Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You should not liberate balloons because it upsets the people in the basket.

A simple enough statement, but a great metaphor for my life. I say my life, because often the things I hear are not the things people say nor what they mean. Just yesterday a female friend was explaining to me a conversation that she ought to have someone. This is what she said:
"I should just say to him, 'I would like to sleep with you and we can just remain friends.'"
I didn't hear the first bit. What I heard was,
"I would like to sleep with you and we can just remain friends."
Nearly choking on my drink, I spluttered and asked her to repeat that last bit. Which she did. Thus, clearing up any tiny misunderstanding on my part. It's those tiny misunderstandings on my part which have led to the most astounding results. Some good, some bad, often very funny.

At University, I got a job with the IITS department, which meant that I worked behind a counter lending out audio-visual equipment to staff and students. It was a secure job. It was at a university. It wasn't too taxing on the brain. It wasn't rocket science. I boasted to all my friends that it was a job you could have for as long as you cared to live. I got fired two weeks later.

I went on living (thankfully) a little baffled and embarrased. That's okay. I learned alot from that experience.

1. Never boast about getting an easy job or any job in fact.
2. If you think someone's instructions are stupid and misleading, they probably are -- always clarify.
3. What is my vocation other than noticing the blinding errors that pummel, bombard and flummox me?

The week leading up to my dismissal, had me scheduled to work a couple of evening shifts. The evening shifts are slow, and in such times the long-standing employees (those who got the job as a stop-gap measure 10 years ago and never seem to have left) tend to chat about the latest digital audio and visual equipment, and disappear into their computer screens eyeing the latest updates to their various geeky obsessions. In short, not much is happening. So, I was asked to go and move office furniture from one room (call it A418) to another (C472). These two rooms were on the same floor and about 3 doors apart. As with all institutions of higher learning, the numbering system of rooms defies all logic. (It turns out that it's okay, because apparently, I do too.)

I did as I was instructed. I had a mission. I wanted to please. It was EASY. Move this furniture from that room to another. That's all I was thinking. I did it. I went back to the IITS room and invariably lent audio/visual equipment until the end of my shift.
The following day I got a call at my home from the guy on shift at IITS, who was inquiring as to the whereabouts of the office furniture that I had been instructed to move. I told him where I moved it, citing the room numbers as I remembered them. He called back a half hour later to say that there had been a tiny misunderstanding and they had found the 'missing' office furniture. I thought no more of it, until I came on shift later that day and was told that I had got the room numbers confused. Personally, I think it was the 'long-standing' employee who had got the room numbers confused. It didn't matter anyway, because the big boss couldn't for the life of him understand why anyone in their right mind, would move furniture from a store room into an office space.

I couldn't stop laughing. I thought that was the funniest thing I had ever heard. I assured him that it would never happen again. He was assured by my reassurance and made sure of it by canning me a few days later. I recall sitting outside the IITS office, bewildered and chagrinned at having lost one of the easiest jobs I had ever gotten, wondering how I would tell all my friends of this misfortune.

It is worthy to note however, that in the same spirit of wanting to please, having a mission, performing an EASY task at a new job for a bicycle shop, I went (as instructed with the address given to me) into what I thought was a photocopy shop, but turned out to be a gay sauna and demanded from the proprietor behind the counter that he give me the FAX he had received on behalf of the bicycle shop. He blinked and looked at me, uncomprehending. He probably thought this was some kind of joke. It was. But it was I, not he, who was at the butt of a very, very big practical joke.

I can't help but feel that if there is a God, he/she/it is laughing out loud, in their godly kitchen, cooking up a new experience to bewilder and amuse me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Space Marauder

I'll tell you something about her.

The Space Marauder was born on the west coast, but she doesn't actually come from there. She comes from space. She is one of those beings who appears unexpectedly when you are on the sky train and everyone is zoning out because it's the morning rush hour and you look up and you see her standing with her back to you and you notice her, but you don't why you didn't see her before. Maybe you are at a call centre in a cubicle and you stretch your arms above your head, taking the opportunity to look around at all the other operators. There she is, with a headset on, talking to some hapless fool on the other end of the phone. You don't notice everyone else as much. There's something about her which draws your gaze. You think to yourself,
"Hey, who's that?"
Nobody answers of course, least of all the Space Marauder. She's talking on the phone and you don't know if she noticed you.
Later, while taking a smoking break with a colleague, the Space Marauder appears. She appears so casually, you wonder if you had your baseball cap pulled too low over your eyes and after adjusting it, she popped into view. And you say,
The Space Marauder replies,
You think to yourself,
"Oh, you're actually human. Amazing."

The Space Marauder comes in different shapes, sizes and sounds. Sometimes, she's 15 feet tall and walks along the street toward the grocery store to get some trail mix and some toilet paper. She ducks her head to avoid tree branches. You walk next to her and your head comes up to her knees. Residents slowly turn and stop conversations in mid-flow and gape. The Space Marauder smiles, nods to them and greets them with a friendly 'hello'. Her stride isn't too exaggerated but you have to take three steps to her one. After a block, you don't even notice the resident's stares. That's the effect of the Space Marauder. You feel calm and everything is the way it needs to be.

Other times, the Space Marauder is just a voice that comes down the telephone line, with a friendly
"Hi, this is what I am doing. I think you're great and oh by the way, how's THE PROJECT coming along?"
She is referring to a radio documentary that I have been trying to get off the ground for about two years now. Or should I say, that she has been trying to get off the ground for two years now. She continues with her message,
"So, you know I'm here in the capacity as a friend to light a proverbial fire under you're butt and help you get moving again."
I know. I grunt an excuse about not having the right equipment, not having time, money or incentive. She is very patient with that. 'That' being my ability to shirk responsibility for the project and keep it in the tickle-trunk of ideas and plans for the future.
Then there are the messages on my answering machine which keep me informed of the matters at hand, the movements of the universe, who has a cold and what the monkey has been up to. She has a gentle voice, one that lulls you. Her voice is not often raised and you might wonder what it would sound like, if it was. Expression of annoyance, stupidity, lateness of the hour, and general malcontent come in one audible form: a sigh.

The Space Marauder is a story-teller, a writer, a friend, a mother, a wife. A wife? Hmmm, have to think on that one. She is definitely the female half of a family unit with a male half and a daughter half. (Three halves I know.) Well, maybe she is the 'other half'. Her stories resonate with the rhythm section in your head, so that you begin to nod and move your torso back and forth in agreement as you read them. She tells children's stories, she tells adult stories, but most often she listens. Her attention to your ranting is comprehensive. Nothing shocks her. An ex of hers told me not long ago, that the 'stranger they were, the more she wanted to bring them home'. I remember those days and some of them were shockingly weird.

I once received a letter in the post. In the envelope next to the letter, was a piece of cardboard. On the cardboard, were the printed words 'Insert fingers here, for easy opening'. Referencing the many interpretations of this istruction, the Space Marauder had scrawled underneath,
"Who comes up with this stuff?"
I found the piece of cardboard the other day and put it on my fridge.

The Space Marauder has a knack of seeing things the way they are. Not judging differences, just noticing them. This is what makes her so easy-going and easy to be around. You could probably be introduced to her at a party wearing a suit, a baboon mask and a wooden leg. She might comment on your enormous lips, the comfort of your prosthetic or the choice of tie you are wearing. Chances are, she'll just say,