Saturday 31 January 2015

Pay Phones

I’m not sure why, but I was lying in bed this morning thinking of pay phones. It would be nice to think that the memory was the last remnants of a particularly wonderful dream, not just some random thought that spun itself into my brain.
You don’t see pay phones much anymore, and to tell the truth I can’t remember the last time I saw one on the street. I suspect that the odd bar and most federal buildings will have them tucked away in some unobtrusive corner for the odd, antiquated person who shuns modern technology. Now that I am thinking about it, there were pay phones in the hotel lobbies down in Las Vegas. I guess anything that takes coins is fair game in Vegas. I kind of miss the pay phones; just seeing them gave me a feeling of being in touch no matter where I found myself in the world.
I can remember that pay phones were on almost every corner when I was a kid. The ones that I remember all had coins slots for 5¢, 10¢ and 25¢. For most of my life a call cost 10¢, but changed to 25¢ when I was a teenager. You could always get the operator for free and in a pinch you could make a collect call for someone to come and rescue you. Normally, you would always have a dime or a quarter in your pocket in case of an emergency. Sometimes you would have to make a decision whether you needed a candy bar more than you needed that feeling of security access to a pay phone. In my experience, munchies would trump safety every time.
I went out with a girl who had a necklace that held a quarter inside of it. I suspect that her dad bought her the necklace when I started to date her. It was kind of pretty and useful at the same time. She spent the money once and somehow her dad found out and she was grounded for a week. I carried a keychain that held a quarter for a number of years and just never used it. By that time in my life, I always had some coins in my pocket and never had to use me “emergency” quarter.
Phone booths weren’t just for making phone calls. Each and every phone booth had two phone books, a white pages and a yellow page directory which were handy if you got “sort of” lost and actually needed the correct address of someplace. The pages were also good if you needed to make a note or write down that cute girls name and phone number. The booths provided temporary shelter from the rain and wind. I would often duck into a phone booth when the wind was howling to light a cigarette with relative ease. In later years the phone company built phone booths without doors for some reason and an opening at the top and bottom which the wind blew through with ease.  Shortly after that, the phone booths lost their “booth” part and became phones with two short sides attached.  Probably they figured out how to waterproof the phones by then.
Phone booths began to wane with the proliferation of cell phones. The ones that were left fell into disrepair and more often than not would be missing the phone books or have the handset missing or damaged. I suppose that they ceased to make a profit for the phone company and just became a liability over time.

I kind of miss phone booths, but I have a cell phone myself and can’t imagine a time that I would use one now. Even if I were without my cell phone, someone I was with or even a perfect stranger would loan me theirs for a quick call. Times do change, and I suppose we change with them.

Friday 30 January 2015


Most of the time, you and I go about our lives without paying too much attention to the other people who are going about their lives ignoring us. That is just the way of the world. I think our brains would explode if we actually filled it with day to day detritus that had nothing to do with us. Well, either that or people would begin to call us geniuses.

Part of what happens is that our brain sees something and automatically assumes it is the same something that it has seen a thousand times before. That isn’t always the case and it is just those cases that we should be paying attention to because the odd time they might just be important. Not likely, but you never know.

I was returning my bottles and cans to the bottle depot this morning before they get covered with the snow we are expecting tonight. I was driving along a road on the way when for some reason all of the vehicles cut into my lane. Something was different so I needed to put my brain back into gear and figure out what it was. It turns out there was some construction going on. What that means in Calgary is that at some point just before the rush hour, the city workers moved some big equipment into the middle lane and put out about a hundred orange traffic cones so that we drivers will avoid that large, yellow piece of equipment that is towering above everything else. There are rarely any workers doing anything other than smoking or sitting in city owned pickups doing something with their smart phones.
One of the vehicles that cut in front of me was a Police pickup truck. Why the cops need pickup trucks, I will never know. Maybe to haul away the guns and drugs they get when someone gets busted. Maybe the cops are into tail gating at football games. The only thing that made this truck stick out is the cover on the lights on the roof. The cover said “OUT OF SERVICE”
I have seen buses and cabs with OUT OF SERVICE signs before, but never a cop car. It isn’t as if many people try to flag down a cop as he is passing. Half of the people aren’t eager to draw police attention to themselves and the other half of us would call the cops if we needed one. Obviously someone felt it was important enough to have covers for the lights made up. I would have thought a piece of cardboard tucked in the front or rear window that had “OUT OF SERVICE” written in felt marker would do the trick just fine.

I kind of wanted to get his attention at the lights to ask him what the sign was about, but I couldn’t because he was “OUT OF SERVICE”.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Sign The Books Out

Have you ever wondered just what it is that makes us human? Neither have I, until today.

Sure we have a big brain and opposable thumbs which enable us to make and use tools, manipulate things in our environment and they give us the ability to take a rock or a club and smash something’s brains out. It’s what we do. NO, I think that maybe it is our emotions that separate us from all of the other animals that walk, fly and swim around this planet.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a squirrel go into a rage when he can’t find the nuts he stashed last autumn. I’ve never seen one dancing ecstatically when he found those nuts either. I have watched two squirrels having sex and they seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a lot. I guess they found their nuts. I was wondering what the reaction would be if they couldn’t find the nuts for a day or so and then just as they are ready to give up, they remember where the nuts are. They run over and dig up the nut or nuts, crack one open only to find that it has gone bad. You know that taste of rotten nuts. It is just horrible. The squirrel takes a nibble and then just tosses it aside. They don’t get upset or angry; they just try to remember the location of the next stash.

Dogs seem to be happy pretty much all of the time. Well, dogs that live with you, dogs that live in houses you are trying to drop some mail off at are rarely friendly. Cats have just one emotion, indifference.

Today I was in the library trying to see if there is a book calling my name. There wasn’t, but we should never give up. On my way out, there were two men looking at the tray of kiddie books that the library staff picks out so that the kids can get an assortment without having to go through every book in the place. This helps with indecisive children and saves hours of time for the moms. I thought it was nice that these men who are from a country where the woman generally raises the kids would take the time to get some books for the kiddies. Of course they love their kids and it made me smile and somewhat renewed my faith in my species.

It is amazing how fast that warm, fuzzy feeling changed to disgust and disappointment. They took the bags of books and walked out of the library without signing them out. Now, I have no idea what the plan was, but I suspect that they just assumed they could take the books and bring them back when they were finished. They might bring the books back right away or the books might just get lost under a bed or in the bottom of a toy box. I followed them out and when I caught up to them I mentioned that the books needed to be signed out. They turned right around and went back into the library to sign them out. Well, I assume they signed them out; I had other things to do.

The library no longer has staff at the entrance and exit. I suppose it is a cost cutting measure, but if books keep disappearing, there won’t be any savings at all. No problem, just raise the taxes a little. Our city used to charge $12 dollars a year for a membership, but this January the library became free. I don’t think it was a good idea, but they say more money will be made in fines than they made in fees. Just good business I suppose.

Well, assuming people actually sign the books out. 

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Facebook is Like Dancing

Every now and then on facebook I get little placards that say something like “If you love someone in heaven re-post this on your timeline for 24 hours”

I understand the sentiment behind it, and I don’t fault anyone for remembering the ones they love in their own way, but I don’t want to hear about it on facebook. There are some people in Heaven that I love and who were taken far too soon and a few others that weren’t taken soon enough for my liking. Sorry for your loss people, I hope that you have nothing but happy memories of your loved one.

The facebook entries that really get my goat are those stupid ones that say “Share if you love your son/daughter/wife.” or “Share if you have a beautiful daughter.” I keep wanting to write “I do love my son and one of my daughters, but the other one is a whirling bitch most of the time and I just don’t care for her at all.” I can’t say that because it isn’t true and even if it were I would hate for the good one to think I didn’t like her. Even if you have a dog faced monkey for a kid you would have to say they are beautiful or else everyone on facebook would think you were a complete ass. I am, but I don’t want everyone on facebook to think that.

Oh yeah, I don’t like the ones that say “I know 99.99999% of you won’t share this, but let’s see who are good, kind and caring people.” Then there is some long winded story about someone who is fighting cancer and if you really cared you would help this person go viral before they lose their battle with cancer. Well, shit! Who doesn’t want to be that .00001% of the population who cares if this dying kid gets his last wish? If you could actually help the person get healthy, I would go for it, but by the time I got the facebook notification, that person is generating those “If you love someone in heaven re-post this on your timeline for 24 hours”.

Let’s see, what else don’t I like about facebook? I don’t care about your shitty Monday or that you couldn’t get enough sleep because your baby was sick. I do, but there is nothing I can do about it and we all went through it with our kids. I kind of like the idea that someone else is losing sleep because of a sick kid. I’d hate to think it was just Louise and I who lost sleep. Well, Louise lost sleep; I pretty much slept through everything. The Monday thing…suck it up, everyone has to go to work on Monday. Well, I don’t. Heheheheheheh.

I couldn’t care less about your commute or those petty work problems. You have a job, be thankful.

I like to see jokes and entertaining videos. It is nice to hear that you had a great day or went to a concert. I do hate it when you are in a tropical place and I’m not, but I want to see that too. Just show me the happy things in your life on facebook. If you need to talk about the darkness, that is better done person to person and I am available if you need me.

I know that everyone will keep doing what they want to do on facebook. Maybe facebook is like dancing, you should facebook like no one is watching…

Tuesday 27 January 2015

A Dirty Job

My wife’s nephew is on vacation in France, the lucky dog.
I suppose that like all tourists he is spending a goodly amount of time rubbernecking at all of the marvellous sites that Paris has to offer. I assume he is in Paris, but for all I know he could be touring the country side in a hover craft. That would be pretty cool too. There is just so much to see that it would take several lifetimes to feel even a little bit sated.

When Louise and I went to England, we took a bus tour of London, went to Portsmouth and wandered through Nelson’s ship, ventured into the “tube” station, tinkled in the Museum of London and stood on the parapets of Lewes Castle watching ghostly hoards trying to breach the walls. The entire time we spent in England we would pass something or some place that caught our attention, look at each other and say “next time”. There hasn’t been a “next time” yet, but there will be.

Places like England and France just seem to resonate to me. Partly because my ancestors were kicked out of England and partly because I have studied the British Empire in school and watched so many movies that I feel I know this place. The same is true for France to a lesser degree, but so much of the modern world was formed hundreds of years ago in those European countries. What an amazing place!

The nephew is only there for a short time so it is unlikely he will get his fill of
France but I imagine he will make a point of planning a “next time”. One thing he is doing that I would never in a million years have thought of is taking a cooking course. He is learning to make croissants. Of course France is famous for its cooking schools, but taking lessons isn’t the first thing I think of when on holidays. I might the next time I find myself on a holiday.

Now that I am thinking along those lines, I vaguely remember reading about gambling classes when we were in Vegas. I didn’t pay much attention because I don’t really gamble that much. I don’t gamble that much because I generally lose. I lose because I have never learned how to gamble properly. The casinos do offer this free of charge, but I think it’s like a heroine dealer offering the first hit for free. I think I will take an hour or two the next time I am south of the border and learn how to play roulette. If the Canadian dollar stays as low as it is now, I’ll need to win big just to pay the hotel bill.

I guess there are classes to take in Hawaii as well, but I will be pretty busy walking along the beach and eating shave ice. Most of the classes offered there would actually involve physical activity and some co-ordination. Nope, I think I should stick with my strengths, walking on the beach watching the scantily clad young women. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Monday 26 January 2015


I don’t know what it is about the last two or three bananas of the bunch, but in our house more often than not they just sit there getting spottier, darkening and eventually shrivelling and drying up until they look like some weird Mexican pepper. I realize that this is wholly our problem and the bananas shouldn’t be held accountable at all. They shouldn’t be blamed, but I should have been born wealthy, intelligent and good looking, sometimes the world can be cruel.

Bananas have always been around in my life, and I can’t think of a time when I haven’t had a couple of bananas going bad sitting on the counter. To be fair, there are a lot of times when all of the bananas get used up and even when they are past their prime they are good to make muffins or a loaf of some kind. They are high in potassium and from what I understand; potassium is something that will give you enough energy to make it through the day.

There was a time when bananas couldn’t be had in Canada as they are delicate little fruits. Until a reliable method of refrigeration was developed bananas stayed in the tropics. Now, they are harvested before they ripen so they can be cooled and shipped to countries all over the world. My grandmother was twelve before she had a banana and she developed a lifelong love affair with them. Gram would have two bowls of porridge every morning, one with brown sugar and one with molasses, followed by a bowl of mashed bananas with a little sugar and milk. She had an amazing amount of energy well into her nineties. I like to think that bananas had at least something to do with that.

I keep buying bananas with the intention of having the same large and healthy breakfast that Gram did. I rarely do. I try, but it is difficult for me to eat that much unless it is deep fried and has absolutely no nutritional value. They do deep fry bananas don’t they?
I made a banana loaf today from three bananas that had passed their best before date. I think I baked it a little long, as it called for an hour and I let it go for 65 minutes. Thankfully, there was a loud crash on the TV which startled me wide awake and sent me bolting into the kitchen. I didn’t set the timer because how could I not remember to take the loaf out at 10:32? I suppose this is how houses burn down while some old geezer is sleeping in front of the TV at 10:00AM. It turned out okay, the house is still intact and the loaf’s crust is just a little crustier than it is meant to be.

The next time I have some half rotten bananas hanging around, I will set the timer and make sure that Louise is around. Just in case…