Category Archives: stories

The Showdown with Paper Towel Dispensers

Of all the inanimate objects in the universe, there is one item that seems to be my equivalent to Lucy pulling the football before Charlie Brown gets to kick it… it’s paper towel dispensers.

Let’s be clear, I am not referring to any specific brand of paper towel dispensers, or even specific paper towel dispensers in a specific venue. I just mean paper towel dispensers in general.

Am I the only one for whom they don’t seem to work right?

Before I start getting nasty emails from paper towel dispenser companies, let me say up front: it’s not your fault.

It’s the human component using them that seems to have a knack for messing them up… and I’m not talking about myself.

The principle for a mechanical dispenser should be pretty simple. You wash your hands; you gently pull down on the little lever to feed the desired amount of paper through slot; you carefully pull off the towel with the help of the serrated blade; you dry your hands with the towel; you toss the used towel in the receptacle provided.

It’s not rocket science. The devices are pretty intuitive and should be easy to use.

But much like the rules of the road are not always followed to the letter of the law, there are rebels in the bathroom reinventing how to use the dispensers. Continue reading

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Accepting that Poop Happens

My apologies for the vulgarity in the title, but please be forewarned that the word “poop” will come up a few times in this post.

Back when I lived in the city, in a development of townhomes grouped together quite cozily, one of my biggest pet peeves was people who walked their dogs and didn’t clean up after them.

I recall on one occasion opening my window when witnessing an owner letting their dog do its business and not picking it up. I cleared my throat and shouted “EXCUSE ME! Are you going to clean that up?”

They ignored me and just jogged into the distance like it never happened. As much as I would have liked to run out, pick it up and throw it at them, I like to think I’m classier than that.

But it was a next door neighbour with a German shepherd that pushed the boundaries and my buttons. They’d let their dog roam on a very long leash, into my backyard to relieve itself.

The burns in the grass from the urine were bad enough but it was the accumulating fecal matter that was the issue, despite my repeated objections and requests for them to clean up after their dog.

The only time they seemed to respond to my texts was after a snowfall, when the droppings weren’t visible anymore, and say, “Sorry, we’ll try better next time” … How thoughtful of them! Continue reading

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My Favourite New iPhone Game

In picking up a new iPhone 13 mini with heaps of storage space, I have been gradually transferring over my music collection to my new device.

In doing so, I have been able to reconnect with so many musical artists I haven’t been able to listen to in the last few years, given the minuscule amount of storage on my previous phone… My mistake… Lessons learned.

Now, with approximately 13,000 songs on my new phone, there is a fair bit of scrolling going on to get from album to album. But interestingly enough, within my scrolling time, a new game caught my eye.

It’s not the kind of game you need to download from iTunes, it’s just a serendipitous discovery I made along the way.

I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience, but the premise of the game goes like this:

While scrolling through the alphabetically sorted list, I started noticing “neighbours” in the list, like Bon Jovi and Bonnie Raitt.

Note: Yes, I know that Raitt starts with an R, but iPhone/iTunes sorts the list on the first name or word. Continue reading

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The Jerk

On a recent trip to a grocery store, I had a most bizarre encounter with a fellow shopper.

I was pushing my cart down an aisle that was very narrow, given the shelves of potato chips on one side and an island of cases of soft drinks in the middle. Essentially, the aisle was divided into two one-way streets.

If traditional rules of the road prevailed, in theory, I was taking the correct approach. I was traveling on the right side of the aisle while oncoming traffic should have been on the other side of the Island of Coca Cola.

I was near the end of my one-way street when a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) turned the corner and chose to enter the same one-way street I was using… but in the opposite direction.

I watched him as he picked up different bags of chips and quickly put them down without tossing any into his cart. I sensed that something weird was brewing.

Then he paused, not making eye contact with me, still looking in the direction of the shelf. His body language showed that he not actively looking for anything anymore.
Something was up.

Was this a showdown of some sort? Continue reading

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A Return to My Gluttony for Music

Not too long ago, I ran into the “Oh no!” moment that many of us experience at one time or another: The moment when one’s mobile device is having a near-death experience.

It’s not like it was unexpected. Shopping for a new phone has been on my list for a little while. I just hoped that it could have waited a few more months.

The problem was my iPhone 7’s connector port, the one used for recharging and for using headphones. Any cord in that port wasn’t staying in properly anymore. What began as an occasional issue now required progressively more jiggling for it to:
(a) stay in, and
(b) to find the sweet spot for it to recharge or to send music to the headphones.

Needless to say, going for a walk or a run with the phone has been out of the question for several months.

Ironically, this phone was probably the one that has endured the least amount of wear and tear of all of the phones I have owned in the last twenty years. Let’s face it, like most of us, it spent the pandemic at home for two years. Continue reading

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How I Lost a Superpower during the Pandemic

clockI used to pride myself on my punctuality. It wasn’t like I was in some sort of contest or anything, but to me, punctuality meant respect for other people and their valuable time.

That being the case, I always did my very best to leave early enough to arrive on time.

My goal was always to arrive early, but not too early either and rob myself of precious minutes from my time-starved existence.

With years of experience, commuting by car and by bus, I became pretty skillful at predicting how much extra time to allow, when factoring in bad weather, construction and traffic congestion on any given day. As a result, I often enjoyed that sweet spot of arriving about five minutes early for most appointments.

The fact that my early-but-not-too-early arrivals were pretty consistent was a great source of pride. It got to a point that I considered it my superpower.

Needless to say, on those rare occasions when Murphy’s Law (or weather, or construction, or traffic accidents) played against me and I showed up late for something, I was beyond apologetic that my superpower had failed me.

But then three life events happened that have totally messed up my superpower: the pandemic, moving to the country and retirement. Continue reading

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The Battle over the Bird Feeders

When we moved to a rural property, it was hard to resist the prospect of getting a bird feeder given the many species of feathered friends that stopped in for a layover.

While the process behind bird feeders may appear fairly straightforward (get bird feeder, fill with bird seed, birds eat food, watch, enjoy, repeat), who knew that being restaurateur to an avian clientele would present such a learning curve?

Upon arrival, we noticed that the previous owners left behind a hummingbird feeder on a shepherd’s hook in the garden. We thought that was a good starting point.

Upon closer inspection, the feeder needed a thorough cleaning, so I brought it in the house, let it sit in hot water for a while and then started scrubbing.

I googled “hummingbird feeder” to see what was recommended in terms of the liquid to put in it. To my great surprise, it was a simple solution of 1 part sugar dissolved in 4 parts water. I was quite thrilled that it would be this easy to get started, as I had never seen a hummingbird up close before.

However, when I poured the “nectar” into the feeder, I discovered that the old feeder was due for replacing as the liquid dribbled out all over the place.

On our next trip to Canadian Tire, we picked up a new hummingbird feeder to replace the old one, as well as a basic bird feeder and a bag of bird seed designed to attract smaller songbirds. The larger birds would have to fend for themselves for now, but I knew that they wouldn’t go hungry as they seemed quite content with the berries on some of our small fruit trees. Continue reading

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Building a Toad Hotel

In an effort to finally gain the upper hand in dealing with overgrown plants, very bushy bushes, and relentless weeds, we invested in professional help for our garden.

While I cannot speak to the reasons to how or why the garden got to this point, I can only say that the year we took over the house, a walk in our backyard was what I imagine might feel like a walk through a lush rain forest.

It was soothing for the senses to see Mother Nature at work like that, with so much greenery billowing in the breeze.

But the bottom line was that the garden was out of control with plants growing into each other or suffocating each other. It was like plant wars, witnessing the survival of the fittest first hand. Nonetheless, the potential for a really nice garden was definitely there.

Trying to stay on top of the weeds was the impossible dream for us, cautiously putting in an hour here and there, on weekends, weather permitting, when the mosquito count was low, without upsetting the delicate balance of degenerating back conditions. Aging sucks!

It was an incredibly validating exercise to see that it took three young people, a small tractor and two very full days to whip the garden back into shape!

By the time that the crew had completed the work, our gardens were finally a source of pride rather than a source of embarrassment. The curb appeal was returning and we expect it will improve further over time as new growth fills in the spaces vacated by the former plants having near-death experiences. Continue reading

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The Massage Therapist Auditions

a cat in a complete state of relaxationAbout twenty years ago, a received a gift certificate for my very first registered massage therapy (RMT) session.

It was a very kind and generous gift, especially at a time when I was dealing with the grief of my Dad’s passing. At the same time, I was recovering from the final sprint to the finish line for a major project at work. The timing was absolutely right for what I would consider my first real dose of self-care.

I admit that at first I was bit shy about the whole idea, but the massage therapist assigned to me took the time to ask me questions about my health, what I was looking for from therapeutic massage and to walk me through the process.

Any apprehensions I might have had disappeared within three minutes into the treatment. I relaxed and turned into a mass of jelly which allowed the therapist to gently work out some of the knots that had accumulated over time.

By the end of the session, I was a convert. I was so deeply relaxed, I worried about the long drive home and accidentally veering off the road, but I successfully made it home in one piece.

Sadly, the distance to this particular spa made it difficult for me to promise my return. But I was immediately hooked on that amazing feeling that followed, that “clean slate” sensation when the knots and kinks are eradicated. And so began what I called “the massage therapist auditions”, closer to home. Continue reading

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If at First You Don’t Succeed…

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.How many of us grew up with the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?

And how many of us have had moments in life thinking that this societal expectation is… well… a load of nonsense?

I think it would be safe to say that for a kid endowed with only a modest helping of patience, the advice holds some degree of merit.

For an only child who was all too happy to throw in the towel and give up a game after one unsuccessful try, it might also be value-added.

For a short, academically-oriented kid for whom athletics was never in his wheelhouse, the advice was probably reasonable… to a point.

In all three cases, that was me!

But as an adult when we are more in touch with our likes, our aptitudes, our affinities and our passions is “try, try again” without any footnotes, asterisks or any sense of boundaries really good advice?

Shouldn’t there be a cut-off point, when there really isn’t a point to continue? Continue reading

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