Monthly Archives: October 2019

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Beware of overconfidence. It can turn around and bite you in the derriere, or at the very least, leave you feeling betrayed by yourself. Here’s a small example. I am an excellent parallel parker. My mother taught me, as well as my driver’s ed teacher, and I got pretty good at it.

I’ve learned to be patient, and not pressure myself just because cars are waiting behind me on the street. I use my mom’s technique and can squeeze into the smallest spaces. I’ve been bragging about it for a few years. My daughter and I had to exchange vehicles for a week so she could haul some furniture. Our cars seem similar, but that doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to parking. My first attempt with hers put me up on the curb. My second left me a couple feet away from it with my car angled strangely. I felt shaken by this. What was happening? It turns out I was only good at parking MY car.

I tell you this as a lead up to my first unfortunate event. It started small, with my favourite backpack breaking just as I entered the Winnipeg airport. No big deal…I anchored it to my suitcase with a strap and was on my way. My next unfortunate event was a bigger deal. I was heading to Surrey for an International Writer’s Conference and my plane was due to leave at 11:50. My sister Linda watched me having a leisurely breakfast…it was just after nine…and said, “Why aren’t we driving to the airport! You’re going to be late!”

“I’ve already checked in. I’ll get there an hour ahead and be fine. I’ve never missed a flight in my life, so chill.” In this way I was reminding her that while she’s still older, she’s not the boss of me anymore. I got to the airport 70 minutes before my flight time, and went to print my luggage tag.

‘You cannot check in for this flight,’ was the message on the machine they make you use because they prefer to hire less people and have lots of cash left over for their shareholders. The same reasoning applies to the tiny seats all regular folks are obliged to sit in. It’s today’s version of traveling steerage at the bottom of the ship. Anyway.

I headed up to the counter and was told that my flight was leaving in a few minutes and I had missed my chance. I pulled up my phone to show the man behind the desk that he was wrong, and I could prove it. I showed him the flight on my phone, and he said, “Yes. Like it says, your flight leaves at 10:40.” My first words to him?

“Oh no! My sister was right!” I said, and continued babbling hysterically. “Now my children will lose faith in my ability to run my own life!” I had been proud of how I’d been doing without my husband, who always took charge of our travel itinerary. It was true that he’d missed a few flights himself, but in that moment it didn’t matter much.

We exchanged looks, him absolutely certain I was going to cry and me also certain I was going to cry. I fought the tears to make it easier on both of us. My daughter, Hilary, would soon be waiting for me at the Vancouver airport. I sent her a quick text telling her to head to the hotel without me.

The ticket agent found me a new flight, though it cost me some more money, but he didn’t charge me for my suitcase. He also told me to lie to everyone and blame Air Canada, which I thought was very noble. “This happens all the time,” he said.

“Not to me,” I replied.

“It has now. But it won’t again.”

He’s right. What a life lesson. Somehow I’d convinced myself of the wrong time, and my sister, whom I’d correctly informed a few months before, had stored the info in the reptilian part of her big sister brain. Linda was right. Apparently, she’s still the boss of me after all.

But then he said this. “I guess the Force just wasn’t with you today.”

“What?” I asked this very loudly. “The Force is always with me! Don’t mistake stupidity for not having the Force! Sheesh!” His hands went up defensively, and then he gave me a better seat for free. Anyway.

All went well after that, until day one of the conference when I had to pitch my novel to an agent. Now full of self doubt, (I can’t park, I can’t get to the airport on time) I didn’t know what to do. Ordinarily, I wing my pitch, outlining the theme and storyline plus giving a short bio. This time I headed straight for the bar, ordered a shot of tequila and wrote the whole thing out. I felt a little better as I marched into my appointment. The first thing I said was, ‘I’ve had a shot of tequila and written my pitch out. Can I just read it?’ She said yes, not changing expressions. These agents have to be fearless…they never know what kind of kook will be standing in front of them, begging for a chance. In the end, she decided to take a look at my novel, upping my chances of representation from zero to 1%. Filled with joy (but not self confidence) I hastened to give my daughter the good news.

That night would be a celebration. There was a banquet with the theme, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ and apparently everyone would be wearing costumes. I’d brought the one I’d used for the Rocky Horror Picture show, thinking I could make up a suitable story about my character. In the end, I looked like a vampy hooker having her own dark and stormy night, because less than a quarter of attendees dressed up. The ones that did were wearing raincoats, or carrying lanterns. There was the odd cute mask, and some cool vintage costumes as well as one woman who dressed like a crow. It was very Moira, ‘The Crows Have Eyes,’ from Schitt’s Creek. My daughter wore a cape and mask, and there was I, looking like someone who couldn’t charge much for her services. Ironically, this was the outfit that spawned my last blog, ‘If Bras Could Talk.’

We were not staying at the host hotel and I couldn’t change my outfit, so I just barrelled through dinner and the cocktail party that followed. Fortunately, writers are a quirky lot and I can’t help feeling at home with them. Agents are basically the same. Many of them are writers or deal with them every day.

The last unfortunate event ( at least I hope so, I’m still on the road) meant missing all of Sunday’s events because I’d booked my leaving flight too early. So consider me humbled and feeling like I’m thirteen years old again. But since I write young adult fiction, that might not a bad thing.

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If Bras Could Talk

I was trying to pick an outfit for an evening out when I overheard a conversation not meant for my ears. Before I tell you what was said, I need to revisit my past relationship with undergarments.

There was the time I purchased my first bra from the Blue and White store in Flin Flon. I was twelve, maybe thirteen. I’m unsure because I usually repress this memory. The saleswoman who had handed me a size 30 A had to be called back so I could ask for a smaller size. Do you remember what it felt like to be that age, how you already thought the whole world was watching you? ‘Nobody cares,’ my mother would say, which might have been true. But it wasn’t the caring I was worried about. It was the laughing. The saleswoman hollered across the store, ‘Judy Hanson needs a 28AA!’ As I tried to crawl inside the wall and disappear forever, I pictured the conversation this little cotton bra was having, one cup to another.

“Easy gig, right? Not much heavy lifting, ha ha. Let’s just sit back and relax!” When you’re a kid, even your clothes make fun of you. But I never expected that to continue into adulthood.

Today I was wracking my brain (which should be left alone, it’s suffered enough over the years) about what to wear for a Johnny’s Social Club event, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ I dressed up the last time and it made the evening that much more fun. Fortunately, my youngest had left a bag of cast off clothing behind, and she has a strong preference for black. Sure enough, there in the bag was a garment that could have looked cool if I was young enough, but now would appear kind of silly and therefore perfect for the evening.

I tried the outfit on and realized I needed to wear that bra. The kind that sits in the bottom of the drawer because it’s not your friend. The two of you never talk. It’s not comfortable and you can’t forgive it for the money you spent on its behalf. With a heavy sigh, you pull it out into the light.

Mine was bought in the kind of shop where the saleswomen follow you inside the tiny change room. I felt like an inadequate thirteen year old all over again, even though the sales person herself was barely in her twenties. She handed me her version of the perfect bra and I just knew it wasn’t going to be comfortable. However, like Fantine in Les Miserable, I dreamed a dream. Hope was high and life worth living, so this time would be different and that lovely piece of lingerie would fit and make me feel good. It’s only when I returned home that I realized I’d purchased another expensive mistake. There should be a bureau one can turn to regarding buyer’s remorse, or some kind of bra complaint department.

In the meantime, this bra had to step up and be worn. I managed to wrestle the thing in place and that was when it started talking. The cups totally ignored me in favour of a team meeting. I’m not sure where the other speakers came from, but there were quite a few. One appeared to be the leader.

‘Look,’ he said, (of course it was a man, smug, patronizing¬† and fortunately, no one I recognized) ‘we need a whole new plan here. Things have changed since the last time we left the drawer.’ Another voice pipes up, ‘You’re not kidding. We need a crane for the whole lifting and separating thing. My God, how much weight has she packed on? Does she even fit us anymore?’
‘Look, you stand over there and do the necessary, I’ll…’

‘Shut up,’ I said sternly, pushing things in place, prodding and poking and then doing that horrible reach back for the clasp, which gets no easier with age. A woman needs monkey hands for that kind of business. Or a spare person. Anyway, I finally pulled the outfit over top and this seemed to quell the voices a bit. I heard a bit of mumbling, ‘We’re never going to make it,’ but decided to ignore them.

This is what happens as we grow older. It’s not that we get smarter, or wiser. We just stop caring about critical voices, ours and those belonging to our lingerie. We’ve been to the beach and back and have the broken elastic bathing suits to prove it. There’s not much we haven’t seen, and really, we paid good money for these contraptions and need to wear them more than once, so we refuse to be shamed. I stand back from the mirror. Yes, I look a bit silly, which means I’ll fit right in. Oh, shut up.

Men in Trouble

There are a lot of men in trouble these days. Donald Trump, for anything you can think of, Boris Johnson for emulating him, and Justin Trudeau for brown-facing and enjoying the dramatic life just a little too much. There are others who’ve been caught harassing women, men, and children. Some out there are thinking, why is nobody pointing the finger at Mick Jagger? I’m sure he’s done something. Every rock and roll band from the seventies has to be guilty of SOMETHING. Anything went, back in the day, if you were rich and famous. Even if you weren’t. But nobody cared. Nowadays, men are always in trouble.

The married ones, anyway. Since my husband died, I am exercising my ‘man chastisement’ muscle on my brother in law, Bob. He’s a good sport, and since I often stay at their apartment in Winnipeg, I have plenty of opportunities.

One morning, I entered the bathroom and drew back in horror. In a small dish by the sink were two shrivelled brown things resembling:

a. Preserved and shrunken (but not by much) penises
b. Two cooked hot dogs left over from last summer.
c. Something the witch from Robin Hood, (the Kevin Costner version) would use to cast a spell.

I was informed that this hideous couple of lumps was once soap on a rope. Bob is thrifty, and also sentimentally attached to the thing. It looked like wood, he said fondly, but now the bar had shrivelled into a left over body part from Night of the Living Dead. ¬†Bob’s defensiveness made me nostalgic for the days when my husband was in trouble.

There were the clothing offences, like his penchant for high tide pants and loud shirts. There was his sense of humour that was almost always fun until it wasn’t. Like the time he was the MC for a Chamber of Commerce dinner. The trick with Clarence, who was not generally a big drinker, was to keep him from imbibing BEFORE he had to speak. This time he decided to warm up the crowd with a story about a man who was well known for his moose calling skills. After setting up the scene nicely (a cold fall day, breath in the air, the sense of anticipation) my husband leaned into the mike and said:
“Come here, you fucking moose.”

By the stunned silence that followed, he came to understand that perhaps he’d misread the room. I can’t remember much about the rest of the evening because of my shock, but I know that a wifely smackdown took place once we got home.

It doesn’t need to be a thing of this magnitude to make wives feel irritated. Hearing from friends and strangers, I’ve realized that any of the following may get a man into trouble at home:

1. Loud throat clearing or nose blowing, especially over the phone, as well as excessive coughing. Having a cold is generally not considered an excuse.

2. Pretending to clean out the garage while basically farting around and rummaging through all the old junk lying about, then simply moving it across the room.

3. Disregarding our health advice, no matter how good it is is or how long we drone on about it.

4. Being gormless: ie: bewildered by our ongoing and ever changing expectations and their own constant failure to live up to them.

5. Walking around with stunned expressions. Not knowing they’re walking around with stunned expressions.

6. Snoring, having sleep apnea and not believing us. Telling us we snore too, which we never believe.

6. Basically, whatever gets under our skin on any particular day. They won’t know what it is until we tell them, which we don’t often do, choosing instead to make them guess. They never get it right. (Is it the socks? Wearing my underwear two days in a row?) We turn away, disgusted. Why can’t they read our minds like they’re supposed to?

Dear women of the world, (and gay men who feel the same way) I’m not defending the other team, or making excuses for the things men do that drive us crazy. I’m just saying, mine would be in a lot less trouble with me now than he used to be, if only he weren’t dead. Though now that I think about it, he’s still in trouble for that.