Wednesday 18 November 2020

Me vs The Cell Phone Company

 I'm going to depart for a minute from the sailing, because I just can't let this particular story go. It's still unfolding, but the summary version is that just when you think it can't get any more stupid, it will. 

So our story begins with a telephone offer to switch phone companies. I'd been with the original company for 20 years (and sweet mother of all that is good, does that ever make me sound ancient). The name of the original company is irrelevant for now...we will see how the transition goes, but so far so good. The new company, however, we will call Toolus. I wouldn't want to accidentally identify anybody, so Toolus. 

The Toolus rep called and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Discounts, waived activation fee (which by the way, is the singly bullshittiest of all fees), and a new phone. Cool. I wanted a day to think about it, so she would call me back the next evening? Call one complete, and it was mostly painless.  I was nervous to switch, but as my husband pointed out, brand loyalty was getting me nowhere, so I took the plunge and agreed to move my services over. 

When she called back the following night, we again went over all the details. Discounts on each monthly bill, waived activation fee, new phone. Cool. Let's do it. And then, at the very end of the call, she quickly reiterated what I would see on the first bill which would begin when I received the phone and ported my number over: discount, new phone cost, and the $40 activation fee. The phone would arrive in 4-5 days.

Wait, what?

I *should* have backed out right there. I didn't. Because I was dumb. Instead what I said was "Activation fee??? I could have sworn this was specifically discussed in both this call and the last one as something that would be waived." She backed right up and stumbled over a few calming phrases, clicked away on her keyboard, and then told me that it was taken care of, no activation fee would be applied. Cool. 

And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, on day 9 I got my first bill! I still didn't have a phone, but that hadn't stopped them from charging me on a phone plan that I couldn't use. And once I opened up that bill, I noticed a few key things. One, not only had they charged me the activation fee, but it wasn't $40, it was $45; not objectively a huge difference, but given that it wasn't supposed to be there at all, I was...annoyed. They also hadn't applied the discount I was promised, and maybe more concerning was that I'd been billed since Nov 8, and by the 16th I still didn't have the phone, so I shouldn't have been charged at all according to the agreement that I'd made. To say that I was unhappy, wouldn't quite capture the severity of my feelings that day. 

So I looked up the help desk number, which took some time because the website is like a fucking rabbit hole, and in some cases, actually has pictures of rabbits on it. And if you've ever had the chance to experience the absolute joy of calling a Toolus help desk, you'll understand this next part. If not, may you never have to.  

Once I made it through the flurry of voice activated menus, I was kindly informed that the wait time would be upwards of an hour. Did I want them to hold my place in line and call me back at this number? Yes, yes I did! This has to be one of the best/most actually helpful help desk options, and so far, I didn't feel like gnawing off my leg to get out of an ever tightening trap. I was an idiot. 

Two hours later, still no call back. So I used a different phone to call back and leave a different call back number to increase my chances, because why not? Another hour and a half later I finally got a call back on the second number. (I never did get a call back on my original number). Let the games begin. 

The rep, to his credit, was very good, and got the bill sorted out. My phone was probably just stuck in the mail, and it would arrive soon, and all would be well. He even sent me everything in writing, so next time I wouldn't be relying on my quickly fading hope that someone on the other end of the phone had actually written down call notes that supported what I was saying. I was still not happy with Toolus, and it definitely felt like most of what I'd been originally told was utter shit, and the only reason things were still on track was because I'd spent half my day navigating their punishing phone system, but I was cautiously optimistic that maybe the worst was over.

It was not. Not even close. 

The next day my phone finally arrived. Day 10. But that was ok, the stars were aligned and everything was good. I had taken the plunge and upgraded to a nice, purple, iphone 11, because this year has been stupid, and why not. I put in the sim chip, turned it on, and started the process to set up the phone. 

It is at this point, dear readers, that this story falls of a fucking cliff.  Instead of letting me run through all the set up features, the phone popped up and asked me to put in the password for apple id for (obviously it wasn't actually, but in order to protect the innocent, we will leave it at that).

What kind of breathtaking new stupidity was this?

The brand new phone was inexplicably asking me to put in someone else's apple id? Now, I'm not what I would call technologically inclined, but I'm also not a fucking spoon. This was obviously not a new phone, and I was furious. 

Another hour and a half later (and this time it didn't offer to call me back) I made it through the sadistic telephone tree to a real person. Allow me to paraphrase our convo:

Me: Hi, you took my money and said you would send me a new phone. Turns out your company was full of shit and sent me a refurbished phone. Turns out your company is also unfathomably stupid and sent me a poorly refurbished phone.  

Toolus: Oh. Wow. Yeah, that's not ok. 

Me: Thank you. I also know you personally didn't do this, and I do appreciate your help (all things being fair, this guy was awesome)

Toolus: Do you mind holding a moment? (read: I'm going to put you on hold again for 30 mins)

Me: Sure, why not. 

30 mins later

Toolus: Ok, you can return the phone to the nearest store and they can give you a new one!

Me: I promise I don't live anywhere near a store. You mailed me the phone, I feel like it's fair play to let me mail it back.

Toolus: Yeah, we can't do that. *insert here a bizarre and incoherent explanation as to why, that isn't worth the time it would take to write it down*

Me: *taking a deep, tortured breath*  Ok, so let's just lay this out so we're all on the same sent me a phone, took my money, told me it was brand new, and it was not. Not only was it not new, but it's locked to the point that it is the equivalent of a very expensive paper weight. And now, if I would like this situation remedied, I have to drive 400 kms to the nearest store, over the snowy winter roads, to a city where covid is currently taking over, because your company fucked up? Am I close? 

Toolus: Um, yes?

Me: No. No,

Then he said he would go find a manager, and could I hold again.  I feel like at this point I'd listened to the entire loop of awful hold music. Twice. 

Anyway, long story short-ish, he worked it out that I could mail it back and they would send me a new one, you know, so I could try all this again. 

There was one more call after this, just so I could, you know, reiterate the entire saga to another manager who as far as I could tell was an absolute trench goblin, with no personality whatsoever. His only moment of bland failure was when he tried to make small talk for a moment and crashed miserably, accidentally implying to me that patience was a virtue, so maybe I just needed to wait the situation out. And please keep in mind that we were well over 5 hours of help desk time over the span of  a few days, so making light of this complete waste of my time was a teensy bit tone deaf. *sigh*

And after all of the back and forth with reps and management, there was one string that still needed to be pulled. One ray of light in this whole debacle. After all, I would be absolutely remiss if I didn't also email my mystery gmail/apple id contact and let him or her know what a magical voyage the phone had made. I laid out the story for them, probably sounds like a bit of a lunatic, but so be it. It brought me some joy. I'm still waiting to hear back, but I truly hope I get a new pen pal out of the whole thing. 

And so now I'm back to square one, waiting for a new phone, and hoping that the bill will be fixed as promised, so that this rocky start to a new telecommunications adventure can finally become a little more calm. 

Maybe I just need a little more patience?


Saturday 7 November 2020

Me vs The Boat...Part 5 - What sailing *should* look like

Wondering how we got here? (Me too!) 

Check out Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here,  and Part 4 here

So we've made it this far. I feel a bit like I'm drawing out the Twilight series from four shitty books into five atrocious movies.  But that's the world we live in, so off we go. 

Our next sailing adventure came from my husband's uncle, who had recently purchased and was fixing up an 85 foot sailboat. He'd heard about our new acquisition, and probably about our dismal attempts to sail it, and invited us out for a few days of sailing/learning. 

To say this guy was a seasoned sailor is a salty understatement. He's one of those people that look at the water and can tell you how fast the wind is blowing, where it's coming from, and how many seals are currently mating in the general vicinity. He's sailed all over the world, and you can tell he knows his shit. I do not. And this has never been more apparent. 

The boat itself was staggering. You could fit 3 of our boats on it, and probably still have room for a dinghy (or a few of those aforementioned seals?). It was massive. 

We went out a couple of times and learned, then promptly forgot, a bunch of really good sailing information. One thing I've discovered about myself is that when I get into a situation where someone is giving me a lot of really great information, but I also don't really understand what's going on, my brain shuts down after picking up 1-3 specific items. Everything else is gone.  

Learning how not to get your
fingers stuck in the winch

With this in mind I can tell you the following: 1) Don't fall off the boat 2) There is basically no end to the number of ways in which you can fall or be thrown off the deck of a boat, and 3) when you fall out of the boat, don't try to climb into the life ring, just flip it over your head and ideally get pulled back onto the boat. Easy.

I actually did pick up a few more things, but it was easily only a tenth of the information given to us.  There were a lot of boat terms thrown around that I'm pretty sure he thought we knew, but I clearly did not, and at one point we took a video of his uncle splicing a rope, because there was a zero chance we would every remember how to do it on our own. 

Overall, it was a spectacular experience on a beautiful boat, and I'm sure we got at least a little smarter. Oh, and I did learn that even on a big boat I can innately tell when we hit 15 degrees heeled over. His uncle didn't believe me and had to check....but I may be the only thing I've ever really known with any certainty on a boat.

Maybe it was time for us to try again on our own boat, with all of this newfound knowledge. I'd say how bad could it be, but then I've learned that tempting fate on a sailboat is rarely a good idea. 

Join me next time for what I think will probably be the last sailing installment for the season... 

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Me vs The Boat...Part 4 - Maybe this time nothing will go wrong?

Need to catch up? Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here

TL;DR - We had a boat. We'd taken a lesson. We still didn't know shit.  

I had hoped that following an actual lesson, the nightmares about crashing into other boats, having the keel fall off, or being capsized because I couldn't throw my weight around properly would end after some training, but if anything I was even more convinced that we'd made a horrible error. It seemed that everyone I talked to felt that we would end up on the bottom of the lake before we made it to the other side. 

I should also say at this point that my husband in no way agreed with me on any of this. His take on the lesson had been all rose-coloured glasses and rainbows. He was still blissfully unaware of the dangers I was 100% sure were waiting for us. But we still hadn't really had our maiden voyage (unless you counted being 10 feet off the dock, which apparently he didn't) so I grudgingly accepted that we needed to try again. 

This time, at least, we appeared to have learned a little from our previous attempt and tried a different launch ramp that wasn't facing directly into the wind. Progress? This ramp had an easier overall approach, and a place to park and set up the boat that was much more accessible than the last place. But while there were fewer spectators, we did have a some people come out to watch us set up (why though?), and at least one woman took pictures of us and said it was nice to see more sailboats on the lake. I don't think she realized what a complete hazard to navigation we actually were. 

Like the time before, we got into the water fairly smoothly, and because no one sat on the fuel line, the motor worked (at least as well as it ever does). The weather behaved itself, and unlike every other sailor out there, I was ecstatic that there was no more than a breath of wind.

With a bit of effort and surprisingly little swearing, we motored out to the middle of the lake and prepared to raise the sails for the first time. We were entering new territory, which historically hadn't gone well for us on the boat thus far, but the sails went up smoothly, we were heading downwind and.... HOLY SHIT WE WERE SAILING!

The kids still complained about how slow we were compared to the grandparent's power boat, but I was floored as we watched the speedometer climb up to 3.5 knots. And if I was (grudgingly) honest, our big boat was much more forgiving than the tiny nightmare that we'd had out lesson on. I was feeling good. I was feeling relaxed. I was feeling bloody was 38 degrees outside!

To combat the heat we furled the sails and jumped in the lake. This part the kids really liked. We even had the foresight to make sure at least one adult was on board at all times. We may not have been good at the finer points of sailing, but I was not going to let us be those people who's entire group jumped off the boat and then watched the boat sail away without them. Idiots.

Overall, the first half of the day went beautifully. It was calm and relaxed, and basically lulled me into a false sense of security, and the mistaken belief that we were not failing miserably at this endeavor.

<--- see...lulled.

But eventually we had to go back, and going back meant beating into the wind, which had picked up considerably, and brought in some cloud cover, but had not in any way cooled off the day.  

Suddenly the day wasn't quite as relaxing, and every tack heeled us over to at least 15 degrees, and we were flying down the lake at 6.5 knots, which subsequently caused me to panic. Of course I had bury that panic deep down inside to keep as quiet as I could so I didn't scare the kids, which as it turns out, was not enough, because they were below deck and refused to come out. They also didn't like being heeled over.  

Now I know logically that 15 degrees heeled over is perfectly fine in a sail boat. It won't flip the boat. Academically I KNOW this.  But when it's happening it doesn't feel ok. Humans are not supposed to be tilted over by 15 degrees. It turns out I am able to handle 10 degrees, but as soon as we crest over that, I can tell. I don't even need to look. As far as I'm concerned, it absolutely feels like we will capsize and despite all the logic in the world, I panic. It makes sense....I have no real experience sailing, so I worry that I've done something critically wrong and whatever I do next will only make it worse, and I really just need it to stop. Now.  Please.

Let me give you an analogy.  

I don't love flying. Turbulence makes me very uncomfortable but whenever it happens, I watch the flight attendants. They fly all the time, and have probably seen more turbulence in a week than I've experienced in my entire life. So, it's safe to say if they are casually walking the aisles serving drinks, then whatever is happening in the air is fine. Everything is fine. If it gets a little bumpy, and my husband tries to reassure me that we probably won't die, I appreciate it, but let's be honest, he flies about as much as I do. He's not a flight attendant....what does he know? And so I watch the flight attendants. Maybe they put away the drink carts. Ok, that's a bit concerning, but we're probably still fine, they just don't want to accidently cover that passenger with ginger ale. But if they start buckling in and looking worried, you know you're in trouble. Because they know. They've done this a hundred times and can tell you what's normal and what's not.

But my boat doesn't have flight attendants to tell me when things are ok and when shit's about to get real. It has me and my husband, and we're both pretty garbage at the whole thing, so as far as I can tell leaning over at 15 degrees we were pretty definitely going to die.  

So there we were trying to get back up the lake in more wind than I was happy with (although in reality probably a completely reasonable amount). We got pretty good at tacking, heeling over uncomfortably, then letting out the sail enough to pop back up to where we were happy. But this made for incrementally slow progress towards where we wanted to go. By the time we made it to where we could see the dock, we were exhausted. Panic takes a lot out of a person.
And then it started to rain. Perfect. I definitely needed the threat of thunder and lighting to add to my calm.

But the dock was close. It was so close. Fuck, it was too close. 

I knew from past experience on power boats, that you needed to approach the dock very slowly. I cannot emphasize this enough: VERY SLOWLY. Going into the docking process, my plan had been to stand at the bow, and when we got close enough, I would leap off and tie up, while my husband was in the back convincing our surly motor to obey him. Easy. 

What actually happened was that I stood on the bow and watched in horror as we flew towards the dock at alarming speed. Our conversation went pretty much like this:

Me: We're coming in too fast. You need to slow down

Him: I can't make it go any slower. It's already as slow as it will go!


Him: But I don't want to go backwards. 

The dock where we launched was very short (slightly shorter than the boat itself), which subsequently gave us very little room for error on the return approach. I was too far away to jump to the dock and had all but given up on the boat slowing down before we hit bottom. In the end we got very lucky that there was someone on the dock who offered to catch our line and slow us down, because otherwise we would have grounded. This whole scenario felt like it took an eternity, but likely lasted only a moment or two. 

Once we were tied up, I turned around to see if anyone had jumped to the dock to tie up the stern line. Turned out that no, there was no stern line, but my husband was hanging off the stern rails, half in the water. 


I learned afterwards, that in a herculean effort to stop the boat from running aground, he had leaped off the stern and onto the dock with a line, only to be pulled back off the dock and into the water by physics. He managed to grab the stern rails on his way down, and just hung there for a minute until he realized he could just stand up. 

Maiden voyage complete. 

Next, join our heroes for part 5, where a benevolent uncle tries to help these idiots learn the importance of never approaching a dock faster than you are willing to hit it....

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Me vs The Boat....Part 3 - Lessons in how not to sail

If you haven't caught up, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here

So just to briefly catch us all up, we got a boat, the motor is kind of shit, we haven't successfully done anything, and we are not at all good at this. 

It was time for some professional help. And by that, what I mean is that we booked a lesson and got handed off to a 16 year old girl working for the summer at a sailing club. This poor thing then got stuck in a boat with two adults, one of whom couldn't go in a straight line if she was tied to it. 

Because we were so late in the season, all the normal learn how to sail group lessons were fully booked and our only option was a private lesson. This was fine with me; it was a 4 hour round trip drive just to get there, so going every Thursday night for 6 weeks just wasn't an option. I thought that that if we just did an intensive solo lesson for a day, we would at least get the basics and maybe make it off the dock next time.

And this was technically true; my husband did pick up the basics. I picked up a new fear of jibing and a bone deep feeling of inadequacy.   

We were put into a tiny 14 foot dinghy, which felt too small for the amount of chop on the lake. Apparently it wasn't though, because just in front of us was a group of 4-7 year old kids who were also learning how to sail. They were going in a straight line. 

Our teenager showed us the ins and outs of making the boat go and then handed the tiller over the my husband. He did a perfectly respectable job of keeping us on course, and I did a perfectly respectable job of remaining calm. Up until we did the first tack. 

For those of you who don't know (and I counted myself as one of those until recently), tacking and jibing are boat words for turning. Boats have a lot of what I think are unnecessarily complicated boat words for things that already have words, but that will need to be a later post. Suffice to say, we turned the boat, which put the wind on the other side of us. The other thing that happens when you tack or jibe, is that the boom swings over, the balance of the boat shifts, and you can heel over. Heeling is another boat word for the boat tipping over and making you feel like you're going to die. 

At this point, the agile 16 year old would leap over all the shit in the bottom of the boat, sit on the opposite edge, and balance us again. She didn't look panicked, so ok, maybe I could deal with this. Don't tip too much, and I'm ok. 

We went back and forth for a while with my husband keeping us firmly under control, so of course it was decided that it was time for me to take over and utterly destroy any feeling of calm or confidence I'd so painstakingly developed. I'd gotten surprisingly good at trimming the sails, and I was feeling ok about it, so it was definitely time to ruin that. 

Going into it, part of me thought that maybe it wouldn't be that bad. I was very wrong. First, I was handed the boat at a point where the wind and chop had picked up quite a bit. Perfect. I was also told almost immediately that we needed to jibe. Ok. We'd done a few tacks, how much different could the jibe be? Turns out it was very different.  

What's also very different is that with a tiller (boat word for shitty steering stick) is that everything is opposite. Want to go left? Push the tiller to the right. Want to go right? Go left.  That day I learned that my spatial orientation skills are absolute shit. I just couldn't coordinate my brain and my hand so we zig zagged all over the place. Then she tells me it's time to jibe. Just push the tiller all the way over to the one side and we'd turn, the boom would swing, and we would be going the other way. Cool. 

What she failed to mention is that you don't push the tiller ALL the way over, very quickly. Nor did she mention that unlike the nice slow tacks, this turn would happen at the speed of an out of control cheetah. And finally, she definitely neglected to say that when these things all combine together, you need to gracefully leap over to the other side of the boat to shift the weight so you don't dip the fucking edge of the boat in the water. 

All of these things happened in rapid succession.

We began our jibe very...aggressively. The boat heeled way over, and then spun in very tight circles repeatedly, because rather than gently pushing us into the turn, I thrust us into it like a motivated gym rat, and held it there. My brain could not respond fast enough to that whole "go the opposite way you think you should" thing, so I just held the tiller where it was and hoped for the best.  Then instead of gracefully leaping to the other side of the boat to correct any of this, I flung my body to the other side, and smoked my knee into the tiller in the process. 

I should mention at this point, that while doing all this, I was definitely not supposed to let go of the tiller or the head sail rope that I was also holding. 

I most definitely did let go of everything. This did not help.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how because my full concentration was on not screaming out loud in front of the teenage instructor, she got us back on track and sorted out. She even gave me back the tiller despite my protests, but didn't make the obviously critical error of leaving me alone to my own devices again. 

We finished off the lesson, during which I tried very hard to internalize my terror screaming so as not to make a scene every time the boat heeled over even slightly.  I think I succeeded more or less. At the end, my husband executed a perfect J-turn into the dock, while I just tried not to fall while exiting the boat, because that was about all I could handle at that point. 

I was still pretty sure we'd made a terrible error and should probably sell the boat. 

Also, there are no pictures in the episode, because frankly I had other things to worry about than instagraming the shit out of my day. Like not falling out of the boat, which I didn't do, and consider the main win of the day.

Join me for Part 4 where we try again a few weeks later because I needed some time for my adrenaline levels to return to normal.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Me vs The Boat....Part 2 - So far this is not going well

***I'm just going to apologize right now for the formatting errors around the pictures. I can't explain what is going on, why it's happening, or how to fix it, so know that I know, and it's not just shitty editing on my part. Sorry. 

If you haven't already done so, please feel free to check out Part 1 here

When we last saw our heroes, they were staring off into the sunset from the deck of their boat...which was still parked in the driveway, because that's as far as we'd gotten. But we had a boat!

And it was at about this moment that I was hit by an overwhelming tidal wave of anxiety. Somehow, it hadn’t really occurred to me until now that the “sailing experience” my husband claimed to have came from a trip when he was a pre-teen and reading books about how to sail. And my own experience made him look like a salt-weathered captain chasing a mythical white whale, as I’d only ever been on a sailboat twice, for a grand total of about 6 hours if I generously combined the two. What kind of incredible error in judgement had we made?   

But before I really get into the actual sailing bit, I feel like I need to address a bizarre phenomenon that I encountered during our initial boat acquisition process. Whenever I talked to people about buying a boat, I would get one of two reactions: Wow, that sounds amazing, you’ll have so much fun! OR Hmm, you know sailing is expensive and totally dangerous.  You’ll probably flip your boat, and die in the icy cold waters of I-told-you-so. And by the way, have you watched *Adrift (*or some other sailing disaster movie)? You should watch'll never want to sail again!  (<--- What the actual fuck?)

Unfailingly, it was one of these two reactions.  And in answer to the question of whether or not I’ve pulled out the popcorn to watch a movie where people make incredible, and frequently avoidable, errors in judgement while not respecting the ocean’s power: No. No I have not. 

It's like asking someone who's about to take their first flight if they've recently watched Alive, and do they intend to become a cannibal if the opportunity presents itself?  Or maybe we can ask if the person climbing onto the bus has had the pleasure of watching Speed? Are you aware that by getting onto a bus you run the risk that terrorists have rigged a bomb onto it that requires a minimum velocity to avoid exploding?!? You didn't? Well, you should be more careful!

But I don't do that, because that is a fucked up thing to do. 

I digress. 

So back to sitting on dry land in a boat. 

Because our maiden voyage was delayed by a week due to the motor's stubborn refusal to work, I decided to take some time to clean and repaint the inside of the boat. As much as 70's-chic faux wood speaks to me, I wanted to lighten things up. 

For anyone that hasn't painted in a confined space, it sucks. So, so hard. Our boat, while it technically has a below deck area, does not have a below deck area I can stand up in. So I spent hours contorted into unhealthy positions to make brown "wood" a nice blue tinted white. It's much brighter and happy inside, although I'm still stuck with the plaid cushions, because frankly I'm cheap, and they are very expensive to replace.

I'd add pictures of the new paint job, but it's
honestly such a mess in there right now that it would 
just look worse.

Eventually, the motor ran, the paint dried, my anxiety was high, I was regularly having nightmares about crashing into things..... we were ready to go. 

We thought we were smart and scoped out our first launching ramp ahead of time. In theory, this was smart, but we'd neglected to account for the fact that the ramp was at the far end of the lake and the wind usually blew directly into it. If we'd known what we were doing (and we did not), we would have recognized that launching directly upwind was not ideal. Instead, we did not recognize this until we were past the point where it could be helped. 

We got the mast stepped and the boat in the water with what I would consider to be minimal embarrassment.  As is the case at most launching ramps we had an audience, and my husband, who is extremely adept at backing up trailers, made it look like (at least initially) we knew what we were doing (again, this was not true at all).  The boat was in the water and floating. Step one, check!

We started the motor and got ready to shove off. We could do this! And then the motor died. We can't do this!  A minute later we had it going again after I pointed out to my husband that no only was he extremely good at backing up trailers, but he was also very good at cutting off the flow of gas to the motor while sitting on the main fuel line. We could do this again!

Now, I'm not really sure how to convey to you as the reader how poorly this next part went. I wish I had it on video so one day I could show it to people as an example of what not to do, but I'm also pretty sure that if I searched "idiots on a boat" on YouTube I could probably find a clip from one of the beach bound audience members. A friend of mine said that she wished there was a "new driver" sign for boats that could could be put up when learning to sail.....just give us some space and don't make too much fun of us....we're trying really hard here. I think this is a great idea. Basically, please don't assume that I have any real skills yet, I'm just trying not to hit things. 

Which is about all I can say we really succeeded at that day. We didn't hit anything, and it's a fucking miracle we didn't.  It's also about the only thing we can really claim went the way it was supposed to that day. We didn't cause any property damage. Go team.

This picture shows a happier time, 
when we were still attached to the
dock and believed this would go well.

After pushing off the dock, we careened out into the narrow channel lined with boats that were much more expensive than ours on one side, and a dock that also looked pretty pricey on the other. We got about 10 feet from the dock and realized that we had basically no control at all. The motor, which was (and still is) finicky at best, would occasionally just shut off, leaving us adrift. However, even when it was on, we had very little steering capability because as we learned very quickly, the mechanism to lock the motor down in the water was gone? broken? somewhere? Honestly it didn't soon as we tried to reverse, the motor would kick out of the water and we couldn't steer out into the lake if our lives depended on it.  

I spent the next 10 minutes (eternity) standing on the bow screaming to either go forward to avoid hitting the boat near our stern, or to go backwards to avoid crashing into the very expensive looking private dock at our bow. This was all while getting hit broadside by the wind, because the only thing we'd managed to successfully do was get ourselves positioned perpendicular to the dock, which to be fair, was never our goal. Then we just ping ponged back and forth for a while, trying to get pointed in the right direction, all while attracting an audience, which is always very helpful in a stressful situation.  

My 7 year old was huddled below deck in the fetal position with a bag of chips just waiting for it all to be over. I'm shocked we ever got him back on the boat honestly.

After a lot of yelling, divorce talks, and a briefly considered plan to jump ship, swim to shore and just walk away, I managed to hop back onto the dock and pull the boat back in manually. And yes, for reference, that's how far we made it on day one: I could jump back onto the dock from the deck of the boat. 

With some help from a kind stranger who didn't even make too much fun of us, we figured out why the motor didn't lock down (a problem that was humiliatingly easy to fix once we read the instruction manual) and got the boat back on the trailer. I was more or less ready to sell the boat by the end of the day.

On the way home I unilaterally decided that we were not stepping foot on our boat again without taking lessons. But that in itself is a saga best left for another day. 

See you all for Part 3 where we learn about sailing lessons and how bad I really am at spatial orientation.   


Tuesday 6 October 2020

Me vs The Boat...Part 1 of probably a few

It’s never really a good idea to pick up a new hobby because YouTubers with no kids and disposable income did it successfully this one time. Well, in some cases maybe; you want to take up crochet and need a tutorial? Have at it. Have a channel where you open up and play with toys? Sure. (This for some reason actually happens, click here to read about it)

But that’s not what we did. We bought a sailboat. A cheap sailboat, so that if it goes up in flames on the water, we'd just let it burn. Like most of our toys it’s only slightly newer than I am, but that’s ok….she still floats. And
this new adventure came with only one significant problem: We didn’t know how to sail.

Again, if you’re picking up crochet, having zero reportable skill isn’t really an issue. If you’re absolute shit at it, the worst that happens is your dish cloth looks like it was done by a spider on hallucinogens. If you’re not good at sailing, however, you can sink. Or crash. Or capsize. Or, if you’re really talented, maybe you crash, capsize, and then eventually sink. In flames. The possibilities really are endless.

What I really wanted was the tropical paradise that can come with sailing. The idea of living on a well-equipped catamaran in the Bahamas sounds magical. More importantly not dealing with our quickly approaching winter sounds even more magical. (It's possible that I’m actually a 75 yr old snowbird, and maybe I should look into a trailer in Arizona? Fewer sinkings.)  And yes, I know that it isn’t all suntans and happiness, but I’m living vicariously through the internet. Let me be. 

But even I was able to rise above the over-edited YouTube bliss enough to realize that jumping from my landlocked home, to a full time on-camera sailing career was unlikely, and frankly not something I would even really want. But the allure of sailing still held. 

I had really advocated for this whole insanity about a year ago, but also recognized the general futility of the whole thing and more or less moved on. Meanwhile, in the very quiet background, my husband plotted. Then, this spring, he started sending me posting of small sailboats for sale. No lead up, just "here's a boat". Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had lost some part of my mind. 

The first boat we really liked on paper. After a few back and forth emails with the seller, I asked about the condition of the interior, as he'd posted no pictures of the inside and made no mention of any issues. He said it had "a little water on the inside, like most boats do". Um, ok....please define "a little water". Approximately 30 gallons over the last few months. Now, I'm not an expert, but I feel like the water should be primarily on the outside of the boat. What you have is a floating bath tub. 

Also, your boat is sinking. 

Then we went to see one boat that I’m not sure had seen the water in a decade. Maybe once upon a time, but not anymore. It had a hole in the hull that the seller told me probably wouldn’t be an issue because it was probably above the water line.…and that wasn’t even the worst problem it had. The drop keel had bubbles of rust that burst if you touched them, and had completely seized. I don't think a team of elephants could have pulled it down into a usable position. We noped out of there pretty quickly. 

The next closest boat was a 900 km/10 hr drive, but thankfully ended in a perfectly good condition 1983 Macgregor 25 ft sailboat with no motor, because that had fallen into the lake the day before. Happily this saved us a fair amount of cash, but meant another trip to another town to pick up a used motor that was only a few years newer than the boat.  This was then followed by a few more days of work taking the motor apart to try to figure out why it wouldn’t start. Turns out that outboard motors don’t like their telltale tubes blocked by large dead insects. Who knew?

But now we had a boat and a working motor. Step one complete!

We were ready to go sailing.

Although the term "sailing" could probably easily be replaced by "doing an absolutely shit job of navigating our boat off the dock". 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this sailing saga, where we revisit our heroes at the beginning of the 'evolution into pro sailors' montage.  

Saturday 22 August 2020

Jamie vs The Wedding Speech

Dear sister,

It’s been almost a year since you got married, and I’ve been slow about posting the wedding speech I did for you. So as your first anniversary approaches, I thought I’d help you relive your wedding with my small contribution to your big day.

Doing the speech at your wedding was an absolute highlight and honour for me. It made me realize that I love a microphone and an audience, and that high following a great performance. 

Oh, and your wedding was cool too.

So here is my speech for posterity. Although it is missing bits, because some comedy gold was dropped on me at the last minute and I had to improvise...the fact that there were an obscene number of Jamie’s at your wedding gave me one hell of an intro, and dad getting pulled over by the cops for going to slow despite trying to rush home for a panicky Mexican food poop, were all just too good not to use.

So thank you for giving me a stage, for trusting me to roast you enough to make you cringe but not cry, and for the literal standing ovation that night and massively supportive comments afterwards from people I’d know for years, and many I’d never met. 

I absolutely had a blast writing this for you and watching your face during those moments where you figured out where I was headed before the rest of the guests, and despite this knowledge, you also knew that you couldn’t stop me. I loved every single moment. 

Happy anniversary sis. 

Hi everyone, I'm Jamie 

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kendra’s sister.  We don’t look much alike, but if you close your eyes and just listen, we’ve been told we sound almost identical. Friends, boyfriends, and even our parents have gotten us confused over the years, which of course we exploited at every point possible, so don’t feel bad if you think you hear Kendra across the room and it turns out to be me.  You wouldn’t be the first, and probably won’t be the last. (***cheers from the old friends in the crowd who actually made this mistake a number of times)

Besides being her sister, I’m also Kendra’s maid of honour, making it my job to talk her off ledges, make sure the back of her dress isn't tucked into her underwear, and to basically help her get to today. 

But because I’m her sister, it’s now also my job to make sure that I share as many childhood stories as I can within a reasonable speech time frame.  

Now at this point that I should tell you that I was going to put up some pictures, but Kendra and Robert basically refused to let me have any sort of screen. To be fair, this was probably a very smart choice on their part, but still, now you’ll have to use your imaginations. Think of this as the audience participating aspect to the traditional wedding speech. 

For example:

Here I would have put up some beautiful art work done by Kendra. Now you’ll have to just take my word for it that it didn’t suck. 

Kendra has always been very artistic….again, you’ll just have to trust me.  She can create art out of basically any medium available, and once painted a tree mural on our wall that I’m convinced was the selling feature of the condo years later. 

I have a picture of this masterpiece, but you can’t see it.  

But Kendra had humble beginnings.  Her first attempt at non-conformist modern art was drawing on a foggy mirror after a shower. At 10 years old, she had realized that if she drew a picture on the mirror with her finger, it would appear again later in the steam from the next  shower.

So…..14 year old me finishes a shower and reasonably expects to see nothing but my own reflection in the mirror, but what 14 year old me sees instead...and no, I promise you will never guess this if I gave you infinite chances to guess. And it also wasn't a penis.....she wrote:


I know…

Three things here. 

One: OJ Simpson wasn’t, and still isn’t dead. 

Two: my sister watched too much news?

And Three:  Kendra somehow managed to do fake news before it was mainstream.

Besides her obvious artistic tendencies, Kendra has always had incredible physical prowess. She is a talented skier, she enjoys running, and is literally a world class paddler (PSA:  never call it rowing, or she will drown you) 

But like her art, her athleticism began much more humbly. When she was younger, Kendra wasn’t capable of walking like a human being.  For reasons only an 8 year old can understand, her and her friend wanted to be horses. Not to RIDE horses, but to BE horses.

At this point, Kendra probably doesn’t want me to elaborate on what I mean, so I will.  

This means offering to hitch yourself up to large logs in order to pull them like draft horses. It means perfecting your horse sounds. It also, more importantly, means walking and running on all fours, because real horses don't walk on two legs.

But this 4 legged walking doesn’t come easily, it takes practice and dedication. And they got good. And my dear sister, who excels in most things, also excelled in this. 

Over time, the two girls developed a loping kind of canter, a smooth-ish walk, and an ungainly but surprisingly quick gallop, all of which were done on all fours. And they were faster than you think. 

Again, since I can’t show you, you’ll need to imagine a young version of Kendra decked out in multi-coloured spandex, no small amount of neon, and a fanny pack, posing on all fours like the horse she believes is her spirit animal. The picture is out there…..

But for me, the best part of this was that over time they performed these moves so frequently that they would forget what they were doing and just drop into horse stance. Literally ANYWHERE.

 I would be walking home from school with Kendra and suddenly she would drop to all fours and run. Any time she ran there was at least a 40% chance that she would end the run as a horse.

The most memorable time was at the local ice rink. We were at public skating, just going around in circles and I guess at some point we achieved critical horse speed.  Out of nowhere Kendra dropped automatically into horse stance and tried to run. 

As you all know, ice isn't famous for it's traction, and horses don't wear ice skates. 

And just to make sure I wasn’t creating fake news, I googled it I can tell you that there are no horses on ice skates, although I was surprised to learn that there was at least one that roller skated. His name was Jimmy, and was quite famous in Ohio in the 1950’s.  

I would have put up his picture here, but you know. 

Anyway, these things, combined with not actually being a horse, created unsurprising disaster. My agile little sister face planted on the ice after taking about 2 to 3 loping attempts at a gallop in public. She wasn't hurt, and I enjoyed watching it immensely. 

Much like I’m enjoying retelling it now.  

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

Kendra also has a memory rivaled only by that of an elephant. No matter how insignificant the screw up, she will remember it.  I only mention this because she has been holding a grudge against me since she was 6.  

We were walking home from school one fall.  Kendra was picking up leaves, and I was making sure she didn’t walk into a tree while paying attention to the leaves.  She had a very singular focus in those days. 

She found a leaf she liked, which was basically like every other leaf on the ground, but she wanted this one. Instead of carrying it herself like a normal person, she assumed I was a willing pack horse and gave me the leaf to carry for her. 

It’s a well known fact in our family that my hands don’t generally stay still.  I will shred paper table clothes, play with crumbs on my plate, and apparently, I also unconsciously shred leaves that are handed to me for transport.  As she was off searching for more leaves identical to the one I was holding, I decimated the one she’d given me. 

Now, in my defense, I want it on the record that I did not do this intentionally, but the leaf was gone none the less.  And she has NEVER let me forget it. Ever. It comes up at least once every major family holiday, including when she told it at my wedding. 

But she will tell the story much differently than I do. The difference being that my version is true, and hers is a drama worthy of an academy award.

Click, a picture of Robert and Kendra together on top of a mountain has just appeared on your internal screens. It’s lovely. If only we could all see it…..

And so we’ve reached the part of the speech where as the maid of honour I’m supposed to say nice things about the groom. 

Robert, Rob, Bob, Bobert

Despite our weird habit of constantly trying to out-insult each other at every possible opportunity, I want to say welcome officially to the family.  We’re very happy to have you here. I for one appreciate that we can verbally abuse each other on a regular basis without mortally offending one another. It’s something I look for in a brother in law, and to date,  you’re the only one who’s had the ability to keep up with me. Well done. Although you may want to vary your insults a bit, some are getting a bit uncreative old man.

But I’ve known Robert for what has actually become a fair number of years now, and for those of you who’ve also known him for some time, you may remember that he used to have much longer hair. 

After meeting him for the first time, my uncle pointed out that in large part due to this mountain of hair, he looked a lot like the painter Bob Ross, who is well known both for his wild Afro, for painting happy little trees, and for turning mistakes into birds on canvas.  

Once again, you’ll need to close your eyes and imagine a split screen with an older picture of Robert side by side with one of Bob Ross. See….it’s uncanny. And I have a point to all this….

Ok, next slide. Nope, there isn't one. Maybe in your head? I'll leave it up to you.

Now imagine a Bob Ross painting, it’s trees, and mountains with a little lake between the peaks.  It’s probably dusk, but without the mosquitoes. And in the distance there are a couple of birds because at some point along the line, there was a paint splatter that was later reworked into….buzzards or something. 

It’s toast time. 

Kendra and Robert,

In the years that you have been together, I’ve seen each of you grow as individuals and as a couple. You’re both equally stubborn and passionate, which does make for some interesting battles over how much spice to add to a dish, the pros and cons of wearing plaid to a wedding, or which craft beer is better. It’s adorable and irritating in equal measure. 

Always keep in mind that marriage can have a lot of ups and downs, and it’s important to be honest about that. It’s not always easy, and you will probably have times where you consider the cost effectiveness of changing the locks while the other one is out. Don’t. But feel free to consider it. 

You will both make mistakes. You will both say things that you regret. And you will both feel tired and wonder what on earth you are doing together.   

But rather than letting those difficulties get the better of you, channel Bob Ross. Together you can turn your problems into happy little trees and your mistakes into birds, because that is marriage.  You take what each other brings to the canvas and you make a masterpiece together.   Congratulations

Saturday 22 February 2020

Me vs A Legacy of Dead Animals

***This post has a few pictures of dead and/or mostly dead animals. You've been warned. ~J

About a year after we moved, my mother told me that she was surprised by how well I was doing living in a small town, and even more so on a rural property. Apparently when we had told her and my father that we were moving out of the city, they'd silently conferred and given me 6 months before I table flipped and came back to civilization.  Oddly, she was very specific about giving ME 6 months before I lost my mind....she evidently felt that my husband was more suited for rural life???

Well, 6 years in, and I feel like I won some unspoken battle of wills. I also don't recognize what I've become.

When we first moved, finding a spider in my house was grounds for a burning.  I will fully admit to emptying a can of raid into a spider nest just to be sure they were well and truly gone. As a child, when we went to our cabin, my sister and I would have my parents do a "spider check" every night, and failure on their part was not an option. Wildlife was fine...when viewed from afar, and preferably on the other side of glass.

Fast forward to now.
I have been keeping a dead bobcat in my freezer.
My life is a Planet Earth blooper reel. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Since moving to our little piece of forested paradise, I've had to become a little more ok with the nature around me. For example, the spiders that I would not suffer to live, are now ok as long as they are small-ish and remain on the ceiling. My children name them. Our current kitchen-dwelling ceiling spiders are called Fluffy and Blacky.  I do have a more limited tolerance for spiders on bedroom ceilings, but even those standards have greatly relaxed in the last few months. I take much more offence to the moths, as they eat holes in my clothes, and arguably the spiders help with mitigating their existence. Initially I tried to combat the spider epidemic, but having a wood stove means a constant need for wood, which in turn means things coming in on the wood. I like being warm more than I hate spiders, and so they are inevitable. I learned to tolerate.

And so we moved up the size scale to mice. I never had to deal with mice in the city. They just never came up. There were zero times where I laid in bed and wondered what that scritching noise was.  But we moved to a forest and mice became a thing. A constant, unstoppable force of nature. In the home we rented before buying our current house, having mouse traps out was just an everyday standard. The first time I found a full trap, I was horrified that this was something I had to deal with now. And I'll be clear, I didn't deal with it well. Emptying traps was solidly chiseled onto my husband's job list.

These days, mice don't usually make it into the house. Only one has that we know of, and it didn't stand a chance, as our two cats and dog spent an evening stalking it mercilessly (and a bit joyfully). Generally, they only make it as far as the garage and meet their end. This is fine, and I've considered staking their little heads out in front as a warning to others who want to try and breach our defences.

But sometimes our mouse traps work...differently...than I'd like.  Follow me up the size scale again. 

This past summer I caught a lizard in a mouse trap. It was still alive, albeit unhappy, so we released it.  As we were taking the trap back to reset it (the mice never relent) we happened past another one of the traps. This one held an absolutely furious snake, which I'm fairly sure had been going after the lizard that I had just released.  We released the snake and off it went. The next morning, the same stupid lizard that had only caught it's leg the first time, had come right back in and repeated it's poor life choices of the previous day, however this time it hadn't been so lucky.

Dead animal bingo: Small Rodents - check, Reptiles - check
What's next?

Right, birds.

I will say that having a bird fly into your window isn't that uncommon. It happens a lot here, despite attempts to put up stickers and dirty kid handprints to signal that this isn't a fly through zone.  That said, having a hawk fly into your window so fast that you honestly thought your giant picture window was going to shatter....well that's a bit more rare.

I can only imagine that while this bird was very aware of its own speed and magnificence, it was maybe less aware of its surroundings than it needed to be. This beautiful, but idiotic bird, ricocheted off the window so hard that it partially decapitated itself, and the force of the hit sent this now very dead bird flying sideways onto our back deck in a spectacular fountain of arterial blood spray. To complicate this already unplanned for situation, it was August and hot, so we had to get outside as fast as possible to wash the rapidly drying blood spatter off the window, deck, and side of the house before it baked on, all while keeping the dog from coming up to claim what he clearly thought was his new toy. 

It just sat here and died
And if the birds aren't flying into the window, they just settle down by your front door to die.  I guess this was some kind of idiot grouse? It just showed up one day, and then later that same day it was no more.  Less blood spray at least, but no fewer dead birds that the dog still feels should be his. Live in the country, they said.....

And no, I'm not at the cat yet. Which means, yes, somehow there's more. *sigh*

I mentioned our dog earlier. He's big, he's brown, and one of his favourite activities is finding bones. This could mean stealing bones from neighbour dogs (which he does frequently and with skill I wish he'd direct to more useful endeavors, like listening when I call him), or it could mean running out into the forest and helping us to add to our ever increasing collection of dead animal bits. 

A few months ago he very proudly came trotting around the side of the house with this:

This one is quite dead
It still had fur. Wonderful.

And of course, it didn't stop there. We (and again, I say we, but I mean my very tolerant husband) bagged the leg and got rid of it.

My dog brought back another full leg. He was a little salty that we'd gotten rid of his first leg, but he was equally proud of himself for having a stash to work from. And so we got rid of leg #2.

Now I will admit that this pushed my limits a bit. I feel like up until the point where my dog dragged a fully intact deer leg and kindly left it in the middle of my stairs, I'd dealt with most things with a kind of aplomb that past Jamie would not have been able to manage. But this was pushing it somewhat.

And then the entire lower jaw of his prized carcass made an appearance in our yard. And it had teeth. And for some reason the gory, cloven-hoved nightmare was tolerable, but the jaw with teeth? Nope, I'm out.

But I wasn't out.

Because what is the next logical step on the ladder of dead animals? We'd had rodents, reptiles, birds, large guessed's PREDATOR TIME!

This winter we had a cold snap. During this time my neighbour sent me pictures of a little bobcat sitting on her porch just kind of...hanging out? In any case, it was pretty odd behaviour for an otherwise solitary and elusive predator, and it was seriously freaking her cat out. It was interesting, but otherwise the event came and went with little more than passing curiosity. 

A day or two later my husband sent me a text with this picture and very little explanation. 

Also very dead

Turns out that the bobcat that had been hanging out at our neighbours house, probably because it was cold and hungry and then had chosen to make its way into our woodshed to die.  

This NEVER happened to city-dwelling Jamie. SHE never had to deal with dead predators in her yard.  I can truthfully say that there has never been one time in my life prior to moving here where I had to seriously consider how to dispose of a body. NOT ONCE. 

This alone was pretty fucked up. I had a dead bobcat in my woodshed. But more importantly, I had a dead bobcat that I now needed to get rid of, and it needed to be done in a way that would not see the dog bringing it back to us in a further state of disrepair.  

And so like the good procrastinators we are, we put it in a wheelbarrow (it's still winter, it'll keep) and went back inside to ponder the situation for a few days.  I felt like someone should know this happened so I called the conservation officer, because that seemed like something they would want to know about.  Turns out they did not care at all. They wanted me to hurl it into the back 40, but given the aforementioned dog, that didn't seem like a great plan. So we did nothing for a while longer. 

And we continued to do nothing until I went to work with a picture and story of my new cat. My boss took one look and asked if he could have it. You want my dead bobcat? Yes. Why??? To stuff it. Oh. 

Anyway, then I (read again: husband) had to put a small dead bobcat in my freezer so it didn't go bad while my boss got a permit to have it taxidermied.  

For almost 4 weeks, I had a bobcat-cicle just hanging out in my deep freeze. That is not normal. Normal people do not have deceased cats IN THEIR FREEZERS.  That is not something that happens. What (and I can't emphasize this enough) the fuck is happening here? I live in the Bermuda Triangle of dead animals. 

This week, finally, my boss got the approvals he needed to take possession of said dead bobcat, and I could thankfully get it out of my house.  That said, I had to get it out of the freezer first. When it had initially gone it, it was....somewhat pliable. But now picture if you will, the act of trying to get a cat into a carrier....all 4 feet braced against the edges, fighting the inevitable. Well, I had a frozen version of that, and this frozen feline was not keen on being liberated from it's new home.  Eventually me and my frozen cat got to take a ride in my car where it then got to go live in the freezer at work for a while. After all, the only thing worse that a dead frozen bobcat, is a thawed one. 

So now my little dead bobcat will be finding a nice warm home as a flatter, rug-like version of itself. I have requested naming rights though....I'm thinking Cleopatra. 

And I feel like city Jamie would be equal parts proud and horrified by the new me.