Monday, November 29, 2010

Me use English good

I probably shouldn’t admit this, having my own column and everything,
but I am hardly a master of the English language.
But I am sure many of you have figured that out already.
I readily admit there is a lot about my mother tongue I do not know.
In high school, English was a piece of cake, and if I had actually attended more than one or two classes a week, who knows what kind of grades I could have hauled in?
As it was, I got middle-of-the-pack grades even though I literally attended only half the classes. When test time came around, I would just walk in, do what I had to do, and walk out.
That would drive one buddy of mine crazier than a fat guy at a salad bar.
Shawn was a very smart guy and a whiz with computers, math, physics, chemistry and other topics I stayed well away from during my teen years. But when it came to English, he was like Mother Teresa in a bikini contest.
He just did not get it. He would study and take extra classes and would still get pretty much the same mark I would after I spent study hall watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
For some reason, our library had a copy of that goofy piece of British cinema, and it just happened to be my favourite of all the Python presentations.
So, instead of studying and driving hard for that A, a buddy and I would hide in the audio-visual room and watch The Grail, as it came to be known.
Meanwhile, Shawn was cracking the books, burning the midnight oil, working his butt off, digging deep, trying hard and all sorts of over-used cliches, while I was chortling at the antics of the goofs from the U.K.
I would then bang out whatever assignment I was supposed to be working on, hand it in and get a C-plus. Not spectacular, I admit, but at the time it was all good.
To this day, I could not tell you what a dangling participle is. I think I read somewhere it was the name of a 1970s-era porn star, or something like that anyway.
But, despite my lack of knowledge when it comes to those pesky technical terms, I always managed to bang out a decent sentence. And if I put enough sentences together, I would get a story.
My favourite part of English class by far was creative writing.
This happened on occasion, and basically it meant the teacher did not feel like
doing any real work that day, so we were told to just sit there and write whatever we wanted.
The teacher would kick back and relax with what I often suspected was a “special” coffee, if you know what I mean.
He would also tell us to write something or spend some time quietly reading while he stepped out for a minute.
The odd thing was, he always seemed a lot happier when he got back and was doused in aftershave.
You can draw your own conclusions as to how he spent his little break.
Not all my teachers were this way, but for some reason this English instructor seemed more a product of the 1960s than most.
I often wonder what kind of grades I would have achieved had I actually done, um, what’s it called? You know, that thing you do after school? Oh yeah, homework, that’s it.
I did more homework in two years of college than all those years of high school put together. Fortunately, the stupidity of youth is a passing phase – for most people anyway.
I did manage to graduate, and I even made the principal’s list one semester. But it was not exactly for having great grades.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting squished at squash

It would be comical if it wasn't so painful.
It started when a good friend of mine asked if I would like to go play squash sometime.
Having never played the game before in my life and not being too bright, I said "sure, why not."
As the day of the sports adventure neared, I was assaulted by a nasty cold and was forced to cancel - perhaps a warning that a day of squash would turn into a day of "that really, really hurts."
But paying no heed to the divine cautioning, we decided to reschedule the little competition.
We had the squash court thingy booked, my buddy, Bruce, had two rackets, I borrowed some of those stylish squash eye protectors and was ready to hit that stupid little blue ball around for 45 minutes or so.
The first game went well, and I even managed to score a point - one single point. But for my first time ever playing squash, that is not too bad.
Sure my buddy had already amassed eight points, but that one little point was enough to stave off defeat - until his next service and then it was game over.
I scored a whopping two points in the next game and could feel my squash prowess blossoming.
By the time we started the last game, I was a mad man possessed by the spirit of some long-dead famous squash player type guy.
I was zooming all over the court with lightning speed. OK, maybe zooming is a little to much. How about sprinting. Still too much. OK, how about lumbering as fast as I could in an effort to hit that stupid little blue ball. Much better.
But I was starting to get the hang of it. I played lots of tennis when I was a kid and then lots of raquetball as a teen, so the basic principles were the same - hit the stupid little ball.
The problem is, as I get older gravity seems to increase, slowing me down and making running a lot harder than it should ever be.
In the last game, Bruce and I were locked in a battle of monumental proportions, and much to everyones surprise, I actually managed to pull ahead by a single point.
That's when things went a tad wonky. You see, I am in the middle of my F years and while life may begin at 40, it does not begin without a closet full of painkillers, ointments and vitamin supplements.
Bruce is in his early 50s and is in great shape (for an "old guy" anyway.)
We both have several nagging injuries from our youth - who doesn't - and we were both afflicted with those injures in rapid succession.
I began the parade of pain when a bone spur started acting up in my heel. Can you say ouch? But having dealt with the boo-boo on many occasions I decided to push on and continue the contest.
Minutes later, on what would turn out to be the last play of the game, Bruce lunged for the stupid little ball, let out a weird groaning/wailing/grunting sound and hit the ground.
He lay there for a bit, making a funny noise and I thought he was simply goofing around as he often does.
But when he did not get up and began moaning about his back, I realized something was amiss so I hobbled over and found he really needed some help.
Eventually a staffer helped me to basically carry my friend to my van where I laid him in the back and drove him home.
It was quite a sight. I could barely walk and Bruce could not even stand on his own. The joys of getting older are plenty.
I got Bruce home safe and sound, and as he was using a pair of crutches to haul himself across the room he looked over his shoulder and said with all seriousness, "So, uh, same time next week."
Let me think about it and I will get back to you because it will take me at least a week to heal.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Drunks is dumb

It was one of the lousiest jobs I have ever had, and I quickly realized it was not something I wanted to do for long.
But as a young man with bills to pay and no other way to pay them, I took a job working at a 24-hour convenience store.
Convenience stores are little supermarkets where you conveniently pay twice as much for a jug of milk as a real supermarket.
They are also a popular place for drunks to stop by for a snack after a hard night of drinking at the local alcohol establishment.
If police want to catch a lot of drunk drivers, they should set up outside of the parking lot after the bars close and they would get more drunks off the road than there are Elvis impersonators in Vegas.
Of course, I had the thrill of interacting with said booze hounds, which always made for an interesting shift.
When I first started at the store, we were instructed on how to do our job and what to do in case of problems.
"If you are being robbed, do not resist," said the manager.
"No, duuuh," was the only thing I could think of.
If someone came in demanding money, I doubt I would jump over the counter and try to take him down to save this massive corporation a few bucks.
Mind you they were paying me a whopping $4.50 an hour, but still, it was not quite enough to risk my life over.
The manager, who at more than 50 years of age still had a job that required he wear a name tag, went on about how to handle other situations, but they were just as obvious as the don't-tackle-the-bad-guy advice.
I worked a lot of night shifts at the store and saw lot of strange things, most of them involving those drunk people doing drunk things.
One particular night stands out.
It was around 3 a.m. and the bar rush crowd had already stumbled through the store, arms laden with items masquerading as food.
It would seem drunk people really don't care what they eat. As long as the plastic wrapping declares there is some sort of food product inside, they will buy it.
Anyway, I was alone in the store when a guy I knew walked in. And by walk, I mean he bounced off the outside window and a garbage bin before reaching the door, the operation of which baffled him.
Three times he pulled on the handle only to have the door hit his foot, bounce back and close. Eventually he mastered the mechanism and came into the store with half a case of adult beverages.
I asked him to leave the wobbly pops at the door, which he did without complaint. He then selected about a dozen bags of chips, several chocolate bars and a bottle of pop as his post party snack.
He brought the items to the till, rummaged through his pockets for cash and then promptly laid down in front of the counter and went to sleep.
That was a first for me actually.
I had seen scuffles, a girl freaking out on acid, more drunks than a family reunion and I even had a guy walk into the store wearing nothing but a very short, denim skirt, but someone going nighty-night in the middle of the aisle was a new one.
I tried to shake him awake, but he would have none of that. Then I put a sale sticker on him hoping someone would want a plump, drunk guy, but had no takers.
Eventually I called the constabulary and they poured him into the back of a police cruiser and took him home.
It was mighty nice of the officer to do that I thought, instead of taking him to the tank.
That shift gave me a rather odd story to tell, and a few free wobbly pops which I put in the cooler until my shift was over.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kids these days

It can't be because I am getting older.
People are just doing things at a much younger age than they used to.
At least, that is the lie I am telling myself.
I had the thrill of going to the dentist the other day for a fun and exciting root canal - two words which conjure up images of drills, big ass needles and more drills - only to have someone younger than my car do the job.
When the dentist first walked in, for a moment I thought it was Take Your Kid to Work Day and I patiently waited for his mom or dad to walk in and tell him to stop playing with the shiny tools.
This guy did not look old enough to vote, let alone perform a medical procedure on my teeth.
Once he began talking about what he was going to do and how it was going of be done, I started to feel a little more at ease. He seemed to know what he was doing.
Mind you, people said the same thing about George W. Bush his first few years in office and we all know how that turned out.
But as Dr. Whizkid began to do his stuff I relaxed a little - if that is possible when you have signed up for a root canal. It's kind of like trying to eat soup on a roller coaster - it just isn't going to happen.
I did find it rather strange that instead of pens in his shirt pocket he had crayons, but I let it slide.
When I left the dentist's office I half expected to see a Mattel Big Wheel sitting in one of the parking spots where his BMW will be - once he is old enough to drive that is.
I kid of course. He turned out to be a really good dentist (even though his mom still had to help him across the street).
He was as good as any dentist I have seen, he was just very young, or perhaps it was I who was getting old?
Nah, he was young, that's it.
He must have been some sort of kid genius or something. Perhaps he finished elementary school while he was still in the womb, then graduated high school a week after he was potty trained and graduated from dentist school a few years after that, turning his fascination with small drills and teeth into a career.
I know I am getting older, everyone is, but how can someone who looks barely old enough to wear big boy underwear be a full fledged dentist?
He had a dental school diploma and everything. I was going to stick with the child-prodigy theory, but as I started looking around, I realized Dr. Whizkid is the norm, rather than the exception.
Take the police example. I can remember when cops were much older. I recently went through a road block and was asked, "Have you had anything to drink tonight, sir?"
His voice cracked twice during that short sentence.
I almost wanted to say, "Oooh, aren't you cute in your little uniform" before reaching through the window and pinching his cheek. I didn't, because I may be dumb, but I am not that dumb.
I had not been drinking, but I was still a little nervous because under the new laws if you even drive past a liquor store or a pub you are at risk for some sort of punishment.
Stores are also hiring children nowadays as well. Where are the child-slavery laws? Shouldn't these tykes should be at home playing with dolls or Hot Wheels, instead of in the work force?
If these kids get any younger, instead of a lunch break they will have to have nap time.
Which would be odd because I am no where near being a youngster and I could sure go for nap time each afternoon. I tried to convince the boss such a perk would boost performance, but he did not buy it.
Perhaps if I had a really young boss I could bribe him with candy or something.