Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Parents...Insanity Now, and Even More Insanity Later

I’m not sure what has prompted me to write about my parents...maybe it’s because my jaw has continuously dropped to the floor a few too many times lately in utter disbelief.

I love my parents very much, and they know that because I tell them all the time.  We have such a good time together and I feel extremely fortunate to have the relationship I do with them.  So everything I am about to say is in good humour...and humour is exactly what I am finding in all these “situations” we seem to be experiencing, along with   astonishment, and at times, frustration.  Maybe it’s the generation?  Maybe it’s the pressure to fit into a new tech-savvy world that has been thrust upon them?  Maybe it’s us as the kids that are creating expectations for our parents that they just can’t meet?

They really try their best to adapt to the world of technology.  The other day, my Mom insisted that she just missed a call on her cell phone from me, even though it was 5 hours later.  And that’s when she actually has the phone with her or if it’s actually on.  My Dad’s answer to anything these days is “We can just Photoshop that”...yes, he happens to be a professional photographer, but Photoshop doesn’t apply to anything but photos last time I checked.  When you’re using that phrase for everything, that becomes a problem.  It’s also a problem if you can’t use Photoshop effectively when using the teeth-whitening tool--he sent me a “touched up” photo of him and my Mom from Christmas, and I just about fell off my chair given they both looked like a bleaching experiment gone bad.   

The bulk of the population can book airline tickets on line--not much can go wrong, you just follow along with the screens.  So when I get calls from my mother describing that the computer “just did something” and when asked what happened, she just kept repeating “I don’t know--it’s so stupid--you’ll just have to come over and see--I, I can’t describe it.”  Then my Dad feels he has to add in his idea for a solution, and that’s just to go right to the airport and buy the tickets there.  I didn’t even know how to respond to that one.  

And then they got a tablet for purchasing their cable, internet and phone all in one go...why?  There should be an age limit for giving those things out.  I would personally like to thank Telus for making my life more difficult now--it wasn’t bad enough that I get the usual computer calls weekly, but now there’s a tablet involved now too which means twice as many calls--that’s just great. 

My parents have always been loud…and not just because they’re losing their hearing—they literally have no concept of how loud they are in public and nor do they care.  Whenever I go on a trip, my parents always insist on taking me to the airport and sending me off with a proper goodbye.  My Dad felt that checking my luggage was a more than noteworthy photo opportunity.  And, thanks to the early onset of deafness, everyone in the check-in line with me got to hear my life story—I actually got the “Wow, I feel sorry for you” look more than a few times.  Another time, my Dad dropped my Mom and I off at the cruise ship terminal when we went to Alaska.  The terminal is fairly simply laid out, but the hard part was Dad parking the car and him trying to find us again inside the terminal.  Once he did, he created a HUGE scene to let everyone know what bullsh*t the entire system was and somewhere in there, the Canadian government got blamed.

Apparently the filter just completely disappears when you get older as well.  I went to the movies with my parents last year and I watched them treat the movie theatre as if it was their own personal living room.  They talked to each other through the whole movie, in a non-sound reduced way...fabulous.  And because of the losing of the hearing situation, they couldn’t hear me or anyone else shush-ing them throughout the entire movie.

I don’t know if stealing also becomes a problem with age, but when I was over at my parents place last, I opened a cupboard and out fell about two dozen Starbucks napkins  and an inordinate number of sugar packets, stir sticks and take-away cups.  Upon closer observation in their home, I noticed, to my horror, they had many items scattered around that are given as complimentary by coffee shops, restaurants, etc.  When I questioned them about it, all they could say is that it was there and free, so they took as many as they could.  Of course, why buy those things when you can just steal them?  That instantly brought me back to the days when we used to fly to Hawaii back in the 70’s--the age of tight pants (enter Tight Pants song from SNL).  My Dad would go into the washroom on the plane and would come out with as much of the little wrapped bar soap he could stuff in his tight pants as possible.  And you could see the outline of it all in his pockets, thanks again, to the tight pants.  We never had to buy all makes sense now.

My Dad is one of the smartest people I know.  He reads tonnes of scientific literature daily and also has single-handedly turned the Starbucks in Steveston into his own personal social house.  Everyone knows him there.  I can’t meet him there anymore to have quiet father/daughter time because random people just come up and sit with us.  

I think along with age comes a certain level of stubbornness too.  When my parents visit me, they park in my extra parking space in the underground next to my car.  One morning after their visit, I was leaving for work and noticed fresh oil where my Mom parked the night before (and I know the look of clean (and dirty) motor oil given my Neon had multiple fatal leaks in her dying days).  So, I called my Mom to let her know and she would have none of it.  “How do you know it’s oil?  Did you put your finger in it?  Have you smelled it?”  I don’t know about you, but I’m really not ready to stick my finger into something that emanates from a car’s engine just for the sake of proving a point.  

I can only hope to hell that there is no loss of mental faculties...or has that already started?  My Mom called me the other night to casually let me know that she heard on the news that the birth control pill I am taking has been rendered ineffective and women taking it are getting pregnant.  After my heart jumped through my chest, we quickly discovered that she had the name wrong--heaven forbid you may want to double check the name before you hit your daughter with something like that. 

I hear it from my friends in my generation too...everyone has a certain level of frustration dealing with their aging parents, and they’re only just boomer age in most cases.  God help us when they get into their 80’s!  I know from my line of work some of the challenges that the aging population and their children face, and the concerns are all too real.  And perhaps one day, it won’t be a laughing matter, but for now, with my parents, I shake my head in disbelief.  And, as I said above, I just try to find the humour, because if I don’t, I might just lose my mind, and then where would my parents be? 

Love you Mom and Dad xox 

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Denise’s Handy Driving Tips

In rounding out my series on commuting, I thought it prudent to include some helpful tips that might be useful when driving around the Vancouver area.  I have seen it all and feel the need to impart my knowledge and experience...sadly, much of what you are about to read is my way of coping on the road, but hey, I seem to get from A to B ok.  I will add though, that if you adapt any of my suggestions, I will not take responsibility for any negative repercussions you may experience.  

1.  The red “X” in the Stanley Park causeway means GET OUT OF THAT LANE.

Everyone who lives in the Vancouver area is familiar with Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge, and the roadway-connector of the two called the Stanley Park causeway.  Originally when the bridge was built, it was only two lanes; however, within a short period of time the population grew on the North Shore and the two lanes were constructed into three.  There is a green and red lighting system above the lanes through the causeway that tells you which direction the middle lane is going.  Most people can ascertain whether they should be in that lane based on whether there is red “x” over it or not...yes, most people.  Ok, I get the tourists--maybe some of them have never seen a set up like that before and many-a-time have I watched an almost head-on collision to only have the tourist swerve out of the on-coming lane just in the nick of time.  But when those are BC plates doing that, it just makes you wonder as to what part of the giant red X above the lane didn’t we see?  Or do you really think you can “out-run” the X and make it to the other end of the bridge?  

2.  That bus is bigger than you.

This is a scary one.  And the reason I say that is because there are some bus drivers out there that will NOT yield or give way and almost purposefully cause an accident to teach you a lesson.  I’ve watched people really take their chances with the buses and I just cringe every time.  I will admit that I’ve had a couple of run-ins with bus drivers only because they think they’re driving a sports car--watching those cables come down from the wires on the trolly buses when you’re right next to one is enough to snap you back to reality in a heartbeat.  But still I see people zipping by, cutting off, and slamming on breaks all near, around and in front of buses whereby the car is almost crushed like a tin can if not for a few lucky seconds on the driver’s side.  The bus is bigger, and the chips on some of the shoulders of the bus drivers are even bigger, so be careful! 

3.  Rain is not snow last time I checked.

Vancouver is famous for it’s rain.  I quite enjoy it actually--perhaps it’s because I’ve lived here all my life and it makes no matter to me.  What I find interesting is that people on the road just freak out when the water hits the ground.  I fully agree that you need to slow down a little and be aware the roads can be somewhat slick, especially after a dry spell.  But it’s not snow!  We don’t have to cut our speed in half, do we?  I think all cars come with windshield wipers, right?

4.  One way usually way.

I’ve been guilty of this, but only in downtown Seattle where there are one-way streets galore and I figured out pretty quickly what I had done (thanks Mom).  What I don’t get are people who can see that they are going down a one-way street, but keep going anyway!  They are being honked at, shouted at, gestured at, etc. but they still keep going anyway!  Yes, I understand that maybe you get all of the above typically, but if you hear that kind of noise going on around you, you may want to sit up and take notice.

5.  Putting a bunch of sh*t on your dash may impair your vision while driving.

This one I don’t get at all.  You can only have so many air fresheners in your car at one time.  How many things that bobble and move should one person own, AND have in their car at the same time?  If you’re driving, there’s no time to play with what’s the purpose?  To impede the potentially already impaired vision of the driver even further?   Eek.  Leave the toys at home people.

6.  If you can’t see cars in your rear view because of a giant blue cloud, you may want to take your car into the shop.

Hey, I’ve been there.  My neon blew enough burned oil out the tail pipe to single-handedly puncture a hole in the ozone, so I get that denial enters into the picture when it comes to your car.  But when the cars behind you are completely blinded in a thick blue fog thanks to your car’s toxic pollution output, let’s get it fixed already, no one needs to breathe in that crap.  

7.  If you can help it at all, don’t interact with the UPS drivers.

(See previous blog post for details on this one)

8.  Taking the HOV and pretending to talk to yourself is ok.

Sometimes I’ll use highway 99 to get home and when I do, there is no way I’m sitting in the tunnel traffic if I’m getting off at the exit right before.  So, the HOV lane is the perfect solution, but naturally, it’s a no-no if you’re the only one in the car, which is why I’ll pretend to talk to someone in the backseat if I get the evil eye from other drivers.  I have yet to come across any police, but the way I see it, I win either way (see tip # 10).

9.  Playing “lost tourist” is a necessity at times.

This is some people’s regular driving persona, and, sometimes there really are lost tourists out there.  I like to be a "lost tourist" to sneak into the Lion’s Gate bridge lane from the Stanley Park lane to avoid scads of traffic during rush hour in the morning.  It works well when you pretend to look up at the signs with a confused grimace on your face, throw your hands up into the air in disbelief, and then innocently catch the eye of a driver in the next lane to gain their sympathy to let you in front of them.  If possible, try to have a map handy for extra sympathy.  Of course, you could really push it and ignore the red “X” but then you run the risk of injury (see tip # 1). 

10.  It’s important to wave at the firemen and smile at the policemen, NOT.

When I was in New York, it was common place for women to interact with the firemen and policemen, and not just with a gentle wave or a little smile either--we’re talking full on shouting, etc. but then that’s just how things are in NYC anyway (which is why I fit in perfectly there).  When I brought that concept back to Vancouver, it didn’t work so well.  Sorry to my firemen friends for this, but I have to say that the firemen here, unlike NYC, DON’T reciprocate (or at least not often) with the waving back concept, nor do they look receptive to it in the first place.  Smiling at a policeman here is just plain stupid unless you want to be pulled over (so I do it all as often as possible).  It all comes from a place of respect for me, but perhaps the perception at their end is the opposite.  Regardless, between the uniform and my regard for what each do for a living, I will never stop waving and smiling, ever.