On a recent visit to the mall, I noticed a little girl was carefully perusing the contents of the row of gum ball and toy vending machines, with the same intensity I demonstrated when I was shopping for new appliances. She was contorting herself around the machines, checking out all of the contents and trying to predict which items were to come out next.
I understood that this was a major purchase and she was looking for the best value for her hard earned allowance money. That was me 40+ years ago!
After much scrutiny and analysis, she pointed to a machine, put in her coin, turned the crank, opened the plastic bubble and voilà! Pure joy and a huge smile! I could only assume that she got what she was looking for as she was visibly delighted with her prize.
I was reminded of my own childhood and my borderline addiction to those machines. I remember my sock drawer was proudly filled with little gum-ball-machine toys I had collected from trips to the grocery store or the department store.
I don’t think my experience was all that unusual though. With those machines at eye level for a kid, it was so easy to beg parents and relatives for coins, to get something I “positively need, and promise I won’t ask for anything again”… until the next visit.
But what is it about those machines that ignites our curiosity? If common sense prevails, one would think that being able to hold, feel and inspect a product up close to make an informed decision would the more balanced way to go. However the separation of human and product by a plastic window seems to appeal to our sense of adventure.
Or is it because we have become the product of our own life-long Pavlovian experiment since a very young age: put in a coin, get a treat? Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, I had an errand that needed urgent attention, but trying to deal with it outside of work hours would have meant long line-ups. While it may have seemed like a no-brainer to most people, after 35 years of riding the bus, it still is not second nature to me to think that I can jump into my car and to run an errand at lunch time!
As I was driving around, I don’t know why but I had this feeling deep down inside that I was doing something wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems like a throwback to my primary school days when leaving school grounds was a no-no.
Picture it… Ottawa… 1974… two boys are playing in the schoolyard and one them tells the other, “Come on, I do it all the time. I’ve never been caught”. The faux-pas in question was the idea of leaving the school grounds to go to the convenience store to buy some candy. Of course I was the boy who needed a lot of convincing, as disobeying orders from authority figures was not second nature to me.
Let’s face it, having grown up as an only child, I could never get away with blaming a brother, a sister or a pet if something got broken. Even if I could attempt to blame the imaginary friend or just simply shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know”, I was a horrible liar anyway. Between Mom’s glare that would extract the truth out of me without trying too hard, combined with the prospect of “wait til your father comes home”, the skills required for bluffing never became part of my wiring.
After much coaxing and the fact that recess was ticking away from my analysis paralysis, I decided to join him. Continue reading
I wouldn’t consider myself accident-prone, but the contents of my medicine cabinet and bathroom vanity seem to tell a different story. The generous supply of adhesive bandages, support bandages, patches, gauze, antiseptics, antibiotic creams, ointments, drops and analgesics are evidence that this household is relatively well-prepared for when slapstick and life collide.
I have been very fortunate in that I have never broken a bone, but when it comes to bumps, sprains, scrapes and very minor accidents, I have experienced more than my fair share. Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall shareholders, you are welcome!
I take inspiration from Elizabeth Barrett Browning when I ask: “How am I klutzy? Let me count the ways…”
– When I was very young, I was fascinated with automatic opening doors. When I was 4, I was “testing” the doors at a nearby mall and unfortunately missed my cue and crashed into a closing door.
– I am told that at a school concert in kindergarten, where I played the conductor at our school band’s brilliant rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel” apparently I fell off my podium in rehearsals. I have no recollection of this incident and will continue to deny it, but without video evidence, I admit that anything is possible.
– When I was 8 or 9, I remember a wobbly tooth that wouldn’t come out. Dad suggested I tie dental floss around it and attach the other end to a door, and to close it. I was never a master of physics, but I probably should have asked someone to check my work before proceeding with the experiment. When I slammed the door, the tooth didn’t come out… and the door bounced back into my face causing a bloody nose. Continue reading
As we head into the Easter holiday weekend, the memories of Easters past started flashing before my eyes. Maybe it was the delirium induced by a sugar rush of Easter treats that have been in such great abundance in recent days, but when I stopped to think about it, there were just as many great Easter memories as there were great Christmas memories.
The best part is that my Easter memories often stem from their simplicity and their timing. With the floating holiday, Easter sometimes feels like winter while other years it feels like summer. Easter is often associated with the beginning of spring and the approaching end of the school term. It also heralds a period of coming out of our winter cocoons and opting to spend more time outdoors. And of course, there are the Easter treats… some years, too many of them, undermining the New Year’s resolutions, if they were still in effect.
Here they are, my Top 10 Easter memories:
10. My first road trip to Montréal
While I can’t say for sure the exact year, maybe it was 1990, it was right after I had moved out into my own apartment. It was the first time I had rented a car for the weekend with the purpose of a same day trip to Montreal to take in some sights, food and shopping. It was a great taste of independence and doing exciting grown-up things. I vividly recall a beautiful sunny day, the road conditions were perfect, even though there was still some snow on the ground, but I had a lovely day enjoying the charm and warm hospitality of Montréal, the first of many trips to come.
9. While it usually meant a long weekend of studying for exams, it also meant that the university term was almost over.
It was always difficult to stay in and study for exams when the urge to break out and enjoy the spring-like weather was tugging at me. Just the same, I knew that school was almost out. Bringing the books outside to study seemed like a fair compromise.
8. 6:00 a.m. Easter egg hunts
As an only child, waking up early and keeping myself quietly entertained (often, just watching cartoons) until my parents woke up was a weekly weekend ritual. Easter Sunday was really special as I recall waking up, finding the basket and hunting around for Easter eggs that my Mom would have hidden the night before after I went to bed. I recall my huge excitement every time I found one and then shushing myself to keep it down and not wake up Mom and Dad. Continue reading
Filed under Humour, Lists
Just before the holidays, I found a great photo store that could convert old slides to digital format. While many companies offer this service, my dad’s slides were in 110 format, a popular camera format in the 1970’s that is not as popular today when it comes to conversions.
After picking up the CD containing the digitized slide images, I ran through them (go figure, on “slide show” mode on my computer) and could not help but notice picture after picture of younger me, barely smiling, looking like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. This was quite unusual for a borderline extroverted, always cheerful, only child who was never shy in front of cameras. Then I remembered why… the barf bag years!
I had a pretty bad case of it too. From the age of 8 to the age of 12, we could not travel from one end of the city to the other without car sick bags. For longer road trips… THAT was an experience!
Keep in mind that 40 years ago, some of the very straight, boring highways that we enjoy today had not been built yet. To get to some of the places we visited required trips along long winding country roads with lots of hills. So between the ups and downs of the terrain and a car with no air conditioning, my stomach was not terribly happy and reacted accordingly. On some trips, it reacted many times to the point of having to make multiple stops on the way, sometimes to replenish our supply of bags.
What I don’t get is why, shortly after I left my lunch on one of those hills, Dad felt a compelling need to park me in front of landmarks and yell “Smile!” If I could articulate then what I can articulate now, I probably would have yelled back “Seriously? We’ve travelled 400 miles, through which I was carsick for Continue reading
Filed under Humour, Travel