Monday, 12 October 2015

The Rocks Stars of My Fucked-Up Office

In my new department, I no longer work with lawyers. I now work with insurance adjusters. I don't know anything about insurance adjusters, other than that I don't want to be one for a living. And the ones I work with are really interesting individuals. You can decide for yourself how to interpret that after you've read my descriptions of them.
Let's begin with Bananarama. She is about my height and weight (i.e. a little short for a Russian shot-putter, but lots to hold onto). She is also about my age, which means she must have left high school in the early to mid-eighties. And looking at her, you'd think she was still there. Bananarama's do hasn't changed one single hair since she graduated. I swear. She has the biggest bangs of anyone on the floor. Hell, on any of the ten floors of the building we work in. No word of a lie, Bananarama's bangs look like this:

Goddesses on a mountaintop...

Every single time, this woman hoves into view, my brain starts playing the best fucking '80s soundtrack you've ever heard. I just have to hear her voice around the corner, and I am suddenly wearing parachute pants and sipping on a Canadian Cooler to the sound of Frankie Goes To Hollywoods' "Relax".

But Bananarama is not the only rock star in my department. Another of the adjustors is a woman who's age is difficult to ascertain because she's been ridden hard and put away wet for the better part of at least one decade. She's painfully thin and inclined to wear boots and shoes with impossibly high heels. She walks like Pan, and I swear her hip is going to dislocate outside my Hovel one day. Half of me is convinced that I am working with none other than Marianne Fucking Faithfull.

Why'd ya do it, she said. Why'd ya let her suck yer cock?
The resemblance is fucking uncanny. Her voice is the same strange blend of nasal and whisky-throated roughness, she speaks cynically and as if maybe she's got a flask in her desk. The only thing missing is the English accent. I keep hoping one day she'll come to my Hovel, spark up a cig, lean against the temporary wall and say, "I can't believe people are still bangin' on about me and Mick and that fuckin' Mars bar. It was a fuckin' lie, and even if it wasn't--but it was, love, a rotten fuckin' lie--it was forty years ago."

And then maybe she'll gift me with a version of "The Ballad of Lucy Jordon". Marianne won't have anything to do with me, but I think that's because she knows I'm onto her. I don't take it personally; it's our little secret.

So far, my interactions with everyone in my department have been pleasant on a personal level. However, it is amazing to me how much people give away that is inappropriate and they don't seem to realize it.

For example, the department is somewhat short-staffed (hence, my secondment), so a new adjuster was hired. I'll call her Ruby. Ruby is awesome. She works across from me and is thus far, a most welcome addition to the team. I hope she stays.

But the day before Ruby was scheduled to start, one of the other adjusters mentioned to someone else that she knew Ruby from another department of the City.

"And just so you don't freak out," said the adjuster, "Ruby's black."

This comment fell down between the adjuster and her conversant like a choking victim. The clerk to whom the adjuster was speaking was horrified and not sure how to respond--meanwhile the comment lay there thrashing.

Finally, the clerk said, "Oh. Okay." And then, "You know other black people work in Law, don't you?"

*choke* *gasp*

"They do?" said the adjuster, with genuine surprise. "I didn't know that."

Apparently, this adjuster never goes to the ninth floor.

And finally, still another of the adjusters engaged me in conversation about two weeks ago. The subject of Asians arose.

This adjuster said to me (and I quote), "I don't call them Asians. I call them Orientals, because Asian is too broad a term."

I was so stunned, I didn't know what to say. I mean, I thought of several comments after the fact, but is it actually my job to educate these people? I question whether it is really *my* place to confront this woman with her ignorance. Is it really worth it to say, "Honey, you're mistaken. Oriental can indicate anyone east of the Ukraine and out past the Pacific Rim right to the Pacific, but Asian is usually restricted to a handful of nations in the farthest east."

I dunno. Because an older, middle-class white woman who uses the word "Oriental" will probably not hesitate to use the word "lezbo", either.

In brief, these are some of the people in my department.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Not Mine

I'm off to an appointment in a little while so I don't have a lot of time to write (and, yes, I will get back to my European adventures), but I'm kind of on a roll with work, so I'm just gonna leave this here for your august consideration.

I do not work in Bylaw, but it is a department we deal with from time to time. The story I am about to tell you is true (and a matter of public record, by the way). It is a golden example of why I hate people as a species.

As if Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada (also criminals) aren't reason enough.

Anyway, our Municipal Prosecutor appeared in Court not long ago on a case of Public Drunkenness and Mischief. The accused took the stand, and the M.P. began to question him.

M.P. : Sir, you have been charged with urinating in public.
Dick Bagg: I didn't do it.
M.P. : Sir, Officers Coffee and Doughnut both have sworn testimony that they saw you alone in the alleyway.

Dick Bagg: That's right.
M.P. : They also state that they saw your penis with urine coming from it.
Dick Bagg: Not my penis.

These are the people I deal with, mostly from a safe distance.

Coming soon: The People I Work With.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Reception Hell

For about a year-and-a-half, I haven't had to post about the frustrations of my employment--once a daily feature of this blog--because I enjoyed where I was. I worked at the city Law Branch in the Expropriation Department. Some of you may not know what Expropriation Law is. Essentially, when the City wants to build an LRT line or a really retarded arena for hockey jerk offs, and your house is in the way, we expropriate it. We pay you fair market value for the house and property, pay your legal bills. The City will even pay for your move. The work was dull, but I adored the seven lawyers I worked with and considered myself lucky to be in a stable, busy, productive environment. It was also gorgeous insulation from the petty madness and rampant sense of entitlement that typifies the General Public.

Upon my return from the U.K., I was reassigned to a different department. For three weeks, I've been working with that arm of the Law Branch that deals with brain-dead fucktards who think that the City owes them money because their snow shovel broke while they were shoveling. Or who take exception to the fact that City trees shed seeds or leaves onto their lawn, therefore the City should remove said seeds and leaves. When I first started in Law, I enjoyed my time in criminal law, and my new position is similar in that it allows me to marvel at the many, many ways in which people repeatedly make Poor Life Choices ("By all means, Repeat Offender, beat that cop car with a baseball bat! Kick in that window!"). More and more, I think a good portion of humanity should not be left unsupervised.

I would be okay with my work if it meant I only processed the claims submitted to us and could remain at arm's length from the Body Public. Unfortunately, one of my duties is to occasionally fill in on Reception/Switchboard. This was not mentioned to me when the new position was offered. Had anyone even breathed the word "Reception", I would have declined. That's a deal breaker. And I have been very honest and upfront with everyone (supervisors, et al.) regarding my feelings about Reception. I have explicitly said that this is Not A Good Idea. I don't deal with whining or attitude in a constructive manner, I'm too old to give a shit anymore and I hate people. 

My first experience on Reception yesterday only reinforced my conviction that this is a perfectly reasonable response to dealing with the public. I spoke to probably a dozen people who are only alive because breathing is an involuntary process. If these people ever had brains, they have since dried up through inactivity and now rattle around in the brainpans of their owners like bb pellets in an old coffee can.

Time and space do not permit me to enumerate all of the paralyzing stupidity I encountered yesterday, but Stupid Broad #1 went thus:

SB#1 : Hello, I want to stay married to this man even if he does not come here.
Me: I'm sorry, what?
SB#1 : My husband, he is coming here, but I don't know and I still want to be married to him. (sniffles) I'm sorry I am crying so much now.

Me: (after significant pause, cuz I dunno what the fuck) Ma'am, we are a Municipal Law Office. Your issue sounds like Immigration. That is a federal concern.
SB#1 : You are Law.
Me: Ma'am, if you have a parking ticket, I can help you out. Otherwise, I'm going to give you the number to the Law Courts up the street, okay?

I was amazed by the lack of accent attached to that call, by the way.

The kicker though, was Ancient Vagina. Ancient Vagina called three times yesterday, and was by turns rude, petulant and stunned. She had sand in her vag because she had received correspondence from our office (two weeks ago) that we needed documents from her due yesterday. And she wasn't able to speak to her adjuster, because said adjuster was away from the office. And, of course, no other adjuster would do.

It was pretty clear that Ancient Vagina had spent about four centuries honing her douchebaggery to a very fine skill. And when I tried to help the old bat by asking her for the claim number, she started to give me Old Lady Attitude. But I was having none of it. I don't get paid enough to put up with that shit.

She was desperately unpleasant (although she mostly backed down when challenged, I still wanted to punch her in the throat so hard that her head would fall off), and later that afternoon, she appeared upstairs at the office door. This is a secure office and there are notices posted all over the joint that visitors are to report to Reception on the floor below (where she would have encountered ME). But no--Ancient Vagina slid her document under the door and waited. Eventually, one of the clerks sent her away.

Today, Ancient Vagina phoned her adjuster and got *her* so riled up that we heard the adjuster yelling at her across the floor. I never raised my voice to Ancient Vagina, so I guess I did pretty well.

But when my supervisor asked me how it went on Reception, I flatly said, "I hate it."

More to come, kids. It's an interesting office.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Another Quickie

Also from the Tuileries...The Hokey Pokey.

"You put your right foot, you idiot, your *right* foot..!"


Thursday, 1 October 2015

A Quickie

I don't have time for a full post, so I'll just leave you with this quickie.

I found some statuary in the Tuileries  in Paris that amused.

Feel free to add your own caption in the comments.

"It's nice out.

"Think I'll leave it out

Monday, 28 September 2015


"One night in Paris
Is like a year in any other place.
One night in Paris
Will wipe the smile off your pretty face.
One girl in Paris

Is like loving every woman.
One night in Paris

May be your last!"
   --10CC,  "Un nuit en Paris", 1975
Yanno all those things that people say about Paris being beautiful and enchanting and magical and romantic? They're true. I'm going to try and show you how and why.
I learned something about myself on this trip, and that is that I apparently have a thing for sculpture. It became immediately apparent that if an object ever had contact with a chisel and mallet or was cast in bronze, I was going to photograph it. And not just once. No. I was going to document the fuck out of that sculpture. That's how I experienced Paris, through its plentiful sculpture, so be prepared to see this magnificent city through that particular lens. I'll try to make it entertaining for you.  
After resting from our exertions at the British Museum all day Tuesday, we flew out of Gatwick at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Stoo was a real mensch and got up at 5:00 to make sure we got to the airport in time. (To be fair, he may have wanted his house back for awhile. Can't blame him a bit.) We had breakfast at the Red Lion in the airport next to a group of Essex boys who were gleefully tossing down bitters at 7:15 a.m. Britain is truly a civilized nation.
Anyway, we get asked a lot why we didn't take the Chunnel, and the answer is that the Eurostar was both more expensive and took longer than the plane. The flight from London to Paris took less than an hour. Also, the train was delayed on the French side of the Chunnel for fifteen hours by Syrian refugees who had wandered onto the tracks. They had to shut all the electrical down in case the refugees climbed on top of the train, so the doors couldn't open. All of the passengers were trapped inside for all those hours, while officials figured out what to do with all those unfortunate refugees. A sad and frustrating situation all around.
"Bonjour. Monsieur!
Paris really welcomes you,
It's the best room in the house...
... Forty-Two, Quarante-Deux
Rue de St-Jacques
All our girls are how you say,
Good in the sack

We landed at Charles de Gaulle around 9:00 and took the train into central Paris, where we had booked a sweet flat in an 18th century building on rue Sommelard. The flat was conveniently located in the Latin Quarter a block away from the Musee Cluny de Moyen Ages. When we walked to the corner and looked up rue de St-Jacques, we could see the spire of Notre Dame just over Petit Pont a few blocks away.

Cathedral Notre Dame from Rue St. Gerard in the Fifth Arondissement  
We had lunch in a little Asian place offering sushi and pho. I ordered my meal successfully en francais entirement, and did not end up eating a rubber shoe sole with soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds (that's how I know I did it right). Also, I just need to say this: all those things you hear about les Parisiens being snotty assholes? NOT TRUE. They were really, really lovely. They were warm and welcoming and very hospitable to us. Now, that might be because we were trying really hard to use as much French as possible, but we did not encounter any sac de douche francais during our three days in Paris. Honest. 

Also? I was told by one of the serving staff at Le Loulou Friendly Diner that she did not know I was not a native French speaker until my vocabulary ran out and I had to revert (reluctantly) to English. That is a point of pride to me. Je parle le francais tres bien. Woot.
Anyway, after lunch, we met our host at the flat and stowed our luggage. He gave us the run down on various things to see, where to get the freshest croissants and warned us about the "Roma children".
"Beware of zem," he said, and although I brushed it off then, it was to become significant later on.
In the meantime, adventures were to be had. We were still tired from the British Museum the day before and having to be up at crow piss to catch the plane to Paris, so we took a bus tour of the city to get the lay of the land. I didn't get very many photos during the bus trip--the angles were all off, and I really just wanted to be in the moment. Also, I fell asleep. BUT! I will say that while the Champs-Elysee is not much more than a noisy boulevard full of cars and posh restaurants and shops, it was deeply moving to reflect on the fact that it was up that street that Hitler rode when he invaded Paris. One could still see in one's mind the thousands of Parisiens watching that motorcade go by and thinking, "What the fuck does this mean for me and my family?" Very solemn. And not that long ago.
In fact, historically, it was only last week when one compares it to places like St-Severin and Notre Dame. In briefly exploring the Latin Quarter, we encountered St-Severin first, and I fell in love with this little guy:

Gargoyle of St-Severin

We planned to do Notre Dame properly the next day, but with it being so close to the flat, we went by on Wednesday and checked out the exterior elevation.

Cathedral Notre Dame

So much as been written about Notre Dame, I hardly have the talent to add anything of consequence. But seeing this remarkable façade made my heart skip a beat. I could scarcely believe I was there, standing where thousands upon thousands of people have stood before me, gazing up at the intricately carved figures, each of which were carved by hand by anonymous medieval craftsmen. And the structure alone! Erected without the use of hydraulics or power tools of any kind! In our 21st century world, we are jaded by skyscrapers and office towers, but in the Middle Ages, it must have seemed to the average man or woman that this cathedral soared to the heavens. Magnificent!
Every inch of Notre Dame's façade is sculpted--I was going to say embroidered, which of course is wrong, except that really, the sculptures are like a rich stone tapestry of kings and queens and prophets and saints, of devils and angels and allegorical creatures. Some of these will appear in another post, but my favourite scene on Notre Dame's face is of St. Denis, the patron saint of Paris. According to legend, Denis was a bishop in Paris in 250 C.E. when he was martyred by a bunch of Romans, who cut his head off while he was preaching. Undeterred, St. Denis picked his head up and finished the sermon. The sculpture below shows St. Denis in a pretty typical posture, holding his head in his hands. What I LOVE about the scene is the angel next to him; she's supposed to be comforting him, but she can't quite bring herself to touch him and looks frankly a little squicked out by the whole scenario.

"Jesus, Denis, that's going to leave a mark on Monday, eh?"
Next Episode: Paris Day 2



Guns 'N' Roses: A Red-Necked Wedding Extravaganza

We interrupt our adventures in Europe to congratulate our friends, Wes and Jodi, on their nuptials, celebrated Saturday night at the local community hall.

I will confess, I had some misgivings about this celebration. The groom is a man of earthy, rather rural tastes, which is occasionally somewhat at odds with Jodi's bellydance aesthetic. I was curious to see how those two visions would reconcile.

As it turns out, it was really lovely, somewhat whimsical, and often elegant. Don't get me wrong, there were still elements of the absurd: the groom, his best man and the groomsmen all wore camouflage hunting boots and their boutonnieres were made with shotgun shells and bullets (because what says enduring love like weapons of destruction?) And the table runners were also of camo fabric. However, this blended in perfectly with the rest of the "fall wedding" décor, which was simple and rustic, including mason jar hanging lights, birch branches, fall leaves and bulrushes.

The bride and groom
The ceremony was brief and to the point and had several moments of humour. The weather, which had been a little surly with rain earlier, decided to co-operate and gifted the happy couple with sun and warmth. The couple have been together for some years, yet it was really nice to see how genuinely happy they were to be married to each other.

And the party that followed was quite impressive. The wedding party was led into the hall by Shahenda, bellydancer extraordinaire, who danced with a 20 lb candelabra on her head. Like this:

The spectacular Shahenda doing the shamadan dance
The evening was resplendent with bellydance performances, tons of drink and a pile of really incredible food. I mean, this was a spread, people. The d.j. was really fantastic, and it wasn't her fault that the groom wanted so much country. But it could have been much worse. For example, there was no Bryan Adams and no Celine Dion.

Also, given the quasi-redneck timbre of the wedding, I am pleased and astonished to report that there was only one cowboy hat and NO BALLCAPS. Not one. I couldn't believe it. Seriously. Well done, people.

The Fragrant Missus and I spent the evening with the bellydance crowd and their signicant others. I laughed A LOT. Goddamn it, those people are fun. We danced and ate and drank our faces off and had a really, really fantastic time. It was truly a celebration with a conspicuous lack of douchebaggery. (If this keeps up, I might have to alter the name of this blog to Intermittent Douchebaggery. But we'll see.)

Anyway, Jodi and Wes; thanks for a terrific party. May the years bless you with love and health and laughter. You raq.