Archive for July, 2007

A Day Trip to Montreal

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The time was the mid-90’s and the plan was to drive to Montreal, catch an Expos game, check out some of the local, um, churches and architecture, and then drive home. Sane people would include a hotel stay in that itinerary, but we were poor college students, and dumb enough to think that saving a night’s hotel fee was worthwhile when a 12-hour roundtrip drive was involved. But, we weren’t going to let a little thing like common sense get in our way. Bon voyage!

At the US-Canada border, our car full of college-aged, baseball hat-wearing American males was flagged by the Canadian border patrol for “special attention” (shockingly). While they were essentially dismantling my friend’s car, I had the following conversation with a frowning border patrol officer with a thick French accent:

Canadian Guy: Give me your wallet. Now tell me, why are you coming to Can-ada?

Me (handing over wallet): We’re going to see an Expos game, sir (I try to be respectful of authority figures).

CG (rustling through my wallet): Where are you staying? At which hotel do you have reservations?

Me: Well, um, you see, um, we don’t have reservations yet.

CG: No reservations? And you only have five dollars in your wallet? How much money is in the account for this bank card?

Me: I think I have about twenty dollars in that account (It was to the point where I would try to take money out and wait patiently for the sound of the money flipping in the machine. Once the money started flipping, everything was going to be ok).

CG: Twenty dollars! What are you going to do in Can-ada for twenty dollars?

Me: Well, I was going to borrow money from my friend over there.

CG (raising an eyebrow as he continued to rustle in my wallet): Tell me, how do you have all of these credit cards if you only have twenty dollars in the bank?

Me: Well, you see, the credit card companies set up little tables in the cafeteria, and they don’t really ask you how much money you have in the bank, they just seem to give anyone a card (this pretty much explains why my credit after college was lousy).

CG (holding up a pink card): Is this military identification?

Me: Yes, sir. I am in the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

CG (handing me the wallet): You may go. Thank you.

The rest of the trip went pretty smoothly. We went to Peel’s Pub, where we ate chicken wings and drank beer out of very small glasses; we bought scalped tickets to an Expos game that wasn’t even close to sold out (what’s French for “suckers”?); and after the game we visited the various “churches and architectural sites” on Rue Sainte-Catherine. Then, after a good night full of Montreal culture, we hit a fast food restaurant and then piled into the car for the ride home.

We were driving on a long, dark road through some farmland on the outskirts of Montreal when everyone in the car started to feel the need to answer nature’s call. The driver of the car was looking for a place to pull over when we came over a small rise in the road and saw them: A line of about 10 porcelain toilets in the front yard of a small farmhouse; presumably for sale. Taking this as a sign from above, we pulled right on over.

While the rest of the passengers from the car were changing the status of the toilets from “New” to “Slightly Used”, my friend Dan, who wasn’t feeling very well, wandered off behind the farmhouse itself.

After answering the call, we jumped back into the car and drove away. As our tires hit the pavement, the owner of the house came running outside and saw…Dan.

“I came back from behind the house,” Dan explains, “and not only was the car gone, but the owner of the house was standing there in his pajamas, shouting at me in French. While he was shouting, he was waving something in the air. At the time, I thought it was a shotgun, but looking back, it was probably just a broom.

“I put up my hands and kept yelling, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’ to him as I backed away. He went over to look at the toilets and I ran to the road. I remember thinking, ‘Here I am in Montreal, with 5 Canadian dollars in my pocket, and no ride home.’ It was a bad feeling.

“Just then, I looked up and saw the car coming out of nowhere, in reverse. It pulled up next to me, and a bunch of hands reached out and pulled me through the window as the car took off down the road. We thought that the Montreal police would be along at any time to drag us off to the gulag, but they never came.”

The rest of the trip went smoothly, until we got to the US border. It was much easier getting into the US than it had been getting into Canada. A man in a little toll booth merely shined a flashlight at each of us and asked us for our country of origin. Unfortunately, his light woke my friend Kevin up from his peaceful slumber in the front passenger seat.

“Shut that light off before I make you eat it!” Kevin shouted out of a sleepy haze. Petrified of getting into trouble, we all began to panic and shake him, while saying, “Kevin, just tell him your country of origin…we’re sorry, sir, our friend is just a heavy sleeper.”

Lowell!” Kevin shouted, his eyes still shut, “I’m from Lowell! Now leave me alone!” He rolled over in his seat and faced the passenger door. Thankfully, the border guard had a sense of humor and chose to allow us back into the country.

We got back to Kevin’s country of origin at about 8AM and I had to immediately change my clothes for what would be a very, very long day at work. Yes, I had to work the next day. Did I mention that I had no common sense?

Back in the Day Tim 27 Jul 2007 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Random stuff from the vault: 

I was in the handicap-accessible stall in the men’s room at my office the other day, minding my own business, when someone entered the stall next to mine.  I didn’t think much of it, but I did notice that the structure of the stalls shook when the person closed the door.  I then heard a click, and looked up in horror to see the lock for my stall door fall open and the door swing ever so slightly ajar. 

It was a strange position to be in.  My concern was that, since the handicap-accessible stall is the most popular stall in the place – due to its roomy interior – that the next person to enter the men’s room would see the door open and assume that it was unoccupied.  Then, when they came over to enter, they would – well, they would possibly be blinded for life. 

I wonder what James Bond would do in this situation?  I mean, I know that 007 has never actually gone to the bathroom, but what would he do if he was stuck in a compromising position and the door of his stall swung open?  I suspect he would just sip a martini and give a winning smile to whoever came along. 

I don’t have that kind of cool under pressure, so I took a chance jumped up and closed the door.  I am happy to report that the men’s room was otherwise unoccupied and that my dignity remained intact; well, until I wrote about this in the newspaper… 

…A friend of mine from work had an extra Red Sox ticket for Tuesday’s night game against the Royals.  When he offered it around, one of my other co-workers said, “I would love to go, but there is something you need to know about me before you take me to the game:  I’m cursed.” 

“Cursed?” asked the person giving the ticket. 

“Yes, cursed.  So far this season, I have been to 8 Red Sox games this year, and the Red Sox have lost all of them.  Keep in mind that the Red Sox have won 31 games at home and have only lost 16; I have been to half of those losses without seeing a win.” 

“Well,” the ticket-holding coworker said, “The Sox are playing the Royals tonight.  The Royals are awful.  AW-FUL.  And Tim Wakefield has been lights out against them for his entire career.  Get ready to break your streak,” and off they went to the game. 

The Red Sox lost to the Royals, 9-3.  We are thinking of sending his picture to the Red Sox so that it can be posted at every entrance and he can be barred from entering Fenway Park 

…The losing streak might have one silver lining.  Back when the Red Sox were winning most of their games, I started to fear that Terry Francona would pitch Hideki Okajima until Okie’s arm fell off.  It seemed like he was pitching or warming up in every game the Sox won.  I have to believe that these games the Red Sox are losing will extend Okajima’s career by a couple of years.  Always look on the bright side… 

…Continuing on the Red Sox theme, I was at at Fenway Park for a game last week.  After the game had ended (another loss), I was waiting under the stands for The Megger when I felt someone put their hands into my back and literally push me out of their way. 

I turned around and saw a 5-foot tall woman marching past me.  “EXCUSE ME!” she shouted on her way by.  I was frozen for a moment, flustered really, and then could only yell, “COME ON!” at her retreating figure.  I doubt she heard me, and I was just standing there, feeling somewhat violated. 

I wasn’t blocking any doorways, nor was I in the stream of traffic.  There was no way that she had the right of way in that situation.  This sort of thing didn’t happen very often, even when I was living in Boston.  I therefore have to assume that, despite the fact that she wasn’t wearing a hat on her ugly little head, she was a Yankee fan. 

Now I’m just trying to figure out how James Bond would have reacted.  My initial impression would be a witty repartee followed by a romantic dinner for two, but after further consideration, I’m going with “crushing judo chop.”  Bond would know that rude Yankee fans aren’t to be dealt with lightly.

Sports &The Day to Day Grind Tim 20 Jul 2007 No Comments

Vacation

I highly recommend that, if you have the opportunity, you take a week-long vacation from your job.  Burning through your vacation with random days here and there is nice, but it doesn’t relieve stress like an entire week away from the daily grind. 

That being said, the following are a list of observations/experiences from my recent vacation in Eastham on Cape Cod: 

My wife, The Megger, and our friend Jessica decided on Tuesday that they wanted to go to the Nauset Light beach.  I had spent the previous day on the beach so I decided not to go, but I did agree to give them a ride, as a sign said that the parking lot was full. 

As we approached the beach, I noticed many signs along the side of the road that stated, “No Loading or Unloading of Passengers.”  I found the sign to be totally unclear, so I pulled up to the beach and unloaded my passengers.  As they were fetching their beach chairs from the trunk, I noticed a park ranger ambling toward us.  Decision time:  I knew that the park ranger would probably not be happy that I had blatantly ignored the signs, and I figured that it would be easier to get a ticket if I hung around with the car, so…I left my wife and friend to deal with the authorities.  Yes, I’m a real stand-up guy. 

I heard later that the park ranger stopped The Megger and Jessica and told them that, even though the parking lot was full, it is illegal to simply drop people off at the beach.  The protocol, for which there are no signs, is to pull your car into the line of waiting cars and pay for a ticket (I believe it’s about $15, but the ranger wouldn’t tell them).  The ticket will then allow you to drop off someone at the beach and pick them up later.  The Megger and Jessica offered to pay, but the ranger let them off the hook and said that it was ok, but just this once. 

Also, the ranger was sure to tell them that, oh no, it wasn’t a charge for using the beach, but rather it costs 15 clams to drop off and pick up passengers because it’s SAFER that way.  Further, locals are allowed to walk onto the beach for free, but no one else is allowed. 

Yeah, your 15 bucks are safer in the town’s coffers.  Sure.    I have to admit that it’s an interesting way for the town to raise funds without charging taxpayers to use a public beach (By “interesting way to raise funds” of course, I mean, “total ripoff.”).  At the very least, they should have signs up that explain the policy. 

On the way home, Jessica and The Megger walked down the street a ways and met me for a flawless covert pickup operation… 

…On another day, The Megger bought us tickets to see folk singer Dar Williams outside at the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich (note:  not close to Eastham).  Due to rain, however, the concert was moved to the Bourne High School auditorium (note:  Bourne is REALLY not close to Eastham). 

I was a little concerned about the concert at that point.  It was far away; I was not overly familiar with Ms. Williams’ music; and it was in a high school auditorium.  Serious consideration was given to blowing off the show (the tickets weren’t expensive) and doing something else, but in the end we decided to make the trip. 

It was worth it.  Ms. Williams, who played the guitar during her solo performance, really connected with the crowd and her songs were moving and poignant.  She told funny stories and took the time to explain the origins of most of the tunes.  Her singing had a certain feeling behind it that convinced me of her belief in what she was doing. 

We may have been in a high school auditorium, but the sound quality of the Bourne High School auditorium was better than Bruce Springsteen’s was at Fenway Park.  Also, we were close enough to see that when Dar played the guitar, she had a funny habit of keeping time by knocking her right foot against her left ankle (it was endearing instead of odd), and when she wanted to emphasize a lyric, she stood on her tiptoes to maximize her diminutive stature.  Her voice filled the auditorium, and the crowd really enjoyed the show. 

Anyway, if you enjoy folk music at all, check out Dar Williams.  I particularly enjoyed the song “Are You Out There?”… 

…During one of our days down the Cape, we decided to visit Provincetown.  While we were there, we noticed a number of signs and one storefront advertising an organization called the Bears.  We were all curious about what the Bears were, but none of us was brave enough to ask anyone until we sat down for lunch and asked our waiter about it. 

“Oh,” he said with a big smile, “the Bears are a group of big men with hairy backs and shoulders.  There are groups of them in a lot of different cities.  This week is Bears Week in Provincetown, so a bunch of them flew in and there are a number of events.  Yesterday was the Running of the Bears; they took their shirts off and ran through the streets.  Tonight is the Best Buns Contest.” 

When he said this, The Megger looked at me with a gigantic smile on her face.  “So,” she said, “Are you going to compete?” 

I may fit some of the criteria to join the Bears, but something tells me that I might not be exactly what they are looking for in a new member, and I’m certainly wouldn’t debase myself by dancing around in some Best Buns contest. 

With all of that said, my new third place trophy looks nice on the mantle. 

(Ok, not really…2nd place) 

(Ok, not really…I’ll never tell)

The Day to Day Grind Tim 14 Jul 2007 No Comments

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