Give It. A SECOND.

Times are changing. And so, it elevatorwould seem, are people’s manners.

From sidewalks to subways, it’s as if the unsaid rules of courtesy towards strangers are evaporating.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still people out there who hold the door for others, wait for people to pass if there’s a small bottleneck on a pathway, or help people with carts or strollers off buses and up or down stairways. I have no quarrel with them.

It’s the others. Specifically, those who apparently have forgotten basic elevator etiquette. You may have encountered them yourself.

Imagine this: You’re at work, and decide to go downstairs for lunch or a snack break.

Perhaps you’re the only person in the elevator car, so you have half a moment of peace and quiet to yourself.

The elevator reaches the ground floor. As you prepare to exit and the doors open, someone waiting on the outside bursts in before you even have a chance to set foot outside. Maybe they’re paying more attention to their phone than to what’s in front of them. Or maybe they’re not.

And although they don’t say anything as you try to get around them, sometimes they just look at you – or through you – as if you’re the one who committed the faux pas.

This is something I’ve been noticing more and more.

Once in a while, it might be because I’m tucked away from the entrance and the person just doesn’t see me. But in other cases, it’s someone (in my experience, it’s usually been a man) who just charges onto the elevator.

Once, while waiting for an elevator at work, I was almost knocked over by a dude rushing out … wearing a hot dog costume. (Long story. Insert obnoxious joke here.)

Usually, by the time I want to say something, the elevator’s gone, and the moment has passed.

But since I don’t have the powers to stop or suspend time, I’ve got a little public service announcement to those repeat offenders:

Hey. YOU.

What’s goin’ on?

Someone chasin’ you?

Are you secretly a super-hero who needs to change into your costume?

Are your feet literally on fire?

No?

THEN WHY CAN’T YOU WAIT FOR PEOPLE TO VACATE ELEVATORS?

Who exactly are you?

How long do you think it takes for one or two people to exit an otherwise empty elevator? (Answer: Maybe a few seconds.)

And, question number nine: Why, when people try to get around you to leave said elevator, do you give them dirty looks?

YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S GETTING IN THEIR WAY.

Look, I know how annoying and inconvenient it must be for you. I knooow. So here’s a couple of tips to making the experience much less so:

(1) When the elevator doors open (and it’s obvious there’s someone inside), STAND TO THE SIDE.

(2) Wait for people to leave the elevator before boarding it yourself.

(2a) GIVE IT. A SECOND.

Seem clear enough?

If not, repeat steps (1) through (2a) until it sinks in. I assure you, once it does, it will make things more pleasant and efficient for everyone involved.

 

 

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Haggis, Anyone?

Scotland_HaggisThe first time I heard the name “Robbie Burns”, I was eight years old, and my parents were signing me up for piano lessons at a local music school.

I guess it came up when the head of the school – testing my aptitude – was chatting with my folks, and they mentioned when I was born.

“Oh!” he said. “Do you know who else shares your birthday? Robbie Burns!”

As a little black girl growing up in the 1980s, the only Burns I’d heard of was George. I can only imagine what facial expression I wore as this man told me about this guy I was clearly supposed to recognize.

Through the years, I came to learn bits and pieces about the man whose birthday I happened to share, and the little nerd in me found it interesting.

So to simply say Robert Burns is A Big Deal for people of Scottish descent, is a wee bit of an understatement.

In several days’ time, dinners (all over Canada and abroad) will be held in honour of the Scottish bard, filled with music and poetry. There will be scotch, even whiskey tastings. But it won’t be a Rabbie Burns night without one signature dish served:

Haggis.

Yep, that most Scottish of dishes, consisting of lamb or sheep parts, oats, and spices, mixed together in a type of pudding (not the dessert kind), and encased in a sheep’s stomach.

(There are even vegetarian and vegan versions out there, for a different spin. And these lovely folks are hosting a vegan Robbie Burns Day here in Toronto – they’re just about sold out!)

For people like me who’ve never had haggis (the meat-filled version, at least), that doesn’t sound — or look — all that appetizing.

But yesterday, I came across this article by writer Andrea Chiu, in defence of the dish.

She makes a valid point:

“We will pay high prices to taste rich and creamy foie gras, but wrap some lamb liver and hearts with a sheep’s stomach and diners of all ages are finding ways to politely decline the dish.”

I mean, if I can try a camel burger or freshly-caught-and-prepared conch salad (with comically terrible results, in the case of the latter), surely I should give haggis a try?

It’s probably too late this time ’round, but maybe I can give haggis a go at a later date, or perhaps on one of my future birthdays.

It’s the least I could do for Robbie.

 

Shameless Plug!

Sorry I didn’t have a post for you yesterday! My brain failed me in that regard.

BUT, the other reason I didn’t have a post for you is because I was busy recording the small podcast I do with my friends Renée and Kath!

It’s called Sip & Bitch, and we put out an episode every two weeks. Each episode, we pick three topics (or usually, it’s two topics, plus a movie review, or something TV- or movie-related) and have a casual chat … usually while drinking wine.

In fact, we just finished editing our latest episode, which you can check out via SoundCloud:

In this episode, we talk about turning 39 (based on my post last week), our dislike of “to-do” listicles, and The Awards That Kath Shall Not Name. Have a listen, like our episode or comment on the timeline (especially if you have a SoundCloud account)!

If you prefer to download episodes so you can listen at our leisure, you can find us on iTunes – our episodes usually upload about 24 hours after we load onto SoundCloud.

We’re a low-cost operation (translation: basic), so we’re still learning as we go along. But I hope you’ll listen to the above featured episode, as well as our previous ones!

You can now find us on Twitter. Or, if you’d rather send us a note, you can email us at sippers.bottlereturn@gmail.com.

Happy listening!

P.S.: Despite my absence, I’m still part of a one-month blogging challenge with Renée and Kath, who are churning out some great posts, so please feel free to stop by their blogs and read their awesome work!

Proofreading & Infinite Patience

Several years ago, I was contacted by an old university acquaintance, panicked and asking for a favour … which she then followed up by asking for another.

You can read the full account here, then over here. But in case you don’t have time to read my anecdote in its entirety, the Coles Notes version is as follows:

Acquaintance asks me proof-read her university degree thesis days before submission, offering to pay. I pull nearly an all-nighter to do so.

Acquaintance pays me with money and dessert … then asks if I could proof-read this manuscript she just happened to write while working and finishing her second university degree — again, for pay.

I hem, haw, say yes … but don’t actually receive the manuscript for a year.

I read it (not that great) and finish proof-reading it three months later. I try emailing and calling her to make arrangements to return her manuscript to her.

What I get in return is radio silence. For 19 months.

Because Acquaintance never responds to my emails, her manuscript takes up room on my side-table, collecting dust.

A person with far less tolerance probably would’ve cut her losses and tossed that stack of paper in the recycling bin. But, for some reason, I have this (perhaps unreasonable) sense of responsibility for looking after another person’s intellectual property – no matter how lousy.

Here’s the rest of the story, which I never got around to posting:

Several days after writing a post (see link above) asking writer friends for advice on what to do with the manuscript, she finally emails me with a message that essentially begins, “Thanks for emailing me. You’re very persistent … ”

Which is (1) some bullshit, and (2) not getting me any closer to returning  her stack of crap.

Three days after that post – I’m resigning myself to the fact she’s ghosted and not coming back for her work – my dad has a massive heart attack (on Valentine’s Day, no less) and dies four days later.

Now that our family has a stressful four days to arrange my dad’s funeral, I send her one more email — conveying that I’m out of time to spend, I no longer care about the pay, and I’m moving in two months, so send a mailing address.

Hours later, I get an email.

We meet in person, she pays me for the work (and perhaps a bit extra? I don’t remember), we exchange words (apparently she was busy with work and settling the affairs of her own late father, who died about a year and a half before mine), and we part ways.

Later that evening, I log onto Facebook and defriend her.

I don’t share this story to generate pity (the fact that death finally ended this ridiculous episode was truly bizarre) but as an anecdote that’s served a dual purpose:

(1) It reminds me what NOT to do, should I ever end up writing my own manuscript, and decide to turn to my friends for their skills, sharp editing eyes and – most importantly – their precious, precious time: don’t treat it like crap.

(2) It’s actually lodged a possible idea for a short story in my brain … we’ll see if I can actually flesh out something remotely plausible.

It’s a lesson learned. It provided a silver lining.

But if I can help it, I’ll never deal with that woman again.

 

D and The Bakery

Ever had an interaction with someone that left you second-guessing the message they were sending you, and wondering if you read them correctly?

Let me tell you a story.

I live ’round the corner from what’s considered a well-to-do neighbourhood in mid-town Toronto.

Every week, I walk 15 minutes to the grocery store. The street it’s on is lined with all sorts of small shops and restaurants, and just down the street from the grocery store is this one bakery.

I have a sweet tooth, and for months, I’d been tempted to go in on a number of occasions. A friend of mine had been telling me that their cookies and breads were delicious. But I never really went in there. For whatever reason, I got this impression that I wouldn’t be welcome.

Yes, I was thinking this (in 2015).

One afternoon last summer, I needed a pie or small cake to bring to a friend’s potluck. I took a chance and went to The Bakery.

I walked in, approached the glass case and scanned the various baked goods on display. About a minute later, a salesclerk – maybe in her late teens or early 20s – asked if she could help, and I explained what I was looking for.

She said she’d find out and asked me to wait. A couple of minutes later, another woman – I’m guessing she was either the owner or manager (I’ll just say manager) – emerged from the back room.

“Hi there, did you need something?” she said (or something to that effect). She was professional, but I didn’t find her overly warm. Whatever. It’s a business.

We had an exchange, and I chose a lemon-cranberry loaf. As she returned to the back room, she turned up the music and disappeared.

The gesture was pretty innocuous. But for some reason, I got a really strange vibe from that. I shook it off.

The next time I went to The Bakery, it was with the friend who’d been raving about it. We each bought two cookies, dealing only with the cashier.

The following week (now hooked on the sugary treats), I dropped in after grocery shopping, bought some chocolate chip cookies and left. Again, no problem.

A week or two later, I was back, ready to treat myself again.

I scanned the cookies behind the glass and mentioned to the salesclerk that there didn’t seem to be any chocolate chip cookies currently stocked.

While deciding on other options, the manager appeared.

(It’s been a few months, so the following conversation isn’t precise, but here’s the gist:)

“Can I help?” she said, standing just behind her cashier.

“Oh, just looking at your cookies,” I replied. “I hear you’re out of the chocolate chip ones, which are my favourite.”

“They’re pretty popular,” she said.

She waited a beat, then added, “I can give you our recipe, so you can make them whenever you want.”

Sweet. Right?

“Ummm … ” I said, just as a little bell went off in my mind. “… No, thanks, that’s okay.” I quickly selected a couple of cookies, paid for them and promptly left.

Oh, she was just trying to be nice, you’re probably thinking. You were probably overreacting.

Maybe.

But here’s what I was thought at that precise moment:

(1) This was my fourth visit to the bakery. Ever.

(2) I’d only ever seen this woman twice. Any interaction she’s had with me (including this one) has been civil and perfunctory, but not exactly cordial.

(3) I’d been buying this bakery’s baked goods because I didn’t have time to make my own.

(4) If I had time to make cookies, know what’s a great resource for finding free cookie recipes? Google.

If I’d been visiting this place regularly and had established a friendly rapport with the staff (which I’ve done elsewhere), I’d see what she did as being a nice gesture. And it’s completely possible that what she did was, in her mind, some kind of good business/customer service move.

But I know which neighbourhood this is. And I think a handful of people will understand the distinct feeling I’m describing.

Since that visit, I still walk to the grocery store, go to the bank, occasionally stop by the butcher and the Dollarama.

Just not The Bakery.

It’s entirely possible that I mis-read what happened. And if I did read the situation correctly, I could’ve kept going there and not cared.

But I’d prefer giving my business and hard-earned money to someone who actually wants it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D’s 2016 Travel Shortlist

As the new year unfolds and I sock a little money away in my bank account, my mind swims with thoughts of travel.

I want to be a little more ambitious with this year’s destinations. But given the direction the Canadian dollar seems to be sliding, I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.

(Eh. I’ve always had lousy timing.)

Maybe a series of fortunate events will lead me to a one-time gift from one of those Powerball winners? Ehhhh?  **shrugs**

Anyway … here are some places I’ve thought about visiting this year:

Sri Lanka. Very high on my list. I’ve never been to Asia, but a conversation with a friend who went there 7 or 8 years ago left me interested in finding out more. And why not? It would be a good place to start. I’d be aiming to go in the fall.

Cuba. I was last there in 2005. A friend and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Veradero in mid-July. (Never do that. Unless you really don’t mind feeling like rotisserie chicken.) It was nice getting away for a week. But when we booked a day-trip to Havana through our resort, the results were, well … mediocre. I felt a bit short-changed. I like to move around a country if I’m going to visit. Winter’s finally arrived, but it’d be nice to take a break in, say, March — maybe book a tour and go for 8 or 9 days — and see the sites before big changes sweep the island.*

Colombia. There’s been an uptick in travel here in the past few years. And I have this secret attraction to Fernando Botero‘s artwork and sculptures. Plus, I have a friend who lived there for a good year and a half. I always told myself I wouldn’t go to South America without properly learning some Spanish beforehand. But I’m willing to make an exception.

Washington, D.C. It’s not that far. I’ve never seen the White House in person (but know where its limestone came from), and the number of museums in one place is a nerd’s dream come true.

New Orleans. Other than visiting family in Florida, I’ve never really been to the South. Of the people I know who’ve been to NOLA, I can’t recall anyone saying they left disappointed. And it just seems like a really interesting place to visit, historically and culturally.

Louisville, Kentucky. Okay, this one’s a bit random. I first read about it a few years ago on a list of “underrated places to visit”. A couple of my friends took a road trip down to Louisville and they had a good time. Also: bourbon.

New York. Like Cuba, I’ve been here before. I never seem to get enough of it. There’s no such thing as “not enough to do” here, so it always seems like there’s unfinished business. If I went this year, it would be for these reasons: Hamilton (c’mon, wealthy Powerball benefactor) or Eclipsed, and a meal at Red Rooster Harlem. I’M NOT PLAYING.

Montreal. The last time I set foot in this city, I was 26, my friend Dave lived and worked there, and the Jazz Festival was in full swing. Montreal in the summer is magic. But honestly, I don’t need it to be summer for me to visit, and see some of the sites I missed last time. Added incentive: If you recall my family research  (no? start here), my mysterious, elusive great-aunt lived and worked here. It’d be neat to physically see some of the streets (and maybe some of the houses), perhaps do a day or two of sleuthing, in the flesh.

Vancouver. Straight up, I’ve never been to the West Coast or seen the Rockies. This would tick off both boxes.

Manitoulin Island or Pelee Island. One requires you to take a ferry called the Chi-Cheemaun to get to it. The other boasts the southernmost point in Canada. Both are beautiful, and are right here in Ontario. Visiting either location would be lovely.

There’s NO WAY I intend to knock all of these off my list. But if I manage to do at least two, even with a low loonie, I’ll be pleased.

*A recent check of some tour companies tell me this is probably not possible.

**Reminder: I’m part of a one-month writing challenge, as are my friends Renée and Kath – just click on their names to check out their excellent work!**

“Why Are You So Weird?”

Several years ago (maybe five or six), I was at a downtown bar, where a work colleague (who produces music in his off-hours) was spinning vinyl and had invited a whole scad of us to come check him out.

The place was packed, and I remember flitting around, saying hi to friends, and dancing in the tiny designated dance space in this narrow establishment.

At one point, I remember spotting a work colleague who was slightly older than me – who, I suppose, I admired and respected – and went over to say hello.

I think it’d been one of those weeks where I’d been working all day, then making myself go out in the evenings … and I think it had started to take its toll, because I think he asked me how I was doing, and instead of answering with fully formed, enunciated words, stuttering babble tumbled out instead.

(Most of the time, my brain moves faster and far more eloquently than my tongue and lips do. It’s something I’ve learned to work with.)

I caught myself, and I remember stopping, closing my eyes, and beginning again – this time, in actual English.

His response?

“Why are you so weird?”

The rest of it, I really don’t remember. Just that.

Looking back on it, I can now say he was being a dick to me. Straight up.

And for what reason? Because I stuttered?

Over time, the word “weird” (in the context of human interaction) has come to be a source of irritation for me. And it’s got me thinking:

What defines “not weird”, exactly?

Who on earth gets to set the benchmark for what constitutes “normal”?

We live at a time when, thanks to social media, we can find whole communities of people with whom we share interests, opinions, insecurities, fears and so on, without having to travel very far from the comforts of our homes.

At the same time, the way we interact and communicate with each other as human beings has changed, even gotten more difficult. Just saying hi or smiling at a stranger in some places elicits a reaction which might be reserved for a dog walking around on its hind legs speaking Czech.

This type of environment might make it challenging for introverts, socially-awkward types and other labelled “misfits” to engage with people or find real-life flocks to join, if they do venture outside.

What about folks who might be dealing with mental health issues? Some of the funniest, unique, most interesting people I know, or have met, or encountered online, struggle with things such as anxiety or depression – and some of them speak about that struggle.

What about people who march to the beat of their own drummer, who just see and do things differently? Or who are just really excitable about things or life in general?

None of these aspects of people’s lives or personalities make them weird. It makes them multi-dimensional human beings. And I think all these folks deserve a modicum of understanding and open-mindedness, as opposed being held at arm’s-length because they’re rhomboid-shaped pegs that don’t fit into the round-shaped holes that are the “standard” for social behaviour.

Why should they have to fit?

The example I mentioned at the beginning sticks with me still. A little bit of it has to do with the way I was made to feel. Mostly, I was annoyed at myself for letting that question slide past me without an appropriate answer.

Because if I had the chance for a do-over, and I was once again asked, “Why are you so weird?”

My answer should have been:

“Define ‘normal’.”

**Hey kids! If you have time, head on over to my friend Renée’s blog and check out why she enjoys a good steak dinner every so often.**