Saturday, August 28, 2010

People who do and people who don't

Mariana finally moved in on Thursday evening. We've been friends for 10 years or something, and I don't think there's anyone who knows either of us better than we know each other, save for perhaps our families.

She's not the industrious type and never has been. I've sort of gotten used to it, because for years now her idea of me coming over to visit consisted of us sitting on her couch and her watching TV. (I don't like TV in general.) When she visited my house, I always tried to be a good host, offering her things to do like playing games, heading down the street to the park to play frisbee, cooking something that she always said she'd like to learn how to cook, etc. But usually we ended up watching a movie or something. And I'm realizing that there are people in this world who do (who like to never sit still) and people who don't (who would rather just not do anything).

Mariana is someone who doesn't.

Living with someone like that is very different from being friends with them. When you're friends with them, you suck it up while you're together and then when you go home, you just do all the things you've been aching to do while you were with them. But when they are home, it makes it difficult. And it makes it impossible to get them to help you with things around the house that need to be done, because they don't anything.

Yesterday I was up at 7am. I went into the kitchen and--as quietly as possible--ate a quick breakfast and started doing things around the kitchen. She didn't have much space in the fridge, so I thought I'd make space. That involved making some soup to get rid of some vegetables. Then, while it was cooking, I found the rest of some cookie dough in the fridge from her favourite cookies that I made on Thursday for her arrival, so I baked the rest of them up. By that time, I had a fair number of dishes, so I put away the ones in the dish rack and washed the new ones. The dishwasher was full but hadn't be run, so I did that. The living room was messy, so I tidied it. I took the linens out of the drier and put them in the linen closet.

At 10:30 my friend comes downstairs. She goes in the fridge, cooks herself hotdogs for breakfast (nutritious, much?), and goes to put something in the garbage. She says to me, "You need to put the garbage out. It's getting full."

I let her have it in no uncertain terms. I told her it was very nice of her to sleep in until 10:30 and then come downstairs and bark orders at the person who's been trying to keep busy all morning. She told me she'd been up for hours because I (very cruelly) woke her up, and that she'd been doing all sorts of things upstairs. But they're all personal grooming things (which, last time I checked, didn't count as doing any real work, and certainly don't benefit anyone but her). And yet she thought it was appropriate to tell me to take the garbage out when I hadn't even taken a break to shower yet. Rich.

She wanted to work out the problem with the TV in her room, so she called the cable company. While on hold, she devoured several of the cookies I'd made this morning and told me about how she should stay busy so she's not thinking about her ex-boyfriend all the time. I offered some suggestions of things that had to be done.  This included vacuuming, which she offered to do on Thursday night. (When she moved in, all of her stuff was covered in dust and my floor had been spotless, but now it looks awful and the landlady is coming tomorrow.) She proceeded to lie down on the couch and stare at the ceiling. "I'll do it later."

She told me she had to go to the mall to make a return, and that I should come with her and show her around the new neighbourhood and such. I agreed. I had to have a quick shower, so I did. When I had dressed, I went to her room and told her I was ready to go, to which she replied, "But Arthur is on. Can you give me half an hour?" Trying to be patient, I went back to my room and started killing time. I didn't want to start anything major so that in half an hour we could just leave, rather than listening to her complain at me for holding her up some more. But half an hour came and went. After about an hour, I knocked on her door and discovered she had fallen asleep. She tells me she has to do her makeup still, which will only take her half an hour.

So finally, at about 1:30, more than an hour and a half after I got in the shower, we finally left the house. At the mall, she couldn't make her return because she had forgotten one of the parts at home.

We get home and she puts on more hotdogs, because her aunt is bringing her two kids over and supposedly they like hotdogs. She asked me to join them and I felt strange saying no because her aunt is so wonderful, so I agreed to. When auntie got there, Mariana showed her around the house and in the mean time, the hotdogs were boiling over and making an unholy racket on the stove, so I had to watch them for her. 15 minutes later, she's still in her room with her little cousin playing guitar. I set the table and get everything out, and as soon as I sit on the couch to read, she comes down with her aunt, who's the one who said, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry, is there anything I can do? Thank you so much for doing everything..." The boys don't want hotdogs, so we eat and they play. And afterwards, her aunt is trying to do the dishes, so I have to practically wrestle them out of her hands and do them myself, because Mariana is still on the living room floor with her cousin.

When the troop goes home, I try to mention to her gently that the floor was considerably neater before she arrived and I'm a little embarrassed for the landlady to see it for the first time like this, especially when the whole time before she got there I worked so hard to keep it spotless. My friend gets touchy and tells me my idea of clean is exaggerated and that all it needs is a sweep, which she'll do if I really think this is dirty. I tell her it is. She says, "Fine, I'll sweep." She goes upstairs and starts watching TV. The living room is also full of her stuff that needs unpacking, but when I try to tell her, "touchy" is an understatement. At this point, I think I may have to physically force her to do something.

It's driving me crazy. I just don't get how people can sit in front of a TV all day and not feel like they're accomplishing nothing with their life. She's been surly with me since she got here, which I can't help but think has a lot more to do with her than with me. It's bad for the morale to feel useless, and with the number of constructive things she's doing (which is zero), she surely must feel useless. Or at least I would.

Our third roommate is a guy. She wasn't happy about it because she told me it would be difficult to get him to share the housework. Interesting, that.

I need him before the two of us kill each other.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Relief is an understatement!

I've finally found someone to rent the room in my house to, which I'm really happy about. It's not a short or painless process, contrary to popular opinion, so thank goodness I wasn't left hanging. I feel good about this. (Although, knowing how horribly ungrateful I am, I haven't ruled out the possibility that I'll be whining about my new roommate in a matter of weeks. haha)

I'm going to chop all my hair off. I have really thick hair, right past my bum and they could make a whole lot of wigs for women less fortunate than I. I've already contacted the local cancer foundation or whatever, and I'll see if I can get people to sponsor me as well. Maybe raise a few thousand dollars. Cancer is a son of a bitch and there's no reason I shouldn't be doing everything I can to stop it before it gets me, too. It can do no harm to help them out, and it's something I'd like to do.

On a related note, I have one hell of a headache. I was talking to my friend the other day, who used to have really long hair, and she told me it was probably from the weight of all my hair. I've had long hair for so long (since I was about 12) that I don't even think about it and certainly didn't realize it was the reason for my headaches. Hmm. This idea is looking better and better!

I still have food left from the party. Good grief, did they ever bring a lot of it! The plus side is that I won't have to go grocery shopping for at least a couple of weeks.

Mariana gets here tomorrow. I can't wait to see her again, and have company in this house that isn't the I-never-stop-talking woman. I miss Mariana. She's moving in tomorrow and I also scheduled girls' night for I ever smart. We'll hope we can do both relatively painlessly, because neither party will be happy with me if I muck up their evening!

I'm in need of a shower. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

I think I've finally recovered!

The party was definitely not for the faint of heart, but it was fun nonetheless. I ended up with only about 15 people in my house, for which I was grateful, because I've never heard that few people make so much noise! Amazingly, none of the neighbours sent the cops over, which is particularly surprising when popping all the balloons the morning after sounds remarkably like gunfire...

It took me all day yesterday to clean the house (mostly it was just a matter of scraping the cake smears off my living room floor because my friends very awesomely took down the decorations and loaded the dishwasher before they left). They were here till almost 2am, at which point I resolved to make the kitchen at least somewhat presentable before going to bed, because who wants to wake up to that, really? So a little after 3 it was finally bedtime. I was up again at 8 because Jade is incapable of sleeping once it's light outside.

This morning the house was spotless. I was impressed, to be honest. And there's a reason it was so clean: viewings. Three of them. One at 12, one at 3 and one at 7:30 this evening. The first was (as I expected) horrible. First of all, he was a he. Second of all, he was old and creepy. A definite "no". The second one was also a he, but at least he was young (only 23) and seemed nice. He also seemed really eager, so I have a feeling that if none of the women we interview expresses interest, he'll take it in a heartbeat. It's nice to know. The third was a girl, 28 years old and working full-time nearby. She was nice, but there was just something about her...I can't put my finger on it. She felt uncomfortable to be around, somehow, and I don't know why. In any case, her response was essentially "If I can't find a better place and the room's still available, I might take it." So I guess she's also a "no". But if nothing else, I'm getting better at showing the place.

There are three more coming tomorrow as well. I've got a girl at 3:30 and two girls at 4pm, all of which sound promising.

Let's hope tomorrow yields better results than today!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pardon me while I brace myself...

...because tomorrow is my friend's birthday and the party is at my place. And there is going to be an awful lot of young people arriving at my house with sickening amounts of alcohol. The playlist even consists of the most blatant dance music possible (think Sexy Back and In Da Club), so I've a feeling this is going to get...interesting. But hey, if it turns out to be my first glorified kegger, at least it'll be an experience.

I've made industrial quantities of food to feed the army that's going to be here tomorrow, but I've a feeling we won't need it because we'll be having a liquid supper. Anyone who wants to come over for dinner on Sunday to help me eat the leftovers is more than welcome. Ha.

You know, I've been trying to find someone to rent the extra room in my house to, and I've had a couple of decent people contact me. It's pretty exciting, really. What's not exciting is the creepy old man who contacted me to arrange a viewing. (Did my skin crawl? You bet.)

That being said, I do have a random woman sleeping on my couch. It's a strange and long story, but if you want the short version, she was in dire need of a place to stay and I'm a nice person, apparently. (Who'd have thought it? Ha.) She's given me $100 for a week, which I think is reasonable, considering I didn't even expect to have anyone rent until September. Her week is over in the morning and she's found a place, so she'll be gone then.

To be honest, I'm a little relieved she's leaving. I thought I'd be happy to have company, because I've been living all alone since the 1st of August and I'd started feeling a little lonely. But she must be even more lonely than me or something, because she never stops talking. Ever. It takes me 2 hours to eat each meal because she just wants to talk for an hour after breakfast and dinner (she's gone every day for lunch) and I feel really mean and rude to just blow her off and walk away. I wanted to sit on my own couch and read the other night, because she was also reading at the kitchen table, and she still talked to me non-stop until I gave up on reading.

She's a very nice girl, but it will be much quieter without her.

Wish me luck for tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The smell of home

I wrote this poem quite a few years ago. It wasn't much even at the time, but the idea still holds true, at least for me:

Hurrying cars speed home.
She walks, slowly,
Trudging her feet.
The day was stormy,
The work hard,
The hours draining of the mind.

The constant buzzing of downtown.
How it makes her head pound!
She trips,
The pavement decorating her knee
With the body's war paint.
The metallic smell makes her eyes burn.

Onto the bus.
The ogre just grunts at her pass
And the smile flees from her lips in fear.

Opening the door,
Stepping inside,
She drops her bag.
Inhaling deeply,
The fragrance of gingerbread fills her.
The taste of Home.
A smile.
And she knows she will be alright
By tomorrow.

I baked almost all day today and the house--my house--smells like cinnamon and brown sugar. There's just so much comfort in things that are homemade.

When people got married, we used to make food. When people died, we used to make food. When our children had a day off school, we used to make food with them. We've lost that. Now we buy food. Our idea of baking with our children is a canister of our favourite Pillsbury cookies, pre-formed into little portions, if you're lucky.

Something's happened to us. We simply don't care anymore. We don't care that there's something soulful, something spiritual about doing things ourselves. There's a healing quality to good, old-fashioned work. At the end of it, when we've done the work, we can stand back and enjoy the fruits of our (real) labour. There's nothing worth celebrating about frozen food or pre-shaped cookies.

Today the girls came over and we had girls' night, like we do every week. This week it was a pasta with spinach on the menu. I offered to pick up some spinach and my friend insisted it was OK, because she already had some. She arrived with frozen spinach. I didn't know such a thing existed. If that weren't enough, between the other four girls who were cooking with me, none of them could efficiently peel a clove of garlic because they'd never done it. These are intelligent women with university degrees, the lot of them. They live on their own (or with partners) and cook on a relatively regular basis. And yet they were defeated by garlic, all of them.

I think I'm a rare breed, because I was the only one in the room who knew what she was doing. I don't blame young people for not knowing things if they were never taught them, but surely at some point we need to stop and look at what we're doing. At some point we need to realize we're missing out on the joy of the simple things in our little pre-packaged "paradise".

Now excuse me, I have to get back to my knitting...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Power vs. influence

There was an incident at my University last year that made me start thinking of people in positions of power differently. Someone who is pretty high up at my school (I won't mention names) basically used his position of power to oppress a student who had an opinion that wasn't convenient to the administration. It got me wondering if it's possible to have such a position and not let the power corrupt you.

Only a nerd like me would liken real life to the Lord of the Rings, but the things Tolkien wrote about are so real-life at the end of the day. Denethor basically steals the throne and basks in the glory of it while his people (not to mention his family life) go out the window. And then there's Aragorn. He doesn't want to be king, he doesn't think he can do it, and he would be content to live a simple life with the elven wife for all of his days. And yet when he came to grips with his place on the throne, he was an amazing king, the kind of person that others looked at and wanted to emulate. They didn't feel scared of him or controlled by him. He ruled by influence.

I once knew a man like that. His name was Joe. He was the head of a company I used to work for (let's just say I was about 10 ranks below him) and he was maybe the kindest, most caring and compassionate person I'd ever met. But he was also passionate about what he did. He was a positive person. He believed in touching people's lives instead of living in a mansion and laughing at those who were less fortunate than he was. Everyone in the company wanted to be like Joe, and yet none of us felt intimidated by him. It helped that he was the first to get his hands dirty whenever the chance arose.

It seems like Joe was a rare breed. As much of a cliche as this is, power really does corrupt people. Seriously. It leads teachers to fail students "just because I can". It makes cops instigate arguments with innocent bystanders and then arrest them when they talk back. But when all's said and done, as scared as we may be of people who abuse their power, none of us really want to be like them. Why? Because what they have isn't real. Power comes and goes, and when the power is gone and you've got nothing left to show for it, that's a really miserable place to be.

The guy who runs my university scares me. And with that fear, I have an intense dislike (perhaps even hatred) for him because of the things he's done. He stands for awful things and yet he's running the best-respected University in my city. So people who attend the University have two options: they leave the University and go elsewhere (out of town, if they can afford it), where their education will still be considered inferior because it's not from the best school available; or they can get an education from a University where ruling with an iron fist is acceptable, and where the administration presumably hopes to pop out a whole generation of people who essentially accept authority figures as gods who need to be feared.

Tenure is a funny thing. Professors work really hard, typically for a decade or two, to get it. During that time, they're under really close scrutiny so that if they give the University any excuse to be scared of them, they can throw them off the "tenure track". So the idea is that once you've behaved long enough to get tenure, basically you've been trained to behave for the rest of your career. You've been trained to think, feel, and discuss only things that are convenient to the University. But here's the great thing: once you have tenure, you're untouchable. You can't be fired. Even if you publish a book on how the President of the University is terrorizing the student population with his dictator-like system.

By the time you have tenure, you're pretty unlikely to need it. At least that's what the Universities believe. (Hell, maybe they're right.)

I chose to do my Ph.D, dictator president or not. I plan to teach at a University. I will get tenure, of course, because I will find a way to be a well-behaved employee who supports the values of the University where I teach.

But once I've got tenure, I'm going to have a whole lot to say. And if I become anything like Joe (which I really hope is what happens), the people in charge may just have something to worry about.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I'm in love.

With my new place, that is.

I moved in on Saturday, more or less without a hitch. My friends are amazing. I bought them lunch because I wanted to do something for them as a "thank you" but it just didn't do them justice. They're just so awesome.

I'm still unpacking, but only in my room. The kitchen and living/dining room are all under control and I've even got my cable and internet and phone and such hooked up. I was without internet and phone (and cable, but I don't watch TV--it's just for my roommate) for almost 4 days. It's amazing how disconnected from the world, even your real-life world, you feel when you don't have a phone and internet. I didn't talk to my mother for 3 days and she lives a 15-minute drive away. By the third I had to visit, so I went over unannounced and almost missed her! All this to say: internet and phone, I love you!

Girls' night is tonight at my new place! I made some veggie chili (one of my friends is a vegetarian) and it smells divine. It's the first time I made it and I didn't use a recipe, so I'm glad it smells so good!

Speaking of vegetarians, I'm almost becoming one lately. I've been to the grocery twice and both times I got quite a lot of stuff, and neither time did I buy meat. The closest thing I have is canned tuna fish, and that's because it's cheap and good for sandwiches. Mostly, I've been eating eggs and nuts and beans for protein, which is healthy enough that I should be pretty proud of myself, really.

Yesterday I got this brilliant idea. There's a grocery about a 15-minute walk from my house and they have President's Choice stuff (it's like a generic brand but better, and they have PC Points and stuff). I have a PC bank account, so if I pay with my debit card then I get PC Points, which eventually get you free groceries and such. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, I got a coupon a few days ago that said if I spent over $100 on groceries there and pay with my PC bank card, I got 10,000 bonus PC Points. My brainy idea was to write down everything I need and get it all in large quantities so that I'm all set for a while, and that way it would be over $100 but worth it. The only problem is that I don't have a car. So I set off with my backpack and 3 cloth grocery bags and went through the grocery and got huge things (among them was a 22lb bag of flour). I worked out everything in my head and it turns out that all together, I ended up getting about 80lbs of food to lug home. Needless to say, the usual 15-minute walk became more like 30 minutes because I had to stop and put everything down every 20 yards because I was sure I'd drop it all otherwise!

It was a workout and a half and I didn't die, so it's all good. The funny thing is that I was sweating buckets because it was so hot (attractive, I know), and the second I got home and inside it started to rain! I would complain, but the fact of the matter is that the whole thing was my own doing. And in hindsight it's hysterical.

There's nothing I'd change about my new place, really. I'm in love.