Saturday, April 30, 2016

Relax little man, it's just a game

Due to the ever-expanding waistline of many high school students, our elected officials have made physical education classes mandatory through Grade 10.
When I was in high school, PE was just a part of the curriculum.
Because the school I went to had a strong athletics program, the gym classes were typically geared toward the jocks, and the teachers (who were also the coaches) would divide us into teams so we could learn to play games like football and basketball.
Funny part was, one side often consisted of members of the school football team and anyone not on the team was designated the opposition, or as they were more commonly known: tackling dummies.
Same for basketball. It just happened to work out all the sportos ended up on the same team and we would spend our class being the opposition while the teacher ran drills. It was not like that for every class, just near the playoffs.
To keep us in shape, the guardians of the jock straps decided we needed to run – a lot. That was fine because I had been running for years already and I was in pretty good shape, but I always questioned the route they chose.
We had a nice, flat field with a track located 50 metres from the gymnasium, but where’s the fun in that?
No, our gym teachers had a much better plan and it was called ‘Running the Tower.’ The Tower was a large water tower on the side of a mountain and the assignment was to run up the mountain, around the tower and then back down the mountain – a distance of about three kilometres. My knees still hurt from the pounding of running down a dirt trail.
The gym teachers at my old alma mater were, for lack of a better term, borderline lunatics.
They were an odd pair. One teacher was huge. You know the type – no neck, unibrow, big forehead, hairy back, looks like he should be sitting in the jungle eating grubs or something. He was your typical muscle-bound super jock who couldn’t make it as a pro so he decided to turn his attention to making life miserable for any non-athletic teens who were unfortunate enough to land in his class.
The other teacher was a little guy and when they walked down the hall together they looked like the bulldog and the Chihuahua from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
While the big one had to stop walking when he talked so his brain could concentrate on forming words, the little one was much more animated and would turn red in the face, holler, scream and generally freak out if he felt someone was not playing hard enough – and that was just during a ‘fun’ game of floor hockey.
I remember one kid getting hurt and hitting the ground and instead of seeing if he was OK, this teacher was yelling at him to “Get back in there.”
I don’t mean to burst your bubble there Skippy, but this is a Grade 9 floor hockey game, not the Stanley Cup finals and getting maimed for the sake of marginal bragging rights seems pretty stupid to me.
This guy was like that all the time, no matter the surroundings.
Winning a game of kick ball was like the World Series to this little man who was about five feet tall and weighed in at around 120 pounds, but had the attitude of Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan combined.
“Excuse me, sir. But, are you trying to live vicariously through your students because you were not even big enough to make the junior varsity tidally wink team when you were in school? I mean, if you were any smaller and the mob was after you, you could hide out in an elementary school.”
If it wasn’t so comical, it would be stupid.
He would strut around in his miniature track suit (that I suspect he acquired from the Ken doll sport and leisure line up) with a whistle hanging around his neck that looked like a piece of oversized bling because he was so tiny. And that was when he went grocery shopping. I don’t think I ever saw him without his whistle.
I am not sure where he is now, probably in a nursing home some where with his oversized whistle telling his co-habitants to “walk it off. You call that a stroke, that’s nothing. Get back out there.”

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I faced pure evil, and won

I am proud to say I went toe-to-toe with evil itself and I did not flinch, I did not waiver, I did not scream like a small school girl and run out of the room.
Instead, I steeled my nerves, summoned courage from deep within my soul and slayed the beast that was threatening me.
Yes folks, it's true: I killed a spider like a man.
I was in the kitchen when out of the corner of my eye I saw it.
A grey figure scampering across the countertop. For a brief instant I froze as my mind reeled at the creature before me.
What kind of horror is this? What kind of spawn from hell itself was invading my home?
As I turned to face my nemesis, it stopped and looked at me tauntingly with its beady little eyes, fangs of doom and eight legs of terror.
It was mocking me, daring me to challenge its existence. At that moment time stood still and I knew it was either him, or me.
Suddenly, he started to move and I had to act fast.
I did not have time to grab paper towel in which to encase and smash him. Nor was there a flame thrower, incendiary device or weapons-grade plutonium handy, so I charged forward with the ferocity of a wild beast.
Unleashing my inner cave man, I attacked with unbridled rage and with a bare hand smashed the creature from hell with a single mighty blow, claiming a staggering victory for arachnophobes everywhere.
However, having a smashed spider on my hand really creeped me out so I ran, I mean, casually strolled to the washroom where I rinsed his guts from my skin – a lot.
It is a day that shall go down in infamy. The day I faced my worst fear and won.
Some people might say it was a shallow victory because the spider was just slightly smaller than the flat part of a thumb tack, but hey, it was still a spider and I still killed it with my bare hands so I am counting that as a victory.
It's not that I hate spiders...OK, well actually I do, I do hate spiders.
I hate pretty much all spiders and now is the time of year when they make a reappearance after several serene winter months without them.
I know I will have many encounters of the icky kind before the cold weather returns and I am not looking forward to any of them.
“Spiders are more afraid of you, than you are of them.”
No they're not.
I doubt a spider ever peed a little while running out of the room because a huge Darren fell on him from the ceiling.
“Spiders are harmless.”
I don't care.
And for the record, not all spiders are harmless. The black widow is a nasty piece of work and can harm you.
There are black widows in the area, so some local arachnids are dangerous.
And with international shipping and travel, how do we know the spider I am gently trying to save is not a deadly species accidentally introduced to the region and by catching and releasing it I am actually dooming the area to a spider-filled nightmare.
That innocent little spider I just squashed could have been a baby Goliath tarantula that will grow into a monster with fangs the size of a chihuahua's tail.
Think of the children.
It is a chance I simply refuse to take, so whenever I see a spider of any size, shape and colour I will slay it.

You are welcome.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

So who needs hair anyway...

So what is the big deal about hair loss?
What’s wrong with showing a little scalp?
As you may have guessed I am of the forehead enhanced group and I don’t have a problem with it.
But some people do. They arrange their hair in goofy configurations – known throughout the land as a comb over – to cover their shame.
There are advertisements for laser hair therapy, or LHT for those in the know, and a whole truck load of ways to make the locks last longer.
There are even clubs for bald guys who wish they were hair guys.
I don’t get it.
Like with so many other woes of society – such as every movie Pauly Shore has ever made – Hollywood is to blame.
You will notice there are no bald people in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
More than 200 hours worth of movie and there is barely a scalp to be seen in all of Middle Earth. Oh sure, there is one bald Hobbit in the opening and closing scenes, but that’s it.
Other than that, the only ones without hair are the Orcs.
Is Hollywood saying losing your hair is akin to being some hideous creature with bad teeth and a skin condition that really should be looked at?
What if Frodo was bald? Or Legolas? Would that be so bad?
Instead, the main characters have more hair than a 1980s rock band.
The monstrous ‘90s hit “Jurassic Park” did have a few hair-challenged characters, but they were all eaten by dinosaurs.
The balding lawyer was the first to go – chomped by a T Rex.
The balding computer technician played by Samuel L. Jackson was also a dino pate when he was set upon by a flock of velociraptors which obviously preferred a hairless meal because they also ate the balding big game hunter.
So who survived? People with hair, that’s who. All the heroes with their lovely locks lived to be part of the sequel.
So once again Hollywood is screwing the bald man.
Do people with hair know how tough it is to be bald? Do they appreciate the hell we must endure on a rainy day and we don’t have a hat?
Do they know what it’s like to feel that great, big freezing drop of water fall from the eves of a building and land with a smack on an uncovered cranium?
No, they don’t because they have a little helmet of hair between them and that Volkswagon-size drop of water acting like a personal ozone layer.
On TV it’s the same story. People with hair are running around being the hero and saving the damsel in distress while the bald guy waits in the wings and is treated like the drunk uncle nobody talks about.
“OK. The script says it’s time for someone to get killed, quick, send in the bald guy.”
And the bald guy shows up just in time to get munched on by a dinosaur with an eating disorder or to get splatted by a falling piano.
There are a few exceptions to the rule. Take Bruce Willis for example.
True, he may have started his career with hair, but he is now one of us – a brother of the scalp. Fortunately shaving your head bald is en vogue so he can get away with it.
The trend of shaving one’s head is proof that deep down inside, hair people want to be bald people.
Ron Howard is bald, but he always wears a hat – obviously he has not come to terms with his condition. Accept it Ron, you are a bald man.
But the ratio of bald actors to hairy ones remains seriously lopsided. It’s an attempt by Hollywood to keep the bald man down.
It’s like Hollywood is terrified some sort of weird hair leprosy will strike them down if they associate with the follicle-diminished.
So it’s time for baldies to unite. Stand tall and stand proud. And when one of the hair people come close, reflect the sun off your forehead and blind them.
It won’t give you any more hair, but you might feel better knowing you have just fried their retinas.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Monday, April 11, 2016

The dangerous life of a mall cop

I am sure there are hazards associated with the job, but do mall security guards really need to wear bullet-proof vests?
I was strolling through a local mall recently when a SWAT wannabe walked by with his Kevlar-covered chest puffed out in a you-better-not-mess-with-me strut.
He did look pretty fearsome I must admit, and once I was done chuckling at the show of machismo, I was actually almost close to being intimidated.
I’m all about the safety, ask anyone, but I just thought the body armor was a little over the top. Or maybe the black vest was fine, but the swagger of the little man wearing it was the over-the-top part.
Either way, something was over the top and, for me anyway, kind of humorous.
I mean it was a mall, not some drug-addled, inner-city ghetto where he had to take down crack dealers on a regular basis. Not all security guards wear the vests, but I have seen a few mall guards donning the black body armor.
I can understand why there is a need for security, and to be honest with you, it is not a job I would want because who wants to deal with obnoxious and ignorant shoppers all day? I guess there is the possibility of being stabbed and in that case the vest would come in handy.
I hope it would anyway. If the thing can stop a bullet, I assume it can stop a knife. So I guess there is some justification for wearing a bullet-proof vest, but the sniper helmet, balaclava and jump boots were definitely too much.
I saw some security guards working the downtown core, and for those guys I could appreciate the vests because of their clientele, but having been to the mall many times in my life I have never viewed it as a hotbed of danger.
The downtown security guards need a certain attitude, a certain aura to do their job. They need an aura of, “Mess with me and you will be wearing your butt as a hat.”
The ones I saw were also quite big and strong and somewhat scary looking, but that is kind of an occupational requirement for those guys.
I talked to one and he said it was not unheard of to get into a “scuffle” on a regular basis.
Not to diminish the dangers the mall guards face, I have just never felt my safety was marginalized while walking past the food court.
“Hit the ground, a small child is running down the hall.”
“Everybody scramble, a group of teens are talking loudly and laughing.”
I did feel some concern the last time I was in a mall in the United States. I half expected a crazed gunman to come in and start shooting people at random because the store did not have his favourite type of cheese doodles.
At 6’4” tall, I would make an easy target.
“I hate tall, bald guys. I was frightened by a tall bald guy once when I was a kid.”
I wished I was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and bullet-proof underwear (with optional diaper attachment because if someone starts shooting…), and a bullet-proof helmet and gloves and neck protector and – well, basically just wrap me in Kevlar like a mummy and point in the direction of the tool store.
The most frightened I have ever been in a mall in Canada was when it was just my wife and myself and I noticed a sign at a ladies clothing store boasting “Everything 50 per cent off.”
Eeeek, nooooooo.
I had to think and act fast. At first I tried to walk between her and the sign hoping she would not see, but felt that tactic left too much to chance, so I tried distracting her.
“Hey look over there. Doesn’t that guy resemble Brad Pitt?”
My cleverness turned out to be my demise as she checked out the Brad Pitt look-a-like, reflected in the window where Billy McStudbagel was walking past was the 50 per cent off sign.
Of course in the window it was “ffo tnec rep 05” but she quickly reversed the numbers and letters and spun on her heels like a military drill sergeant and headed straight to the store.
It was like an invisible force was drawing her.
I began to protest, but upon hearing my words of disharmony, a security guard, dressed from head to toe in medieval battle armor, intervened and asked me if everything was alright.
Everything was fine, and besides who could argue with someone dressed like King Arthur (with a bullet-proof vest of course.)

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A camping we will go, pass the beans please

Spring has arrived and a young man’s fancy turns to love.
For us middle-aged guys it turns to yard work, helping the wife with spring cleaning – not a man’s idea, but mandatory to maintain marital harmony – and to go camping - that wonderful activity where said hardworking man leaves his big house to drag a little house behind the family wagon to a place where bugs roam unchecked, rain is likely and “a little dirt in your food never hurt anyone” is repeated to children from one end of the campground to the other.
Camping actually goes back to biblical times. Moses did it for 40 years. It may not have been by choice, but he still spent four decades pitching a tent and looking for just the right fauna for personal use.
I get tired of camping after just a few days.
Like camping through the ages, my personal expeditions into the untamed wilds of B.C. have evolved.
My earliest camping experience was when I was in the Cubs. My family was not really the camping type, using our tent trailer only for our annual marathon road trips into the United States, so I was excited to spend time with the woodland creatures I had heard so much about.
Learning to pitch a tent, set up camp and gaining information about the fauna and critters of the region were fascinating and I soaked it up like a sponge in a monsoon.
I have to admit, as a novice camper I was not really thrilled with the whole outhouse concept and I waited as long as possible before using the age-old contraption.
The most distressing part of the outhouse was the aromatic essence of the structure. Outhouses have a special smell that just can’t be described without actually experiencing it.
Having adjusted to the non-flushing, wood-surfaced, bug-laden loo, I looked to yonder camping adventures and learned they included a fire.
OK, now this was cool. Our Cub leaders are not only encouraging us to burn stuff, they are showing us how to do it.
The big thrill for the troupe of lads was to cook our own meals on the open flames of a crackling fire. I use the term ‘meals’ loosely as it was actually a can of beans, but to us it was a feast.
We learned how to open part of the lid to let the pressure out and to stir it so the middle was not cold – a big accomplishment for a 10 year old.
Once this skill was mastered, all we wanted to eat was beans.
There were three little boys per tent, each of whom had been eating beans once or twice a day for three days.
I am sure you are starting to form a picture here.
By the morning of the last day, we woke up and the walls of the tent were actually forced outward and anyone who zipped their sleeping bag up to tight looked like a giant, bloated grub.
With eyes watering, the first one awake had to crawl to the tent flap and unzip it. There would be this rush of air out of the tent – sounding not unlike a balloon that was not tied up.
Birds would fall from the sky, squirrels would flop around on the ground having seizures and dogs several kilometres away would be sniffing air wondering what that smell was and how could they roll in it.
Let’s just say the car ride home involved open windows and a gaggle of giggling boys who found the entire situation quite amusing.
Our Cub leader, who drove remarkably well with the entire upper half of his body out the window, was less pleased.
Thus was my first experience with sleeping among nature.
There are more tales of camping to come and fortunately, none of them involve beans.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh