Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spiders are not my friend

Spring has long been my favourite season of the fab four. It is not too hot, not too cold, the trees are turning green and life just seems a little more enjoyable.
The only drawback to spring is the return of bugs. I hate bugs, especially spiders. Some may argue spiders are arachnids and not a bug in the true definition of the word, but who the hell cares?
I argue that when I see one, they are nothing more than a wet mark on the bottom of my shoe.
I do not really care what the genesis of their species is, what their Latin name is or what type of spider they are. If they are threatening my personal space – which they do simply by sharing the planet with me – then they must become a splootch on the ground.
Don’t know what a splootch is?
Stomp a spider into the concrete as hard as you can – the resulting mass of spider goo is a splootch.
I know I am a gazillion times bigger than a spider, but they still scare the snot out of me.
The lack of spiders is the best part of winter. I do not like being cold, but I hate being terrified so it is a fair trade in my book.
Problem is, every spring the multi-legged freaks begin to emerge from the depths of hell from which they live in the off season, and they all have one single goal in mind: to terrorize me until the following winter.
Some people may say the strongest drive among all living creatures is to reproduce – hence the invention of beer and dancing – but for the spider its reason to live is far more sinister.
They do reproduce, by the thousands, but for the sole purpose of creating more spiders to terrify yours truly.
Sure as a bonus, producing offspring ensures the continuation of their species, but underlying the need to maintain their presence on earth is the need to scare the snot out of me.
Big, small, fat, skinny – it doesn’t matter. I am an equal opportunity spider hater.
While I fear them all, it is the big, black fuzzy ones that hold a special place in my heart.
Have you ever seen a grown man scream like a small frightened school girl?
That would be me when I spot one of those big, ugly monsters on me.
Walking through the woods one day I felt the presence of evil. Looking down to my left I saw a black spider that was just slightly larger than a Chihuahua.
It was hanging off a piece of web that had attached itself to my arm. The beast of horror-movie proportions was mere centimetres away from reaching my hand when I went ballistic.
First, I did the spider dance. That is where I jump around screeching like a little girl while thrashing my arms about in a fashion akin to someone being electrocuted.
The spider dance is followed by the spider twitch. The spider twitch is where, for the next few minutes, you involuntarily brush away and swat at the imaginary army of spiders that are crawling all over your body.
There is not so much screeching with the twitch, but the look of pure, raw terror can still be seen in my eyes.
Only those who share my distain for the arachnids of the world would recognize the dance and twitch. Others would just wonder how I can have a full body seizure while still standing.
Now I know PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids – will likely be annoyed by my blanket dislike of all things spider – but too bad.
If I see a spider on the sidewalk, I will not hesitate to splootch it into eternity.
Darren Handschuh can be reached at

So when do I know I am old?

I guess it is all relative to where you are in life.
I can remember when I was around 13 or so and seeing a guy do a burn out in his car. A burn out is where the operator of the vehicle places firm foot pressure on the accelerator causing the engine to rev, which causes the back tires to spin, which causes white smoke to billow forth, which causes any nearby police to dig out their ticket book.
Back then if a cop saw you do something like that you would get a ticket and be told not to do it again.
Nowadays, if you get caught I believe the punishment is they melt down the car and give the driver a public flogging.
Perhaps the laws have gotten a little too strict.
Anyway, I was sitting at a bus stop when this ‘old’ guy smoked the tires of a 1972 Ford Mustang.
I described the incident to my friends like thus: “This guy was really old, too. He must have been like 30.”
Ooooh, 30 years old. It is amazing someone of such an advanced age still had the mental capacity to operate a motorized vehicle let alone do a little stunting. Perhaps a power scooter would be better suited for someone of his historic birth date.
Obviously 30 is not old, at least I don’t think so now, but to my barely-a-teen brain, the dude was ancient.
Once I hit 20, 30 did not seem that old. Forty was, but 30 was not so bad. When I hit 30, 40 wasn’t that old and now that I am closing in on 50 I have reserved my definition of ‘old’ as anyone who is past 70.
I am not sure how I am supposed to act for a man my age. I am sitting in the middle of the F-years and I still have many of the same interests and activities as I did when I was a wee lad.
I still ride motorcycles, I train in martial arts, I like to exercise regularly and get together with my friends on the weekends. Is an ‘old’ guy supposed to do that?
I don’t do burn outs in my car anymore; partly because I am far too mature for such immature actions, but also because I drive an automatic Toyota Corolla that can barely spin the tires on snow and ice.
The need to drive an economical car now outweighs the need to drive a cool car. Besides at my age, who needs to be cool? I am already married and have been for a couple of decades, my wife thinks I’m cool (or at least that’s what she tells me) and really, that’s all that matters. Nope, instead of a ‘cool’ car with a big engine like when I was a teen, I need a car that will get 40 miles to the gallon. Now that is cool.
Oh, how times have changed.
When I was 18, I figured someone who was 50 might as well just go to the old folk’s home, sit in a recliner and rant and rave about the ‘good old days.’
“What’s the point man? It’s over dude. At that age, what is there to live for?”
I must admit I actually said those words.
Aaah, youth thou art kind of a butthead (and a little cocky.)
But hang on a second, I am going to be half a century old in a few years and I do not even own a recliner.
The, 18 year olds these days aren’t all grown up like I was at that age. These days they are just kids with no idea of what the world is about. They are nothing but snot-nosed youngsters full of vinegar and no brains.
Oh, wait a minute. That was me at 18.
Like I said, it is all relative.
Well, you have to excuse me now, I think it is time go recliner shopping.
Darren Handschuh can be reached at

Friday, June 17, 2011

Keeping it cool

I have no scientific data to back this up, but I suspect we are about to endure one of the coldest summers in the history of summers.
Why do I think the next ice age will choose 2011 to make an appearance?
Simple, this spring we installed an air conditioner and that means temperatures will likely remain around those normally reserved for the wilds of the Arctic Circle.
Global warming will be reversed. Polar bears will be seen floating in area lakes and glaciers will be advancing faster than lines at a government office.
All of this because we finally dug out the cheque book and bought some a/c.
This is the first time my wife and I have lived in an air-conditioned abode and taking the leap – and spending the money – was a long time coming.
Every year it was the same old story: fall would give way to winter, winter to spring, spring to summer and summer to the sweltering days of melting in your shoes.
But before the sun does its version of the Dr. Doom death ray from hell, we are given spring and the early part of summer - the perfect time of year.
The temperature is starting to climb from the chill of winter, trees and flowers are in bloom, the birds are chirping and pasty white people head outdoors to re-acquaint themselves with that big orange thing in the sky.
But like a politician trying to get elected, the sun is merely teasing the little people – giving them what they want. Sure it’s all nice and warm at first, but then it turns mean and eventually it is can be downright nasty.
That’s when Mother Nature starts showing off and raises the mercury to just slightly less than the surface of a space shuttle at is re-enters earth’s atmosphere, meaning all of those poor slobs without air conditioning are sweating more than Elvis after a concert, and from what I have seen from those grainy old films, that is a lot of sweat.
At the peak of each annual heat wave, I would swear next year we are getting air conditioning, even if I have to sell my mother-in-law to do it.
There is never – and I mean ever – a need for it to get hotter than C 30 degrees outside. But for a few weeks every summer we would be lucky if it cooled down to that at night.
I am talking about a stupid kind of hot where I could fry an egg on my somewhat balding cranium – not that I’ve tried. Well, not yet anyway.
To most, the sound of an a/c unit is a mechanical hum, but to me, it is akin to angels singing a cooling song of joy and happiness upon my home.
Getting an a/c unit was not cheap, but the thought of sitting in my livingroom and sweating to the point where I look like Frosty the Snowman after he was locked in that greenhouse over ruled the expense.
Money be damned, I need coolness this year, especially at night when all you can do is lie on top of the sheets in a Speedo (sorry for the visual) with a fan going full blast.
Of course, this year the region has been enduring a colder-than-usual spring and according to the weather guys, the cool temperatures will likely stick around for a while.
Is climate change to blame for the cold-wave? Nope, I got an a/c unit so that means I won’t really need one this year.
God is a funny, funny guy.
But should summer ever decide to show up in all of its heated fury, I am prepared, so if anyone out there wants to buy a mother-in-law...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New job, new stress

It has been a long, long time since I have had to deal with these particular feelings.
That’s because it has been a long time since I have changed jobs, and this is not only a job change but a complete career shift.
The problem with switching jobs after 21 years is, initially, you feel as useless as man boobs. In my old job I rarely became stressed out because I knew it so well. There was not much the job could throw at me that I hadn’t seen or dealt with before.
Now everything is new - new passwords, codes, computer systems, guidelines, office and people. Fortunately my new co-workers are really great. They are good people and are all very accommodating of the new guy who, for the first few days anyway, looked like a deer caught in the headlights and is about to become a hood ornament on a ’72 Buick.
In fact, I have not seen one person duck for cover and hide under their desk when they see me coming.
I’m not saying they are not doing it, I have just never caught them doing it.
I am just not used to pestering my co-workers about things.
In the old gig, I was the one being pestered and I almost miss it. Life was a lot easier in the old, boring routine.
Changing course is challenging – but that is a good thing. I was getting kind of stale at the old newspaper gig. I could have done the job in my sleep, and if I had an office with a lock on the door, I might have tried to.
But now the only thing that is the same at work is me. I’m still the same bald, loveable, handsome, witty and charming me. Well, I’m me anyway. It don’t think I was any of those things at my old job either (except the bald part).
I don’t know how people switch jobs on a regular basis, but I guess if you do it more often than once every 15 years, you get used to it.
My brother-in-law is a successful mineral engineer who worked his way up the mining industry ladder to become the CEO of a major company.
He is a smart man with good business savvy, but he is also a nice guy so I am not sure how he will do as the top gun in management, because most of the really big bosses I have met are, well, um, moving on.
His company even has a skybox to NHL games – including the play offs. I still have not forgiven him for that, but a sizeable birthday present would go a long way in changing my attitude toward my wife’s big bro.
But to get to the top of the corporate food chain, he had to change jobs and companies several times over several years.
I would be a basket case, curled up in a ball under my desk, singing ‘I’m a little tea pot’ and begging mom to let me stay home from school that day.
A lot of the stress associated with a new job is wondering if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, should I be doing more and what the hell am I supposed to be doing anyway?
But learning all this new stuff, new systems, new routines and having to prove myself to a whole new crew is part of the reason I left the old job.
It was time for a change, time for new challenges, time to throw a wrench in the gears and do something very different from the norm of the past couple of decades.
It is challenging, but it is also exciting to tackle new areas and as time marches on and I become more familiar with my new surroundings, things are getting better.
And that’s a good thing because I was never really crazy about that tea cup song.