Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grandma Dynamite at the wheel

It was one of those things that is so odd it's funny.
I was driving down the street a while back when a little old lady in a silver car pulled out in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid some up-close-and-personal interaction with granny.
I managed to slow down and swerve to the point where the collision was avoided. You could say I was a little annoyed at the almost accident, until I noticed it was a kindly, little old lady behind the wheel.
That changed my attitude rather quickly because who could possibly be mad at Granny. And besides, stuff happens and no one is perfect and I was sure she simply did not see me. No biggie.
I gave Granny a couple of little toots on the horn just to let her know I was there and we almost got to exchange phone numbers and insurance information.
This sweet, kindly, granny-looking little old lady, peered into her rearview mirror and proceeded to flip me the bird.
I must admit, that was probably the last thing I expected a little old lady to do. Granny is not supposed to do that. Shouldn't you be at home baking cookies for the grandchildren, or knitting something instead of making an obscene gesture? Especially when you consider it was Grandma Dynamite who was at fault in the first place.
And this was not a quick flip of the driving finger, this was a prolonged hey-butthead-behind-me-I-got-your-granny-greeting-right-here kind of gesture.
It took a couple of seconds before I fully realized what was going on. At first, I thought she was waving to say sorry for almost causing our insurance rates to go up, but most people use all five fingers to do that.
I stared for the duration of the salute and sure enough Granny was giving me the what for with a certain finger reserved for non-verbal communication of the unpleasant kind.
So I did what any other driver would do, I got in close, hit her car from behind and spun her into the on-coming lane where she was creamed by a dump truck.
I'm kidding of course. It was a cement truck.
In reality, all I could do was look on in a mild state of shock at what I was witnessing.
I pulled up beside the car to make sure it really was a granny and not a teen wearing an old people costume, but sure enough, this was a full-fledged grandma-type driver.
I tell you, seniors are getting harder and harder to raise these days.
Once the initial surprise wore off, I had to chuckle at granny for not taking any crap from one of those young whippersnappers.
Now, I have never snapped a whipper in my life, but according to Hostile Hilda in the Honda, I was just some punk kid with an attitude. A punk kid who, at the time, was in his mid 30s.
What is the protocol in that situation? I couldn't give her the finger in return. Flipping Granny the bird would be too strange and just seemed plain wrong.
Two wrongs do not make a right, no matter how good that second wrong feels.
Eventually, Granny went her way and I went mine, both with stories to tell.
Hers was of some jerk in a little red car who was harassing her with his horn.
Mine was of a member of the blue hair crowd who gave me hope that when I become a senior, I won't have to take any guff from some punk on the street.
You go granny.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ode to the nerd

I had to stop by an elementary school the other day to drop something off and was amazed at how little had changed since I was a member of the early education system.
I don’t mean the actual building, but the kids themselves.
Within minutes I could spot the nerds, cool kids, bad kids and the jocks.
Nature just has a way of separating the herd into appropriate clusters. It’s the whole birds of a feather thing.
I began to look back on my elementary years and all sorts of memories came flooding back until I was once again curled up in the corner of the room, rubbing my head and chanting, “make the bad thoughts go away, make the bad thoughts go away.”
In case you haven’t figured it out, school was not exactly a great time for me. I know I hide it well, but sometimes people can guess school was about as much fun as eyeball surgery without anesthetic – only more painful.
As if nature did not already have a way of sorting things out, there were all these little rituals that helped place the students in their appropriate groups.
Elementary school is a prime example of the strong shall survive and the weak shall be picked last for every sporting event.
I am not sure who came up with this one, but when I was in school this is how teams were selected for a lunch-hour game of football or whatever: the two top jocks would start picking kids and the lesser players would all huddle together, each secretly hoping they weren’t going to be the last to be chosen.
One by one, names would be called out until a handful of sad, pathetic athlete wannabes were left standing in front of everyone looking not unlike puppies in the store window hoping someone will pick them.
The worst, of course, is being the last one to be called.
OK, I choose Tommy.”
Tommy? You chose Tommy over me? He has two broken legs and a neck brace on.”
I know, and your point is.”
It’s not good for your self esteem when a kid who was hit by a truck and spent three weeks in a coma is thought to be more beneficial to the team than you are.
Not that I am speaking from experience or anything. I heard about it from some one, yeah, that’s right, I heard about it.
I was never picked last for anything actually, which basically means I was not even a good enough nerd to be the chief nerd, I was kind of a middle-of-the-road nerd.
Unless you are among the first half or so selected, it is a cruel way to pick a team. As the numbers dwindle, it sort of turns into a nerd parade, where people driving by in their cars glance over and say, “Oh, look honey, it’s a flock of nerds. Get the camera.”
The non-nerds will tell their children tales of the nerd herd.
Yes my son, there was a day when nerds roamed this land. They were all over this field, free range nerds I liked to call them. Yup, it was quite a sight to see.”
Due to political correctness, I doubt there are any official nerds in the school system anymore.
I am sure there are a lot of cool-challenged kids out there who are also suffering from a social skills deficiency, but actual nerds, not any more.
A nerd by any other name – will still likely be picked last for a sports team.
And there is nothing wrong with going to the junior high school dance by yourself. I read that even Brad Pitt could not get a date for his school’s big dance.
OK, I made that whole Brad Pitt thing up, but a guy can always hope can’t he.
Entering high school proved interesting because with three elementary schools funnelling into one melting pot of youthfulness, the nerd population grew accordingly.
We, um, er, I mean the nerds, would spot each other in the hallway and have an instant comraderie born of the need for survival.
Life could be hard for the nerd and we, er, um, I mean they often travelled in packs for self defence as much as mutual bonding.
The weaker nerds would get picked off by marauding gangs of jocks and be stuffed in garbage cans while the stronger nerds made good their escape.
Eventually, the nerds grew up, became computer experts or whatever and hired the jocks – who failed to take their sports career beyond high school – to mow their lawns and wash their cars.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sorry ladies, we really don't know how you feel

Ladies, if I may, I would like to offer some free relationship advice.
I would like to talk about communication between men and women - neither of whom actually speak the same language.
Men can communicate, but not in the same way you ladies can. When guys get together there is tremendous communication about important things like hockey, cars, the job and other matters men can relate to one another about.
What men rarely talk about is emotions.
"Y'know Bob, when you said my moustache looked cheesy, it made me feel all bad inside. It made me feel less attractive."
"I'm sorry Frank, I meant it as a joke. C'mere, gimme a hug. I love you, man."
I have never, and I mean ever, been a part of such a conversation and I have been a guy for as long as I can remember.
Because men rarely talk to each other about emotions and feelings and all that gooey stuff, we are not very good at talking to our spouses about those same topics.
Women talk freely about their feelings and emotions and how their emotions make them feel.
Practice makes perfect, and when it comes to talking about inner-most feelings, men are sadly out of practice, while women could make it an Olympic event.
My wife could easily make the national team on sharing feelings, while I would be relegated to the water boy.
So here is where I will impart my meagre wisdom upon the world whether they want it or not.
When it comes to talking about feelings and emotions, ladies, I implore you to talk slowly, use simple terms and most importantly of all never assume we know how you feel, because we don't - ever.
It is not that men are dumb (I know, there's lots of room for argument there), or we don't care (still more room), it's just we can't pick up subtle hints the lady in our life thinks is a blaring clue as to what is wrong.
If there is a problem, subtle hints work about as well as trying to knock out an elephant with a feather.
But if you say it in simple, straight-forward terms, the chances are much better our man brains will be able to connect with that little, tiny, minuscule part of our gray matter that controls emotions.
Yes, men (most men anyway) do have an area where they can look at and examine their emotions. It is typically buried under a pile of brain clutter consisting of information about motorcycles, hockey, movies and why beer and nachos are possibly the greatest food combination ever devised by the human race.
But once you get through all that stuff, the emotional brain does exist. Subtle hints have little chance of penetrating the man brain and getting past all the other stuff we men find interesting and important.
Not that our significant other's feelings are not important, they are, honest, really, I mean that, but over the centuries men have had to concern themselves with matters other than our emotions such as hunting for food, defending their land from attacking hoards and watching the play offs.
I doubt there is a man alive, now or through out the history of time, who has not had the line, 'Well you should know how I feel' dropped on them.
We don't know. It's that simple.
After more than two decades of marriage, I can tell when something is bothering my wife, but she has also learned after 27 years subtle hints don't work and the direct approach is most often used, thus allowing me to detect how she is feeling.
See how it works? My wife tells me how she is feeling and I recognize how she is feeling and then we have a big, happy talk about how she is feeling, I apologize for whatever it was that made her feel that way and life can get on as normal.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Time to play 'What's your ailment?'

Anyone who has been to a doctor knows an appointment is more of a guideline than an actual time you will see said practitioner.
Appointments are made so people can rest assured that eventually, they will get in to see their doctor and are not just hanging out in a public waiting area half the day for the fun of it.
I can appreciate how busy doctors are and I understand stuff happens and appointments get delayed, so my new goal is to have as much fun with the waiting process as possible.
The challenge is to have fun in the mind-numbing vacuum of boringness that is a waiting room.
I can remember when doctor’s offices used to have National Geographic, or some other cool magazines.
The last time I was waiting for a doc, the magazines were the most uninteresting pieces of glossy fluff I have ever seen.
The lets-visit-the-doctor routine goes pretty much the same way every time it happens.
I check in with the receptionist upon arrival – because the sign tells me to and if I don’t will be lost in the waiting room black hole forever, which I am convinced is what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. He’s probably still in a waiting room, reading the latest issue of Modern Unions and Mobsters because he did not check in with the receptionist.
So after I check in, I spend a couple of minutes looking around before seeking out some reading material that will help make the minutes fly by.
In one doctor’s office I was impressed to find the magazines actually had a protective plastic binder around them.
That makes sense. You wouldn’t want that vintage May, 1972 copy of Better Quilts and Pillows to get damaged. How else would you know what kind of throw pillow goes best with orange shag carpet?
Fine literature like that deserves to live for all eternity (and probably will in the waiting room.)
After spending 18-43 seconds looking over the magazines and realizing watching a fly crawl across the wall is more exciting, I begin to check out my fellow doctor seekers.
This is a more in depth scrutiny of my waiting room brethren than the cursory glance I give when I first arrive.
That initial check is an absolutely vital part of the waiting room experience. Remember, these people are here to see a doctor because they are ill, and that means the room is full of koodies (which I believe is an actual medical term.)
The initial glance when you first walk in will give you some idea of the people you do not want to sit beside. The lady with the tissue permanently welded to her nose is the first person to avoid.
As is the guy who is coughing to so much his face has turned so red it could guide Santa’s sleigh.
Once the room is surveyed and you have checked in with the receptionist person, it is time to select your seat based on your cursory examination of the room. This is a very important decision because that will be your seat for the next seven to 10 days, depending on how far behind the doctor is running.
Once a chair has been selected and having exhausted the thrilling and educational stack of magazines it is time to check out the crowd and play ‘What’s your ailment.’
Mucus girl and phlegm boy are easy to figure out, as is the kid with cast and the lady in the neck brace, but there are always a few people who look absolutely fine.
Those are the ones I decide to give an ailment of my choice to. 
“Really. Wow, not many people contract malaria in Canada."
“Diphtheria. Now there’s a disease you don’t hear nearly enough about.”
I don’t even know what diphtheria is, and if it wasn’t for spell check I wouldn’t know how to spell it either, but being married to a nurse I hear about all sorts of nasty diseases that I can’t spell or pronounce and certainly do not want to contract.
During the wait, people come and go and every time the receptionist grabs a file you secretly hope it is your name being called so you can get out of the germ factory and on with your day. You know eventually your name will be called and when it is, it is like winning a mini lottery.
But, having your named called is a little misleading because all that happens is you leave the big waiting room and end up sitting in a smaller room that, without the doctor in it, is essentially another waiting room. But at least I know I am getting closer to my end goal so I cheerfully flip through the latest edition of Modern Squirrels and Muskrats while waiting those last few minutes for the doc.
For some reason that kind of wait seems limited to when I go to see the doctor.
When I go to the dentist, I am ushered into the chair of terror .04 seconds after walking in the front door.
I haven’t even taken my coat off before the receptionist starts dragging me into the room where people are going to stick sharp objects into my gums.
I don’t even know if my dentist has magazines because I am never in the waiting room long enough to read one.
I appreciate their efficiency, but when it comes to seeing a dentist I am an abject coward. I do not like going to the tooth doctor and I actually don’t mind waiting for a while, it gives me time to psych myself up.
It’s kind of a ‘Rah-rah, you can do it’ time.
The ‘What’s your ailment’ game cannot really be played at the dentist office anyway because I know what people are there for – their teeth.
The upside is, the sooner you get in, the sooner you get out, and when it comes to the dentist, getting out is all that matters.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh