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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“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.**

 

 

 

 

A Hit & A Miss

IMAG0348Sunday was the first day Renée and I attended a movie for which we actually had a ticket.

To our complete surprise, we secured tickets for Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom during the ticket-selection phase before the festival, so we were looking forward to seeing how British actor Idris Elba did in his portrayal.

And unlike the previous day, the weather was much better, much warmer, and not a dark cloud looming overhead, which made the lineup experience much more bearable.

We were in for a bit of a treat this day.

1378656204723The film’s director, Justin Chadwick (you might know him for his directorial work on the mini-series, Bleak House, among other things) was in attendance and spoke to the audience beforehand.

(Incidentally, his previous film, The First Grader, premiered at TIFF in 2010.)

He told us we were only the second audience to see the movie, after the audience at Saturday evening’s gala.

Oh. My. God. What a movie. Idris Elba did a fantastic job as Mandela – showing the icon we all are familiar with, but also the man with his flaws. And the film did a good job of depicting the brutality of South Africa under apartheid rule.

The other performance that I think should be noted was Naomie Harris‘ portrayal as Winnie Mandela. If any attention should be paid, it should be to her transformation over the course of the film (which, obviously, is based on true events). She’s a powerhouse. If she does NOT get an Oscar nomination for this, I’ll be VERY surprised and annoyed.

And – absolute truth – tears were streaming down my face partway through the film. You’d have to have been made of stone NOT to have been moved. Kudos to the people who worked on this production.

Following Mandela, Renée and I decided to try to make it a double feature by getting into the rush line for Half of a Yellow Sun, the other movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. (Kids, it’s a British invasion this year. These ladies and gentlemen are DEFINITELY bringing their A-game).

We lost a bit of time waiting to leave the theatre after Mandela, and opting to walk over to the other theatre. But, we’d gotten there about an hour and 20 minutes or so before showtime. And if we had such great luck the day before – and people kept saying that usually people in rush lines end up getting seats – this should be a piece of cake, right?

When we first arrived, I asked one of the “headset” volunteers how many people were ahead of us for rush seats. He said 40.

Within the span of about 40 minutes, that number had somehow ballooned to SEVENTY.

Why? Likely because people were holding places in live for their five OTHER friends, family members, etc. Which (according to what I’ve heard from people who’ve worked as volunteers) is NOT supposed to happen.

So, long story short, it wasn’t until after 4:30 p.m., when we were almost AT THE FRONT of the rush line (with about a half-dozen people in front of us) when it was announced that they’d run out of seats.

So, after lingering a bit longer, we walked away, our first defeat of the festival. Ah, well. Between seeing Benedict Cumberbatch on Thursday, and the two movies on Saturday, our luck had to run out sometime.

Beachy Life, Bitchy Locals?

We reach Playa Hermosa close to 5 p.m., while there’s still daylight.

Our hotel room is like a mini-villa. Shelves! A huge cupboard! A kitchenette! Air-con AND a ceiling fan! AND – most importantly – it’s close to one of the hotel’s TWO pools. THIS is the life.

I am finally ready for my much-missed shower, and am mere moments away from cleanliness and doing something about my hair, which has gotten increasingly poofy from the dryness.

But it has to wait. Zoe and Jenn want to go eat and buy groceries.

(The small challenges – and temporary frustrations – of travelling with other people.)

Jenn expertly drives us in the dark to “downtown” Playa Hermosa for our second proper meal of the day.

I tackle a chalupa – which, it turns out, is MUCH too much food for me to handle.

After, we hit the supermarket across the street from where Jenn parks our vehicle.

The checkout counter is … for lack of a better word, an experience. But not nnecessarily for the best reasons.

The cashier – who knows no English – is chatting with the bag “boy” (actually a middle-aged man). And it seems almost conspiratorial. As if they’re talking about the tourists in front of them. I, of course, have a very minimal knowledge of Spanish, so I can’t say for sure.

Two boys – pre-teen, perhaps – are carrying on in the lineup behind us. One is my complexion; the other is lighter.

I don’t pay them much mind at first. But then I notice the cashier lean towards the bag “boy”, then shush the boys, as if they’re saying something inappropriate or rude, much louder than they should.

And then I heard one of the boys say:

“Monotiti!”

Accompanied by giggles.

Jenn and I look at each other at the same time, with precisely the same quizzical look.

This is a monotiti (or at least, one type).

It’s an endangered species of squirrel monkey found in Costa Rica and Panama.

It’s also one of the few words we recognize, in our limited knowledge of Spanish.

So when we’re looking at each other, we’re having similar thoughts about where – or to whom – that word is being directed.

Are they calling someone a monkey?

Are they calling … ME … a monkey?

To this day, neither of us knows for sure. And perhaps in actual fact, the people at the supermarket were speaking about something else.

But even on the drive back home, I can’t shake the vibe of unfriendliness I think I’ve just experienced. It’s as if all the fun I’ve had on our trip thus far, as come to a screeching halt – like the needle yanked across and off a vinyl record.

Even on the drive back, I’m quiet and temporarily sullen, with a bad taste in my mouth. And all I want to do is go back to our hotel and have the longest shower imaginable. And just wash, and wash, and wash my hair.

I also want to head home and immediately enroll in a Spanish-language class – not only because of my desire to learn a beautiful language, but to use said language to cuss out locals who think they can get away with making fun of foreigners.

A drink (deserved, I think), and an evening dip in the pool with Jenn and Zoe, helps to dissolve those ill feelings.

When one is in a beautiful country, in a warm pool under a sky full of stars, eventually, one has to shrug and look to the day ahead.

“Settled”?

So, in the last little while, it’s been a bit tense around my household.

For reasons I can’t completely get into, both my mom and my aunt (who lives state-side with my cousin, in Milwaukee) have been dealing with some personal medical issues.

Needless to say, it’s dredged up the subject of thinking about one’s own mortality.

I think I’m arriving to the point in my life where it no longer makes me feel queasy to hear about it. Time flies faster during adulthood, and one day I’m going to have to deal with it.

There’s just one thing that has gotten me annoyed.

Twice, while having this conversation with my mom, she’s somehow managed to utter the following phrase (with a big sigh):

“I just want to see you settled.”

This irritates my thirtysomething brain, probably way more than it should.

The rational side of me know that, obviously, as her child, she’s just showing concern for my well-being.

But really. What does she mean by “settled” ?

“Settled”, as in, “I just want to see you get your own place (translation: move out, buy a piece of real estate and start paying a mortgage like everyone else)” ?

Or: “settled” as in “I’d like to see you move out, meet a nice young man, get married, have a child (or two)” ?

It’s the meaning that’s unclear. And that makes me UN-settled.

If I had come to my senses several years ago, I’d probably have already moved out, maybe be on my way to being married.

MAYBE.

But then, it makes me think of my friend, Darlene.

A year and a half ago, she took a look at her life and decided what she most wanted to do – more than anything else – was move to Paris and make a go of it.

I remember going to her apartment – which she hurriedly had to vacate, since her landlord had, not-so-nicely, told her she had to move out because they had plans to renovate the house she was living in, and handing her living space over to a family member (barely within the regulation two months needed to notify a tenant).

In conversation with her mom, I had mentioned off-hand that I was still living at home, trying to save up to find a place.

I don’t remember the precise answer, but it was obvious THAT’s what Darlene’s mom wished her daughter was doing. (Which, in hindsight, wasn’t fair and embarrassing to Darlene, and uncomfortable for me.)

Needless to say, months later, moving to Paris was the best thing Darlene could’ve won. And I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that – if given the chance – she’d make the same decision.

And she’s not the only one that’s living her life, on her terms.

Just last week, my mother and I paid a visit to our accountant.

Before we got down to business, he and my mom played catch-up, and filled us in on his daughter – whom I can only guess is probably in her mid-to-late twenties – who’s currently living a quite successful life as a chartered accountant (just like her own man), but abroad in Paris as well.

But his worry? That she wasn’t married with kids. After all, 23 or 24 is about the right time for one to be thinking about marriage, so that by 30, you’ve got a couple of pre-schoolers and Grandpa is happy. Why wouldn’t she settle down?

My mom tried to counter that by telling him about a new friend she recently met on a cruise – who’s 87 years old, never-married and happy, and frankly, from what I hear about her, someone I HAVE to meet – but I don’t think it sunk in for him. Some outlooks and values are set in stone.

I get it, and yet I don’t. I understand that people’s upbringing can influence their values, which include what they think their children should strive for.

But why do they think that THIS is the storyline for everyone?

Why does being “settled” have to involve working for one employer one’s entire life, pouring one’s savings into a dwelling, to put down roots? Why is THAT the benchmark?

Why can’t it be a state of mind – of happiness, of contentedness of where one’s life is at?

It’s something I’m slowly learning. I can only hope that when I put those lessons and observations into practice, I don’t have those feelings of anxiety over whether I’m doing the right thing, or that I’m missing out on something.

The goal? Reaching a point when I have that sense of confidence about doing things on my own terms, of getting on with life, or writing my own storyline, with no regrets.

THAT’s what “settled” means to me.

A Trashy Commute

It was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill, relatively quiet commute home.

I was going to read until I drifted off to sleep, catch a 10 to 15-minute disco nap, then rouse myself and move along to the next connection.

But, nooooo.

It started out the way it was supposed to. I plopped myself down in a bucket seat and pulled out  my magazine.

Across the aisle, there was some dude, wearing a nondescript baseball cap, t-shirt and jean shorts. On the seats before him lay a huge pile of commuter papers and, from what I can remember, I think an orange.

And for roughly five-ish minutes, it was fine.

Then I heard a loud crumple, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy lob a crushed plastic bottle.

Uh-oh, I thought, directing my gaze elsewhere, as the train travelled over the Don Valley.

And then a couple of passengers got on at the next station – one of them, a Chinese-Canadian fellow.

Why is that even relevant, you ask? Well, because he was the unfortunate recipient of what happened next.

Whatever the guy in the ballcap was internalizing, he picked THAT moment to spew it out, like molten lava.

The Chinese guy was standing just inside the doors, because, well, there was newspaper all over the seats.

Then Ballcap Dude said rather loudly, “COME ON. SIT. SIT DOWN!” and proceeded to knock all the newspapers off the covered seats all over the ground.

He then started to gather them up, while rather loudly grumbling that no one cared about the state of the subway, that it was ’cause of IMMIGRANTS.

And that’s when it began.

He was barely 30 seconds into his rant when a guy sitting about 20 feet away started responding loudly in term – presumably to shut Ballcap Dude up for his anti-immigrant opinion.

That just set him off.

Like a rabid pitbull, he went after the guy 20 feet away, calling him every name in the book, making a point of referring to the fact the guy was fat, yelling at him to shut up, yelling that he’d come all the way from Jane Station and had been picking up EVERYONE’S discarded papers, and what a waste of paper it was.

At one point, Ballcap Dude got up as if making to march over there and punch The Other Guy in the face – assuming the “wanna go?!” stance and literally SPITTING on the floor a couple times.

The Other Guy wouldn’t go down without a (verbal) fight. He got off a stop before Ballcap Guy … but not before the latter had stomped up and got up in the guy’s grill. I seriously was considering pressing the emergency button if The Other Guy hadn’t gotten off.

Ballcap Dude got off a stop later (Woodbine, if you want to know, since he shouted it to THE ENTIRE SUBWAY CAR six stops earlier), papers in hand, seeming to seek sympathy for his ’cause from a fellow commuter just trying to make it to the escalator.

“Look at all this paper! What a waste!” he said in a slightly less deafening tone. “I picked up all this paper. I’m ONLY. ONE. PERSON …”

The thing is, BallCap Dude – despite his multiple issues – had a good point.

A large number of commuters – young, old, large, small, from all walks of life – are pigs. They treat the TTC subway cars like a garbage can, and leave their trash EVERYWHERE.

Despite the commission’s best efforts, a lot of passengers don’t feel as if it’s their job to keep their vehicles clean. (I’m sure there are some out there who think they’re keeping maintenance staff gainfully employed by leaving their crap to be cleaned up.)

Unfortunately, the man’s argument was mothered to death by the big, steaming pile of poop that was his shouty, spittle-flecked, ignorant invective.

Too bad.

The Movie Moratorium List

Scenario:

There’s a movie coming out that you and a bunch of your friends really, really want to see.

You talk about it, you’re all in agreement – you’re going.

It’s. Going. To. ROCK.

Then, for whatever reason – w0rk, illness, whatever – YOU can’t make it, but your friends go anyway. No worries. You’ll just have to go see it some other time.

In the days ahead, your friends are RAVING about it. Over Facebook, by text, or over drinks.

Meanwhile, you’re FINALLY available to see the movie yourself. But the immediate need to see it has passed.

So in the meantime, you try your hardest to avoid anything resembling a spoiler, until you can work a viewing into your schedule … 

Until one day, you come across a reference or two to the movie. Maybe in a newspaper. Most likely, from friends of friends of friends.

Does it stop you from seeing the movie? 

For a lot of people, this probably wouldn’t bother them. Who knows, it might even motivate them to go.

But, as you already know, I’m not like most people.

I already have a long list of movies I’ve never, ever seen, for a bunch of reasons. (Whether those reasons are valid, is subjective.)

But in the last decade or so, another list has been growing. A list of films I’ve REALLY wanted to see, but missed out on the opportunity, and then had it spoiled by people who – in their genuine enthusiasm – wanted to compare favourite moments of the movie and/or analyse the storyline … prompting me to put off seeing it until (a) people stop talking about it and (b) I no longer am thinking about it.

That, my friends, is my Movie Moratorium List.

And I may have to add another one to the list very soon – Bridesmaids.

After someone excitedly spoiling a scene/reference from the movie last week, I’m kind of annoyed. I haven’t slapped a Movie Moratorium on it yet, because I’m wondering: if I go see it, will the movie STILL be funny to me, despite what I know?

Yeah, yeah, I’m probably being weird and neurotic. Plus, you’ve probably seen all the movies on my list, and now don’t think they’re as big a deal as they were when you RACED to the theatre to go see.

But think about it: There are people who are PRECISELY LIKE ME when it comes to episodes of their favourite TV programs (or sporting events) that they haven’t yet had a chance to see.

They warn their friends, “I haven’t watched it yet! I only PVR’ed it! Don’t say anything until I watch it!”

Nobody says, “Get OVER yourself!” And most people are courteous of their friends and keep their lips zipped till said episode (or sporting event) is viewed.

So why can’t “The Episode Rule” be applied to movies (for, like, a month)?

Probably virtually impossible. But consider this:

I mean, if someone gave away a plot twist – or the ending – of a widely-anticipated book that you JUST got your hands on, would you still read it, knowing what would happen?

Or would you be able to read it, and NOT constantly wonder when you’d read said plot twist?

Just sayin’.