Saturday, September 19, 2009

No power corrupts absolutely, Part I

This was originally written on September 20th, but since I had no power, I was only able to work on it in fits and starts. I wrote the bulk of it that weekend, and then after I finally got my power back on (spoiler alert!), I've had nothing but issues with my computer. I've been busy as heck, and haven't really felt like rehashing the Week of Hell, either, but I figured I should probably finally get this puppy up and posted. Enjoy...I guess.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to discuss the trials and travails of the modern woman. We will discuss in-depth how we, as a society, have come to rely on the modern conveniences that our forefathers and foremothers could only dream of having. We will dissect the affects of modern technology as we know it, i.e., running water, electricity, internet, etc., and how these technologies have shaped our world.
Specifically, we are going to discuss what happens when a modern woman is suddenly stripped of her modern technologies. Spoiler alert: it sucks.

In general, this has not been a good week. I'm sure that there are many, many people out there who have had a much tougher week than I. I do not begrudge those people who have had worse luck than I this week their entitlement to a little bitching. By all means, miserable people, bitch away. Because I'm sure going to.

So the big news this week is that I had my power cut off. The really frustrating part is that it all could have been prevented if people had just communicated with me and with each other. I thought the whole reason why we had land lines, cell phones, fax machines, instant messaging, text messaging, answering services, and e-mail was to facilitate communication between all members of the entire human race and to make our lives easier. Funnily enough, these wonderful devices fail to serve their purpose when people DON'T USE THEM.

I moved into my new apartment the end of April/beginning of May of this year. The circumstances behind my move are a bit complicated, so I'll just say that my move coincided with yet another week-long run of bad luck that is suitable for a blog post all on its own. I'll leave that story for now and point out that the landlords of my new place are the most disorganized people I think I've ever met. And that's pretty impressive, considering how incredibly disorganized I am. They also seem to be masters of the classic bait-and-switch routine: when I was deciding between my present apartment and another place, a basement suite, to move into, the only reason I decided not to take the basement suite was because the ceiling was too low, only 6'3" high. Everything else about it was perfect -- it was on the street right behind my old place (easy to move, across from my bank, close to the bus stop), had two bedrooms, was spacious, had a yard and a parking spot for me (should I ever break down and get a car), had a laundry room just upstairs, and was really quiet, despite the lady above me having a screaming baby. Seriously, the kid was screaming away and I could barely hear it. Awesome. But the low ceiling...could I live with a low ceiling? Could I stand living in this ideal little suite, with all this space and convenience when I was able to touch the ceiling with my hands flat? Looking on it now, this was a really stupid question...of course I could!! But, unfortunately, I was tricked. When I went to look at my present apartment, the manager introduced me to half a dozen people who lived in the building and they were extremely nice, very polite and excited to have a new person in the neighbourhood. I have not seen any of these people in or around the building since. Where the hell did they go? Did they move out the same weekend I moved in? Are they all vampires and can't go out during the day? I suspect they were plants, hired to convince me what a great building this was and how I'd be a freaking idiot to not move in that very second.

Then I checked out the apartment and they had just laid down new carpet and painted the walls. Very nice. I went out onto the deck and, despite the road being right there, it was fairly quiet. Plus, it was $100 less than the basement suite. SOLD! After I moved in, I realized that the "quiet" street I thought I was facing was actually the main thoroughfare through the neighbourhood. Trucks gearing down, buses gearing up, ambulances, fire trucks, street sweepers, you name it, they come down that street. Plus, I had completely forgotten that there was a bar just a block up from the building, so every Friday and Saturday night, I have drunken assholes wandering past my building at 3am, stumbling home and singing "It's Raining Men" at the top of their lungs. What is it about alcohol that makes every single person who imbibes it think that they're the next American Idol? Or that anyone else actually wants to hear them? So, yet again, I'm thinking that this as another bait-and-switch; the managers must have cordoned off the street for the twenty minutes I was wandering through the building and inspecting the apartment in order to convince me that it was a nice, quiet area.

Oh, and another boon to basement suite? Everything was included, with the exception of internet, cable and phone. I thought this was a moot point at the time, because I was under the impression that this was the case with my apartment. This week, I discovered, to my chagrin, that I was mistaken in that impression. Fuck.

I went to work on Thursday like usual (sorry folks, no amusing bus stories this week -- the transit system seems to be the only one in the city this week that hasn't decided to screw me over), did my job like usual, and then went to a friend's for some good ol' Dungeons and Dragons. A group of us have just started getting together to play, so this was the first time we were actually able to do a mission...well, part of one, anyway. My character kicks ass, by the way. She's a Rogue half-elf that I've named Darma Shadowrunner, and she's awesome. Unfortunately, I can only seem to roll threes, so she's been pretty much sucking at everything except picking locks. I shall redeem her one day, mark my words...where the hell was I? Oh yeah, getting screwed over...

So, after the game, I get home at around 10:30pm and I'm tired and cranky and just want to check up on teh internetz before going to bed. I greet my mewing cats and flick the light switch. Nothing. Dammit, the lightbulb must've burned out. Okay, flick on the bathroom light. Still nothing. The hell? I close the front door and realize that it's awfully dark and quiet in here... My cats are meowing for dinner and wrapping around my legs, so I'm stumbling around in the dark trying to get to the window to open the curtains and let the light of the streetlamp in so I can see somewhat. I do pretty good, I only step on them twice before I reach the window. I open the curtains and behold! Murky light. Whoopedy doo. I manage to locate my wind-up flashlight and some matches and starting lighting candles like a mofo. After I've gotten the place lit up like a Hollywood bathroom (seriously, have you ever noticed how Hollywood movies have five hundred candles lit around every bathroom set? I guess it's supposed to add atmosphere and be romantic, but all I can think of is how annoying it's going to be to blow them all out when you're done. Plus, the smoke from blowing out all those candles will no doubt set off the smoke detector. Very romantic.), I sit back to evaluate my situation. Okay, the power can't be out all over the building, because the lights were on in the lobby and I saw lights on in a number of the apartments as I came in. So maybe it's just my floor. I head over to my neighbour across the hall and knock on her door. As soon as she opens the door, I see lights blazing and hear the TV going. Okay, strike that idea. I tell her what's going on and she says she's had power all day, so I thank her and decide to try someone on the same side of the hall as me. I knock on a couple of doors, but nobody answers. I suddenly see a guy exit one of the apartments two doors down from me and I run over to him, thoroughly making him nervous.

"Do you have power?" I ask him breathlessly. His expression implies that he would totally Mace me right now if he had any handy, but he tells me he does. "Oh," I respond, "I don't. I'm just trying to find out if anyone else has their power out, too." "You should call BC Hydro," he mutters over his shoulder as he scurries down the hallway and darts into the elevator.

Right. BC Hydro. Good idea. Only it's not. See, to compound my infernal luck, my phone had been dying all day, but I hadn't charged it so that it would run out completely. I try to do that every fourth or fifth charge so that my phone gets a completely full charge in order to not screw around with the battery any more than necessary. As a result, my phone was at about 2% battery power. Enough for maybe ten minutes of calls. Freaking awesome.

Okay, we can do this... Head back to the apartment, grab my wind-up flashlight and the phone book, and we're going to have a chat with BC Hydro. An aside: I hate phone trees. You know what I'm talking about. Those stupid "for such-and-such an option, press 1" pre-recorded message dealies that you have to contend with every single time you call any kind of business. I hate them with a burning passion that I usually reserve for fanboys and Kim Basinger. They're annoying and time-consuming and I honestly don't see how they actually help you to reach who you need to speak to. I specifically call the BC Hydro Power Outage hotline, and am asked if I want English or French, which is a fair enough question. But then it asks me if I'm a residential or business customer. What the hell's the difference?! If your power is out, does it matter if it's in a residence or a business?? Both situations are pretty serious! Yes, your business is affected when you don't have power, and it's probably not good for your computers, but most homes have computers, as well! Not to mention the fridge, freezer, stove and/or microwave, and hot water pump that most homes have -- they're pretty important in their own rights. So who cares if it's a business or a residence? Are the hookups for either one really all that different? Do electricians have to go to a separate Residence Electrician school than the Business Electricians? Sorry, I'm ranting, but it's stupid and it pisses me off. Plus, having to sit through that phone tree and push another button and wait to be connected to the next phone tree is wasting valuable battery time! Let's get a move on!

A young man finally answers the phone, identifies himself as David and asks if he can do anything. I take a deep breath... "I'm really sorry but my phone is about to die so I have to talk fast my power is out and I seem to be the only one in the building with no power is there any chance you can check and see if there are any isolated power outages in my area?" Phew. There's a pause for a second on the other end, and I start to feel sweat beading on my forehead...oh please oh please oh please do NOT make me repeat that, my battery is about to DIE! Then I hear David's voice and my heart starts back up again: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but if your unit is the only one in the building without power, it's an issue for the building manager. If there were a power outage in your area, it would affect the whole building, not just one unit." I sigh. "Oh okay thank you very much I'll see if I can track them down goodbye."

I hang up and ponder the situation. I have only two phone numbers for the building managers, and the problem here is that they pulled another bait-and-switch on me. See, two months after I moved in and was assured that the couple who'd shown me the apartment were the building owner's daughter and son-in-law, and therefore had a vested interest in keeping the building up to par, they passed the job onto another couple who lives in the building. Fine and dandy, except that I don't know their fucking phone number. Dammit! Just one thing, one little thing, can I not have one little thing go right tonight?? What the hell did I ever do you, Cosmos, seriously?!?! Screw it, I'm calling the original odd-job couple!

I called the cell number I had for them and got her answering machine, so here we go again, deep breath... "Hi this is Kelly V in apartment 404 my power is out and I'm the only one in the building with no power BC Hydro says they can't help me and my cell phone's battery is about to die so I have to make this quick could you please call me back at xxx-xxxx it's an emergency thank you goodbye!"


Penny rubs herself up against my leg and mews, bumping her head against the flashlight in my hand, begging for a pet. I reach down and rub behind her ears and fervently wish for a drink. Maybe a brown cow...Kahlua and milk...mmm, nommy... Oh crap, my milk! My fridge!! My freezer!! AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

In Part II of this sad tale, we'll delve into the machinations of stealing hydro, the benefits of having friends with homes with working power, and why I will never own metal blinds for as long as I have my cats...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Diary of a Bus Bum, Part 2

Previously, on ICNOCHYW...

In Part 1, we established that travelling by public transit was a convenient, cheap and hellish mode of transportation, but on the other hand, it provided me with humorous stories to share with people so that they'll like me. We were introduced to Shaggy the Incredible Stumbling Man, and his amazing ability to stop moving buses by flinging himself under the front tire. In Part 2, we discover that the best place in the world to be should there ever be a worldwide invasion by zombie snipers is inside a bus...

A couple of weeks ago, I had the most epically bad run of bus karma I have ever had in my life. The day started normally -- my alarm went off at 6:30am, I hit snooze until about 7:43am, then ran around like a chicken with a firecracker up it's ass trying to get ready for work in only 15 minutes. Well, that's normal for me. You people who actually get up with your alarms at ungodly hours of the morning are freaks. Anyway, I managed to get cleaned up and dressed and out the door in time for my bus. In fact, I saw it heading towards me as I exited my building, so I was able to perform what I call the Bus Stop Boogie -- running like a maniac, flailing your arms wildly in hopes that the bus driver will see you coming, take pity on your pathetic self and let you on the bus like the benevolent soul we all like to believe bus drivers are deep down inside. So I'm running for the bus, performing (if I may say so myself) a particularly exquisite performance of the Bus Stop Boogie, and I can see another person getting on the bus. She's a tall girl, slender with straight blond hair just past her shoulders, wearing a skin-tight black dress with a decolletage so revealing that I can tell, even from up the street, that her navel is an innie, black wrist cuffs and torn fishnet stockings with black stiletto booties. As I run up the street towards the bus stop, she turns her head my way and our eyes lock for a split second. She's seen me! I'm saved! Even if the bus driver hasn't yet noticed me, she can tell him that someone is right behind her and he can pause for a minute like the benevolent soul he is so that I can --


As I fumble for my bus pass about three steps from the bus, the driver shuts the door, checks his blind spot and pulls out into traffic. I run a few more steps before the situation sinks in. He...left me. He just left me there. I was two feet from the door and he ignored me and left me standing there! What a dick! And the other girl! Didn't the chick who shops at Skanks 'R' Us say anything to him?!? And if she did, why would he just take off?? These people are assholes!!

So I sit down in the bus shelter and fume and grumble and wish hateful, horrible things on these two people that I wouldn't know from a hole in the ground. Didn't make me feel better...

That same day, work finally ends (it happens occasionally) and I head for the good ol' bus stop. For the last month, I've been trying to avoid getting a particular bus driver on the way home and no matter what I do, no matter how early or late I leave work, I always seem to get him. I hate this jerk so much, he annoys the crap out of me. He's always late on his bus route and then has to speed like a freaking maniac through yellow-red lights to make the next bus stop. When he stops, he yells at people to hurry up and get on the bus, move it people, move it, HURRY DAMMIT! Inevitably, this technique fails to get him back on schedule and by the time we hit the last quarter of the route, he's making announcements to the passengers to exit the bus by the front entrance so he can pretty much let us off while the bus is still rolling. He wears a hearing aid and apparently this thing doesn't friggin' work, because more than once he's yelled at people for swearing at him when they didn't. The last time he did that, he yelled at a middle-aged business lady for saying the f-word at him (she hadn't) and the poor woman was mortified. She had to come onto the bus with everyone staring at her, thinking she was a foul-mouthed bitch, because this fucking moron won't take the time to get a decent hearing aid. She sat with me because I didn't stare at her...I was too busy rolling my eyes at the dinkus in the driver's seat. Considering how my day had started, I was pretty much convinced that I was going to get him on the way home, too. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had managed to get a completely different driver, one that was on time and didn't speed! Awesome!

But of course, that wouldn't last long...

We were about a third of the way into the route and I had plugged in my Zune so I could rock out while playing my DS, and I couldn't hear a thing. Which leads me to a digression, a tip for those who don't travel by public transit very often. My secret weapon for travelling by bus? Headphones. Seriously. They don't even have to be hooked up to anything. I have taken my earbuds along with me a number of times, stuck the end into my jacket pocket, plugged the buds into my ears and listened to nothing for the entire trip. Works like a charm. People won't bother you because you've got them on and are obviously (heh heh) listening to something and can't hear them, but if they don't get the hint and try talking to you anyway, you have a valid excuse for ignoring them completely. However, I highly suggest having a back up plan, just in case. Mine is a foreign accent, usually something undefinable, like ItaliaSpanApanese. If someone bothers me while I've got my buds in, I'll pull one out and say, "I sorry, you someting say?" They'll ask if I speak English and I'll shake my head looking all bashful and sorry and foreign. I recommend not choosing an immediately identifiable accent, in the event that that particular person actually speaks the language and begins to converse with you in your "native" language. And if you don't actually speak that language, your cover's completely blown.

Where was I? Oh yeah, senseless violence...

So I can't hear a damn thing, but at one of the bus stops, the driver suddenly stops the bus and announces something over the transit speaker. I pull my ear buds out just in time to hear him say something about a loud noise and is everyone okay? Everyone is just kinda like "whatever", so he starts up the bus and we head out again. At the next bus stop, he turns the bus off and gets out to do a walk-around inspection. Suddenly, he stops at the window right across from me and starts poking at a chip in the glass. I am totally confused. The driver gets back onto the bus and makes a call to the transit office and I can hear the words "gun" and "shot" and "bullet hole" and I can feel all of the blood in my body suddenly rush to my feet. Say what? Someone shot at us?? You freaking serious??? Sure enough, he gets off the phone, turns to us and says, "sorry, folks, but back at the last stop, someone shot at us, so I've had to call the police and we can't move the bus until they get here."


We all file off the bus to wait for the next one to come along and I wander over to where the driver is inspecting the hole.

"Did we really get shot at?" I ask him. "Yep," he answers, "looks like a high-powered BB gun. It almost went through the window, and this stuff is pretty strong. If he'd been standing a couple of feet closer, I think it may have gone right through!"

"Would've been a bad day for the person sitting on the other side!" I joke. He chuckles but raises his eyebrows at me, and I realize how incredibly stupid that sounded...I was the person sitting on the other side. It's official...I'm a dumbass.

So I'm thanking my lucky stars for short, slow-moving snipers and the next bus pulls up. We're all pretty much prepared for a full bus due to the circumstances, which, right there, makes for a crappy ride home. Then I look up as I run my bus pass through the reader...and it's him. That jerkhole driver that I've been trying to avoid and finally managed to succeed in doing so, until some stinking zombie shooter ruined my bus ride home. Fuck. Sure enough, he's running late, so we're flying around corners and running yellow lights, and I'm holding onto the holy-shit handles for all I'm worth and trying with every fibre of my being to not go flying into the lap of the little old lady sitting in front of me. She's small and adorable and looks extremely fragile, and I've had just about enough of having to wait for paramedics to come and do something paramedicy at my bus stop.

Finally, about halfway home, some seats clear out so I can sit down and get the feeling back into my fingers. More people get on and a very large woman plops down next to me...and she reeks. Holy crap, does she reek! She smells like a pile of athletic socks that have been soaked in brine and left to rot in the sun. I have to breathe through my mouth or I'm going to totally hurl all over her. I keep praying to every deity I can think of that the next stop will be hers, but she doesn't get off until four stops before mine. As soon as she gets up and gets off the bus, another lady sits next to me, and while she doesn't smell like the other woman, she also reeks. She's dipped herself in perfume, probably had it injected into her veins that morning just to make sure it lasted the whole day, and my head is really starting to pound at this point.

The driver doesn't have to yell at me to exit the bus from the front, I'm pretty much out the door before he's even got them completely open. As soon as I'm out in the fresh, clean air, I take a deeeeeep breath and dissolve into a coughing fit. Awesome. I finally get to my apartment -- thank god!! Home sweet home! I pet my cats, Penny and Smokes, drop my stuff on the floor and change into my jammies. I'm buttoning up my pj top when I hear a strange sound...

...huck...shlkuck...hac hac hac...blarfgh...

The hell?!

I walk out into the living room and see Penny sitting there, looking all sweet and cute and fluffy, with a big pile of cat vomit on the floor in front of her. Sonuva...

Diary of a Bus Bum, Part 1

I'm what you might call a bus bum. Well, okay, I call it that. I'm one of the many, many people in the world that takes public transit. I do not do this in order to help the environment. I do not do this to reduce my carbon footprint. I certainly do not do this in order to spend more time with my fellow man. I do it because it's cheaper than owning and maintaining a car and because I'm broke. To buy a bus pass and travel anywhere in the city I want for as many times as I want for a month costs me about the same as my pizza budget used to be when I was married.

Side note: you know you need to cut down on ordering in pizza when Domino's sends you a Christmas card three years running. True story.

In all honesty, I like taking the bus. There's less stress on me (I don't have to pay attention to the traffic, don't have to worry about parking, don't have to worry about speeding, not that I get them...moving on), I can just veg out or read or play on my DS, and it's cheaper than a car. Did I mention that already? However, for every plus there is a minus, and if you're looking for minuses, look no further than your closest public transit system.

The main negative about a public transit system is that it's open to the public, which means that more people than you ever wanted to meet in your entire life are more than likely crammed into a space roughly half the size of my apartment, and that space is almost constantly moving. This means a lot of jostling around, invading total strangers' personal spaces, and getting to know your neighbours more than you probably ever really wanted to (or they wanted you to, for that matter). It also means trying to use diplomacy with numbnuts who take up two seats when the bus is crowded, or trying to explain to the lady sitting on the aisle seat that there is, in fact, no one sitting next to her in the window seat, so would you mind if I sat there? Now? Please? It means sitting next to sweaty, smelly people, people who smell like they've jogged through the Sahara Desert in a parka while consuming nothing but anchovies and radiator fluid. It means sharing a small space with drunken idiots who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp loudly and then blow it in the face of their equally drunken friend, without allowing for the fact that that particular drunken friend is sitting next to an innocent sober person who really doesn't want to inhale sour beer breath.

However, again on the plus side, it's given me a load of great stories to tell. Let me give you some of the best, right after the colon:

A couple of years ago, shortly after my marriage broke up, I was renting a small apartment in a dump just down the street from an Axis of Evil: an intersection that had a drunk's wet dream on every corner, i.e., a liquor store, a 7-11 convenience store for midnight munchies,
a bar (with it's own liquor store, too. Seriously), and a Tim Hortons. Every drunk heads to a Tim Hortons; I think it's engraved on a slate mounted in every bar's men's room in the northern hemisphere -- "When thou hast imbibed of the fire water, headest thou to thy nearest nationally acclaimed coffee shop for refreshments and donut holes. Ensure that thy vomit has been thoroughly spewed in yon establishment's restroom (hitting the centre of the relief-inducing throne is purely optional)." Or something like that, I've never really checked to find out the exact wording, but I think that's pretty close. Anyhoo, because of these swank surroundings, I would often find myself sharing a bus with those poor souls who had had a hair of the dog. In fact, a few of them would appear to have completely shaved said dog, since they were usually stinking (and I use that word for a reason) drunk at eight o'clock in the morning. And hilarity would ensue.

On one occasion, I had made plans to meet an old friend, Dave (not the building manager!), that I had managed to get back in touch with after an absence of around five years. This was, naturally enough, cause for celebration and we agreed to meet one night for coffee at a Tim Hortons that was roughly between both of our respective homes. I got to the bus stop in plenty of time, but I was not alone. Already sitting at the bus stop was a shaggy-haired fellow with glasses, holding something in a paper bag, and his head between his knees. At first, I thought the poor fellow was depressed...then I got within whiffing distance. I quickly walked to a place near the bus stop that was upwind and watched the drama unfold. I temporarily dubbed the fellow "Shaggy", not only because of his choice of 'do, but because he bore a striking resemblance to his namesake of Scooby Doo fame. I'm quite sure that if he had put on a baggy green t-shirt, he could've sold his story to E! about how the rest of the Scooby Gang hadn't appreciated his talents, had kept yelling at him to clean up after his damn dog, and how they kept making fun of his scratchy voice. The final straw came about when Fred insisted that Shaggy contribute more towards gas for the Mystery Machine than the others because Shaggy and Scooby ate more than the entire gang put together, and in a fit of rage, Shaggy dared to grab Fred by his ascot. Shamed and shunned, Shaggy wandered the streets with Scooby, his only friend (we won't count Scrappy, that annoying little shit), begging for change and solving mysteries to feed their Scooby Snack habit. When Scooby finally lost his battle with Snack addiction, Shaggy was left alone in the world and turned to alcohol to kill the pain...where the hell was I??? I seem to have wandered from my point...oh yeah, the drunken idiot...

So anyway, Shaggy was stinking drunk, and I do mean stinking. He'd obviously been drinking as if he was getting paid by the glass, and judging from the scuffs on his knees and his ragged palms, it had been a rough walk to the bus stop. He was sitting in the shelter, bent in half with his hands dragging on the ground. Every now and then, he'd sit up long enough to take a swig from the quickly-emptying bottle in the brown paper bag, then immediately fold back over himself again. When the bottle finally emptied, he tried to stand up to throw it out. Funniest fucking thing I've ever seen in my life. Imagine, if you will, a sentient egg noodle. Now try to imagine this egg noodle attempting to stand up. He first tried to roll up his spine to sit up far, so good. Then, one foot got planted, then the other...hands on the seat, a quick push to spring upright...only to land on his knees, causing him to bounce back up and land on his ass back on the seat, striking the back of his head on the bus shelter wall as he did so. Heh heh heh heh!

Meanwhile, the bus has pulled up at this point and I and the two other passengers watching this spectacle get on the bus. I've just taken my seat and the bus driver has closed the door to pull back out when all of a sudden, there's a blur of movement at the side of the bus! All I can see is a shock of hair as Shaggy runs for the bus and hits the door face-first. He stumbles back, then stumbles forward with his hands outstretched, but manages to miss the bus completely. It's easy to lose your sense of depth perception when the whole world looks like you're staring through the bottom of a Coke bottle, I guess. Shaggy tries to grab the bus' bike rack as he goes down, but hits his head again and rolls UNDER THE BUS. And then LIES THERE. All of us on the bus are pretty much gobsmacked at this point...did we just watch a drunken Jerry Lewis routine, or was the exhaust on this bus leaking through the backseat??? The driver, for lack of any other plan, was forced to park, open the door and check the situation out. Now comes the funny part... Turns out that when Shaggy hit his head and rolled under the bus, he ended up behind the front right tire and his torso was now caught between the bus and the curb. He was stuck, completely stuck, underneath the friggin' bus. We couldn't go forward or we'd drag him against the curb, and we couldn't back up or we'd pop his head beneath the front tire like a grape at a square dance. It's okay, you can laugh, I did too. We're all going to hell now. Poor Shaggy was so drunk that he couldn't cooperate with the driver to maneuver his body out from underneath, so the driver had to call the paramedics. So I'm sitting on this bus, late for my coffee with Dave, knowing that he doesn't have a cell phone that I can call to explain the situation, and trying very, VERY hard not to completely bust a freaking gut and look like a total jerk to the other passengers.

After about ten minutes, the medics arrive, squeeze Shaggy out from under the bus, dab the boo-boo that he got on his head, and manage to drag him a safe distance from the road so they can check him out for broken bones or road rash or innate stupidity or whatever. And we're off! I finally get to the coffee shop twenty minutes late and Dave's sitting there like "where the hell have you been?" Luckily, I had the best excuse for being late I think I've ever had in my life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Mystery of the Lingering Guitar Hero

As the previous post was, so shall this one be, too. As in, I first posted this on my Facebook page on May 1st, 2008, and it got such a strong reaction that any hope that I'd had of fending off the suggestions of posting my writing for the entire world to see was pretty much crushed. Which, to be honest, wasn't very high to begin with, since I was already lobbing the idea around in my cranium. Anyway, I had finally found a new place that was bigger, quieter and far less sketchy than my previous abode, and during the move I managed to solve the mystery of why my horrible neighbours had managed to stay in that apartment for so long. Beware...what has been read, cannot be unread. You have been warned.

Okay, I know there are a lot of people out there who are terribly curious about the recent development of my dealings with the Guitar Hero. First, I want to give you all a little background story...

(Please note: I'm assuming that you're reading this after you've read my rant about the Guitar Hero. If you haven't read it, I highly suggest you do so now so that you're not any more confused than you soon will be...)

A few months ago, I came home from work to find a home-made poster on the downstairs wall. At first, I thought it was a joke, but then there was another one on the upstairs wall...right by my door. It read in it's entirety, and I quote:

"LOST - Budge (sic, I think they meant budgie), yellow with green head - missing since Friday nite (again, sic) - answers to Darling or Monkeyman - if found, please notify Apt. 3"

It's okay, you can read it again, I'll wait.

All done? Dumbfounded? Good. Now you know how I felt. "Answers to Darling or Monkeyman". Remember what I called those people in my other note? It still applies.

So anyway, I'm thinking this is a joke, but quickly realize that, not only is it real, but that the Guitar Hero and his girlfriend, Sandy, are actually subjecting some poor, defenseless budgie to his Zeppelin-ish wailings. And now this poor, defenseless (and, no doubt, DEAF) budgie was somewhere out in the cold Victoria spring weather. A little piece of me died that day...

The same night I saw the posters, I was catching up on my email when I heard the dulcet tones of the Looneybird downstairs...
This went on for about half an hour. Just to shut him up, I was tempted to go to my window and whistle a few notes, but he finally gave up and went back to smoking his pot or tuning his guitar or smacking Abba Lover or whatever it is Guitar Heroes like to do in the evenings.

I brought my camera out a couple of days later to take a picture of the note, rightly assuming that no one would truly believe me unless I did, but the notes were all taken down. I figured that that meant that:
a) They'd been forced to take them down by management.

aaaa! "sniff" hoohoo, haha "sniff" Okay, no, seriously...

a) They'd found Darling or Monkeyman or whatever the hell his name was, or
b) They'd given up on ever finding him...after an extensive 3-day search, no doubt centred around the liquor store up on the corner. I wouldn't put it past them...

However, I discovered on Wednesday night that it was option a), which leads me, in turn, to segue into my present topic...

For those not up on these things, I have just moved. It was hellish, as all moves are, but that's a subject for another note, so we'll move on. For the purposes of this note, I shall stress that I have way more shit than I thought I had, and therefore, took an extra day and a half to move everything to my new place. Thank god in all his grace that my new place is way bigger and has five times more storage or I wouldn't be able to find my way to the front door, lost in a sea of boxes, mired in my own bric-a-bracs, never to be seen or heard from again. Tragic, innit? Anyhoo...

Because this move took so long, I didn't get to start cleaning my old place until late Wednesday night. I'd left my computer there so that I could check my email (and Facebook! You know I love you people!) and play my tunes while I cleaned. Picture's about 11pm, I'm in my dungaroos, bopping to awesome vibes, cleaning and sanding and painting my little heart out. Quite unexpectedly, there's a knock on the door. When I answer it, guess who it is? Go on, guess...come on and guess, you lazy bastard! If you answered "Guitar Hero?", give yourself a cookie. If you didn't, go to your room and hang your head in shame while I go and console your poor mother.

Guitar Hero (or GH, as I shall rechristen him for the nonce) is weaving all around, reeking of rye, and has a budgie on his shoulder that I'm assuming is Darling (or Monkeyman, as he's known in the village). All in all, he looks like a much more realistic portrayal of a pirate than Johnny Depp's version (don't get me wrong, I love JD to bits, but let's face it - pirates were undoubtedly much more grubby and far less charming than the movies would have you believe...but I digress). All GH needs to complete the pirate image is an eyepatch, and if he's come up to bother me about my noise level at this hour of night, he's gonna need one very shortly. But no, he's not up here to fact, he's as surprised to see me as I am to see him.

"Sorry," GH slurs, "I thought it was Dave up here, doing stuff." Dave is the building manager, the one I wrote all of those letters to, the one who said that he'd kick Robert, a.k.a. Guitar Hero, out when he found out that GH was smoking pot in the apartment. And, despite the fact that GH *still* smokes pot in his apartment and has somehow managed to maneuver his amp back to his rye-soaked bosom (TWICE!), Dave has still not kicked GH out. Why, you may well ask? Good question. Read on, gentle listener, the truth is out there...

"No, it's just me," I say, trying very hard not to breathe in through my nose, "I'm just cleaning up the place so I can get out."

"Oh, okay," says GH, "well, I thought it was Dave, so I thought I'd come up and see him. He's borrowing our bird for a magic show, did you know?"

I assure him I did not know. Funny how chummy he makes it all sound... Dave was the fellow who told me in no uncertain terms that he wasn't there to be my friend when I asked for his full name on the day I signed the lease. No, really. I just wanted to know the building manager's name, in case there was a problem (little did I know...), and was promptly informed that he wasn't there to be my friend. Broke my heart, it did...I'd had visions of having him over for tea, going to the movies together, attending the symphony...all shattered. It was devastating. Luckily, I'm strong and I got over it. Oh, but I'm being rude, GH is still talking...

"Oh, well, he's borrowing our bird for a magic show, he's gonna perform a magic show next week at the rec centre, and...and he's gonna pull her outta a hat."

So Darling, a.k.a. Monkeyman, is a she. Somehow I wasn't expecting that. But if that kind of took me aback, was I ever in for a shock...

GH leans in and asks, "You know about Dave, right?"

I'm tired and cranky and just want to finish my cleaning. "In what way?"

"Well, you know about him, right?" I shake my head, wishing I could just slam the door in his face...but I might hurt the bird, and after all it's been through, it probably doesn't need to lose any more feathers.

"Well," GH whispers conspiratorially, "he buys women's dresses...offa Sandy...y'know, to wear 'em...he likes to wear 'em..."


What do you say to that? Seriously. If there's anything written in any etiquette books or Dear Abby that tells you how to respond to something like that, I've never read it. What could I say, honestly? I just shrug.

GH starts waving his hands all over the place, like he just farted and is trying to disperse the smell. "Oh, but whatever, man, you know, I don't care, don't matter to me, whatever...but anyway, if you need any paint or nails or anything, you just lemme know, I got lots a' nails and stuff downstairs, okay?"

I thank him and say good night and close the door and dissolve into a fit of hysterical giggles. The hell??? Christ, I wish I was making this up, but I'm just not that good! And suddenly, all of the pieces of this deranged puzzle that's been building over the past year click into their respective places...

Why the Guitar Hero keeps getting his amp back...

Why he still smokes pot in his apartment and never gets evicted...

Why I can call the cops twice a month and nothing is ever truly done about it...

Guitar Hero has "information" on the building manager.

Y'know, I used to joke about maybe GH having snapshots of Dave with a goat or maybe he was Dave's weed supplier, but I can honestly say, as demented as I am, that I never, ever once thought of the possibility of Dave buying dresses off of GH's girlfriend. I don't know why, I'm sure it's a common practice in apartment buildings, especially in that neighbourhood...guess I just have no imagination.

So there you are...your friendly neighbourhood Scooby gang has managed to ferret out the Mystery of the Lingering Guitar Hero, and it wasn't Old Man Withers this time...go figure.

The Note Heard Round the World

The following is a note that I posted on my Facebook page on December 13, 2007. It started the wave of peer pressure that has been pushing me to write a blog for the last year, so I figured it was only fitting I post it here for all the world to see. After my marriage broke down, I found myself a little apartment that I figured would just be a temporary space while I decided what to do. Unfortunately, the people living in the same building were intolerable to live with and I moved out the second my lease expired. However, the aftereffects of that Address from Hell linger on...oh, the humanity...

Anyone who's spoken to me in the last few months knows how very much I detest my downstairs neighbours. These people are white trash. I say this with no snobbery, just a statement of fact, to whit:

1) They have a trailer home parked in their parking space that's being used to house a huge amount of old furniture that they've, apparently, been hauling around just, y'know, 'cuz...

2) They have no concept of the phrase "indoor voice" -- in their world, it's not worth saying unless everyone on their floor, and the poor saps living above them (a.k.a. me), can hear what's being said. What they have to say is just that damn important.

3) Not only is it important, but it contains some of the foulest language I've heard outside of an Al Pacino movie or a group of drunk navy guys. These people have used forms of the c-word, the f-word, and the n-word (yes, *that* word) that have never before been used by man. It's almost awe-inspiring, until it finally gets so annoying you wanna chuck some skunk juice through their window.

4) They don't drink anything if it doesn't contain some form of alcohol. No, I'm not peeping -- their garbage is full of empty bottles of Vodka, rum, and rye...and no mix. How do I know it's their garbage? They like to let it collect over a few days in a box outside their door before going to the trouble of disposing it. Why make twenty trips when you can just make one big one, right? And I know it's all theirs because, despite the amount of noise coming from their place, they don't have parties. They don't have to, because...

5) They have an Eric Clapton-wannabe living with them. His name is Robert. I met him at a Building Safety meeting the other night. He's 44, smokes pot for his bad back (he actually announced this in the middle of the meeting, with half of his neighbours, two cops and the building manager. Right. There. I've forgotten now, what was the term I used to describe them? It was right on the tip of my tongue...), and his proudest achievement seems to be that he got Jerry Garcia to sign his guitar a long time ago. He also weaved a lot and reeked of rye. See number 4 above.

So...I've been living with the Guitar Hero (as I dubbed him) in the apartment below me for the last few months. How many months, I can't be sure of exactly...I'm afraid the last few months are kind of a blurry haze, seeing as how I haven't been able to get more than 5 hours sleep at a time. You see, the Guitar Hero likes to play his guitar loud. Like really loud. Like cranked-up-to-eleven loud. So loud that my windows vibrate, and I can hear the crystal wine glasses in my china cabinet make that high-pitched singing sound that I thought was only in movies. You know the whining sound that they foley in for crystal to make, just before it shatters everywhere in a dramatic display of power? Yeah, that sound. It's a pretty wicked sound in a movie. It's fucking terrifying when you're standing two feet away from it, feeding your pet rabbits while, at the same time, evaluating just how shrapnel-resistant your sofa may possibly be in case you have to leap behind should they finally decide to blow.

And not only does pot-smoking, rye-drinking, Deadhead Robert like to play his guitar, the other guy that lives with him and his girlfriend likes Abba. Now, this in and of itself is not a crime. I, myself, enjoy much of Abba's music, and have been known to cut a rug to one or two of their songs at one time or another. However, Abba Lover loves his Abba so much, he likes to share. Isn't that sweet? So they have wars. The Guitar Hero will crank up his amp and start playing "Satisfaction", and, in retaliation, Abba Lover will crank up "Take a Chance on Me". These are not styles of music that go together, in any way, shape or form. This would be, by itself, a bad situation. What makes this bad situation intolerable is that these fine, upstanding models of society like to do this Dueling-Banjos style of battle at 3 o'clock in the morning. Roughly. Very roughly.

I gently informed the building manager of this, just in case he hadn't been able to hear the dulcet tones of the Looneybirds in the next building over. He was well aware of the problem, but needed enough written complaints to actually do something. So I wrote. And I wrote. I wrote a goddamn novel, people! And I'm pleased, ever so pleased, to finally announce...there is peace in the valley once more. At the same meeting wherein I met Robert the Deadhead, I was also informed that he had had his guitar amp confiscated. Also, because he was so outstandingly brilliant about announcing his medical use of cannabis in front of the building manager after signing an addendum on his rental notice stating that he would never, ever, not in a million years, even *think* of doing such a thing as smoking pot in the apartment, oh heavens no, it would never happen -- he's been threatened with eviction.

hhackhac... "cough, cough" Sorry about that, I just had this strange coughing fit come over me, give me a moment, will you?

Thanks. I'm good now. Not sure where that came from...

So, there is finally, after many months of suffering and long sleepless hours, no more guitar-induced migraines. Abba Lover still likes to crank up his music, but it doesn't last long before someone else turns it down. The only problem that I can see from this entire situation is that now the Guitar Hero and the Abba Lover don't seem to have a musical outlet for their aggression anymore, so they've taken to shouting at each other (and the girlfriend, if she tries to intervene), and beating each other's brains in on a semi-nightly basis. I can hear a great deal of thudding and banging downstairs, but they seem to beat each other into comas by around 9pm-ish or so, and all is silent. I can still get a good night's sleep in by then, so it's all good.

The Guitar Hero is no more. Long live the Abba least until the Guitar Hero kills him.

Aaaaand...ACTION! Uh, is this thing on...?

Okay, so I've caved in to peer and family pressure and decided to start a blog. And here it is. Exciting, no?

Seriously, I've been thinking about doing a blog for a little over a year, but always felt so intimidated by the idea. I mean, there are literally THOUSANDS of blogs out there, fer chrissakes! And who the hell really wants to read the ramblings of yet another loser who thinks that writing about what they had for breakfast this morning is compelling reading? And besides the sheer volume of blogs to contend with, I know nothing...and I mean NA-THING...about computer stuff. HTML, WAP, SMS, WTF??? Waaaay over my head, dude. There's no way I could run a webpage or a blog or a Twitter account or what have you...although I've gotten pretty adept at Facebook. That was probably the jumping-off point for me, creating my own Facebook page. After having one for, what, one, two years now?, I figured "hey, if I can log in long enough to update my status, send messages, comment on every gorram picture my friends have ever posted, and generally waste precious hours of my social life on my Facebook page, maybe a blog isn't such a far-flung idea."

Which leads us here.

At this point, I honestly don't know what direction this will go, and I don't know how long I'll stick with it. I've always loved writing, but have historically been better at short story writing than creating a novel (and believe me, it's not for lack of trying). Perhaps a blog will allow me to get my short-story idea bursts out and about without taking up the time and fortitude required for a novel. Or perhaps I'll get bored with it and quit after three posts. Who knows? Place your bets!

As it stands, I'm recovering from a migraine and have nothing better to do with my time today than to stare at a bright 32" screen and create my first blog entry...where's the Tylenol...?