge.

Wishful thinking. Not a cab in sight. Obviously. And at least 30 or 40 people standing around on either side of the street waiting for cabs as empty buses – with “Sorry … OUT OF SERVICE” blazing in harsh, flourescent orange lettering on their electronic signage – drove past.

Chaos looked ready to ensue.

I looked around, realized what I was up against and called my father.

While I waited, I could do nothing but listen to my iPod and take in the scene around me.

A young woman in braids was in the lone phone booth behind me, talking on the phone while an older black man said in a loud voice, “Hey, hurry up! People need to use the phone! There’s a strike on!”

A small huddle of high school kids loitered on the small patch of grass, joking around – and probably trying to figure out how the hell they were getting home.

A white woman carrying plastic grocery bags – one of the last people to surface before they locked the glass doors – came up the escalator, walked towards the empty taxi stand. Within minutes, a cab arrived. She walked over, and slowly got in, amid the protests of a couple of black women who, it seems, had called for a cab. They also got in and drove off.

A woman in a dark jacket came up to me, asking if I was waiting for a ride. I said yes, because of the cab situation. I guess she’d been hoping to share one with me. I said no and wished her good luck. Didn’t care. She’d already turned away.

I heard a loud bang behind me. A young guy in a hoodie standing with his back to the glass door entrance to the subway, had kicked one of the panes. He skulked away, revealing the web-like fracture in the glass.

A group of kids had given up on finding transportation, crossed the road, walked up the hill and were climbing over the low guardrail lining the Eglinton Ave. bridge, to start taking their long walk home.

The whole scene was an eerie cross between the blackout from several years ago, and the equivalent of being at the airport after going through customs and collecting your luggage, and making your way into reception, searching for your loved ones or friends to come greet you and take you home.

Some minutes and one narrowly-missed cell phone call later, my dad arrived to my rescue and we were on our way home. And I was one of the luckier ones.

My dad couldn’t believe it. He didn’t even know there was a strike on until I’d called him.

He wasn’t enraged, but he was disappointed. Unlike a lot of people’s dads, mine used to work for TTC. Not as a driver, who most passengers blame for this situation, but as a mechanic and engine builder at one of the commission’s garages.

He didn’t think some of the union’s demands at the negotiation table were completely unreasonable. And when the union announced days ago that they wouldn’t strike, he was probably as relieved in his mind as the rest of us.

However, he voiced his displeasure at the way the TTC stranded thousands of people out on a Friday night, without providing a way for them to get home safely. The very least they could have done, he said, was finish their shifts and then officially start the strike Saturday morning.

His sentiment was echoed by TTC workers who’d called in to late-night talk shows to extend their sympathies to stranded passengers.

He also doesn’t think that the entire union – made up of some 9,000 people, NOT ALL bus, streetcar and subway operators, by the way – just decided to wilfully screw 1.5 million people over, as many reliant on TTC, in their ire, would like to believe.

Between what my father said last night, and what I’ve hearing this morning, the main group within the union with the biggest beef over the deal that was to be ratified were the maintenance workers – particularly with the issue of contracting out their work.

Apparently they weren’t particularly happy with what the union reps at the negotiation table were accepting. So it sounds like they decided to use their trump card and call on their fellow union brothers and sisters to send the union negotation team a message. After all, the maintenance workers supported the other TTC workers in strikes gone by. It was time to return the favour, no? Or so the scenario goes. Of course, this could be complete hearsay.

Personally, I’m torn on the issue. My dad’s a retired TTC worker. I myself am part of a union, in a different industry. People should, in theory, be able to fight for the right to fair working conditions and compensation if they are injured, or worse.

But I find this current situation deplorable. Passengers like me who rely on TTC as the primary mode of transport, have now been taken hostage and are being made to suffer. Make no mistake – if there were any passengers who respected TTC workers, that respect evaporated just after 11 p.m. last night when we were all given absolutely no notice.

And the saddest part?

As hard as this might be for some people to believe, not all of those workers are scum. There are TTC employees who are not only sympathetic to the passengers being left in the lurch, but who are also angry at the fashion in which this thing has been handled.

But when this thing is settled and the ink dries, they’ll be the ones on the first day back who’ll take abuse by people who think every single worker is scum, who truly believes these guys deserve to be spat on, kicked, and generally disrespected.

Take note. ‘Cause this could get nasty.

Under the Weather … During Great Weather

Talk about getting a payback from Karma.

ALL WEEK I’d been looking forward to today – Friday – which I had asked to have off from work. I was planning to ride the bus up to Ottawa to see my friend Melissa. And the added bonus was going to be the spectacular weather we’ve been having today in the city.

But then my dad got sick.

No big deal, right? Nope.

By Wednesday the cold had been spread to my mom – who NEVER gets sick. By Thursday, she was confined to her bed with a whopping headache and vomiting, among other things. My brother also came down with something. And when I’d gotten up that morning, I had a really dry throat and an itchy ear – not a good sign. So during my travels to the gym, I stopped off at the drug store and got probably the only bottle of Cold FX left on the shelf that was under $30.

End of story, right? Wrong.

Apparenly the regular-strength stuff doesn’t work. So when I got up at 5:30 this morning, my scratchy throat had gotten worse, and I was beginning to get a little stuffy.

So while everyone has been out in droves all over the place today in shirt-sleeves and skirts, at work, on patios, biking, whatever – I’ve been trapped in my house in my pyjama bottoms instead of in Ottawa with my friend, and probably going to a housewarming party right about now.

(Or – if I wasn’t planning to go to Ottawa – I’d be with my posse downtown, preparing to partake in some April antics.)

What a way to start off the first fantastic day so far this spring.

*sigh*

Okay, whine-fest over. If I have the motivation, I’ll try and post some more over the weekend.

The Art of Brunch

Unlike Friday night, I have to say that today was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve been re-introduced to the Sunday past-time that is brunch.

An old schoolmate moved to town a couple months ago, and last week she sent me an invitation to come out to a new breakfast/brunch club she created, to check out the morning restaurant scene and hang out with the motley crew of people she happened to know from around the city.

I’m not normally one to get up before 10 a.m. on Sundays unless absolutely necessary. But in this case, I made an exception. (Hi? It’s food. When would I EVER turn down food?)

So I rolled myself out of bed, (then sometime later) out of the house into the crisp, bright outdoors, and (after taking a bus and “rapid transit” – only rapid on Sundays) onto the subway for some midday noshing downtown.

I was the first to arrive at the restaurant, so I left and went two doors down to a clothing store to kill a few minutes. Then I returned and went in to grab a spot.

The second brunch participant showed up. Only I wasn’t sure he was one. But I thought he might be, since he was did the exact same thing I did upon my arrival. He didn’t stay long.

A few minutes later a young woman entered, scouring the restaurant in the same way the previous guy did. She exited the restaurant, but stood just outside the front door, talking on her cell phone.

Something in me sensed she was one of the group, so I got up, popped my head out the front door and said, “‘Scuse me. I don’t mean to be weird and random, but are you here for the brunch club?”

“Yes!” she said, asking me if I was a friend. I nodded.

“I got here first, so I grabbed us some seats,” I said. We went inside and so it began.

My friend arrived within 10 minutes, and soon the rest of the group appeared, including the guy who originally showed up after me.

Now, it’s not like i’ve never done brunch before. But unless you know where to find good greasy spoons in suburbia, it’s usually limited to fairly-well-known chain restaurants, where you know there’s going to be a late-morning menu, in addition to lunch. A small group of friends and I used to go to brunch. But we’d go during what would be considered lunchtime, and for some reason it would last three hours.

But downtown brunches are different.

(1) You’re almost guaranteed to find a place to eat that’s not a franchise joint. And that’s the beauty of it.

(2) I also like meeting people who I’ve never met before. It’s the perfect venue. Old classmates aside, our group of seven was great – creative, and very funny. Everyone seemed to feed off each other.

(3) It didn’t last all afternoon. But today was only the inaugural meeting. The brunches to come could be different. And maybe it’ll depend on the size of the group and the venue. But for today, the length of time was perfect.

I can’t say that the wait staff at this place was top-notch, though. Our waitress was actually a bit cold to us. And when my friend mustered up the nerve to ask her if she could take a picture of the group, she was like, “Oh, I’m too busy right now. But I’ll get our dishwasher to come out.”

The dishwasher was way cooler about it. (Can’t win ’em all, right?)

When we all parted ways, the afternoon was still young and I had a bit of a spring in my step, instead of the dread tucked away behind my pancreas that, seems to migrate via osmosis to the pit of my stomach every Sunday afternoon. I was actually in a really good mood. And it was nice not to be at home in my pyjamas in front of the TV, for a change.

Maybe my new membership into the breakfast club won’t just be about food and good company. Maybe it’ll stir the creativity and motivation within me, that I seem to have been sitting on for so long. And maybe it’ll help give me the boost I need before the start of every work week.

Proactivity and pancakes. What a delicious thought.

(Image above courtesy of The food pornographer.)

One Night In Ajax (Or, How NOT to Throw A Birthday Dinner)

So for the first time in ages, I completely wasted Friday night.

After a hellish week at work, I left as quickly as possible, to meet my friend so she could drive us to Ajax for a friend’s surprise birthday dinner “organized” by his wife.

I put the term “organized” in quotations, because when she sent us an e-mail last Friday to invite us to her husband’s birthday, she mentioned

  • the date
  • the time we’d be having dinner and
  • the name of the restaurant (misspelled), in Ajax. Period.

To be fair, we didn’t think we’d make it, so we e-mailed her to let her know. However, when plans changed, we e-mailed her immediately – 32 hours before the event – to let her know we could make it.

My friend gave me the task of getting directions to the place. It took me about 9 or 10 tries on Google to try and find something with the restaurant’s name, because our friend never gave us an address.

I printed out my Google maps and placed them aside from the work-related mess on my desk, so I wouldn’t lose them and, because it was the kind of day I was having, I promptly forgot them on my desk when I fled the building for the subway. Luckily I remembered the streets in question, and managed to locate them in my friend’s Perly’s map book.

We drove through rain, and in between crazy truckers and equally crazy motorists to get there.

After going the wrong way once in Ajax – and me getting smacked in the eye for messing up the one job my friend trusted me with – we found the restaurant our friend was having his dinner.

Or so we thought.

We walked in and no looked around. There was a birthday party, all right. Not our friend’s though. It was the 50th birthday for this guy who had a similar sounding name. We asked the guy in charge of the crappy music whether our friend was there. He couldn’t help us. Neither could the hostess in charge.

We decided to try and find a phonebook to check if there were any other restaurants with similar names in Ajax. The same hostess didn’t seem to have one (since they stopped printing phonebooks SO LONG AGO). We went to the nearby Dairy Queen, where surprise! they DID have one. We scanned it. Nope. No similarly-named establishments.

Then we decided it was time to try calling our friend. Except for one minor issue: neither of us had her current number. Nor did she supply one in her invitation e-mail. We quickly checked the phonebook on hand, but with no luck.

So: no address given. No contact phone number in case anything happened and we needed to locate her.

Huh.

My friend and I checked the restaurant one last time, a little perplexed. We left, crossed the plaza parking lot, and checked the pool hall on the far side of the complex.

No sign.

Huh.

So we went to Applejack’s, had a burger and club sandwich, got in the car and went home.

About a half-hour later, I wrote my friend an e-mail. I’ll be intrigued with read her response to what happened.

Perhaps I’m insensitive with what I’m about to say …

But if I didn’t know better, I’d say that the planning behind that party was the shittiest ever.

When one organizes an event and invites friends of the guest of honour to attend, isn’t it common sense to include vital information that would assist would-be guests in attending said event?

And if one plans and event and has to change venues at the last minute, wouldn’t it also be common sense to inform potential guests of the change so that they act accordingly, especially those travelling from a distance?

At least, that’s what we do where I come from. And by “where I come from”, I mean Planet Earth.

Perhaps I’m being waaaaay too harsh and she just didn’t check her e-mail. In which case, she might get a pass. 

But if that wasn’t the case …

The next time she organizes a party and invites me, I’m might have a “reason” I’m not attending, and I’ll give her as much information about my non-attendance, as she did about this party.

Peeved Post-script: After the trek to Nowhere, my friend and I e-mailed her separately to find out what happened. I received her response the following Monday morning. Apparently when they called to reserve, they found out the place in Ajax already had a birthday party reserved there. So they moved the party to Pickering instead. Mmmmm. Special.

The Quest for Wellies

April showers bring May flowers.

Or so the saying goes.

This year, I want to add a new accessory to my rainy-day arsenal.

Rain boots.

That’s right. Wellies. Galoshes. Gum boots.

And not plain old black or yellow ones, either. Girly ones with good treads, a little heel and a kick-ass pattern.

Weird that a grown woman wants rain boots? But, no. Because I’ve seen other women my age taking on wet pavements, dirty residual snow and muddy patches while being able to look cute doing it.

And it’s causing me to break the Tenth Commandment.

So to fix this matter and right myself as a person, I’m on a quest to silence the little sinner in me by finding my own pair of cute wellies – not just for style’s sake, but to save the grotty pairs of street shoes I own from ruin by rain.

Last week, I took an informal survey of friends on The Facebook of where I could find said rubber beauties, and have been scouting ’round ever since.

No luck, so far. Sears and the Bay sell them, but for between $50 and $60 a pair.

(Um, NO. They’re for rain, not the next flood.)

Payless doesn’t sell them in Canada. (What? Apparently useful footwear isn’t a big seller?)

Wal-Mart’s selection in patterns is shitty and smelly. Urban Outfitters doesn’t sell them in their stores (only online). Neither does H & M. Nor the Gap. Not even Aldo or Town Shoes. Or Soft Moc.

I even went to Mark’s Work Wearhouse and the Canadian Tire downtown. The former has yellow boots with turtles or blue ones with anchors on them for $40. The latter’s cute baby blue model- complete with useless strap on the outside – only came in size 7s. All eight pairs of them sitting on the shelf.

(I can only imagine who decided to order overstock in size sevens … “Yeah, Herb – can we make sure we get nineteen pairs of size 7 boots? We had a bunch of Stepford Wives in here the other day when we were understocked – and it wasn’t pretty.”) 

Which brings me to where I am now. I am still wellie-less and this close to calling upon the Almighty Target‘s online Web site to deliver me a pair, even though I can’t even try them on to make sure they’re the right size until I get them in the mail.

Why? Because they have 80 pairs of boots, in almost every style imaginable. EIGHTY.

I didn’t even know they had a monopoly on the rain boot market. Or that THAT many American girls and women are running around wearing cute rain boots.

… There I go coveting again. That’s gotta stop.

In the meantime, if anyone’s got any new suggestions for where to shop – that might involve me actually being able to try some rain boots on – I’d appreciate it. Fire away.

Update: I did finally find a pair of rainboots  last November. I had to resign myself to paying more for them than I originally planned. But damn, if they’re not cute.

The Business of Bridal Registries

It’s that time of year again.

Not spring. Wedding season.

I recently got my first two invites of the season. 

And as I usually do, I’ve immediately started worrying about three things (somewhere before or during sending my RSVP to the happy couple-to-be:):

  • How I’m getting there (and where I’m staying, if I have to stay overnight)
  • What I’m going to wear (and whether I get a new outfit, so as not to recycle outfits or risk wearing the same thing to both weddings)
  • What I’m going to get the blushing brides as gifts.

Issue 1, I’ve already been working on and is partly resolved. Issue 2, I usually don’t worry about until about a week beforehand. (Although maybe this year, I should probably get that squared away as far in advance as possible.)

But Issue 3? It never ceases to amaze me how crazy this can become.

Last year, I gave cash gifts to all the couples whose weddings/receptions I attended. But I kind of wanted to change it up this year. So I thought I’d give the registries a try (since I don’t have time to crochet them all afghans and wedding doilies 😛 ).

You’d think it’s pretty simple, right? Just get a copy of the bridal registries at whichever stores my aforementioned friends are registered at, look at it and pick something.

That’s the easy part, in my opinion.

Last Saturday, while at the mall, I thought I’d start thinking about gifts for at least one of my friends. So off I trudged to one store and located the registry kiosk. After a few tries, the machine spit out the registry list. Then I strode to the other store, up three floors and picked up the list from the other kiosk.

Then I actually looked at both lists. 

Holy. Crap.

Does anyone else but me think that $50 for a muffin pan is a bit steep? Or that $80 for a toaster is a touch insane?

Maybe it’s the age we’re living in. Or a miserly old woman is squatting inside my body.  

But this bridal registry business in general is, like, a total cash cow for the bride. There is definitely the potential to clean up, but large.

No offense. I’m sure a lot of brides are quite reasonable when picking items. And my friend is a fantastic person. It’s her special day – on top of which she’s moving out of the country sometime this summer. (My other question: how is she going to move all this stuff?)

But that’s crazy.

I have to get her a decent bridal shower gift and a wedding present. I just don’t want to get her pot-holders and a spatula for $25. That’s not fair to her.

But here’s the thing: When you’re part of a couple attending a wedding, getting a gift is no problem, ’cause you’re splitting the price.

When you’re a single guest who’s pretty sure she’s going solo on everything for the special day – including transportation between events, and possibly overnight accommodation -and when you go to a department store, print out the registry list, and notice there’s, like, salt and pepper shakers for $30 apiece?  It might make you blink. Hard.

My other friend – who’s registered elsewhere – decided on one store, and to keep the list small, since she and hubby-to-be will probably be moving in the months ahead (not out of the country), and wanted to keep gift storing and moving to a minimum, for spatial purposes. Her list seems fairly reasonable. I just want to make sure I can her the gift I want to get her, before someone else does!

This wedding business is certainly not for the faint of heart. I’m taking mental notes in case I ever have to go through this.