The Winds of Change

Well, I did it! I survived one whole year of living in the ‘big city’! Of course I knew I would, it’s just that since my life is lacking in near-death experiences of late, (although riding the 99 B-Line every day for nine months back and forth between Commercial Drive and UBC often felt like one), it sounds kind of exciting to have “survived” something. Although I desperately miss my friends and community from the Valley, for the most part, it has been a really good year and I can’t believe I have been here that long already! Was it really twelve months ago I cleaned six jars of mayo out of my fridge, packed my bags and drove a U-Haul 65 whole kilometers from the Country to the City? Apparently. I don’t quite know how it got to be September again so quickly, but I do know that September always seems to mean change for me and so, in keeping with that theme, I have decided it is time to move again!!!

That’s right, I am moving…except this time it’s just my blog site, thankfully! I have now moved this blog to http://melinthecity.wordpress.com/. It still has all my old posts, and hasn’t changed, I just wanted a new name for it. Since fall classes are soon to resume, so also shall my blogging, because I am taking a year long Shakespeare course and will be looking for lots of reasons to procrastinate and avoid doing homework in THAT course over the coming months. Thanks for reading and joining me in the journey over the past year. And don’t worry friends, in a world of constant change, one thing remains the same: I am still a gong show, which means we can all look forward to another year of new adventures, stories to tell, and mid-terms to screw up!! You’ll be the first to hear about it all, I promise.

Summer Holidays

Okay, so apparently I write best under pressure.  Clearly I am much more motivated to write when I am supposed to be doing homework!  Now that classes are over for the summer and I have lots of free time on my hands, I seem to no longer be inspired to write!  Go figure.  I apologize to my faithful readers for being forced to stare at the Teasmade page for over a month now! ha ha  I am having a great summer and enjoying galavanting all over the countryside when I’m not working.  I will try to get some more posts up here soon. Maybe. If I get time in between my nap at the beach and this novel I’m reading…oh summer, how I love you!!

I will write soon…hope you’re all having a fabulous summer too 🙂

Pender Island Sunset

Bicycle Wars

Another epic Mel Moment to share with you all.  I decided to take my bike on the B-Line to UBC the other day.   Okay so maybe it was the other month.  I’m a bit behind in my story telling.  However, we’ll pretend it was the other day, shall we? Having never taken my bike on the bus before, I was a little nervous about it so when the bus pulled up I stuck my head in the door and said in the sweetest, most polite, yet ever-so-slightly pathetic voice I could, “um, I’ve never used the bike rack before…” hoping he would say – “no problem there, little lady, I’ll come show you how it works.”  (Apparently in my mind he was going to have a deep southern accent.)  Unfortunately, I picked the bus with the driver who clearly hates his job and people, not necessarily in that order, because he rolled his eyes at me and said in a frustrated, non-southern accented voice – “So FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!”

This was the answer I was dreading. I can follow instructions just fine when I am alone and no-one is watching me.  I’ve constructed an entire Ikea wardrobe on my own and it is still standing…fairly…straight.  But being forced to do learn how to do something on the spot that requires any sort of mechanical manouvering, especially in front of a cranky bus driver and a bus of five thousand people who are all waiting and watching me, is another thing completely.  Basically me, mechanical instructions and pressure just don’t mix well.   Thankfully, a nice man saw the look of terror on my face and offered to help.  We read the instructions together and even though I felt kind of like a grade one student, I didn’t mind because now the bus was waiting for two of us and not just me.

#1 – Pull down lever.  Easy enough.  #2 – Load bike.  hmm.  Apparently they tried to make it as mel-friendly as possible.  The nice man lifted bike for me and loaded it on without a problem.  Nice, I thought.  Let him do the heavy lifting!  #3 – Pull up spring loaded handle and attach to tire.  Had a little trouble here when the lever got stuck momentarily (felt like a year), but got it done with no trouble. Okay – that wasn’t so hard, I thought as I boarded the bus boasting a triumphant smile, to which the friendly bus driver responded flatly, “the bike’s on backwards.”  Oops.  “Do you want me to turn it around?” I said, ignoring the groans of the five thousand bus passengers who were clearly all going to be late for work and get fired because of me and my bike.  “No” he said exasperatedly, “leave it.  If it falls off, too bad.”  Wow.  Customer service at its best.  I was too stunned to even respond so I tried to get as far to the back of the bus as possible and then spent the rest of the trip listening nervously for loud crunching sounds under the bus.

The real highlight was unloading.  I kid you not, the bus driver stood there and stared at me as I attempted, unsuccessfully, to get the lever off the tire.  It was stuck again, and thus required all my strength (which amounts to very little) and the use of two hands to remove.  After much heaving and a possible spleen sprain, I finally set the tire free from the jaws of death and raised my arms in triumph to declare “VICTORY.”   Unfortunately, since the bike was no longer being supported by anything, it crashed violently to the ground.  The driver flatly remarked, “ya, you need to hold on to it.”   Thanks Tips.  I can’t tell you how close I came to kicking that man.  If I hadn’t had to check my bike over for damage I might have.  Ah well.  I did it.  I conquered the 99 B-Line bus rack AND the bus driver from hell who I see every now and again when I’m in the bus line at Commercial Drive, and whom I smile sweetly at while stepping aside to wait for the next bus.

The Teasmade

There is this show from New Zealand that I love called ‘Breakfast Television’ and I love it mostly because of the host, Paul, who is always coming up with stories that make him, and all his studio co-workers, go into fits of laughter. Since I am one of those people who goes into hysterics just by watching someone else go into hysterics, I am now a regular watcher of their clips on Youtube when I need a good laugh.  It’s especially good when you’re over-tired, as I apparently am today, because I was watching one in particular that I found so funny I was crying with laughter, but I had no idea what he was talking about so I decided to look the thing up.  It’s called the Teasmade, made in Britain, and it’s an alarm clock that also functions as a brewing pot for tea, the idea being that when you wake up to your alarm your cup of tea is ready for you.  At one time they were a really hot selling item in Britain but some models, especially the earlier ones, weren’t exactly known for being the safest gadgets one could own.  So I present to you two videos.  One is a piece about the history of the teasmade which, even though it’s about ten minutes long, is pretty interesting. (If you don’t want to commit to the whole thing, the first two minutes of the video is sufficient to see what the Teasmade is like).  I had personally never heard of these things so I find the whole idea of it quite funny, like the fact that there was a model that also had a lamp attached to it.  The second video is of Paul, the host of Breakfast, giving his opinion and explanation of the reality of the older, cheaper versions of the Teasmade.  If you’re at all interested in gadgets, or tea, or you just want an excuse to waste time (that would be the category I best fit into), it’s quite interesting.  When I was searching for info on these contraptions, I saw an advertisement for a new version of the Teasmade, so it looks as if they’re making a comeback.  Or just never died.  Either way, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!   Of course everything is funnier at 12 am.

Random Song of the Day

Go ahead – dance around your living room.  You know you want to.

“Competitive Wage” My A$$!

For those of you who don’t know, I am currently looking for work.  Even saying this makes me cringe a bit because I actually do have a great full-time job that I am currently on a LOA from so that I could go back to university full time for a year. Now that the year is up, I am hoping to remain in Vancouver and continue studying on a part-time basis to finish my BA but, in order to do that, I need to work part-time as well. I have been searching and applying for jobs since the beginning of May and have so far been unsuccessful in procuring a part-time job that is flexible enough to work around school hours and PAYS enough to survive in this city.  I have never had a problem finding work before, in fact, jobs have seemed to just land in my lap over the years so to find myself in this predicament is frustrating to say the least.  I’m sure something will come up eventually, hopefully before I am forced to find lodging under the nearest bridge, but the waiting is hard and, some days, very discouraging.  Especially when I have a full-time job I could go back to!  I’m trying to take a risk and do something that will supposedly open more doors career-wise, but there are many days when I seriously question whether the risk is worth it and if having a regular, decent pay cheque at a job I don’t mind going to every day should simply be good enough in such economically trying times as we seem to be in. Especially when I tell you what happened today and what kind of wages are available in the sector that offers “flexible” jobs for students.

I applied to a locally owned company that owns, among many other things, a large grocery chain in BC.  This is outside of the jobs I usually apply for but one of their stores happens to be close to where I live, is hiring, and they offer flexible hours, so I thought there would be no harm in at least applying.  In order to get hired with this company you have to first submit an application online, then within two weeks time a recruiter for the company will call you.  I got that call today and had a sort of semi-interview over the phone with the recruiter who informed me that he would pass on the interview responses as well as my resume etc. to the hiring manager at this specific store.  I asked if I could go in personally to introduce myself and put a face to the application and he laughed and said, “no.  It doesn’t work that way.”  Okay, fine. He then informed me how much the hourly wage is. Now understand that I was not expecting $20 per hour for a customer service/cashiering position.  I knew it would be on the lower end of the scale; however, I was still amazed at what a company whose owner is a multi-billionaire is actually paying its front-end employees these days: a whopping $9.50 per hour.

I know I shouldn’t have been shocked by this, but I was.  Maybe because it was the wage being offered to me, personally, in 2010 when that is how much I earned for the same kind of work as a 14-year-old back in 1989!!  Even a smaller grocery “chain” that recently interviewed me offered $12 per hour, which isn’t great either, but it’s better than the $9.50 being offered by a company that can clearly afford to pay more.  I don’t care how “unskilled” a worker you are, no-one can live on that kind of a wage!   People complain about unions but I have to say that, in my experience, at least a union job provides a person with a semi-decent living and not just a means to barely scrape by.  My job search in Vancouver has provided me with one thing at least so far – the desire to join in the fight for a “living wage.”   No wonder people get stuck in poverty.  Come on employers!!  You would not have your yachts and million dollar mansions without your employees and should be ashamed to offer them a mere pittance while expecting them to be motivated to hard work for you. Some people would argue that a person should just be grateful to have a job regardless of how much it pays, but I don’t think that’s an acceptable response when a company such as this one could offer its employees more but doesn’t simply because it can get away with offering less. How can $9.50/hr be considered a “competitive wage” as some employers claim it to be? Something needs to change but the cynical side of me says it never will. What can be done to facilitate change?  I have no idea and that makes me almost as angry as the fact that this company dares to claim that one of its values is “Integrity: Do the Right Thing.”

Front Page News Baby

And it’s about bloody time too!!  hahaha  Let me tell you, I have had an unfortunate relationship with the media in my lifetime. Unfortunate in that there hasn’t been a relationship.  The very few times I have managed to get on camera (like once when I had a full on close-up during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies many years ago), when I go to watch the newscast, the editors always seem to cut to something else right before I come on.  It does not do much for the self esteem, let me tell you. Perhaps the media was trying to relay a subtle message to me that I have a face for radio, I don’t know, but I prefer to think it was just my cosmic punishment for being so vain.

What the Press usually does to me.

It’s not just TV that has made a media mockery of me, though. Oh no.  The printed news hasn’t exactly been kind either.  I always seem to be pointing at newspaper photos and saying “hey – I’m in that picture!  You can kind of see my arm behind that guy playing the tuba…”   When I finally did make the paper, it wasn’t exactly to announce that I had won Citizen of the Year or the Nobel Prize like I had always dreamed it would be. (Okay my actual childhood dream was for a full colour page of me and my all-girl 80’s pop band, but mercifully that one never came true either.) Here’s what happened.

It was a regular ole’ Thursday night and I was a fairly new employee at a local rec centre working the evening shift. One of the lifeguards liked to prank new people and I was currently his victim of choice.  The phone rang and when I answered, this male voice said, “ya, I’m just calling to find out what your policy is about people going topless at your pool.”  Thinking it was the pranking lifeguard I immediately starting laughing and said, “Come on down!  We’re all nude here! It’s a completely nude facility!”  One of my supervisors immediately shot me a look that said “stop talking now!” but before I could put the guy on hold he continued. “Are you aware of the recent court proceedings that have been taking place regarding this issue?  My name is (insert insulting name here, like “Señor Jackass” or something) from the Abbotsford News…” at this point I was mouthing to my supervisor that it was a reporter but she had already made a dive for the hold button on my behalf.

Apparently some woman who liked to ride her bike topless in the city had decided she also wanted the right to go topless at the local rec centres without being reprimanded.  I did not read the papers back then (ironically enough) and had no idea this was going on.  We forwarded the call to the proper “authorities” and nothing more was said about it.  Until a few days later.  Saturday, specifically, when the main weekly paper came out.  I got a call from my supervisor who was FUMING and practically yelled at me, “HAVE YOU READ THE PAPER LATELY?”  I swallowed and squeaked out a sheepish “no, why?”  “You were quoted…”  I don’t even remember what he said to me after this because I just gasped and started searching for the paper in a mad frenzy. Finding it in the recycle bin I spread it out on the table to read the words I will never forget as long as I live:  “a call to the local rec centre on Thursday night was met by mirth.  “Ha, ha, ha,” said the female employee, “we’re all nude here! It’s a nude pool!”  I closed my eyes and groaned.  I couldn’t believe he had actually quoted me.  I then proceeded to go through something like all the stages of grief in about two minutes. First I was in denial, then embarrassed that the one time I was ever to be quoted in a newspaper was for some sarcastic remark I thought was being directed at a prank caller.  Then I wanted to know why Señor Jackass had been allowed to quote me without my permission.  Then I was mad that he had misquoted me.  I had said “we’re a completely nude facility” not “we’re a nude pool.”  It was social injustice on so many levels!  Not to mention the fact that the woman won her court case and later showed up at our pool topless, which was shocking as she had hoped, but mostly because her boobs sagged practically to her knees.  No need for extra flotation devices there!  (I shudder to think at what riding a bike was like with those things. One would think that getting a nipple caught in the chain might be a real concern!)  But I digress. Oh please let’s digress.

Thankfully I did not get fired over my careless remark.  At first I was embarrassed about it and wanted to deny that it was me, but then several clients wanted to know who has said it because they thought it was funny and then of course I wanted full credit.  I also cut out the article and mailed it to my mother, who proudly posted it on the fridge for all to see.  After all, her daughter had finally been featured in the news!

What is the point of this story?  Well, there isn’t much of one I’m afraid except to announce that I have, after all these years of being shoved behind the guy playing tuba or being quoted about nudity, finally made the front page of the paper!  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to be in the Songs, Strings and Steps 10th Anniversary show in Abbotsford.  Well, a few days after the show was over, this full-colour front page picture came out, printed just below a photo of a notorious gang member who had recently been sent to prison.  A true media accomplishment!  My childhood dream come true after all this time!  I think the key was to wear a costume and several layers of stage make-up.  Had they known who it actually was when they took the photo, I’m sure you would have just seen the typewriter and my hands at the very corner of the shot like the picture above.

But no. This time, it’s someone else having to say “hey!  I’m in that picture!  You can kind of see my arm, hidden behind the girl in pink playing the typewriter!”

Next time, nobel prize?