Sunday, July 26, 2015

Don't 'bug' me when I'm driving

It is one of the most horrifying, unnerving experiences you can have while driving, and it happened to me just the other day.
I was cruising down the road, enjoying a sunny summer's day like I have done countless times. It was not so hot I had to have the air conditioning on, so I had my window open.
That's when it happened.
I actually heard the insect hit the door jam of my car and I saw a black mass out of the corner of my eye.
I knew the condor of bugs had just entered my vehicle, but what I didn't know was the status of the bug - what kind of bug it was and how pissed off it was over being clobbered by my import.
I glanced to my left and saw a black figure – roughly the size of a full-grown ostrich – on the top of my seatbelt near the window.
And then it was gone.
I do not want to say panic set it...
It did set in, I just don't want to say it.
When you come right down to it, there really are only two types of bugs on this planet: ones that will hurt you, and ones that won't.
The odds of a bug this large being some sort of engorged lady bug were very slim, so my mind immediately went to the kind of bug that can cause pain.
It was no longer on my the top of the seatbelt near my head, so that means it was in the car somewhere.
My first fear was it had fallen between me and the seat and it was getting ready to deliver the mother of all stings or bites – or both.
Travelling down the highway and 100-ish km/h is not a good time to have an insect attack. Well, no time is a good time, but barrelling down the blacktop is an even worse time.
I reached around behind my back trying to locate the beast before it took its revenge upon me for hitting it with my car.
I reached around as far as I could then sort of lifted myself off the seat as best I could to see it maybe the monster was on the seat – not an easy thing to do at highway speeds, but I know we have all done it.
The whole time I am searching, I am also waiting. Waiting for the searing pain that only an angry insect can deliver.
By now I had slowed down considerably and was pulling over to the side of the road, getting ready to evacuate my car like it was on fire.
I stopped, jumped out and danced around the side of the road for a minute with terrifying thoughts running through my mind.
What it went down my shirt and was just knocked out, soon to awaken and bring down its wrath upon me?
Not good.
So I thrashed about for a minute trying to make sure the Jurassic bug was not on my clothing.
It was not, so that means it was still in the car.
I looked at the driver's seat and found nothing. A gargantuan beast of this size could not easily hide, so it had to be in there somewhere.
I opened the back door and looked on the rear seat and again saw nothing.
Had I imagined it? Was the bug some sort of hallucination brought on by my dislike of insect vermin?
No, I know what I saw and heard, and what I saw and heard was a bug hit my car and and bounce inside.
It was in there alright. Perhaps it was hiding, healing and regaining its strength for an attack.
I then looked on the floor next to the seat and there it was – a wasp.
Not just any wasp, but a monster wasp, at least two pounds worth of wasp.

Well, maybe it wasn't that big, but it was big enough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I have a shiny new car - please don't touch it

So I bought a new vehicle the other day, well it was new to me anyway.
It is the lowest mileage vehicle I have ever owned and so far I am enjoying it quite a bit.
But whenever you buy a new car you go through a period of time where you have all these concerns you did not have with the old clunker you moved up from.
My last car had about a bazillion kilometres on it and it showed. The thing smoked more than a Raggae band and leaked more oil than an Alberta pipeline.
The struts were shot so it was like riding an old chuckwagon and every single bump on the road nearly knocked the fillings out of your teeth.
It rattled, it clunked, it was loud and tired so the time had come to abandon the trusty metal steed for a new mode of transportation.
The old car owed me nothing. I put a lot of kilometres on it and had to do very little in the way of repairs – all right, I should have replaced the struts, but they were expensive and I didn't want to.
The nicest thing about an old, high-mileages car was you didn't really care if it got dirty, or scratched or even a little banged up.
The Missus and I even took it about 20 kilometres up a logging road scouting campsites earlier this year (a fun adventure with marginally functioning suspension.)
It came back covered in grime, dust and a little worse for wear, but by that point it really didn't matter.
The car has seen better days and when a spectacular deal on a much newer car with a fraction of the kilometres came along, I jumped at the opportunity to upgrade in a big way.
I have had the new car for almost two whole weeks so we are still in the honeymoon stage. The first couple days after getting it, I would just sit in it and check out the interior and the all the new-fangled controls I got to play with.
Once in a while I would look out the front window of my house to check out its profile before looking for an excuse – any excuse - to drive it.
While I was willing to go 'boony bashing' in the old car, I was hesitant to even drive this one across an unpaved parking lot lest a rock fly up and chip the pristine paint job.
I don't even like to park the new set of wheels under a tree because there are evil, evil birds out there just waiting to poop on a shiny red car.
“Wait, what's that? Dust! There is a thin layer of dust on my new car! Oh the horror, I must wash it – a lot.”
I know that might be a little over the top, but it is always an event to get a new car and I want to enjoy the feeling of having a new vehicle as much as possible.
And why not, I paid a lot of money to have that feeling and I want to enjoy it for as long as I can and as much as I can.
I had the same feeling with the last car I bought – although this one is much nicer with more options – and I know the feeling fades, but for the next little while I will still get a thrill every time I look out the window and see it sitting there on the street with cars going by...kicking up dust...and those evil birds, just waiting...
Excuse me, I have to go wash my new car. After all, I have not done it for almost two days.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Little boys can be really gross

Boys can be gross little critters.
They don’t necessarily mean to be, it’s just the nature of possessing testosterone without the maturity to wield it.
Testosterone is kind of like the Force - once you learn how to control it, it can be of great benefit, but if it is unchecked it leads to the dark side and the dark side usually involves something that will gross out mom and dad.
Mind you when boys grow up, testosterone can still lead to some uncouth situations. I highly doubt it was a refined woman who invented the globally popular ‘Pull my finger’ gag.
Anyway, not too long ago I was talking to a lady who was appalled by the actions of some of the young boys in her neighbourhood.
The lads were around 10 years old and full of vinegar and puppy dog tails or what ever else they are supposed to be made of.
It would seem these future leaders of our nation decided it would be more fun to pee in their water guns and squirt each other than to just fill them with boring old water.
When she said this to myself and another father, I had to chuckle.
They looked at me like I was demented.
“You both only have girls, don’t you?”
They did and were thus unfamiliar with the minds of little men.
I doubt a girl would ever think of doing such a thing.
I know it is disgusting and I am certainly not endorsing it, but it is something little boys do, and parents who only have girls simply do not understand.
Most girls are all cute and sweet, while boys are more like chimpanzees on a sugar high. I am sure boys are where the term ‘perpetual motion’ came from, because it seems little boys never stop moving, doing things or looking for new adventures – which translates into getting in to trouble.
They don’t necessarily mean to get in trouble, it just kind of happens.
One day, my oldest son was looking at this small, black thing he took out of his pocket.
I assumed it was a rock or something and I asked what he had.
“It’s a bird’s stomach” was his matter-of-fact reply.
I stopped dead in my tracks and contemplated his response.
“A what?” was my somewhat horrified reaction.
“I also have what I think is a heart and a lung.”
My mind raced at the information I was hearing.
“OK, calm down. There are plenty of good psychiatrists in town. That’s it, all he needs is a little assistance. He will be fine. All little boys carry animal parts in their pocket – right?”
My next concern was how he came into possession of said body parts.
He went on to explain that he had found a dead bird behind the shed and decided to take it apart to see what was in it.
He always enjoyed taking things apart which, until that moment in time, I thought was a good thing. He was expanding his knowledge, exploring how things worked – now it was just a one-way ticket to Barf City.
He did not have any surgical tools or even a pocketknife, so he pulled it apart with his fingers.
I would just like to say – eeeeeeeewww. Now that is disgusting.
He did not know it was gross, he was just a curious seven year old with no concern for minor details like germs, bacteria, malaria or the plague.
Again, I doubt most girls would ever do that.
While girls are playing with dolls and having imaginary tea parties, Junior was performing a do-it-yourself autopsy.
“Go in the house and wash your hands – a lot. Use the entire bar of soap and don’t touch anything on the way in. Just keep your hands in the air. Wait, let me open the door and turn on the taps. NO, don’t touch me. NO, don’t touch the cat either.”
“Can I keep the stomach?”
Boys just do things differently.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Do you see what I see - probably not.

It would seem God gave men and women different eyes.
The mechanics are the same, with retinas and all those other eyeball thingies, but they just don't see the same things.
For example, there can be a few items on the kitchen counter and to a man's eyes they are just fine where they are, but to a woman they are clutterish (if that is even a real word) and they must be put away - immediately.
A guy can look at the items many times and not see a need to do something with them. That is not to say men are slobs. OK, some men are slobs, or neatness challenged as the politically correct world calls them, but I am talking about a couple of minor items here.
A woman, or more accurately my wife,  can look at a room and see a dozen things that need to be done, changed, moved, cleaned, burned, have an exorcism performed on them or simply left alone.
I can look at the same room and think, 'Looks good to me.'
So how come her eyes can see such a different world than mine do? Beats me.
However, I have noticed that once we step outside a role reversal takes place and I start to see thing she does not.
Our lawn can be three metres tall with a family of hillbillies living in it and she would not see a need to mow the grass. There could be more weed per square foot than Woodstock and she would simply walk by them every single day.
My man eyes however, see the need to get the motorized lawn chopper out and make the yard somewhat presentable. The weeds, of course, must go, the hedge has to be trimmed, the trees pruned and something must be done with that darned spreading juniper that is attempting to take over the entire front yard rock garden.
"We have a spreading juniper? What's a spreading juniper?" was pretty much my wife's response when I told of the cedar situation that is threatening to create havoc in the entire western hemisphere.
I will show her the bush that is just slightly smaller than a 747 and she will invariably respond, "Oh, I never noticed it before."
Funny how that excuse does not work when it comes to a pile of laundry.
"What do you mean you did not notice it? How could you not notice a pile of laundry next to the wash machine behind a closed laundry room door? It's so obvious. Juniper? What juniper?"
Let's just say the yard work has been left mostly to yours truly. Fortunately I have two big strong sons who willingly jump in and help me with the back 40.
OK, willingly might be a bit of a stretch. I think forcibly is a more accurate description of their helping out with the greenery.
Teen eyes are also different than adult peepers ñ man or woman. Human eyes must change over time, because teens do not see things that need to be done inside or outside, and once they enter their bedroom they must go completely blind, but that is another column.
My wife's eyes do notice the gas gauge now, which is a good thing. For a while she had a blind spot for that particular vehicular function and I would often jump in the car to go somewhere to find it had less gas than a squirrel fart.
But that's OK, I never quite did get the hang of noticing when we were out of conditioner (Hey, I'm a bald man, conditioner is not a real big concern for me.)
But eyes can be trained. My eyes have learned to notice when the floor needs to be vacuumed, but for some reason I am still somewhat blind to a pile of dirty dishes.
My wife has figured out the gas thing, but for some reason remains oblivious to the plight of the lawn.
Perhaps glasses might help us both.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Safety first around water - because I swim like a stone

I'm not a big fan of water.
Yes, I do shower on a regular basis, like once a month whether I need it or not.
I am kidding of course. I wouldn't be able to stand to be near myself if I showered only once every four weeks.
The kind of water I am referring to is the kind that goes over my head – namely a lake, ocean or deep stream.
I don't mind pools so much because I know I can sink to the bottom, push off and shoot to the top.
In a lake or ocean, who knows where the bottom is.
The problem is swimming – I am not very good at it.
I never took lessons as a kid and while we did have a pool, it was an above ground pool and was only four feet deep, so when I got tired of swimming I just stood up.
I can flap my arms and kick my legs enough to achieve some forward motion in a body of water, but I am hardly an Olympic-ready aqua fiend.
But even more concerning than my lack of swimming prowess is the fact I can't float.
I know, it's weird, but the second I stop thrashing about in the water I sink like a stone.
I have tried floating on my back like I have seen so many others do, but with very limited success.
It is more like a slow sinking than an actual floating.
For an oh-so-brief while I do manage to keep my face above water – barely. But I know it will not last and I have to start treading water again or I will be doing my Davey Jones impression.
My buddy can float on water like a walrus (which is sort of how he's built actually) and if I were ever in a boat that capsized all I would have to do is grab hold of him and float around until the rescue ship arrived.
In fact, I would invite others to share the ample wealth of his floating girth.
I am not exactly a small man and I do have some blubber on my frame, but I still go under the water faster than a frightened fish.
My dad is the same way. He sinks like a stone tied to a rock.
Like father, like son I guess.
But instead of the lack of floating ability, why couldn't I have inherited his hair. I am nearing the cueball stage of life, while he has more hair than an '80's rock band.
At 81 years old, he has more hair on his head than I have had on mine for more than 20 years.
Do I get that genetic trait?
No, I have to get the one where I have the buoyancy of a lead pipe – filled with cement.
So knowing I am a weak swimmer and have the floating ability of iron ore, I am understandably uncomfortable around water.
When I am in a boat I prefer to wear a life jacket – be it a small fishing boat or ski boat.
When the children were younger, I wore one “as an example that is it safety first.”
I did not care if I was the only adult in the 20-foot ski boat wearing a red life preserver, I was doing it for the children.
I'm quite safety concious that way.
But I will admit when there were no young children in the watercraft, I did bow to peer pressure and not wanting to look like a total weinie, I did not don my floating garment.
But I always made sure it was close at hand and would even casually make sure my foot was sticking through one of the openings so if I went in the water, it was coming with me.

After all, it is safety first.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I'm a cold-water wimp and I don't care

Call me a wimp if you must, but I do not like cold water, or even coolish water for that matter.
I don't recall if cold water bothered me in my younger years, but I suspect it did not because kids and teens are not too bright and have a built in tolerance for such things as cold water and even cold weather.
I can remember running out to my car in -10C weather wearing a T-shirt and thinking there is no point in grabbing a jacket because my car will be warm in a few minutes and then I won't need a jacket so why should I waste 20 seconds of my life digging it out of the closet (where my mom kept putting it for some reason) only to have to take it off again.
With logic like that it's amazing I didn't die of pneumonia, or a case of the stupids or something.
Anyway, cold-weather follies aside, I don't ever recall worrying about how cold the swimming pool was or how cold the lake was on a hot summers day.
I just dove in, splashed around and had fun.
Now that I am much older and wiser – I grab a hoodie if it even looks cool outside – I have developed an aversion to cold water.
And I am not just talking about North-Atlantic-hit-an-iceberg cold, I am talking about local lakes kind of cold.
Some may not even notice the water temperature, but I have a tough time plunging into the frigid waters around me.
I am fine at first as I make my descent into the icy depths of an area pond, but then things change.
As the water goes above my knee I start to slow my forward advance, my breathing becomes a little sharper and I might even stutter a word or two.
A little farther out into the water I reach what I call the red zone: the area between mid-thigh and my man nipples.
This is the most temperature-sensitive area of my body. As my suit starts to get wet I slow down even more, my breath becomes noticeably sharper and I know at any second a certain part of my anatomy that does not do well in cold water is about to be dunked.
And once that milestone is passed, then I have to get my stomach wet. Now one would think based on the size of my stomach I would have enough insulation to fend off the Arctic-like assault on my senses, but nope – it is just plain cold.
But then things change again, and for some reason my chest and shoulder regions are immune to the borderline freezing temperatures that is a mountain lake – but first I have to get that far in.
I don't like cold water because it is cold – simple as that.
A hot tub, hot springs or pretty much any form of water with the pre-curser of 'hot' in it is more my speed.
I have never met a hot tub I didn't like, or a hot spring that couldn't entice me to enter its warm bosom of relaxation.
The problem is there are not a lot of hot tubs or hot springs at the local beaches, so I try to force myself to dip into the water and endure the deathly cold.
Sure there are kids and little old ladies floating around while I tenuously make my way from shore, but the shame of being a water wussy does not outweigh my distain for cold water.
So if you see a tall, middle-aged balding guy standing in water up to his knees shivering like he just fell off the Titanic, come over and say 'Hi.'

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 5, 2015

I will talk to them, but I will not share food with them

I would have to classify myself as an animal person.
I am not covered in fur or anything (especially on my head), but I have had a dog my entire life and do enjoy having a non-human around the homestead (mother-in-laws don't count).
We also currently have a cat, so furred beasts are something I like to have around, most of the time anyway.
We all know they are not human, but we often treat them like they are. While they eat gross things and clean themselves with their tongue, they still become members of the family.
Disgusting and annoying members of the family, but members none the less. Mind you, teenagers can also be disgusting and annoying, but with them you cannot just throw them outside because they will simply come back in. They will then proceed to eat everything in the fridge, before heading to the pantry for a post-lunch, pre-supper snack. Which, of course, is followed by the post-supper, pre-bedtime snack.
Anyway, I have to admit to talking to my pets like they could actually understand what I was saying. I wasn't asking their opinion on anything or expecting an answer, but a pet is a good "person" to tell how your day went or what is bothering you etc.
They don't talk back, you won't hurt their feelings and no matter what, they are always happy to see you.
That last part applies mainly to dogs. Cats are happy to see you if they are in the mood.
Dogs are one of the few living things on this planet that you can have their boy bits removed and they still greet you at the door.
Fish could care less no matter what is going on and a tarantula is not a pet - it is a stain on the carpet should it ever get out of its enclosure.
I am sure some may disagree, but in general, if it has scales, fangs, venom or the potential to kill me, I do not consider it a pet in the traditional sense of the word.
They are certainly not pets in the cuddly sense of the word.
I know people who have spiders, snakes and lizards, but the only critters I have ever had as pets is cats and dogs.
I have already admitted to talking to them, but that is about as far as I am willing to go to make them more "human."
I will not put clothing on an animal simply because it makes them look 'cute.'
Cats and dogs were born with all the clothing they need, and God already took care of the cute part, so additional help from me is not needed.
There are people who dress up their beasts just to be fashionable and I even saw a dachshund, a.k.a. a wiener dog, wearing a little leather jacket.
It was real leather, I kid you not.
Who in their right mind would spend that kind of money to buy a leather jacket for a dog? What's next, a little Harley Davidson for the mutt to ride around the backyard on?
I am not poking fun at people who do dress up their pets, well, actually I am. Sorry about that.
The amount of money people can spend to make their pet 'human-like' is mind boggling.
I just don't get it.
But dressing up a dog is not the most bizarre interaction people can have with their mutt. It is people who share food - like an ice cream cone - with their hound that is truly strange behaviour.
Why? I refer you to the whole dogs-clean-themselves-with-their-tongue information I provided earlier.
Dogs also eat a wide array of truly hideous items, so considering I do not even like it when a dog licks me, I doubt we will be sharing any food with the critter.
I will talk to the mutt, but I will not share a plate with him. You have to draw a line somewhere.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How did the world survive before 'The Tape?'

It is by far one of the greatest inventions ever created by the human race.
The automobile: handy, but hard on the environment.
The computer: a vital part of modern life but a real pain in the...
Those may be fine inventions that have helped human kind, but sitting very close to the top of the list is The Tape.
Men already know what tape I am talking about. There could be only one sticky item of which I speak and that is duct tape.
I can hear men throughout the Valley grunting their approval for the multi-talented creation that men, real men I might add, have embraced throughout the world.
I love The Tape.
I do not know how the world survived without it. Had they had a whole bunch of The Tape on Titanic, well, let's just say the movie would had to have a much different ending.
Instead of what's his name sinking to a frozen death, he would run around like a man possessed, taping up the hull saving the ship and the fair maiden.
What else on this planet other than The Tape could have pulled off such heroics. Nothing, that's what.
Your arm got cut off in an industrial accident? No problem, just grab The Tape, a few well-placed strips and it's as good as new.
The Tape also comes in a variety of colours, greatly increasing its applications to everything from fixing clothing (yes, I did close a rip in an old jacket  with The Tape one time) to holding the international space station together.
Is there no end to the marvels of the shiny wonder.
But even though there are more uses for The Tape than there are corrupt politicians, my wife still mocks one of man's greatest achievements.
I know, I don't understand it either. She just does not see the value of this invaluable aid to humanity.
Despite witnessing first-hand the prowess of The Tape, still she mocks.
Without The Tape, a return trip from Saskatoon would have been a disaster. It was in the spring and we had a van load of six people and enough luggage to trek across the Andes and back crammed into every nook and cranny the silver Mazda had.
I even put on a roof-top carrier because the teenage girl we were bringing back from Toon Town had as much luggage as the rest of us combined. She had a make-up box that was just slightly smaller than a pool table. Why she needed that much face goop is beyond me.
Anyway, we were heading down the No. 1 with a blistering wind crossing the road. The air was moving at approximately 3,000 km/h and the dust was so thick in spots it was a near, um, brown out I guess you would call it.
A big rig passed in the other direction and nearly ripped the lid off of the car top carrier. I remember looking in the rearview mirror and seeing all these bags of stuff bouncing down the road. It did not fully register those were our bags until I spotted one of my daughter's dollys in a green dress skip across the asphalt.
I laid on the breaks, pulled over and ran back to collect everything. We did not lose anything, but we still had hundreds of kilometres to drive with a car top carrier that had seen better times.
What to do, what to do? I only had to think for a few seconds before the answer became clear.
The Tape.
I grabbed a role of the silver-coloured saviour and wrapped it around the front of the carrier, thus sealing it from blowing open, thus saving the trip and the world, thus once again proving it is an invaluable addition to the human race.
Viva la Tape.
That was many years ago. The Missus still mocks, but for at least a few hours on that fateful day, The Tape rule supreme and even the little woman had to admit The Tape was a darned fine invention.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh