Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why do you even ask?

“Why do you even ask?”
I have thought that a lot more than I have said it when it comes to queries from my wife, and it’s a question as applicable now as the day I got married.
I really noticed it during a pre-Christmas shopping outing. My wife and I were looking for items for her step-mom, my mom and sister.
My wife picked up an item for her step-mom and said, “What do you think of this one?”
Examining the sweater I thought, “Ya, that will do,” so I responded accordingly.
“Looks good to me. I think she will like it. The colour is nice.”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t like it.”
She put the item back and kept on shopping.
This happened with the next two items as well, prompting the question, “Why do you even ask?”
After almost three decades of marriage I have learned not to ask that question out loud.
When I did express such sentiment the answer is always something along the lines of “Because I want your opinion.”
Now that is only part of the answer.
The full answer is, “Because I want your opinion which I will immediately disregard and go with what I think will be best unless I am in agreement of course, but thanks for playing along.”
Which brings me back to, “Why do you even ask?”
I could probably say just about anything with the same results.
“What do you think of this one?”
“I think it is perfect. If you do not get it, you are making a colossal mistake, one that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“No I don’t think so.”
“Right, what I meant to say was it is the ugliest piece of rat cloth I have ever seen and even a beggar wouldn’t be caught wearing it.”
Either answer would typically get the same response, but at least she includes me in the goings on.
I am typically not offended by her inclination to disregard my advice. We both know my main goal when shopping is to get out as quickly as possible, so my answers may be skewed by the fact I am starting to break out in hives and am being overwhelmed by an urge to run like a madman.
My wife, however, has the shopping tenacity of a pitbull.
When she heads into a store it is with a purpose – until she gets distracted.
When men shop, they go in, get what they need and get out.
Browsing? What is the point of that? If I need something all I have to do is find it, buy it and get on with my day.
My wife on the other hand – and I have heard similar tales from my married male friends – will be looking for something and wander off to look at something else.
We can go into a store looking for shoes and she ends up trying on jackets.
“Well, I was heading to the shoe department when I noticed a really nice sweater that was on sale. The colour was similar to my jacket and I got to thinking how ratty it was looking so I decided to check out what other jackets they had…”
This is not her fault, nor is this a criticism of her or any member of the female persuasion. It is just that men think differently. Brain doctors, aka psychiatrists, have discovered men tend to have a more singular focus than their opposing gender counterparts.
With men, each thought has its own little box and being the big, strong guys that we are, we can usually only use one thought box at a time.
Women, on the other hand, can jump from one topic to the other with ease and even integrate topics such as trying on jackets while looking for shoes.
A guy would look at shoes, then, if needed, he would head to the jacket area of the store, his single-thought brain happily switching from shoe mode to jacket mode once shoe mission is complete.
Personally, I can only spend so much time in a department store or mall before my eye begins to twitch and I know it is time to leave or I will lapse into a grand mal seizure.
For my wife, shopping can be an all-day affair, and she will keep trudging through the store until she finds what she wants.
If she can’t find the item by closing time, she heads to the camping department to hunker down for the night.
She joins the myriad of other female shoppers who are setting up tents, digging out sleeping bags and preparing meals in what can only be described as shoppers’ refugee camp.
In the morning, the mass of die-hard shopping aficionados returns to their mighty quest.
Meanwhile, their husbands have fallen into a coma and can be revived only by sitting them in front of a TV – preferably with a hockey game on – and by putting a remote in one hand and a beer in the other.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Welcome to the army, kid

It was an anniversary I had completely forgotten.
It was 32 years ago I nearly froze my, um, er, ears off.
It all started when I joined an army reserve unit. I had officially been sworn in on Wednesday and the entire unit was scheduled to leave for a winter training exercise on Friday.
Not a lot of time to get a grip on the nuances of military life, but I had a feeling I was about to get a crash course.
We all had to be at the armoury no later than 2000 o'clock - that's 8 p.m. for all non-military persons.
I arrived shortly before 8 p.m. with all the gear I had been issued: nothing.
I then had to scramble around and try and get at least the winter kit I needed to survive two days in the frozen tundra of B.C. in January.
The sergeant in charge of supplies leapt into action and told me to wait and he would get to me, which he did after talking to his girlfriend on the phone for a half hour and then chatting with people he knew in the unit for another half hour.
Eventually he got around to doing his job which was to supply the new recruit with all sorts of neat army stuff, which he did – sort of.
I was presented with winter pants that were two sizes too small, winter boots that had no inner linings, two left-handed winter mitts; a toque that was so dirty not even a hobo would wear it and a jacket that, amazingly, actually fit.
And because it was a winter exercise, I was issued snowshoes – that did not have any bindings to hold them to my feet, but that is an entirely different story.
Once I got all my kit sorted out, it was time to get some sleep. But with more than 120 people all 'sleeping' in a large gymnasium type room, there was not a lot of sleep to be had.
Things settled down at around 2 a.m. and boy was I happy to hear reveille at 5 a.m.
And by reveille, I mean someone yelling 'Get the hell up' at the top of their lungs.
But I did get a whole three hours sleep, so I was ready to go.
I did not realize it yet, but the army was convinced soldiers did their best work when everyone was so tired they could barely muster a bean fart.
As we lined up to get our weapons, I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. That's when I heard a voice, a very deep voice, a voice that I would soon learn struck fear in all who heard it.
The voice said: Are you holding up that wall, private?
To which my groggy brain replied: Yup.
There was an audible gasp and I opened my eyes to see one of largest humans I had ever seen. He stood 6'8” and weighed more than 300 pounds and was not impressed with the skinny recruit standing in front of him.
I thought he was going to grab me by the head and screw me into the ground, but because I was a new guy he cut me a little slack and I learned to always know who I was addressing before I addressed them.
With wide-eyed people looking at me from all angles, amazed he did not grab me by the head and screw me into the ground, we collected the last of our gear and were ready to go play war.
We rushed to stuff our gear into ancient backpacks that I am sure were used by Genghis Khan and his troops. Officers yelled “Hurry up, move it, let's go, let's go, let's go.”
Which we did. We packed as fast as we could and then all lined up ready to pile into troop trucks – which arrived almost an hour later.
Welcome to the army, kid.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, February 10, 2017

The maim game is painful fun

I have a love-hate relationship with the tech world.
I am impressed with what can be done with electro gadgets these days, but hate when something goes wrong.
Actually, I often hate technology when everything goes right.
Nothing is more frustrating that doing everything right on a computer and it still won't do what it is supposed to.
Some would say that means I am not doing everything right and them I say...well, they are probably right, but I am doing everything I know how to do and it is still not working.
But I muddle along as best I can with my old-man brain.
However, one of the cooler areas of technology I have embraced is Facebook.
There are many aspects of Facebook I must admit I do not care for – pick a political meme, any political meme - but there are some really great things about it as well.
The coolest thing about Facebook is the ability to keep in touch with people all over the world. It also allows you to re-connect with people you may not have seen in a long time.
Such was the case when I connected with a buddy from high school. We took different paths after graduation and I have not seen him since, but through the magic of FB, we are once again able to 'hang out' and this time it is not painful in the least.
Let me explain. You see, when we were in elementary school this friend and I played a little game where we would try to maim each other.
It was nothing too serious, just good old fashioned youthful energy channeled in such a way as to cause each other occasional bruise, scrape or second-degree concussion.
I don't know how the game started, but there are two distinct incidents I remember well.
The first was in the gymnasium where the class was doing a variety of sporting type activities. I happened to have a basketball which, as most people know, is fairly hard.
Seeing my buddy standing 10 feet away, I looked over and said 'Hey, Jeff' in a very non-threatening manner.
He turned around and I threw the ball with every ounce of strength I had, hitting him square in the face.
I was quite pleased with my shot, and when he regained consciousness I was even happier.
He was out for about 10 seconds and I thought for sure I was going to get it. But instead he was very calm about the whole thing.
That was my first warning sign because I knew he was planning his revenge and for the next couple of days I was a nervous wreck.
Cue gym class again and we are playing softball under the clear blue sky.
I am on first base running to second when suddenly I see stars.
The next thing I remember is looking up at that clear blue sky while the gym teacher freaks out because one of her students has been doing the ball diamond slumber for almost a minute.
I have to admit, it was one hell of a good throw by my buddy.
A batter hit the ball to the infield and my friend grabbed it and fired a masterful shot, beaning me in the bean as I ran full tilt toward second base.
He claimed he was trying to throw to second, but we all know the truth and the smug look on his face showed how proud he was of his accuracy.
I had a headache for three days and am pretty sure that was the first time I received a concussion.
But all is fair in love, war and the maim game.
We carried on this way until we reached high school where such antics faded away as we matured and all that stuff.
Basically we got tired of always being on edge and always wondering where the next assault was coming from.
Being a young boy is not for cowards.

At least through Facebook we can't knock each other out...yet.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tobogganing the mountain of doooooom

There is a terrific tobogganing hill a couple hundred metres from where I live.
There are several grades from a leisurely slide down the hill to a rocket-like decent for the brave and foolhardy.
The best part is, the run off area is a football field.
My children spent many an hour sliding down that hill, as did numerous other kids from the neighbourhood.
There were even a few of us older kids out there once in a while, reliving our youth by taking a blast of frozen ice particles to the face.
I never had an actual toboggan when I was a young lad, but I have ridden on one and quickly learned the snow pours over the top of the wooden contraption and sandblasts, or rather snowblasts, you in the face, tearing off the first layer of skin and rendering you temporarily blind.
Good times.
But, the more the hill is used the less powder there is, until eventually, the snow packs down and the slope ices up until it is basically a downhill skating rink, allowing participants to break the sound barrier before they reach the bottom of the hill.
As a young lad, we would all gather at 'Suicide Hill' to do our sledding.
What else would a group of youngsters name a tobogganing hill? Gentle Slope of Fun? Slide of Silliness?
No, it had to be something dangerous, something that evoked the death-defying acts we were performing.
We were, after all, daring dare devils doing daring acts. Or something like that anyway.
Actually, it really was quite a dangerous place to go sledding and now that I am all grown up I wonder why we were even allowed to go down such a hazardous hillside. Where were the adults when I was growing up? Probably just happy to have us out of the house.
There were two runs: a short fast one, and a long slower one.
The short fast one went down a fairly steep slope before it leveled out. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? And except for the barbed wire fence at the end of the run, it wasn't. If you had too much speed, you actually had to jump off your mount to slow down or you would hit the fence – as had been done by many people on many occasions.
Torn jackets, scratches and even a few stitches were just par for the course.
The other run was much slower and if you did it right you would slide across a driveway, over a cross road and down another road that was even longer than the actual hill you started out on.
The full length of this run could only done when there was a fresh, unplowed snowfall blanketing the blacktop because sliding on bare asphalt is a bad idea any time of the year.
Aside from the risk of being run over by a 2,000-pound automobile, it was a lot of fun. Kids rarely factor danger into their activities, so we hardly ever thought about being clobbered by a car.
Our focus was on racing down the mountain and seeing who could slide the farthest, the fastest.
No one was ever seriously hurt, but one intrepid slider did crash into the side of a car, much the displeasure of the car owner who was more worried about a dent in his automobile than the head of the child that caused it.
That hill is now a housing development, so never again will a child be able to dodge a Dodge or find a way to stop before sailing through a barbed wire fence.
And perhaps that is a good thing.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh