My First Bike

Julie did a post the other day about her daughter’s adventures in learning to ride her bike which reminded me of when I first learned to ride a bike. Julie also mentioned how few kids seem to know the rules of safe cycling.

Back in the day, when I was a youngster, bicycle safety and pedestrian safety were a major part of our elementary school curriculum. (Had to watch out for those horseless carriage contraptions dontcha know). Every spring and fall,  Elmer the Safety Elephant  used to visit schools along with someone from the local police to give us instructions on how to walk and cycle safely and to teach us the cycling hand signals and such.

Then there would be activities throughout the school year related to Elmer. We had an Elmer flag on our school’s flagpole which would be lowered any time there was an incident and schools with the fewest incidents would get a special prize at the end of the year. One year our school won and Bing Crosby’s wife came to present us with our prize. It was quite the toodoo.

Of course that was several years after I first learned to ride a bike.

I never had a tricycle or any sort of wheeled toy when I was a kid. I spent years longing for a bike; begging for a bike; desperate for the freedom of my own bike. Finally, late in the summer before I was about to start school, they figured I should have a bike so I could get back and forth to school.

My dad and I went out shopping one Saturday morning. Doing anything alone with one of my parents was, in itself, an unprecedented adventure. I don’t remember what store we went to or anything about the store or the salesman. I only remember that we found my bike – a light blue shiny new CCM.

It was beautiful. It was far beyond anything I was expecting. I would have been happy with a rusty old migrant farm worker bike.

For some reason, my blue CCM had no seat though. That, too was perfectly fine with me. I was willing to ride that bike without a seat, but that, apparently was out of the question. My dad was going to leave without the bike, but I couldn’t let that happen. After some wrangling and discussing the salesman finally managed to dig up a seat from somewhere.

It was red and white. He thought we probably wouldn’t want a red and white seat on a blue bike and said he could probably order us a blue and white seat in a couple of weeks. Well, there was no way I was leaving that store without my bike so I convinced my dad that I loved that red and white seat and we should take it home right away.

What did I care what colour the seat was? It had two wheels and two pedals. That’s all I cared about. I just wanted something to pedal. I wanted to ride. Feel the wind in my hair. Go places. See things. And I wanted it now.

When we got home there were yet more delays to my freedom. First we had to have lunch.  Then after lunch my dad said he had another errand to do, but would teach me to ride the bike as soon as he got back.

“Pffft,” I thought. “I don’t need to wait for him. I WILL not wait for him. I can do this on my own!”

Since we lived in the boonies, I had a choice of learning to ride on a dirt road and possibly encountering cars and trucks; or riding on the driveway which was gravel and seemed like it would hurt if I fell down on it; or riding in the orchard which was dirt and rough and lumpy, but which had some smooth spots where the tractor wheels had been.

So off I went to the orchard with my new bike. I don’t have a real clear memory of the learning process, but they tell me I was out there for two hours on that hot, humid August afternoon.

And then I emerged.

My clothes, arms, legs, face and hair were covered in dirt, mud, twigs and leaves. But I was riding my bike – a little wobbly, but with supreme confidence and beaming from ear to ear.

They couldn’t get me off it that day until it was too dark to see anymore.

They wouldn’t let me ride it to school, however, until around the third or fourth week into the school year – after we’d had our visit from Elmer and the Fuzz.

My route to school was a hard-packed dirt road with a gravel shoulder. I knew I was supposed to stay off to the side of the road, but I wanted to ride on the hard-packed dirt, not in the nasty gravel.

Well, I guess I was too far into the road because some driver behind me followed me to school and went in to complain to the principal that I was a menace on the road. That very evening, my teacher and a police officer came to visit my parents and said I needed more time learning the rules of safe cycling before I should be allowed on a bike. They confiscated my bike for six weeks.

Bastards.

The olden days were so weird, weren’t they?

That was the only bike I ever had until I was an adult and bought my own. When my blue CCM got too small for me, it was handed down to my sister. When it got too small for her, my brothers harvested it for parts for their bikes and go-karts. It was a well-used and much loved bike.

Do you remember your first bike and/or learning to ride a two-wheeler?

The Beat Goes On…

As some of you know, I’ve been in a 17+ year battle to collect child support from the man who “fathered” XUP Jr. So far, we’ve managed to get a whopping total of $1800 from him — in 17 years — after two court orders — and about ten thousand phone calls to Ontario’s ironically named Family Responsibility Office (FRO).

This Ontario office has more than 180,000 active cases of deadbeat parents on their books with over $1.3 BILLION owed in child support. (It doesn’t include the god-knows-how-many deadbeat cases they’ve just given up on as they’ve tried to do to with my case several times now). And this is a province of only 13 million people! It’s beyond shameful.

If I were a math geek I could somehow figure out (using ratios and percentages and maybe even algebra) how many deadbeat parents and how much owed child support that might represent across Canada and/or the US.

And, how many children that might represent who are doing without things they might need because they’ve been shrugged off by one of their parents and the government. (I know, a bunch of you Anti-Nanny-Staters are going to say it’s not the government’s responsiblity to force parents to be responsible, right? That it’s our own damn fault for having kids with irresponsible people, right? Believe me, I think that often enough myself)

But let’s move on.

I think those deadbeat figures are mind-bogglingly shocking.  If my experience is anything to go by then, in this province, FRO can certainly take the blame for a lot of it because of their incredibly frustrating lack of ability to enforce support orders and for giving deadbeat parents opportunity after opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to weasel out of their obligations.

From where I stand, the deadbeat parent seems to control all the balls. They can keep filing Change Orders to get their support payments reduced no matter how many times a judge reviews their financial situation and orders them to pay. Deadbeats have all sorts of ways of showing little or no income and there’s apparently nothing anyone can do about it even if the deadbeat parent is living in a lovely, ocean-front home, owns a boat, has a holiday home in another country, drives a couple of high-end vehicles and has a very lucrative business. As long as the deadbeat is filing income tax forms that claim an annual income of only $10,000 they don’t have to pay child support.

And because of their “low” income, they get a free legal aid lawyer to help them while the other parent doesn’t even get a designated FRO case worker he/she can talk to, but has to call the FRO “call centre” and re-explain the entire history of his/her case at every single phone call. And, I’ve discovered regular phone calls to FRO are absolutely necessary if a person wants to keep their case moving along at all. If you don’t call them every couple of weeks, they do nothing with your file and eventually just close it.

The parent raising the child doesn’t have the luxury of saying, “Gee, I’m not really making enough money to support this child and maintain the lifestyle I enjoy, so I’m just not going to leave her on someone else’s doorstep now.” Not that a real parent would, because what kind of person doesn’t do whatever they can to make sure their own child is well taken care of? (The kind of person some people are foolish enough to make a baby with, I guess.)

But let’s broaden this discussion a bit more to see if there are any circumstances under which a non-custodial parent should ever not have to pay child support. First, here are the major reasons deadbeats say they’re not paying:

  • About 40% of all deadbeat parents say they don’t pay is because they don’t have any money.
  • About a quarter of all deadbeat parents say they don’t pay because they don’t think their visitation rights are fair.
  • 10% – 15% percent say they never wanted children.
  • Approximately another 10% say it’s not their child, so they’re not paying.
  • In addition, around 70% of all deadbeat parents say they’re not  paying because they have no say in how the money is spent.

Are any of these valid? (Aside from if the man is not the child’s legal father or if a DNA test proves that the man is not the child’s biological father).

One school of thought says that if you are involved in the conception of a child, regardless of circumstances, you are, at the very least, financially responsible for that child until he or she is an adult. (Unless the child is legally given up for adoption, of course). Can such a blanket statement be made?

There’s another school of thought that says that since women hold all the cards as to whether or not they’re going to keep and raise the child, the man should have some rights when it comes to choosing whether or not (and/or) how much child support he should pay. Examples can be cited of women who “trick” men into getting them pregnant.

Let’s look at some possible scenarios: 

  1. A man and a woman pick each other up in a bar, have protected sex, but something goes awry and she gets pregnant. She tracks him down and tells him and he says, “tough luck baby get an abortion,” but she won’t do that for whatever reason and decides to keep and raise the child. Should the guy still be ordered to pay child support?
  2. Or, what if a couple is married, have a couple of kids, but after a while the wife can’t take being a wife and mother anymore and leaves. The husband has a good, stable, well-paying job and is left to raise the kids on his own. They get divorced and the wife gets her share of the couple’s assets. It’s enough to buy her a modest home, but she is only able to find a minimum-wage job and is having difficulty making ends meet. Should she be ordered to pay child support?
  3. A man with a middle-class income has been paying child support of about $400 monthly for one child. His ex-wife works at a low-paying job so the child support is vital in helping to pay the bills. The ex-wife meets a new man and eventually moves him in with her and the child. The ex-husband feels that his ex-wife will now be spending his child support on things that will benefit the new man and feels he shouldn’t have to pay anymore. Does he have a point?
  4. What about the woman who, because of some bad lifestyle choices, loses custody of her children to her husband and is allowed only supervised visits with her children once a week.  Should she still have to pay child support since the courts effectively took away all her parental rights?
  5. What about a couple who gets divorced, their son is 15 and the father finds out that the boy was conceived during an affair his wife had with another man. The husband feels he shouldn’t have to pay child support.
  6. A couple have 3 kids. The husband leaves the wife her for another woman and quits his job, so he has never had to pay child support. He then develops a non-specific but debilitating mental illness, which puts him on disability. The kids go to stay with him 2 days out of every week so now he’s trying to get child support from the ex-wife to pay for things the kids need the 2 days they’re with him because he says he can’t afford to feed them and entertain them on his disability pension. The ex-wife has a good job, but is just making ends meet. Should she have to pay child support to him? (This one is actually happening to a friend of mine)

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

As a kid, I used to spend quite a lot of time studying the amazing ads in the back of my comic books. The X-Ray Specs, in particular filled me with longing. I was a big fan of Superman back in the day and could think of nothing cooler than to have x-ray vision like him.

 

Somehow, I never noticed the “an hilarious optical illusion” part of the ad. It’s too bad I never had that dollar to send away for my own pair of X-Ray Specs because I would have learned a valuable lesson about advertising at a very young age.

Like my brother did when he sent away for this 7-foot Frankenstein monster.

 

My brother was beside himself with excitement awaiting the moment when he would be the proud owner of a monster of his very own that would give him power over all of us and be able to force us to do his bidding forever.

I have never seen a more devastated (albeit megalomaniacal) child than my brother the day his “monster” arrived and turned out to be nothing more than a sheet of plastic with a picture of a Frankenstein monster printed on it. He was livid. He was insane with fury. He was inconsolable. He destroyed that monster with his bare hands until there was nothing left but tiny bits of (no-doubt toxic) plastic all over his room. The rest of us kids laughed our asses off at him, of course, and had years and years of fun tormenting him about his monster. For us, that monster was certainly worth the dollar. My brother, on the other hand, went on to lead a bitter, cynical life because of that monster — but has been a more wary consumer ever since.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this? As sort of a follow-up to my last post about Ronald McDonald and the power of advertising in general, I wanted to talk about how we’ve all been suckered in by advertising at some point. And not just by stupid kids’ stuff like this. From the comments yesterday, it’s apparent that we all think we’re much too smart to be taken in by clever marketing.  However, I’m pretty sure, if we really think about it, that’s not entirely true.

Many of the decisions and choices we make every day are made because someone has convinced us, however subliminally, that these are the right decisions and choices to make. From politics to investing our money to vacationing to making purchases large and small. Sure, we may do our own research and because of how we’ve been raised and educated, we are pretty savvy about marketing and advertising and don’t get suckered in easily. But it still happens, doesn’t it?

A while back, XUP Jr. (who has never been allowed to drink pop and now has no desire to) came home with VitaminWater,  telling me what a cool new drink it was because it was full of vitamins and contained “cane sugar” and not processed sugar and was made with fruit juice. And I looked at the label and this was certainly what the label suggested. And I thought, “cool”.  And I had some myself over the next few weeks thinking how great it was that there was this handy, healthy drink I could grab if I was out and had forgotten to bring some water.

And then one day I decided to Google this stuff because it just seemed too good to be true. And of course it was too good to be true. And then Mindful Merchant did some more research and did a blog post about this stuff.

I was more than a little pissed that I’d allowed myself to get suckered in by none other than the Coca Cola Company.

See how easy it is? All of you who think people should be smart enough to not choose things that are not good for them? Do you actually believe that all the stuff you own – your electronics, your car, your toys, your appliances, your personal care products, your clothes – do you think you own all that stuff because somewhere in your mind you decided, all by yourself, without any sort of influence, that you needed all this stuff?

Did you wake up one morning and realize you would no longer be able to survive without a cell phone?  Was it suddenly vitally important that your hair be flat-ironed every day? Was it you who thought you needed a device to heat up your food in seconds and went out and bugged science geeks until they invented a microwave oven for you?

Of course not. You were persuaded by sophisticated advertisers that you need this stuff. Just like advertisers persuade people they need to eat junk food or buy lottery tickets or drink Coke. Sure, some people are smart enough to resist the stuff that’s bad for them. But some people can’t or don’t think beyond the fact that they suddenly want this stuff– just like most of us can’t resist owning a cell phone though in a lot of ways (perhaps different ways) cell phones are bad for us, too.

And I’ll bet all of you have, at some point, been suckered in to buying something that was total crap – like the VitaminWater or the Frankenstein Monster?? Because that phrase in my title by PT Barnum is pretty much the credo of every advertising, marketing and PR person who ever lived. How have you been suckered?

Retiring Ronald

“What?” XUP Jr. said to me the other day. “They used to have television commercial for cigarettes?” She was dumbfounded.

Her question stemmed from some bit on TV about Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man. Those two mascots were retired thanks to the efforts of a corporate-responsibility watchdog group, Corporate Accountability International. This same group is now lobbying to retire Ronald McDonald

Retired physician Alfred David Klinger, a volunteer with the group, recently spoke at McDonald’s annual meeting, telling the company that:

Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium and calories. On the surface, Ronald is there to give children enjoyment in all sorts of way with toys, games and food. But Ronald McDonald is dangerous, sending insidious messages to young people.

In response, McDonald’s said something like, “No friggin’ way we’re retiring the clown.” What they actually said for the media was:

He communicates effectively with children and families around balanced, active lifestyles. He does not hawk food.

Okaaaaaay….

Since Ronald McDonald made his first TV appearance in 1963 (portrayed by Willard Scott), he’s become as recognizable as Santa Claus to children everywhere.

(Willard Scott’s original Ronald McDonald TV appearance, 1963)

Although Ronald seems to have left McDonaldland, Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and The Fry Kids behind, he is still, and will continue to be The McDonald’s Corporation’s “Chief Happiness Officer.” (Yes, that’s what they actually call him)

But with childhood obesity a serious and growing problem, a lot of people are looking at fast food places to tone down their child-targeted advertising.

On the other hand, many people will say things like:

  • Stop trying to legislate how a restaurant wants to do business.
  • It’s parents’ responsibility to decide what their kids are going to eat, not the government’s.
  • Who cares about mascots and advertising – you always have the choice not to go to McDonald’s.

Except, as I’m sure parents of young children know, it’s not always that easy.

McDonald’s uses helicopters to search out locations for new restaurants. One of their main criteria is proximity to schools. So, if your kid has money and you’re not around, it’s easy for him to head next door to McDonald’s at lunchtime.

McDonald’s also offers free in-school shows to elementary schools. The shows, featuring Ronald McDonald live, are:  educational and interactive and help teach children about the environment, self-esteem, personal character, reading and fire safety. (And kids get valuable McDonald’s coupons and collectible toys)

In the U.S. children under 12 represent approximately $40 – $50 billion in direct purchasing power, and influence another $670 billion in family purchases every year.

Children aren’t able to assess and judge advertising in the same way adults can. Even one 30-second commercial can influence what a child as young as two wants. It’s no accident that the Ronald brand is everywhere – on TV, on the food wrappers even on the high chairs and bibs. And let’s not forget the PlayPlaces, Happy Meals and collectable toys. “Limited time” toy series are an excellent way of getting kids to keep coming back within a short period of time in order to collect the entire “valuable” set of toys.

But can’t parents just say no?

Advertisers rely on something they call “Pester Power”. It’s an aggressively studied, honed and carefully used tactic to get kids to nag their parents into purchasing something for them.

It takes a lot for parents to keep saying no over and over and over and over again – especially when it’s been a long, hectic week and everyone is hungry, cranky and in no mood to cook. Advertisers know this well. They have gone so far as to classify “Pester Power” according to identified stress factors and conditions like income, marital status, guilt and other factors that make parents more vulnerable to pestering. And then they use them to develop and target their marketing.

You Deserve a Break Today

Whaddya think? Should Ronald join Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man in the Former Insidious Advertising Mascots Retirement Villa?

Things we Hate to Love

Talking about stuff we love to hate is fun and makes for rip-roaring good rants. We can all ream off a good many things on our pet peeve list – the things that irk us, piss us off, annoy us, drive us crazy, etc., etc. We’ve all blogged them in various forms.

But what about the things we hate to love?

Those little things we don’t talk about very often —  or at all sometimes? Those things we enjoy, indulge in and look forward to eagerly while at the same time hating that we enjoy, indulge in and look forward to them eagerly?

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is my stupid cat, Bazel. Whenever I’m away, even for just one day, I’m close to almost being giddy with excitement to see his bitey little face again. When I’m out shopping I always look to see if there’s a fun new toy he might like. When I get home, before I even take off my coat and shoes, I actually spend valuable time scrunched on the floor next to him, petting him for as long as he lets me and… (gulp)… talking nonsense at him about what a handsome boy he is and trying to guess what he did all day (out loud) and telling him what a good kitty he is. Yes, he is.

It makes me cuckoo that I do these things because I never wanted a cat in the first place. We only got him because, after years of XUP Jr. begging me for a pet, I finally caved when some woman was giving away kittens. I went out of my way not to bond with him because he was supposed to be her cat. And she did a marvelous job of looking after him and playing with him, she really did, but it was always me he wanted to hang out with and gnaw on. He’s my albatross, the little bastard.

What about you? Is there anything you hate to love? I’m not talking about so-called “guilty pleasures” so much. I don’t mean those junk food binges we sometimes enjoy or the crappy TV shows we all watch or the occasional bad novel we enjoy reading. Because we just usually love to love those things, we just don’t like to admit them.

I mean something that you really wish you didn’t love/like so much. Or something that you really enjoy doing but it makes you feel like a retard for doing it. Or something that you do that perhaps makes you feel like a big hypocrite.

Like an avid vegetarian secretly sneaking off for a big bacon breakfast once a month maybe. (Not me.)  Or a married fundamentalist Christian televangelist keeping a male lover on the side. (Not that that could happen). Or like David Suzuki loving to tool around the bush on an ATV on his days off. (Not that he would. I made that up.) Or a regular working joe type guy wearing silky panties under his dungarees and toolbelt. (No butt crack.) Or even something a little more innocuous???

‘Fess up.

Hope you’re all having a great Two-Four Weekend Canada people!

Hooked

Yesterday, in the comments, Milan chided me for misrepresenting the nature of addiction in my Get Poor Quick post. He said, in part:

In short, I don’t think addictions are something that people stumble into because they are careless or stupid. Rather, they are serious afflictions that affect many people and don’t necessarily indicate immorality or a lack of will.

I hope  most people understood that because of the satiric nature of the post, I was not trivializing actual addictions or the people who suffer from them. I was rather, trying to make a point about factors that contribute to poverty.

However, Milan’s comment did get me thinking about the nature of addictions and how very prevalent they seem to be these days. Are there any celebrities left who have not been in rehab? Even Robert Munsch recently confessed his problems with alcohol and cocaine.  Guys caught cheating on their spouses suddenly all seem to be “sex addicts”. Stars with weight problems are “food addicts”. Victoria Beckham is a “shopaholic”. Which prompts me to ask – is there a difference between addictions to substances like drugs and alchohol and addictions that are behaviour-based like sex, shopping, gambling, eating, exercise, staying with a toxic partner,  etc.?

From what I understand, the thought processes, the reward/letdown cycle, the consequences and recovery process for both substance and behavioural addictions are very similar.

I can see when you’re altering your brain chemistry with a substance that this would increase your chances of becoming dependent on that substance. Does brain chemistry get similarly altered when you gamble compulsively or consistently over-eat? Or does lumping substance addictions with behavioural compulsions somehow trivialize “real” addictions?

Is there such a thing then as an “addictive personality”? Are some people more likely to become addicted to both dangerous substances and dangerous behaviours than others and why?

There is a link between genetics and addiction vulnerability. Research has pretty much determined that addiction is approximately 50% genetics. In fact some say that we all have the genetic predisposition for addiction because there is an evolutionary advantage to addictive behaviour. For instance, in the wild, it’s safe and advantageous to return again and again to a good food source. So, the potential for addiction is probably hardwired into our brains.

Whether or not this predisposition manifests as addiction seems to depend on various factors including environment, physical/psychological trauma, and coping skills.

I admit I don’t understand addiction at all. All the reading I’ve done on it and all the people I’ve talked to who have suffered from addictions, haven’t really helped me to understand it.

I want to understand it, but the idea of consistently consuming something or engaging in a behaviour that is self-destructive – long past the point where you hate yourself for doing it and long past the point where it’s destroying all the other areas of your life – makes no sense to me.

I mean, sure, we’ve all engaged in self-destructive behaviours at times, but it mostly doesn’t result in an addiction. For instance, I smoked for many years and they tell me nicotine is addictive, yet when I decided it was time to quit – I quit. I’ve known a lot of people who were almost compulsively promiscuous for years, but when they got married were faithful spouses. I’ve even known people who’ve had some pretty serious issues with alcohol to the extent that anyone who knew them would say they were alcoholics, and yet they were able to cut back their consumption to one or two drinks a week with no problems; no binging; no transference to another addiction.

And yet, some people take their first drink at maybe 14 or 15 and are instantly alcoholics. Some people have had a cancerous lung removed and still can’t quit smoking. And some people keep packing on the pounds year after year even though they haven’t been able to bear to look at themselves in the mirror for ages.

I knew a man who gambled away his family home, all their savings, his RRSPs his kids’ RESPs – he maxed out all their credit cards and then went and borrowed money from a loan shark and gambled that away. His wife finally figured out what was going on; divorce was threatened; counseling was undertaken and his access to money was severely restricted so that his paycheque went directly to the wife. They lost their house and pretty much everything else they owned of any value to pay off their debts. And still, he found a way to continue gambling.

Why can’t they stop? Especially when they have every reason in the world to stop? Especially when they’ve been offered all the help they could possible want or need to stop? People often ask: Are they weak? Selfish? Lack self-control? Are some so-called addictions just an excuse for bad behaviour?

It’s mind-boggling isn’t it? The only thing I can think is that whatever pain an addict is trying to obliterate with his/her addiction has to be so much worse than whatever the addiction is doing to them.

Get Poor Quick!!!

Everybody with more than two cents to rub together thinks they’re experts on making YOU rich. Everybody with more than two cents to rub together thinks they can show and/or help YOU get rich. The problem with these “get rich quick schemes” is:

  • These people didn’t get rich by following the stupid advice they’re doling out – like investing in real estate or playing the stock market or starting your own company — they inherited their wealth or married into it and are just dabbling in the market or real estate for fun and just incidentally keep getting richer because that’s what happens when you’re rich;
  • All the getting rich quick advice involves a lot of time, effort and MONEY on your part and nobody wants to spend time, effort and money they don’t have to make the money they want; and,
  • You don’t have a hope in hell therefore of getting rich no matter how hard you try and then you will feel like a failure. And you will also not be rich. Double OUCH!

The Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme, on the other hand, is guaranteed to work.  No matter what your financial status is right now, by following this “secret formula”, you will be poor in a matter of months with little or no effort on your part. And, you will feel good about yourself for having achieved a goal.

I can guarantee this because I developed this method myself and have used it successfully for years. Yes, that’s right – YEARS! I was not born poor. I did not marry far beneath me in order to become poor. I achieved this all by myself using the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme.

You may not believe me, but last month I made $1.23!! The month before that $2.00 and the month before that, $2.37.  And you have my word, that with the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme, you will be earning this type of money, too. Not next year, but within the next two to three months!! You have my personal word of honour on that! Yes, you do.

How?

Well, before I tell you — and I know you’re anxious to get yourself on that dirt-packed road to poverty — but first there are 3 important questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Am I ready to be poor? Really poor?
  2. Do I have what it takes to live the life of a poor person?
  3. Am I ready to invest no effort, no time and no money in order to reach my goals of abject poverty?

If you can answer yes to all these questions with little or no enthusiasm, then you’re ready to become one of the elite 6 or 7 billion truly poor people in the enitre world, if not the universe! That’s right. You heard me correctly!!

And it’s as simple as one, two, three, four, five, six………………

Are you really ready? Then read on and prepare to change your life forever, my friends.

Step One

If you’re in school right now, drop out. If you’ve already saddled yourself with an education — drinking heavily and/or the regular use of cannabis will help kill off many of the brain cells that are currently storing your education. Although you won’t necessarily become rich if you’re educated, you do NOT want to take any chances. So lose those brain cells and follow us deep into the red zone!

Step Two

Develop and maintain an addiction. Nothing eats through those pesky, unwanted  savings faster than blowing them on a good, solid vice. Whether it’s drugs or alcohol, gambling, raising children, pornography or owning sickly pets —  throw yourself into it wholeheartedly, have a good time and before you know it, you’ll have nothing.

Step Three

This one is important. Very important. Do not skip this step!!!

Start borrowing money everywhere you can. I know this seems counterproductive because you think you’ll end up with a lot of money. However, what the ordinary person does not realize is this:

Borrowed money isn’t real money!

No sir. Borrowed money is actually negative money. And when you’re in a negative money situation – you’re poorer than poor!

Let me explain.

Let’s say you max out your credit cards and buy everything you want and everything you think you want; you get the biggest line of credit you can from your bank and buy more stuff;  you take out a second or third mortgage and get the biggest possible house;  you buy a big car with no money down and lots of monthly payments; and then you buy furniture and expensive appliances on a rent-to-own basis.

Now, it may look as if you are in possession of a lot of great stuff and even maybe a nice bundle of cash. However, every month your creditors will demand money from you in return. You can keep paying them month after month after month forever– long after the items purchased have been paid for. Why? Because of a great little thing called “interest”.  It’s interesting because it makes your creditors richer and you poorer until you get to the point where you can’t keep up with the payments and then they come and take your stuff away and you’ll have nothing. Get it? Isn’t it simple?

Yes it is!!!

Step Four

This one is optional, but highly recommended:  Commit a crime, or better yet —  a string of crimes. Nothing guarantees unsuccessfulness like a criminal record. If you commit a lot of stupid, petty crimes, you WILL go to jail and will never have to worry about anyone hiring you ever again! You will never, ever have to worry about an income above three figures ever again!  Be very careful, however, not to become a successful criminal. Successful criminals are rich. Sure, you could still get caught or maybe another, smarter criminal may come along and take all your money from you at gunpoint, but do you really want to take that chance?  It’s best, therefore to stick to small, low-yield crimes at which you can easily be caught.

Step Five

Some of you might already be on the path to poverty and not even know it. Are you in humdrum, dead-end, low-paying job? Are you living paycheque to paycheque? Do your monthly bills often overwhelm your monthly salary? Then you’ve inadvertently hit on a sure-fire way to maintain a certain level of poverty. You can stick with this “accidental half-assed poverty” or you can kick it down a notch (or even two) by implementing any of the other steps in the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme.

Step Six

Try not to work at all. I know it’s difficult with people constantly calling you with job offers; with “Help Wanted” signs everywhere; with skyrocketing employment figures. But you can do it. Move to a place with higher unemployment. Do NOT apply for jobs. Do NOT go to job interviews. If you still happen to find yourself employed – quit or arrange to get yourself fired. Not showing up for work every day is an almost fool-proof way of getting fired – unless you’re in politics — in which case you might well find yourself on the receiving end of a big, fat pension. Or even two!! Avoid this pitfall by never running for public office.

 

So! Are YOU ready to be really, really poor? Are you ready to finally see a plan actually turn out exactly as you’d hoped? Are you ready to move your family into a studio apartment above the KFC? Are you ready to dine on nothing but the worst high-carb, high-fat, low-value food no money can buy? Are you ready for Public Transit?

Then put your feet up and send me $899.99 for a hard copy text of the six steps of the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme and before you know it, you will be enjoying life at the bottom of the barrel.

But don’t take my word for it. See what other successful unsuccessful clients have to say:

J.K from Albequerque says:  There’s no easier way to lose $899.99 than to send away for the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme. I had to borrow money to get it, which I still haven’t paid back. Thank you Potsi!

P.U. from New York City says: I was a millionaire. I had everything money could buy. Beautiful women were throwing themselves at me all the time. I tried retiring and giving it all away,  but my shrewd investments kept paying me gigantic annual dividends. The pressure was killing me. I saw the Get Poor Quick ad online and sent away for it right away. Within 3 months I was flat broke and happier than a pig in shit. Thank you Potsi.

B.O. from on The Road says:  Since I first starting working, I’d been straddling the middle-class line where I worked my ass off and spent my ass off, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I hated my job, my wife, my kids and everything about my life. A friend recommended Posti’s Get Poor Quick Scheme. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I unloaded my go-nowhere life. Now I’m a hobo – which is all I’ve ever really wanted to be. Thank you Potsi.

F.D. from Ottawa says: I was born into dumpster-diving, squat-living poverty, but because of Stephen Harper’s insanely generous social programs, I was fast-tracked through to a solid grade 10 education and was shuffled into a lucrative  career as a Warshroom Janitor at the Bayshore Shopping Centre. I pretty nearly started to earn almost enough money to get myself on a waiting list to get into public housing — if there’d been any. There was talk of banning me from the Food Bank! The stress was making me ill and I no longer qualified for subsidized prescriptions.  I didn’t know where to turn until I saw an ad for the Get Poor Quick Potsi Scheme on a scrap of paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Within weeks, I’d managed to dig myself back into the hole I came from. Thank you Potsi.

Don’t delay! Get your Get Poor Quick step-by-step instructions today! Send $899.99 (by certified money order only – no cheques, please.) to:

Potsi Scheme Incorporated, 565 North Clinton Drive, Milwaukee

Let’s Play Judge Judy

Maybe you’ve been following this story? A Toronto woman is suing her cell phone provider for the break-up of her marriage.

But wait, there’s more.

The woman, Gabriella Nagy, contracted with the cell phone company, Rogers, to provide her with a cell phone in her maiden name and have the bills sent to her under that name. She paid that bill herself. The cable bill, also from Rogers, was sent to the same address but in the husband’s name. The husband paid the cable bill.

One day, the family added internet and home phone services from Rogers. Rogers claims they “were informed that Ms. Nagy and her husband wished to have all services consolidated onto a single bill when the couple called to add additional services to their account.”

Gabriella Nagy, of course, says she was never consulted about having her cell phone bill absorbed with the other bills and that she would certainly never have agreed to have her cell phone bill consolidated with the other Rogers bills.

Because, Gabriella was having an affair.

And when her husband opened the first consolidated Rogers bill, he saw hours-long conversations to one particular number and got suspicious. He called the number and asked the person at the other end if they were having an affair with his wife. The person said yes and the husband immediately left the home and filed for divorce.

Poor Gabriella was so stressed by all this that she became clinically depressed and could no longer function at work and was fired from her $100,000 per year job.

She filed a suit against Rogers alleging the company:

Unilaterally terminated its cellular contract with the plaintiff that had been in her maiden name and included it in the husband’s account that was under his surname.

 and that

The plaintiff’s maiden name and the husband’s surname were different. Such unilateral action by the defendant was done without the knowledge, information, belief, acquiescence or approval of the plaintiff

Gabriella Nagy wants $600,000 from Rogers.

Rogers says it can’t be held responsible for “the marriage breakup and its effects” because they would have  “would have happened, regardless of the form in which the plaintiff and her husband received their invoices for Rogers services.”

Who’s right and why? Would you award Gabriella Nagy the $600,000 or would you dismiss this case? (Please do not use any hate you have for Rogers, or cell phone providers in general, influence your judgement.)

The Middle-Aged Cute

The other day, I had finally had the opportunity to meet XUP Jr.’s latest beau – the dreaded 19-year-old.

I’d been imagining a cocky, bearded frat boy/man with gold-festooned chest hair,  a pocket full of condoms, a Corvette and a pipe. Instead he was shy, slouchy and diffident; wore goofy neon sk8er shoes;  had a lot of hair on his head and in his eyes, but no hair visible anywhere else; arrived on the bus and looked about 16. Yay! Oh, and he was punctual, which earned him huge bonus points in my book.

Naturally, I think XUP Jr. is waaay out of his league, but she likes him for now and he seems harmless enough, so we can all relax. A little bit. Probably.

“Soooooo???? What did you think of him? What did you think of him? Isn’t he gorgeous?” she asks when she returns from the date.

“Well, he’s certainly a lot better than what I thought.”

“Why? What do you like about him?” she begged.

“Ummm….. He was on time…. He was polite….ummmm… he didn’t have chest hair?”

“WHAT? Why would he have chest hair? Is that all? Didn’t you like him?”

“I only saw him for three seconds, it’s hard to say, but he seemed okay.”

“OKAY? Just okay? I think he’s really nice and he was really sweet and he paid for everything and he wrote me a poem and he said he thought you were cute.”

Now, if this had been the first time someone had every called me “cute” he probably would never be allowed to darken my door again. However, a lot of people  before him (who don’t know me at all) have said I was “cute”.  And every single one of XUP Jr.’s other friends also seem to think I’m “cute”, so wasn’t as horrified as I might have been.

“Are you making this up?” I ask. “Seriously – again with the cute?” I said, frowning in a decidedly uncute manner.

“I know! It’s weird, eh? All my friends think you’re cute.” she replied.

 And then….

And then. She. Pinched. My. Cheeks. And said (with a scrunchy face), “You are cute, with those little dimples.”

And then she casually looked me up and down and said, “Am I taller than you yet?”

I think I’m quickly losing the whole “authority figure” vibe thing I had going on for the last 17  years or so. What do you think?

I don’t know. At my age – or at any age, actually – I never, ever aspired to be cute. Babies and toddlers are cute. Gap-toothed seven-year-olds are cute.  Puppies and kittens are cute. Apple-cheeked little old ladies with mountains of fluffy white hair twisted on top of their heads held in place with a pencil are cute.

I’m none of those things. Really, I’m not. I’d much rather XUP Jr.s friends think I’m scary and omniscient, yet available for food and problem-solving. Some of them have come to realize that over time, but really, it should be apparent right off the bat.

Oh well. I suppose if I think about it, there are some middle-aged women we all know that I might describe as cute. Sally Field, Julia-Louis Dreyfuss, Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore (though I don’t know if she qualifies as middle-aged yet), Goldie Hawn, Ellen Degeneres….I’m sure there are more.  So, I guess it’s not that bad.

I reckon there are worse things XUP Jr.’s friends could call me. Maybe I should just surrender and go with the cute thing – start wearing dirndls and pig tails…take up tap dancing maybe.

The International Woman of Mystery

We all have a lot of peripheral people in our lives. People we see all the time, but who we don’t really know – neighbours, shopkeepers, the milkman, people we see on the bus every day or in the hallway at work, but don’t really talk to much. We might pass the time of day with these folk or talk about the weather or occasionally have a bit of a conversation with them, but that’s about it.

Most of the time we don’t even know their names. Most of the time these are fairly straight-forward people that we don’t really think about. It might even take us a while to notice if we haven’t seen them in a while. But every so often one of these peripheral people appears in our lives and something about them makes you wonder exactly what their story is.

And I mean story in the general sense, not what The Story is.

I firmly believe that every last person in the universe has at least one surprising story in them: The Story.  The Story is the story that you won’t necessarily get even if you know someone quite well. The Story is the kind of story that can really only emerge if you’re one-on-one with the person in a very relaxed environment and you both have all the time in the world to just talk, uninterrupted. (Over a long, soporific meal and a mellow bottle of wine perhaps).

The Story is always a precious gem – sometimes horrible, sometimes touching, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting or funny – but it’s always something that gets to the very core of that person. When you’ve shared The Story with a person, I think you’ve achieved an intimacy that both of you will remember. You might not even know what your The Story is until someone exumes it for you.

But anyway, that’s not what I meant when I said I sometimes wonder about some of the peripheral people in my life and what their story is. I was thinking more about those people who just don’t make sense; who you can’t comfortably slot into category.

The International Woman of Mystery of my title for instance.

I see her all the time on the bus and in my neighbourhood and sometimes out and about shopping or browsing around. She’s probably in her late 40s; well-groomed; nicely dressed; always well put together. She’s tallish and very, very slender; not unattractive.

She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in an unpretentious building. Whenever we talk, inevitably her utter loathing for Ottawa and everything about it creeps into her conversation. She pines for Montreal where she grew up. I asked her once, “Why don’t you move to Montreal?” And she gave me an enigmatic smile and said, in a faraway voice, “I wish I could. But I have to stay here a few more years.”

Being a nosy-parker, I asked why, but she just side-stepped the question as deftly as she side-steps most of the questions I’ve asked her about the job she says she’s “retired” from.

Very mysterious.

Here’s what I know about her:

  • She lives alone and has no family in Ottawa. In fact, I believe her only living relative, an aunt, lives in Montreal.
  • She is retired from a job that had her living all over Canada and in some foreign countries as well.
  • She was not with the military.
  • She is not working now, nor is she looking for work.
  • She has never been married and has no children.
  • She has lived in Ottawa about 10 years and has lived in at least 5 different apartments in that time because there was always something wrong with the apartment. The one she’s in now has neighbours upstairs that “walk really loudly”, so she’s looking to move again.
  • From what I can gather she spends her days just browsing the shops.
  • She has never spoken of friends nor has she ever spoken of having done anything with friends the evening or weekend before and I have never seen her with anyone. I deduce, threefore (perhaps wrongly) that she has no friends.
  • She’s friendly and pleasant.

So, fellow sleuths, the two burning questions seem to be:

  1. Why can’t she leave Ottawa for a few years yet? And,
  2. What sort of job could she have had that took her all over the country and/or world and from which she could retire by the time she was 40ish and still give her enough income to live on?

Help me. I can’t stand the suspense anymore.