Sunday, January 27, 2013

How not to deal with 911

My son and his friend learned a valuable less in how the emergency phone system works.
It was not really a planned lesson, but one borne of youth and the inability to think before acting.
As is a daily ritual, Junior and his friend came to my house during their school lunch break to feast on the bounty that is my fridge. I know his friend has a home full of food, I have seen it, but he still eats at my house almost as much as I do.
I always know when Junior and his friend, who I have come to call 'The Stomach,' have been home because there is nary a scrap of food left and the dog is sitting in front of my home with a sign that says ‘Will bark for food.’
There are also dirty dishes scattered throughout the kitchen, indicating either an isolated typhoon hit my home, or Junior and The Stomach came home for lunch.
But this is not about teens eating more food than a swarm of stoned locusts; this is about how three numbers can change your entire day.
After Junior and The Stomach had consumed enough food to feed the Norwegian army, they were bored, and when teens are bored something dumb will happen.
In this case there was a Strawberry Shortcake phone sitting by the computer. It was an active Strawberry Shortcake phone, but The Stomach did not know this before he picked up the receiver and dialed 9-1-1 for no particular reason.
It was immediately answered by the 9-1-1 dispatch, and when The Stomach learned the phone was live he panicked and slammed the receiver down.
This is where the lesson in how the emergency system works was learned. Whenever there is a 9-1-1 hang up, the operator calls back to ensure the caller is not in danger.
Junior picked up the phone and stammered that his five-year-old brother (which he does not have) had accidentally dialed the number. He then provided his name to the dispatcher before he hung up and they both bolted for school.
Meanwhile the dispatcher decided to send a patrol car to my house just to make sure everything was above board.
The officer knocked on the front door, and when no one answered he decided to check the backdoor where he found a house key still in the lock.
Thinking something might be amiss; the officer used the key to open the door, which set off the alarm prompting the alarm company to phone me at work to tell me my alarm just went off.
Hearing the alarm beep, the constable proceeded to close the door, lock it and hide the key in a nearby planter. He then decided to visit Junior at school to find out exactly what is going on.
You can imagine the look on Junior's face when he was called to the office and arrived to see a cop standing there talking to the principal.
He explained the incident to the officer while his classmates were heading to class and he became the buzz of the school for his interaction with the fuzz at the school.
Meanwhile, I am dealing with the alarm company that, as far as we all knew, had been alerted to a burglar in my castle.
So I talked to my very understanding boss and I took off from work to head home and survey the damage. While I was driving home and imagining every worst-case scenario possible, the constable had contacted the alarm company and told them he accidentally set off the alarm.
The alarm company tried to get in touch with me, but I was blasting down the highway with visions of a hoard of post-Apocalyptic mutant psychopaths rummaging through my belongings.
I pulled up the house and see Junior and The Stomach sitting on the front step, looking rather sheepish. They explained what happened, thus ending another day in the ongoing adventures of parenthood.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The joys of marriage

A buddy of mine brought up an interested point the other day. Both of us have been in long-term relationships (just not with each other) and we both remain baffled by the logic of the lady people of the planet.
He made an excellent observation when he said, “Women spend the entire relationship trying to change you and then say ‘You’re not the man I married 30 years ago.’”
And he is exactly right.
When I pass into the great beyond and walk through those pearly gates one of the first things I am going to ask the big man – right after why did he create mosquitos – is why did he make men and women so different?
Not that different is always bad. Sometimes the difference makes me feel funny inside, but other times it makes me feel slightly this side of completely crazy.
I say viva la physical difference – could you imagine a world without that difference – but it is between the ears that the difference can be quite maddening.
To try and get a grip on our differences and so we do not drive each other totally bonkers, my wife and decided to take a proactive approach to marital bliss by attending a marriage encounter weekend.
We figured that it makes sense to get some instruction from experts on how to co-exist, because neither one of us came with an operator’s manual.
Basically the marriage encounter is an excuse to leave the kids with grandma, spend a weekend in a hotel and hang out with other adults to complain, I mean discuss your significant other.
The encounter was very helpful and provided some insight into why we drive each other crazy.
When we arrived we were given these little work books with questions, suggestions and places to scribble down notes.
Well, I scribble, my wife writes with a penmanship typically reserved for royalty.
So, we have our little books, we have our pens at the ready and we are waiting in anticipation for wise words of wisdom to be bestowed upon us.
Typically these events have a speaker, or speakers, who spew forth those words which explain the main reason for marital challenges. After several workshops and seminars the experts told us what is going on between every married couple in the world – men and women are very different.
Really? Well thanks for the heads up. I never would have figured that out on my own.
I was beginning to think the weekend would be a bust, but then I remembered we have two whole days without a herd of little ones hovering around out feet so I started to feel much better about shelling out my hard-earned dough to have someone explain the obvious to me.
But as the weekend progressed, some good advice was given and valuable insight into fostering a harmonious relationship wad gleaned.
The marriage weekend offered different tips on how to talk to each other, how to share your feelings with each other and in general to try and think like the opposite sex.
I stress the word try because it can be very trying. I have heard the female brain described as a bowl of spaghetti with the woman being able to think along many different lines at the same time.
Men were described as waffles with the ability to focus on one square at a time. While women can have a dozen things going through their minds at one time, men tend to think about only one thing at a time before moving on to the next.
And very often that one thing men constantly think about is, well, you know. That’s right, often men are thinking about who won the game, especially if it was being played the night of the marriage encounter weekend.

Murphy The Wonder Dog has become the hunted

Murphy the Wonder Dog is a nervous wreck.
He is jittery, easily spooked and is always looking over his shoulder.
He knows he is being hunted. He knows the hunter is relentless and he knows that it is just a matter of time before it catches him.
‘It’ is Gilbert, my son’s cat.
Gilbert hates winter. Every year as the temperature drops and the snow flies, Gilbert goes stir crazy, much to the dismay of Murph the Surf.
Before Murphy arrived, Gil used to hunt whatever he could around the house during the dreary winter days, with people’s toes when they are asleep being his favourite target.
More than once someone would wake up with Gilbert going Siberian tiger on their tootsies.
He also climbs into the weirdest places. The other day he decided the fireplace mantel was the perfect place to take a bath.
I disagreed and relocated him, receiving a nasty look from said cat for my nerve to interrupt his cleaning time.
He will also climb on the piano and wherever else he feels like checking out, all to combat the winter-induced boredom that causes kitty to go koo-koo.
But then one day Murphy arrived. We brought the mutt home in the summer so Gilbert was not real happy and quickly established that he was in charge and Murphy may live in the same house as long as he follows one simple rule: you don’t make me mad and I won’t kill you.
Murphy got the message real quick and gave the cat a respectable amount of breathing room.
The two actually got along really well, but who was in charge was never in doubt. Mind you no matter who you are or what kind of pets you have, the cat is pretty sure he is in charge anyway.
As Old Man Winter began to tighten its icy grip, Gilbert started going through his usual restlessness, but this time something was different: there was new play toy to keep Gilbert amused.
Murphy was not amused.
The first time I noticed it was when Murphy came tearing into the family room like the hounds of hell were hot on his heels.
It was not the hounds of hell, but the cat of catastrophe that had decided this yappy little brown thing was fun to have around after all.
I looked down the hallway to see what was wrong with our six-month old pup when I saw Gilbert peeking from the shadows, tail flicking, eyes alert, set to pounce.
Gil was crouched and ready for action, waiting for the perfect opportunity to ‘play’ with his new friend.
Murphy on the other hand was not so thrilled with the game. He would casually stroll around a corner only to have a gray and black blur pounce on him and then go bounding away, already planning his next attack.
This has gone on every winter since Murphy arrived, but occasionally Murphy sees the fun in it and would rip around the house like a dog possessed while dodging the cat attack.
But there have been several times when Murphy is trotting along, minding his own business when – wham – cat attack.
When Murphy knows they are playing the game he has a good time. The problem is, the cat is always playing the game in those cold winter months and Murphy just never knows when the fun will begin, causing a case of canine jitters.
I must admit, it is amusing to watch and more than once I have witnessed a surprise cat attack.
I could have intervened I guess. I could have scared the cat away or something, but where’s the fun in that.
Besides, if Gilbert stops chasing the dog, he will go back to attacking my feet. Sorry pooch, but you are going to have take one for the team.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Clapping at movies a baffling idea

It has been a holiday tradition for my wife and I to see a movie over the Christmas break.
When we began the tradition more than two decades ago, it was just the two of us so we could see any movie we wanted.
But then kids came into the scene and we had to change our movie selection to age-appropriate titles, which isn’t a bad thing. Many of the kid-friendly movies today are also adult friendly and can keep both generations entertained.
Toy Story has long been a family favourite, as is just about any Pixar film. As the kids grew older, the genre of movie changed, but it was always a family friendly flick – no matter how much the oldest one protested.
“But Dad, Bikini Chainsaw Slaughter is a family movie. Everyone who gets dismembered is from a family.”
Nice try kid, but I don’t think that’s a Pixar flick.
This year, for the first time in a long time, it was just me and the Missus so the selection was not a catalyst for debate. All three of the kids were busy skiing, or hanging out with friends or whatever so that just left the two of us to catch a show. We have come full circle.
I must admit it was a lot cheaper with the reduced numbers and I did not have to remortgage my home just to sit in a theatre seat for a couple hours, eat overpriced popcorn and watch the latest Hollywood has to offer.
The big trend in movies right now is 3D. Everything is in 3D, even if it doesn’t need to be. You have to shell out an extra three bucks a ticket to wear the funny glasses and watch the latest in technology, but I have seen a couple movies where the 3D was not necessary.
If the movie makers are going to charge an extra three bucks a ticket for a 3D movie – which brings the cost for a family of five to just under that of a fighter jet – then it had better be one heck of a 3D movie, and often that is not the case.
Anyway, this year we saw a regular old 2D movie, and because the kids were scattered to and fro we could choose whatever movie we wanted.
And we wanted to see The Hobbit. However, tickets to the latest Tolkien offering were sold out for the next 19 weeks so we had to go with plan B.
It was a shame we didn’t really have a plan B.
The theatre has seven screens so surely one of them would offer something worth spending my hard-earned pesos on. The Missus decided we should see Les Miserables, often called Les Mis.
I knew it was a musical and I was afraid Les Mis was going to Les Yawn, but it actually turned out to be a pretty good movie. I have never seen Les Mis live before, so I had nothing to compare it to, but what I saw was quite well done.
My brother-in-law, who has seen Les Mis live about 1,154 times, was not overly impressed, but I admit the movie was much better than I thought it would be.
But something odd happened at the very end of the seven-hour-long production: a few people clapped.
Why? Obviously they enjoyed the show, but they are going to have to clap pretty loud for the makers and stars in H-wood to hear them.
It just seemed kind of pointless. I have never applauded a movie before and this was only the second time I have ever seen it happen.
I thought it was odd the first time it happened as well.
So you liked the movie, why do you feel it necessary to make it a public declaration?
But I guess if it helped them enjoy their evening out of the house then I say go for it.