Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Porn in the Multiplex

Last week TW and I debated and debated and debated about what film to go see. Our choices: Snakes on a Plane – no explanation needed – or the Crash Pad – a lesbian porn film. Both films were playing at 7pm. Both films were playing at the large multiplex theater. And both films offered a compelling narrative.

So after innumerable hours of debate we opted for Snakes on a Plane. But since the show was sold out we settled for lesbian porn.

We bought tickets. We got seats. We settled in. And we waited with great anticipation for the narrative arc to begin. The film started. The sex started. The narrative arc, however, never started. So. The sleeping started instead.

As soon as my head hit the back of the movie theater seat I was out. I remember nothing of those 72 minutes of my life.

TW has since recounted for me – numerous times – how I sat in the middle of the 300-person theater with my head thrown back, my mouth wide open, and my nose emitting a patented snore/sniffle sound.

How she nudged me in the ribs throughout the film to awaken me from my hazy slumber.

How the 76-year old women with the walker seated next to us got up to move to another seat out of range of my wayward drool.

And how numerous other theater patrons turned from the screen and started hucking popcorn at my head.

Well, at least I got some free popcorn.

Monday, August 21, 2006

So that's what happens in there...

Last weekend I went to a gala opening party for a queer film and video festival. The forward thinking festival programmers covered over the labels on the bathroom doors with signs reading, "Gender is a spectrum. Pick the shortest line." So, like a contestant on Let's Make a Deal, I chose door number two. But was unwittingly forced into door number one by a wily competitor.

As soon as I felt the urge to pee I extricated myself from the throngs and headed to the two unmarked doors. I bobbed and weaved while keeping the doors in plain view. Then, within three feet of door number one, I found myself in a foot race with a meandering 80-year old man with a walker. I, a spry 34-year old thought I could beat him the remaining three feet, but I was mistaken. My 80-year old competitor ambled ahead of me, pivoted to the right, placed his walker between the door, and me and ultimately boxed me out. So. I chose the other door – door number one.

I walked into the bathroom, turned to the right, and spied a figure out of the corner of my eye. I spied a man. A man standing with his back to me; a man holding his hands in front of his pants; a man standing in front a urinal; a man relieving himself.

I froze – for what seemed like fifteen seconds.

When I regained my composure, I continued past the bank of urinals, turned sharply into the one toilet stall in the expansive bathroom, closed the door, and waited. I waited to hear the urinal flush. I waited to hear the water in the sink run. I waited to hear the bathroom door open. And I waited to hear the bathroom door close. Then I flushed, washed my hands, and left – stealthily.

After leaving the bathroom I bobbed and weaved my way back to TW. From a distance I could see her talking and laughing heartily to a person I did not know. So I ventured closer. When I reached two of them, TW introduced me to her acquaintance, a man who looked oddly familiar. He and I exchanged pleasantries, shook hands, and then he remarked, “Actually, didn’t I just see you in the bathroom?” Surprised by his query I stammered, “Me. No. It couldn’t have been. I don’t go to the bathroom. Ever.” He nodded. I can’t be completely sure but I think he believed me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just call me moneybags

One of the unintended consequences of living in a country with supremely high taxes is that I am now a cheapskate. I, who used to shower wait staff with ample post-tax twenty percent tips, am now foisting upon restaurant tables a paltry pre-tax fifteen percent.

Although I feel shameful leaving such meager pre-tax amounts I rationalize it to friends when they glare at my contribution. I explain that as a haus frau I am not gainfully employed, that there was a minor flaw with my meal and/or the service, and that in Europe tipping is very uncommon. This works – sometimes.

Even when it doesn’t work I am able to navigate this treacherous tip terrain in the privacy of my own shameful eternal monologue – until recently.

This weekend I went to a café. The type of place that requires you order at the counter, grab your own water, coffee, napkins, utensils, and table. The type of place that calls your name and requires that you return to the counter to pick up your own food. The type of place where the only real service you receive is in being asked by the cashier if the food is for here or to go. It is usually at the type of place that I put the loose change in my pocket – anywhere from 15 to 60 cents in the tip jar – since I am doing the bulk of the work. But I didn’t have any cash on hand so I paid with a debit card.

After agreeing to the amount requested for the food and punching in my pin code the debit machine posed a question – of sorts, “Advise the server of tip amount.” The question – more of a statement of fact – presumed that a tip was due and I was to say out loud how much I valued the time of the cashier, the wait staff, and the other employees of the café.

I froze.

I knew that I could not tip 15 cents or even say 60 cents, because saying one of these amounts out loud would illicit glares and verbal derision from the cashier, my friends, and the strangers in line behind me. So I tried to do a quick calculation in my head but to no avail. As a humanities major in college I saw no real need for math but at that moment I came head to head with the full force of math’s real life applications and cursed my 18-year old former self.

As I tried to find the calculator function on my cell phone I stalled. I looked to the cashier, a woman in her sixties with a weathered face, a woman not easily amused by small talk and said, “Looks like those Blue Jays are trying to make a run at the pennant.” No perceptible response. I tried again, “Beautiful day outside.” Same result. And finally, “How long have you held this job?” A look of scorn, “Are you almost done? There are other customers waiting.”

Realizing that my time at the till was running short I blurted, “Add five dollars to my bill” and as aside continued, “for the tip.” Through clenched unsmiling teeth she grumbled, “Thanks.”

As I ventured back to the table my friend asked, “What did you order?” I replied, “A bran muffin.” “Yum. How much are the muffins here?” I pulled the receipt from my pocket, “Usually two dollars but I paid seven.”

My friend shrugged her shoulders and remarked, “I wouldn’t have given a tip at all. I mean you have to butter your own muffin. I guess you are a bigger person than I.” Muttering under my breath I responded, “That is not what I would call it…”

Monday, August 07, 2006

I think I threw my rib out.

Somehow, over the course of thirty-six hours, I amassed twenty dollars worth of loonies and toonies. The leaden coins, firmly planted in my right pants pocket, so weighed me down that I started to lilt into busy streets and massive hedges as I walked. TW, sick of hearing me complain about the back and abdominal pain the coins caused, demanded that I buy something, anything, to rid myself of the onerous load.

So, I tried.

I went to a bookseller to pick up twenty dollars worth of magazines and other sundry Canadiana. With the magazines and Canadiana in hand I made my way to the cashier. As soon she rung up my assorted items I pulled the loonies and toonies out of my pocket to pay for the $20.05 purchase.

The cashier smirked. In an acerbic tone she remarked, “Uh. We are only allowed to take up to $10 in change.” I looked at her quizzically, “Ten dollars?” “Yes. Ten dollars.” So I left ten loonies on the counter and put the remaining six loonies and two toonies into my pocket. Then I pulled my wallet out of my other pocket and looked inside for a ten or two fives. But all I found were two twenties.

Fearing my plan might be foiled I looked up from my wallet and beseeched the cashier with my droopy eyes, “Well. Here is the deal. I want to try to get rid of this change but if you don’t let me pay with the loonies and toonies then I will have to pay with a twenty dollar bill and that would defeat the purpose.” She nodded, “I understand.” Taking her response as my in through her stoic refusal, I continued, “So. Can I pay with the coins?” Her smirk faded to a scowl, “Nope. You can give me up to ten dollars but no more.”

Defeated, I handed her one of the twenties and one loonie. Then she handed me my change – nine dimes and five pennies. As she dropped the coins into my hand she remarked, “We are out of nickels and quarters. I really wish someone would show up with ten dollars worth of nickels or quarters. That would really make my day.”

Still seeking to ingratiate myself to the cashier, I nodded my head in agreement, turned around, and lilted into a shelf of neatly stacked books – now, not so neatly stacked.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Frodo sure does look smaller in person


TW and I just returned from a town in British Columbia where sitting on broken down American cars in abandoned parking lots drinking cheap domestic beer predominated the social landscape. Although slightly tempted to partake in one of the numerous parking lot gatherings, we instead opted for a bit of culture – we chose to attend an event billed as the “Art and Music Event of the Year”.

As we walked toward the “art and music event of the year” we heard booming drumbeats and pitches of laughter. We also heard from our guide rumors that Frodo Baggins (i.e. Elijah Wood) stayed on the couch of a friend of a friend’s third cousin the night before and would be one of the hip-hop DJs at the event. We could not wait.

Then at 11pm when we arrived at the entrance – a rusty make-shift gate bordering an unpaved parking lot sans dilapidated American cars – we learned that we were to pay $20 a piece to enter. We balked at this price but ultimately paid because we wanted to see Frodo Baggins that badly.

Crossing the threshold we discovered that the “art and music event of the year” attracted close to 150 skinny white boys drinking cheap domestic beer and listening to the rap musings of a tap dancing hip hop DJ. It seemed that we unintentionally stumbled upon the meta-parking lot gathering of the year.

Undeterred, we scoured the crowd of skinny men looking for one – just one – short, squat, hirsute man reminiscent of Frodo Baggins. No luck. Next we traversed the dusty lot strewn with empty beer bottles looking for the promised artwork. We did not find any sanctioned art but we did find an artfully placed pyramid of beer bottles. Finally we negotiated through the assemblages of white boys wearing tattered Stephen Harper campaign t-shirts seeking even just an inkling of like-minded west coast progressives – without success.

So, soon after arriving we decided to leave. But as we were about to walk to the exit we saw a short, squat, hirsute man adorned with a red and black Mexican wrestler mask take the stage. We stopped mid-step waiting to hear the voice of the emcee secretly wishing he would reference his hometown - the Shire. He did not.

Instead, the hirsute man proclaimed from the microphone, “Thanks for coming to this event. Some of the proceeds from tonight will go to support the one and only skate-park in Uganda. So, because of you, we will be able to send them skates and shit, yo.”

Soon after the emcee finished speaking I turned to TW and said, “How do you think ‘yo’ is translated into elvish?” She smirked, “I think ‘yo’ is universal and needs no translation.” Ah yes, so wise.

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