Friday, January 27, 2012

The older I get, the faster I age

I crossed a threshold recently, and it was very odd indeed.
The crossing was nothing of my own doing, but was thrust upon me whether I wanted to cross it or not.
Some close, longtime friends invited my wife and I to the wedding of their daughter. Nothing odd about that, it’s just a wedding, right?
That’s what I thought for the weeks leading up to the happy event. Just another wedding where two people are joined as one, till death do they part etc.
Heading to the ceremony I didn’t give the event much thought until I saw her walking down the aisle. Whoa, hold on, wait a minute here, I have known this beautiful bride since she was two years old and now she is getting married and could very likely be a mom herself in the not-too-distant future.
I did not feel old, but let’s say, mature. Yeah, that’s a good word – mature. Nothing wrong with being mature. Not that there is anything wrong with being old, either. In fact, I hope to be old myself one day, very, very old if I have any say in the matter.
So watching this young woman enter the next phase of life made me face reality that no matter how much I protest, I am becoming, er, mature.
The more mature I become, the more physically active I force myself to be. Sure I tell myself it is not an attempt to harness what little youthful energy I have remaining, but deep down I know I am attempting to pull a fast one on Father Time. Problem is, at my age the only thing that is fast about me is my morning trip to the lavatory.
The ironic part is, when I was in my 20s and had lots of energy, a flat stomach and the physical stamina to participate in sports, I could have cared less.
I was active in my teen years, but in my 20s I became a lump on the couch with all the physical ambition of a sloth on valium.
I started to get active again in my 30s and continue to do so as I enter the latter half of my 40s. However the illusion of youth is harder and harder to hold on too, especially when you see a little kid suddenly become a young woman wearing a white dress standing next to a guy in a tuxedo in front of a church full of people.
In my eyes, she is still that little kid, but in her eyes, the eyes of her now-hubby and the eyes of her friends they are all grown up.
And when I was her age, I was all grown up as well. I remember just how grown up I felt when I got married and not once did I give so much as a sideways thought of my parents feeling, um, mature.
I have been to several weddings in my adult years, but they were for friends who were getting married, or for a niece who was tying the knot.
But this time, things were different. For the first time in the history of my being on this planet, I was a friend of the bride’s mom and dad, and not the bride.
I can remember seeing friends of my parents at my wedding, but never gave it a thought. Now I was the friend and suddenly I felt very old.
There, I said it. What choice do I have? I cannot claim my youth is still intact after watching this little kid get married.
As I watched the wedding ceremony and the reception, I realized just how many years I have accumulated that I can look back upon.
I looked at my own wedding, birth of my children and watched as the days ticked by without any concern for the fact I do not want them to go so quickly.
Since I entered the agreement of holy matrimony 23 years ago, the time has passed in the blink of an eye and soon my own kids will be walking down the aisle, when just the other day they were only two years old.
Many years ago, a mature person told me, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
I don’t think I fully appreciated that saying until I saw her walking down the aisle and realized just how right they were.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Just sell me some tires

Does anyone else remember the good old days when you needed a pair of tire for your car and all you had to do was go out and buy a pair of tires?
Folks, those days are long gone. I needed to replace the front tires on the mini-van the other day. The winters I had on it were getting a little thin so I figured I would replace the front ones now and the back ones next year as they were not too bad.
Sounds reasonable right, wrong. It would seem tire companies have imposed more rules than a tyrannical dictator’s manifesto when it comes to buying tires.
It was stupidly frustrating and it need not be. One tire store said they could not sell me just two winter tires. I said I have winters all the way around, but only need to replace the front ones. Nope, I have to buy four brand new tires, no matter how good of shape the back tires are in.
OK children, all together now, can you say “Money grab.”
Alright, screw you and your tires, there are many other stores out there.
The next one I tried would sell me just two tires, but company policy stated they must go on the rear of the vehicle.
“But I have a front-wheel drive.”
“Sorry that doesn’t matter. Company policy states the better tires must go on the back.”
“It’s for safety, so the rear end of the vehicle does not slide out.”
“So let me get this straight. Your company feels my wife and family would be safer in a van that has good traction on the rear tires that merely follow the van, instead of having good traction on the front of the van where the wheels steer, stop and accelerate the vehicle. That would make you dumber than a bag full of dumb asses.”
Other shops gave me a lot of other reasons why they could not put two new tires on my van. The most popular was I have to replace all four at the same time. Like I was saying, money grab.
However, I did finally find a store that put on two new fronts. The tires were on sale so not only did they do what I asked, they knocked $80 off what it normally would have cost me.
The ironic part it, it was a store that I rarely deal with because I find their work and produces substandard to say the least. But this time around they had brand name, high quality tires on for $60 less than anyone else and they did the job in less than an hour.
Sure they tried to sell me a five-year extended warranty on tires that will be out of tread in three, and for an extra $7 a tire, they could use a special gas to fill the tires rather than plain, old air, but I declined.
But in the end, I did get two new tires, the van is a lot safer and I learned buying tires can be a really annoying adventure.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The key is to stop losing the danged keys

My wife is an amazing person.
She is one of the smartest, strongest people I know. She has been a nurse for more than 23 years, an incredible mother to our three children and there is nothing she can’t do.
Actually, she cannot reach the top shelf because she is five feet tall. I am 6’4” tall, which proves God is a funny guy with a nutty sense of humour.
She also has a hard time changing light bulbs, for obvious reasons. OK, there is nothing she can’t do as long as it does not involve reaching for anything too high up.
But other than being vertically challenged, she is the most capable person I have ever known. But she does have one fly in the near perfect ointment.
One white whale, one recurring problem that has been plaguing her since the dawn of time: she is constantly losing her keys.
And when I say constantly, I don’t mean once in awhile she will ask, “Now where did I put those darn keys.”
I am talking about three, four (or more) times in a single week she will misplace her keys, which is hard to do because she has more keys than a piano, all bound together with mountain climbing apparatus that weighs in at 14 pounds.
Her key chain is so large the van tilts to one side whenever they are in the ignition.
But she still manages to ‘misplace’ them roughly 400 times a year. I am not exaggerating here either. Hardly a day goes by where she does not spend time looking for the danged things.
I even bought her this little device that you attach to your keys and when you whistle it makes a noise so you can find them.
Problem solved.
Just about every sound would set off the little device and it proved too annoying to employ, so it was back to the near daily have-you-seen-my-keys routine.
There are many variations of the request for help to locate the keys, but they all boil down to five words: “I cannot find my keys.”
Her latest crisis involved a new twist on the key situation. She did not lose all of her keys this time, only part of them. She called me a work to tell me she lost the car keys, but still had the van keys.
It would appear the keys have adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy.
In a mild panic, she relayed the story of how the car keys must have fallen off the massive key chain she lugs around. She called all of her friends and the stores she visited that day, but remained keyless.
Usually when she loses a set of keys, it is in the family homestead so the search area is not too large. This time however, she lost them somewhere on planet Earth which will make the search considerably more challenging.
I am not sure why she has such a difficult time keeping track of her keys, especially at home: walk in the door, put them on the hook next to the door and the next time you need them – Tadaaaaaaa there they are, right where you left them.
But more often than not she is left scrambling around the house searching for the elusive pieces of metal.
She always finds them. Sometimes they fell off the hook and are on the floor. Fair enough, that can happen to the best of us. It is when they end up in the basement, bedroom, bathroom or the back deck that the search is most intense.
Other times she will find them in the pocket of a jacket she wore earlier in the day or perhaps she threw them in her purse (which usually sits next to the hook.)
But like I said, she is a very smart person who has been trusted with people’s lives for more than two decades.
Just don’t trust her with your keys.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cats are the masters of attitude

I don’t hate cats, in fact, I don’t mind them at all, but I must admit I am more of a dog person.
Perhaps it is because dogs just make sense to me – most of the time anyway.
Dogs are loyal, faithful and are great at helping you clean up the kitchen because they pounce on every crumb to hit the floor like a timber wolf on a baby bunny.
But even man’s best friend is not perfect, and hounds do have a few eccentricities that are, how shall I put this, utterly revolting.
For the life of me I cannot understand why a dog would eat its own barf. Yes, that is disgusting, but it is also true.
When Murphy the Wonder Dog was a few months old he blew his planned meal all over the backyard. He then proceeded to re-eat that meal faster than I have ever seen him eat anything in his life, like he was afraid I was going to jump in and take it all for myself.
It is one of several truly disgusting things dogs do, as all dog owners know. So I guess when it comes to the eating department, cats are the clear winners.
The only gross things they eat are birds and mice and the occasional bug, but most importantly they only eat them once.
However, despite the most repulsive dietary plan in the world, I must still give the dog my overall preference.
Cats are just strange animals.
I was walking down the hall the other day when I noticed my son’s cat sleeping smack dab in the middle of the hallway – sideways.
Why? He has the entire house to sleep in, but his little cat brain determined that blocking the hallway was the best place to catch 40 winks.
His other popular sleeping spot is in the dog’s bed. Again, the cat can sleep pretty much anywhere and he chooses to kick the dog out of his only bed.
Now that is a cat attitude. My daughter does not like cats one bit, so guess where Gilbert sleeps every chance he gets? Yup, on her bed, more exactly, on her pillow. More of that cat attitude.
Even more baffling is when I am on the computer and the cat jumps up and lays across the keyboard and looks at me as if to say, “What?”
I have never had a dog do that – ever, but the cat did it the other day.
Dogs also get the nod because when you want some companionship all you have to do is call the dog and he comes running, tail wagging, happy to hang out with you.
Sure you can call a cat, but it has about as much impact as asking a teenager to clean up his room – it’s utterly pointless.
But still we name the cat because we humans need to attach names to things, it’s in our nature. We name cats just so we won’t have to continually refer to them as ‘The Cat.’ But if you look up the word cat in ancient Greek, cattus ignorusalotus, it translates into: an animal that knows you are calling, but really doesn’t care. Or something like that anyway.
A cat will cuddle with you. But odds are it will be a few minutes before you have to go to work and only if you are wearing a colour that his hair will show up on. Then you can’t keep the menacing feline away from you – especially if you have an important meeting that day.
If you are lounging in the evening with a pair of sweatpants on the cat is harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa at a union meeting.
Cats will also go straight to the only person in the room with a cat allergy and spend as much time as possible rubbing against that person, even though everyone else in the room would be quite pleased to spend some quality time with the beast.
Does this mean cats are evil? Yes.
OK, maybe not evil, but they definitely have an attitude problem.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Let's all have a Merry Ho Ho Ho

Oops, forgot to post this before Christmas, Oh well, everyone was too busy over the holidays to read this anyway, but now you have lots of time so there is not excuse.

“You know it must be near Christmas because people are getting grouchy.”
A buddy of mine made that comment after a grueling afternoon of gift shopping. It certainly does not fit with the spirit of Christmas, but I it does hold a sliver of truth.
Many people are filled with the joy of Christmas and the blessings of the Yule Tide season, but there are a few who are full of something else.
After my Scrooge-like friend made the comment I spent some time a local shopping oasis – the mall – and dang it if he wasn’t right.
Some people were a little on the grumpy side - especially when it came to finding a parking spot. Yikes, some folk out there are downright nasty in their quest to park as close to the front door as possible.
Personally, I could care less if I have to walk a block or so to get to the front door, but in just a few minutes I observed some very Grinchy behaviour among the festive season shoppers.
“Hey, I was going to park there!”
“Too bad, I got here first.”
“Yeah, well, then ‘bless’ you, pal.”
Not exactly a Disney Christmas moment.
I even had a kindly, grandma-type lady yell, scream and make a rather unpleasant gesture because I got to a parking spot 10 seconds before she did.
I clearly got there first because I had my car turned off before she even pulled up, but I guess her Granny vision saw the spot from a distance and knew it was destined to be hers.
However, in the spirit of Christmas, I started my car and reversed out of the spot, while giving the universal signal she can have the spot with a wave of my hand and a smile on my face.
She replied once again with a different universal signal while pulling her car into the now-vacant prime parking space.
Even after I gave her a really good parking spot, the Granny from Hell was still not feeling the festive mood. I wonder what she was shopping for - rat tails and eye of newt, no doubt.
Were the Wisemen riled up because they had a hard time finding a parking space for their camels when they went to the manger to see Baby Jesus?
Of course not, and these guys did not have to walk a block to get to the front door, they had to ride stinky, uncomfortable camels for who knows how along across the blazing desert just to deliver a few gifts to a baby. Mind you it’s not every day the son of God is born so I guess it was worth the effort.
Since that hallowed day, the theme of Christmas has been peace on earth and good will toward man. Not ‘50 per cent off selected items while quantities last’ as it has become in more recent times.
Or being barraged by ad campaigns that brainwash your child into needing a certain toy or they will grow up bitter and warped and put you in an old folk’s home first chance they get.
But even I am letting the Grinch in me come out as I bemoan the lack of Christmas spirit. Not everyone is miserable during the happiest time of the year – only those who get swindled by the nonsense of the season rather than enveloped by the joy. There is still a lot of good will out there. Many people smile a little easier, offer a friendly ‘Hello’ to those they don’t know and even go out of their way to help others with no expectation of personal gain.
Which is exactly what Christmastime is supposed to be like – remember, good will and all that stuff.
If the opposing forces stuck in the trenches of the First World War can put down their guns and stop killing each other for a day to share the joy of Christmas, surely we can be civil to each other in the mall parking lot.
That is not too much to hope for, is it?
Merry Christmas everyone.