Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Shoes' List of Some Stuff that Happened Recently When I Was Not at Work

When I started this blog I vowed that there were a number of things I would not do:

  1. I would not divulge my husband’s name on my blog. He may one day come to his senses and want to make a serious and sober life for himself, and being associated with a blog featuring a travelling pair of personified wooden shoes with a drinking problem might throw a wrench into plans of that nature.  
  2. I would not write about my in-laws. My parents and siblings are fair game. I was forced to live through twenty years of nuclear-familial dysfunction with them before being spat out into the real world, and hey, you’ve got to blame someone. My in-laws, on the other hand, did nothing more than accept me warmly into their Dutch arms. Or accept me Dutchly into their warm arms. Either way, they accepted me once all the damage had already been done, and they are surely not the ones responsible for the fact that I cannot watch a DVD at home unless all the DVD boxes are lined up at perfect right angles with the side of the television stand. 
  3. I would not write about my day job.

I have remained committed to the three rules above, and will continue to do so[1]. But it has been difficult sticking to the rules of late. Especially Rule #3. You see, now that my holidays are over and things have gone back to their normal, hectic pace at the office, life has become a rather predictable catalogue of eating, sleeping, and working, with some non-essential bits thrown in here and there. But none of these bits would really make much of a post by themselves, so I’ve decided to squish a few of them together to make what I like to call: 

The Shoes' List of Some Stuff that Happened Recently When I Was Not at Work

  1. Someone knocked on my window. Let me clarify. A person passing by in the street outside my house knocked on the outside of one of the downstairs windows, even though the light was on inside and I was therefore clearly visible sitting here at my desk. Do I look like a zoo animal or a goldfish? If I come to the window will you throw a sardine at me? WHO DOES THAT? The knocking noise scared the bejeezus out of both me and my dog. If, later this evening I suffer a late-onset heart attack as a result of your silly noisy behavior I am totally getting DNA swabs done on that window and putting the po-lice on your window-knocking ass.  
  2. I took a ten-year-old child who doesn’t belong to me to the dentist. The dental hygienist tut-tutted that the child hadn’t been brushing her teeth nearly well enough. The hygienist then looked at me as if waiting for an explanation. I couldn’t be bothered trying to get into the complicated reasons why I was here with this walking cavity, so I simply said “I’m not her mother,” and just let the hygienist wonder why I had apparently abducted a child with poor dental health. 
  3. I went to a party where I was properly introduced for the first time to a couple I only knew previously to say hello to in the street. As an opener I said, very cheerfully, “Oh yes, hello, I know you. I see you out with your dog sometimes.” I watched as the face of the woman half of the couple fell like a big droopy undergarment and her body crumpled into a pitiful misery heap. “Yeah,” said the man half. “She died four days ago.” The woman did not speak to me for the rest of the evening. 
  4. My husband and I went to pick up a photograph which we had taken to a frame-maker a while back. The photograph is a numbered original, which we bought from a gallery in Canada. It’s not so expensive that you’d worry about The Thomas Crown Affair II being filmed in your house, but it wasn’t a one-hour photo from the Walmart either. So you can imagine how pleased we were to learn that one of our frame-maker’s frame-making colleagues had decided that it would be a super idea to put a hole right through our photograph. Which is a bit like, “Hey, that sculpture of David doesn’t really fit in this niche. Let’s take one of the legs off.” Imagine how that would have gone down back in the day.
Proving once again that even the most mundane of existences is shot through with moments of passion and drama.  

[1]Except I feel I cannot keep from you that today as part of my job I had to wear a cape. Seriously. Now I’ll say no more. But really, a cape! Like a superhero! Okay, I’ll stop now.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No, really, it's my fault

I like rules, always have. Consequently I wasn’t much fun to play with as a kid. While the other children would happily tweeze body parts out of “Sam” the red-nosed man[1], showing little or no concern for taking turns or counting points, I sat shout-reading items from the list of rules in the instruction booklet, my little befreckled cheeks growing redder with each touch of the tweezer end to the side of Sam’s organ holes. Bzz! Bzz! went the board as Sam’s annoying red nose lit up again and again, while I sat in a childish huff because no one was playing it “right.”

Yes, from a young age it was plain to see that I was well-suited to living in Canada, a country of citizens who are particularly observant of rules because their greatest fear in life is offending someone. It’s nothing to hear Canadians arguing over who is more sorry for some minor infraction or other.

“I’m so sorry. That was my fault.”

“No, it was totally mine. I’m so sorry.”

“No, really, you shouldn’t be sorry. I’m the one who wasn’t watching where I was going. If I had been paying attention like I should have been I would have noticed you coming directly for me at full speed, foaming at the mouth and wielding a scythe, and I could have moved out of the way.”

“Still, I really think I’m the one who should apologize.”

“Nonsense. I’m sure they can reattach it. And I’m left-handed anyway. I’m the one who should be apologizing to you. You’ll never get that grape juice I spilled on your shirt while trying to dodge your accidental scythe attack to wash out. Do you want to borrow my Tide stain-removing pen? I’m sure it’s in my purse . . . Wait, can you hold my disembodied hand while I check?”

In Canada rules are the maple syrup that holds the whole society together. So I didn’t have much trouble fitting in when I later moved to England, because the English love their rules almost as much as the Canadians love theirs. Naked co-ed pool playing may not be the surest way to inspire public confidence, admittedly. But it’s not breaking the rules. I suspect very soon England will forget the whole thing and go back to publicly scolding MPs and clamping illegally-parked cars.

For some reason when I moved to the Netherlands I brought with me a vague notion that this too would be a country that would share my love of rules, a country where everyone cared deeply about preserving the maple syrup, uh, make that the stroop, that holds society together. But I have since found this notion to be totally unfounded. 

Take yesterday. Yesterday I was in a local shop that has a prominent sign in its window announcing that dogs are not allowed inside. As I stood there waiting to pay I observed a very sweet cocker spaniel running to and fro sniffing the produce. This dog was loose! This dog was lost! Shouldn’t we do something?! I looked around at the faces in the shop. None of them showed any sign of alarm. It was as if the dog was just another elderly lady pushing a walker between the lettuces. The shop assistant seemed equally oblivious to the fact that there was a vagrant mongrel on the premises. Being Canadian and not wanting to make a fuss where it appeared no one else saw any reason for one, I pretended to ignore the dog too.

As the woman in front of me picked up her purchases and turned to leave, the little dog quickly fell in line behind her, and the two walked out of the shop and down the street. The dog, I quickly realized, was not a lost pet that had wandered into the store wearing an invisibility suit that made it possible for only me to see it, but was with a customer. A rule-breaking customer. I paid for my tomatoes, then went outside and untied my own dog from where she sat waiting near the entrance. “We’re not in Canada anymore, Toto,” I said. (But not really because her name is not Toto).The End.

I realize this is a crappy ending, but in the spirit of rule-breaking I'm going to do it anyway. But I really am sorry.

[1] Sam was not a hobo we recruited from the streets to practice playing doctor on but was in fact the patient from “Operation,” a particularly irritating children’s board game that was unaccountably popular in the 1980s.