Thursday, March 5, 2009

Unsolicited Advice - Panhandlers

Here on my personal soap box, to my invisible non-existent audience, I present:

MAKE HOMELESS PEOPLE LEAVE ME ALONE - a guide to dealing with your local panhandlers, as inspired by this kickass poster from Calgary.

"Your Generosity is Killing Me" and “Your Sympathy Keeps Me on the Street” - a catchy new line from a catchy poster campaign straight from Calgary. That’s right, the city that gave all their homeless people bus tickets to Vancouver so that they wouldn’t be gumming up their streets during the 1988 Olympics - they care. Really, they do. Because 85% of your change…it goes to drugs and alcohol. So, don’t give change. No, I know, you feel bad, and poor people are awkward, but, No. If you give them money, they’ll never shape up and get a job. In fact, your cold, judging stare might be just the kick those people need to stop being lazy and make something of themselves, like you did, Accomplished Calgary Businessman. In fact, you’re a lot more sympathetic and nicer to look at: perhaps we should make a poster about you.

I can see it… you, busy and handsome Calgary executive…oooh, I wonder if you have money in oil? We’ll have you talking on your cell phone, so we know you’re important. In fact, make it a blue tooth…oooh and you’ll be holding you brief case in one hand and your other hand can be up, blocking your face, giving a ‘talk to the hand,’ so that the person can see that you’re on the phone…and there, beside you, cast in shadows, we’ll put the guy from the other poster. And he’ll look like crap, next to your three piece suit. And people will be able to see what a piece of shit he looks like, next to you, and how when he holds out his cap for your change, you dismiss him, and avoid eye contact, and keep walking to your very important meeting, because you, sir, are a successful businessman. You have places to go, and worthwhile people to talk to, and most importantly: You Care. Because, you see… “Your Sympathy Keeps (Him) on the Street.” Wait…no…we used that line on a poster already, we need a new one. Hmmm…oh! Perfect!! “Your Requests for Spare Change Annoy Me.” And then, we can make little steam lines coming out of the businessman’s head, and they’ll be composed of change, so it’s will be a metaphor. See? Your requests for spare change keep this handsome businessman annoyed, people! When will it end? His suffering is YOUR suffering, society. Please, don’t give change.

Like it?? Me too. Because if we ignore homeless people, they’ll go away. In fact, we did a study, and science has proven that 85% of addicts who can’t afford drugs stop using - that’s how addictions work. So no change from you, no drugs, no homeless people bugging important people like you. Period. Way to solve society’s dilemma, you! And if they do manage to defy the odds and not shape up…well, maybe they’ll die. In fact, if you tell them to fuck off and get a job, it might be even faster…the second leading cause of death on the Downtown Eastside is suicide, I bet the Calgary stats are similar. So, contempt is in order. In fact…why not spit? Actions speak louder than words, people. If you want homeless people off the street, you’ll have to shame them there yourself.

Oh, there’s that bit on there about giving to agencies instead - yup, we put that on there on purpose. I know what you’re thinking - we didn’t put any contact info or anything. And we just painted anyone asking for money as a useless piece of crap addict - it doesn’t exactly inspire you to look up a shelter’s number. And I know what you’re thinking: aren’t those shelters just enabling people, too? If you feed people, or give them counseling, or a bed, or medicine…you’re keeping them on the street. They’ll just live for longer, and they’ll keep on using, and people will STILL be asking you for change. You’re not solving the problem at all.

Plus, really, you have important plans for that fifty cents, you. And if those pesky panhandlers would just stop annoying you, that money could cure AIDS. It would be applied locally to agencies that are working to solve problems that annoy you. It would be bringing peace to the Middle East and pumping blood into a dying child’s heart - that’s right, your change would be doing all of that, even though nobody asked. Because: you care. You’re thinking about those things, Calgary, day in and day out - thinking about how to use your spare change to make the world a better place. So it’s not just that the homeless person’s request annoys you - it undermines your ability to direct those funds to a charity of your choice, which you totally would be doing, Right Now, if that homeless guy wasn’t taking up all of your time. So, just…GO AWAY. God. Why do they keep asking? It must be because of all those bleeding hearts out there…damn it, they just aren’t as smart as you. You know that 85% of their money is going to drugs, but maybe they don’t. Maybe homeless people make them feel guilty. People are stupid like that. BUT I bet stupid people are easily swayed by poster campaigns…oooh! We should totally show them these posters! And that part about giving to agencies will speak to their bleeding hearts, long enough to get them out of the habit of looking homeless people in the eye. No, no…no one actually does give to agencies enabling those homeless bums, don’t worry, we did a study on that, too. Because 85% of money refused to the homeless…it makes the world a Better Place.

NOTE: I do not give change, myself. I work in Canada’s worst neighbourhood, so I get asked a lot, and as a 90lb woman who gets off work at midnight, I can really sympathize…homeless people are SCARY! They…ask for stuff, sometimes. It’s all very awkward…I don’t want to talk about it. But there is something I need to work on: I still make eye contact. I know…I know…I’m treating them like People. And that…well, it makes me care, a little. Like I would care for my fellow human being…crap…see? “Human Being?” That is what eye contact does! And then I say “No, I‘m sorry.” …I know… I’m ashamed. It’s like the poster campaign has taught me nothing at all. Calgary…please…send more helpful advice. Because, sometimes, when I have extra clothes or food or time…oh, I can’t say it. It’s too shameful. I need to shape up. I need to Fight Homelessness…and by the heel of my boot, someday soon, I will.

Me of the Day

So Exciting: I just made hummus, and it is not horrible! I repeat - it is NOT horrible! And I made it! With my hands! Literally - I thought one of my roommates had a food processor, but it turns out she didn't, so instead I had to crush the chick peas by hand, and before that I boiled them from dried (because canned is less healthy!) and then after I added stuff and...NOT horrible!! It's the most exciting thing I've successfully not destroyed in ages.

Things I've Been Less Successful At Not Destroying Lately: Cecil the Lemon Tree, who is not looking so hot lately...and my Kefir project, who is...not. I don't know what's going on there, but it is not kefir, and it is not edible, and it may or may not have become poison.

Also Exciting: Tax returns!! I got money because I'm poor! I went to the tax place and the woman was nice and I signed a bunch of things and she got me a cheque and...well...that's pretty much it, but it was pretty much the highlight of my day, after the hummus. Free money!! That I already gave to the government and then they gave it back after a small percentage was taken away...see? Free Money! You make your own fun in this life...this is mine.

Coming Soon: Impending adulthood for which I am not prepared, in the form of working from 9am to 5pm next week at my new job. It's just training stuff...I'm not full time...but...9-5 from Monday to Grown Ups do. Grown Ups. Real Live People, people. I....I know that, legally, I am an adult. I can sign things (though I was signing stuff from the age of fourteen, because my parents didn't live together, so I just signed for whoever wasn't present and no one ever caught on)...anyways, I know that there are lots of people my age who have babies, and spouses, and mortgages, even. But I am not one of those people...and...OH GOD it terrifies me. I know that I will probably be fine, and I've probably passed bigger milestones than this before, but I feel oddly aware of this one. I may cry like the infant I am.

Peace Out, World...I'm going to eat cheesecake, am I suspect it will go well with the Hummus in my belly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tales of a Me Who Does Not Want to Go to Work

A cell phone alarm is heard.
I hate morning. I wish that I were dead so that I could sleep forever.

The door is opened to reveal grey skies and drizzling rain.
I hate the rain. I hate Vancouver.

A bus passes by without stopping, splashing a young woman with muddy street water.
I hate public transit. I hate taking the bus to work. I wish I owned a hummer, specifically so that I would destroy the earth's resources and eliminate the usefulness of fact, I wish I had ten hummers. And I would leave nine of them idling in my driveway all day while I drive the tenth one to work, and then I would cut off a bus, and splash it with muddy street water. Yes, that's what I'll do.

A second bus passes by without stopping, creating a pristine metaphor for societal breakdown in which the vulnerable populace at bus stops are abandoned to face the elements, terribly, terribly alone.
I hate everything. I don't want to go to work. I hate work. I want to go back to bed and sob quietly under the covers while confused puppies lick my sopping hair.

A third bus passes by without stopping.
...Seriously, I don't want to go. And the buses aren't stopping, so clearly, God doesn't want me to go to work, either. And I'm sure there's a valid reason for me not to go, besides divine intervention. There could be an emergency. People get suddenly sick. Relatives die. Ummm...I could maybe get really dizzy and fall in front of the next bus, but a handsome stranger will notice my fall and whisk me out of the way just in time, so that we might start a Jane Austen novel in which he proclaims his love, but inevitably leaves me for an ugly girl with a larger inheritance? Maybe?

A fourth bus stops. A young woman's elaborate scheme is foiled.
Okay...maybe my bus will get into an inconvenient and time-consuming traffic accident. It's happened before...we crashed into the side of a lorry and there was a hail of broken glass and somebody screamed at it was all very dramatic. And once, my sky train ran over someone. It could happen again. I'd be traumatized...I couldn't go to work. Though, actually, when both of those things happened, I was on the way to work, too, and I still had to go. Crap. Okay...well... Maybe I will spontaneously combust. Though I doubt that would happen when it's this wet outside.

The bus arrives at its destination, and a young woman is released into the cruel, uncaring, world.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Around and About the House, I talk with a Funny Accent

Many years ago, I was attending a conference in Southern Ohio. There was a lot of down time with fellow delegates - conversations ranged from political ideology to standards of body image across cultures, to how different languages and dialects developed (until one girl mentioned the Tower of Babel and the rest of us backed away slowly). The accents present at the conference ranged from Southern Belle to Southern Ontarian, but for all the regional dialects to be poked and prodded and looked at with adoring ‘awws,’ the handful of Canadians seemed to be getting an undue amount of attention.

“Say ‘out and about.’”
“Out and about.”
Hee!! Oot and aboot!”
“But…no…out and about.”
Hee! Say ‘out and about on a boat.’”
“Out and about on a boat.”
Scores of giggles.

The Americans concluded that Canadians were cute. The Canadians were confused, and concluded the Americans were stupid. Eventually, the conference ended, and the Canadians went home to suppress their newfound angst over how they pronounce ‘about’ and ‘house.’ All was forgotten, until South Park got in on the joke.

Canadians were entirely perplexed: We don’t know what you’re talking aboot.

South Park: Bigger, Better, and Uncut, while hilarious and groundbreaking in its own rights, had Canadians on the defensive. We’re saying ‘about,’ people. About. ‘About’ and ‘a boot’ are pronounced entirely differently, and we’re talking normally, godammit! And it’s ‘house.’ Not ‘hoose.’ Fuck, and our heads don’t flap around in two pieces, either.

I Am Canadian was born, and in the forefront of national, Labatt-induced pride was our inability to understand what the Americans were laughing at: ‘I say ABOUT, not A BOOT, our beer doesn't taste like watered-down piss, I am Canadian.’

Any Americans who were listening to our confused rebuttals giggled: Canadians are cute, and kind of dumb.

But then the world found bigger fish to fry (than those we’d been catching, out and about on our boat): weapons of mass destruction, and the real and present danger of Saddam Hussein, for starters. Americans started talking about a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense to Canadians, or the rest of the thinking world, and a couple hundred thousand brown people died as a result. Plus, I moved to the West Coast, so all of my dialect-based arguments began to centre around the superiority of ‘butt’ over ‘budge’ as the appropriate verb for when someone cuts in line. For the record: they butt. They BUTT in line, I don’t care what you think, lalalalala.

Well…the Democrats are back in power now, and Obama makes my little black heart sing. I think it’s time for healing, and reconciliation, and admitting that mistakes were made. So, let me state now, for the record, on behalf of my fellow Canadians: we were wrong.

That’s right, Canada, I know it’s hard to say, but we’re doing the right thing. And, actually, we ARE talking funny. We are saying ‘aboot.’ I know, I know, I didn’t get it either, but let me explain…Wikipedia told me so.

You see: the concept is called ‘Canadian Raising,’ and it’s part of what makes Canadians special.

If you’re Canadian, the following words will make Americans giggle:

House (the noun) compared to House (the verb, as in ‘to house’)
Pouter compared to Powder
Lout (or Stout) compared to Loud
Price compared to Prize
Writer compared to Rider

Canadians (and some Americans…and not certain Canadians…accents don’t end abruptly at borders, apparently) pronounce the first words of that list with a raised tone. American’s don’t. In fact, for Americans, that list of words would sound pretty much exactly the same - ‘writer’ and ‘rider’ can’t easily be distinguished, there’s no difference between a price and a prize. (Note: if your Canadian, the difference between those words isn’t in the second syllable, where it by all logical reasoning should be. It’s in the vowel. That’s due to an entirely different North American dialectical concept, called ‘flapping,’ where ‘d’ and ‘t’ and ‘c’ and z’ end up sounding exactly the same.)

The raising of ‘ou’ sounds is less common in the States, and more pronounced in Canadians, so it’s a lot more fun to point out…which brings us around and about the house to our old friend: Aboot.

The American pronunciation of 'about' is kind of harsh, like the ‘bow’ of a boat. The Canadian pronunciation is raised, and so for all ye Americans listening in, it sounds pretty close to ‘a boot.’ In fact, that’s a pretty spot on imitation for people who don’t know how to raise. So…when we made the beer commercial, basking in our defensive national pride, we proudly announced to any Americans who happened to be listening ‘It’s ‘aboot.’ Not ‘a boot.’ …We don’t know what you’re talking aboot. I’m going back oot to my hoose now…shut up, South Park, I‘m saying ‘aboot!”

And that is why national pride, in excess, is a dangerous and humiliating thing. As is Labatt Beer, for that matter. And luckily, no one south of the border really cares about Canadians anyways, so I doubt they took notice. But, for the sake of peace and international unity, we can put this whole humiliating affair, ten years in the making, behind us. There are more important things to talk about.

For example: have you ever heard an Australian say ‘Vanilla Ice’? They say ‘Vanilla Rice.’ Also: 'wallaby.' Highlarious.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Me of the Day

Mood: Meh. Earlier today, I had the distinct feeling that I had died at some point during the night, but that no one had bothered to let me know, so I was stuck going about my day despite the fact that felt, and looked like, and possibly was, the walking dead. It was not the happiest of feelings.

Most exciting story of the day: None...nothing of consequence whatsoever. Crap. Ummm.... I cleaned out the coffee machine which has been being used for at least 5 years and I'm pretty sure has never been cleaned before, to the point that I thought one of the rubber gasket (gasket? do...hicky?? thinger?) inside had a black plastic coating, but it turned out that the coating was just years of built up crap, and the rubber gasket was white underneath. Crazy.

Also: My roommate's tiny rat dog is staying with me for a couple of weeks, which is minorly exciting, in comparison to adventures of cleaning coffee machines. She is the tiniest dog that ever was; my dogs are chubby at 11lbs and considered a toy breed, and I worry they may eat her, or step on her, and she will die. I worry that I will step on her and she will die. In fact, I'm just worried that she will die, period, as watching anyone else's puppy comes with a lot of responsibility. And by puppy, I mean 'naked mole rat,' because that's a lot closer to what she is. Though - cute. In a teacup chihuahua rat dog sort of way.

Advice to others: Donate your damn socks. You have some - I know you do. Dryers eat an average of 27 single socks a year, each, which means that lots of people have a lot of single socks out there, and ugly socks, and socks you never wear any more. Well, those socks are very desperately needed at your local homeless shelter or drop in centre. My work has been completely out of socks for over a week now, and it sucks, and I don't have any more socks to give. So...please. Collect your damn socks, and donate them today, or in the very near future.