Friday, 30 January 2015

Mad Elderly Around Town

Kamloops, BC is becoming a town of elderly folks! And they be craaaaaazy!

There were just TOO DAMN MANY Baby Boomers! That being said, my mom is one, and my dad was born even before that, and I still have them (a little stumbly, slightly less lucid at times, and occasionally grumpy...but mostly on the ball and funny), so I'm grateful as hell for that! Crazy as they are, I'll take 'em for however long I have 'em.

To meet this ever growing boom in old folks, Kamloops has taken it upon itself to build a LOT of 55+ buildings and facilities for the elderly. Often near extremely busy corners and streets. This makes things massively interesting come rush hour. Hell...any time of the day!

Now...before anyone accuses me of being ageist, I need to backtrack and state that I am NOT of the camp that decries the grey-haired set as instantly guilty of not being able to drive, not being courteous, not being "with it"...whatever the hell that means for anyone. I really do believe that as people age they have that wealth of experience, practice, and hard-won lessons that enable them to make decisions with a huge amount of research behind them. I try to practice patience with folks who walk a little slower in front of me, to listen in waiting rooms when anyone wants to talk, and to realize that even if someone is acting like a douche canoe, they may have just had a super bad day, lost someone they loved or be dealing with all kinds of things that I don't know about because I'm not in their head. I try and do this for everyone, elderly folks included!

That being said: there's something about being closer to death that makes older folks scary balls of insanity!

My mom is a pretty good driver, and even as she's become fairly forgetful and a bit fussy, she can still haul ass through snow (with no snow tires, by the way...dear god...) like a champ. Granted, she's decided that looking behind her is not quite as needed as before, thus slightly tapping a parked car . But see...there's those life lessons coming into play as she's now looking behind her half of the time! She rides around town with a rosary almost perpetually clutched in her hand, and every once in a while it catches on the turn signal or other knobs and it's then I realize that her priority is NOT to recover the car, but to not lose her place on the beads! She may be praying her way into heaven, but I'm more dubious about where I might end up, so would like a bit more time to do some good works or something!

Every Catholic church we pass she has to make the sign of the cross as we pass it, and this can also cause beads to catch...and I had to wind the rosary she keeps hanging from the rear-view mirror as tight as I could so it wouldn't whack me in the head when we took a corner.

My brother and I have a tendency to...well...fear for our lives from time to time when we drive with Mumsie, and this can lead to us doing--I'll fully admit-- a bit of "back seat driving." Now, I know this is annoying for any driver, and can sometimes lead to more problems, but it's hard not to be a bit naggy when you realize that your driver has whipped into a handicapped parking spot, and it more concerned with pulling her card from the pouch on her sun visor than putting the car in park, which then causes a soup├žon of concern when she goes to leave the car and takes her foot off the brake and you get that jerk forward as she then recovers by jamming her foot back ON the brake.

She also does that "nervous driver" thing at times where the attitude prevails that there is no such thing as "too slow" within cautious driving. Which of course there is. Like when cars are veering around you to pass because they're angry; or when you slowly meander into another lane (remember, no look backsies!!).

My dad is another case entirely. He really is an excellent driver, but as such completely has a "devil may care" 'tude about things like: turn signals, speed limits, no-parking allowed areas. Did I mention turn signals? I usually hear the "tick-tick-tick" of the turn signal for about three seconds AFTER we have already turned. Hey folks behind us: we like to keep the mystery alive and well! Where will we go next?? You'll never know----until it's happened! *magic hands*

When you mention to my dad, "Hey, my knuckles can't get any whiter here dude," it's usually just followed with laughter and eye rolling on his part. Keep your eyes on the road, dad, not rolling around your old head!

I remember my ex-father-in-law and some of the hurtling trips I took with him between Kamloops and Vancouver. If he saw something interesting, he had a habit of looking at the thing on the side of the road, then back to the road, then the thing, then the road, the thing, the road, the thing, the road...all the while the thing was getting further behind as we were zooming past, meaning every time he looked he would be swivelling his head and neck further and further...until you'd be doing 100kph on the highway and he'd be basically looking at me in the back seat and then back at the road in quick dashes. One time he told me I always had a startled look on my face when we went anywhere. No shit, dude. You can see it as you're completely turned around in the driver's seat looking at me behind you!

It's not just the folks in cars, though. Other...vehicles...can be quite dangerous in the hands of certain folks. My new apartment is behind an old folk's home, and there is a chain link fence separating our property border from a long sidewalk that leads to the home. A few times now I've heard a strange clown-type horn honking and almost been run over by a motor scooter with a red flag, and an old man with a blue toque, barrelling down the sidewalk to swerve--so fast it sometimes turns the scooter up on two wheels like the General Lee*--and then careens down toward the local mall. He is driving fast. REALLY fast. Like, if he hit me, I would definitely be transported post haste to the neighbours balcony across the street!

[*PS: the General Lee...from the Dukes of Hazard. Get with the TV trivia, people!]

There's a scooter gang that sometimes circles the local park: four old men who have a lot of "regalia" or "flair" on their scooters and burn around there like unruly teens! If you're walking the park you can sometimes here cackling then the sound of four whirring zooms as they whiz past! Terrifying.

And then you have just the regular crazy in the daily world. Again, not the complete domain of the elderly by a long shot, but in a town filled with predominantly elderly folks, you get your fair share. Today I took my mom to the sleep apnea clinic to adjust her machine: an elderly couple came in just to get a new piece for the husband's gear. They went to the counter in front of us, as we were waiting for the technician to get the readings from the machine's sd card, and suddenly the woman turned and said, "Oh god!! OH GOD! We went in front of you! How rude! OH GOD!" And did that Macaulay Culkin face from Home Alone.

Mumsie and I looked at each other searchingly: "Um, no, you're good. We're just waiting for the readings."

Mad Elderly Lady--now looming over my mom as she flips through some magazines near the chair: "OH GOD! I HATE it when people do it to me, but I HATE it even more when I do it to someone else!" Then she starts pulling weird faces: it was like watching a French Mime (is there really any other kind?) doing face-caricatures: I'm so sad-face; Oops-face; Grrr, I'm angry-face; Hee hee--SORRY-face. Truly bizarre.

She ate about 6 candies from this jar in the 10 minutes they were there, and I started to wonder if she was a heroin addict. As they left she turned to us again, pulling that strange mime face and dramatically smacked her hand to her head and shout-talked, "OH GOD! Crazy lady! Comin' through, right??!! I'm SO SORRY! Again...SO RUDE! I just HATE it when that happens!"

My mom trying to rally assured her it was ok, but as soon as she left we almost died laughing. On the way to the car later, Mumsie says, "That was one strange lady, hey?" I agreed, then watched her whip out her rosary and get in the car.

We then headed to the eye clinic for my mom's next appointment, and as she was getting her eyeballs checked I realized we were in the ophthalmologist's office, FILLED with elderly folks. One old codger came swanning in, and as he was filling in his form regaled several elderly ladies about his prowess in the bedroom. Seriously. One lady was obviously disgusted, a few were amused, and one was, dare I say, interested? After his drops were in to dilate his pupils, he came swanning out again and told loud stories about his ice trucking career. When one slightly annoyed man (I think it was the brother of the elderly lady who seemed a tad caught by this fellow's swagger) said, "Aren't you retired yet?" To which the blustery fellow blustered out in an even louder voice, "I've got too many women to take to dinner, and too much laundry to do! Get it, fella! Sheets! Too many sheets to wash!"

Yup.

Think I'm going to watch the Superbowl with Daddikins, and he just had his eyes drained (I kid you not) as they were "weepy," so it will be like watching the Superbowl with a gnome who had been punched in the face a few times. His wife, when she gets home from making 8000 perogies at the Ukrainian Catholic church, will come home and her and my dad will make weird "joke" sarcastic comments at each other until my father fakes a stroke, face going slack, gaze towards the ceiling, some drool slightly forming at one corner of his mouth. This is his latest thing, which he also does in public sometimes. He's like a Ukrainian Redd Foxx.

My mom will go to the Roman Catholic church, then head to coffee with her cronies at McDonald's, then probably find 800 reasons to zoom around in her car for things, rosary clutched in her hand, or occasionally her new-ish cell phone which she sometimes answers while driving "in case of emergency."

Welcome to Kamloops. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for grey-hair and don't think they're going straight just because you don't see a turn signal!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bluffing My Way Across the Bluffs to Blufferdom



So, I've made it through two grueling weeks at my new, temporary teaching gig. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, but I'm bluffing my way through, and pretending to be very authoritative on subjects I know little about. I've discovered this is the way of academe, and hell, life in general.

USE YOUR AUTHORITY VOICE!

All will be well.

Be very careful though. "Authority Voice" can easily slip, teeter, creep, and inch it's way into "Crazy Voice," "Angry Voice," or "I REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING BUT I'M BLUFFING BUT TALKING IN THIS MANNER TO TRY AND TRICK YOU INTO THINKING I'M ACTUALLY ON THE BALL Voice" very quickly.

I still remember my first "grad"-ish presentation, and how terribly it went. "Authority Voice" very quickly turned to "Heh heh...jazz hands!" and things got ugly.

I was in one of my first MA classes, and only one other gal and I were newly minted grad students in a room of four PhD classmates. All of whom were lovely as hell, but also QUITE intelligent, and slightly competitive with one another (if any of you are reading this...you know who you are!). We were asked by our illustrious professor, Dr. Diane Goldstein, who is also quite intelligent and also has the disarming habit of staring, eyes peering over the top rim of her glasses, with almost no expression on her face, deeply into your soul as you try and talk to her, letting nothing slip as to her feelings on whatever blither blather you happen to be going on about.

We were asked to do an hour presentation. AN HOUR! Previous to this I had only done roughly five or ten minute class presentations, and one twenty minute conference presentation. We needed to choose an area to look at, go and study it, and come back with an hour "lecture" on our chosen areas, effectively teaching the class something.

I went to the library and spend hours pulling books, printing articles, finding blurbs and gathering materials on the subject. I glanced at them, and started writing notes several times, but would instantly become overwhelmed and quit. Finally, my day had arrived. I decided to bluff.

In the sea of bluffing I have done before and since, I can only say that this was the worst choice of my life.

I took my time, trying to eat up any amount of my "hour" talk, setting up my books, all of which had some sort of sticky note sticking out of pages, and sorting through some piles of articles and placing them in three separate piles in front of me. I took out some scratch notes, and one typed sheet that had very little typing on it. I sat at the head of the conference table where we had our classes and looked out at four PhDs, all of whom were lovely as hell, and apparently ready to take notes. I looked at my fellow MA newbie, who nodded encouragingly, and also had a pen poised to take notes. I looked at Dr. Diane Goldstein, who had a pen sitting in front of her, and her glasses drawn partially down her nose, and her eyes boring holes into my soul. I knew then...I knew she knew and that she knew I knew and that we both knew that I didn't know what was going on. It was happening. My bluff was called before I started, but the whole point of bluffing is...well...to bluff. So we also knew I had to start anyway.

I introduced my topic, then started to introduce some of the books and articles I had read, really just rambling off a few titles and authors. I said I thought it was an interesting subject, and that if anyone wanted to look at my materials after, feel free! Big smile! I rambled a few facts from the very little I had gleaned--they were rambly and weird, in no particular order, and thus created no particular sense.

I looked up and saw pitying looks and pens slowly slipping to sit alongside blank notebooks. I then, in my best bluffy voice, said, "Hey, I'm a bit nervous, so maybe if someone wanted to ask me some questions about this topic to start, it would get me going! Anyone?"

As a body we all looked at Diane, who looked only at me over the rim of her glasses. She said, "Do you have anything prepared to talk about?" I said, in admittedly the absolute worst choice in voice, cheerfully, "No, I sort of don't."

Diane - "I think I'll stop you here then."
Me - "Ok. Sounds good."
Diane - "See me after class."
Me - "Definitely!"
Fellow MA Newbie - *sharp intake of breath*
Fellow PhD Classmates - *worried and concerned glances at one another*

I'm exceedingly grateful that Diane did, in kindness, give me a second chance, which I did very well on. But hooooo boy. Life lesson taught that there's "Bluffing" and then there's "Bluffing with nothing to really bluff about."

So far in these new classes I'm going to admit I can see the haunting image of eyes staring over glasses with no expression to them from time to time, but I'm ensuring I prepare SOMETHING to say...whether it's the "right" something, who the hell knows. They, my students, stare at me with their dead doll eyes sometimes, but since I make up the tests, at least the weird "something" I tell them counts for "something" later on.

And, of course, I say my SOMETHING in my best AUTHORITY VOICE as I teach in my classroom on the Bluffs of Kamloops.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Snowpocalypse

So, as it snows...and snows...and snows...AND SNOWS outside, I have about 5000 (almost exactly) things to do, and no time to do them, but am TAKING time (out of snow-rage) to write a blog entry. Going to try the ol' "Sunday" blog day again, and see if that sparks me to keep writing. I have TONS of writing to do, but sometimes I find a bit of fun writing is necessary to keep the ol' brain alive!

ALIIIIIIIIIVE!!!

I'm back in Kamloops again, after eight lovely, strange, amazing, work-filled months in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Brodie-McDavid Mission Home for Wayward Folklorists was a wonderful respite from the chaos of no job, living with family (like, rooms next to each other!!), and trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life. I wasn't sure what living with a 6-year-old would be like, but must say I enjoyed it immensely! I hope like hell the brain of a highly intelligent grade-one-r remembers me over time, as I'd like to keep up my friendship with this amazing little dude, and my good buddy. Jackson taught me a lot about Mario Bros, and how to make up a fast "young Minecraft Steve" story, and I laughed a lot. He was definitely a huge balm to my raw nerves.

Jodi and Ian were peaches, keeping me generally fed and alive, as well as helping me find great work teaching and researching and interviewing, and Ian helped get me set for thesis writing. Hope and the thought of actually being able to do the thing you had been terrified you could never in a million years do is an amazing thing. Who needs drugs when you've got the high of the graduate-student thought: "I think I might be able to pull this out of my ass!" You know it's a graduate student 'cause you still put that "I think" in there, as you're never really sure until it's done.

Had some great time with my pals in Halifax, and thanks again to Anya for putting me up a few times, and Steve for some delicious waffles and game time, and Whitney for a great movie, and Anne for a delicious lunch convo! I also went to Saskatchewan in August and got to meet some fantastic researchers there with the project I was working on, and that was amazing. Hard work and a lot of head filling stuff at a workshop, and yet still really fun.

The AFS 2014 conference in Santa Fe was a hoot, and I saw some great papers, and got to meet/reconnect with some wonderful folks. It's super great that 2015 will be in Long Beach, CA, meaning it's on my precious West Coast when I'm on this side of the country! Boo yeah!

I've been speaking with a few people, and it's funny how sometimes things seem to really BE happening all over at the same damn time! Like, everyone feeling kind of zippy, or down, or broke, all over the place, all in the same month or week. 2015, for whatever reason, seems to be the year of "realism." I've had a few years in the recent past where I said to myself, "This will be the year of ME! I will do amazing things! The planets will align and I will do everything I set my mind to!" And then...well...I don't know WHOSE year it was, but it certainly wasn't mine!

Now, this doesn't mean good things didn't happen in these years! Of course there were the usually ups and downs and sideways and below-stairs and garrets and all manner of "ways" that went on. But in general...things were not the grandiose years they honestly and truly felt they were going to be in my fat head.

And it's not just me! Several pals and family have stated the same thing: thoughts of grandeur and high hopes at the start of the past few years slowly fizzling to wading slowly through the slog of poop that was seeping through the foundation by the end of the year. Perhaps that's WHY we all kept making these grand statements. "Ok, my shoes are filled with some pretty disgusting poop here, so I guess I'm as low as I'm going to get, so hey, it's got to be better next year, right? Yeah...of course! No where to go but up! Yeah...YAH!!! Up we go! THIS is going to be the year of ME!"

Finally, so many people I've spoken to are in the same boat this year: "Well...I was slogging through some pretty disgusting poop this year, and my shoes all got pretty ruined. But hey, I guess my pants didn't get TOO saturated, and that's pretty good. I think this year I'm going to just manage things, and ensure the poop just gently kisses the floor, making it a bit sticky, and yeah, I'm not going to want to walk around with socks on, but I'll get those good rubber-soled shoes, and it's going to be ok! Yep! Just some small puddles of poop, and it will all be well."

Yes, I do have hope that not only will there be NO POOP (I mean, GAWD! It's a pretty gross metaphor, already!), but also lots of wonderful sunshine-y rainbow kitten kisses! However, if the poop leaks in and just kisses the floor, and I can pull on some good rubber-soled shoes, and still keep trodding along ok, I'm going to be just fine with that!

Realism wins. Good thing I'm a Virgo and we thrive on realism and highly critical expectations! Especially during a bloody Winter Snowpocolypse Storm that's not supposed to end for DAYS!

Happy New Year, everyone, and here's to Poop! Small, manageable amounts of poop.
And good shoes.



Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sometimes It's Good to Come Home. Sometimes It's Good to Leave Again.

Or, How I Got Sent to the McDavid-Brodie Mission-Home for Wayward Folklorists


So, after my amazing sojourn in Iqaluit, I decided to come home. Ill and depressed at cancelling my New Orleans trip-one that would have been both fieldwork and AFS meeting combined-I headed to Kamloops, BC (after a lovely weekend with friends, and a reunion with my pal Crystle, in Ottawa--can you say hello Dinosaur Exhibit!!). I arrived depleted, mentally, physically and emotionally, and found some comfort in the bosom of my family. It was not my intention to stay. I was merely visiting on the way to a job and a place of my own, and I wasn't even supposed to be there until Christmas, so that's fine, I'll just have a nice visit and move along.

19 months later, I'm heading out.

I have never felt so unmarketable in my life. Dumbing down my CV (Curriculum Vitae for you non-academics, a compendium of a good majority of your work in teaching, publishing, grant-getting, jobs, etc., and the more on there--within reason--the better), I attempted to make a good looking resume. I applied to a plethora of jobs at the local university in admin, library work, curriculum development; and then I applied to a plethora of jobs through local, provincial and federal government sites, at museums, at other universities and colleges, at large mining companies, at hotels, all looking for administrative work, teaching work, cataloguing work: all the work I know I can do. No calls.

I dumbed down my resume and sent it out again.

A local bakery called looking for data entry for their very busy and growing business, and it would be my duty to ensure that all the next days orders, which come in from stores, restaurants, etc. the evening before, would be entered correctly, thus ensuring the computer program would tabulate the correct amounts of flour, yeast, etc. needed for that day's bake. I would also make invoices and packaging labels, and send the yummies out with appropriate labels to their various destinations. No sweat!! The woman who owned the bakery looked askance at my enthusiasm for the work, and said, "But your resume says you're very educated." Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand?????? Were you looking for the village idiot to saunter in, snatching buns and cookies off the shelves screaming, "YESSSSS!!" before devouring them faster than Cookie Monster can mash cookies into his cloth face, and then tell clients that bread makes you fat and mangle the entry program while kicking holes in the office wall?? I replied, "I can't think of many instances where having a good education would be a bad thing."

"Weeeelllllll," she replied slowly, "The job is very high stress, and let me tell you, it gets HOT back there, like, humid and hot. Because of the ovens. The bakers will pester you as they have to get dough proofing at night, and then come in at 5am to bake, and they will pester the life out of you asking if the orders are in, are the orders in. Then you have to shut the door, and it's just SO HOT. And if you get the orders wrong at all, it could lose us business, so it's EXTREMELY important you do the job right. If you don't, we could go down the drain."

I made a joke about wearing short shorts in the summer, we both laughed, and I said, no seriously, I was fine with the heat, a bunch of swearing bakers (did I mention they apparently all swear like sailors? Well, change that saying to swears like a baker!) didn't concern me, I was very detail oriented, and it would all be well. I would ask lots of questions at first, but one thing that fancy education taught me was cognitive thinking, and I felt sure I would be ok.

She started hemming about a trial, and then said, "Well, ok, if I call you, we'll have you in for a trial run, and see how you do. Oh, the job pays $10/hr, you work from 2pm to midnight every day except Sunday, you are not permitted to take holidays as there's no one else to take these orders, and if you don't have a car get one as we don't tolerate lateness and no busses run past 11pm."

Now, I've never been great at controlling my face. I know I can get all kinds of squiggly eyebrows, largened (it's a word!) eyes, strange grins, even an occasional double take.

She looked at me where (reading upside down is a skill I've developed) she had written "looks great for the job" she added "not sure." I asked her what the woman who was currently in the position was doing, and she said, "Oh, she wants to go back to being an accountant because she makes more money." Yeah, no shit lady.

I did not get a call back.

I put out more resumes, fine-tuned cover letters, asked friends and colleagues to look around for me, joke-pestered friends in the lower mainland to get me jobs, and asked about dossier writing. My mom, a dyed-in-the-wool, cradle-Catholic who has been a member of her (and my as a child) church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH, or as we used to call it, Old Ladies Play Hockey) got the Sunday bulletin and discovered that the admin woman in the Bishop's office, located only a BLOCK away from me, was going on maternity leave and would need a replacement. The only major obstacle was that you needed to be an ACTIVE member of the church.

Not only am I not currently attending OLPH, but I do not identify as Catholic. Though I know it breaks my mother's poor heart, I doubt I'll ever identify as Catholic again, and have my own spiritual beliefs that are quite a bit outside her doctrine. However, when we talked she said, "Look, God knows you need a job, and that it would be healthy for you to be working. Maybe this will even bring you back to the church. If you say that you're a member, I'll back you up, and you were baptized there, so, there we go." So with that great mom-logic, I applied.

I had an interview the next week, and it was with Gary, a man my mom knew (not as a good friend or anything) through the church quite well. I went in and we had a great chat, lasting for over an hour. He also said, "As I look at this resume, I'm realizing you're quite educated (I had dumbed the damn thing down again!!), and I'm wondering if you would like this job." First of all, I love administrative work. I know, it's sick. But I do. So it was no lie to say that I would love the job. Second, I thought it would actually be an interesting experience to work there. I wasn't planning on taking down the Vatican from the inside, or anything, but seeing the workings of the business end of a local parish would be kind of cool.

He was lovely. Kind, funny, and he was FROM NEWFOUNDLAND! Why, Gary, I just spent ten years in Merry Newfoundland going to school. He had even hauled up a record of some 60s Newfoundland singing group he found in the church basement and was showed it to me. He told me how proud he was of my mother's accomplishments in the church (she used be quite the decorator, and made a multi-story painting of Mary for a jubilee year that was astonishing!!), etc., etc., blah, blah. I was positive I was a shoe-in for the job, and then as I was getting up to leave he said it.

"So, just to be honest, I already have someone in mind for the job, and am introducing them to the Bishop later today. I've known the girl all my life and know she'll do a great job, but it was mandatory we see other candidates, so.... Please extend my heartfelt thanks to your mother for all her years of service."

Nothing like being metaphorically crotch-punched by an administrator for a Catholic bishop.

After that, I'm not going to lie, I was desperate, on a pittance of student loan money, dealing with my family getting sick of my joblessness and depression, and was just kind of done. I shut down and didn't put in resumes, started doing whatever bits of work I could do for my dad, and just existed.

I'm kind of scattered and that whole, "If you want something done, ask a busy person" thing kind of sucks--that person is busy, let them get their work done for Pete's sake!! But, not having a regular job was actually crushing my spirit to do anything. Breathing was getting hard, to be honest.

But, much like a movie, like a heroic novella, like a heart warming tale in a doctor's office Reader's Digest, at my lowest point, help arrived.

Talking to Ian Brodie, old chum, former sessional prof, great folklorist and all around good egg, about applying for teaching jobs, and about how his folklore program at CBU came about, through messages and a super long phone chat it was revealed that I was doing terribly, at my wits end, and didn't think it was even possible to finish my thesis because I'm an idiot and didn't have enough information. Thanks to this righteous dude, I was quickly acquitted of 56 Counts of Idiocy (though 26 were left standing for the nonce. You heard me, nonce) and disabused of my notion that I had no research. I felt more positive and capable then I had in years, and started plotting some writing. (I should mention my awesome thesis group here as well: formed through AFS and the interwebs, Olivia, Tara, Amber and I are kicking ass and taking names!)

A few hours after our awesome convo (and after hearing Ian going to the wrong pizza place to pick up dinner, which was hilarious), he called back.

"I was talking to Wifey, and I know it's kind of crazy, but we think you should come to Cape Breton, live in our house, and we will help you to get working on this thesis. What do you think? Wifey says we can make this happen."

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa????

Yes, what do I think, indeed? Brain explosions and weirdness. Who would want me in their house for months?? Who would invite an interloper to come and live with them and their almost (now) six-year-old-child?? Didn't they have enough on their plates with a kid, house, jobs, research projects, etc., etc.?? And then the blessed darlings actually started SELLING ME ON THE IDEA!! We live in walking distance from this, and there are jobs here, and we'll give you a nice room, and there's space for everyone, and all will be well!!

I did need about a week to really think it over. It means leaving family--who can be crazy, but who I love. My mom, who has been alone a great deal of her life, has taken comfort in my being here to help. My brother, who can be a turd (he is my younger brother after all!!), has been happy to have a movie watching buddy and joke partner. My dad enjoyed that I worked with him, and I think we had some fun tooling around the Okanagan together. My parents are aging, I worry about my brother, I love BC. I just got back to BC from years away. But, I can honestly say that I have (and sorry for the intensity here) NEVER been more depressed, felt more defunct as a person, worried more, did less, got this sedentary and unhealthy, and cried like a little bitch. Not even my divorce broke me this much.

So, realizing I would be 50 times the fool to not take up this offer, I said yes, and started having anxiety dreams that everyone would hate me creaking around, and that I would lose this 6-year-old boy as he flees into the night, and that I would get in trouble for pooping too much. But I also started having all these thoughts about my future, and hope, and friendship, and passing in a finished thesis, and working and being functional, and returning home with a job already set up here and a more positive attitude. All that mushy stuff.

And so in a few short hours I need to get up, get on a plane and endure about ten or so hours of travel, and have a rockin' weekend with my good pal, Anya in Halifax, and then head with Ian to Sydney for two whole semesters. Jodi (Wifey, folklorist, old pal, former sessional prof, grant writing diva) has helped me secure a Research Assistant position with a cool-seeming professor, and I'm teaching Urban Legend later in the summer. I'm teaching two courses in the Fall, which is an embarrassment of riches, and I'm working on sundry other tasks for Room and Board, and, most importantly, WRITING. I'm not even sure what's happening, but I guess when you're both very, very bad and very, very good you get sent to the McDavid-Brodie Mission-Home for Wayward Folklorists.

Stay tuned for adventures!!

And it's so fucking great to say that again that I have to damn well swear like a bloody baker about it!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

An Underground Expose on the Nunavut Health Care System (or) How I got my first I.V.!!

Somehow, I have made it to 40 (almost 41!! 2 weeks, yo!) without having spent more than a few cursory visits to the hospital. There were multiple (and I mean MULTIPLE) stitches visits to the emergency room from childhood up (the last major visit when I was about 13), and a few when I discovered I had a heart murmur (sometimes it tells me to do bad things, but I resist it…….but for how long….how long…..), and a few when I discovered I had some pretty major anxiety. But other than brief emergency room visits, or visiting friends/family, etc., I had avoided any major health-style incidents!

Until Nunavut. (heh heh…place being rather irrelevant, but ominous sounding, non?)

**Warning, this post is sometimes a bit gross, and often quite pathetic, and I guarantee will not be my best. In some spots it’s funny, but if you don’t like gross or pathetic, give it a miss!**

Sunday, September 2, 2012

So, I took Friday off so I could have an extra-long weekend, which was apparently a good thing, since it became an extra-short weekend. After spending a lot of time pissing around on my computer, watching movies, actually walking around the pond once or twice, and just generally living in pj-pants and filth, Sunday night I got up from my laptop and had the most intense “spins” I had ever had in my life. Like, the world literally started to revolve around me, spinning like a top, and I was watching my counters and calendar and bookshelf go round and round. It was awful, and I felt sure I was passing out, having a stroke, or being abducted by aliens! I was hoping it was something nearer the first, nothing to do with the middle, and only the last if it was those sexy aliens, not those little grey buggers.

I was sure I was going to upchuck dinner, and grabbed the phone pondering ambulance time (yet, Oh North, still aware in my sickened state of the high costs of your ambulance services!), when it started to settle. I was woozy, kind of scared, but getting under control. I figured I had spent way too much time on the computer, and would just take the phone to bed, and see if I could sleep.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I did indeed sleep, and woke up a little woozy, but not really worse for wear. I still had a whole day of holiday left (being Labour Day and all), so I could just relax and take my time. My pal Lynn was home from a brief leave of absence to the south, so I knew she was a couple doors away, and I just puttered about my day. However, I had two more very brief bouts of dizziness. In my hatred of all things “hospital” I felt nothing was so out of whack that I needed anything special happening, and so just tried to be easy, kept the phone with me, and decided if it still felt blerghy the next day, I would head to help. The dizzy was NOT fun, and at one point I was brought to my knees in front of my dryer, and I’m sure anyone peering in the window would think I liked laundry a little TOO much, but I still got the clothes out and folded! Boo yeah!

 Chores trump all!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

(PS: I am picturing these dates in a rather Stanley Kubrick-esque, “The Shining” kind of way, with the sound of mashed and discordant string instruments or clash of symbols or something creepy after each subheading! Tuesday: CLANG!)

I made it into work, glad it would be a four day week, and though I was tired and a bit headachey, I was mostly thinking of all the stuff I had to do. So. Much. Stuff (said with as much self-importance as an “administrative officer” can muster). I made it all morning with only minor weirdness, but then, after lunch, things got what I can only term “interesting.” No, wait, not interesting…“fucking shitty!” Yep, that’s the term.

As I started back to work, the room suddenly started to spin so violently that I was positive I would upchuck lunch into my keyboard (you can never get vomit out of a keyboard!), or start mumbling something in some sort of demonic language that would only end up in me getting fired…or possibly promoted…on the spot!

I was whisked to the hospital, and I had kept everything pretty together (she said proudly in the face of adversity), and I got checked in with my little armband, and then I sent Renee back to work in case I had to get nekkid at some point, and waited to get to the back.

So. Many. Youth. Why are doctors so YOUNG now??? I felt ancient watching these youngun’s zooming around with their stethoscopes! Finally, I saw young intern S, who seemed miffed at everything I told her. She would ask me a series of questions, poke something, then go and consult. Ask, poke, consult. Ask, poke, consult. The vertigo had staved off again at this point, but didn’t feel far off. There seemed to be only three choices: a) a virus in my eardrums, b) the stones in my eardrums were off alignment or c) I don’t know so just go home and see what happens. No blood tests were taken, though my temperature was normal, and I didn’t seem to have specific pain, etc., so we tried option b) stones.

Benign Positional Vertigo can apparently happen when small “stones” or crystals in your ears are out of alignment, telling your brain you’re dizzy…or something or other. The way to fix this is to have you go from a seated position to a rapid laying position with your head tilted one way, whip your head the other way, roll on your side, and sit up. I am not a small gal, nor do I have a great back, and I’ll admit, when you feel the spins, thinking you’re going to whip your head around is kind of panic inducing. However, I was all for giving it the old college try. So, I flung my rather large frame into the hands of a girl the size of a small bundle of kindling twigs, and hoped for the best.

However, after flinging me around for a while, nothing shook. No dizzy spells, no “not” dizzy spells, so what the??? After a consult, I was sent home with Gravol, a prescription for some drug to settle the ears, and the hope that things would sort themselves out.

I got home around 8pm, called Lynn and then my mom to tell them what was happening, hung up the phone, and then promptly got dizzy and started vomiting everything I had ever eaten in my life out my word hole! I tried to get a Gravol down, but nope, there it was in the toilet! Since this wasn’t an Irvine Welsh novel, I left it there and tried another (hipsters and pretentious author types, note my crazy reference! Boo yeah!). I kept trying to lay down, but at one point I had to run to the bathroom, VOMITING IN MY OWN HANDS!!! At least I didn’t wreck the carpet!! And, though I swore to myself I would try to keep my dignity and not tell my own secrets so freely…since it’s so freaking funny AND pathetic in one foul swoop, I may have been vomiting hard enough to actually…well…pee a little…in my pants. HEY! Don’t judge me! I was sick and on the bathroom floor, so who the hell cares! I spent a lot of time making great friends with that toilet (oh god, porcelain is so cool on a hot, sweaty face!). I had long passed puking food, and only yellow bile was coming out (a taste I shall not soon forget), until finally I was so tired and done that I slept for a while.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

After a rough night, Lynn, who had her friendship bond sorely tested through this ordeal!!, got my prescription for me and helped me get a pill down. By the way, the pills are meant to be taken with food….HA HA H AHA HA HAAAA!!! Yeah, ok. It didn’t really matter as that didn’t stay down all that long either. I called Lynn back, told her what was up, and she said she was coming to take me to the hospital!
 

My growing number of hospital wristbands.


I tried to rally myself for the trip, but by the time she got to my wee bachelorette pad, I was back on the bathroom floor in slightly biled (but not peed!) pjs, and was not in any space to do much about it. Lynn, the amazing creature that she is, bustled around and got stuff I would need in a hospital, found me a baggie to barf in on the way, and then hauled me off to the Qikitani General!

She got me re-checked in and then sat with me as I barfed bile into a baggie in a room full of strangers! I tell ya, kids: That’s some crazy friendship right there! She even took the used baggie, tossed it, and got me a new one so I wouldn’t have to keep the old one under my schnozz! The spins were not quitting, and so we finally got back to triage, I got a bit of poking and prodding, and then we were back in the comfy chairs to wait it out. After quite a while we were moved to a bed, and I started to rally a bit. Lynn saw a hilarious sign for protective gear that had a small dog in a frog costume (what the ???), and took a pic, but she can’t get them off her cell phone! I may update at a later date!

I went about a half hour with no disgusting junk coming out of me, or spins, and was just talking about, “Ain’t that always the way! You get to the hospital and are miraculously cured!” Yeah…as the doctor walked in, the spins had started again and I was basically barfing stomach butter into a new garbage bag! I couldn’t even talk, and have only a vague awareness of Lynn giving some information (hopefully not about that incident in Tijuana! HA HA! Joking!) (PS: Why does Tijuana get such a bad rap…sheesh…I’m sure many lovely things, like weddings and birthdays, also happen there.) and then I heard, “Yeah, let’s get her on an I.V., get some Gravol in her, and then I’ll come back when she can talk.” Heh heh…spooked the doctor away!

By the time I was getting my first I.V., I think they could have asked to slice my head open and I would have been relieved something was happening. I hardly felt it, and was so done at that point, I didn’t really care. I’m glad, as the thought of a needle pumping crap into a vein in the tender back of my hand would normally not have gone down so well. I was still sick as a dog, but I did calm down enough to talk. The doctor again indicated that maybe they needed to flip me around until they knocked something loose in my head (a suggestion I’m sure many a friend, family member, or professor has had in the past!) but he wanted to give me some rest first. Knowing it would be several hours before anything happened, Lynn (who had stayed till 11:30 p.m., holding my hand, rubbing my back as I vomited, taking pictures of my I.V. at my request, and just generally being awesome!) went home.
 

Since I can't currently access the actual I.V. shot, here is the pinprick on the back of my hand. Much less thrilling, but there you go.


I spent a LONG and exhausting night in the E.R., as they closed the curtain and I attempted to sleep till morning. At around 5am, I had to shout for a nurse to help me get to the bathroom, peed (not in my pants! Huzzah!!!! And thanks to kind Nurse A., who was a doll!), and then after I got back into the bed vomited for a while, and then dozed off. And man, those beds ain’t the kind at the Ritz!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When the doc got to me in the morning he used the ol’ tuning fork on me, but my tinitus fooled THAT plan by hearing sound LONG after it had receded! He then decided to try the flippy thing again, and I was thankful I got through it without vomiting on his pants (which he also thanked me for!), and was surprised HE didn’t vomit on his pants from my bile-breath. He said my eyes were jumping around like crazy, but he wasn’t sure what was up, and then asked if I wanted to go home to try some Gravol and see what happened. I answered by vomiting into the kidney-shaped bed pan and crying, so I got admitted. If you ever need to get admitted to a hospital, you now know what to do.

I was so grateful for the whole “We will move you and your whole bed and roll you into another bed” thing that I was profusely thanking nurses and everyone who passed! I got put onto the baby ward in the hottest room I have ever been in (like, Sauna hot!), next to a poor wee, though noisy, 5-week old baby. Wee ha! I was pumped full of saline and Gravol and slept like a monkey on saline and Gravol who had just survived a tough night in the hospital.

At some point a little man put some lunch on a table. I attempted to indicate “no lunch” by sort of waving my bed pan at him, but he left it there “just in case I got hungry later.” Thankfully when Lynn came to check on me she had it removed. I was pretty out of it still and man, I was hugging that bed pan like a beloved ragdoll! Seriously, the kidney shape makes it fit into your arms and cradle your boobs perfectly! I was supposed to see a doctor, but he never came, and nurses only came to change my bag of juice and take me to the bathroom. Finally, around supper time (which was again left on my tray and had to be removed by a nurse before I puked on her shoes) I started to rally. I was hot as dog’s balls in the desert, and thankfully Lynn had found a fan at lunch to blow on me, and I was starting to hear babies crying even when I’m sure they weren’t. I still hadn’t had my blood taken, and was sure I was going to be forgotten in this weird hot room forever.

Around dinner, I started to slowly rally again, and noticed that I could see the clock, and that I hadn’t thrown up in a while. I went pee, and then made it back to bed myself! I again had dinner removed (I have no idea what it was, but it smelled like death!) and then had a visit from my pal, co-worker and work overlord, Janelle. I was so thankful to see her, but I have never met a more “animated” person in my life! It was bloody nice to see her though, and I badgered her to catch me up on work stuff, and then off she went again.

I was starting to feel better and better, and actually was allowed some apple juice and water! Lord, that apple juice tasted SO good. Well…anything would have tasted better than what was swimming around in my mouth! By the time Lynn came back after supper, I was starting to feel less crazed in the brain, and after she helped me wash my hair and face, brush my teeth (OH GOD! SO GOOD!!) and get some clean clothes and such (like I said, friend bonding, man!) I was feeling a lot better. Then another work pal showed up, Lindsay, and brought me granola bars and fruit and books. Unfortunately at the moment I could not handle any of it, but it was so lovely to see her! One thing about Iqaluit: people come see you in the hospital! Makes you feel pretty damned special, though I’ll admit, it’s a special I could have done without as I would have rather seen them at home! *sigh*

After visiting hours were over, I was actually starting to feel kind of starved and did NOT want to be in bed, and the bed was SO uncomfortable! I asked if I could have crackers, but apparently there were none. I was sad. Sad for crackers. I heard a rumour of snack time, and some digestives, but I didn't remember to ask for any, and missed them! Needless to say, I dived into Lindsay’s bag of tricks and ate a handful of almonds and part of a nut bar like an animal. It all stayed down, and the spins were still at bay, so I suddenly felt like fleeing! However, one more night in the Qikitani for me!

Friday, September 7, 2012 FINAL DAY!

After one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, including no sleep, lots of having to unplug my I.V. machine to take trips to the bathroom, beeping of machines, the bed being bent at ALL the wrong angles no matter how much I monkeyed with it, and my I.V. hand itching like crazy, I was pretty done. Since the doctor had not made it to me the day before, I was praying I was on the top of the list for the morning. After washing up a wee bit I made friends with the grandma of the baby next to me, and heard her life story! I spoke to some other baby mamma’s and daddy’s, and pestered the nurses till I’m sure they were ready to bitch slap me back into Vertigo City! I was ready to be sprung!

 The doctor finally came to see me, pronounced me generally healthy (at least neurologically speaking!), and I could go in a bit. Lynn came at lunch again, and like a good luck charm I was suddenly sprung, with the promise to get further check ups at a later date. Lynn did not come alone…she came bearing a big flower bouquet and …wait for it…a helium dinosaur balloon!!! All from the gals in the Policy Dept. and is it bad that I loved the dinosaur even more than I loved the flowers?? Though I loved the flowers, too. So spoiled.  
 

Gifts from the Policy Gals!

Made me so happy!!


I literally could not get out of there fast enough, and though I was still pretty weak and weird, I just wanted to bolt! I think my first foray into being sick enough to go to the hospital was pretty over. And I very much hope to not repeat it any time soon.

And now…

I’m feeling a lot better, though I think my fevered brain was thinking that as soon as I wasn’t dizzy anymore, I would be totally fine. I kind of forgot to factor in the not eating, violent vomiting, on fluids, etc. things. So, I’m slow, tired, and still pretty headachey. The verdict is that “we may never know what it was” which is not exactly satisfactory, but I’m wondering if it was a viral infection that needed some time and sleep to deal with.

Regardless, I’m bloody grateful the hospital was there as I would NOT have been able to deal with that state of dizziness, not keeping food down, etc. on my own. And I’m desperately thankful to Lynn for taking me in hand (once again) and keeping me going! I’m even more grateful that the curse a local witch must have actually cast on me is over, and that they have relented, as what else could it really be.

I am not grateful for bile. Though I suppose it was satisfying to throw SOMETHING up when you’re gagging. So, maybe I am slightly grateful to it. Heh heh…disgusting.

Ok, not a very exciting post, and not very fun, but ‘tis better than telling this sad story several times over. I promise you this! I will never go on a merry-go-round or any “spinning” device for the rest of my life! GAH!!!!

Peace all! And keep healthy!
 
PS: Lindsay: I made a "make me feel better smoothie" out of your gift fruit when I got home! Hee!
 

My smoothie with nectarine, kiwi, and banana from Lindsay!

Of course I'll feel better after this!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Three Months In...

Oooh kay. I’m off work and sick and feeling disgusting, so what a great time to reach out to the outside world! *sniff, sniff* I’m a terrible worker this week, and missed Monday, tried to rally for Tuesday, but then my lymph nodes said “get ‘er boys” in that creepy, 1930s mob voice, and their little mitts and dangling cigars were all over me, and last night some time I finally gave in. Moral of the tale? Don’t tell me any secrets because it only takes a few well-placed germs to make me sing like a canary.

Well, it is the end of three months in the Arctic, so not a bad time to reflect I suppose--just a wee update. I do have a hot beverage near me, which I can pretend is coffee and not neocitron; I can further pretend that I’m a hard-edged travel writer, and not a slightly whiny she-beast wrapped in an ill-fitting but “comfy” sweater sniffling into tissues and occasionally trying to sigh but slightly gurgling instead. *sig.g.g.ararag*

So, the Arctic! It’s still summer! Yay! Though it’s definitely been a tad grey this year, and as such as I was going into work yesterday (remember people, I did attempt to rally!!) I saw a butt-load of ice in the harbour. I say butt-load because I’m trying to be, you know, romantic here. It is damned pretty to have it be summery, yet have a bunch of mini-icebergs floating around and the blue skies reflected in the water around them.

It has been a bitch for the sealifts though. When the first sealift came…wait…what’s a sealift? Why you…how dare you interrupt my narrative!

Well, the sealifts are the big ol’ cargo ships that come in as soon as the ice is clear enough to get through from Montreal. Since you can only order things here by boat (and that’s on a very limited run) or by air, and since to ship big things—like furniture, or building materials—would be a million billion dollars by air, folks get in a sealift order once a year (usually). So, they either go to the South and shop their faces off, or hire a company in the South to do it for them, going to Costco, Shoppers, Wal-Mart, etc. and load up on a year’s worth of non-perishables (canned goods, bottled goods, liquor, toilet paper, paper towel, laundry soap, cleaning products, cooking oil, dog food, etc.)—all that stuff that is extremely pricey to buy on a regular basis in the North due to weight or space cost on shipping. You might also load up some new furniture, new flooring or windows for your house, paint or reno products. All the building companies get in their building materials, you might ship a car up, fuel for both the airlines and gas bar gets sent and stored in giant tanks for the year, all kinds of tires, electronics, goods, equipment. Schools will do sealift orders for supplies to give kids breakfast all school year, and the grocery stores load up as well.

Sea cans, the big ol’ metal cargo containers, can be used, and then people either sell them, or keep them and use them as storage sheds (some even wiring their cans for lights, etc.), or they save them to ship stuff back South if they are from there and plan to return at some point. Or, folks get stuff in wood packing crates, and crack into them with crowbars and hammers, and then break down the wood to sell, or use for bonfires, etc.

So, when the first sealift came, it was like Christmas in July. There were trucks everywhere with loads of cargo containers, or goods, or giant tires. I heard we even got a new fire truck! And everyone was hoping their sealift order had come in, and there were cargo containers in people’s yards, and there was new stuff in all the stores! Seriously, it was hard NOT to get into the excitement of it.

I wasn’t able to make it down to the waterfront yet, to see this crazy action (just the action in town), so here’s a couple pics from the Nunatsiaq News. (If you’d like to follow Iqaluit news, here’s their website, by the by: thttp://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/)

 Barge bringing in stuff from the sealift ship. Frobisher Bay is too shallow, so barges have to come in and out during the high tides.


The stupid ice in Frobisher Bay. Very pretty, I guess, but you know…screw you, Ice! You can see the sealift in the distance.

I’m obviously not here long enough to get a sealift order, but I’m excited for my pals Lynn and Kevin to get theirs, so I can see the process at this end!

Work is going very well…something about coming back into the work force after so much grad school that makes you dizzy. Grad school has this way of kicking you in the balls (regardless of gender) and making you feel like you really can’t do too much of anything all that well. Suddenly I’m kicking ass and taking names! Well…ok, there’s not a lot of that going on at the Government of Nunavut (GN), but yeah, I’m suddenly feeling more useful and able than I have in a long time. And I’m earning money, rather than spending it! What the…?? I can see the danger of getting back out there, and suddenly not finishing. It’s a good thing this job (at least at the moment) is somewhat finite…ha ha ha…heh…oooh….. Also, we have such a great and crazy crew at the ol’ GN, and I kind of love everyone there for a variety of reasons. They’re nuts. Pure, unadulterated nuts. But glorious! And so far I’ve been treated rather nicely, thank you very much.

I’m slightly concerned the guy in the cubicle next to me is a spy, though. I mean, who is a scientist, GN worker, sportsman (well, he fishes and hikes!), part-time fireman, and flamenco dancer ALL AT ONCE! Sheesh. It’s been bloody nice to goof around over the cubicle walls though, and makes the say go faster! There’s some great entrepreneurship going on as well, as one fellow in another area has a Keurig coffee maker, loads up on cool coffee flavours, and then sells them for $2 a cup! It’s cheaper than a large at Tim’s, and is RIGHT IN THE BUILDING! Though it’s fine now to creep about the streets and get coffee somewhere in the sun, I can see this being a gold mine in winter! I’m an honorary Policy Analyst as well, and know all the gals in that section, and we form a mighty postal gang! We often strut (what else can I call it! Well…hobble in my case, but shut up, you!) to the post office as a gang of awesome ridiculousness, and get the mail at coffee break! “Get the mail” being a euphemism for “picking up our post.” I love these gals. (We also get some hi-larious email strings going, though you didn’t hear that here!) I work for a couple of Newfoundlanders who are pretty wonderful, and make me much less homesick for Newfoundland after I lived there for almost a decade!  I’m now staying another month, so will get to have my birthday here as well in September. Weee! If only I didn’t have to give blood, three of my eggs, and do hard labour in order to afford toilet paper, this place would be even more fantastic!

The skies have been pretty epic, and very “biblical,” and I’ve been loving the purple saxifrage (Nunavut’s official flower, y’all!!). The nights are starting to get a bit more “night-y” again, after long, long, long summer sun, which I’m rather grateful for. Not sure how I’d do with ALL night, but lord knows I didn’t “love” ALL day. I’ll leave you with a few pics from the past few months. Viva la North!



Yes, this was stupid snow in June. June 8th to be exact. Me and Lynn were NOT impressed.



But then it did this a couple days later.





And this was at midnight a couple days after that. June 13, 2012.


 

Sometimes it does this. Super fog on June 19, 2012



3 a.m. June 9, 2012




Just before rain, July 2, 2012

 
 
Cool clouds.
 
 




Yeah, I'm a little obsessed with clouds.


 
 
Frobisher Bay, July 14, 2012

Friday, 8 June 2012

Taxicab Confessionals…Cabfessionals? Confesxi’s? Taxelations? Meh…Stories from Taxis.

(*Please note...I mostly wrote this on the 8th of June, and just got around to tidying it up now, so screw it...I "posted" this on the 8th of June! Sue me, calendar-police!)

I had a girls night with a few gals from the office a week or so ago, and as we were chatting about life in general, the subject of taking cabs—and the nature of creepy cab drivers—came up. Now, all these gals are quite pretty, and I’m sure get hit on all the time, and told me a few hair-raising stories about cab drivers that were clearly up to no good. And let’s face it, the sea of humanity that oozes in and out of the back seat of a cab has the ability to create a petri dish of germs and weird smells and loose hairs and lost change and back sweat and god knows what else.  As well, way up here in Iqaluit, you get in a cab and you are not, for a time, being driven by your own private driver to where ever your destination may be. No, you are being driven in a car pool that could suddenly take a left when you wanted to go right, and pick up as many other folks as the cab might hold. When you are coming home with groceries, there might be 4 other people also going home with groceries at the same time, so you wedge in your stuff, pray your ice cream doesn’t melt on the way to 3 other homes before yours (although I’m sure this is no worries in the winter…unless the bags are in the heated interior with you), and off you go.

However, all that being said, I have to register here that either I’m completely lucky when it comes to taxi rides, or just have a nature/perverseness that loves driving around with strangers and paying for the pleasure. I have had amazing cab rides. Like, amazing.

Yes, often those stereotypes of the “foreign” cab driver…basically someone who seems to be from ANYWHERE other than the city you are driving in…can be true. But why the hell would that deter me from chatting with them, sharing a witty banter or two, or feeling that it was worth it to not kill someone with my own terrible driving skills? I’ve spoken with people from all over the world and learned why they came to Canada or the States or the UK; to Vancouver, BC or Iqaluit, NU or New Orleans, LA or London, Essex. Or why people simply moved from one city in Canada/States to another.

When I was in New Orleans in 2010, I spoke to several cab drivers who had just moved back to the city after being gone since Hurricane Katrina. There was this mingling of happiness, relief and sadness in their voices when I asked, “Are you from New Orleans?” and they answered, “Well, yes I am, born and raised. But I just got home from the storm.” You could tell they were happy to be in a place of familiarity, with the food and culture and people they understood, and they were relieved that things weren’t quite as bad as they had perhaps thought, after five years. But they were sad too, as many of their friends had not returned–perhaps would not return at all–, favourite shops and restaurants were still boarded, and the tourism was still down. Another cabbie told me that he had evacuated during Katrina, but came back right away. He lived in Bernard Parish, one of the lower districts, and told me that he hoped there would be no hurricanes that year as he had used up all his “evacuation money.” Apparently a lot of people in different parts of the Gulf keep “evacuation budgets” going, in case they have to leave when a big one comes in. I asked why he lived in a place where you may need to run for your life at least once a year, and he said, as I expected he would, that the culture, people, his home, etc. meant enough to him to tough it out and that it wasn’t so bad.

Unfortunately, this turned into one of those rare weird moments where you realize you’re driving with someone who is NOT your pal, and who does not necessarily share your beliefs. II glibly commented, “Oh, I guess you really like the folks down there; your community?” and he said, “Well, I’d rather be living next to a redneck than a thug any day.”  For those wondering what the hell THAT means, it means that he was a white dude, who would rather live next door to poor, ignorant, possibly criminal other white dudes than next to poor, ignorant, possibly criminal black dudes. Yep. It was like that.

Or how about back in St. John’s, during my first few months there after moving across country in 2003 (check the beginning of this blog for 2003 hilarity!), and the cabbie who drove me home from my first big grocery shop. He asked what I was making for dinner, and I said, in my best Canadian-Ukrainian voice (which sounds exactly like my Canadian-German voice, and my regular Canadian voice, but totally unlike my fake Swedish-accent voice or my creepy Nazi spy voice), “Perogies!” He said, “Ah, good old Ukrainian perogies! Sounds delicious!” I respond (still pretty regular sounding as I was not relaxed enough to pull out my ‘Vee half vays of making you talk, Herr Mann!'), “Oh, do you like them?” He answers, “Oh yeah, I love all kinds of different ethnic foods…just not the cooks, if you know what I mean.” Me...now starting to get a weird, twitchy sensation in my left eye, “Oh?” “Yeah,” he continues, “It’s why I moved here from Toronto. Too much multiculturalism, there.”

Ooooh boy. First of all, though St. John’s was, indeed, one of the whiter cities I’ve lived in, it was not lacking multiculturalism, or ethnic foods, or different religions, languages and creeds. So one point lost there, sirrah. And yeah, like, a billion for the rest of it.

Thankfully for me, these moments are few and far between. Though I was asked almost every time I got in a cab in St. John’s, “Where are you from?” because of the non-Newfoundland sounds coming out of my mouth—for ten straight years—I still had some of my best experiences with drivers there. I chatted everyone up, and many cabbies got to know me over the years and would ask about my schooling, or what the “folklorist” was up to now, or would tell me stories of St. John’s history, ghost stories, stories about their wives, husbands, grandchildren, or why they moved to Canada. One super snowy day, when it took almost an hour to get from my house on Prescott Street to the university (normally a 10-15 minute drive), I got an intense amount of deep, dark and shady secrets about the Folklore Department from a woman who was married to a scandalous, now-dead, professor. For those of you in the know, you know who I’m talking about. The rest of you, Mind your own business!

Back to New Orleans, I had a hilarious cabbie ask me what I was up to in the Big Easy, and when I told him I was there studying “belief tourism” and all the mainstream/non-mainstream/supernatural belief stuff going on in the tourism industry there, he gave me his home phone number and told me he’d tell me all about his night driving for 15 years. Of course, I promptly lost the number, and a fantastic potential source for my thesis, but I’m hoping to get him again this trip! I can hope!

He did tell me a great story about the days when tours could take place at anytime, day or night, mostly anywhere, in New Orleans. Nowadays, tours have to be completed by 11:30pm, can only have a certain number of people on each tour, etc.  But back in the day, an infamous tour guide (who several people spoke about, but no one would tell me his name!) who was a huge man, always dressed in super-goth style, with full crazy eyes and long black duster, even in the scorching tropical weather, would take tours out past midnight in the French Quarter. He regaled his victims with stories of werewolves, vampires, and ghosties, and would often howl at the moon. This particular cab driver was driving nights one summer, and during a clear and cloudless 2am in the morning, with a massive full moon overhead, he saw the giant guide and his wide-eyed gaggle of tourists trailing him. As they were crossing St. Charles and almost at the meridian (where the street cars run), the cab driver slowed down and sent a super loud and rather realistic “HAROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” out the window. As the tourists grasped each other, looking wildly around, the guide, without missing a beat, stopped on the meridian, looked up at the moon and sent an even MORE realistic howl out into the night! The cab driver was gutting himself as he said, “Lord, girl, I tell you. More than one of those poor fools shit their pants that night, I promise you that!”

Another cabbie in the Crescent City told me he was back from workers’ compensation leave because a woman in his cab had been drunk, made a rather overt pass at him, and when he pointed at her and said, “Put your shirt back on miss” she bit his hand hard enough to break the skin!!!! Talk about your werewolves in New Orleans! We did have a good laugh about it though, and he said, “That’s women for you! You get your head bit off if you ask to see their tits, and your hand bitten off if you ask them to cover them! No. Pleasing. A. Woman.” Oh cab drivers, and your earthy ways....

When I was living in New Westminster, in British Columbia, there were a lot of the movie-stereotyped Pakistani and Indian drivers. Again, though, I always took the same company, and drivers got to know me, and we would end up chatting away the whole trip. There was even a time or two when I didn’t have to pay, especially when I worked nights and took cabs more frequently. Free rides equal the best rides. I had one guy who used to shout at me out the windows of the cab as I was walking around the town, "Hey, Nice to see you young lady!!!" or would slow down, even with other fares in the car, and say, "You need a ride in a bit? I can meet you...you say the place!" Ha ha! I think the fact that I always tip a bit helps my cause.

On my recent trip to Ottawa, on the way to Iqaluit, I took a cab downtown from my lovely airport hotel to meet a friend living in the city for dinner (it was hard to part with the scintillating view of the dirt field, but one must make sacrifices for friends). When I got to our meeting spot, she said she was panicking, thinking I didn’t have enough money to pay the driver, because I was just sitting there, car idling, talking to the guy. Then she remembered it was me, and I kind of can’t stop talking…to anyone. And yes, me and the cab driver were having one of the BEST cab conversations ever! I was telling him about how I had never travelled until I was 33 (again, read the start of this blog…seriously, it’s amazing!), and then I went for it, and now I’ve been to England for a short trip, and to New Orleans, and I’m heading to the Arctic, for god’s sake! He got super excited, and said that he was literally planning on quitting his cab job that month, and wanted to travel, but was…wait for it…33(!) and had never travelled! Well, we had a great time, and he kept freaking me out by turning around to get a better look at this pudgy woman telling him to go for it! He actually got really emotional, and said that it was fate that put me there, and he felt so much more confident, and I said (in complete and total honesty), “Honey, if I can do it…trust me…ANYONE can do it!”

Kind of like the day I found out I can handle almost being accosted by a bleeding and raving lunatic when I was unceremoniously shoved OUT of a cab one late night back in Vancouver. One of my rare bad-cab experiences, we pulled up in front of my apartment building at 3am, after a long night shift. I was living alone for the first time after my separation, and still pretty new at it. As I was paying the driver, we saw a tall, thin and pale man, covered in blood, holding some sort of wound on his head with his blood-covered hands, come staggering out of some bushes. I was half-in, and half-out of the back cab door on the driver’s side, and the cabbie spun around, grabbed me by the collar, hauled me OUT of the cab, slammed the back door shut and PEELED OFF INTO THE NIGHT!! The fucker left me alone, a 5’4” woman, with a raving lunatic coming at me full bore! Cab drivers everywhere, take heed, that one I’ll never forget...
 
I handled the situation like a pro, though, surprising even myself as I used my angry-authoritative-woman voice, and told the man to STOP RIGHT THERE or I was going to scream fire AND rape like a mad-thing. He stopped, and I then, in the same super deep and authoritative (though I was scared as shit) voice told him to get on the ground and I would get him help! I literally bullied this dude, who was by now starting to lose his adrenalin, and was younger than I thought and no doubt caught up in a bad drug deal, to get on the grass in front of my building and went and called an ambulance and the cops. I then came back with hair dye gloves and a bowl of water and a cloth and told him to sit on his hands while I helped him clean up and waited for the emergency guys to come. (Interesting side note: while I was yelling and clomping around like a bull in the quiet street, not ONE person came to help or even checked to see what was happening. Huzzah big cities…*sigh* I both love you and shake my head at you in dispair.)

In the back of cabs I’ve learned odd tidbits of knowledge (which must always be taken with salt) on the place I am currently being driven in, about the myriad of places my drivers have hailed from (get it! Hailed…hail a cab!! Ha! Oooh, never mind….), about human nature, and hell, I’ve learned a lot about my own nature, too.

I’ve also learned to never, never, never stick your hands down the back of the seat, or pick up something that looked interesting from the floor. “Vee half vays of giving you hepatitis, Fraulein. Oooh yessss….vee half vays…”