Fool Me Twice?

Saturday morning at work, as I was getting settled in for the long day ahead, I checked my personal e-mail.

(It’s a day later, and I’m still wondering whether that was a mistake.)

In my inbox was the name of someone I was hoping not to hear from for a long time.

Over four-and-a-half-years ago, I had the (mis)fortune of meeting someone I’ve referred to on this blog as Shakespeare (because he’s a poet in real-life). Today from here on in, I’ll refer to him as “A”.

The meeting was completely random. I was leaving work; “A” was trying to find an optical for his glasses. He stopped me, and I tried to help him find his way.

And in the process, I suppose, he was trying to find something beyond my genuine attempts to be helpful.

Probably against my better judgment, I gave him my phone number when he asked. I was trying to be more open-minded towards people … ignoring the invisible red flag, furiously waving in the process.

What an awkward “relationship”, for lack of a better word. Requests for photos, multiple e-mails, instant messages, and always wanting to meet up when he was in town from Ottawa.

To me, it was never romantic. I was trying to keep it an arms-length friendship until I felt comfortable. To “A”, I suppose, he was trying to make it more than that.

He told me in his academic, flowery way that he wanted to pursue something. I didn’t get it at first. When he told me again, I said no, not really.

Our encounters were, thankfully, sparse. But I think I still had this nagging feeling whenever he wanted to meet. I even once invited a friend along to a hang-out, so I could get her read on things. Of all the times we did meet, I think only one didn’t feel so uncomfortable.

In my recollections, things came to a head when, one evening in June 2007, “A” wanted to meet for dinner after going to some literary event. Me, like the nice person (and likely sucker) I am, I agreed.

When the appointed meeting time rolled around, I called, and asked if he was running late. He was still at the event. Could we meet in about 45 minutes?

I ended up calling him again, and waited almost another hour (roughly 90 minutes in total) for him to show up.

A more sensible person would have bid him adieu after an hour. But no, I (the doormat) was a woman of my word. He wanted to meet. And I didn’t want to reschedule.

My mood was sour, and “A’s” was, I guess, somewhat jovial. When he said something that I found completely strange, I – peeved at having to wait, generally uncomfortable at this whole situation, and not really knowing how to properly handle it because I’m socially inept – blew up at him, and told him I didn’t have feelings for him, and never would. He called me conceited, and played it off like he wasn’t interested.

To this day, I don’t fully believe him.

Since then, I’d get occasional e-mails from him, but I kept my answers short.

The last time he was in town – and, coincidentally, in my place of business, maybe a year or two ago – he called me and asked if I could grab a coffee. I said I was busy.

This epic background explanation is what brings me to Saturday’s e-mail.

“We have not been in touch for a while,” it began. “Did you travel, or move up on the career ladder as you always wanted?”

He went on to ask about a friend of mine he’d once met, asked for my number, gave me his, and concluded the e-mail by writing, “My phD (sic) is about done. I think in march. Then i can take a holiday in Toronto, and we can hang out if you re free.”

And here’s where I’m divided over what to do next.

On one hand, it’s been over four-and-a-half-years. I’m older. So’s he (although he was older than me to begin with). And while it’s still hard for me to just come out and say things, I’d like to think I’d be able to handle things slightly better than I did the last time.

And perhaps, although people can become set in their ways, in some aspects, they can change. Maybe I can put what happened aside once and for all, and I can meet up with him once to see if we can finally relate to each other, as people, as is.

On the other hand, just because one forgives, doesn’t necessarily means one forgets. And I haven’t forgotten. I allowed an unsure, unclear interpersonal relationship to transpire. And it was AWKWARD. And I blame myself for that. Plus, this guy no longer has a Ph.D. in Ottawa to hold him back – or to allow me the 400-kilometre buffer to live my life here in Toronto.

What if I hang out with him, and it’s the same thing, all over again? Just the thought of that “what if” kind of infuriates me.

So, for now, that e-mail’s going to sit unanswered until I figure this out.


Banking with Champagne

Friday morning before work, I stopped at the bank to pay off my credit-card bill.

As luck would have it, there wasn’t a single person in line, so I got up to the counter in almost no time at all.

The teller greeted me good morning, and was super-nice during our entire interaction.

As she plugged numbers into the system, I quickly surveyed her.

If I had to guess, she couldn’t have been more than 20 – or maybe in her very early 20s. I was admiring her braids, which were similar to mine, but the braid pattern was really cool.

Then I happened to look down at her name tag.

I looked away. Then I looked again.

Her bank name tag read “Champagne” in crisp, white letters.


As in the region of France, known for its sparkling white wine.

Even after I’d left the bank and was headed back towards the subway, it wasn’t my personal triumph of paying off my consumer debt that stuck with me.

It was that woman’s name.


I mean, you always crack jokes about meeting someone who’s named after a drink, car, or fashion brand. But you don’t actually expect to meet someone like that in real life.

It was the personal equivalent of seeing a unicorn while walking down Queen Street West.

So, naturally, I posted it as part of my Facebook status later that morning, and tried to shake it off.

But, by mid-afternoon, that wasn’t enough. I HAD to tell someone who understood.

So I told my colleague, a middle-aged Italian-Canadian named Tony. Because he personally KNOWS people who christen their children with names like this.

We both had a good laugh over it. I even went home and told my mother, who also got a good yuk out of it. It’s just about out of my system.

In all seriousness, though. I understand with our ever-evolving societies, there are going to be different and unusual names.

But we still live in a day and age where, if you’re not careful with what you name your child, people will automatically assume you’re setting them up to be (a) an athlete, (b) a rapper, (c) a video girl in a rap video or (d) a stripper … when that’s probably NOT the case.

Personally, I’m rooting for Champagne. My moment of fun at her expense doesn’t take away from the fact that I found her to be a nice person. Which is precisely why I don’t want her to fit the stereotype.

Perhaps her mother named her as such, hoping her daughter will one day find her way into a career that has prestige, and will grant her the kind of lifestyle that grants her more-than-occasional access to that kind of expensive beverage.

Working in a bank’s certainly a good step in the right direction.

I think.

Who Can It Be Now?

Yesterday afternoon at work, I was in the midst of some task or another, when someone sent me a message to ask me if I could do something for them – sooner, rather than later.

I opened the note, and immediately started on that task, without answering it.

I figured I’d wait, since it would take me about 90 seconds to get it done, and then I could be one step ahead of the game when I responded. 

Then my desk phone rang.

“Hello?” I said.

An automated voice (“Emily”, or whatever Bell Canada has named “her”), cheerily piped up that I had a text-to-landline message waiting.

I’ve sent them by accident, but I’ve never gotten them before. So I pressed the suggested digit for the message.

“Go online” was the message relayed to me by the automated voice.

I got annoyed, because I thought my colleague was pressing me to respond because I hadn’t replied to her e-mail 2.5 seconds after she’d sent it. So I deleted it, stewing with annoyance, responded to her original note, and continued to deal with the task at hand, promptly forgetting about it.

And I would have thought nothing more of it – if it weren’t for this morning.

I was at work, and had just returned to my desk from buying breakfast downstairs, when I noticed the red light on my phone.

So I dialled into the mailbox.

It was the same creepy voice from yesterday, informing me I had a text-to-landline message.

The message: “Are you working?” The automated voice reading it alm0st actually made it sound like a question.

Since then, I’ve checked almost every number in my phone and nothing matches.

It’s none of the usual suspects – friends who regularly text me. But even then, they’d text my personal cell.

So right now, I honestly have no idea who it is.

Is it  a friend who’s absent-mindedly sent a text to my work number, instead of my cell?

A work colleague whose number I’ve either deleted or have yet to enter into my contacts list?

Some random from halfway around the world with a scheme and a Toronto-area number, trying to get me to call so they can scam me?

One of the dudes I met on that online dating site well over a year ago, whose numbers I’ve since thrown out?

Is this THIS guy?

Whomever it is, they know me, ’cause they know I’m working.

But, more importantly: why don’t they just call? It would probably be easier than sending three-word texts.

Seriously, though: If you’re the person sending the messages, can you make yourself known and just call, or leave a Facebook message?

I’d appreciate it. Plus, the landline-to-text messages are kind of creepy. And if I get another one, I’ll call.

And you don’t want me to call.

Nixing The Bus

Last week, when Toronto city council had toyed with the idea of a TTC fare increase, a lot of transit riders weren’t amused.

When it scrapped said proposal early last week, we breathed a sigh of relief.

Not surprisingly, that was temporary.

Currently on the table is a plan to cut back service and reduce hours on 48 TTC bus routes across the city.

The current status is that the TTC has voted to delay its decision until a meeting on Feb. 2nd (that’s right, Groundhog Day) so it can hold consultations with riders who will be affected – anyone from seniors to students to people who work late at night. The public meetings take place next week, and there are four of them, the dates and times of which you can find on the TTC’s Web site.

I’m strongly considering attending one of these meetings. But I’m torn on the issue (what else is new, right?).

On one hand is the financial issue. The TTC decided not to raise fares to deal with its financial shortfall. But the money still has to come from somewhere, right? And with routes who are carrying less than a handful of people late at night or on the weekends, what financial sense does it make to pay drivers to drive almost-empty buses till 1 a.m.? Plus, the delays have reportedly already cost the city $1 million in potential savings.

But on the other hand are other issues. Safety. A connection to amenities and communities. Convenience of being able to find a comparably shorter way of getting to work.

Some of the friends and colleagues who know me or read this blog already know ALL about me and my commuting situation. But humour me for the sake of this argument:

Where I live, there are three operating bus routes – four if you count the one that only operates in my area during rush hour.

Two of those routes are a three-minute walk from my house.

The third route – which won’t be sliced – is 700 metres (or an eight-minute walk) in the opposite direction.

The two closest routes are the ones on the chopping block.

So what, who cares? You might think. Just go to the route that’s not being cut.

Well, here’s what: I work Thursdays to Sundays, not 9-5, and my job’s downtown.

The bus ride is only one leg of a one-way, 75-to-90-minute commute.

My shifts start in the morning, and end well into the evening. If I go straight home after work, I still don’t get home until about 10 p.m. And – with the frigid winter temperatures these days – it’s nice to only have to walk 3 minutes in the dark and the cold, rather than almost 10 minutes.

Before 2008, I walked the eight minutes to the main route on Saturday mornings. Late at night, I’d have to decide whether to wait 20-30 minutes at Scarborough Town Centre for the last or second-to-last bus, or take a $20 cab.

In the last two years, it’s been a bit better. Sure, if I don’t want to pay an astronomical cab fare from downtown, then I still need to use the subway and a bus during TTC’s hours of operation. But depending on when I get to Scarborough Town Centre for the last leg of my trip, I sometimes get another option – and one that drops me close to home.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m one of the luckier ones.

There are other Torontonians out there, who may only have ONE route to get around and do important things – like get to their jobs, pick up their kids, do their groceries – in a way that doesn’t make things harder or more time-consuming, if not damn near impossible, for them.

And as a woman, the thought of travelling in the middle of the night and not having the luxury – or the pocket money – to consider taking a taxi as an option, is concerning. Yet there are women of all ages who do this all the time, sometimes risking their safety to get home, or elsewhere.

That’s my take on things.

If you’re a TTC user who rides an affected route, consider attending one of next week’s public meetings – they run from Jan. 24 – 27. Or, if you can’t make it, you can go to the TTC Web site and leave your opinions there.

After all, you’ve got nothing to lose by speaking up.

2011’s Colour of the Year …

Looks like the Pantone Color Institute is at it again.

Remember a few years ago, when I posted about how (while we were all busy living our own lives) the institute’s research branch dubbed chili pepper red the colour of the year for North America?

Hold on to your skirts and shirts, ladies and gents, because the shade for 2011 is good ol’ 18-2120.

That’s colour-authority-speak for honeysuckle

Which is fru-fru-fashion-speak for “pink”.

Reddish-pink, if you want to be technical.

“A brave new color, for a brave new world,” crows the press release.

Apparently it’s going to show up in everything from men’s and women’s fashions to furniture fabrics.

And hockey commentator Don Cherry showed how fashion-forward he already is, when he sported an ostentatious blazer in the aftermentioned hue in December, at Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s swearing-in – incidentally, while giving his “left-wing pinkos” speech.

Yep. Pink. How ’bout that?

Y’know Pantone, After last year’s selection of turquoise, I was slowly starting to change my mind about you guys.

In any case …

Wednesday morning on CBC Radio’s arts and culture program Q, colour forecaster (and Pantone consultant) Keith Recker, explained that hockeysuckle speaks to “our happy rediscovery of positive thinking, of growth, of energy, of looking forward, rather than bemoaning what we may have lost in the recent (economic) downturn.”

He went on to explain a few of the things that go into shaping a colour forecast – which doesn’t really start with colour, but with getting a feel for what people are thinking about, are needing, or lacking, and making the link to such things as psychology, sociology, economy and current events.

Recker says there are already talks about the colour for 2012. The small group of forecasters are taking into consideration next year’s presidential election, plus the tragic events in Arizona – all of which, he says, means things are going to be ” high-volume, high-conflict”.

As a result, he says, people could either end up embracing that conflict by incorporating colours and patterns in their clothes, etc. to demonstrate this feeling of protest … OR shy away from said conflict, by turning to more calming, serene hues.

Huh. Okay.

So, why should we even care? Well, you can listen to the podcast to hear Recker’s opinion. But he does make a point about how much of a cultural thing colour can be. I mean, it explains in part why, for example, in one culture, white might be worn at weddings, while in another, it’s red.

Recker mentioned the colour-picking process for next year may soon be underway. He added that he thought 2012 could be the year for a muddy or earth-coloured tone.

Hmmm …

Well … since Pantone hasn’t yet turned its forecasting towards 2013 … perhaps I should resurrect my campaign to get periwinkle (a.k.a. colour code  17-3932) on the radar?

In my opinion, it’s a hue that just hasn’t been given its due. Colour me biased.

Is It Just Me …

… Or is January bringing out the crazy in people?

The month’s barely half over, and already there’s been:

That horrific mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, among all the other incidences happening globally. I was at work when it happened and, several days later – even after watching the memorial – it still doesn’t seem entirely real to me.

And here in Toronto, things just seem to have gone haywire. In the last 48 hours, I’ve heard about:

  • Two bomb scares involving two suitcases left outside the CSIS offices downtown, plus a package later on. Luckily I was off yesterday, but I still had to go downtown for personal reasons … which means I got to see the police tape that blocked off a section of Front Street. Later, the man presumed to own the luggage returned to the area. Reports say he was agitated, and he was subdued with a Taser, taken into custody, then taken to hospital. The package he carried when he returned to the scene was the reason for the second bomb scare. That was detonated.
  • Early this morning, a man stole a snow plow from Toronto’s downtown east side (Dundas and Parliament) and went on a wrecking spree, killing a Toronto police officer in the process. The man was finally shot by police and stopped in the Junction (Keele St., just south of Annette St.). Details are still kind of spotty, but reports say the man was homeless, likely on drugs. Like most people who have been watching or reading about the story, the information that will be released in the coming days and weeks may help shed more light on this bizarre crime. But a policeman has paid the ultimate price, leaving a family heartbroken, and a little boy without his father.
  • This afternoon, I heard a weird story on CP24 about a dude on a bike in a section of Parkdale (Queen St. West and Lansdowne), who’s apparently beating up pedestrians at random. I saw it flash on CP24’s ticker, but haven’t heard anything about it since. Perhaps it was all a hoax.  But real, fake or otherwise, that’s just creepy.

And don’t even get me started on the poor sod who was run over by the streetcar yesterday morning. Not that it has anything to do with the previous three instances that I’ve mentioned … but it certainly adds to the list of bizarre things that have happened in the downtown core so far this week.

I’m trying not to let the “we’re going to hell in a handbasket” mentality get to me.

But I have to say, we’re having a hell of a January so far. And none of it has been good.

Out With The Old …

As I mentioned in last week’s post, one of my goals this year is to try and de-clutter.

It’s an ongoing thing with me, since I go through phases where I’m overcome by the need to toss and shred any unimportant pieces of paper that have been hung around for too long.

(Or, I stumble upon an episode an episode of Hoarders, and I immediately want to throw everything I own into the garbage.)

Generally, I’ve been good with sorting through recently acquired pieces of junk mail, opened envelopes and such.

But now I think I need to step it up a notch.

I have to start going through drawers and ditch things that haven’t seen the light of day.

Old and/or destroyed articles of clothing, or old bags, have got to go. (And if any of you have any environmentally-friendly suggestions for getting rid of not-so-gently-used shoes, articles of clothing or accessories, please speak up! I’m not planning on letting winter slow me down!)

And, once and for all, I have to finally deal with other miscellanous items I’ve acquired over the years, that I haven’t used. Because there’s no use in me keeping them if someone else can use them.

(Besides, when on EARTH is a pair of binoculars ever going to come in handy?)

I know I can’t do it in one go. My current strategy is to take on mini-purge projects.

Every week, I’m going to try and pick a group of drawers or a closet, or a corner of the house in which my stuff resides, and just pick away at it for an hour or two, and see where that gets me. If I get rid of a lot, I try another section. If not, I try again the following week.

My sincere hope is that, using baby steps, by the time the snow thaws and spring arrives, a lot of accumulative mess will have been shredded, tossed, ripped up, recycled or donated.

My motivation right now is high. I just hope it doesn’t fade.

Wish me luck.

* Illustration courtesy of IQ Matrix Blog.

2011: Quit It.

Yep. ‘Tis that time of year.

When folks like myself – glad to be rid of the year that’s just ended – look towards the 12 months that lie ahead.

We hold our heads a little higher. We stand a little taller. We have a bit of a spring in our step, and we even allow ourselves to be a little bit happy, because of the idea that a new year holds all this promise and possibility.

Of course, the novelty will wear off in a matter of days.

But as for right now?

I can’t speak for anyone else. But for me, 2011 is like this huge pile of Play-Doh in my lap. It’s brand-new. It’s a little cool to the touch, but pristine. It’s just sitting there, ready to be shaped.

And just thinking of getting my hands on it, in it, around it, makes me simultaneously giddy and overwhelmed.

I mean, honestly – where do I even start?

Well, I think I have a slight idea.

I remember this article I read in Maclean’s a couple months ago.

It was actually a story in the business section, about how workers will start looking for new employment as economic confidence rises. But the sentence that stuck with me was that 2011 was “shaping up to be the year of the Big Quit.”

So what’s that got to do with the new year?

Well … how about this.

People use the new year as a jumping-off point – or maybe an excuse –  to quit things.

Like smoking … overeating … drinking … swearing … whatever.

And then, I turned to my first post from last year, to see what kind of expectations I’d set up for myself.

It was lame. I just sounded kind of lost. And vague. And completely wishy-washy.

I said maybe I should go with the flow. So I tried to do just that. But all I seemed to do was just float.

I haven’t fallen behind. But I’m not entirely sure I’m that farther ahead, either.

So now what?

Maybe I should just … quit.

Quit kidding myself.

Quit telling myself what I want to hear, in hopes I’ll eventually get what it is I’m looking for.

Quit procrastinating. Quit thinking about coming up with a plan – and start doing just that. Come up with plans of action for myself. Start executing things.

Start getting things done.

Some of the things I’d like to see happen for myself this year, is to:

Quit the three-hour commute. Yeah, yeah, I know. How long have I been saying this for now? Well, here are the cold, hard facts: I stayed at home another year to save more money and then buy a place. I certainly succeeded with the “save more money” part. It was the latter part of my goal which didn’t happen. And it’s probably not going to. Which leaves me with only one other alternative. So this year, I’m going to stop being stubborn and proud, suck it up and get on with it.

Quit filling my life with clutter. This goes hand-in-hand somewhat with the previous point on my wishlist. I’ve actually already started on this, in a way. If I pick away at it weekly, perhaps when I finally leave the nest, the squawking from my parents to take ALL my things with me will be minimal – maybe even non-existent. We’ll see how much I accomplish.

Quit taking my health for granted. Since the 2009 holiday season – hell, who am I kidding? Probably since the summer of 2009 – I feel like I’ve just been eating anything and everything, without using an iota of moderation – eating when I’m bored, or following a stressful moment at work or wherever. And the only form of exercise I get is during my weekly visit to the physiotherapy clinic. And even then, I really don’t want to be there. Plus, my sleeping patterns – especially on work nights – are horrific.

Quit this city – and this country – once in a while. No, I don’t mean move to another country or anything like that. When I decided to save more money to buy real estate, it meant saying sayonara to travelling for a while. And I literally haven’t been ANYWHERE outside the GTA for non-work purposes probably since August 2009. This year, I’d like to make up for lost time. I don’t know how much I can travel – because I still have to watch my finances – but I have to rectify this.

Quit being complacent at work. If someone had drawn a cartoon version of me, I’m sure their interpretation would have included a dark cloud that perpetually hovered over my head during the last 14 months. That has to end. Either I suck it up and find something I like about my job … or I pull up my socks and find a new one, on my own terms.

Quit having NO interests. If you were to ask me what my hobbies and interests were, they’d literally be something along the lines of: reading, eating, partying. No, really. I think part of it has to do with the fact that the amount of time I spend commuting, I could be using to learn a sport, a skill, or language … or even volunteer. Plus, I’m really lethargic on my personal time, because I live at least 20 minutes away from anything of interest to me. If or when the first item on my wishlist is rectified, perhaps I can remedy this.

Quit occasionally blogging. I was particularly bad this year when it came to writing. I guess I wasn’t motivated … and probably a bit down and didn’t think I had anything worth writing about. I need to snap out of it, and make more of an effort.

So, there’s my list. And it’s a tall order.

But this year, I have to quit moping and start living. Because no one else is going to do it for me.

Time to start gettin’ ‘er done.