Sunday, July 31, 2016

Spiders are not a good wedding gift

I recently read a article by local museum curator Ron Candy in which he talked about spiders.
As any one who has read my past columns knows, I do not like spiders. Actually they scare the snot out of me.
In my teen years, my then-girlfriend thought it would be great fun to throw a rather large and ugly spider at me. I am not ashamed, I admit it, I screamed like a frightened school girl on Halloween night.
I then did the spider dance and was generally creeped out for the rest of the day.
In Ron's column, he talked about how beneficial the little critters are. I have never argued their benefit to the world, I have just demanded their execution on sight.
No trial, no jury and no mercy, just straight to the death chamber commonly known as the bottom of my shoe.
The only good spider is a spider that has been smashed into a unrecognizable pile of goo. Now that's my kind of arachnid.
Ron's column talked about how spiders are revered in some cultures. Let's just say I am not from that culture.
Some cultures eat spiders, and I say go ahead because a dead spider is a good spider, just don't invite me over for dinner.
Some cultures keep spiders as pets. Friends of mine have a teen aged son who has a tarantula as a pet. One day she was talking to my wife and said the tarantula had escaped its enclosure.
My wife asked how many times that had happened.
Slamming my foot to the ground as hard as I could my answer was, “Once.”
And I meant it. If I was at their house and the eight-legged horror was walking across the room they would have one less pet to feed (and a carpet to clean.)
Ron goes on to say Hindus in eastern Bengal collect spiders and let them go at a wedding as a sign of good luck.
Who in the blue hell thinks a small army of spiders crawling all over the place is good luck. I would rather have the wedding guests stick pencils up my nose for luck.
It might be good luck for my wife because she could start our marriage by cashing in my life insurance. If there are 100 people at the wedding and each one of them let even one spider go, that would be it for me. I would see all these little eight-legged nasties running around and I would be out of there so fast the wind from me leaving would knock people over.
But if you think that is bad, Ron goes on to describe another tradition in Egypt where it is common practice to place a spider in the bed of the newly married couple.
OK, hold it. Stop right there. Folks, you have just crossed the line.
Putting a spider in my bed is quite possibly the worst idea I have ever heard. Can you imagine being all in love and happy about the nuptials only to find a bug-eyed monster staring back at you from the honeymoon love lounger?
It would be the shortest honeymoon in the history of honeymoons.
“Honey, why don't you pull the sheets back. I'll be right there.”“Why yes my new wife, that sounds like a great plan.”
“Honey, what was that high-pitched scream? Honey? Honey?”
The next sound would be the door breaking as I ran through it to get out of the room.
Throwing rice and toilet-papering the car is quite enough of a wedding tradition for me thank you.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Camping in the rain, we're camping in the rain

For the longest time I couldn't figure it out.
I work very hard so my family does not end up sleeping in the woods under canvass, only to intentionally leave a perfectly good home to sleep in the woods under canvass.
My wife grew up camping. Her family often headed to the wilds of our glorious province to commune with nature, to talk to wildlife, to pee on a tree.
My family, on the other hand, never went camping. Not even once. We would do these annual marathon two-week vacations that covered just slightly less distance than Jupiter's path around the sun, but we never went to a campground just to hang out for a couple days.
The Missus used to do it all the time, so after we wed, guess who started to go camping?
We would often go with some close friends and when it was just the four of us, camping was basically a big two-day party.
OK, that I liked. I was not too keen with sleeping in a tent like some ground-dwelling savage, but it was part of camping.
Like they say, happy wife, happy life.
Our friends and us started having kids at the same time and camping took on a new dimension.
When the kids were little and they dirty and tired and hungry and screaming I thought I must be demented for doing this, but happy wife, happy life.
When kid No. 2 arrived we did one camping trip in a tent and after spending 10 hours loading the truck, unloading the truck and setting up camp, I decided this was not going to happen again.
So we bought a tent trailer and camping was much better – except for the rain that is.
It seemed every time we even thought about loading the trailer, the heavens would open up with a torrential rain akin to the days of Noah.
It could have been hot for weeks on end, but as soon as we headed out camping – whoosh - rain, rain and more rain.
However, by now the kids were getting older and they absolutely loved camping.
I was not about to put an end to some quality family time, so we spent many a summer's day living outside in the pouring rain.
But the kids really didn't care as long as they were camping.
I must admit, at first I really did not see the value in spending all that time, money and effort to sleep in a woodland realm, but the more my children enjoyed camping the more the value of such excursions became clear.
Smart woman my wife.
We have been camping with our friends at least once a summer for close to 30 years. Our children are adults now, but they still want to go camping with the 'old folks' which I must admit is pretty cool.
We recently went on our annual trip with our friends and only one child was not able to make it.
It is a lot different camping with adult children, and a lot less effort. The kids are like cousins so they always have fun together, and we older folk can relax by the fire once again without having to chase little ones to and fro all weekend.
However, on this most recent trip one thing did remain the same: the rain.
And by rain I am not talking about a sprinkling here and there. We did get some off-and-on light rain, but it was the torrential downpour of apocalyptic proportions that kept us huddled under a large tarp.
Over a two-day camping trip it rained buckets, cats and dogs and whatever other cliche you can think of three times.
Everything felt kind of damp and some things were downright soaked, but we were having such a good time no one cared.
So what if it rains, so what if it's cold. What matters is family, friends, fun and lifelong memories.

Now if we could just do something about the insects...

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pay attention to the...hey look, a dog

There has been a lot of talk about exams in school lately and listening to the chatter sent me for a ride down memory lane and my own battles with high school tests.
As the moment of cranial challenging drew near, I would hunker down and spend days studying. Well, maybe not days, perhaps it was more like hours. Well, maybe not hours, perhaps an hour.
Well, perhaps I just read through my notes while having breakfast the morning of the test.
Not the best study techniques, but they worked. OK, they didn’t work, but I still managed to graduate.
And my grades were amazing, as in it is amazing I passed.
I was not exactly the most dedicated student. I had what you might call focus issues.
Pretty much every report card I ever had in my entire life read, “…would do much better if he did not day dream so much.”
You see, back then it was called day dreaming, where a student had a hard time focusing on the task at hand. I would get distracted by birds in a tree outside, bugs crawling across the floor, shiny things – whatever happened to be going on other than school work always seemed to grab my much-divided attention.
It is no longer called day dreaming. Today it is has a label like ADD – attention deficit disorder, or ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or IDRCD – I don’t really care disorder.
I am pretty sure I suffered from the first disorder on the list, and as the school years progressed I morphed into the last disorder.
Looking back, I am sure with the right medication, counselling and large enough bribe I could have achieved much better grades.
That’s not to say I am dumb, I just suffered from a lack of enthusiasm for school.
Although I am sure a few people who read my column on a regular basis will opt for the dumb defence.
They are likely sitting back, mug of coffee in hand thinking, “That explains a lot.”
But if I was interested in something, I knew pretty much all there was to know about it. I can remember going to motorcycle shops and telling the salesman things about the bikes they were selling that they didn’t even know, but ask me to do some algebra and I would stare at you like you were speaking Swahili.
A few days after every school exam the results were posted on a wall in the hallway outside of the classroom. That was yet another brilliant and diabolical scheme by the teachers to highlight the under achievers – and it worked very well.
One time, I remember lining up to check the results when a girl in front of me burst into tears and ran down the hall. I looked up her grade to learn she was devastated she got a mere B-plus in one particular course. It was the first time in 11 years of education she had received anything lower than an A.
Meanwhile, I am doing back flips down the hallway because I pulled off a mighty C in the same class. I guess it is all a matter perspective.
By the time I made it to college I realized diligent study was needed, and I actually cracked the books (and the occasional beer) and knuckled down to do some serious studying.
I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was with the results. In two years of post-secondary education, my lowest grade was a B.
Perhaps if I had applied myself more in high school I would have…hey, look at that dog.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A new level of mall security

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

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A few truths about summer

Summer is here and the keepers of public health want to make sure we, the public, stay healthy.
To achieve this lofty goal, the all-knowing medical type people, or their media relations specialists anyway, have compiled a list designed to keep all of us healthy and happy.
Although the safety tips came via email from the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System where one of their doctors wrote a book about summer safety, many of them apply to those of us in the Okanagan.
I have to admit some of the summer 'myths' I believed, but since an official type person is telling me they are not true, I guess they are not true.
One of the most common summer myths is you have to wait 30 minutes after eating before you can go swimming.
According to the medical experts, you can hit the water as soon as you are done eating, you can even swim while you are still eating, but that will make your sandwich soggy and dilute your soup a substantial degree.
So all that time I wasted as a kid waiting for my hotdog to digest was pointless, kind of like eating hotdogs for their nutritional value.
Another summer myth is a poison ivy rash is contagious. The rash may not be contagious, but the laughter and mocking of everyone around the victim certainly is.
You should suck the venom out of a snakebite.
Even if that myth were true, the victim's chance of survival would largely depend on where they were bitten.
“Quick, a rattlesnake just bit me on the butt.”
“Well, it looks like you're gonna die.”
Sparklers are a safe alternative to fireworks.
Wrong, nothing beats a bag-full of cardboard tubes crammed with gunpowder, a six pack of beer and a lighter for a night of fun.
“Hello, 9-1-1...”
The next myth will apply to many of us, er, I mean you guys.
There is no harm in peeing in a pool that has been properly chlorinated.
Wrong, and gross actually.
I am sure many among us, er, I mean you, have tinkled in a pool before.
It is amazing how kids can spend hours in the pool and never get out, but you ask them to mow the lawn and they gotta go pee every three minutes.
But it would seem children are not the only ones who raise the water level of a pool. According to the medical centre, a recent survey of 1,000 adults showed 17 per cent of them admitted to peeing in a pool.
Survey says: That is disgusting.
There are many truths about summer as well and here are a few for the Okanagan.
Truth: The more beer you have, the more likely you are to see the legendary lake monster Ogopogo.
Somehow, I am not sure of the exact science, but beer makes people see better, go figure.
Or perhaps brewskis attracts the water beast, who knows. The next time I am lounging near the lake with a cool one I will ask him, or her.
Truth: The car in front of you on a two-lane stretch of road will base their driving speed on how late you are for work. The later you are, the slower they will drive.
Truth: There is always at least one weight-enhanced gentleman at the beach who figures he looks good in a Speedo.
Sir, on behalf of pretty much everyone in the world, I would like to state for the record that you do not look good, so stop scaring small children (and everyone else) and put some clothes on.
Truth: When you park your car under a tree to keep it out of the sun a bird will poop on the windshield in your exact line of vision. That poop will then solidify into a material slightly stronger than cement and will take days to wash off.
Enjoy your summer.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh