Tuesday, March 18, 2008

...never a dull moment in the 'big smoke'...

Recently, I haven't blogged much, and when I have, it has been about the seemingly sad, and slightly stationary state of affairs in Peterborough.

Not so in Toronto, my friends. Not so. They don't call it 'The Big City' for nothing.

I had a dentist appointment in Toronto (please, don't even get me started about the state of medical treatment in Peterborough) on Friday and caught the bus down in the morning. As we were driving along the 401, there was a car completely engulfed in flames on the other side of the road. When I say engulfed, I really mean it. I was in a permanent state of 'flinch' as the bus lumbered by the flaming inferno as I completely expected the car to explode as we passed. Upon further retrospection, I've realised I did absolutely nothing about the flaming car, save talk about how unbelievable it was with some fellow passengers. Picking up my cellphone and calling '911' didn't even occur to me. Not only is this a testament to the 'mob' theory or whatever it is called (you know the one...they say that the bigger the city, the more people around, the less likely an individual is to respond to a call for help or a crisis because they believe that there is someone else who will do it?), but it is also a further illustration of my lack of crisis-response skills. Please see this previous blog, also involving fire, but much more funny:


This is not the actual flaming car I saw. What, you think I had the wherewithall to use my camera?

After the flaming car, the dentist appointment was rather anticlimactic, although, the dental hygienist did say that my teeth and gums were in excellent condition (good news, since I haven't been to the dentist in 4 years!) The excitement picked up again in the evening when my parents and I went out for dinner. My usual favourite sushi restaurant was crammed to capacity, so we tried a new place, just for kicks. Apart from the fact that I was never actually given a menu, and they completely forgot about my father's meal, the food was still tasty. Although, I ordered salmon maki, and then was served something the waitress called 'tuna maki' and which looked like tuna maki...but then when I asked her about it, she said she just made a mistake when she served me. No, she didn't really get much of a tip.

Restaurant and food mix-ups aside, OUTside the restaurant there was a sword and fire eater performing for our amusement. I have been out for dinner a lot in Peterborough. I have never seen a fire or sword eater! One time I saw an 'hot dog eater' but that is not really in the same vein. Plus, he had mustard on his coat and hadn't even had the decency to enhance his act by dressing in costume. I mean, anyone can walk and eat a hot dog at the same time. Pfft.

On the walk home I ran into my old piano teacher! I haven't seen her since I stopped taking piano lessons around grade 11 or 12 (I think I'd reached grade 8 piano by then...minus the official exams). It was so good to see Jennifer! She look just the same as I remembered her, even though she is at least a decade older. That must be one of the additional bonuses to not having children of your own. We talked for ages about what we, and all the other students she had taught who were also my friends, were up to. This conversation was made much easier through the advent of Facebook, I might add. Then, out of the blue, the parents of one of the girls we had been discussing passed by, and all the catching up and story telling had to happen all over again. Thank goodness Toronto is protected by that 'urban heat island' effect (this I learned about when I taught grade 8 geography last year. At least someone learned something), or our half-hour chit-chat on Bloor Street could have left me with hypothermia. Instead, it left me with Jennifer's new business card and a promise to keep in touch.

I actually took this picture of my keyboard keys when I was in Sierra Leone. Then I stretched it out. Now it looks like this.

On Saturday, I had to make an adventurous trip out to Aurora where I was meeting Warren and his family for his father's surprise birthday party. I packed my bags, 3 in all, and dressed in my finest 'meet the family' threads, I managed to traverse the dark tunnels of the TTC from Spadina Station to Finch without calamity. I even successfully purchased and boarded the VIVA bus that would take me on a 45 minute drive from Finch station to Aurora, not a speck on me, or my a-little-too-long dress pants. In fact, even when I disembarked from the bus, and wandered the streets of Aurora for 20 mins. while I waited for Warren to meet me, I managed to stay clean and dry. I was with Warren for less than 5 mins. (FIVE MINUTES!) when this all went to hell in a hand-basket.

I followed Warren through a 'short-cut' (folly on my end, since I have a more naturally occurring sense of direction) that led us out onto the right street, but through a snowbank and then across what I think were quite possibly, the five Great Lakes. I was a little irritated to be walking in snow and greyish slush up to my ankles, and was bending down to tuck my dress pants into my boots when, lo and behold, a van sped by me, splattering slushy water all over me, and drenching my black coat and hair. I stood, bent over, my leather purse straps well placed in my mouth for biting, as the rage and frustration washed over me (not unlike the wave of water that just soaked me). After a minute, I was able to stand upright, but I'm afraid that's when the obscenities began. Luckily I had a chance to wipe off my coat (with my pyjamas) and change my shoes (but not my socks because I didn't have any other black ones) before meeting nearly all of Warren's extended family...oh, and posing for professional family portraits.

This is not one of the portraits. I like to call this photo 'naturally photogenic couple.' Yes, I'm being sarcastic.

The surprise party for Warren's dad was very fun; the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and I enjoyed myself. I was happy to get home to my little attic though...which has now been described as 'hippy-ish.'

You bet. Always.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

...old playgrounds, new people...

Today was one of those days where things just seem a little bit off.

It might have been the fact that I participated in some productive work towards my thesis that threw me off, as that has been quite the anomaly around these parts recently. I did everything I was taught, even starting the day out right with a balanced breakfast of low-fat, high-protein options (just overlook the croissant), and I was even out the door by 9am. I walked to the public library, disappointed to find out it doesn't open until 10am, but decided to head to the Trent Library since I had a small, Green Book to photocopy and return. I had to return the book today, because tomorrow I have a training course from 10am-3pm...or so I thought.

It's always strange returning to the Trent Campus firstly, because I've been away from it for so long, and secondly because well, I'm not actually a student there anymore. Also, who knew the library and campus were so quiet at 9:30am on a weekday? I certainly didn't when I was a student. Waiting for the Trent Express bus inside the double sliding doors of Champlain College, I remembered how loyal and paternalistic one can feel towards a university; I remembered I did. Passing Traill College, I marveled at how so much at the university could change, yet Wallis Hall still has those ugly blue curtains on the windows that I'm fairly certain adorned the windows of the first college residents at the end of the 1960s. On second thought, those blue curtains probably made their debut in the 1980s. I'd imagine the curtains of the 60s and 70s were much more retro and geometric.

Yeah. Just like that.

The student population at Trent has doubled since I first attended in 2000. But, 8 years later, the blue curtains remain. It's good to see that some things are a priority. Or an oversight. Whatever.

So I left library 'A' and moved to library 'B,' a more central choice, complete with homey 'cafe' serving homemade sandwiches and coffee. I still have my Peterborough Public Library card. I'm a trooper. I bought my first cup of 'tea. Earl Grey. Hot.' from the homey cafe and settled into my alcove for the afternoon. I pulled out my agenda, just to take a look at my week ahead and see if there was anything I needed to add in...and realised I was supposed to be at the "Person-Centred Support" training session today, not tomorrow. Aww, crap.

I called my program manager to admit my mistake, but she was unavailable and I left a message on her machine. I was worried that I'd be viewed as irresponsible and that perhaps this particular training session was important. My program manager hasn't called me back yet...so it couldn't have been that imperative. I did receive a call from our team leader, and I thought it may have been concerning my absence...not so. He just wanted to give me another shift. I wrote the new shift down in my agenda, but hey, no promises I'll actually make it in that day.

This is only the first half of my day.

The second half, the public library portion, is beyond amusing. As some of you will know, I talk to myself a bit, but generally, I'll only talk to myself if I'm standing in front of a mirror. It's a family trait. I blame genetics. Ok, well, me talking to myself doesn't even compare to the weird behaviour I encountered at the library.

Things were fairly normal for the first hour or so. Occasionally I'd make the loud huffing sighing noise I make while reading something 'academic', interspersed with an odd 'huh' if I find something particularly interesting. After one of my grunts, the girl sitting across from me looked up and said 'finally found something interesting, eh?" to which I intelligently replied "uh, yeah. Something like that." And then back to my article on Sierra Leone's lumpenproletariat revolution. I didn't even make the word up. I swear. Following that comment, the flood gates of conversation were opened, and all the crazies started talking. I have no idea about half of what one guy was talking about, but he definitely went on and on about cell phones for a good 10 mins after the girl across from me had a conversation with her mother on speaker phone, since she couldn't actually figure out how to work her cell phone. About another hour later, the girl across from me asked me what I was working on...I mumbled through something about civil wars, Sierra Leone and a thesis. She asked me if it was for college or university. "Uh, for university. For my Master's." She raised her eyebrows.

"Want to read a love letter to my former boss?"

I'm not even kidding, she said that out loud. And then she gave me two sheets of green paper full of (very nice) handwriting to read through. The love letter wasn't that bad, as a matter of fact. She did assure me when she handed it over that it was 'totally fine. No sex, or anything." Phew. I was worried. Actually, I suppose it wasn't bad as far as love letters to former bosses go. She was also applying to a new job (which is part of what the phone conversation to her mother was about) and had an interview later that week. I asked her if this former boss was one of her references. She said yes. I suggested it might be better to hand the letter to him after she got the reference.

She gave me a weird look for working on my Master's thesis. She was writing a love letter to her boss. Which one of us is stranger?

Alright, so that was really the height of the weirdness. The strange guy a few tables over started talking again after love letter girl left, and after he left, another strange man replaced him. This one struck up conversation asking me if I was a student but didn't give me a strange look for saying I was working on my Master's. He gave me a strange look for saying I attend Dalhousie University. Well, we can't have it all, can we? He then told me he was just trying to get his grade 12 and then was planning on returning to B.C to attend Simon Fraser University. Here are some of the other things I learned about this man:
  • His father is a law professor at the University of Victoria
  • His parents are from England - in fact he was born in England. People from England like to live in B.C because the climate is similar. It rains a lot.
  • He doesn't find Physics very difficult
  • He wants to be an Engineering Physicist.
  • Housing in B.C is really expensive. He owns a condo there that's he's renting now. Thank goodness he bought before the housing market skyrocketed. You can't get a house for under $500K now.
  • His girlfriend in B.C was cheating on him, so his Aunt suggested he move out to Ontario and finish his GED. No, she doesn't live in Peterborough, she lives in Welland.
  • He might go to Queen's, actually. He's just not sure. They have a good physics program.
  • Peterborough doesn't have an adult education program. He has to drive to Oshawa for his classes.
  • He thinks I should move out west to Alberta because they are just 'crying' for teachers there.
At this point, it was 3pm, and I gave up. I came home and decided to write it all down. Now it's 4:30pm and I think I need a nap.

Living other people's lives is exhausting. But hey! Look at how much I can learn about other people without saying more than a few sentences. And I remembered it all.

With these skills, I should be a spy.