Posts from the ‘Rant or Rave’ Category

Day 14 of 100 Happy Days – Have a Hug, Old Man Winter.

Day 14-100

Day 14 of 100 Happy Days

It was -21*C in Edmonton yesterday. That was the air temperature. With the wind, it felt like -30*C.  That’s cold. That’s 10 minutes before exposed skin freezes. It was only 10*C colder on Mars…

I often wonder why Canada is populated.  Why didn’t the first settlers just say, “Damn it’s cold. Let’s move South”? Who knows, but they didn’t.  Instead they hunkered down in their sod huts, their layers of fur and toughed it out.

We sort of do a 21st century version of that, too. It is funny the coping mechanisms we use. Having lived all across Canada, I have heard all the catch phrases.

At least it is not -40*C for the 14th day in a row like on the Prairies,” they say in Eastern Canada.

At least were not getting hit by another blizzard like in the Atlantic Canada,” they say in Central Canada.

It’s a a dry cold!” they say in the West.”At least you can dress for it.”

Oh my, shut down the City…we got  1 cm of snow last night!”, they say in BC.

We use many strategies to deal with the cold. There are two extremes: to hunker down in your Snuggie, jam on the Netflix, and hibernate for a few months, or to kit up with super high tech materials and equipment and embrace the cold. I’d say that equal amounts of both are the best way to get through the dark, cold, Canadian winter.

There is some perverse satisfaction in having faced Old Man Winter, having stared him down – asking him to throw all he has at you – and coming out on top.

“Is that all you got, Jackie Frost?”

And as you warm up in the comfort of your house with the fireplace working overtime, the furnace humming efficiently, watching Netflix as the warm winter sun comes through the window, the fact that you took the cold on like a true Canadian creates that tiny aura of contentedness and happiness that comes with facing a little adversity.

Bring it on, Winter; I can handle it – I am a happy Canadian.



ASF’s The Coronary Chronicles: I’m All In; Flop’em


(Note: First post-surgery blog. Your patience is requested today, I don’t really care how well I am spelling or using grammar; save for omitting the Oxford Comma – when it comes to that, “misuse is abuse”.)

Also, despite my personal story, Please spare a moment to remember on November 11th, and always.

At the end of the last installment of The Coronary Chronicles, (queue Newsworld Theme Music here…fade away from stock footage of Toronto’s Mayor’s latest media rant and inebriated stupor…), I had decided that I was All In. I had thrown all my chips against the House, holding a pair of Kings.  I am sure the more confident amongst you would say, “C’mon, it was Pocket Bullets” – taking into consideration my fitness, my age, a good surgeon, and how quickly we had caught the heart disease.

But, even Bullets can lose a hand of Texas Hold’em.  And, seriously, I was not a “poker-thlete”, playing for one of those bling WPT bracelets.

So after signing the permission papers for surgery, for transfusions, for medications, emergency measures AND donor card, etcetera, I left my fate to my very capable surgeon, the ironically named Dr. Payne, and the Hospital functionaries. And before long, I was scheduled for CABG on Friday 1 November.

My roommate, who despite his age, was holding a good pair of cards too, was also scheduled for Friday.

And with the practicalities now taken care, of, I entered in to the High Stakes World of Cardiac Arterial Bypass Surgery. Indulge me while I continue the sporty analogy –  the 1 and 2 of November (for those that have followed my case) were exactly like betting games.  Though this was 21st century medicine, my fears, my decisions, my concerns, my rationalisations were all like trying to figure out the best horses for the Trifecta, or figuring out the betting line on the NFL.

Let me explain:

So my roommate, aged 68, and I were both scheduled for Friday: one of us at 0800

OK gents, first one there gets new arteries...

OK gents, first one there gets new arteries…

and the other at 1300 hrs. So how do we, when asked by the Surgeon, decide who goes when? Do we arm wrestle, do we run to the operating room at the sound of the starter’s pistol, do we draw straws, cut a deck? There’s no real protocol in these instances.

My internal Good Samaritan said, “Do the right thing…”

Others, good Samaritans themselves, but more pragmatic than me, would say, “Go as early as you can, mate. Timetables change.”

Now the right thing and the smart thing are not necessarily exclusive, but I was loathe to lunge out with, “I’ll go at 8, thanks.” It seemed unsporting…

But more than that…was it smart?

Orb_kentuckyderby2013_615x400_origI mean, was the Doc at his best at 8am? Did he do better after a warm-up patient, like a baseball pitcher throwing a few fastballs before first inning, or a goalie after the pre-game warm up. I don’t know. Or would he be sharper, more fit, less tired at 8am? I needed a racing program to make an informed decision. I had no clue whether Dr. Payne was a “mudder” or “a sprinter.”



And while I knew that none of these points were relevant – as I already knew he was a brilliant surgeon with a great ability to blend fact and tact –  my mind was not there. It was in that “throw-salt-over-the shoulder”, is the “bogey-man-behind-me frame” kind of space.

Regardless of the Flop, it was decided that I would be first, with my roommate batting cleanup. For me, I’d be lying in Critical Care, sipping Demerol margaritas by noon on Friday.

It was like being told you were in the starting lineup for this week’s big game. Time for the psyche.

First went the calls to family, and then to friends, and then workmates – which in the military is like one big mixed up group. The jungle drums quickly passed the news. And as before, well wishes came from many corners of the globe – the benefits a military career.

And as  the operation marched closer, I prepared myself. I knew enough about the operation; I was not into watching You Tube videos or Google Images of actual operations. That was just too macabre. I’ll leave that to the Walking Dead fans,

I was preparing, by staying away. I did all the proper stuff – perhaps just as macabre – but necessary. I called the bank lady, and talked finances with my wife. It was unpleasant – the actual act of explaining where our money was, where it would come from if the pocket kings weren’t good enough, and how it should be dispensed so she wouldn’t be homeless or future-less – was accepting that I could lose. An unpleasant thought,  but far less unpleasant that the thought of her trying to sort it out by herself while grieving and dealing with frozen accounts as my Estate was dissolved and distributed.

And I relaxed – as best as I could knowing that I as soon going to look like a stunt-double for the movie Alien.

And then it was Friday. I was expecting to be collected at 0715hrs, so the family could make it in, congregated in my room to wish me luck. And we waited. How do you describe that feeling? Well for those in the military, it is the 4 hours you spend in the waiting area of the Base Gym or Training Facility, waiting for the bus to carry away your loved one to a deployment. For those in the military, it is the uneasy mix of wanting to spend as much time as you can with someone because sometimes Fate is cruel, and wanting it to start as soon as possible  – because it can’t end if it does not start.

And at 0800 hrs the doctor told me had an emergency case. I was not off the roster, but I was second. And my roommate third. Chances of two surgeries on Friday – good. Of three? Poor. I commiserated with him. That was a kick in the jewels – but at least he could mentally stand-down. I still had to maintain game form and keep the stiff upper lip. And I could see the strain on my loved one faces, despite the smiles and the positive words that it’ll be soon.

And the hours dragged on…1200. No word from the Operating Room. 1300 nothing. At 1330 hours, I was told that if it did not start by 1600 hrs, that my surgery would be cancelled. But this time, my sportsman’s mine started to kick in. If I was at 1600 hrs, my man would have completed almost 8 hours of complicated heart surgery. And if the surgery had been successful, he would have been lauding a couple of game –changers that he and his team executed – but he would have to have been exhausted, mentally and physically. And if it had gone poorly, would he be reliving The Sports’ Network Turning Point as he was executing mine. Rationally I knew that answer, but as a patient waiting to undergo what would probably be the biggest procedure of his life, I was not rational.


And disappointingly, but mercifully, at 1430 hrs, they waved me off. My surgery was postponed. To when, who knew. His next window was Thursday – six days away.

I was dashed, but after a chalk-talk with my family, I knew it was for the best. I want it done – but I wanted my Surgeon at his best too.

And so I waited to go through the whole thing again, when at about 2230 hrs that night, the Nurse walked into my room. “Dr. Payne” wants you to start fasting at midnight.”

I guess the game was back on…

End of Act V



ASF’s The Coronary Chronicles – Act One: It’s HRH’s fault…

Seriously, a heart attack? Seriously?

Seriously, a heart attack? Seriously?

I had a heart attack.

And as I think on it,  I don’t blame genetics, or an elevated cholesterol count. I am not mad at the few extra pounds I am packing or my penchant for BBQ and red meat, or tasty craft beers.

I blame the Royal Family for my heart attack. Them and the Royal Canadian Signals Corps…

As it happens, on a crisp, cool Friday afternoon when I should have been hoisting a few pints with my brothers-in-arm, I wasn’t.

Yes, Your Royal Highness, they were hoping you would join them for a pint..

Yes, Your Royal Highness, they were hoping you would join them for a pint..

The Worshippers of Mercury – the Spawn of the Sappers – had invited Her Royal Highness Princess Anne to Kingston to celebrate some kind of antenna raising or something. And on the very night when I should have been enjoying the comforting oak panelling and leather of the Keg Room, quaffing Paulaner and munching on potato chips and popcorn, recalling my exploits as a young dashing Sapper officer in faraway places, I wasn’t.

All because HRH was dining in the Officers’ Mess later that evening there was no Happy Hour.  Mesdames et messieurs, la messe des officiers, elle est fermée.


I suppose I could have gone elsewhere to imbibe. But I didn’t. I wanted the moral high ground and I did not need a pint really. So, I decided that I would take my faithful furry companion for a little joggle on the trails around the house and make room for a little weekend living.

And that’s when my royal pains really signalled their intent…and again, if I had  been to the mess, I would never had have an heart attack. If P then Q. (And for those that know, a small homage to Dr Ramkeesoon…)

Anyway, the run started nicely enough, confident strides, and an occasional stop to let Lola sniff the glandular calling cards left on the path by her canine neighbours. But after a steady 1500m, things went awry. I was no longer loping and enjoying. The run was harder than I thought it should be – even though I knew it had been a slog of a week. I was not enjoying it like I usually do. This time there was discomfort.

Not in my chest and not in my stomach, but in between.

In my diaphragm and lower sternum.

There was unhappiness around that barrier that protects me from the Scoville tsunami after a particularly challenging jambalaya or vindaloo. The barrier that says, “Hey man, smarten up! That capsaicin ain’t coming this way, but it sure is gonna sting coming out the other end.”

But I couldn’t really place it, I mean it’s not as if  it was like a finger at an awkward angle or a compound fracture. So, I sort of ignored it. Because that’s what guys do: “sort-of-do” stuff and “sort-of-ignore” stuff.

But after a few minutes, the discomfort moved from “this-is-just-a-shit-run-so-get-over-it-and-suck-it-up” to feeling funny. Not ha-ha funny. Funny in a “somebody-gonna-get-hurt-real- bad” kind of way. So, after slowing down, and then stopping all together, I did a mental inventory of the classic heart attack symptoms.

Now, let’s be clear. That I did an assessment in itself was an uncharacteristically mature reaction from me …nothing like the 18, 25, 35, or maybe even 45 year-old me – the one who would tell the rugby physiotherapist to add another layer of athletic tape on the disjointed pinkie, or tell his wife that a doctor is irrelevant as it has happened before and it would heal – eventually. You know the guy; the kind who would run a half-marathon with a pulled groin. (By the way, “ran” is bit of an optimistic term…)

And in hindsight, I think with that action,I have finally arrived at that age where I actually might be paying attention to my body’s flashing lights and warning indicators. I think Maslow called it “Stage 5A: Waking-the-F*ck-Up-ilization” which gladly is just mercifully short of Self-Actualization – which in this instance, unfortunately, would be reached with the exclamation of, “Oh, shit! That was a heart attack! Aaaaaaaaarghhh!”, clutching my chest as my essence headed towards the light.

I remember how, way back in 2007, I thought I was an Old Bull. Back then I felt as if I was tempering the actions of those young officers under my command. But really, I was still just a young bull myself – an older, young bull – but still a Young Bull.  But last week, on that Friday afternoon amongst the fading leaves and naked branches, as I forced myself to execute this self-triage, while bathed in the sickly unease that maybe I had jogged a step too far, I realised I may have finally earned entry into the Old Bull Club.

Sadly, however, the only cow in the lower pasture was me…

I did the run through of all the symptoms I remembered:

  • Sharp pain in the left arm – nope.
  • Radial pain in the back – nugatory.
  • Shortness of Breath – nada. All systems check.
  • Clamminess, sweating? Who knew, I had just “run”, and it was cool out.
  • And I just did a half marathon four weeks ago – really…you can’t be serious!!!

I then started rationalising. No, it couldn’t be heart attack. There just weren’t enough symptoms. But then again, it just wasn’t right.

It was not as if Sweet Daddy Siki was sitting on my chest, but it sure wasn’t that loose rack of man-boobies that it always was before. So I wimped out, screwed the run and

Bring it on Sweet Daddy!

walked the short way home (all the while carrying a plastic bag full of Lola’s doggy doo – because that is what responsible pet owners do). I fed the dog her little princess meal of Caeser’s (dog food, not cocktails) and Royal Canin – and then I thought briefly of making dinner.

And then it got weird, time sort of became elastic. I stood in my kitchen – staring at some Italian sausage that was supposed to form part of a delicious pasta for me and my beloved – and I thought to myself, I don’t feel well.  I don’t remember if it was a minute, or twenty…

And I debated with myself. There was no way I wanted to spend 8 hours in Emergency on a Friday Night, waiting for some Attending to tell me it was nothing but an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato….more gravy than grave. “Take your antacids and stool softener – don’t forget the fibre and drink lots of water. Cure thyself, kind Sir!”  I was not keen on that idea.

But then I looked at the other possible outcomes. What if it was having a heart attack? Did I want to laying in a heap on the kitchen floor, hoping that my dog would dial 911.

“911, Emergency, can I help you?”

What' s the number for 911?

What’ s the number for 911, again?

“Grrrrr woof, woof, woof. Bark, woof!”

“Right, got the address Lassie, your Master. Stuck in the well out back?…Oh sorry, heart attack on the kitchen floor? We’ll send an ambulance right over!”

Just the thought of my wife finding me on the floor, all useless and damaged in a puddle of sweat, foaming at the mouth, was enough to convince me that being told “it was nothing” was worth it. So I sent the text that tried to downplay and diffuse what I knew could only be received with panic.

“Feel funny. Going to hospital. Tightness in my chest. Can’t shake it.”

And so I drove myself to the hospital. Now, as an aside, I think there is a common law of relativity, alongside Einstein’s E=MC2 that:

Quantity(Red Lights, Assholes, and Sunday Drivers) ∝ Urgency (desire or need to reach the destination quickly) 2

I cannot believe how bad drivers are – the 30kph in the 50km zone, the light is not yellow yet, dammit! But even in a heightened state of concern, I was a courteous Canadian. Only three honks to get people moving when they were dillying instead of dallying. But I digress, car driving habits would take a whole blog in itself, and I am supposed to keep my heart rate down. So moving on…

Now, after parking the car in the lot that is far, far away from Emergency – because I knew my car would be staying where it was for an indefinite period, and I did not want to create any parking turmoil as that would be rude –  I walked the 300m to Emergency, plunked myself down at the Registration and said, “ I think I am in cardiac distress.”

Prompt attention.  Use that if you want to be seen quickly; but be prepared to stay for a while.

Paperwork started at quick time. And my wife arrived moments later, having had her Relative Physics moment of Asshole Drivers Theory en route. And after looking at her face and her demeanour, at that moment I was not so sure who was having the heart attack. Leaving her to finish off my registration, I walked into the very, very full emergency ward.

I stripped off all my top layers of running gear – in the public hallway – and put on the very fashionable, useful, and most modesty-protecting hospital gown. And after showing all my ink, and middle-aged man hairy back to the lovely elderly couple who shared hallway accommodations with me, I was given my supper – two orange flavoured baby aspirins . Surprisingly, those bad boys taste just as lovely as they did when I was a kid. Some blood was taken and then I lay me down to await the medical onslaught, amidst the cacophony of paramedics wheeling in drug overdoses, car accidents, university RUFFI victims, and the generally unlucky – it was a great way to relax my heart rate and share some tender moments as I contemplated life with the person who is closest to me.

And then, my wife and I waited.

End of Act I…



Bye kids…hello adults.


It is still the first day of school, though this time it’s university and it’s forever…

Tomorrow, the youngest will head off to the university to start his next stage of learning. He will leave the house after 17 plus years of being fed, clothed and nurtured.  And though going to Queen’s in the same town, he will head off to meet a new crowd of similarly minded young adults – sharing a dorm room with one of his high school mates, and a dorm floor with potential best friends for life.

For me, he will be so close – but then again, so far.

Like his sister who started university three years ago, and now shares a house only 10km from me, the distance that will emerge between us cannot be measured in mere kilometres. I am guessing, based on my experience, we will be worlds apart – just as I was with my folks.

I think back almost two decades, to the early days of child-raising – a time when I, as a parent, was the centre of their universe. A time when kids thought that spending time being cuddled, or watching TV and drinking hot chocolate, was nirvana. A time that I was always right and I was the font of all knowledge.

“It has to be true. Dad said it was.” – the mantra of the young child.

And even through their teen-hood – when I regressed to being a simple and flawed mortal, subject to the occasional constant eye-roll, sneer, or snarky feedback — through to their young adulthood, there was always some way or another in which Dad was needed: help with homework, a ride to a friend’s house, a meal that included a vegetable, sorting that never-ending pile of laundry, or constant nagging about one thing or another. It was the timeless dance of parents and their offspring.  The constant see saw-battle of “I can do it by myself” weighed against “I don’t want them to get hurt”.

And in 24 hours that will change. Soon I will have absolutely no clue what happens in their daily lives. I will not know about their successes, challenges, failures or fears. Unless they tell me. Our overlapping Venn Diagrams of life have just experienced a tectonic shift.

Grease poleAnd even though it causes me a little stress, it is right. It is, to quote Timon, “the circle of life”.  This is one of the last steps they will take in getting ready for the rest of their lives. The last time that they let go of the coffee table to take a few tottering steps with me watching, hands at the ready. They eventually have to “fly from the nest” – or is it “swim without water wings”?

And I think back to 1983.  I remember the feelings as I left home over 30 years ago.  Opportunity, independence, promise, excitement all flavoured with a soupçon of anxiety. I was a little sad that I was leaving my home and the people who had formed me; from the family who had made me a priority and made sure that I never wanted for the important things. But this melancholy was only a light blemish on the joy I was feeling.

I was on my own and on my way to becoming worldly, to learning grownup things and sharing good times and laughing and living for real!

And now I sit here on the other side of the fence. Perhaps not as sad as my parents, because we have already practiced being apart. But I am sad none-the-less. It is the end of a chapter.

It is the end of the childhood – completely. Everything, completely everything that defined their childhood innocence has now evaporated. It has disappeared, just like the sweet morning breath of a toddler escapes eventually.

I wish my son a fantastic time at university – just as I had. There will be friends and fun. And it will be full of many characterHangover building opportunities – of seemingly insurmountable challenges in the shape of readings and mid-terms and exams, of fantastically crushing hangovers and temptations of all shapes and sizes. He will learn great lessons like how borrowing $3 or $4 from five or six people can fund a whole evening of debauchery that you never have to pay back, as no one tracks loans under $5.00 (thanks for that lesson, ‘Tosh); or the governing factor in the frequency of laundry is the pairs of underwear that are relatively clean – and that buying muted tones of clothes means you can wash everything in one load; or that when it comes to engineering homework, “where there is no pressure, there is no flow”. And most importantly, that perhaps the best things you learn and remember in university aren’t taught in the lecture hall.

The Venn Diagram of Engineering

The Venn Diagram of Engineering

But, it will be totally unlike the days when I walked him to the school bus, or asked him if he had done his homework as we sat for dinner. It will be unlike the days when I was able to see the struggle and offer my wisdom. Now as he faces his new dragons, with the support of his well-meaning but similarly inexperienced peers his only broadsword, he must eventually learn all the lessons and overcome all the challenges on his own.  That’s what makes you an adult.

And I will wait, patiently, as my parents probably did, for the time he will call me for help, for support, and to hopefully to hear the voice of someone who wants to share in his life regularly — but who knows better than to ask.  And when he calls, I will probably give him a hard time, because that is how Dads show love. I will tease him, and almost make him regret calling me. But in the end, after the joking is over, I will give him advice and the benefit of my experience. He can take it or leave it, because in the end, it’s his life and his victories.


I envy him, in a nostalgic sort of way. And I hope he exploits this for all its worth, because at this moment, the world is his oyster – and frosh week awaits!

Always a RMC Redman, but I'll wave the Queen's banner for my kids!

Always a RMC Redman, but I’ll wave the Queen’s banner for my kids!

Good luck to all of you that are seeing your leave the nest.  Exciting and sad, isn’t it?



Seriously?…Is it back to “Packie Go Home!”


It has taken me a bit to think about the recent kafuffle over the Sportscentre show on TSN last Tuesday (19 February 2013) (thanks for the edit AP).  If you aren’t aware, the show was hosted by Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim. A couple of homeys from Toronto.

Now in the ethnic mosaic that is Toronto, running into people named Gurdeep or Sanjay, or Xul Li, or Dieter or Jorge or Ahmad or Olympia or Ndongo or any number of fantastic names found across the globe, is pretty high. It is the beauty of our country, the mosaic versus the melting pot.

Two Canadian of Indo-ancestry hosting our national sports desk…we have made the big time. I hope it will soon become a non-issue like two women hosting the show, or a Canadian of Chinese ancestry as the news anchor on the National…can’t wait for other “firsts” to become non-issues too! There were a lot of positive comments about the “breaking story”, but…

You would think that after over a century and a half of immigration, we would come to realise that our diversity makes us strong and makes us better.  Well, you’d hope.  And most of us do. But evidently not. Take a peek…

2013 Spray Paint 12013 Spray Paint 2

2013 Spray Paint 4

Reading those tweets, I had a throwback to my youth, growing up around Danforth and Greenwood Avenues in Toronto in the early 70s.  At that time the “Asian Wave” was hitting Toronto. (Mind you the first “Asian wave” hit British Columbia in the 19th century during the Canadian National railway construction – flow interrupted by the Continuous Journey Regulation of 1908 that effectively managed any immigration from China, Japan and India until officially struck from the books in 1947!)

When I was young, the tormentors were the more established Greek and Italian kids, whose families had arrived a decade or two earlier. Historically I guess they had their initiation back then too, probably at the hands of the Scots, the Irish and the English!

Looking back, the taunts and events were comical in some regards. I remember one of my many fights involving a remarkably dense duo of eleven year-olds (I was 10), spray-painting a wall in the alley way we called Craven Avenue. Their message, a deeply imaginative “Packie Go Home!”.  I, a stereotypical Indian kid – good at spelling and math – could not take the insult and stupidity in silence. Indignantly I thought, at least if you are going to insult us, get it right…it’s P-A-K-I as in Pakistan.  Not P-A-C-K-I-E for packing something!! (BTW wiktionary defines  “packie” as a package store in Massachusetts) .  I proceeded to correct their spelling in a rather

at least they spelled it right...

at least they spelled it right…

excited and agitated way, following with my own taunt of,  “What, are you ignorant or somethin’?”  I think the question was rhetorical, but I didn’t really know what that meant in Grade 4. Anyway, the beating ensued, and I wish I could say I won – but I didn’t. I was just a nerdy Indian kid who went home crying and bleeding.  No worries, it wasn’t something a samosa and a glass of chai while watching an episode of Batman couldn’t fix!

Why were they like that? I remember my Dad teaching us to show respect to everyone. Colour, shape, abilities or disabilities meant nothing – we are all human and deserve common respect. I also remember my Dad telling me to turn the other cheek – not a bad use of a Christian adage by a Sikh chappie. But I also remember my Dad, as a young father – younger than I am now – chasing some asshole teenagers who had insulted his family in the park with racial taunts. I can only imagine how unfair he felt it was. He was just a fellow looking to set up a better life, in a better place, for his family. What did colour have to do with it?  He was working hard, he contributed to society, he paid taxes, he liked hockey and maple syrup; he wore a toque and shovelled the snow from his driveway like all other Canadians. He drank Red Cap and Black Label. Why was he any less of a Canadian, with any less of a right to be there, simply because he had more melanin or came from another culture?

Why don’t they just fit in and adapt to our culture?

Holy shit are you kidding me?  How much more can Gurdeep and Nabil fit in than hosting Sportscentre and talking about jams and flushes and biscuits and all that other jargon the sports guys throw about.

Now I can be a joker at times and I like to crack what I think are the occasional witticisms.And yes,  I have from time to time made an off-colour joke that has gone deep into “non-politically correct” territory – always followed by an immediate apology. So I get it  – once in a while we get it wrong. And no matter how educated and enlightened we are, we always have baggage. Maybe we are intolerant of the ridiculously liberal, the hard right, the deeply religious, the creationist, the evolutionists, the gun lobby, the oil people, the granolas…or whatever cause or ideology that causes us angst.  And I am sure we have had a not so kind thought to ourselves – but I am sure that we had our say using our “inner voice” only.

But I can’t understand these guys – the 2013 equivalent of my Grade 4 spray-painting buddies. What were they you thinking?   Twitter?  Yeah, that won’t go viral. And once you have put yourself out there, I don’t care what you say or what you think – you are forever known as The Racist.  Apologise if you want – you ain’t getting that spray paint off the wall.

So, whether it was a joke or not, the words were tweeted; the sentiment was expressed for millions to see. Their close-mindedness about what makes a Canadian, and what being a Canadian is all about, was evidently clear. These will be the same kind of guys who complain that the immigrants are stealing their jobs, the janitorial ones or taxi ones or fast food – you know, the ones that they are just lining up to apply for (not) – or that the immigrants smell like ethnic food…I have heard it all  before.

“Why don’t they just go home?”…followed by “just kidding”.

I am hoping that we have moved on from 1970s Toronto. But you know what, in the end it doesn’t matter. Because, when all is said and done, the immigrants will suck it up and carry on. They have done it for a century or a half,  whether they were British or French or ex-Black Slaves or Ukrainians or Slavs or Scandinavians or Australians or Asians or Arabs or Africans or South Americans or Central Americans…and on and on and on.

And perhaps they will, like I did, enjoy a wry bit of irony later. My Dad told me he ran into one of my childhood tormentors a couple of years ago – life as a late night parking attendant was suiting him fine. Maybe he should have learned how to spell…



The Priorities have all gone to SH*T…

The not so Triumphant...

The not so Triumphant…

Unless you live in a Buddhist monastery, you probably couldn’t help seeing or hearing about the Cruise Ship TRIUMPH, and its slow limp back into harbour – a 2013 SS Minnow on a three-hour tour. The ship left port on 7 February – for what was supposed to be a four-day trip. And then the trip evidently turned to shit…

The ship lost all power after a generator fire wiped out its electrical system leaving it powerless. And though I still don’t understand how the toilets were affected by the electrical system (unless it has to do with water pressure) the ship became a cess pool.

That does bite. I understand that it would be most, most unpleasant. But I hardly think it is the end of the world.  I mean, add a couple thousand watts of hard rock and a few pyrotechnics and it would be an outdoor concert in any field. Heck, about 44 years ago kids would have slid on their bellies in the stuff.

I admit that I would be torqued if I had dropped a couple of grand on the Turd Boat…and that I had to camp out on the Poop Deck. I might look for a return on investment – like my money back, some compensation and a deal on the next cruise. Oh, wait.  That is what Carnival is offering. However, in the typical “sue-and-I can get-rich for-no-effort-whatsoever” reality that is the American Dream, the lawsuits are starting:

Cassie Terry, 25, of Brazoria County, Texas, filed a lawsuit today [15 February] in Miami federal court, calling the disabled Triumph cruise ship “a floating hell.” “Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food,” according to the lawsuit… “Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell.” (

Give me a break.

Disconcerting? Revolting? Traumatic? Sure. Life threatening? Seriously…

The  angst has been unreal; the words that were thrown about did a disservice to those across the globe who are really suffering. Jim the Hammer ShapiroAsk the poor souls who are trying to survive in Syria, Darfur, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen or Baluchistan for their thoughts on lining up two hours for food.  I wonder if they are considering lawsuits against their parents, or governments, or the arms industry. Too bad Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro wasn’t practicing law in the Third World – he’d get them a settlement.

Dadaab Refugee Camp Kenya

Dadaab Refugee Camp Kenya

How did this small problem – compared to the countless of real tragedies involving hundreds and thousand of people – gain such prominence?

Simply.  The media did it.

The national media, from the good old CBC to CNN covered “the Disaster” – the ill-fated voyage of the QE Poo. CNN even devoted hours to it.  Especially near the end. Photogenic anchors with no journalist skill kept asking stupid and leading questions in the hunt for a story – disgruntled people to spew venom about the trip. All it got were gentle kudos from its interviewees about the crew and how hard they tried their best to keep people out of the “dumps” – perhaps it was the crew’s heightened sense of “doodie” (okay…sorry, enough of the scatological puns). And bravely, CNN tele-linked passengers with their loved ones at home – give me a break! They were on a cruise ship, safe if not sound…not in a radical compound with hoods over their heads fearing for their lives. Their families weren’t really expecting to hear from them anyway and who wanted to listen to those private phone calls anyway?



The major story became the shared red bio-hazard bags…shared as in “do-you-have-a-spare-bag?” vice shared as in “…can-I-poop-in-your-bag?” whch was the CNN angle.  Even the potential voice of doom and suffering –  Dr Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical guru –  was hard pressed to come up with a shocking by line, admitting “that it was unlikely the passengers would experience widespread illness, despite deplorable conditions”. The eyewitness testimonials and the good doctor’s prognosis did not jive with the dramatic “Sheisse-Sturm” theme musik CNN was playing before the constant footage of the ship under tow. ”

And CNN and FOX and MNBC and CBC Newsworld and CTV News One were not any better.

Once upon a time I used to look at all these stations with awe using them to understand what was happening in the world. To follow major breaking news stories. CNN was a news leader at one point, just like Ted Turner wanted it to be. It’s coverage of world stories – German Unification, Gulf War I, 9/11, the Tsunami, the Japanese’s Earthquake, the Arab Spring are just a few events in a long list.

But somewhere over the 33 years since it started, it has changed.  Aside from the global game changers, which are easy to cover

Breaking News....

Breaking News….

because they are global game changers, the all-news stations suffer. We aren’t interested. Unless something remarkable happens, they have nothing to do.  But bills have to be paid and advertisers want viewers. So the newsies have changed the way the biz’ is done. No longer a news reporter, the media has now become the newsmaker.  Small stories become big stories. And the incessant, repetitious reporting sensationalizes the trivial.  The constant loops of the same news cycle has them scrambling for new angles to report the same details. No longer is the aim for detailed investigative journalism that provides all the facts in a well presented package; the goal is to present the biggest bang in the shortest time.  And to keep it reporting it over and over until the next thing comes along.

And do they care if it is true?

Evidently not. Otherwise why would they broadcast hours of numbing repeat footage and useless interviews with so-called experts and dubious eye-witnesses.  And like watching a train wreck, we cannot help but stare.

Bad things are happening all over the world, and there are events and places that we should be staring at.  But we don’t.   The Fifth Estate made a disabled cruise ship into a major news story. And it will continue to do so. I can’t wait for the coverage of the litigation as Ms. Terry looks for compensation for her ordeal. Hope her filth encrusted, shrunken shoes fit so she can prove she was a victim.

It’ll make for riveting and entertaining TV. It should be on right after the Oscar Pistorious trial…

Slow down fer pete’s sake…there’s a foot of snow on the ground!

The white-out...aka The Squall

The white-out…aka The Squall

We were supposed to drive to Ottawa today, to have a nice reunion dinner with friends.  But as you are all aware, Eastern Canada – including sweet little Kingston – enjoyed a full dump from Old Man Winter’s icy bowels.  We had a nice deposit of 30 cm of snow over the past 24 hours. That pretty much choked our road network like an Occupy Wall Streeter hit with pepper spray.  The plows and sanders did an admirable job – most of the main arteries were passable – but I was required to bring out my best Swedish Snow Rally Driver skills as my little VW Golf churned through the piles of white stuff on our little side street. The Little-Car-That-Could did well.  But at the risk of being immodest, knowing how to drive in the snow helps too.

f**nuts, rhymes with duck-butts

f**nuts, rhymes with duck-butts

It is obvious that not everyone in our stretch of the woods does. Now I won’t call the drivers that are on the road the same lovely pet name  used by The City of Vaughan…which I believe rhymes with “duck-butts”…but over the past two weekends I have noticed that many people drive like morons when facing snow. It was just last week that we were caught in a surprise squall 20 km west of Kingston (and that last 20 km took 45 minutes to travel!), and this week I took a brief spin on the 401 to see if a drive to Ottawa was worth it. From what I saw, it wasn’t.

All I can say is that some people have no right to call themselves Canadian, or drivers for that matter, based on their skills, their etiquette, or their common sense.

What is going through their brains? I do not know if they have some sort of invisible force field, or Star Trekkian deflector shield.  How do they develop the audacity and boldness to drive like that? Do they have some sense of invincibility, of immortality, because they are driving shiny SUVs? Or are they  exempted from the laws of physics.

Doubt it.

I just think they are duck-butts.

Unless there is a dying person involved, I can think of no circumstances that create such urgency that rushing quickly to any place is more important than staying alive. They must have some logic or rationale, because driving the way they do creates life or death situations.

It is stunning.

how the heck....

how the heck….

To be honest, they piss me off. In the end, I do not care if their vehicles end up in the ditch or kissed against a guard rail.  Again, I wish I was a perfect human being, but I am not. I have to admit that I enjoy that wee bit of schadenfreude when the driver who sped past you ends up in the snow bank (uninjured of course). Or gets a speeding ticket. You know the one that I mean. That guy with the halogen headlights on high beam that cause those retinal burns; the one that violently splashes icky yucky salty slush across your windshield (leaving you vision-less as your windshield wipers fought valiantly and frantically to restore sight), or creates that snow rooster tail that obscures the road. We have all met him.  Truthfully, once you know all is alright and no one is injured, who amongst us hasn’t smirked to ourselves, “How’s that Porsche Cayenne working for you now, Ducky?”

And honestly, I could care less if they are waylaid. But you know what? These same morons are the ones that create the accidents. Lane hopping, tailgating, quick braking, they create confusion and mayhem, that inevitably ended up creating collision chain reactions.

By relying solely on their daytime running lights  they are invisible…duh…half the battle in not getting hit is taking action to be seen. Don’t people know that most rear vehicle lights are not on during the day? Turn-the-lights-on in bad lighting conditions!

And as the Classic Rock radio guy commented today…”What the hell, people?” There is a foot of snow on the ground. It is not August. You can’t go roaring around at 80 km per hour, and then expect to stop in 10 metres. You-are-going-to-slide!

Regardless of the energy you try to impart on your brakes – à la Fred Flintstone – the equation for momentum, P=Mass x Velocity, means that your car will keep moving when you are screaming for it to stop. Force=Mass x Acceleration, will decide how much of the car in front of you will be destroyed as you plough into it. The physics is easy…either you start driving around on a roller skate with no mass, or you slow the “duck” down.

And use your brain. To see snow physics in action – your hysterics will be twinged with incredulity, and at some stage in the video, just plain pity for their errors and consequences – check out the Utah drivers at this link… Snow Turns Utah Drivers Into Morons Too (Editorial Amendment – this video is a little more scary… )

Still from the Utah Drivers...

Still from the Utah Drivers…

That is in town. What about those highway drivers?

Their lack of snow plow etiquette is staggering . Yes they go slow. But they make the road safe. Let them do their job; follow them and take the cleared, sanded road. Why do people drag race them? The plow  will win the ensuing collision. An empty snow plow weighs 60,000 lbs and is armed with a 12 foot steel wing plow that can push tons and tons of snow. The average car weighs 4,000 lbs. I betcha it’ll just toss that car aside like an Emo kid brushing aside their bangs.

The Plows will always win!

The Plows will always win!

And, I also heard someone say that it took over 6 hours to get from Kingston to Brockville  – a distance of 83km. (I admit, it was second-hand, from the radio announcer who knows a guy who knew a guy who had a Timmy’s coffee with that couple who apparently took 6 hours).  They were waylaid by the accidents, the snow ploughs, the closed-off sections, and the

Near Montreal...

Near Montreal…

road conditions

white-outs…I can believe it. They must be living in a cave where there is no internet, or TV, or radio. Do you not have the Weather Channel so you can check the conditions when you drive? Oh yeah, the roads are bad, but man, I just need to get there …or my car can handle it…or I have snow tires…or I could do it. Maybe you can, but what about your fellow travellers?

People are so optimistic about car travel. We’ll get there.

Jeez…when do you give up and get a hotel room, grab a case of beer and hunker down eating a pizza watching Pay-per-view?  Or dig into your Facebook contacts list and refresh that acquaintance with your Grade Six BFF who lives in Gananoque?

And I would love to know how many of them have an emergency kit in their car. Oh right, their car coat and Esso ball cap will keep them warm in sub-zero temps. (If you need a steer on what to pack in your car for those unavoidable winter trips, check out Winsconsin’s link here…How to Make a Winter Car Survival Kit


I know friends who safely made the drive down from Ottawa today. At one point I was fairly confident in my ability to navigate the 401 and 416 to Ottawa. But as we moved down Highway 401 from our house to the West end of town (12 kilometres) to do some errands, both m y wife and I Iooked at the nasty and brutal end results of two spinouts and one multi-car collision. The vehicles were The Invincibles– pick-ups, SUVs and mini-vans. And I know that they are all safe and sturdy vehicles that if driven with care can get you anywhere.  Great vehicles really that should not crash with proper care. The only variable was the duck-butts who were driving them.

Multi-car accident north of Toronto.

Multi-car accident north of Toronto.

And that, in the end, the thought of sharing the slippery roads with people like that was enough to make me stay at home.  So we stayed home, all stress-free, and dug out the movies (and watched the Leafs pot 6 goals against the Canadiens – sorry I couldn’t resist).

It’s winter. If you have to drive, drive safe. If you don’t have to drive, crack a bottle and enjoy being warm and cozy – and safe.


Canada: It’s cold with a Capital F

winter bird

So I heard on the news today that Environment Canada, our national weather service, is thinking of issuing a NATIONAL cold weather warning. A NATIONAL COLD WEATHER WARNING.

Whoah, whoah, whoah…this is Canada, people. A land where Canadians pride themselves on their ability to adapt and handle the cold.

How cold does it have to friggin’ get before we need to issue a warning to everyone in Canada? (Except, I am guessing, the wool sock and sandal-wearers on the West Coast – it is a balmy 3*C there…)

I think this graphic shows our predicament clearly. It is so cold, that I heard some guy comment that his nipples and penis were actually the same size. That’s effin’ “shrinkage” cold.

It's figgin' cold....

It’s figgin’ cold….

idyllic coldI know, I know. I can hear the diehards saying,”… but winter is so beautiful”; the snow, the crisp air, theBonhomme tobogganing, the skiing, the skating, ice fishing…blah blah blah.  They are selling kool-aid; a stereotypical but seldom attained image of an idyllic cold – warm snow encrusted cabins, cheerful winter carnivals, and beautiful hoar-frosted winter-scapes.

But where are those stupid visions now?  Now after several freeze/thaw cycles, the snow is that crusty, dirty, yucky brown. Now when I step outside to enjoy the great outdoors, my nostril hair freezes instantaneously. Now when I turn the key, my car starter and battery generate that low groaning “whrrrr-whrrrr-whrrrr”, which literally translates to “Seriously…it was -29*C last night.  You expect me to start?”

Where is the beauty in any of that?

Cue flashback…

When I was a kid, I think I liked, and maybe even loved, winter; but then I used to eat dirt, too.  I used to stay outside and play street hockey, and skate on the outdoor rink, and sled with my friends and my brother.  I would stay outside so long that when I came into the house for supper, my hands and feet ached with unimaginable pain – neurons thawing as my hands and feet fought to make it back to an appropriate body temperature.  And what kid didn’t try to hurry the process by sticking their hands under warm water…duh! Every other week, it seems I would forget the painful feeling of my fingertips and toes “exploding” and would try again.

When I was a kid, temperature was irrelevant…maybe because I was so busy generating heat that I forgot it was cold, and I had the metabolism of a rabbit.

You all know I love Canada.  It is a great country full of great things. And I take great pleasure in complaining about the cold and telling the rest of the world they are wussies as they bundle up in their frigid temperatures…

While the East Coast basks in relatively warm weather for mid-January, California is being hit with a blistering cold front. 

Oooh...those frigid fahrenheit temperatures. Poor Californians....

Oooh…those frigid fahrenheit temperatures. Poor Californians….

The unusually frigid weather has brought snowstorms and temperatures below 30 degrees to the Pacific Coast state, alarming motorists, farmers and zoo keepers, among others.

I take pride that our winters are harsher and tougher and meaner…makes us look stronger.

I still, on occasion, enjoy the Canadian winter for brief flashes; especially when it is sunny, and there is no wind and the thermometer is hovering around the freezing point.  I love it when my layered winter clothes keep me warm and cozy as I glide effortlessly on the ice or enjoy the bright, white landscape – everything so clean and fresh – and I love it when I enjoy a cold starry night sipping a bottle of beer in a bubbling 104*F hot tub, my bald pate protected by a colourful woolly toque with a bobble. (Sadly, I do not have a hot tub nor any friends with one now; alas, this is one of those idyllic images). 

Truthfully though, this “winter-affection” exists just before and during Christmas. Then, the love dies.

After Christmas, when there is nothing but months and months of darkness and cold to endure before Canada and the North tilt back toward the sun, I hate it. It sucks.

It sucks that I understand how to measure wind-chill in  watts per metre squared – and that I know a rating of 1600 watts/m2 means likely frost bite. I hate that I need a snow scoop (and more specifically that I do not own a snow blower.) Actually, I like my snow scoop…it’s the relentless snow I hate.

NL Blizzard WarningI mean, what Canadian has not been there…looking with dread at their driveway? Hoping beyond hope that the neighbour living two doors down, the one with the TORO Power Max 8260XE (26”) Dual Stage with the Briggs and Stratton 250cc OHV 4 cycle engine, will show mercy and save you 90 minutes of your life, and an aching back and possible cardiac arrest. You hope that he will clear your driveway in the same 15 minutes it took to clear his. (For those who don’t know, I am talking snow blower/snow thrower). Sadly, most times you are disappointed…and fuming; fuming that your neighbour is cracking a cold one while you struggle with your task, and that you gambled on the 52” LCD TV and Wii Fitness instead of the snow blower. But using The Force, you can channel that anger and disappointment into clearing that snow. Your only dilemma is where to put all the snow Mother Nature has dumped on your drive – plus the repeated bonus of the crusty, heavy, soul-destroying furrow of road snow that the “Plough-guy” gleefully pushes into the end of your drive (several times). Aaaaarrrgghhh…

Damn you SnowPlow Man, damn you!...

Damn you SnowPlow Man, damn you!…

I hate that every excursion now takes on the same epic proportions of Scott –Amundsen racing to the South Pole: sweater, fleece, coat, gloves, scarf, hat, boots. I hate that I have the agility of the Michelin Tire Man when I am appropriately bundled up.  I hate that I have too few layers to fight off the cold when I am outside, but too many layers to walk about inside a building without perspiring like an influenza victim.

..Say no more...

..Say no more…

And I hate scraping my car, and the wet trouser legs from my car mats. I hate the high heating bills and the cold spots in my house. I hate the winter…Please make it stop.

I hope this cold snap ends soon – I hate to see those Californians have to put on a sweater to stave off the extreme cold.

I hope we go back to “idyllic winter” because I want to go skating on the Rideau without risking my nose snapping off.  And I want winter to end, so that we can get to a Canadian summer quicker…the thing that makes a Canadian winter endurable.

A nice idyllic Canadian summer – and hopefully one that is not “crazy hot and humid” – ‘coz that sucks too…



No one will ever trust you again, Lance…

Lance Armstrong

in·teg·ri·ty  [in-teg-ri-tee] adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. c.1450, “wholeness, perfect condition,” from O.Fr. integrité, from L. integritatem (nom. integritas) “soundness, wholeness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “uncorrupted virtue” is from 1548.

“The big question this week is not whether Lance Armstrong cheated (we know he did) but why he has decided to admit it now…The short answer is money.” – OpEd piece by By David Michael Lamb, CBC Sports Posted: Jan 15, 2013 2:49 PM ET

Zero to Hero.  And sadly, Hero back to Zero. How quickly they fall, eh?

Lance Armstrong is a household name…and his baby, Livestrong, has been a focal point for good-hearted people to show how they feel about cancer. I will commend him for Livestrong, which I still believe is a good cause…it still seems a noble way to show solidarity with those who are fighting the Big C. Livestrong is still looking for new ways to raise awareness, increase outreach and facilitate collaboration in an effort to improve the cancer experience.  These trusting, kind people have given money and time and exposure to this cause, in good faith, with hope, with courage, and with honesty.

And in one fell swoop, Livestrong – and its founder –  are sullied.

I am sad the organisation now has to prove beyond a shadow of  doubt that it has not been a “Church of Oral Roberts” venture for Mr Armstrong…funding his private jet and contributing to his $125 million net worth.  No matter what happens, Livestrong’s reputation will  be forever linked to something dirty.

I am not going to listen to Mr Armstrong’s story as he discloses his justification and rationale for doping. (Okay, I will watch it on tape delay later…) I am sure he will have his excuses for super-oxygenating and drugging his blood, for having a doctor replace his blood with transfusions of un-doped blood. All this manipulation and dishonesty just so he could rise to the top of his game, with an undetected mega-advantage. Some say “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” I would counter with, “if you’re cheating, you’re cheating.”

Now I, like you,  know that people make mistakes. Sometimes  an act of cheating is just a bad decision, an error of judgement. Who hasn’t at some time, wished for a life “mulligan” and hoped for a re-do. We are human, after all and as Alexander Pope wrote, “…to err is human”.

But in this case, I am not sure I can respond with the “to forgive, divine”.  You forgive a transgression, or perhaps two. Can anyone forgive seven?  Seven years of “bad judgement”, and 16 years of denial. I mean as late as June of last year, he was still fighting like General Custer…

‘These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.” – The UK Mail, 13 June 2012

I guess the best defence is a robust offence. Just look at his hatchet job against fellow cyclists and against the media. The latter have dished out millions in slander and libel suits. Just like how he cheated his way to convincing cycling victories, when Lance Armstrong lied, he lied convincingly!

And though he has limited impact on my life –  he makes me mad.  I feel jipped. I feel betrayed. I feel used. It all feels dirty. I suppose I can grudgingly accept such tactics in politics and in business (though I do not like it); however,. I do not like it in sports at all.

I do not think I am upset that he doped – in the wake of Baseball’s Steroid Age, the probable use of drugs in hockey and rugby, and given the rampant drug use on the Cycling Tour  – Mr Armstrong was just using “cutting edge” technology to get ahead. Perhaps he considered the treatments as a weird, though damaging and illegal version of the swimmer’s full body “shark suit”, or the metal hockey stick, or the space-alloy prostheses on Paralympians. You do what you can to  gain an advantage. And besides, they were all doing it. It is just happens that  Lance Armstrong – either by virtue of his drugs, or the skill of his doctor, or his athletic ability, or his bicycling know how – was just better at the cycling thing than equally doped up rivals. I get that. I can get over that too.

What I can’t get over is 16 years of lies; the outright bold-faced lies to his teammates, his fans, his supporters, the media, and the world.  I can’t get over the lives he damaged, and those reputations he shattered, in defending the tapestry of falsehoods that he wove.  I can’t get over the fact that we trusted him, we cheered for him because we wanted to believe in the incredible strength of the human spirit – personified for a long while in the cycling cancer-beater.  If Lance Armstrong could do it – overcoming cancer and climbing to the top of an élite sport – then anything was possible if you worked hard enough.

And I did not believe it when the first the cracks appeared in the wall. But through bravado and intimidation and money, Mr Armstrong patched the damage. We questioned, and became skeptical, but we still held onto the threads.

And then, poof!  With allegations unchallenged, and in the resounding echo of his silence, the international sporting bodies revoked his medals, stripped his title. The dream vanished along with his Yellow Jerseys, his Olympic medal and his endorsements.

But more importantly, he has lost his credibility and his integrity will always be stained. Who will ever believe anything he says now? Everything he does from now on will be questioned and “slightly dirty” in some way. He has a lifetime of infamy to look forward to now. I hope his 16 years of fame was worth it.



There is no such thing as Free Parking – if you want a good spot, that is…


Parking… to bring (a vehicle that one is driving) to a halt and leave it temporarily, typically in a car park or by the side of the road: he parked his car outside her house (Oxford Dictionary)

Simple, eh? Take car, turn steering wheel, select gear, ease on accelerator and brake, stopping the car between the lines or at an appropriate distance from cars in front and rear, and sufficiently close to the curb.


So many options…parking lots, roadside parking, reversing into a spot, parking illegally, double parking, and the dreaded PARALLEL parking.

Parallel Parking

Why is there so much emotional capital invested in the simple act of parking a vehicle?  Really, I don’t think you can be indifferent about parking. You either love it or hate it.

Having lived in England for three years driving a mid-sized North American left-hand drive vehicle, I got pretty good at squeezing the SX2.0 in to some pretty small spots. Add to that the joy of renting vehicles all across Europe and I must admit that I love “the parking”. I love the challenge.

The quest for a parking spot is one of the Great Hunts in life. And like any serious quest, its hidden bounty is even protected by a Parking WardenGuardian. In this game, it is the Bylaw officer or Traffic Warden who is the Gate Keeper. Walking the streets in their omnipotent patrols, sensing the expiring parking ticket or attuned to the ticking meter, they circle like birds of prey, waiting for the opportunity to open their book of doom. They are reviled, taunted, abused – and when defeated, all rejoice in the Vanquish.  Wardens must be rewarded on a quota, they dish out their fines and judgement with unsympathetic abandon. It is un-human! Hopefully they receive good self-esteem training – they probably need it after all the abuse I have seen them take.

Aside from the fine, the Wardens tap into a volatile part of our souls. Why do we exhibit such passion and angst and joy when it comes to parking? A good spot can make your day. A bad parking experience can ruin one.

Maybe it is because parking appeals to a basic instinct. It is like the need for a parking spot sets off this little klaxon in the brain, the kind that warns of a prison break. It is like someone gave the competitive spirit a Red Bull and Vodka. There must be some sort of “hunter/gatherer” thing that comes with parking. For me, I feelthe primitive urge to “hunt for the perfect spot”  as soon as I see my final destination.

Why does the pituitary flood the gates with adrenalin when I need to stop the car?  What’s the problem with a few extra steps to get to wherever I am going?  I tell you what is wrong with it– it is accepting the “merely adequate”, the “just okay”. It is mediocrity…

I love The Chase. I love it always. Except at Christmas.

Christmas parking sucks. The parking frenzy with all its emotion – mostly negative – surrounding the December outing is absurd.

Now, because it is January, and all the Christmas shipping done and the Boxing Day ludicrousness is over, I am calm enough to think about the December parking horrors as they are nothing but a distant memory, like the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I have healed from the “no quarter” battlefield that is the War of the Xmas Parking Spots.

Peace on Earth? Goodwill to all Mankind?  Not when it comes to the Christmas parking places. At Christmas it is every driver for themselves – yelling and cursing and “flipping the bird” and honking…as ubiquitous as Fa-la-la-la-la and Boughs of Holly.

But Christmasn is just a few weeks.  I have noted that rgardless of the season, there are some parking constants…

The HuntThe Parking Spot Hunt is a game of cat and mouse with several key spots. Whether at the Shopping Center, the main shopping street, a box store, a strip mall, an outlet centre, the workplace party, the restaurant, the Christmas tree place, the rink, the theatre, the bank –  it begins with selecting a section of the lot and then narrowing it down to a specific “lucky” row. If the instincts were right, a spot will be waiting – as Sid Vicious would say, “Pretty and vacant” – for your car to slide into like a hand in a glove.

And if the spot eludes you, the chase continues in ever widening circles to find the next best spot.

The truly fanatic “parksman” will brush aside the passengers’ counsel and sightings of potential spots, with a positive feeling that there must be one closer. There is always a mental anguish when committing to spot.  One cannot commit too early… there might be a better one available!

The parking spot hunt has many phases, guises and sensations…there is “the Chase”, “the Stalk”, “the Deception”, “the Disappointment” or joyfully, “the Quickening”. If you are very unlucky, you will suffer an anxious “mix and match”, like the “Chase and Wait” or the “Chase and Deception” or the extremely unlucky “Wait followed by Deception, followed by Disappointment”.

The basic components always include spotting, or stalking a departing patron and the commanding the entry in the soon-to-be vacant as the occupier departs – the Chase.  The frustration comes in waves as the “parkee” leads the “parker” on a wild goose chase, dodging from aisle to aisle as the “parkee” frantically tries to figure out which car is theirs.

The first test to the will is “the Psyche”.  It starts with finding the seemingly perfect spot. You turn your wheel to slip into the spot like a ship berthing at its home port, and then your brain screams, “Abort! Abort! Abort!”. The vacant spot is not so. It is “half-filled” with a motrocycle, a FIAT 500 or damn SMART Car, or a stray shopping cart blocking the spot. You were bamboozled. Goshblarnit!

Next comes the Wait, those tantrum-inducing moments as the “parkee” dillies and dallies in/around their vehicle – taking eons to unload the cart, taking the cart back to the corral, unlocking the  vehicle, sitting, adjusting the seatbelt then the rear-view mirror then  the radio, moving to applying makeup or combing the hair…blah blah blah. Aaargh! Hurry up already, I HAVE THINGS TO BUY! Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

It doesn’t get worse than that. Oh wait it does.  The dreaded Deception.…that is the culmination of the Chase, the Wait, and the complete Disappointment as the person who entered the car did it only to retrieve a wallet or a phone, or to deposit the first wave of shopping.  All you get from the experience is the unsatisfactory shake of the head or dismissive wave of the hand – but the gesture only comes after  committing to the now evaporated parking spot.  As you sit there, feeling that “fight or flight” rush, your turn signal becomes a beacon of your disappointment, your ire, and your disbelief – probably aggravated by the unheard giggles of those drivers from behind. The ones that you let by you, because you had your cross hairs on the Prize.


So many emotions all swirled together. Parking is not simply the temporary halt of your vehicle as you pick up that Best Buy gift certificate or that standby bottle of perfume. Though it seems to get worse at Christmas, the whole parking experience can be a  simple snapshot of the worst parts of the human condition.

No Parking for DBs

Unsure of what I mean…let me describe my take on the turds that are competing for those valuable spot – in my order of ascending “douchebagginess”:

  • park far awayThe Far Parker.  This is more of a complaint as a passenger, as you ride with the person who parks in the furthest reaches of the parking lot. You know the ones – they park further away than the mall makes its employees park.  Out by the massive winter snow pile, or the yucky brown pile full of road sand and pebbles.  Usually drivers of BMWs or very shiny SUVs, free of car seats and that gummy goo that kids manage to leave in the seat cracks and windows.
  • The Close Parker. Not quite the opposite of the far parker, the Close Parker is technically correct, as the halt between the lines. But they park so close to one side of the spot that it is impossible to open the door closest to them. If you are unlucky, they will have arrived after you, and have blocked your driver side door. Your only way to exit is to enter the passenger side, straddle across your stick shift and try to limbo into your driver’s seat.
  • The Door Banger, aka the cousin of the close parker. The door banger is self-explanatory as they leave traces of their car’s DNA all over your car…complete with nice dents.
  • The Two-Space Taker.  The two-space taker has no idea where to put his car, where the lines are, or more probably just Two Spacerdoesn’t care. Their car may straddle the line, may actually stop on the line, or worse, they park diagonally across the two spots to protect their car. They try to get the security of the Far Parker achieves with none of the legwork.  Douchebags.
  • The Spot Stealer.  This is almost the douche-baggiest driver in the parking lot. As you follow proper parking lot etiquette, waiting patiently, the Stealer forgoes the wait and jumps in to your parking spot – totally devoid of any class, manners, upbringing or civility.
  • And the douche-baggiest…The Disabled Spot Violator. The blue markings and wheelchair symbol are just a guide. The Violator is just going to be a minute, or just does not give a hoot about whether the old or the infirm or the broken or the infirm are allowed access to the spot society has granted to them. Whenever you see them you just hoping to see the Traffic Warden…where are they when you need them.


I am glad that the Christmas rush is over. The crowds have dispersed and the population does not have the crazed retail fervour, that Post-Apocalyptic Yuletide Zombie look. Parking spots abound. The frenzy has ended.

But The Chase is never over.  Somewhere out there on my next jaunt, awaits the White Rhino ofall  parking spots. My quest continues.  I can’t wait to find it before anyone else does.