Happy New Day

Well, it’s the last day of 2008 and the tradition is to make resolutions to help make the following year better.  I don’t know who invented this resolution thing, but I don’t think it’s entirely healthy.

First of all, it has been proven by scientific blog polling  that January and February are the vilest months of the year. You’ve just had weeks of stress, revelry, gluttony drinkony, time off and a bit of fun and now you have nothing to look forward to but months of bitterly cold weather (unless you’re in Texas or Tasmania). So, on top of that you want to add depriving yourself of things you enjoy (food, drink, sloth, greed) and forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy (exercise, being kind, tightening belt buckles).

My thinking is that whenever you open your eyes each and every morning you have the opportunity to resolve to enjoy that day; to treat yourself well; to treat others well; and to make the most of what you have. You don’t need to make a passel of promises once a year that you couldn’t possibly hope to keep which, in turn, will make you feel like you’ve failed. You can start each day fresh.

One morning you might wake up and think, “Hmmm, today I’m going to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast instead of a greasy muffin from the coffee shop.” Or, “Hey, maybe I’ll take a walk at noon today instead of sitting around the cafeteria after I eat lunch.”

And maybe the next day you’ll have a muffin again and maybe you won’t. So if you didn’t get to walk on Tuesday, that’s okay because it was only one day – not a whole year’s plan – and Wednesday is a whole new day.

You might be expecting me to burst into song here…The sun’ll come out, Tomorrow, Bet your bottom dollar, That tomorrow, There’ll be sun!…. but I won’t.

 I’m just saying, whatever you think you want to make better in your life, I don’t think you don’t need to follow someone else’s plan or schedule. Maybe it’s best to just relax and do things one day at a time, or even one hour at a time.

 So, I’m wishing ya’ll a Happy New Day.

The interviews so far…

 I thought some of you might be interested in the interviews we’ve been doing since Monday.  Coming up with 5 different questions for everyone and reading all the answers has been fun and also has sparked some ideas for future blog posts. Maybe it will do the same for you? There are still a few interviewees who haven’t posted their answers yet, but I’ll try to remember to link them when/if they do.

Dr. Monkey – who gets to be Oprah for a day and takes full advantage of himself.

The Maven – who has the answer for solving the current transit strike

Raino – who has a steamy one-night stand with Eddie Vedder

Quack Attack – who got the most serious questions and may have an answer for the current economic crisis

Missy – who tells us what she’d do if she were queen of the world for a day

Violetsky – who wants to do mojitos with Ellen

Cedarflame – who thinks only stupid people can be happy.

Loth – who gives us the low down on Scottish men

Meanie – who takes us from her hot rocker chick origins to her current super-mama reality

 Geewits who didn’t want to bother me for questions and did her own interview

Are You Nice?

Since answering Nat’s questions yesterday, I’m surprised that people aside from Nat seem to think I’m “nice”.  It’s not something I’ve ever aspired to. I don’t go out of my way to be mean or anything, but “nice” seems to require an effort I’m not always interesting in making. 

I’m not actually sure what “nice” really means. I’m not sure I know any genuinely “nice” people. I know people who are always smiling and solicitous and doing stuff for others, but then I hear them grumbling about ingratitude and being treated like doormats, so that doesn’t seem nice. Or there have been people who seem really nice and then I find out some really distasteful stuff about them and I can’t think of them as nice anymore. Maybe I’m just cynical (and not nice), but it seems to me that people who put on airs of niceness usually have a hidden agenda.

Anyway, I Googled “nice”. Here’s How to be Nice and why I never will be:

  1. Smile. A smile will let people know that you are pleasant and inviting. I can’t. I’m not pleasant and inviting. I smile at people I know and/or like and sometimes I smile at a stranger if he/she looks like they could use a smile. Otherwise I go through the world looking unpleasant and uninviting.
  2. Say hello. When you’re walking past someone, even a stranger, try to acknowledge their presence with simple “hello” or “hi” or even just a wave or a nod in their direction. No. I don’t think this is a good idea. Because then they’ll want to talk to you. It drives me crazy when I pass the same person in the hall at work 20 times a day and each time they feel they have to say hello or make some inane comment.
  3. Ask people how they are doing. Also not a good idea. I never know what to answer when people ask me that. I usually say, “okay” and then they go into a big, “Just okay? Come on… life is good..cheer up…Smile!”. Then I’m annoyed. So I try to remember to just say, “fine”. No one can argue with that. I try never to ask people how they are. For some reason they never say, “fine” when I ask. They tell me exactly how they are and it takes a long time and mostly I don’t care.
  4. Be a good listener. Listen when other people are talking to you. It isn’t nice to just ignore other peoples’ opinions and stories. Ha Ha. It takes up a lot of time in your life to listen to other people. If I’m out relaxing and doing nothing but talking to people, that’s fine. I love to hear stories and opinions. Blogging is also all about listening and responding to stories and opinions. But, when people hang around your workstation blathering on and on about shit that’s going on in their lives or complaining about work or coworkers when you’re trying to get stuff done, I stop listening. Or when someone calls you and keeps you on the phone forever even after you’ve said good-bye several times… Or when strangers on the bus or train or plane or park bench or grocery store start bending your ear with some insane theory… (Of course, some strangers can have some really mind-bending things to tell you that are worth storing up for future reference).
  5. Be courteous. Always say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Well, okay. I usually say please and thank you. That’s not necessarily “nice” just polite and civilized. Just because you’re not nice, doesn’t mean you have to be a boor, right?
  6. Be positive. Don’t be negative or critical. Keep looking for the positive in any given situation. I have a lot of trouble with this one. I reckon if you keep your expectations low, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised every once in a while. If you keep your expectations high, you’ll often be disappointed. Disappointment is depressing while pleasant surprises are fun. Ergo, it’s better to be negative because it’s more fun.
  7. Be humble. The key to being nice is remembering that you are not “better” than someone else. Huh? What kind of advice is that? So you have to have low self-esteem in order to be nice? I like myself better than I like a lot of people. I know there are lots of people that are better at a lot of stuff than I am and that’s okay. I focus on the stuff that’s important to me and I think I just may be better at that stuff than some other people.
  8. Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, even doing something as simple as carrying a bag of groceries, or holding the door for someone. You can also be nice to the community and the world by volunteering. I pretty much always do stuff like hold doors or help carry stuff if it looks like it’s needed. Again, I think that’s just polite. I don’t do a lot of volunteering though. There just never seems to be enough time. And I’m not nice enough to give up the little free time I have.
  9. Be sincere. Ah ha! That I usually am. But being sincere and being nice don’t always go hand in hand. If someone asks me for a favor and it’s a huge imposition, I’ll say no. Sometimes even if it’s just a semi-huge imposition and I don’t particularly like the person, I’ll still say no. That’s sincere, but not nice.
  10. Don’t be a jerk. That covers a lot of territory. I have my jerk moments. I’ve done jerky things. I’ll probably do jerky things in the future. That’s a whole other blog post – doing stuff you know is wrong or really not nice or even mean. Sometimes I feel badly afterwards and regret having been a jerk, but sometimes not.

5 Questions

This “cooperative blogging thingy”[1] comes via Nat. It’s kind of a fun interview exercise because fellow bloggers can email you asking to join in and then you have to email them back 5 interview questions – things you’d like to know specifically about them. Then they answer the questions on their blog and invite other bloggers to join in which means they have to come up with 5 questions for those bloggers. Get it? (Complete instructions are at the end of this post).

So anyway, Nat emailed me the following 5 questions to answer.

Q1: You did something that completely baffles me. You left Halifax and moved to Ottawa. All my life, I’ve been trying to leave Ottawa to move to Halifax. Aren’t you going in the wrong direction?

A1: No! I’m originally from southern Ontario and just lived in Halifax for 9 years. Halifax is a great place to visit. Halifax is even a great place to live for a few years. But, unless you’re from there and have generations of roots there, I would advise against trying to live there permanently. But that’s just my opinion. This is really a question that deserves a long conversation over wine, not something I can explain in a few sentences.

Q2: What’s the single oddest thing about Ottawa?

A2: Oh boy. This is tough because there are a few odd things about Ottawa.  Number One would be how Larry O’Brien ever got elected mayor. I find this baffling. Also, I’m always surprised at how spread out this city is. It’s all over the place.  Not just a collection of communities – which is what one would expect – but just everything.  With a collection of communities you would expect to be able to conduct your day-to-day business within your community. But in Ottawa you can’t do that in most communities because the communities aren’t complete.  You might have a grocery store, but you have to go to another community for a post office and another one yet for a good restaurant and somewhere else completely for a natural food store. The entertainment/sports/arts venues, which you would expect to be centrally located are all over the place, too.  This city demands that all its citizens own vehicles. This has really been brought home to me during this transit strike. I don’t think this is a good thing for any city.

Q3: Why aren’t you an urban pedestrian anymore?

A3: A full explanation for this can be found on my “About” page (see tab above)

Q4: What is the single best?

A4: Nat’s a little scattered, so she didn’t quite finish this question. I will assume she wanted to ask about what I find best about Ottawa. I don’t really know where to start. The bloggers, of course, are the best anywhere. I love skating on the canal. After Halifax, the weather in Ottawa is great. The Centretown/Glebe area is a really nice community with lots of stuff going on, great independent shops, restaurants, pubs, music, art. I want to live there. It’s the most complete community I’ve found in Ottawa.

Q5: I was told as constructive criticism that I’m not as nice as I could be. You strike me as someone who knows how to soften the blows. Do you think nice is over-rated?

A5: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!! Nat’s not only scattered, but also a tad deluded. (You’re so funny, Nat. I have no idea where you got the notion that I would be able to answer a question about niceness. But thanks.) No one has ever called me nice before. I’m on the floor laughing. I can only say that you have to be yourself. Any attempt to fake niceness will only come out as fake niceness and that’s kind of nauseating.

___________________________________________________________

Here are the rules if you want to participate in 5 Questions.

  1. Send me an email saying:  “Interview Me” to urbanpedestrian@gmail.com
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  3. You can then answer the questions on your blog.
  4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you wanting to be interviewed.
  5. Anyone who asks to be interviewed should be sent 5 questions to answer on their blog. I would be nice if the questions were individualized for each blogger.

[1] NO! It’s not a meme. I don’t do memes.

Petition to Move Christmas to Summer

Well, I’m back from being away. I had intended to do some posts while I was away, but the auto-post thingy didn’t and then for some reason I couldn’t access my blog because it kept telling me that my password was incorrect even though it wasn’t.

Anyway, Christmas (and everything that goes along with it)  is over and if there’s one thing I learned this year is that we’re having this event entirely in the wrong season.

Okay, I know we all love the whole white Christmas, stockings hung by a roaring fire thing, but I think there could be some real advantages to having Christmas when it’s warm.

  • Shopping would be much easier if you don’t have to wander around the mall in big boots and a parka
  • Travelling would be a snap compared to the snow and ice nightmare it usually is.
  • Packing for the trip is simpler, too. A few shorts and t-shirts take up a lot less room than sweaters and jeans.
  • When visiting family you don’t all have to sit around the house eating for a week. You can go outside and do stuff. The kids won’t be climbing the walls. And the whole cabin fever factor will be taken out of the usual dysfunctional togetherness time.
  • Cooking, eating and drinking can be done on the back patio instead of falling all over each other in a hot kitchen and then squeezing around someone’s not-so-big dining room table.
  •  No competition with all the other religious and winter-related celebrations.
  •  Everything is more fun with sunshine and warm, including holiday stress.
  •  And, winter vacations can thusly be reserved for real holidays relaxing on a tropical beach.

july

Please sign below and I’ll send the petition to Michael Ignatieff because he looks like a “get things done/outside-of-the-box” kind of guy. But I’m open to other suggestions as to where to send the petition.

Do you hear what I hear?

Alison recently reminded me of at least one reason to be grateful for being the parent of a teenager – especially this time of year — No more school Christmas  concerts to attend!!

Whooooo-hooooo!!!!!

Yes, I love my child and I love that she has some talents and I’ve totally encouraged all her talents and interests over the years. And I rather enjoy watching her perform. I just was never crazy about being obligated to sit through all the other kids’ performances, too.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible person and I should be admiring all the hard work these kids put into these events.  And I should be rooting them on to greatness instead of gritting my teeth through their performances. And ya, some of them were kind of cute and a rare few were actually quite talented and fun to watch. But for the most part, they performed like someone was holding a gun to their heads.

Those school concerts were probably among longest hours of my life. The band performs —  and we listen to gaggles of tone-deaf tiny people doing horrible things to perfectly good musical instruments.  The choir performs — usually not too unbearable. But then each class had to do their own thing — screeching out half a dozen songs — a few solos or duets thrown in for our added enjoyment.

Then along with the 2 or 3 school performances, ever year, I’ve also sat through another 2 piano recitals every year.  And separate choir and band performances for the years the child was involved in those. If we go back a bit there were also quite a few dance recitals when she took some dance classes; not to mention all the many, many performances during summer day camp theatre, dance and art classes. I reckon I’ve sat through a good 100 performances at an average of 90 minutes each – you do the math (No really, please do the math. I’m afraid to.)

I’m not even counting the hours of sitting in freezing cold arenas every Saturday morning for 10 years watching the kid falling on ice.

She still skates and plays piano, but her shows and recitals have edged into the really enjoyable realm now. And I don’t have to sit through the practices anymore.

Life is good.

I’m sure glad those school concert years are behind me.

Yup.

No more of that boring kiddy stuff.

No more school gyms,  still smelling a bit sweaty, now  festooned with twinkling lights, glittering garland and children’s artwork.

No more freshly scrubbed tykes in their Sunday best, pulling and tugging at their unfamiliar tights and ties.

No more gap-toothed smiles, nervous but beaming proudly as they belt out songs they’ve been practicing month after month;  faces lighting up as they finally manage to spot their families in the audience.

No more parents and grandparents clasping hands to bosoms, eyes glistening, hearts swelling; forgetting to take photos as they get caught up in the delight of it all.

No more little one rushing into my arms after the shows — eyes bright, full of joy…. face shining…. excitedly, expectantly, confidently awaiting my fulsome, unbridled, totally heartfelt praise….

10 Last Minute Shopping Tips

Like many real people of my acquaintance, The Uncouth Heathen finds herself in the precarious position of not having finished (or even started) Christmas shopping. And Christmas is exactly one week away.

Those of you in the same boat are probably thinking your only option is to rush to a mall now and fight the crowds for whatever leftover crap is rolling around the aisles.

Not true.

  1. Dig out that lovely Christmas stationery you got from your Secret Santa years ago. Use it to type up a bunch of cards saying:  A Donation Has Been Made in Your Name to [insert charity, real or imaginary, of your choice]
  2. It’s a day ending in “y” the holidays so you’re going to be going to the liquor store anyway —  why not just buy everyone liquor? Liquor is very festive and always appreciated at this stressful heart-warming time of year.
  3. Dig through your trunkful of gifts from Christmases Past that you haven’t ever taken out of their boxes and wrap them up. Some cheerful paper and a festive colourful bow will give the illusion that the gift was chosen with care. If you don’t have a re-gift trunk, you might want to consider it for next year.
  4. Make some Christmas candles. Candles are very romantic and thoughful gifts and quick and easy to make. All you need are some pine needles, some empty toilet paper rolls, used dental floss for wicks and lots of bacon.  Cook the bacon, eat it and pour the fat into the toilet paper rolls. Add some colourful pine needles, a hunk of dental floss and stick in the fridge for a while. When it’s hard, tie a nice red festive bow around your fragrant home-made Christmas candle and off you go.
  5. Nothing is more popular than self-help books.  Of course, you don’t have time to write and publish a whole book, but you do have time for a “How To” booklet. Just  download some good instructional articles from the internet and bind them with some nice festive ribbon. Print off a digital photo of yourself, looking wise, for the cover. You can personalize each booklet by thinking about the greatest failing of each person on your gift list and addressing the “how to” advice accordingly. (e.g.: How to be a Better Parent; How to Say No and Save Big on Penicillen; How to Play with Children Appropriately)
  6. Tell everyone that you’re taking a stance against the crass commercialism of the season and will only be celebrating it by enjoying the company of your near and dear ones. Don’t let this stop you from accepting gifts, though. Be humble, but gracious like you’re doing them a favour (just this one last time) by accepting their gifts.
  7. Fortunately, you’re a procrastinator, so you haven’t put yourself on the Do Not Call list for telemarketers yet so just sign up all your loved ones for whatever the next phone call offers.
  8. Cash is good, especially if you’re shopping for young people. Most of them are unfamiliar with cash, so it will be a novelty for them. Make sure you write up a few instructions on how to use it.
  9. Make fudge. Who doesn’t love fudge? If you don’t know how to make fudge, fudge it. Fudge can be anything sweet mashed together into a square shape. The dollar store offers a lot of cheap knock off chocolate bars like “Oh Harvey!” or “Kite Cat” or “Knickers”. Melt them all down in a big pot, pour into a big square pan and refrigerate for a while. Then cut into little squares, wrap in cellophane and tie a festive bow around the whole thing.  (Hint: A few shots of Jack Daniels into the pot right at the end, will make your fudge smell exotic).
  10. If all else fails, give the gift of faux music. Find some album covers online of bands and singers everybody hates. Glue them into an empty CD case. Wrap in cellophane and glue down the edges. No one will every open the case to notice there isn’t a CD inside and even if they do they’ll be relieved.

 Of course, if you’d listened to me in the first place and done all your shopping online ages ago like I did, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.

I Am a Loser

I didn’t win the Best New Blog Award. That honour belongs to ProWomanProLife who will now be showered with gifts, barrows full of cash, a fatted calf and an arranged marriage to Guy Richie (kind of glad I dodged the bullet on that one).

Before you all abandon me to go spend your blog reading hours with a WINNER, I want to thank the eight or so people who voted for me and to let you know I’ll be right here still writing my LOSER blog if you want to stop by sometime. I’d be ever so grateful.

Whoa is me. Whoa is me.

Help! Wanted!

I very unwisely picked  The World’s Most Disorganized Pharmacy at which to get my daughter’s meds.

No matter when I call in my prescription, I always have to stand in line for 15 – 20 minutes while they go hunting for it behind the counter, tripping over unseen stuff on the floor, bumping into each other, getting all flustered because they can’t find anything in the jumble of prescription bags stacked up on every available surface.

They always seem to screw up and/or lose the prescriptions of 75% of the people in line ahead of me and then, at least half the time, screw up mine as well. It never fails to be a lengthy adventure.

I could conceivably put up with this once every couple of months if they didn’t also employ criminally insane cashiers.

One of them just is a little insane –a tad  scary in an over-caffeinated way. But at least tries to be friendly to some of us.

Unfortunately it’s an intrusive, long-winded friendly.  She always wants to draw you into a big discussion about your personal life while 15 people are waiting behind you.

“No, I don’t want your do-doubt very professional cashier’s advice on additional drugs I might want to consider for my daughter.” And, “You’re right, I haven’t told you exactly what she’s taking the drugs for.” And, “Sorry, I don’t have time to speculate on why your husband won’t go a little bit out of his way to pick you up on his way home from work.”

She’s nuts, but I can deal with her.

But then there’s the angry, rude, wild-eyed, agitated criminally insane cashier.

I’ve only had her twice, because, as she proclaims loudly each time, this isn’t her usual job. She’s back there behind the counter amongst all the drugs cursing a blue streak.

“Where the fruck did you guys put yesterday’s shit?” “Why can’t I make this friggin’ cash register go?” 

I had her last weekend. After waiting in line the requisite 20 minutes, it was finally my turn. When the pharmacist hurriedly threw my prescription bottle and official receipt into one of their little trays and handed it to her to ring up, the agitated criminally insane cashier gets all frantic and starts asking everyone behind and in front of the counter, loudly and with a really mean scowl: “What the hell is this? Why does she get a basket? What the hell does that mean? Does that mean anything? What am I supposed to do with this basket?”

One of the several seemingly normal people milling around behind the counter tried to calm her down and explain the situation, instructing her on what to do next. The criminally insane one glares at me, dumps the prescription and receipt on the counter and thrusts the tray/basket at me. (None of this was included in the instructions on what to do next.)

I put the tray aside and lay my other purchases on the counter for her to ring up along with the prescription. Then, feeling particularly stupid and fed up that day, I say, “You know, you have an odd customer service attitude.”

“I do?” she asks incredulously, angrily, twitchingly. “What the hell did I do?”

“That,” I say. “All this helling and fruckin’ and friggin’ stuff. All the shouting and complaining and throwing stuff around in front of the customers.”

“I don’t know what your problem is. I never did that.”

“Okaaaaaay,” I say.

“You know, if you don’t like your job, maybe you should look for something less stressful and less public.”

“Oh, I love my job.” She snaps. “It’s just some of the customers I hate.” She adds, glaring at me pointedly.

At this, the seemingly normal woman reaches over and punches the criminally insane one in the arm. Hard. So hard it makes the criminally insane one actually stumble sideways.

Very unexpected.

Everybody in line shuffles nervously and looks around. I’m thinking they, like me, are probably seeking escape routes.

The criminally insane one, suspiciously subdued now, hands me my bag and says, “Have a nice day.”

She makes it sound like, “Fuck off and die.”

I get home and find out she forgot to charge me for the most expensive item I’d bought. I thought about going back, but it was pretty cold out.

Then I was back in the store yesterday (far away from the pharmacy section) when the criminally insane one walks by.

She stops. Stares at me. And in a voice loud enough for everyone within 20 feet to hear, says, “Oh my god! Now I’m going to puke!”

I’m thinking of changing pharmacies.

A Christmas Wish

To All Mall, Store & Elevator Music Directors,

If you insist on playing Christmas-like music 24/7 could you please at least play it the way god intended it to be played?

Jazz, Blues, R&B, Hip-Hop, Rap, Techno-Pop, Pop, Rock, Heavy Metal, Disco, Rockabilly, Polka, Gospel, Salsa, Opera, Ballad, Bluegrass, Barbershop, Soul, Contemplative, Doo-wop, Zydeco, Folk, Spoken-Word and New Country versions of Santa Claus is Coming to Town are as ridiculous as they are irritating.

If music people want to get “creative” with Christmas-like music, they should write their own like John Lennon or Boney M. did. Mary’s Boy Child never fails to make me feel not only Christmassy, but also almost makes me feel like I could possibly nearly actually almost believe in the boy child.

[Happy Christmas (War is Over) (aka And So This is Christmas) just makes me weep openly, so maybe this wouldn’t be a good mall choice.]