Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I would do if I won the lotto

I watched one of those shows the other day about what people do after they win huge money on the lottery and it got me thinking about what I would do.
My mind jumped to the hopefully not-so-distant future and I saw myself going to head office with a bottle of champaign and wearing a Speedo to tell my boss I am officially retiring.
OK, the Speedo thing may be a little extreme, but rest assured when I do win the lotto, I will make a grand exit from my place of employment.
In fact, the wind from me running out the door will be strong enough to knock people over. 
I never understood people who win the lotto and make no changes to their lives. I saw one couple win $7 million only to keep their ramshackle house, part-time janitorial jobs and their beat up station wagon.
If you are not going to do anything with the money, why play in the first place?
If I were to get all six numbers right, the media interview would go a little differently.
Media person: So, are you going to quit your job?
Me: Hell ya.
Media person: Will you buy a new house?
Me: You betcha.
Media person: Will you take a vacation?
Me: Did I say hell ya already?
Media person: Will you give any to your friends and family?
Me: Who?
I am kidding of course. Yes, I would spread the wealth around, especially if I won a ridiculous amount of money.
I am sure I would have more friends than I ever realized. People I had not communicated with in years will be calling me up and to rekindle our long-lost friendship that sadly fell to the side due to the commitments of life.
New friend: Hey buddy, how ya doing? Man, I haven't heard from you in a while. Been meaning to call you for a long time now.
Me: And you are?
New friend: Ha, you are such a kidder. You remember, Mike, me and some other guys used to bully you in school all the time. We should get together.
More new friends: Hey man, you remember me right? I used to sit behind you in third grade. I was the kid with the pencil. We were tight m'man, really tight. We should get together.
The good part about that scenario is I already know who my friends are, so no new applicants need not apply. Money can't buy you love, but it can make you popular.
I would imagine calls from long-lost relatives would also be forthcoming.
New relative: Hey cousin, you remember me, right? I am your mom's, aunt's, cousin's sister. We really should get together and catch up on old times.
Me: No.
Winning the lotto would alleviate some problems, but I would imagine it would generate new ones.
Oddly enough, I think money would still be a problem. Not like it is now where lack of money is the challenge, but suddenly having a whole bunch of money would add a different aspect to financial concerns.
How much would you give away? Who would get what? How do you determine what amount to give your friends?
And no matter how much you give, I am sure there will always be someone who feels they did not get enough.
So having lots of money would also be problematic and could greatly complicate your life, but should fate deem me worthy of becoming an instant millionaire, it is a risk I am willing to take.
Of course, I would have to buy a lottery ticket before I can win the lotto.
There is always a kink in every plan.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The perfect way to get out of doing laundry

Sometimes it is good to be married to a perfectionist, sometimes not so much.
In my marriage, it is the little woman who is the perfectionist.
When we were first married, household chores had to be done a certain way – the perfect way.
The bed could not have a single wrinkle in it or the world would stop rotating and we would be responsible for the destruction of the entire planet.
So I made sure the bed had nary a wrinkle, or I should say I was persuaded to make sure the bed did not have a single wrinkle on it.
Before I wed, I hardly ever even made the bed. Why bother? It was just going to get all messed up again in a few hours. Men, are you with me on this one?
But, to maintain a peaceful and harmonious relationship I made a wrinkle-free bed every morning.
However, as the years rolled on, the Missus mellowed out a lot and while still a perfectionist, she has accepted that I am not. It was either accept the things she can not change, or go crazy so she chose the former.
The good part about being married to a perfectionist is I do not have to do laundry.
My beloved has her own system, style and way of doing laundry and my inferior man method of cleaning clothes simply will not cut it. I am OK with that actually.
The first area I messed up in is the sorting. I figured colours with colours, whites with whites and darks with darks – simple.
Not according to my wife. There is apparently a whole spectrum of sub-colours I did not know about. Some  sub-colours could be mixed with other colours in the wash, but certain ones could never be mixed and had to be with their own kind.
She tried explaining it to me a few times, but all I saw was whites, colours and darks. Eventually she gave up and declared she would do the sorting herself.
She also has her own system for washing clothes, with certain cleaning agents being used for certain types, colours (and sub-colours). Some clothes received special cleansing additives, some did not.
Once again, my man brain had a much different approach: put the clothes in the wash machine, pour in some detergent, add a little fabric softener, turn the dial to wash and viola, you are done phase two of the three-phase cleaning process.
I had already been banned from phase 1 – sorting - and was soon exiled from the laundry room for phase two. What would happen when phase 3 rolled around. I bet you can figure it out.
I would just take the clothes from the washer, put them in the dryer, turn the little dial thingy on that machine and walk away – viola, done.
Guess again.
It would seem certain things can be dried in the machine, but other items have to be hung up to dry. I did not know this and my man brain had a hard time figuring out what went where and why so once again, I was sent into laundry exile.
Hmmm, that means I do not have to do any sorting, washing or drying. Works for me. Score one for the non-perfectionist.
I could fold clothes, however, and seeing as how the Missus did all the sorting, washing and drying, it was largely my job to do the folding.
It was pretty hard to screw this up as there was really no sorting to be done and she did not really care how I folded the clothes as long as they were folded.
With one exception – socks. I really did not care if the socks were a perfect matching pair- who does? My wife, that's who, so she decided she will take care of the socks if I fold everything else.
Sounds good to me, viva la perfectionism. It's just a shame she is not the same way when it comes to vacuuming.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The best sporting event I have ever been to

It was without question, the greatest sporting spectacle I have ever witnessed in my life.
It was not a bunch of whiney, rich professional athletes catching a ball or hitting a little black disc around a frozen ice surface.
No, these were true athletes, competing for the love of the game and taking sportsmanship to a level I have never seen before.
It happened many years ago, before my wife and I were even married. We were walking though a park that had numerous sports fields when we happened across a soccer game.
When some people think of soccer, or football as it known everywhere else in the world and should be called that here, they sometimes think of hooligans, or team rivalries that go back decades, or over-paid athletes who roll around on the ground for 20 minutes if the opposing player even looks at them wrong.
But this contest boiled the game down to how it should be played. In fact, it was a good example of how life should be lived.
You see, both teams were made up of people with Down syndrome.
And these men and women were rocking that extra chromosome like it was nobody's business.
My wife and I couldn't help but sit on a grassy knoll and watch the most enjoyable sporting event I have ever seen.
When someone scored a goal, both sides cheered. If someone got hurt, the game stopped and both sides ran over to the injured party to make sure they were OK.
Once the injured player was up and about, it was pats on the back from everyone – no matter the colour of the jersey they wore.
One player in particular stands out – Brenda.
I do not know Brenda, I have never met Brenda and I have never see her since, but I will remember her forever.
Brenda was a forward and when she got the ball her coach would yell, “Kick the ball fast, Brenda.”
With steely determination and concentration etched in her features, she looked at the ball, she lined it up, she carefully took a few steps towards it and kicked it as hard as she could.
This was not a penalty kick where time is a luxury. This all happened over the course of several seconds of regular play.
Both teams stopped and waited for Brenda to kick the ball, and not one player moved until her foot met the ball.
Only then did the game resume.
This happened several times during the game and each time the coach would yell, “Kick the ball fast, Brenda.”
Brenda never did kick the ball fast, and no one ever tried to take the ball from her.
I don't know who won the game, and to be honest I really don't think anyone cared.
Everyone was on the field to enjoy each other's company and participate in a game where the main goal really was to have fun.
I have been fortunate enough to know a couple people with Down syndrome and they are the coolest people I have ever met.
Some brand them as handicapped, or worse.
But I often think we 'normal' people are the ones who are handicapped.
We go through life loaded down with prejudice, pride, greed, arrogance, hate, fear,'s a long list.
We 'normal' people can be intolerably cruel to each. On occasion, we even kill each other over a silly game.
My wife and I stayed until the match was over and I have never felt so good about  a sporting contest as I did that one.
You should try it sometimes, it is good for the soul.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Friday, May 16, 2014

You can't make this stuff up

It's time for another edition of Boneheads in The News.
No, it will not be about politicians, but it will be about people so dumb it is amazing they can function at all.
The first case is hardly a desperate criminal, but a generally law abiding citizen who thought a little humour might get him out of a ticket.
Unfortunately for him, he met a cop with an even better sense of humour.
This story was actually relayed to me by a buddy who denied being the driver (but we all know the truth.)
When my friend, or whoever it may have been, lived in the Lower Mainland he was pulled over for driving by himself in the carpool lane.
The cop asked for his driver's license and registration and explained to him why he was being pulled over.
Being a bit of a wiseacre, the driver looked at the constable and said, “But officer, Jesus is with me so I am not alone.”
The officer went to his patrol car and returned a few minutes later where he handed the driver a ticket and said with a wry smile, “Jesus wasn't wearing his seatbelt.”
In other news, two gangs were having a dispute when one member decided he was going to blow up a rival's car as a warning. He built a bomb at home, snuck to his enemy's house and crawled under the car to place the device when it exploded.
Police said the bomb was on a timer and the maker did not factor in daylight savings time. The timer he used automatically jumped ahead an hour causing the bomb to detonate 60 minutes sooner than planned.
In Florida, a copper thief made things too darn easy for police. The man was looting the wiring from an air conditioning unit in the back of a pick-up truck, but in his haste to get the goods, he accidentally cut off his finger.
Police simply matched the finger to fingerprints they had on file and arrested the bad guy who, of course, denied any wrongdoing and said he was helping the air conditioner owner by doing some free work on the system – at three in the morning.
Police did not buy the excuse and the thief is cooling his heels behind bars.
The culprit is obviously not too bright and, tragically, will now only be able to count to nine.
While this one is not a crime, it does seem pretty dumb. Researchers from Georgia Tech, working at the Atlanta Zoo recording various mammals' urination habits (rats, dogs, goats, cows and elephants), have concluded, regardless of size, each takes about 21 seconds to empty a full bladder.
The first question I have is: why is this important information? How is this going to benefit mankind? Was there some sort of international debate whether it took an elephant longer to pee than a rat? I have never heard of such a debate, but if there is one the question has been solved once and for all. Thank goodness.
A columnist for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Yawm Al-Sabi proposed in March that Egypt should sue Israel in international court for reparations for the 10 Biblical plagues cast from Hebrew curses, including boils, lice, locusts and turning the Nile River into blood.
A few problems present themselves in this case. Because the plagues were an act of God are they going to subpeona the Almighty?
I am sure God would be more than capable of defending himself, which is a good thing because everyone knows how hard it would be to find a lawyer in heaven.
And finally, in the United States a handcuffed man took off from the back of a patrol car, but was quickly caught. Because he was only being detained, police said he could not be charged with fleeing, but a quick-thinking officer came up with something to charge him with: theft for the handcuffs he was wearing when he ran.
I wonder if he has nine fingers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shhhhhh, I'm old and I'm trying to sleep

There are many things I dislike about getting older.
I don't have nearly as much hair as I used to. Well, not on my head anyway. For some reason it is growing out of my shoulders – that's a great place for a mop of hair. Many other parts of my body that used to be hair free are now sprouting a full-blown lawn of follicles as well.
My eyebrows are so long a family of pheasents could nest in them and I would likely never notice. My belly is larger and my patience thinner.
I could go on and on, but one of things that annoys me the most about stacking on the years is how tired I get.
There was a time not too long ago — actually it was a long time ago, but please let me live in the illusion – when sleep was something to be done when I had nothing better to do.
Long gone are the days when I could indulge in social activities well into the night and pop out of bed early the next morning, ready to take on the world.
The year I turned 18, I averaged about four hours sleep a night.
Thank goodness for high school where I could at least get some rest.
I worked part time, hung out with my friends part time and slept some of the time. Life was good.
Fast forward 30 or so years and a friend of mine hit the Big 5-0. A social gathering in his honour was organized and we all joined together to bug him about being the first of us to reach the half-century mark.
That gathering lasted until 1 a.m. In my teen years and well into my 20s, 1 a.m. meant it was time to start thinking about the after party.
At my friend's birthday, 1 a.m. meant I was well past my bedtime.
The next day, I was downright tuckered out from a night of vigorous activity so late into the darkness.
In my youth, I can remember thinking sleep was a waste of time. Why would I want to sleep when there is so much fun to be had. Life is too short to sleep it a way.
Nowadays, my attitude toward sleep has taken a quantum shift. Now, I like sleep, I enjoy it, I look forward to it. It has become one of my favourite things to do.
Late night TV is now 10 p.m. and anything beyond 11 p.m. is just not worth watching.
There have been days when I could not wait to go to sleep.
The party used to beckon me like a siren calling from the deep to join her until the sun came up. It was a call I answered more often than not.
Now my bed calls me not like a young, beautiful siren, but as a comforting old friend that is always there for me, always ready to envelop me in the soft folds of blankets and pillow.
And if I do ignore the call of my old friend for too long, there is a price to pay. Unlike the days of my youth where I could pop out of bed on four hours sleep and be ready to tackle the day four hours sleep now means I am ready to tackle the couch for a nap the first chance I get.
But like I have said before, the alternative to getting older sucks so I will endure hairy shoulders and the need to inject coffee directly into my bloodstream just to get through the day for as long as I can.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Friday, May 9, 2014

The path not taken...

Lately, I have been spending some time reflecting on the paths I took that brought me to where I am today.
I am not sitting alone in the dark, obsessing about my past (my psychiatrist said that is a bad thing), but on occasion I will pick a certain topic and re-visit decisions made years ago.
Some of the decisions I made were quite good – marrying my wife was one of the smartest things I have ever done. I wonder if she can make the same claim – somehow I doubt it.
The dumbest decision I have ever made was to smoke cigarettes. What the hell was I thinking?
Smelling bad, spending hard-earned money and damaging my health apparently was a cool thing to do at that age. Ah, the stupidity of youth never ceases to amaze.
With the half a century mark less than a year away, my latest reflections have been on the career choices I have made and if I could go back 30 years I would smack myself upside the head to knock some sense into my cranial region.
I really had no specific drive or direction in my younger years. The only thing I was even remotely passionate about was riding motorcycles, but there were not a lot of career options in that area.
In high school, we were told to avoid any sort of trades. There were so many carpenters, welders, electricians and plumbers out there they could not buy a job.
Nowadays, trades are like a workplace Nirvana with workers being snapped up faster than an expense cheque in the Senate.
After high school, I wandered aimlessly through life for a while, wondering what the heck I was going to do next.
I spent a couple years working in a sawmill pulling lumber off of what was called the planer chain.
Basically you spent eight hours a day stacking wood onto a big, green cart. When the cart was full, you pushed it into a pick up area where a forklift driver grabbed the pile of lumber. You then pushed the cart back to the planer chain and resumed filling it with wood again – and again and again and again...
I quickly realized I had found the true definition of boredom.
I became engaged and after enduring yet another short-term lay off, I knew I wanted a lot more out of life than piling little pieces of trees day in and day out so I looked for a more interesting job option.
I met a guy who was a newspaper photographer and he had all sorts of fun at his job, so I spent a couple years in college before embarking on my own newspaper adventure.
Over the years I have been a photographer, reporter, editor, columnist, coffee maker and have done pretty much everything but have a paper route.
I must admit, at times my new career was a lot of fun. It was great to always be going out and doing things, meeting people, taking in different events. Unlike the sawmill where you knew what you would be doing every single day, each day in the newsroom was different from the last.
But the newspaper industry has taken a few knocks lately and despite having some fun on the job even after all these years, I am thinking a different career might have been a better move.
Like gangster, or politician – oops my bad, that is basically the same thing.
I would say I should have followed my youthful dreams, but I did not really have any.
But if I could go back to the mid '80s and give myself one piece of advice it would be this: stay at the sawmill, make good money and invest every penny you can in Microsoft stock.
By now, I would be the ruler of my own island in the Caribbean.
Sigh, the path not taken...

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Are you ready for the Average Joe Olympics?

There should be an Average Joe (or Josephine) Olympics filled with events that happen on a regular basis.
Just the other day I was in training for the Oh-darn-here-comes-the-garbage-truck sprint.
This is where you are sipping on your morning cup of java, reading the paper and getting ready for another exciting day at work when you hear the garbage truck come around the corner half a block from your house - 30 minutes earlier than usual.
This kick-starts a sequence of events: first you mutter a few (unprintable) words under your breath as you put down the coffee and scramble toward the front door.
If you happen to be wearing slippers, you will hopefully not injure your feet as you stumble down the front stairs onto the cement walkway and grab the cans full of discarded items.
If you are not wearing slippers, there is no time to grab footwear, so suck it up Princess.
You must then carry the heavily laden bins of trash to the curb. This is where the event would be broken down into various categories - like the 100- and 200-metre sprints in the real Olympics - because the distance you have to lug the trash cans depends on how long your driveway is.
Obviously, people with longer driveways will have to train harder than those blessed with short driveways.
There could also be the cut-the-lawn-before-it-rains-because-your-teenage-son-forgot-to-do-it-when-he-got-home-from-school-and-now-he-claims-he-has-too-much-homework-even-though-he-spent-an-hour-texting-his-girlfriend event.
This is good for your cardio as you push a 70-pound lawnmower around your yard as fast as possible.
Like the garbage event, there will be different categories to accommodate the different-sized lawns. 
But not all Average Joe Olympic events involve tests of physical prowess.
The we-have-to-have-our-children-in-different-places-at-the-same-time event requires a completely different skill set.
This one involves strategy, a knowledge of the destination routes and  clear thinking more than physical attributes.
Trying to be three places at once seems impossible, but I have seen my wife do it on several occasions and I am always amazed how she gets everyone where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
Team events could also include the clean-up-the-house-before-the-unexpected-guests arrive competition.
Teams would get a phone call someone will be 'popping by' in a few minutes and they must then tidy, vacuum and do something with the dirty dishes they 'were going to get to later.'
This one requires co-ordination, organization and above all a cool head. Panicking will not get things cleaner any faster.
My wife would excel at this event because when she gets into a cleaning frenzy, there is no stopping her.
Throughout the Average Joe Olympics there would be surprise competitions such as the I-need-to-bring-a-dozen-cupcakes-to-school-today event.
This is one of the most stressful of all the competitions because it will be sprung on the contestants 15 minutes before the child has to be in school.
Contestants must quickly weigh their options: is there any sort of acceptable substitute in the freezer? Can the cupcakes be taken to the school later if I make them now?
Competitors will get extra bonus points for either one of these, but they will also earn points by rushing to the store and picking up a dozen cupcakes while muttering under their breath.
Translations of these muttered statements will not be made public, so contestants can feel free to mumble away.
There will be substance testing at the end of each day's competition, just to make sure contestants are properly medicated.
Those not in compliance will be given a glass of wine and directed to the nearest couch, recliner or lawn chair.

copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh