Christmastime in the Emerald City

First, let me clarify my definition of fat. I am by no means the most slender girl on the block. Goddamn if I don’t love my occasional eighteen thousand calorie latte. And I know that when you settle into your nine to five grind, heaven knows eventually spitting out a kid or two, the body starts to sag and the will to drag your ass around the block a few times becomes little more than a dream. Neither am I talking about the tall and mesomorphic. Hell, most guys I date fall far on the heavy side. One of my favourite friends is built like an ogre: tall and massive. But he is not what I would call fat. Fat to me is something entirely different that has more to do with your brain than your body.

Fat is someone on the Learning Channel in one of those specialized hospitals that the rest of us fucking pay for, cramming cheeseburgers into their mouths and crying about how they are addicted. Fuck you. Fuck you and the fattest part of your mother. Food makes you happy, yes, it dumps endorphins into your brain. So does medication you fat fuck. So does chocolate for that matter, and sex. Hell, sex is even good for exercise. You’d be getting more of it if you weren’t such a fat bastard. Food is not heroin. You will not fall over into a vomiting, shitting, shaking mess if your FritoLays are taken away from you, so fuck off about your ‘addiction’.

Fat is the Winners-enrobed twit next to me in line waiting for her starbucks,  going into great detail with her friend about how her latest diet is perfect because it gives her a schedule of exactly what to eat when and how it fits her nine to five oh-so-well, as though her schedule were somehow difficult. Since when the fuck do you need someone to tell you when to eat? Didn’t your mother stop doing that when you were five? Your body tells you when to eat, you dumb chubby moron, and if you listened to it, you wouldn’t be a dumb chubby moron in the first place! Drag yourself around the block. Or better yet, instead of sending back your latte because you didn’t want foam, spend the ten calories by lifting your arm and scooping it out yourself. That’s the only thing the barrista is going to do anyways.

Fat is also the reoccuring bitch on the bus who takes up two seats with her blubber and half of the aisle in front of her as well, as her back-fat pushes the rest of the monstrosity that is her body far enough forward that she may as well collect pity money between her giant tits. Fat is her great doughy ball of a hand as she holds her cell phone to her ear and loudly, LOUDLY yammers away to some coworker or another about what a bitch the boss is. Verbatim, the boss is such a bitch, while some too-polite mother at the back of the bus who can hear this whale just as well as everybody else within a 20-yard radius clamps her hands over the tender ears of her five year old, who will now undoubtedly ask her mommy what a bitch is anyways.

Fat is less an issue of weight and more one of volume and whining. If you just sat there and kept your goddamned mouth shut, I might be kind enough to write you off as a walking glandular problem. I wouldn’t hate you on sight. It’s your goddamned accessories that make you a fat person, the way you have to make it nothing less than your absolute identity.

Fuck you, fuck your pink iPod mini, your knock-off BabyPhat purse (the emblem of which, a slinky cat, has to be some kind of sick joke on fat people that even I’m not cruel enough to rocket over their heads), your black stripey wardrobe, your cell phone and it’s obnoxious hip-hop ring, your gargantuan earrings that in fact do NOT serve to make your face look any smaller, your ridiculous ankle-bloating pumps, and your fat fucking waddle that blocks the rest of us from getting off the bus without having to wait for you to shift the sausage poles that are your legs out of the way.

That girl needs to get the fuck off my bus and walk. The rest of them need to get the fuck out of my way and either walk, shut up, or drop dead.

Death by cheeseburger overdose. Far more delicious than heroin.


{June 18, 2007}   Going Postal

The last time I checked, Postal Workers were paid an exorbant salary for doing what is, essentially, a shit job. What with all the carrying, and the sorting, and the walking, the driven-to-psychosis postal worker has become a cultural archetype. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, somewhere, had a fetish for postal gear and all the violence implied therewith.

I have no problem with someone getting paid a rather large salary to do an undesireable job. It only makes sense. We need postal workers, in much the same manner as we need garbage collectors and bubble-gum manufacturing machine operators (speaking from experience on that last one.) My concern is when people collect this pity money without doing said undesireable work, or at least not enough of it to garner my pity.

I’m speaking, in this instant, of the mail carrier for my work. (Naturally, as I would not bother to put to paper anything that hadn’t offended me personally). I work in a very large building. Not a skyscraper exactly, if that term is ever used, but tall enough to be referred to in its very name as a ‘tower’. A large tower, deliciously owned by a large corporation to hold several other large corporations. There are 23 floors.

I work on the 15th floor, for a rather large corporation. We lease office space and provide administrative support services to a multitude of smaller businesses, or satellite offices of massive businesses. Now that my blog has become a little more ranty, I’ll refrain from listing names. However, if they are big and they have money, you can bet they’ve got an office here. We also have, besides fifty-something actual offices, a great number of virtual clients who use our ‘prestigious, class A’ business address to beef up their own small operations. We receive mail and/or phone calls for these clients. And while we do have a great many clients who have been here for several years, some as many as a decade, we do have somewhat of a turnover. Such anonymity, afterall, is sure to attract a few fly-by-night scams, who’s correspondance arrives in our box months after their departure. We have also had plenty of legitimate clients who simply did not bother to cancel their magazine subscriptions upon leaving.

In short, we get a fuckload of mail.

Now, the issue is not time. I have plenty of time to meander around the internet and write blogs, and do all sorts of fun things. It would be no sweat off my back to have to sort far more mail than actually comes in. However, we here in this office do not get paid to sort any more mail than what actually comes in. We certainly do not get paid to sort mail for the rest of this ‘tower’. 

Here’s how it works; upon returning from my lunch break, I retrieve our mail from the handy little box in the lobby. I heft it to the incapacitatingly slow elevators (as there is usually a fair bit of it – enough to surely constitute an ‘armload’) and bring it to our Customer Service Representative. She shares in my distaste for the inefficient, though does not have quite the same hate-on for the mailman. She sorts the mail for our in-office clients, and our virtual clients. She then hands to me the leftovers, comprised of misdirected, incorrectly addressed items, as well as those intended for clients who have long since vacated the premises. There are also a few clients who like to be personally notified of their incoming mail – I handle this as well.

My daily mail ritual, short as it tends to be, generally pisses me off. I get angry enough flipping through ‘please give money to your Alma Mater’ postcards and other unsolicited junk intended for a great deal of clients who are no longer here. Thanks for not changing your address and sticking us with all your crap. It pisses me off further to receive misdirected mail that somehow wound up in our building despite being addressed to a completely different postal code. It irks me to a fantastic degree to receive, for the THIRD TIME, mail that I have indicated as being improperly directed. “This person is not at this address”, is likely to be followed by “this person is STILL not here,” which in turn is likely to be followed by angry scribbling and a last-ditch sticker to cover our address. It takes every ounce of my self-restrain to not write ‘CAN YOU PEOPLE NOT FUCKING READ?!?!?!?!?’ all over it.

What stops me is the brainwashed loyalty to my employer, the fear that the eventual recipient would be in the precise market for our services, and would then be convinced enough of my psychosis to seek out a competitor.

 Now, all of the above can be attributed, somwhere, somehow, to some sorting machine in a post office somewhere, that suffered a glitch. And irksome as it may be, these machines are not paid, and cannot feel the wrath of my anger. To some degree then, I let it slide. What I cannot let slide is when the very human individual who sorts mail for this building drops upwards of ten items in our box that are correctly addressed, but intended for another floor. If we can alphabetically sort mail for over 60 clients, how difficult can it be to sort mail for 23 floors?

Not only am I left with this person’s job to do, but other people are missing their mail. If it’s a federal offence to open someone else’s mail or take it, or otherwise tamper with it, then surely it is not okay for one to simply shove it into whatever box is handy and decide that it will get there someday. NOT OKAY!!! Not okay.

Taking up my valuable blogging time is bad enough, but delaying other people’s necessary business functions makes you more than inept – it makes you a goddamned liability.

I took a little bit of responsibility on this one, got a little more gutsy than I usually am anywhere other than in my head or on paper. I kept all the misdirected envelopes, stacked them together neatly in ascending order of their correct destination: 9th floor, 10th floor, 12th floor, 16th floor, and so on. When the mailman came in today, I first clarified that he was in fact the person responsible for sorting the mail, and not just delivering it. When he confirmed that yes, he was our half-ass of a sorter, I handed him the bundle with a curt “These are for you.” He looked through them, aghast, as I explained precisely how many people we sort the mail for, precisely how little time we have to do his job, and precisely how many people were missing their mail due to his broader than usual lack of sorting.

The resulting sulk of a retreat was heartwarming indeed. I like to think that I’ve done a service to the other corporations in this here tower. I doubt that any fuck-uppery to such a large degree will occur again. If it does, I will demand some overtime out of his far overpaid pocket.

{June 15, 2007}   Frighteningly Accurate

This, according to one of those Toys-for-your-Blog sites, is what my obituary will read.


I sincerely hope this comes true.

*also note that this is the second quiz to determine that there are multiples of me.

So I live in the Annex, in one of these quad-plex like apartment buildings. Small, well-lit, cheap, cute. Built in the 20’s, revamped in the 60’s. I leave my door unlocked, much to the shock of a good majority of visitors. It’s safe, it’s quiet, it’s perfect. I adore my apartment.

 I do not adore my downstairs neighbour, Jane. My downstairs neighbour Jane can go fuck herself to the tune of Frank Sinatra, or whatever I happen to be playing during what the city deems to be reasonable hours. And it would be preferrable if she used her obnoxious bike in some obscene manner.

My trouble with Jane started last fall, when she casually asked about the presence of any cats, perhaps, one particular Friday as we crossed paths at the bottom of the stairs. Yes, I said, I have two kittens. I expected a smile, having recalled overhearing the other downstairs girl, Jennifer, apologizing for letting her cat wander into the stairwell; the ensuing pleasantries gave a general indication that Jane was in fact fond of this cat. If nothing else, I had thought of an “oh, how sweet” or “how old are they?” or some other type of nicety. Instead I got a cold “yes, I can hear them sometimes.”

“Uh-huh,” came my reply. “Well, they are kittens. They can be rambunctious at times.” Lovely, I thought. Not only is my downstairs neighbour starting off on an unpleasant note, but this quaint (yet apparently antique) structure allows my neighbour to hear anything above a whisper. I’ll just bet she can hear me belching in front of the telly after a beer or two.

Now, Jane probably got along fantastically with the previous tenant. Her name was Lisa, a coworker of my mother’s, and quiet as a mouse. She moved out because she got married. As such, I’m certain she didn’t spend much time at the apartment; it’s hardly big enough for two. So, in moves someone who actually has a life and friends within her home, and I become the unsavoury neighbour.

Add to this my charitable nature, and we have a real problem. I had a friend living with me, you see, for what was supposed to be a few months until we saved for a bigger place, and what turned into five months until his inability to find a job became clear. This was Terry. Terry was fun, Terry was nocturnal, Terry was noisy. Jane hated Terry; Terry hated Jane. Terry wanted to cut the brakes of Jane’s bike before he moved out.

I should have let him.

Terry was noisy even for me. But when Jane came pounding up the stairs one evening, yelling for ‘that fucking idiot upstairs to turn down that goddamned music’ because she was trying to sleep, she fell out of any favour she may have had to begin with. Firstly, don’t be passive-aggressive – knock on my door without waking the rest of the building. Secondly, I’m fairly sure by-laws were on our side. It wasn’t exactly midnight. Thirdly, tact: “Listen guys, I know you probably stay up late, but I’m going to bed right now, and I’d really rather not have to hear your music this late. Can you turn it down please, and keep your neighbours in mind?” Even said with the hautiest of disdain, this would have been completely acceptable, and grounds for profuse apologies on my part. Instead, I flung open the door, having already asked Terry to turn it down because I knew it was too loud, and announced “It’s already turned down, isn’t it?”

Naturally, the receipt for the following month’s rent included a note from my very polite and tactful landlord to please consider my neighbours, as he had received some noise complaints. “I want to make everybody happy,” it said, in it’s broken English way. How sweet is that?

Well, Terry departed a few weeks ago, having decided that Toronto is too full of itself for his taste. In his absence, I myself am far quieter. Yet, I am also productive. I am going to put up shelving, and I am going to paint and redecorate. And with such a narrow staircase, I am likely to bump into the wall adjacent to Jane’s bedroom with the six foot long strip of moulding or whatever else I’ve just purchased. Shouldn’t be a problem at 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon. Hammering is irritating, fantastically irritating, yes. But it has to be done on occasion. I chose Saturday afternoon for that occasion. Most, I think, would agree. Apparently not Jane, who seems to think I need to consult her before dropping a pin, never mind the remote control.

Another episode occured just a few nights ago. I have another friend, far less intrusive, who is in the middle of moving: out of old place, new place not yet ready, and not wanting to spend every single night in her boyfriends bachelor. She gave me her old bed frame – she is allowed to stay over as often as she wishes. However, she forgot her keys one evening, and our quaint building does not have working doorbells. Shouldn’t be a problem, I said. Simply call up from downstairs, I’ll leave the window open. Christ, we live in the Annex – even Jane should know that with the windows open, a flood of other peoples conversations will pour in. It’s a fantastic intersection for scenesters.

Well, Jane heard my friend before I did. And instead of perhaps going downstairs to open the door, or coming upstairs to knock on my door and (even rudely!)  inform me that someone was calling my name incessantly outside, she simply slammed her window shut, sending the pigeons off in front of everybody’s window in a flurry. The friend informed me that all of Jane’s lights were off at the time – she must have woken her.

This was at nine-thirty in the evening. Nine-thirty. At this point, even if she had confronted me directly – politely, rudely, whatever fashion she could surmise – I would have had zero sympathy. I do not care if you have to get up at five in the morning; you cannot expect others around you to adhere to your schedule.

The lingering problem is that she doesn’t confront me. Neither a knock nor a note has found it’s way to my door. She resorts, instead, to passive aggressive outlets that serve no purpose other than perhaps making her feel better, or more likely fueling her own rage against the world at large. She likes to thump on the ceiling, which bothers me not (in fact, it simply makes one of my three rabbits thump right back – and they love to play games). And she slams her doors, my God does she slam them. To what end? To announce her petulant comings and goings to those who could care less? What does she hope to solve? As for myself, I will let her stew. Neither a knock nor a note fall upon her door, for I have no complaint that either would solve. She may thump, she may slam to her hearts content. If a noise complaint should arise, well, one has the city by-laws and her unreasonable hours to speak of…

Should she perhaps grow a spine one of these mornings, I would have this to say: We live in an apartment building. We live in an old apartment building. Neighbours are going to hear each other; it’s an irrevocable fact of life, more inescapable than taxes. I hear Jane in her daily muddlings; her poor taste in light jazz, the thunk of her toilet lid, the grinding of her breakfast blender. In return, I expect she will hear my Frank Sinatra, my Alexisonfire, my cats and my rabbits, my hammering. During reasonable hours, of course. (And in that regard, we are not at camp or in jail – there is no ‘lights out’ at nine-thirty.)

If one does not wish to hear the daily lives of others, one should buy a house. And certainly not in the Annex for that matter. This is what the suburbs are for. Oh, but then the suburbs are not so friendly to bikers and other generally self-contained types. If you cannot afford a house in a quiet neighbourhood, far be it for you to take it out on me.

In closing: you live downtown, Jane; you may suffer my noise.

My first panic attack – before I knew what a panic attack was – involved Costco. For those of you not employed in an elite enough position to be granted a membership (nevermind the annual fee), a Costco is as follows:

– A giant, undecorated warehouse. You may buy things from skids.

– A mass of gluttony, hence buying things not just from skids, but in skids. As in “I’ll have a skid of mayo, please.” Sounds like a vague sexual euphemism. Also, those who afford their patronage to a Costco are unlikely to have manners of this high regard. It is far more likely to hear ‘Gimme that skidda mayo.’

– An opiate for the masses; a nightmare for the rest of us.

 Yes, it was during those glorious, cultureless years I spent in the suburbs that I was first dragged kicking and screaming to this madhouse of cheap fabric. In a minivan, no less, with which I have a completely different set of problems – the first and foremost being my certainty that I spew less pollution from my ass. The building loomed over the parking lot, and while my memory may not be completely correct, I do believe it squatted next to a Wal-Mart, with whom I have a set of problems worthy of it’s own blog.

I think caged, fluorescent lights should be anyone’s first warning sign. The second – concrete  floors with stripped, uneven patches – should be a red flag on par with Dr. Atkin’s dying weight. I’m sure he shopped at Costco, and he was buried in a piano box. LOOK AT THE RED FLAGS!!!!!!!!!

But in we went, hustling all together, all five of us in our quaintly dysfunctional cul-de-sac clan. My family. Nobody has any real problems on this chilly afternoon. We all just quietly, murderously hate at least one other member of this party. But we’re mildly poor, you see, so instead of admiting it, we are going to shop at Costco. That way, we’ll look elite to our neighbours, who don’t work for the government, or as a teacher, or whatever the hell else you have to be, and so have no glimmer of the sordid, grinding mess that greets patrons upon their entry through the sliding cattle gates.

 In later years, I would ponder the mentality of whatever architect vomited up this mess of an echoing cave. It seemed certain that he had, over cheap alcohol, contrived to build an amphitheatre designed solely for carrying sound, with none of this couture attempt at scenery. (To his disdain, I am sure, one had already been perched somewhere near the lake, it’s affiliation with alcohol emblazoned on its white-washed sides.) Pure function, he must have thought. For carry sound it did; and hideous it unapologetically was, and very likely remains.

The first sounds, invariably, were those of ugly, chocolate spattered children whose arms were then being wrenched and pushed by the awful, polyester clad monsters that were their mothers, barreling their way through the rest of the proles. The sound of a bothersome, rude, arrogant tot shrieking through a mouthful of needless sugar is enough to make even the kindest of persons reach out and shake the nearest child like a British nanny. Stop it! Stop it, I say!

But I was fine. I was fine, I could handle it. I could even handle the incessant drone of the cash register beeps over all the other noise. All that noise. Look, my mom said, they have muffins. I like muffins, the crumbly apple ones. Maybe I’ll be okay. A quick shove deterred her from holding up a pair of five dollar jeans (procurred, yes, from a skid) to my waist; it was possible to defend oneself, yes. I was fine.

And then I saw it. From beyond the blue-jeaned Jordache-esque skid, I saw. That maddening inescapable pattern, unfolding before my apathetic eyes, which had glazed in an effort of self-soothing. Like John Nash, it became so obvious, so completely neon obvious that it nearly broke my brain trying to understand how nobody else could see.

We were new here, you see, my family and I. It was a novelty, these five dollar jeans, this cave of cheap madness. We had not yet succumbed to the Costco way. But there were others, yes, many others who had already made Costco their deity. With only a glance at the eyes, one could tell. Us newbies gazed around; my family with wonder, myself with fear. Those who were familiar with these concrete floors and caged lights moved more deftly between the skids and towering steel shelves. The experts would disappear behind a shelf and return, arms loaded, within a second. They moved through the entire warehouse without ever retracing their steps. They were magic. They were fat.

Yes, it made sense. The longer one shopped here, the fatter one became. Not ‘I work 9-5 and have kids and no time to exercise’ fat. Obese ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, because Costco loves me’ fat. And the hair. It became dirtier, pulled back in a rubber band. The clothing leaned more towards the flannel or polyester, floral patterns abounded! It was a cult! An inward-sucking, life-destroying cult! We had to get out!

It was the chip dip. The epitome of it all was the barrel of chip dip I vaguely recall trying to point at with a weak, dissociated limb. The concept of Costco is that we save pennies by buying in bulk. But nobody needs a barrel of chip dip. It expires, you see, and so we eat more of it, eating in fear of that looming date when the effort we’ve made to save will be for nought. And it’s okay, because we save money. Our mindless minds continue on in this buy more, eat more, save more pattern until we become a Dr. Phil sideshow. The reason it’s more expensive to buy chip dip in little, convenient tubs is to spare ourselves the embarassment of having a barrel of chip dip! Nobody, upon discovering a barrel of chip dip stored in someones garage, would think ‘this person is fiscally responsible.’ No, they would think that person has a problem. A smoked salmon flavoured problem.

But nobody could see this! I began gasping for air, like a deer in the headlights, trying to grab my mothers arm and pull her away from a skid of ketchup. But like with so many panic attacks, it was all on the inside. Apparently I was just standing still, another bleak teen resorting to passive-aggression in whatever lame situation her family had put her in. I was trying to save them! But nobody could see it…no, nobody could see. I don’t know if I fainted, or screamed, or simply turned inwards until it was over, but somehow, I got out. I got out and never went back.

Years later, I live downtown, on my own. I’m surrounded by yoga, and vegetarians, and theatre schools and thai restaurants. Posters that invite one to a documentary on this issue or that; the pharmaceutical lies and the God problem. I have a corner store nearby, where I pay a little bit more to buy things in small, convenient sizes. And I only buy what I need. It costs a bit more; not much, but more. But I’m free. Free of that enslaving suburban monster, that consuming, squatting block of noise. I don’t have to pass it on my way to anywhere. Free.

As for my mother, I still visit her in the suburbs. I think she may be free as well; she divorced my awful stepdad, moved into a cute townhouse, and is dating a nice boy only a few years older than me. And I hope it all works out, I really do. Because I still, once in a while, go through her cupboards in search of oversized foodstuffs. Large containers in her garage, if unlabelled, are opened in hopes of varnish and paint, but in fear of mayonnaise and other condiments. It’s a small habit that keeps the panic away.

Also, I can never, ever, be anywhere near anything that smells like smoked salmon.

et cetera