Tracking (again? really?)

Leave a comment
rant

Seven years ago, more or less, I wrote two rants about courier companies

AKA Big Shipping.

At that time I didn’t have much good to say but I did try to keep from being turgid and shrill. I don’t know if I succeeded but I do know that I dropped a couple of anecdotes on the floor so I thought I’d (finally) tell one of them here (I only remember one — it has been seven years, after all).

For thirty-odd years I worked (either full or part time) in IT for the local university. Universities everywhere (and the local one is no exception) frequently name buildings after people — often financial benefactors but sometimes significant or historical figures. The building I worked in for a couple of decades is one of those — it was named for an influential professor in the late 1800s named Nathan Dupuis. I have no idea how Nathan pronounced his name, but these days ‘his’ building is generally pronounced something like ‘doo-pwee.

So for many years my mailing address was something like

Rose Glace
Department of Blinkenlights
Dupuis Hall

and it was used a lot — because I worked in IT, I got a lot of stuff. A lot of packages coming in. A lot of packages going out. A lot of blue envelopes. Stuff.

Many (most?) via Big Shipping.

Most of the time incoming packages from Big Shipping just… appeared. Once in a very long while, however, they’d call ahead. While this was potentially nice (this was in the days before online tracking so hearing anything was potentially useful) it was also… worrying. Because the first time I remember them doing this was to schedule the delivery of something I already had. So when they called to ‘confirm’ my address (apparently it ‘looked funny’.) I was understandably… apprehensive.

“My address looks funny? That’s odd. What do you have?”

I half-expected a question about the blinkenlights, but no —

“It says… ‘Doofus Hall’?”

Doofus? But there’s no ‘f’ in ‘dupuis’. Or did she say ‘duphus’? That’s not the usual spelling but I’m not sure it matters since there’s no ‘ph’ either. I was confused. I remember asking her to spell it and she spelled it ‘d-u-p-u-i-s’ so I suppose it didn’t really matter how they pronounced it. But I wasn’t sure if this was their backhanded way of telling me I was stupid. Perhaps they read this blog? But it hadn’t been written yet. Ooo — why does everything have to be so complicated?

(Of course, I still call it Doofus so maybe they were right after all. Who would have thought it?)

Years have passed. Things have changed. (It didn’t take me more than a few weeks in lockdown to notice that. I went to graduate school. I know things. Plus I’m kinda misanthropic so when an authority figure on TV told me to stay home and not see anyone I didn’t worry too much about the details.)

Anyway.

It’s a little crooked from this angle but since I rarely look at it from here I don’t care that much.

Because I was told to stay home and play video games I’ve been busy doing almost nothing else for about six months. (Just for a change of pace, though, this week Ms. Rose and I gave the radish its annual haircut. Tomorrow, though, it’s back to blasting virtual miscreants.) And since playing video games involves sitting in front of a computer I’ve also done a lot of shopping. (Except when I go out and get rattled or traumatized, of course. I’ve never been good at interacting with people. Six months at home has just made it worse. I wouldn’t call myself ‘feral’ just yet, but my socialization definitely isn’t what it used to be.)

Anyway again.

It turns out that when you buy lots of stuff online, Big Shipping comes to your house. Go figure. But in the last six months not once has Big Shipping phoned me to tell me that I’m stupid. Maybe Big Shipping has changed.

Laugh laugh, joke joke.

I mean, some things have changed, the most obvious being that Big
Shipping tells you stuff these days. Sometimes quite a lot of stuff
— there was a time this summer when I was getting half-a-dozen email
messages every day with news as to where my various purchases were,
where they were going, the name of the truck driver, yadda yadda
yadda.

But despite now providing a veritable deluge of information, I was sure that Big Shipping really hadn’t changed. I got confirmation of that just before dawn about ten weeks ago — I got up to go to The Necessary and happened to look at my phone. I had two email messages from Big Shipping. The first told me that a package for me had gone ‘out for delivery’ at 2:25 AM. The second told me that the package had been delivered at 4:15 AM.

Wait, what? Big Shipping doesn’t have their delivery trucks on the road at that hour, do they? That would be insane. Well, there was one way to find out: I went downstairs and checked the front porch. Nada. As expected. But I was inexplicably happy — “that’s the Big Shipping I know.”

Maybe I should start calling the house Doofus Manor.

Traumatizing

comment 1
Uncategorized

I was deeply traumatized last Thursday. At least it wasn’t leaves this time.

After breakfast I was preparing for a busy morning afternoon of napping, video games and sitting motionless on my ample fundament watching TV when Ms. Rose reminded me that it was market day.

Hm. That sounded like an Excursion was being suggested so I had a brief conversation with myself.

“You like the market.”

“I do. I also like sitting on my fat ass and not doing anything.”

“The nice lady that lives with a dragon might be there.”

“That’s true. She might. But she might not. And she might attack me
with leaves. Kale, even. Safer to stay home.”

“The perennial lady might have a sale. It’s that time of year, you
know.”

“That’s true. But we don’t know for sure.”

“The helicopter pilot has ice cream.”

“I’ll get my shoes.”

It turns out that the dragon lady (that just sounds wrong, sorry) was there but she didn’t threaten me with leaves so that was all right. I checked out the perennial lady and she was having a sale so I seized two greenish things, one named after three of Ms. Rose’s relatives. So that was all right too. But there were several Other Errands. Ms. Rose offered to go to the dried leaf store (I have this thing about leaves. You may have noticed.) if I went to the store that just happened to have chips, energy drinks and cookies. (Somebody has to do the tough jobs. Sometimes that somebody is me. I like to think I’m ready for the occasional challenge.)

That seemed like a fair division of labour to me so off I went to the chip-and-caffeine-in-a-can store and wandered up and down the
aisles. (Following arrows is harder when some of the aisles are diagonal. What’s up with that, anyway?) When I eventually presented myself to the cashier (Sans chips, I’ll have you know. I understand deferred gratification even if I don’t always embrace it. But I had some chips at home, so…) I had just under $25 worth of stuff.

As an aside, when I go shopping I often keep a running sum in my head so I know whether or not to be surprised when the final total comes up. (Everyone does that, right?) So when it came up about 20% less than I thought it should be I was mildly perplexed and moderately curious but not actually concerned. I looked at the receipt as I walked away and by the time I had reached the street I had it figured out:

At this particular store, Thursdays are seniors days. Seniors get a 20% discount. The cashier had given me the seniors discount without asking.

If I had waited a week I could have avoided mental anguish and got redemption instead. Sometimes things could be timed better.

That’s never happened to me before. I instantly felt old. But wait — maybe this is one of those places that say ‘senior’ means 50 or 55 or something equally benign.

Umm, no. At this particular store seniors are 65 and over. So the guy behind the plexi had looked at me for ten seconds and said to himself “Yeah, definitely a geezer.” (Not.)

I was crushed. I still am a bit.

But the helicopter pilot did have ice cream and that helped a lot.

Vicing

comments 2
Uncategorized

I’ve lived in this city for over forty years — I moved here in 1977 to go to university. After graduating I spent the rest of the 80s in graduate school doing cutting-edge research on, well, nothing. For all of that time I lived in a poo-coloured building about a fifteen minute walk (I was younger then — these days it would take longer) from my office and its decorative and functional wall of cups.

One of the reasons I chose the poo-coloured building was (of course) location: It was a four minute walk to my favourite music store, a three minute walk to the store with the cheapest underwear in the city and a two minute walk to the best small grocery store in town. Not only was the grocery store nearby, it was open 364 days a year and it was on my route home. And that meant that I tended (at least five days a week) to stop in on the way home to buy supplies for dinner. Inevitably, after a few years it was basically a giant pantry — just a little farther from the kitchen than most pantries are.

I moved out of the poo-coloured building thirty years ago but that habit is still with me to some extent — I still treat the neighborhood supermarkets as giant pantries and visit them, well, a lot more than most people.

Of course, what with the current global situation this has changed —
the other day I was in a supermarket for the first time in weeks. In
particular, I went to the supermarket where I often look for
nutritionally questionable food-like substances.
(I am more than a
little bit like the star of a 2017 video — just taller and slightly
less erudite. Apropos to nothing, when you do this in a supermarket
you get funny looks.)

I’m fairly confident they put up this sign just to confuse me. What constitutes an ‘authentic’ sausage? Why are they better than the (presumably) non-authentic ones I have in my freezer? Ever since this sign I’ve had to question the authenticity of every single thing I’ve eaten.

Over a hundred years ago (and again in 1962) a famous Canadian confessed to being rattled in banks. Me? I get rattled everywhere. Especially supermarkets. And especially especially that supermarket — it has a history of actively trying to rattle me. This visit didn’t start well — there was a guy at the door squirting people with goo. Of course, goo is another thing that rattles me. So I had a brief flashback (or two) but then I remembered why I was there. After all, I had my list. I was determined. I was focussed.

Never before have I walked past something in a supermarket prominently labelled ‘BLAND’.

So I moved forward and picked up some raspberries (on the list) and took care to steer clear of things that might distract me. Like the snack aisle. Like the ‘drinks-to-make-you-jittery section. Like the corner with the disorienting signs. All good ideas but unfortunately that had me run into something else that made me stop in my tracks, go ‘huh?’ and lose my focus. Also, even though it wasn’t on the list it obviously went into the cart. (So I could photograph it when I got home, of course.)

Now, this supermarket is probably at least fifty years old. Supermarkets from that era typically had aisles too narrow to pass people and still follow the rules so I wound up following someone through the aisles, moving when she moved, stopping when she stopped. In the very first aisle she stopped to stock up on something (crackers, I think). That left me standing next to a shelf full of one of my favourite self-indulgences.

Energy drinks.

H’m. Nothing on sale. But I have to stop here. My favorite is sold out. But I have to stop here. My second favorite is sold out too. BUT I HAVE TO STOP HERE. And look, they have that mango-flavoured one I kinda like… And the woman in front of me was still browsing crackers. Damn.

But no. I’m determined. I’m focussed. I have a list. And the nice lady with the crackers was finally moving. Yay. I was safe.

Until she stopped fifty feet farther on. Which meant I had to stop too…

right next to the shelf that holds my all-around favourite snack ‘food’. And it wasn’t sold out. And it was on sale. And it was covered with pictures of one of my favorite movie superheroes.

Damn.

My focus — gone. My determination — missing. My list — forgotten.

Good thing there was lots of room in the pantry.

Economizing

Leave a comment
Uncategorized

It’s been a while.

I guess I’ve been been busy. (I recognize that as excuses go that’s a pretty lame one but alas, it’s all I’ve got.) But busy doing what? Uhhhh… all I can think of is “turning into an old man.” I’m sure there was other stuff but that’s all that comes to mind. (Well that and eating. That goes without saying.)

Yesterday (this was written a long time ago) breakfast was downtown. There were eggs (well, duh). There was the place where the Lizard of Doom used to hang out. (He’s gone now. We’re all safe. From giant rampaging reptilian monsters, anyway.) There were literature professors. (Well, one but that’s usually enough.) All kinds of things.

Including T-shirts.

The one I remember — the one that resonated the most — was about aging. It said something like

As you get older three things happen: Your memory goes and I can’t remember the other two.

Or something like that.

Aging, of course, needs rather more than a T-shirt to decipher. I mean, some things are obvious (all it takes is time — that’s pretty clear) but there are a hell of a lot of things that aren’t — there are things you need to learn, music you have to reconsider (I don’t remember this line back in ’82, for example), things you have to do. It can be surprisingly complicated. (Slippers, for example. I never could get the hang of slippers. Or Thursdays. And I don’t like Matlock. Or bingo. Or Old Spice. I could go on.)

On the other hand, some things have been surprisingly easy: I joined the Old Men’s league at the curling club (which, apropos to nothing, is something my Dad refused to do until his mid-seventies) a while back and that went okay even though some of them don’t like my pants or shirts. When the nice lady named after a doughnut mentioned the Old Man Cafe I immediately went there (and it was pretty darned good). I’m sure there are other age-appropriate things that would be equally easy that I should learn.

So I consulted my copy of the Catalogue of Cartoonish Old Man Behavior and it suggested a bunch of stuff, some of which I instantly rejected (Garage sales? Absorbine? Ecch.) But it also suggested “staring off into the distance and shouting at nothing” (which I can totally get behind), “peeking through the curtains and staring at passers-by” (ditto) and of course “yelling at people to get off my lawn” (which is a true classic and something all old guys should aspire to).

So I got busy. All of this stuff came easily enough, though I have to admit that my favorite was the “peeking through the curtains” one so I did that a lot. And I learned a few things. I learned that a large proportion of people walking dogs on our street slow down when they pass behind the radish bush. (I only shout “I know what you’re doing back there!” occasionally. It’s not in CATACOMB, after all.) I learned people don’t wear socks as much as they used to. (“Really? And what the hell is up with that exactly?”) And I learned that to some people, we live in The Creepy Old Glace Place. (Cue ominous music and foreboding flashes of lightning.)

Because one day I was ‘busy’ peering out the window when the neighborhood economist (well, one of them) walked by with the dog named after Katherine Heigl. “I wonder if he’ll slow down when he passes behind the radish bush like everyone else” I thought. But he didn’t walk behind the radish bush — he and the dog named after Katherine Heigl crossed the street rather than walk too close to the Creepy Old Glace Place. (BOOM!)

Huh. What’s up with that?

Fast forward a few weeks. Ms. Rose had an appointment across town. I went along so that during the appointment I could go for a walk. (It’s good for Old Men to get a moderate amount of exercise — something else I learned when reading my handbook.) So I wandered around, stomped some frogs and maybe even played on the swings a little. It was a nice day.

But as I was doing my usual wobbly shamble confident stride down the sidewalk I noticed a guy walking toward me with his dog. (In this case I have no idea who the dog was named after.) We approached one another. And…

He moved off the sidewalk and gave me a wide berth. A really wide berth. He didn’t cross the street — quite — but he did everything but.

so I learned that it’s not the Old Glace Place that’s the problem. It’s me. (The ghostly voice of my Grade 13 English teacher intones ‘It is I, you idiot’.)

and

This guy must be an economist.

Some days even an old guy can learn a thing or two.

Holidaying 2 — Revenge of the sequel

Leave a comment
absurdities / Uncategorized

Apparently it’s nondenominational gift-giving season.

Again.

I’m not sure how that happened — it just sort of… did. It was fall, the days were getting shorter, I had filled the garage with more leaves than you can possibly imagine, politicians were behaving badly when suddenly, about a week before Halloween Hallowe’en Mediocre Candy Day the first store displays and TV ads started to appear and the obligatory seasonal weirdness started to ramp up.

Now, a certain amount of weirdness is to be expected most of the time but Christmas is a bit of an overachiever. I guess when you’re talking ‘pagan festival that mutated into a religious holiday then mutated again into a celebration of rampant, frenzied consumerism’, well, things sometimes go a little John Woo.

Which brings me to severed human heads.

Last year during the marathon of angst that precedes nondenominational gift giving day I was out wandering aimlessly, looking for some sort of Inspiration for someone anyone when I happened across a display labelled ‘holiday chocolate.’ That part was no surprise; chocolate is something most people like so it was inevitable that it should become a ‘holiday’ thing. (I guess chocolate is a little like sauerkraut. Er, sort of.) No, what was surprising was the nature of that particular festive edible — the disembodied head of Darth Vader.

Now, at that point I didn’t know that sundered noggins were a holiday ‘thing’ but you learn something every day and all that.

Unless it was an anomaly, of course. I mean, random unattached body parts don’t seem to fit with any of the seasonal traditions. At least, none that I know of.

But a couple of weekends ago I was wandering through one of those pop-up stores that sprout like, well, like weeds in my rose garden and there against the wall was an orderly row of severed human heads (with flowers planted in them to mitigate the… indelicacy somewhat).

“Wow” I thought. “Severed heads are a thing. Even if they’re not iconic figures of evil. Who knew?”

So I left and walked down the street in the vague direction of breakfast. I was confused. (I mean, I’m always confused, but right then I was rather more confused than usual.) “Why are severed human heads a thing for NDGGD? I think there used to be human sacrifices associated with Saturnalia; maybe that’s it. But wait — Darth Vader isn’t human — technically he’s an alien. And he’s ‘more machine than man.’ (Twisted, evil and delicious?) Where do bionic alien head-analogues fit into the equation? What’s the theme here?”

I may have been over thinking things just a bit.

Anyway.

I paused my internal monologue/debate about whether fictitious alien cyborgs counted as human when I noticed I was standing in front of a human (or at least as human as Darth Vader) posterior.

A derrière.

A fundament.

A rotating human fundament.

A rotating human fundament clad in festive red and green underwear.

“Ah. Christmas underwear. How seasonal. And not a single severed head to be seen.”

Then I noticed that the Christmas underwear was accented by cute little graphics of…

humping reindeer.

Ah, the festive season. Of course, there exists the
strong possibility that all of these reindeer are female
which kind of changes the entire ‘feel’ of the garment.

Wait, what? Ruminants having sex as a design feature on Christmas-themed clothing? That’s… odd. I mean, there’s an inexplicable Christmas tradition of ugly clothing, but I don’t recall one of clothing covered in rutting quadrupeds.

So. Severed heads and lesbian reindeer sex — two unforgettable images for Christmas 2018. But wait, as they say, there’s more.

Many Christmas images and traditions are, well, traditional: trees covered in spaceships. Alistair Sim in a hat. Bruce Willis in an air duct. Stuff like that. But two things that make it into many (if not most) shop windows are nutcracker-esque toy soldiers (apparently they predate Peter Ilyich by two centuries. Who knew?) and tinsel. So after breakfast, with images other than sugar plums dancing in my head,

Christmas isn’t on the list.

we wandered towards the market, stopping to look in various windows as we went. In one of them there was toy soldiers and tinsel. The toy soldier was projectile vomiting the tinsel. (Now that’s festive.)

“Hmm. Do you think the window dresser knows that there’s projectile vomiting happening in her window?”

“We could ask her.” So we did:

“Umm, did you know that the nutcracker in the window is barfing…”

“You noticed!” She seemed positively ecstatic that we had. So yah, she knew.

This is a weird time of year. (And I’m not even mentioning the bakery that’s promoting sticky buns as stocking stuffers.)