Friday, May 29, 2009

Hail to the King (his boogers anyway)

I am not sure what is stranger, the item itself or the fact that someone out there is willing to pay good money for it.
The item in question is none other than Elvis Presley's nasal douche.
That's right, you read correctly – some lucky soul could soon be the proud owner of the King's personal glass nasal douche that he used to clean his nose to its very depths before each show.
The item, that looks a lot like a bong actually, will go on the auction block along with pictures of Marilyn Monroe and other stuff that used to belong to people who are now dead.
No word if some of the King's nasal drippings are stuck to the glass contraption, but if there was, I am sure it would drive up the price.
I mean, who wouldn't want to own one of Elvis' boogers? Talk about a conversation peace.
“Hey, Bob what do you have there.”
“That,” replies Bob swelling with pride, “is simply one of the greatest treasures ever sold at auction. It is a real, authentic piece of Elvis snot.”
Wow, indeed.
It would seem the King of Rock and Roll used to spray a saline solution up his honker before every show, because, well, I am not sure why, but I assume it made him sing better.
Either that, or he had a thing about blasting water into a body opening.
I am just thankful he was not in to enemas because that would be too weird (and quite gross actually) so let's not go there – ever.
It seems there is no end the bizarre items people are willing to shell out money to own.
Would I pay to own a nose douche, even if it was the King's? No, but you can bet someone will.
A while back some famous movie star type person sold a used hanky on eBay. Yes, someone paid good money for the soiled piece of linen, but at least in this case the money went to charity so I can understand it.
And a few years ago, there was the grilled-cheese sandwich with the likeness of Jesus on it that sold for thousands of dollars.
But when it comes to the ability to sell things at auction, nothing beats the King.
An empty prescription bottle recently sold for US$2,600. I have paid less for cars.
A microphone he used at a concert sold for US$15,000.
Some guy even sold a Styrofoam cup that Elvis took a sip of water from before one of his final concerts – or so the owner said anyway.
But of course, it sold to some sucker, I mean lucky memorabilia fan.
I know Elvis is the icon of rock and roll and probably the most recognizable figure in all of music history, if not all of entertainment, but I just do not understand the borderline psychotic fascination with the man.
Some people have lifted him (which would have required a crane to do in the latter years) to near god-like status. People build shrines to him, impersonate him and basically worship at his blue suede shoes.
He has been dead for decades (sorry folks, but he really is dead) and he is still one of the top money makers in the music industry. Even I have to admit that is impressive.
Don't get me wrong, I am not an Elvis hater, I just don't get it.
I wonder if Elvis would have generated the same response today? Doubtful because there are so many artists out there, and besides PETA would have launched a massive anti-Elvis campaign because just one of those leather jumpsuits took 14 cows to make.
The King is dead, long live his revenue stream.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A camping we will go

Spring has arrived and a young man’s fancy turns to love.
For us middle-aged guys it turns to yard work, helping the wife with spring cleaning – not a man’s idea, but mandatory to maintain marital harmony – and to go camping - that wonderful activity where said hardworking man leaves his big house to drag a little house behind the family wagon to a place where bugs roam unchecked, rain is likely and “a little dirt in your food never hurt anyone” is repeated to children from one end of the campground to the other.
Camping actually goes back to biblical times. Moses did it for 40 years. It may not have been by choice, but he still spent four decades pitching a tent and looking for just the right fauna for personal use.
I get tired of camping after just a few days.
Like camping through the ages, my personal expeditions into the untamed wilds of B.C. have evolved.
My earliest camping experience was when I was in the Cubs. My family was not really the camping type, using our tent trailer only for our annual marathon road trips into the United States, so I was excited to spend time with the woodland creatures I had heard so much about.
Learning to pitch a tent, set up camp and gaining information about the fauna and critters of the region were fascinating and I soaked it up like a sponge in a monsoon.
I have to admit, as a novice camper I was not really thrilled with the whole outhouse concept and I waited as long as possible before using the age-old contraption.
The most distressing part of the outhouse was the aromatic essence of the structure. Outhouses have a special smell that just can’t be described without actually experiencing it.
Having adjusted to the non-flushing, wood-surfaced, bug-laden loo, I looked to yonder camping adventures and learned they included a fire.
OK, now this was cool. Our Cub leaders are not only encouraging us to burn stuff, they are showing us how to do it.
The big thrill for the troupe of lads was to cook our own meals on the open flames of a crackling fire. I use the term ‘meals’ loosely as it was actually a can of beans, but to us it was a feast.
We learned how to open part of the lid to let the pressure out and to stir it so the middle was not cold – a big accomplishment for a 10 year old.
Once this skill was mastered, all we wanted to eat was beans.
There were three little boys per tent, each of whom had been eating beans once or twice a day for three days.
I am sure you are starting to form a picture here.
By the morning of the last day, we woke up and the walls of the tent were actually forced outward and anyone who zipped their sleeping bag up to tight looked like a giant, bloated grub.
With eyes watering, the first one awake had to crawl to the tent flap and unzip it. There would be this rush of air out of the tent – sounding not unlike a balloon that was not tied up.
Birds would fall from the sky, squirrels would flop around on the ground having seizures and dogs several kilometres away would be sniffing air wondering what that smell was and how could they roll in it.
Let’s just say the car ride home involved open windows and a gaggle of giggling boys who found the entire situation quite amusing.
Our Cub leader, who drove remarkably well with the entire upper half of his body out the window, was less pleased.
Thus was my first experience with sleeping among nature.
There are more tales of camping to come and fortunately, none of them involve beans.

Viva la revolution

It’s time for a revolution.
Not an overthrow-the-government kind of revolution (although that might not be such a bad idea), but a fashion revolution.
History is full of examples of men and women having to wear unbearably uncomfortable clothing strictly in the name of fashion.
This is especially true for women. For centuries, the ladies of this world have borne the brunt of fashion cruelty.
From corsets that were so tight women could barely breath to the torturous high-heel shoes that are still around today, woman’s fashions must have been designed by a man who never had to wear any of that stuff.
I honestly do not know how you ladies walk in high-heel shoes. I tried it once (it was for Halloween, honest) and I could barely take two steps without stumbling. By step 10, my feet were screaming to be released.
While high heels are still prominent in modern society, there have been a series of fashion revolutions that have freed people from the confines of uncomfortable and even painful clothing worn only because someone, somewhere decided it was fashionable.
I say it is time another fashion revolution.
Can someone please tell me why I am not allowed to wear socks with sandals? That’s right, I admit it. I love wearing socks and sandals.
Socks and sandals are one of the most comfortable foot-covering combinations available to the human race.
It’s the best of both worlds – airy footwear and the soft comfort of a sock - but nooooo, we can’t wear socks with sandals.
Why? Who made this rule and why do we have to conform to it?
Was it some sort of sock hater who wants the world to run around with their toes sticking out?
What if you have ugly toes and still want to wear sandals? Wouldn’t it make more sense to cover the ugly bits with a sock rather than risk scaring small children?
In the 1960s and ‘70s the mantra was “Burn the bra.”
Well I say for 2009 and beyond, the new fashion rallying cry should be “Sock the sandal.”
You see the occasional fashion rebel wearing the minimalist shoes with cotton foot coverings, but it is time for every one who enjoys open, breezy footwear to stand up and free the foot.
A friend of mine told me you are allowed to wear socks and sandals as long as the socks are grey and wool.
Who wants to wear wool socks on a hot day? The goal is to keep my feet cool, not encase them in winter gear.
He said white socks and black socks are not acceptable and doing so may cause the wearer to be branded a fashion dork.
To the oppressors I say, “Get bent.”
I like wearing socks and sandals because my feet are caressed by the coolness of the open-toed foot wear and I hate getting sand and grit between my toes as it drives me crazy, but with socks, that rarely happens.
I say we rise up and conform no more. Ladies, you understand the demands of fashion and how repressive they can be, so feel free to slip into something more comfortable.
Men, you know you want to walk around in the cooling comfort of sandals while still enjoying the encasement of cotton, so it is time to stand up and yell, “My feet are as uncomfortable as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Then take off those dress shoes, runners or loafers, throw on a pair of sandals with any colour sock you want and proudly go about your business.
Who’s with me?
Wear the fashion faux pas to the grocery store, wear them to school and yes, I say, even wear them to work.
The only difference between dress shoes and sandals is a handful of material. Take a pair of scissors to your dress shoes and you can create a pair of sandals.
Wear dress socks and sandals to business meetings. While the feet of everyone else will be sweating and fermenting, your feet will feel cool and refreshed.
Rise up good people and be repressed no more.
Viva la revolution.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Burn baby burn

No matter how I looked at it, I could not put a positive spin on an email message from my wife.
It was a single line and it made me stop cold as my mind raced through the possibilities, none of them good.
The message was as follows: Junior just called me at work and said he had to use the fire extinguisher in the kitchen today.
Like I said, not a good thing.
There were no other details and a frantic return email and more frantic calls revealed nothing other than my wife was out of the office and no one was home, that is assuming I still had a home.
As I waited for the details, my mind went from picturing a minor incident to half the city erupting in flames.
Ever hear of the big San Francisco fire where 9,000,000 buildings burned to the ground? I just hoped Junior didn't try and break that record.
I had visions of the skies over the city turning red with flame and ash while some bonehead ran around playing the fiddle.
A charred, nuclear wasteland-type scene was forming in my mind when I finally got through to my home.
Answering the phone was Junior himself.
“Hello son, is there anything going on I should know about?”
“Um, nooooooo, why would you ask?”“Nothing happened today that involved a fire extinguisher?”
“Oh, that, well ya I guess so.”
Junior, who is in his teens and therefore very grown up, very wise and very independent, went on to explain he was cooking lunch when he had a small grease fire. Apparently there was no damage and the mess was mostly cleaned up before mom got home to assess the situation.
At least he had the good sense to use the fire extinguisher to put out the mini blazing inferno.
More than once I have heard of people trying to carry a burning pan to the sink, only to have the flaming oil spill over the sides and set half the city on fire.
There are also those who decide to douse the flames with a copious amount of water. And as we all know, water and oil go together like, well, water and oil.
Oil floats on water and once again the result would have been to send flaming cooking oil all over the place resulting in a need for something greater than a fire extinguisher.
So, demerits to Zippy for starting the fire in the first place, but bonus points for thinking before acting.
I have to admit I never set the house on fire when I was a kid.
A mountain yes, the house, no.
When I was around 10 years old a buddy and myself were lighting small weeds on fire with a magnifying glass. The weed would smoke, then ignite and we would put it out and move on to the next one.
As fate would have it, the hills were extremely dry that year and we didn't get one fire out quite fast enough and a pile of tumbleweeds were set ablaze faster than a 10 year old could say, “That's it, we're dead.”
Realizing we could not put the fire out ourselves, we ran to his house which was next to the vacant field where the 'incident' was taking place and told his dad, who ironically enough, happen to be a fire fighter.
He grabbed a garden hose, shovel and a pick-ax and he and a couple neighbours put the fire out with no real damage.
I would like to say we all had a good laugh at the 'accident,' but that would be like saying the Titanic had a little problem with a piece of ice.
I was 19 years old before I was ungrounded.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where's the whoosh

Waking up for another fulfilling day at work, I noticed it was quite cold in the house.Having lived in the Okanagan for the past 16 years, I am particularly sensitive to such atrocities and thought it must have been really cold outside, which would have been strange because it was only the first week of November.Looking out the window it didn't seem that cold, but it was sure cool in the family homestead.My wife, who was just returning from her morning exercise class, noticed it as well, so we began to explore the situation.Within seconds my sixth sense kicked in and I came to the brilliant conclusion that the furnace was not working.Had it been operating in its usual manner, there would have been this big whooshing sound when it got below a certain temperature because all furnaces make that whooshing sound moments before the sweet, soothing heat of a burning non-renewable resource fills the house.The whooshing sound was absent so that meant the heat was absent and that meant my toes were cold and I don't like having cold toes (really, who does?).I drew upon all of the expertise I had collected over the years when it came to furnace repair and set off to fix the problem, thus saving my family from having to endure the hardship of living in a home that was a little cooler than we would have preferred.First, I approached the thermostat. I stared at it for a second to evaluate the situation before gently tapping on the wall-mounted contraption.It didn't work, so I moved on to plan B: I moved the little lever thingy back and forth a few times thinking that might get things going, but still the gas-sucking giver of warmth in the basement refused to play along.Having exhausted my knowledge of thermostat maintenance and repair, I headed downstairs to check on the furnace itself. I knelt down to check the pilot light.Seeing it was burning away, I had officially reached the end of my ability to get a furnace to go whoosh and make heat.All the while, dollar signs were not really dancing through my head as much as they were smashing around like a cat trapped in a clothes dryer.I just knew it would be a major repair. I just knew the entire furnace was shot and I just knew it was going to cost thousands of dollars to fix.I started to think of how we were going to pay for it."Well, I guess the kids don't really need to go to university. Maybe a nice correspondence course or something. Perhaps something online from Paraguay."While thoughts of having to sell a lung to help pay for the new furnace crashed through my cranium, my oldest son walked over and said, "What about that switch, dad?"On the wall near the furnace was a switch with two words written on it: off and on.I may not know a lot about furnaces, but I do know a little about the English language and I knew those words just might play a role in solving this mystery.I felt I was on the right track, especially when you consider the switch was in the 'off' position."Houston, I think we found the problem."As soon as I flipped the switch, the furnace made the whooshing sound followed by the roaring sound that means heat is on the way.It was like the serenade of the first bird of spring as it sits in a tree while I sit on the deck sipping iced tea and marvelling at the wonders around me.I breathed a sigh of relief, but I kept the Paraguayan education system idea stored away for future reference, because you never know.My next question was, "If we have already used the furnace this year, how did it get switched off?"Seeing as it was Junior who brought the switch to my attention in the first place, I was pretty sure I had found the answer.His explanation was less than stellar."Well, um, I, aaaah, you see…."It turns out Junior was carrying a strip of plywood down the hall when he somehow hit the switch and accidentally turned it off, thus plunging our home into a marginally uncomfortable temperature zone.We all learned a lesson that day.I learned that I know absolutely nothing about furnace repair, my wife learned, well, basically, that I know absolutely nothing about furnace repair and Junior learned to watch out for rogue wall switches (and that his dad knows absolutely nothing about furnace repair.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gym class commandos

Due to the ever-expanding waistline of many high school students, our elected officials have made physical education classes mandatory through Grade 10.
When I was in high school, PE was just a part of the curriculum.
Because the school I went to had a strong athletics program, the gym classes were typically geared toward the jocks, and the teachers (who were also the coaches) would divide us into teams so we could learn to play games like football and basketball.
Funny part was, one side often consisted of members of the school football team and anyone not on the team was designated the opposition, or as they were more commonly known: tackling dummies.
Same for basketball. It just happened to work out all the sportos ended up on the same team and we would spend our class being the opposition while the teacher ran drills. It was not like that for every class, just near the playoffs.
To keep us in shape, the guardians of the jock straps decided we needed to run – a lot. That was fine because I had been running for years already and I was in pretty good shape, but I always questioned the route they chose.
We had a nice, flat field with a track located 50 metres from the gymnasium, but where’s the fun in that?
No, our gym teachers had a much better plan and it was called ‘Running the Tower.’ The Tower was a large water tower on the side of a mountain and the assignment was to run up the mountain, around the tower and then back down the mountain – a distance of about three kilometres. My knees still hurt from the pounding of running down a dirt trail.
The gym teachers at my old alma mater were, for lack of a better term, borderline lunatics.
They were an odd pair. One teacher was huge. You know the type – no neck, unibrow, big forehead, hairy back, looks like he should be sitting in the jungle eating grubs or something. He was your typical muscle-bound super jock who couldn’t make it as a pro so he decided to turn his attention to making life miserable for any non-athletic teens who were unfortunate enough to land in his class.
The other teacher was a little guy and when they walked down the hall together they looked like the bulldog and the Chihuahua from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
While the big one had to stop walking when he talked so his brain could concentrate on forming words, the little one was much more animated and would turn red in the face, holler, scream and generally freak out if he felt someone was not playing hard enough – and that was just during a ‘fun’ game of floor hockey.
I remember one kid getting hurt and hitting the ground and instead of seeing if he was OK, this teacher was yelling at him to “Get back in there.”
I don’t mean to burst your bubble there Skippy, but this is a Grade 9 floor hockey game, not the Stanley Cup finals and getting maimed for the sake of marginal bragging rights seems pretty stupid to me.
This guy was like that all the time, no matter the surroundings.
Winning a game of kick ball was like the World Series to this little man who was about five feet tall and weighed in at around 120 pounds, but had the attitude of Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan combined.
“Excuse me, sir. But, are you trying to live vicariously through your students because you were not even big enough to make the junior varsity tidally wink team when you were in school? I mean, if you were any smaller and the mob was after you, you could hide out in an elementary school.”
If it wasn’t so comical, it would be stupid.
He would strut around in his miniature track suit (that I suspect he acquired from the Ken doll sport and leisure line up) with a whistle hanging around his neck that looked like a piece of oversized bling because he was so tiny. And that was when he went grocery shopping. I don’t think I ever saw him without his whistle.
I am not sure where he is now, probably in a nursing home some where with his oversized whistle telling his co-habitants to “walk it off. You call that a stroke, that’s nothing. Get back out there.”

Those aren't real

I was walking down the street with my wife the other day when this rather attractive young lady walked by.
I did my best to not check her out – actually I did my best to not get caught checking her out, but got caught anyway.
The trick is to not move your head, only your eyes. This is, of course, why they invented sunglasses.
But even if I were in a neck brace and it was impossible to move my head, my wife would still notice. I don't know how she does it, but it is kind of spooky.
Anyway, the lady had a couple of qualities that got my attention. My wife noticed the lady's attributes as well and this six-word conversation followed.
Wife: Those aren't real.
Me: I don't care.
I really don't.
I knew they weren't real. If they were, she would have been able to feed a every newborn in Paraguay - for a year.
Of course, they were fake, made not by the hand of God, but by the hand of a surgeon.
Did I mention I don't really care.
It has been said for centuries beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but nowadays it is also in the eye of whoever has enough money to pay for it.
Born ugly? Get rich and you too can die beautiful.
Have you ever noticed rich people are rarely ugly? There are some seriously esthetically challenged poor folk out there as proven every time a tornado rips through a trailer park in the U.S. and they are interviewed on CNN, but the rich always seem to have stylish hair, perfect teeth and great big set of – bank accounts.
Money can't buy you happiness, but it can make you look a whole lot better in your misery.
Bill Gates has enough money that I am sure if he decided to he could go into the doctor's office looking like Spazzy, King of the Nerds and emerge looking more like Brad Pitt than Brad Pitt. He could probably even be taller it he really wanted to.
Plastic surgery can change your face and implants can change just about everything else.
There are implants for pretty much any part of the body that someone might want to make bigger – male or female.
The most common is the breast augmentation procedure, in which a women gets her, um, er, her girl things enlarged.
There are also implants for men who want to get a certain part of their anatomy increased in size. Enough said on that one.
But breast implants are not strictly for the domain of the lady. Men can also get implants to give them that big, macho Ahhnold-type chest women find so appealing.
Beats the hell out of working out all the time.
Forget the gym, let's run over to the surgeon's office and get some silicon installed.
There are also butt implants, arm implants, shoulder implants and just about any type of implant imaginable to help form that sculpted body so many people are after.
Cosmetic surgery can also make things smaller, move things around, change their shape or remove things all together.
Hair implants come in a variety of forms as man has been battling baldness since the first cave man used a fish rib cage to do a comb over.
Implants can also be of the metal variety as people get steel balls, studs and who knows what else inserted into themselves in an effort to stand out in the crowd.
As for me, I plan on staying the way God made me. A hat takes care of the lack of hair and keeping the lights dim takes care of everything else.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hurry up and wait, and wait and...

Anyone who has been to a doctor knows an appointment is more of a guideline than an actual time you will see said practitioner.
Appointments are made so people can rest assured that eventually, they will get in to see their doctor and are not just hanging out in a public waiting area half the day for the fun of it.
I can appreciate how busy doctors are and I understand stuff happens and appointments get delayed, so my new goal is to have as much fun with the waiting process as possible.
The challenge is to have fun in the mind-numbing vacuum of boringness that is a waiting room.
I can remember when doctor’s offices used to have National Geographic, or some other cool magazines.
The last time I was waiting for a doc, the magazines were the most uninteresting pieces of glossy fluff I have ever seen.
The lets-visit-the-doctor routine goes pretty much the same way every time it happens.
I check in with the receptionist upon arrival – because the sign tells me to and if I don’t will be lost in the waiting room black hole forever, which I am convinced is what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. He’s probably still in a waiting room, reading the latest issue of Modern Unions and Mobsters because he did not check in with the receptionist.
So after I check in, I spend a couple of minutes looking around before seeking out some reading material that will help make the minutes fly by.
In one doctor’s office I was impressed to find the magazines actually had a protective plastic binder around them.
That makes sense. You wouldn’t want that vintage May, 1972 copy of Better Quilts and Pillows to get damaged. How else would you know what kind of throw pillow goes best with orange shag carpet?
Fine literature like that deserves to live for all eternity (and probably will in the waiting room.)
After spending 18-43 seconds looking over the magazines and realizing watching a fly crawl across the wall is more exciting, I begin to check out my fellow doctor seekers.
This is a more in depth scrutiny of my waiting room brethren than the cursory glance I give when I first arrive.
That initial check is an absolutely vital part of the waiting room experience. Remember, these people are here to see a doctor because they are ill, and that means the room is full of koodies (which I believe is an actual medical term.)
The initial glance when you first walk in will give you some idea of the people you do not want to sit beside. The lady with the tissue permanently welded to her nose is the first person to avoid.
As is the guy who is coughing to so much his face has turned so red it could guide Santa’s sleigh.
Once the room is surveyed and you have checked in with the receptionist person, it is time to select your seat based on your cursory examination of the room. This is a very important decision because that will be your seat for the next seven to 10 days, depending on how far behind the doctor is running.
Once a chair has been selected and having exhausted the thrilling and educational stack of magazines it is time to check out the crowd and play ‘What’s your ailment.’
Mucus girl and phlegm boy are easy to figure out, as is the kid with cast and the lady in the neck brace, but there are always a few people who look absolutely fine.
Those are the ones I decide to give an ailment of my choice to.
“Really. Wow, not many people contract malaria in Canada."
“Diphtheria. Now there’s a disease you don’t hear nearly enough about.”
I don’t even know what diphtheria is, and if it wasn’t for spell check I wouldn’t know how to spell it either, but being married to a nurse I hear about all sorts of nasty diseases that I can’t spell or pronounce and certainly do not want to contract.
During the wait, people come and go and every time the receptionist grabs a file you secretly hope it is your name being called so you can get out of the germ factory and on with your day. You know eventually your name will be called and when it is, it is like winning a mini lottery.
But, having your named called is a little misleading because all that happens is you leave the big waiting room and end up sitting in a smaller room that, without the doctor in it, is essentially another waiting room. But at least I know I am getting closer to my end goal so I cheerfully flip through the latest edition of Modern Squirrels and Muskrats while waiting those last few minutes for the doc.
For some reason that kind of wait seems limited to when I go to see the doctor.
When I go to the dentist, I am ushered into the chair of terror .04 seconds after walking in the front door.
I haven’t even taken my coat off before the receptionist starts dragging me into the room where people are going to stick sharp objects into my gums.
I don’t even know if my dentist has magazines because I am never in the waiting room long enough to read one.
I appreciate their efficiency, but when it comes to seeing a dentist I am an abject coward. I do not like going to the tooth doctor and I actually don’t mind waiting for a while, it gives me time to psych myself up.
It’s kind of a ‘Rah-rah, you can do it’ time.
The ‘What’s your ailment’ game cannot really be played at the dentist office anyway because I know what people are there for – their teeth.
The upside is, the sooner you get in, the sooner you get out, and when it comes to the dentist, getting out is all that matters.

Call 1-800-BITEME

Finally, a national no-call registry has been introduced which gives Joe Citizen the ability to take action against those pesky telemarketers.
Unfortunately it does not provide the home numbers of the callers, but it can put you on a list intended to keep the callers from calling.
I have never bought anything these people are selling.
I also already have a list of charities I give to, and the Save the Bunnies Foundation is not one of them.
The calls at dinner time are bad enough, but I was awoken at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning once by a telemarketer telling me, “Congratulations, you have qualified to be part of an offer that could save you thousands on your next vacation. You have been selected to blah, blah and blah...”
All I could think was, “You have got to be kidding me.”
Well those may not have been the exact words I was thinking, but it was something like that.
Instead of telling the person on the other end of the line what they could do with the offer, I decided it was better to hang up, because that kind of language is not appropriate (no matter how deserved.)
But after years of complaining, federal officials have finally taken action and set up the registry where you can list your phone number and never again be bothered by a telemarketer selling time shares in Kandahar.
I suspect some big shot government type was hauled out of bed at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, decided the complaints from us little people were justified and was moved to take some action.
Seeing as it is impossible to reach through a phone line and smack the person on the other end, the idea of a registry was hatched.
My family has been taking their own action against telemarketers for years and I have to admit, once I register I will almost miss messing with those annoying folk – almost.
Before we got caller ID, telemarketers were easy to spot because they could never pronounce my last name. It is kind of a tricky one, but anyone who knows me knows how to pronounce it, so if someone asks for Mr. Hand-sca-hoo they are entitled to an instant disconnect and a curse placed upon their livestock.
When they ask for the Missus, I politely tell them she is not home, even if she is sitting beside me.
“Is there a time I can call back?” they often ask.
I will then check our schedule, find a time when I know no one will be home and tell them to call back then.
“I am not sure exactly when hell is going to freeze over, but when it does gimme a call.”
Usually I don’t even give them time to get into their spiel, because it is not going to make a bit of difference anyway. Whatever they are selling, I can pretty much guarantee I am not buying.
My oldest son likes to have a little bit of fun. When they ask “Is Mr./Mrs. Hand-skooo there?” my son says, “Hang on a second.”
He will then put the phone down and finish eating his dinner, or playing a video game, or reading or doing whatever while the telemarketer sits on hold.
I was quite pleased when he came up with that one actually. Eventually the telemarketer will give up or Junior will pick up the phone after many minutes and say, “Nope, they are not here” and hang up.
One time, Junior even left the house to go to a friends place. I walked in, noticed the phone and picked it up.
“Hello, yes, is a Mr. Hand-sca-hook there?”
“Nope” Click.
Not to be outdone, my middle son also likes to mess with the ‘marketers.
When they ask for me, Junior No. 2 also says hang on a second and puts the phone down.
After a couple of minutes he will pick up the phone and say, “He can’t come to the phone right now because he has to mow the house and paint the lawn.”
He then hangs up with a smile.
I am not the only one to rail against the phone equivalent of a mosquito and some people have made a small fortune coming up with automated responses annoyed recipients can play when someone wants to bilk you out of your life’s saving by asking you to invest in a yard maintenance company in Siberia.
A survey found two thirds of Canadians do not want to be called and in their frenzy to register they overwhelmed the website causing it to crash.
Perhaps a company could be hired to phone people and ask if they want to be on the registry or not.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Computers are evil

The more I use them, the more I am convinced computers have been placed on this earth to drive me crazy. I suspect I am not alone in my assessment of the ‘marvels’ of science.
Many movies have been made about computers running rampant and destroying humanity. I say we are almost there.
The electronic beasts have effectively taken over the world and are in control of everything from traffic lights to international banking.
They were supposed to make life easier, but as my home computer proved this week that’s like saying alcohol makes people smarter.
My computer had been acting up for some time and the other day it gave the electronic version of a death gurgle and shut down.
My computer at work is in good shape, but it still drives me crazy. As I was typing that very sentence I accidentally hit a combination of keys and this red line and information bubble suddenly appeared in the middle of the column telling me what I had just deleted.
Thanks, but I know what I just deleted because I was the one who deleted it.
Then there is the perennial problem of the electronic terror crashing without warning. One minute you are merrily working away, your fingers happily caressing the mouse and then - BAM – you are left staring at an error message.
I think I know why quirky little things happen when using the infernal machines: computers are evil.
More than once I have wished I could bring a computer to life just so I could have the pleasure of killing it.
“Hi, I’m your computer. I have just come to life.”
“Really, that’s great.”
“Reboot that.”
Acting as a buffer between feeble-minded computer users – I’m not mentioning any names here - and the technologically bloated machines are the tech experts, who are sometimes referred to as geeks.
I, of course, would never call them that and have a deep and heart-felt respect for their astounding ability to communicate with said machine, and to correct whatever digital crisis the device may be enduring.
I really mean that. I am not just saying it because there’s a chance the tech where I work will read this and take offence to being called a geek.
Because if he were to take offence to the comment (which I am not making) the next time I go scampering to him for help, he might just stick his fingers in his ears and go, “La-la-la-la-la” until I went away.
Or worse, he might put his hands over his eyes and say, “Where’d the tech go? Where is he? He’s all gone.”
When it comes to fixing computers I am lost after re-booting, which is the first thing I do no matter the problem.
Smoke and flames could be pouring from the hard drive and my first course of action would be to reboot. If rebooting doesn’t work, I might try hitting it on the side like the Fonz would have done. I would like to add that never works on computers or anything else for that matter.
I would then think bad thoughts about the computer, wish it were alive and I had a gun and then go running to our most beloved in-house computer tech who is not unlike a knight in shinning armor waiting to battle the evil, glitch-breathing dragon that has dared attack one of his flock.
Techs are busy people, and one time I explained the problem, but he was too busy to tend to the matter immediately, so he rattled off some possible solution and asked if I knew how to do it.
I said I didn’t have to know how to do it. That’s what he was for.
He corrected the problem in about four seconds.
“The least you could do was make it look difficult so I could salvage some shred of self worth. Maybe spend a whole minute fixing it or something, I mean, c’mon will ya. Every body is watching.”
The only computer course I have taken in my life was in high school and, at the risk of aging myself, they weren’t really computers as much as electronic type writers with monitors. True computers with hard drives and all those other fancy gizmos were not available to our school yet.
I can remember some of the computer geeks, um, I mean, future computer experts getting all excited about the new-fangled device. They would scurry about the hallways with floppy discs, salivating at the opportunity of spending more time with their electronic mistress.
I didn’t learn a lot about computers during the course. Part of the reason may be because it was the first year it was offered and some of the smarter students were showing the teacher how to do things.
By the time the school year was over, the ‘computers’ we were learning on were outdated by several computer generations and the knowledge we learned was only good for reminiscing about the good ol’ days when men were men and computers were just another gadget.
Maybe I’ll just sit back and wait for this whole computer “fad” to end.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a long wait.