My Non-Stick Car

I love my car!
I taught in Boucherville yesterday and today, and I am so indescribably happy to be able to drive there and back! I may even indulge in excessive use of exclamation points! Woohoo!
On my way home today, I stopped at Canadian Tire, bought new Teflon wiper blades and this new Teflon windshield wiper washer fluid. I can not only see better, I can now bake cookies on my windshield.
Oh, and just for fun – try saying “windshield wiper washer fluid” ten times, fast.

Adventures (almost) in our nation’s capital

Mine is a long, sad tale…
Shortly before the holidays, I got a call from La Cite College in Ottawa, asking if I was interested in teaching their Business English Cont. Ed. class. I agreed, and shuffled off to Ottawa to meet with the coordinator of the program.
While I was there, she contacted my references. After speaking with my former boss and with the people at Concordia, she said that rather than the Business English class, she wanted to offer me a course called Correspondance Anglaise – because she didn’t think I had enough teaching experience to handle the original course. So whatever my references said must have been stellar. Just kidding, really – I know that Andre has a very good opinion of me (God only knows why), and the coordinator told me herself that the Concordia people told her my teaching evaluations are very positive. Essentially, she said that it was the 5 year gap in my experience as a teacher that made her worry.
Anyway, I said I would accept the second course, and left expecting a call regarding the contract and some other details.
On Monday, I called and left a message with her, since no one had called me to sign my contract, and classes start January 13. She finally returned my call Tuesday, only to tell me that due to a lack of registration, they were cancelling the Correspondance Anglaise course. But, she said, they needed a teacher for a conversational English class, if I was interested.
Keeping in mind that the whole point behind taking any position in Ottawa, a two-hour drive away, is to establish some recent college-level experience, in the hopes of landing some teaching positions closer to home, I said yes, I was interested. The first class meets tomorrow, so the plan was I would arrive early, get the course outline, and sign my contract.
Now the problem was that this class meets two nights a week – the first and second ones offered met only once a week. Originally, my plan was to work out some kind of deal with a car rental place, having investigated the bus and train options and deciding that renting a car was comparably priced and way more convenient. But to go to and from Ottawa two times a week, along with driving to and from Boucherville for the substitute teaching gig, I decided that we had to bite the bullet and invest in a second car.
This is the fun part.
I called my dad (as many of you know, an expert of superb qualifications car-wise) for advice. He called his friendly Subaru dealer – so far, my mother, my sister, and my brother currently drive Subarus, and this has been the case for about 17 years. I was the last hold out. Meanwhile, Andrew called the bank to arrange a loan, based on my web surfing, to plonk down about $7000 on a reasonable car from the mid-90s.
Wednesday afternoon, after teaching in Boucherville, I went in to the Subaru dealer and had a chat. He said he might have a lead on a really good deal – a 1990 Subaru with 68,000 km (that’s 42,450 miles).
Thursday, I called him again, to see whether or not he had any news. He did – the car was at that very moment being inspected by his team, and I test drove later the same day. It was great! So, Thursday evening, Andrew and I went in to have a number-crunching talk with the dealer, which resulted in a really, really good deal – all told, taxes in, we got the car for under $2500. I picked it up Friday afternoon.
This is the stupid part.
I drive home from the dealer in my new car (yay!), congratulating myself on how quickly and how well this all fell into place. I get home to find a message on my voice mail – any guesses?
The coordinator from Ottawa called while I was handing over a wad of hundred dollar bills to Subaru. Lack of registration – course cancelled.
I’m staying very positive about this, given that I still have a new (old) car that I got for about $5000 less than I had expected. I took it and the kids out to my dad’s place yesterday – with a terror of Dad taking one look at the car and saying something like “why’d’ya buy a 13-year-old car, you idiot.”
This did not transpire. In fact, Dad took it out for a spin and came back to tell me I made the best deal ever, the car was great, and drove and felt like a new car. His only complaint was that some moron had installed a vent-mounted air freshener, and that I should remove it ASAP. Of course, since I’m the moron who installed it, I have no intention of getting rid of it.
I love my car! It has everything – great sound system, sunroof, cruise (not that I will ever use it), power locks and windows, A-C… and the dealer, to whom I’m thinking of erecting a shrine, included in the price the following: complete tune-up, new discs and pads, new battery, and new snow tires on separate rims. All’s well that ends well.

I got immense Satisfaction last night at the Stones concert. Of course, every concert I attend invokes the fantasy that some one on stage (in this case, Jagger) will look up into the stands, see me, and stop everything until I agree to come up on stage to sing and dance with him. Alas, this fantasy continues to be unfulfilled.
I sent the following as e-mail to CHOM this morning – Terry quoted me extensively, so at least my radio fantasy is partially fulfilled:
I just wanted to address the idea that the Stones are “old” or “past their prime” – this is not some pathetic come-back group playing to a half-filled house at Café campus. This is a vibrant, energetic group that still has what it takes to sell out the Bell Centre. The Stones are still writing, and God knows they’re still selling.
I think that the idea that they (and The Who, McCartney, and so on) are “old” is based on the idea that rockers are supposed to be angry young men from nowhere – but isn’t that because when rock really made it as a genre, that’s what the Stones et al were?
These guys started it – rock has only been with us since the ‘50s. It’s taken us 40 years to reach a point where there can be “old” rock stars. The Stones and their “contemporaries” from the 60s and 70s are still around because they have the talent, the perseverance and the following to keep going. They set the precedent 40 years ago, and they’re still breaking new ground, if only by being as old as my Dad and still kicking butt.
If they can still fill every seat in the arena, then I say more power to them! I could go on and on (for example, did people tell the elderly Picasso to stop painting, dammit, he was too old?) but for now I’ll stop there.

Encounters with the Fat Man

Today was Robert’s Christmas party. After the party, I took the kids with me to the mall to do some last-minute shopping. Santa, who had already made an appearance at the school party, was at the mall, too, so we stopped to say hello.
First Robert sat on his knee, then Colin, and then Santa said “Maybe Mummy would like something from Santa too – would Mummy like to sit on my lap?”
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s a dirty old man. I said no, thank you. Does this mean I’ll be getting coal in my fishnets?

What happens when the mice are away?

Andrew was in Toronto all week for IBM Oracle training. Since I was scheduled to teach in Boucherville at the beginning of the week, the kids stayed over at Magdalena’s (their former full-time nanny) until Wednesday. So Tuesday night, thinking I had an opportunity to catch up on my sleep, what with having the house to myself and the bed to myself, too, I went to bed nice and early.
The cat meowed for an hour after I went to bed.
The radio went off in the morning and I rolled over, thinking “I feel like I’ve had no sleep” (or as close to that as one’s brain can think on no sleep). I looked up at the clock – to find the cat sitting on top of the radio, and that it was 4:15 a.m.
The following night, with the kids snug in their own beds, the cat was silent all night. So apparently her attempts at communication on Tuesday were meant to let me know that the kids were missing, and how come I wasn’t doing something about it. She’s a weird, weird animal.
I guess it serves me right, since while Andrew was away, I cheated. That’s right, I confess… I had chicken stew at home Tuesday evening. Since Andrew is vegetarian, based on his aversion to animal cruelty, our home is supposed to be meat-free. So I felt a little guilty eating my can of stew… on the other hand, as I told him when I confessed, I am pretty sure the chicken in question died of old age, so perhaps the stew was chicken-friendly. On the other other hand, given his feelings about animal cruelty, it’s a good thing he wasn’t around at 4:16 Wednesday morning.
Now it’s the weekend, everyone’s home safe and sound, and life is back to normal. Whatever that is.

My favourite is SARCHASM

Courtesy of Cameron and Paula:
The following were some recent winning entries in a Washington Post word definition contest.
1. Coffee (n) a person who is coughed upon
2. Flabbergasted (adj) appalled over how much weight you have gained
3. Abdicate (v) to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach
4. Esplanade (v) to attempt an explanation while drunk
5. Willy-nilly (adj) impotent
6. Negligent (adj) describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightie
7. Lymph (v) to walk with a lisp
8. Gargoyle (n) an olive flavored mouthwash
9. Flatulence (n) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are runover by a steamroller
10. Balderdash (n) a rapidly receding hairline
11. Testicle (n) a humorous question in an exam
12. Rectitude (n) the formal, dignified demeanour assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you
13. Oyster (n) a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions
14. Circumvent (n) the opening in the front of boxer shorts
15. Frisbeetarianism (n) the belief that, when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck there
16. Pokemon (n) a Jamaican proctologist
The Post also invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are some of those winners:
1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly
3. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose getting laid (e.g.: “I’m a doctor…”)
4. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray painted very, very high
5. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it
6. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late
7. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness
8. Ostepornosis: A degenerate disease
9. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everbody is sending off all these really bad vibes right? And then like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
10. Glibido: All talk and no action
11: Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly
12. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

When you least expect it

My Friday was supposed to be very quiet, no plans, just a little futzing around the house in preparation for the weekend. Then Dina e-mailed me to invite me to lunch at the world’s smallest Indian restaurant. So, okay, there’s a plan.
Then, on a whim, I did a quick check of all the CEGEP web-sites to see if there were ant changes to the job postings – there were. Vanier and Dawson have posted openings, and the deadline for applications for Dawson was, you guessed it, November 15th (for the calendrically challenged, that’s the same day).
So suddenly I find myself in a wild dash, printing CVs and cover letters, finding my transcript and student evaluations, using white-out to cover up the red wine that had been spilled on the transcript, getting dressed, etc. Rushed out the door, hopped on the Metro (see Aside, below), got off at Atwater, got big envelopes at the pharmacy, made photocopies of the relevant docs, stuffed these into the envelopes, ran across the street to Dawson and promptly got lost.
It would have been easier if not for all these teenagers just, like, hanging around.
Finally tracked down the HR department, dropped off my stuff, got back on the Metro and headed up to Ericssonville to do lunch. After lunch, I got a mini-tour of Dina’s workplace, and met a bunch of the people she works with, who all seem very nice and are still friendly with Dina, even after all these months 😉 Then Dina was extremely nice and drove me to Vanier, where I dropped off the second application. We made a quick stop at Costco (okay, truthfully it was a very long, loads of fun, stop, but quick in the sense that we managed to leave with a grand total of two items each) then spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around my place, drinking tea.
It’s been a while since we had any exclusively girl time, so it was very nice to be just the two of us for a few hours. Needless to say (which is why I’m saying it anyway), if one or both of these CEGEP opportunities bears fruit, the next lunch is on me, Dina.
I always feel a great sense of relief when I get to the Metro platform. No matter how late, early or punctual I am up to that point, once I get there, it’s out of my hands.

Traffic Rant, Part II

My first traffic rant was essentially oriented toward highway driving; today, I want to address the particular phenomena of rush hour traffic. I have no idea if these occur elsewhere, but in Montreal, these are ubiquitous, kind of like The Second Cup.
1. The Colour-blind
In my original rant, I chastised the blind (or assumed to be) for switching lanes without checking to make sure some one (in particular, me) was not already in the destination lane.
Now, driving in and around downtown Montreal during rush hour, lane slalom is really more of a sport, and I can overlook it. However, drivers who cannot differentiate between red and green traffic lights are a hazard to themselves and others.
Here’s a hint: if the light at the top is lit, it’s red, and you should stop. Also, it’s generally recommended that you obey the lights facing you, not those off to the side, which are more likely regulating the flow of traffic from another direction.
2. Side-liners
These are the people (for lack of a better term) who for some reason believe that the “extra” lane, the one just off to the side of the highway, beyond the solid yellow line, is God’s gift to them, personally. The rest of us recognize this lane as the emergency vehicle lane. I mean, let’s face it – if God cared about traffic, don’t you think he’d inflict some kind of poetic justice on idiots who decide they’re as important as, say, an ambulance?
3. Grid-lockers
There are a couple of places along the route to the industrial section of the West Island where all it takes is a couple of people (there’s that word again) to completely tie up traffic.
What happens is, there’s a four-way intersection governed by traffic lights (see above). If every one pays attention, then traffic can move relatively smoothly. But then one jerk decides to drive into the intersection, since the light is green, regardless of the fact that cars are backed up into the intersection. So our jerk ends up parking in the intersection, and has nowhere to go when the light turns.
Naturally, the people (!) behind this jerk have advanced as much as possible, so reversing is not an option. Meanwhile, the light at the next intersection hasn’t turned (or the scenario is being played out there, too), so the cars in front of the jerk can’t move forward. As a result, people coming to the intersection perpendicular to the jerk cannot move forward, despite the green light. This is why people in California carry guns.
Okay, I’m feeling better now. So, anyone else have traffic or pedestrian beefs?

More Hallowe’en Scariness

Remember Popeye Cigarettes? For some time now, these have been renamed Popeye “Candy Sticks” but we all knew better. But now, they’ve done away with the familiar blob of red at the end!
Is there no end to the PC madness?
On a happier note, thanks to my kids’ hard Hallowe’en work, I’m relaxing with a teeny tiny Crunchie bar. When they’re this small, the calories don’t count, right?

Gloria Gaynor eat your heart out!

Picture this: 27 kids, somewhere around 11 years old, in costumes and make-up, who have spent an hour in the gym playing Hallowe’en games (including those gross-out favourites in which you deliberately stick your hand in cold spaghetti labelled “Intestines”), all excited about Trick-or-Treating to come. They have all (and I mean ALL) brought in candy from home – more candy than my kids collected on their rounds last night. Presumably, the parental thinking behind this was that their particular child could share with classmates – but since every other kid’s parents thought the same thing, each kid has a massive bag of sugar to munch on steadily over the course of the day.
Final ingredient: a substitute teacher. Namely, me.
Oh, and did I mention that their regular teacher left me to assign them 3 pages of math homework due the next day? You don’t understand the concept of “plaintive” until you’ve heard a chorus of kids shouting “but Miss, it’s Hallowe’en!”
But I survived! And from what I hear from the other teachers, and from my aunt, who has been teaching elementary school for, like, ever, Hallowe’en is scary even if you’re not the substitute. So, if I can get through October 31st, I can handle just about any other day.
My day started at 10:10, although I showed up about an hour beforehand to fill out the requisite forms for the school board files (scariest part of Hallowe’en? Starting the day with forms in one’s second language from the federal and provincial tax people). The teacher I was replacing left a very complete set of instructions, so it was relatively easy to get through the various classes. I started in the gym, helping to supervise the activities mentioned above. Then I “helped” the 2nd Grade teacher (in other words, sat in the class while she corrected their homework with them).
It was only well after 11 a.m. that I finally met “my” class, for a half hour Religion class. Nothing too complex or oppressive, they were working on artwork they made for an anti-violence campaign. After lunch, I helped in the Kindergarten class for an hour, which was fun. The teacher had a great activity – she had a huge pumpkin on lots and lots of the brown paper that no kindergarten class should be without. The kids sat around the pumpkin and took turns pulling out the seeds and pumpkin guts. Then they had to guess how many seeds there were, and then count them all. It was great! Some of the kids were right in there, digging away, and others were squeamish, but not for long. There were 153 seeds.
Finally, I ended the day with the infamous math assignment with the Grade 6 class. We managed to do about half the assignment in class, so they didn’t have quite so much homework. Plus I totally blamed their regular teacher for the homework. I definitely do not want to teach at this level on a permanent basis, but it’s kinda fun to be in that environment once in a while. And the kids were not bad – one boy gave me some of his candy, a girl took my picture (brought the camera for Hallowe’en, I assume) and (this is the part that makes me happiest) the one boy that the other teachers warned me about (and I mean, low whispers in the hallway, sinister type warnings) was an angel.