Monday, 28 December 2015

Key Chain of Events

1. Knitting Weekend
Amy you can't leave your house keys clipped to your car keys.
You are Asking For Trouble.
This is a Huge Security Risk.
Now that we have that straightened out, let's put away our lobby knitting, take out our free drink coupons and get this party started.

2. Found
Here is a bag of my mother-may-she rest-in-peace's old jewellery. And oh look a keychain that looks kind of sleek.
Totally perfect.
Unclip housekeys and put on old/new keychain.

3. Downtown
Going out for Korean food at swanky downtown location with Professor BFF and can't be late because time is ticking when you are leading a robotics lab and researching computer vision.
Plan to take Metro (Montreal for subway) so pack very small purse.

4. Post Office
First drive daughter to school and stop at Post Office to mail hand-knit hat to my Literary Agent. Decline insurance or tracking on package because What Could Possibly Go Wrong.

5. Home
Stop at home to pee and drop off car.
No house keys.
Empty bag.
Still no house keys.
Call Post Office.
No but have you tried our Lost and Found.
Not at Lost and Found or any other morning errand locations.
Give up and drive downtown.
(Peed at Tim Horton's thank you for caring.)

6. Office
Go to Husband's office to pick up his house keys so I can get back into house.

7. Oh No
Have absolutely no explanation for where keys could have gone except for one very glaring possibility.
When squishing hand knit hat into small purse, keychain with house keys must have gotten caught in hat.
Oh, the humiliation.

8. Humiliation
Dear Agent (that I am trying to impress),
It has come to my attention that perhaps my house keys were entangled in the hat I sent you. So please accept my house as your Christmas gift.
Can you please, please, PLEASE let me know if the keys do indeed show up?
With respect, admiration and gratitude,
I remain,
Yours sincerely,

9. Found
Found house keys in the back of my car. Clipped them back to car keys.

Possible Literary Themes
  1. Every thing comes full circle
  2. All is well that ends well
  3. Computer vision researchers know great lunch places (And dinner too - click here to read what happened last time we went out to eat.)
  4. Don't believe everything you hear on knitting weekend
  5. If you have the right Agent she will rejoice in all your crazy capers along with you and your characters

Monday, 21 December 2015

Gift Exchange Complaints 2015

1. Am I really supposed to read Portrait of Dorian Gray? I'm only 10 years old.

2. Why does my brother/sister/cousin/golden retriever always get the Oreos and I'm stuck with candy cane flavoured Tootsie Roll lollipops?

3. Uh, sure, hand-knitted gifts are, um, fine.

4. Why am I stuck with the Oreos when my brother/sister/cousin/irish setter always gets the cool stuff like candy cane flavoured Tootsie Roll lollipops?

5. Chocolate marshmallow Santas? For Hannukah? Next thing you know we'll be drinking coffee out of red cups.

6. Oh. Sorry. I could've sworn you said under $10.

Monday, 14 December 2015

How About Smoked Meat on a Croissant

Visiting friend in new city - let's call her Jen - and go for lunch with my Husband and kids entourage.

In line to give sandwich order and Jen says Can you get me a BLT on a bagel I will hold our seats.

Wait my turn.

I'll have a tuna on rye, two turkey specials one no mayo, a quinoa and black bean bowl and a BLT on a bagel.

I'm sorry we don't have BLTs on bagels.

Do you have BLTs?


Do you have bagels?


(Pause meaningfully, hoping server will connect the dots herself. No such luck.)

Turn to 14 year old son, G, and ask him to tell Jen that we can not fulfill order because apparently there are no BLTs on bagels at this fine establishment.

Now Jen is coming toward me and G is holding table.

Woman behind counter grins widely at Jen as though she is her long lost second cousin once removed.

Can I get the usual for you today? A BLT on bagel?

Jen looks at me like Why Was This a Problem.

I look at the woman behind counter like You Just Said No to Me.

You just told me you couldn't do a BLT on a bagel. I say to her.

Well, she says looking at Jen. You didn't tell me it was for her.

Unanswered Questions

1. Was she unauthorized to do a bagel BLT on religious grounds? Like a cheeseburger on challah? Or a shrimp stuffed matzo ball?

2. In the world of lunches and bagels are you obliged to give the end user's identification when placing an order? And how much information is too much? This bagel BLT is for Jen. See her? Sitting over there, holding our seats? Yeah, she's on a break from work. Told them we were some big client. Got to be back in like an hour though because she's on a super big trial. I'm really not supposed to say anything, but you look like you can be trusted. Here's what happened...

3. You know McDonald's secret menu? Is there another, further secret menu shared only among people named Jen? And if that's true, is Jen my friend's real name? Or did I disguise her identity for the purpose of this blog?

Monday, 7 December 2015

Just A Number

Live in very cold climate and have never invested in super warm coat.

Discussing this very fact with Husband over almond milk lattes and Saturday paper.

Flyer for local manufacturer's half price coat sale falls out of paper as though invited to breakfast.

Husband and I plan to go to sale that very afternoon and finally get me the super warm coat of my dreams.

Store and coat as advertised.

Sale is not.

Sale doesn't start until Tuesday.

(Fine print.)

Can we put coat away and come back Tuesday?


Can we buy coat today and return with receipt on Tuesday?


Can we speak to a manager?

C'est moi le gérant.

Oh. So you're saying there's nothing we can do to get this coat for half price?

Well. There is one thing you can do. Sale is online as well. Starts Tuesday at midnight.

And this very coat, in this size, will part of the sale?

Yes. I mean, Oui.

How many of these coats will be part of the sale?

8 or 9 of these.

We decide to leave and take our chances. After all, I was successful in getting rezzies at what was at the time the #1 restaurant in the world by waking up at 3am and clicking the right boxes. Although at that point I had the support of friends in several different cities who were trying along with me. I doubt I can generate the same excitement about a coat.

Go on web site in advance and create user ID and shipping address so that at midnight clicking for coat will be a breeze.

Practice clicking on coat to make sure I know where in website it's hiding. Every second counts.

Set alarm for 11:45pm (I'm old), put coat in basket and wait for pricing to change.

Pricing changes. Half-price coat available, go to check out, Visa refused.

Try again.

Same story.

Realize it's not my Visa but the credit card processing because too many people are clicking at the same time. Maybe thinking they are getting restaurant reservations in addition to a new coat.

Try PayPal.


It is now 12:15am.

This is not going to happen to me.

I am going to get this coat. And I am going to pay half price.

Start clicking back and forth through windows of web site hoping that something will work.

Oh finally there it is.

I am the proud owner of a half-price, super warm, locally made, no animal by-product coat.

12:45am and back to sleep.

Next morning have e-mail confirmation from PayPal.

Also have e-mail confirmation directly from Visa.

Hmmm that's strange.

Guess have extra security due to holiday season.

Husband is getting gas on his way to the office.

Visa refused.

Luckily he already has a super warm coat. And another credit card in his pocket.

Calls Visa.

Apparently someone was clicking too many times on an online shopping site and it looked really suspicious.

Oops. Sorry about that. But at least I have my coat. Thanks, Honey.

Couple of days later, Husband gets Visa bill.

How many winter coats did you buy?

Oh. Oops again.  Looks like I may have possibly been a better online shopper than I realized and let's just say I am now the proud owner of more than one (details irrelevant) super warm, locally made coat.

Now have to call coat place and tell them to only ship one coat and to please refund all additional (who cares how many) coats.

Bonjour. I think I got carried away with your coat sale. I got so excited that I may have possibly ordered more than one coat.

Un moment s'il vous plait. I will connect you to the manager directly so you can explain this most unusual circumstance. What is your first name please?


Transferred to manager.

He answers the phone: Is this Amy Fish?  I thought I already provided you with a refund for your - wait a second, Madame, how many coats did you buy?

Complaint Tie-Ins

1. Sale flyers that arrive days before the actual sale only serve to confuse people.

2. Online sales that are not prepared for the associated web traffic also make things unnecessarily difficult for  shoppers.

3. If sales are going to start at midnight, maybe retailers can consider holding them on the weekend.

4. Original Canadian settlers may have been on to something with all that fur trapping and coat trading. Probably would have been simpler than this transaction.

5. No complaints about warm winter coat, gracious Husband and exceedingly mild temperatures which are not pointing at all to use of said coat.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Complaining Success Stories

Wise Women Canada's slogan is "everybody has a story".

So when my time came around to pitch them they begged me to become one of their bloggers, I offered them a three part series about successful complainers.

You may have seen the first one mentioned here.

Second instalment went up today.

Click here to read it.

For those of you who are morally opposed to clicking links I will summarize:

1. When complaining effectively, quit while you're ahead
2. Chocolate brown is a beautiful colour for a kitchen banquette
3. Some people are not willing to share their bbq chicken recipes

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A Yom Kippur Tale

Hi, can I get 4 dozen black seed and 3 dozen white seed please?

Anything else?

No thanks, that's it. I will pick up my order around 2.

Blah blah blah mumble mumble blah

I'm sorry?

Oh I'm sorry Ma'am. We are no longer accepting telephone orders.

Do you have bagels?


White seed?


And black seed?


But I can't place my order over the phone?

No, Ma'am. We are no longer accepting telephone orders.

And you are currently open?

Yes Ma'am. We are open for walk in orders only.

Hang up. Walk to car. Drive to bagel store.

Hi. Can I get 4 dozen black seed and 3 dozen white seed please?

Sure. Anything else?

No thanks, that's it.



Are you the one that just called?

Friday, 4 September 2015

The REAL Canadian Health Care System

Need doctor's appointment.

Call former colleague and very good friend who is married to guy I thought was super cool in high school. Super cool is now a doctor.

Dr. Super tries to get me appointment with doctor who I once saw with my mother and she ended up eating a birthday candle in his office.

Several weeks and multiple emails pass with no appointment.

BFF  misses my birthday party and offers to take me out to Trendy Restaurant to compensate.

Who walks into Trendy Restaurant.


Dr. Birthday Candle.

And is seated right next to us.

Hi. I smile apologetically at wife and continue.

I have been trying desperately to get an appointment with you. I gesture to BFF. We went to high school with Dr. Super. I'm the one he's been emailing you about? Maybe I look familiar because I came to see you with my mom? She ate a birthday candle?

Oh of course. The birthday candle. How can I forget. You're the one he's been emailing about?

Yes that's me. I need an appointment with you.

Next day at 2pm I show up for my appointment.

First thing out of Dr. Birthday Candle's mouth? Tell your BFF she was right. The beet salad was delicious.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Let's Catch Up

Everything's been hopping around here.

Really? Because from where I'm sitting, it seems incredibly quiet.

Yeah. I know. I feel a bit guilty. I've been writing for everyone with a pulse for some incredibly colourful and dynamic publications and haven't been diligent about posting all the links.

First, I went camping with my kids. Read about the potatoes and get full recipe here.

Previously written article "About learning circles" finally published in Long Term Care Ontario (Summer 2015) here.

Another article "Learning from complaints: the Quebec experience" was published in Canadian Nursing Home (June 2015) but they don't have an online version yet. Don't look so relieved. You and I both know that I will learn how to pdf that sucker on some cold winter night and you will click out of complete boredom despite every intention to the contrary.

I interviewed my daughter (in my head) about how to complain effectively for Wise Women Canada. Full story here. I have another interview in to them that is coming out any day now, so you may want to go ahead and click like on their FB page so you don't miss a thing. 

And then my old and already published story about a trip to Quebec City just won an award. Would you want to read it? Oh thanks. That's so sweet. Ok, sure, click here if you insist.

I also went to a fantastic writing conference and volunteered to blog about the two keynotes, one of which reminded me of my $5 shoes (details here) and the other gave me a great reading list (here) which includes a non-fiction book by George Orwell which is the only one I've completed so far which is actually a compelling read.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Lessons Learned From My First Ever Writing Conference

1. Words like prosity, braided essay and anal bleaching are easier to use in a sentence than you would think.
2. Do not expect diversity. Expect cat owners.
3. Creative Non Fiction is actually a code word for deep dark and depressing memoirs, hopefully featuring drug abuse divorce and broken limbs but leaving out cancer because there are way too many cancer submissions right now.
4. If you tweet pictures of your $5 shoes you will meet lots of lovely people many of whom are also wearing fabulous shoes.
5. Writers are so notoriously unhelpful toward each other that we need a panel about being nice, called Literary Citizenship, which featured tips such as when someone does you a favour, bake them cookies.

And the most important thing I learned at the writing conference:

6. Turns out I'm a writer.

Saturday, 6 June 2015


Hi, I would like to deposit this $20 check please.

It's a US check.

(Yes.  That's why we are spelling it check. If it were Canadian it would be a cheque.)

Yes. That's why I am giving it to you, the teller, instead of depositing it in the Instabank.

(Again, Canadian. In the US we could deposit it at the ATM).

You don't have a US account.

Right. That's why I am giving it to you. Please see above.

I will have to charge you $5.

$5? On a $20 cheque check?

You're right. That seems silly. Ok I will waive the fee.

Check deposited, fee waived, am back in car writing blog post in my head.

Did you deposit the US check to my account?

Yup. Just like you asked me to.

Did you not realize it was a US check?

No, I knew. That's why I've been saying check instead of cheque.

So why didn't you deposit it to the US account?

We have a US account?

Complaining Lessons Learned:
1. You can politely ask people at the bank to waive fees and most of the time they will.
2. If you use the Instabank and you get unreasonable fees you can call after and ask to have them waived. This sometimes works.
3. You may complain about your husband not listening when you talk to him, but maybe sometimes you're the one not listening.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Reprinted With Permission Of The Author, B., My 16 Year Old Son

2015 McEntyre Contest Grade 10 Winning Essay

George, The Shark Who Wanted To Be A Whale.

A while back, my buddy George wanted to be a whale. See, the whales were the fly party mammals in our school of fish. They would get drunk every weekend, they got all the girls, they made the rules, and people really looked up to them. And although George longed to be like them, he was born with an unfair disadvantage… George was a hammerhead shark.
George was getting sick of being considered weak and small, when he pitched the idea to me: we would help each other become whales; WE would be the cool kids in the ocean.
“George, listen. As great of an idea as that is… it sucks.”
“What are you talking about, Paul? We have a responsibility as sharks to become whales.”
“What would your mother say about this?”
“She doesn't have to know! She’ll think I ran away or something, she’d never recognize us in our new form.”
As you can see, I was hesitant, for many reasons. Reason Number One is that I had been going to the gym recently, getting in shape. To be a whale, I would have to screw all of that and become obese. Reason Number Two is that I kind of like living the ‘shark life.’ There are many perks, like being starred in Shark Week, on the Discovery Channel - I was an extra last season.
I lost the battle with George, as always, and ended up on a journey to whale-dom. First, we made a list of all of the qualities a whale must have:
-dark blue
-their eyes are like on either side of their heads
-small fins
Next, we tried to emulate these qualities. To get fat, we headed over to the Krusty Krab and ate burger after burger after burger. By the end of the night, we were each 300 pounds larger (sharks have slow metabolisms.) The following quality was their colour, dark blue, which required a lot of spray paint and took like six hours. But what came after were the most crucial qualities.
“Bro, I’m not gonna let you perform surgery on me. This is getting ridiculous.”
“Listen, how ‘bout you do it to me first, and if it doesn't work, you can go home and tell everyone that I’m insane,” suggested George, holding duct tape, a scalpel and a power drill. I agreed, reluctantly.

Step One: pull his eyes toward his temples, and hold them in place with the duct tape.
“Oh, God, do you want me to stop?!!”
Step Two: use the scalpel to slice off half of his left and right fins.
Step Three (The Final Step): make a deep hole in the top of his head, using the power drill.
There was no response.
“George? Come on, buddy, we’re leaving. Hello? George? NO! George, don’t leave us! You’re not ready to go! Please? Hello?”

George was dead. He died chasing the one dream that he thought he could achieve. He died trying to gain respect, for once in his life. He tried to stand up for himself. Anyways, now I’m being convicted for second degree murder. My lawyer says that I’m looking at 20 years… Don’t follow your friend’s dreams. Just, work on your own.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Now Available in Leopard Print

One of my friends well not really my friend but sort of a friend of mine ok fine a guy I know was caught shoplifting, says G, 14 year old son.

Guess What He Was Stealing.

Gum? Money? Food for his starving family?

Yeah, right.

Nail polish? Water bottle? A Car?

Mom come on. This Is Serious.

A gerbil? 

He was stealing shoes.

Like left his shoes in the store and tried to walk out with new shoes?

No. He put the new shoes into his backpack. Got picked up by the police. 

Oh My G-d. That must've been so embarrassing. Can you imagine how he felt having to call his parents with that one? Oy.

Oh yeah Mom. His parents were really pissed.  He's grounded for six months. But you know what Mom if he was my kid I wouldn't've grounded him.


I would've had a much better punishment.


I would've taken away ALL his shoes.

And he would've had to go around barefoot?

No. Worse than that. 


I would have left him with only one pair of shoes.  

I don't think that's much of a punishment G.

Oh yeah it is. I would've left him with Crocs.

Complaint Tie-In:

Kids who shoplift shoes and get grounded have absolutely nothing to complain about because had G. been asked for advice they would have a way worse punishment.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

In The Immortal Words of The Clash

Thursday Lunchtime
Much instability at work over past few weeks has led to fork in the road.

Can remain clinging to last roof shingle as water floods the bayou, or can leap off burning building and land in temporary safety net that has a couple of holes.

Neither option perfect.

Give self 48 hours to make a decision.

Friday Night
10 year old daughter T. comes home from evening out with BFF, BFF’s mother, grandmother, grandfather and two sisters.

How was your evening?

It was fun Mom except for the part when we forgot little sister E in the car.

FORGOT E IN THE CAR? What do you mean?

Well we all got out, and we were focusing so much on the grandpa and the grandma and making sure they were ok by the time we walked to the restaurant we realized that E was still in the car.

Isn’t E five years old?

Yeah. So anyway we all walked back to the car to get her and she was sitting there crying hysterically.


Yeah. And Mom what I don’t get is why wouldn’t she just get out of the car? If you forgot me, Mom, I would just undo my seat belt, open the door and yell HELLLO YOU FORGOT ABOUT ME. Or I would just run down the sidewalk to get you. Or, if it was a really sketchy neighborhood and I was scared I would honk the horn so you would come back. You had to see it Mom she was just sitting there crying.

(Beaming proudly): You are so right, T. Because that’s how I raised you. We are not the types to sit around and wait for someone to rescue us. We take action. We make things happen.

Lesson 1: If we are stuck in a car, we open the door and get out. We do not wait for someone to come and rescue us.

Saturday Morning
Beautiful Bar Mitzvah with the worst acoustics in the city. People talking during services, microphones not used, much background noise.

Rabbi opens his mouth to speak, complete silence blankets pews.

Rabbi just returned from mission to Poland and Israel.

Rabbi recalls the horrors of the concentration camps, the trains that brought Jews to their death, the showers that killed the Jews, the mass graves where they buried the Jews and the acres and acres of Jewish shoes and hair that are still on display to commemorate aforementioned atrocities.

Trip then went to Israel where Rabbi says the most inspirational sites were the shopping malls. The vineyards, the grocery stores and Aroma coffee fill the Rabbi with joy.

Not what we were expecting. 

He explains:

That a community can withstand a trauma like the Holocaust and go on to build such coffee stores that give you a free piece of chocolate such beauty is inspiring beyond any pile of rocks with someone’s name on it any memorial.

It is the drama – he says – of leaving a gut wrenching site of destruction and landing where Jews are selling t-shirts to other Jews that makes us buoy with hope.

Lessons 2, 3, 4:
2. Entire families perished in the Holocaust, I have no real problems.
2a. If you are a good speaker, you don’t need a microphone.
3. Jews are good at retail naturally resilient.
4. There is beauty in rebirth.

Sunday, Late Afternoon
Invited out for I’s birthday to restaurant that is completely pitch black.

It will be fun, she says. We will eat in dark, drink in dark and apparently it’s so dark that your eyes don’t adjust.

Sounds fabulous. I hope they have fondue.

Last time this couple picked the restaurant it was All-You-Can-Eat fish cheeks and braised offal. Blindness re-enactment has to be a step up.

Get to restaurant in pouring rain with rock bottom expectations and even less make up (no way am I putting face on to sit in the dark).

Turns out that you walk into brightly lit bar area where you can order drinks, put your phone and valuables in a locker (oh, that’s true, pickpockets probably love it here) and gawk at people who mistakenly thought it was all going to be dark and they didn’t need to wear lipstick.

You also look at menu and order before you go in.

Beet salad.

Stuffed shells. Steak sliced and drizzled. Roast chicken. Fall off the bone ribs.

And oh look How Perfect Is This.

Surprise option.

So you are eating in the dark and you will not know what you are eating.

You can order surprise app, main, and dessert. 

That’s for me.

Are you kidding? Husband asks. You said this was the worst idea anyone ever had  you weren’t excited about coming here and now you are ordering the Surprise option.

I don’t know if I will ever come back to this restaurant, I say. So I want to make sure that I get the full experience while I’m here. I’m not usually afraid to try new things except fish cheeks and braised offal. So why should this be any different. You know me, when I’m in, I’m all in.

Lesson 5: When I’m in, I’m all in.

Monday morning
Review lessons learned this weekend (including lesson 2a, not sure if you noticed, I threw it in as a freebie):

1. If we are stuck in a car, we open the door and get out.
2. Entire families perished in the Holocaust, I have no real problems.
2a. If you are a good speaker, you don’t need a microphone.
3. Jews are good at retail naturally resilient.
4. There is beauty in rebirth.
5. When I’m in, I’m all in.

Ladies and Gentlemen, looks like the decision is clear.

Let go of roof shingle.

Close my eyes.

And Jump.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Same or Different

Story A.

Guy I know looks at money and makes more money with it.

Drives multiple luxury cars one of which breaks down.

Fancy car company has it's own roadside assistance.

Fancy roadside assistance says We Can Meet You and take the car Sir but it will cost you $350 and we will need to take the car for three nights. We will give you a complimentary courtesy car.

There is no way you can fix my car tonight?

No sir.

There is no way you can fix my car tomorrow?

No Sir.

However, because we are Fancy roadside assistance we will bring the complimentary courtesy car right to you.

Grey Poupon? Sounds Great, says Guy. Why don't we meet at my brewery. You can give me the courtesy car and I will give you my broken luxury car.

Fancy shows up and Guy buys him a beer (yes only one and I'm sure it was small) (I'm not a narc)

Relax and chat about rich people things that you and I probably wouldn't understand.

Guy reaches into ermine lined pocket and hands Fancy his car keys. 

Fancy puts down his pint minuscule glass of beer and says On The Other Hand maybe we can fix your car right now.

Story B.

Leaving town for wedding and want to make sure my kids have their suits. 

Bring suits to dry cleaner on Tuesday. 

First words out of my mouth: I Need A Favour.

Leaving Thursday, must have suits, especially this one.

No problem. Thursday after 3pm.

Are you sure? Do you promise? We are leaving Friday morning at 7am. 

Yes of course Ma'am. No problem.

Thursday 3:20pm.
Everything hanging at dry cleaners except suit. Oh wait, suit jacket there. Pants missing.
 Kids have been known to go pantless before but at a wedding? Even we have our standards.

Clerk says Oh I'm Sorry. Pants Not Here.

What time are you open till tonight?

I don't think you understand Ma'am. Pants haven't been cleaned yet. No one here to clean them. They will not be ready today.

Well then I need you to find them for me. I need the pants for tomorrow at 7am. I will take them with me throw them in the washing machine, light a candle to Saint Veronica, patron saint of laundry and hope for the best.

Looks everywhere for pants. Can't find them.  

Thank you so much for trying to help me. I know it's not your fault. You weren't the one who promised me the pants. 

Well, Clerk says. There is one more thing I could do.

Picks up phone.

Calls owner.

Where? Seriously? Oh You're Right. Here They Are. Clean but not pressed. Hanging in the boiler room.

No she can't. She's leaving to a wedding tomorrow morning. 7am. 

I'll ask her.

Turns to me.

Can you stop here on your way to the airport tomorrow? We will have your pants ready at 6am.

Same or Different - Choose One:

A.  Different.  Guy you know owns a brewery and a Fancy car and your kids only have one pair of pants.

B.  Same. They probably drink too much beer at the Dry Cleaner and that's how your pants ended up in the Boiler room.

C. Different. Guy had to ply Fancy with free drinks offer Fancy a cool beverage while all you did was look kind of desperate express appreciation for the clerk.

D. Same. In both cases the company looked like they didn’t really care but in the end provided excellent customer service. Complaining effectively doesn’t always require an actual complaint.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Last Summer, In Italy

Waiter comes to the table.

We have grilled salmon with gnocchi, fettucini or spaghetti. We have bistecca romana with fettucini, or gnocchi.

Can I substitute spaghetti for the fettucini?

Yes of course. We also have shrimps, very nice, split open and grilled with a side of rice.

Can I substitute fettucini for the rice?

Yes of course. We also have chicken breast sautéed with sundried tomatoes, plum tomatoes and tomato ragu, on a bed of broccolini.

Can I substitute orchiette for the for the broccolini?

Yes of course. Finally, we have roasted pork, very tender, falls off the bone and that is served with fettucini or spaghetti.

Can I substitute bucatini for the spaghetti?

Of course.

What is this last special here?

Oh yes, of course. We also have donkey, braised for twelve hours and served with gnocchi.


Orders placed, food eaten, faces wiped, napkins crumpled.

My shrimp was delicious, C says. But I wish I had ordered the donkey.

Really? Because I thought it sounded vile and in fact thought the waiter was joking Really? Why didn't you?

Are you kidding? And eat the gnocchi. Gross.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

I Thought Rosa Parks Took Care Of This In 1955

Remember Miranda?

She's the one who let her kids go swimming without an adult even though they were underage.

Have no idea what we're talking about?

Click here to download the book so you can follow along.

Anyway Miranda's children are now boys. (Joined the Witness Protection program)

Older boy takes the bus to school.

Comes home one day and says

Strange Lady keeps talking to me on the bus.

Same people on bus every day?

Yes. Oddly enough. Live in mid size city and some buses come infrequently so people riding same route get to know each other.

Strange Lady insisting I give up my seat. There are a million other empty seats on bus. Strange Lady  says kids do not deserve to be seated on the bus.

Miranda doesn't like this at all. Plus after starring in a book about complaining effectively she feels compelled to - uh - complain effectively.

Calls 1-800-generic bus company phone number.

Bus Guy listens to her complaint attentively.

This is very serious Bus Guy says. We will send a patrol car to follow the bus and the bus driver will be notified.

Thank you Miranda says. I will be riding the bus tomorrow to make sure my daughter, oh right Witness Protection son will be okay.

Miranda boards bus with very low expectations and tasteful motivational music on her iPod.

Patrol car pulls bus over.

Patrollers board bus.

Strange Lady not there today.

Does not stop Patrollers.

They speak to Miranda. They speak to her "son". They speak to Bus Driver.

Wait, someone says in big loud voice. This must be about Strange Lady. She's not on bus but look over there - her Husband is here.

Patrollers take Husband off bus.

Tell him to tell wife to smarten up or she will swim with the fishes. (Not literally. The Fishes have closed pool for the season.)

Bus goes on to complete route.

Miranda calls Bus Guy to thank him for job well done and considers the matter closed.

Next day it's raining.

Miranda graciously offers to drive child to bus stop.

Guess who's waiting at bus stop again.

Yes, the Patrollers.

Follow bus. Strange Lady on bus with Husband.

Patrollers pull bus over again. Take Lady and Husband off bus and in the immortal words of Perry from the Wanderers tell them to Leave the Kid Alone.

Told Strange Lady if she bothers Miranda's son one more time this matter will be put into the hands of the police.

Complaint Question:  Why Did the Bus Company and Patrollers Take This Complaint So Seriously? (Choose One)
1. They just finished watching Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 and were feeling inspired.
2. They recognized Miranda from The Art of Complaining Effectively and knew better than to mess with her.
3. Bullying children on the bus is a serious offence and will absolutely not be tolerated.
4. Children in Witness Protection Program always get more protection

It Takes A

Read article about woman who wore the same thing to work every day for three years.

(Not literally.)

She bought 15 white silk shirts and an unspecified number of black trousers (her word - she's European).

Purpose was to simplify her life.

I'm in.

She said nothing however about accessories.

Clearly she was wearing classic and sophisticated pieces very bright and extremely large rhinestone jewelry so naturally I was forced to jump online and order some necklaces with oomph very understated colliers (again - European).

Necklaces delivered the next day.

First one fabulous.

Second one broken. Took it out of package and beads scattered everywhere. Plus oh no is that a cracked rhinestone the size of my wrist tiny seed pearl.

Jumped back on line and filled out comment form.

No response.

Posted on Instagram about how much I like necklace but one arrived broken and this white shirt black pants situation is not going to accessorize itself.

No response.

Four days elapse.

Finally post on Facebook make some inquiries asking if anyone knows the Jewelry People personally, and how lucky am I turns out someone says I Do.

A brief correspondance ensues and Jewelry People could not have been lovelier, agreeing to pick up necklace personally and repair, replace or refund.

Lessons Learned:

1. It's OK to ask for help. Complaining effectively does not necessarily mean complaining alone.
2. If you get no response the first time, it's OK to go back the second and third time until someone heeds your cry. Complaining effectively means not giving up.
3. If you wear black pants and a white shirt to work your life might be simpler, but people might ask you for Perrier with a slice of lime.
4. If you go to Old Navy and ask for trousers they may not know what you are looking for. They are clearly not European.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Rhymes With Oranges

In honour of my son B's 16th birthday tomorrow, I thought I would write a story about him wanting to go to a hockey game when he had an exam the next day.

(Oh wait. Already done and published. Click here to read.)

OK fine. I will write about the time B was terrorized by his French teacher, who told him he was so lazy he needed to see a doctor.

(Oh wait. Already done and published in my book. Click here to download and read.)

Alright, I will take him out for dinner to the same restaurant my mother (may she rest in peace) went to for her 16th birthday where the big treat was that she and her friends were allowed to smoke in public, and spent the entire night puffing on their cigarettes while ignoring their $50 steaks.

(Not good. Turns out smoking causes cancer. Teenage boys like to eat. And steaks there now actually cost fifty dollars.)

Plan B. A new story:

Playground. 2004. Five year old B holds out a gum wrapper. What do I do with this?

You need a garbage can, I say. Maybe there is one over there.

Person next to me rolls her eyes companionably. Give it to Mom. Always Mom. Mom is a garbage can.

No. I say to her. I am not a garbage can. I never accept wrappers from my kids. One of the first things I taught them was how to throw things in the trash.

Um she says scurrying away clutching daughter's wrist and looking at me like I have just told my child to make their own lunch.

Eleven years later B comes in from what was allegedly a walk for fresh air an innocent stroll through the park. Mom you gotta see this. Grossest thing ever.

Whips out his phone.

A garbage bag exploded Mom and there are SYRINGES everywhere. Bloody gauze. OMG Mom look at this - some of the syringes still have NEEDLES in them. This is DANGEROUS. Someone has to come and clean it up Mom. I'm calling Town Security.

Looks up number on his phone. Calls Security. Reports disgusting garbage explosion in park. Looks out window. Sees Security truck. Goes outside to meet the guy and show him exactly where everything was found.

Complaint Tie-In:
1. If you teach your children to throw out their gum wrappers themselves maybe they would know how to safely dispose of their bloody syringes.
2. By showing B where the trash can was as soon as he could crawl, I taught him that he can do things on his own, like complain effectively about hazardous waste in the park.
3. If you leave your son in the playground in 2004, eventually he will come inside.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

E Pluribus Unum

Mom can we have something really special for my 10th birthday? asks T.


Like really special?


Special special.

What do you have in mind? 

Can I have my friends over (dramatic pause) and can we EAT CHIPS in the BASEMENT?

Um, yes. That sounds really special. Guess we can cancel the pony.

Also Mom?

Oh, maybe this is about the pony. Uh-huh?

Can I get a cake from CTBY?


Friends picked up, chips eaten, time for cake.

T cuts open cake and it's all white.  

Vague memory of ordering white cake with chocolate frozen yogurt passes through my mind, while vacuuming ketchup chip crumbs from the basement and wondering if a pony would have been so damn messy. 

Next morning am picking chip flakes out of the carpet notice receipt from CTBY where we have clearly ordered a vanilla cake with chocolate frozen yogurt. Also on receipt is an e-mail address.

Take picture of cake remnants. Take picture of receipt. Send gentle e-mail saying that we are above average consumers of Kit Kat Shivers frozen yogurt and that we clearly ordered blah and we clearly received blah blah. I just thought you would want to know.

CT's writes me back. We are so sorry. Please accept a full credit for the purchase of the cake. Gift card will be waiting for you at the cash with your name on it.

Thoughts at this point:
1. My book says to be specific in what you want, I did not take my own advice, and still got a full credit
2. Book also says complaining is more of an art than a science. This falls into the art category.
3. Free Kit Kat shivers. Husband will be thrilled.

Two hours later am at the office. Have already told 12 people about my victory.

Phone rings.

Owner of CTBY.  I was trying to figure out where we went wrong. I spoke to the guy who took your order. He's the same guy that poured your cake. He said you ordered chocolate frozen yogurt, but as you were leaving, your daughter changed it to vanilla. Our copy of the receipt clearly says vanilla and vanilla. In fact, he's saying he offered to change your copy as well but you said don't worry, I'll remember.


So it looks like there wasn't a mistake after all. 

Oh. So are you saying you want the credit back?


Thoughts at this point:
1. Like the fact that owner tried to investigate complaint so that it wouldn't happen again. Like that he called me directly to explain what happened. Feel Super Guilty that these are all ideas for possible book about complaint investigation that I still haven't written.
2. No more Free Kit Kat shivers.
3. If the guy who took orders remembers our conversation, and I don't really remember either way, I tend to believe him more than myself. 

See my Dad that night. Tell him whole long story. 

Well my Dad says. That's Interesting.  There is actually a legal principle that states festinare nocet, nocet et cunctatio saepe; tempore quaeque suo qui facit, ille sap it meaning that if someone remembers something in the affirmative, then it is more powerful than not remembering something at all. So if this guy remembers that T changed your order, it is in fact more believable in a court of law than you not remembering anything at all.

Thoughts at this point:
1. Thank g-d I was nice and not overly demanding because in the end I was wrong and if couldn't show my face at CTBY would be stuck driving to Albany every night to get Husband his Kit Kat shiver.
2. Do ponies eat chips?
3. Hope none of you speak Latin because then you would know that I couldn't find the exact principle my Dad was referring to, and took the most official sounding phrase from the Wikipedia list of Latin phrases.