Tag Archives: communication

Geek-Speak

I’ve been a geek all my life.

I’d like to clarify that I’m referring to the current definition of ‘geek’, as in “a socially awkward oddball who thinks too much”; not “a sideshow performer who bites the head off live chickens” (which was what the word meant when I was young).

I have never bitten, and with any luck will never bite, the head off a live animal of any sort.  Chocolate animals?  Oh hell yes!  Cooked animals?  Maybe… though I’d likely use a knife or cleaver or some other suitable implement instead of my teeth…

Oops.

There I go again.  Over-thinking.  Over-clarifying.

Even as a child, I couldn’t grasp why people didn’t simply say what they meant.  When the teacher asked, “Does anyone know the answer?”, I never understood why she apparently stopped being able to see my wildly-waving hand after I’d answered the first few questions correctly.

When the other girls assured me, “Of course we’re still friends!” and then never spoke to me again, I just… didn’t get it.  There’s something to be said for being completely oblivious to social cues.  I thought I had lots of friends, and it was sheer coincidence that I never got invited to anything.

The rest of the world doesn’t understand that geeks take words at face value.  A classic geek joke goes like this:  A software engineer was found dead of starvation in his shower.  Preliminary investigation suggests that he was following the instructions on the shampoo bottle:  “Lather, rinse, repeat.”

This joke is funny and sad on two levels:  1) You have to be a bit of geek to get it; and 2) If you are a bit of a geek, there’s probably some small part of you that’s thinking, “You know, that makes perfect sense…”

Another diabolical geek trap is the phrase casually bandied about by normal human beings:  “Suggestions are welcome”.

Hint for the geeks in the audience:  No.  No, they’re not.  One suggestion is welcome.  Maybe two, tops.  If it’s your personal responsibility to resolve the issues, you might be allowed three suggestions.  Presenting twenty pages of closely-spaced bullet points will only end in annoyance for you when you realize that your listeners’ eyes glazed over after the first two points and their minds are now fully occupied by desperate escape plans.

Another hint for geeks:  If your listener is gripping a letter opener with whitening knuckles, it’s time for you to leave.  Lingering to make sure they grasped the subtle nuances of item 20.1.5.3(b) will only result in bloodshed; and that gets awkward for everybody.  For one thing, stab wounds hurt.  For another, if your listener decides to commit hara-kiri instead of attacking you, it’s very difficult to explain to the police.  (Don’t ask how I know these things.)

Anyway, after 50-odd… okay; very odd years, I honestly thought I had this stuff all figured out.  (Note:  All geeks think this.  They’re always wrong.)

But then I went for physiotherapy a few years ago.  The physiotherapist said, “Keep your legs straight and touch your toes.”  So I did.  It hurt like a bitch.  But she hadn’t said, “… and tell me if it hurts”, so I didn’t mention it.  I threw away a lot of money on physiotherapy before I grasped that little detail.

But I’ve got it all figured out now.  Really, I do…

* * *

P.S. Book 13, “Once Burned, Twice Spy” is now available for pre-order at all retailers (click here for links)… except, for some unknown reason, the Amazon international sites.  Amazon.com is up, but none of the other countries are showing the listing.  Grrr!  I’ve submitted a trouble ticket to Amazon and hope to have the problem resolved shortly.  To everyone who received the pre-order announcement and can’t buy from the Amazon of their choice:  I’m sorry about this.  I’ll send an updated announcement as soon as the pre-orders are up in all countries.

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Filed under Geekery, Humour, Life

Whacking Off In All Directions

You know how sometimes everything goes out of whack and somebody says, “Oh, it’s because Mercury is in retrograde”?

Well, it’s been one of those weeks. With metaphorical tongue in cheek I was thinking, “Mercury must be in retrograde”… but when I looked it up on the internet, Mercury actually is in retrograde right now, from April 9 to May 3. And apparently Mercury rules communication.

Well, that explains a lot.

A digression: Now I want to name a band “Mercury In Retrograde”. Maybe Tyler Brock’s band “The Ballistic Rutabagas” will dissolve and he’ll start “Mercury In Retrograde” instead. It seems like a suitable match for his musical style (or lack thereof).

Anyhow, back to my original point.

I blamed the following miscommunications on poor cell phone reception, but now I’m beginning to think it was actually Mercury doing its chaotic stuff:

A few days ago I was talking to our project manager about moisture in our crawl space and telling him we’d rented some fans. He couldn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. After I’d repeated “fans” about five times, he finally said in tones of enlightenment, “Oh, sand! Okay… so, um…” The enlightenment faded and a dubious note crept in. “What are you going to do? Soak up the moisture with the sand and then sweep it up…?”

I thought he was kidding. “Smartass,” I said.

Silence on the line. Then, “No, really; what are you going to do with the sand?”

“Fans!” I bellowed. “FANS! ‘F’ as in ‘Frank’!”

“OH! Fans! Yeah, that makes more sense.”

*facepalm*

Later in the day I was talking to my step-mom and mentioned I was planning to do my taxes.

Another uncomprehending silence on the line. “What…?”

“Taxes. I’m going to do my taxes!”

“OH! I thought you said cactus.”

Another facepalm. (Also… ‘do my cactus’?!? Owie.)

But Mercury still wasn’t done with me. Hubby and I had to hash out a bunch of small issues regarding the house, and you’d think we were speaking entirely different languages. It was frustrating as hell, but we did finally manage to communicate enough to figure everything out. Then we relaxed with a much-needed beverage and the conversation turned to golf.

Hubby said, “Man, if the long-ball champions could put together any kind of short game they’d be unstoppable. Those guys are easily hitting it over 400 yards.”

And I replied, “Yeah, but a long drive is no good if you’re three fairways over. Those long-ball guys are just whacking off in all directions…”

Much laughter ensued.

So, yeah. My communications are completely out of whack this week, and maybe it’s Mercury. Or maybe the gremlins that live in electronics are whacking off in all directions and that’s what’s causing the problem. After all, it’s spring; and a young man’s fancy turns to…

Eh, never mind. I think that topic was pretty much covered in last week’s post.

…And my cell phone just got into the act again. I had an incoming call; tried to answer; and despite all my poking, tapping, and sliding (on the screen icon – get your mind out of the gutter), it steadfastly refused to pick up the call.

Mercury or frisky gremlins; either way it’s gonna be a lo-o-o-ong retrograde.

Is Mercury messing with you, too?

P.S. Just to add to the chaos, we’re moving again today; for the third time in three weeks.  Fingers crossed that it will be the last time before our big move-in to the new house!

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Filed under Humour, Life

Serious, For Once

(Don’t worry, this is a temporary aberration. I promise I’ll be back to my usual foolishness next week.)

I try to avoid being serious whenever possible, but my father-in-law lost his battle with cancer last Thursday so I’m not quite myself this week. We knew his time was getting short so we were able to say our goodbyes, but many people aren’t so lucky.

The following is a post I wrote ‘way back in 2013.  I didn’t share it at the time because it was more solemn than I generally like to be, but today it seems fitting.

* * *

I’m at the age where mortality starts to get up in my face a little more each year. One of our friends just died of a heart attack at age 47, another at 50. Other friends are being diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, you name it. “Catching up with the news” used to mean hearing about happy things like weddings and babies. Now it’s diseases and funerals.

You just never know when your time is going to run out.

I drive the highways quite a bit, and I see lots of memorials beside the road. One I pass frequently is a white cross with a hard hat and safety vest hanging from it. There are bouquets of flowers beside it in the ditch, along with hand-lettered signs that say, “Miss you, Dad”, and “We love you, Dave”.

The little roadside shrines always make me sad. Sad that somebody lost a loved one in an accident, but sadder still that Dave’s buddies probably never said, “We love you, Dave” while he was alive.

Why is it so hard to tell people what they really mean to us? Imagine how Dave would have felt if one his buddies slapped him on the back and said, “Man, I love working with you. Your sense of humour makes my day.” Or whatever they loved Dave for.

Maybe he made up rude song lyrics and sang them off-key and it made everybody laugh. Maybe he bought a round for the guys every Friday night. Maybe he was always willing to swap a shift so a co-worker could go to his kid’s hockey game. Or maybe he was the sympathetic ear everybody turned to when they needed to blow off steam. Whatever it was that made him special, I’ll bet Dave never knew how much they appreciated him.

And now it’s too late to tell him.

We’ve got so many commercialized occasions for “heartfelt” cards and gifts. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day are fine, but they’ve become obligations and you’re in trouble if you miss them. So you stuff a card in an envelope; buy some flowers; go out for a nice dinner; bang-boom-done-for-another-year. All the “heartfelt” your money can buy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we created a new occasion? No cards or gifts allowed. Just one day out of the year where our only obligation is to say something nice that we’ve thought to ourselves but never said.

And not just to parents or spouses. How about to co-workers, doctors, baristas, teachers, or cleaning staff? No big embarrassing fanfare, just a quiet, sincere “You make my life better”. Or “We love you, Dave”.

Nobody else even needs to know we said it. Only the person who truly needs to hear it.

Maybe we could do it more than once a year, too.

It’s just a thought.

* * *

And on that note, thank you to all my readers. I don’t blog because I like flapping my virtual gums; I do it because you wonderful folks brighten my day with your comments. Thanks for taking the time – you’re the best!

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Filed under Commentary, Life

I’m Not A Cunning Linguist

By now you’re probably all familiar with my tendency to misread words.  But if you’re relatively new to my blog, you may not have read about the fact that I also tend to misspeak – often with embarrassing results.

A while ago I was getting ready to buy groceries in preparation for houseguests, and I called to ask what type of milk I should buy.  When informed that 1% was the concentration of choice, I blurted out, “Oh, that’s new.  Phill and Michael were always the homo guys.”

For the record, they’re both confirmed heterosexuals.  And I think I’ll say ‘whole homogenized milk’ instead of ‘homo’ from now on.

Some time later, I was enthusing to my friends about the Calgary International Blues Festival.  I go just about every year to soak up the sunshine, beer, and blues music.  It’s a long day outdoors and if one remains properly hydrated (or beer-drated, as the case may be), nature calls frequently.

If you attend by yourself, you have to decide whether to temporarily abandon your stuff while you sneak off to pee, or else haul everything with you into the cramped and increasingly icky porta-potties.  In music-festival euphoria, most people choose to trust their neighbours.

Last year, a photographer sat near me.  When he asked, I cheerfully agreed to watch over his camera gear while he did what needed to be done.  After a long day and multiple trips, he charmingly bought me a CD in thanks for my onerous duties.

Expounding to my audience at the pub later, I summed up the preceding paragraphs as follows:  “He asked me to watch his equipment while he peed”.

After a couple of beats of silence followed by uproarious laughter, one of my smartass friends asked, “Did you hold it for him, too?  No wonder he bought you a CD.”

I’m not the only one in the family with linguistic (or lingual) issues.  A couple of days ago, my sister and I were talking about her upcoming budget presentation at the Christian radio station where she works.  And this came out of her mouth:  “…that may vary depending on what the fucktuations…”

We both burst out laughing.

And I told her, “If you try to discuss income fluctuations in your meeting, you’re either going to say ‘what the fucktuations’ or you’re going to start giggling uncontrollably.  Either way you’re doomed.”

My sister also coined one of my favourite non-words:  ‘depissitate’.  She was describing miserable rainy weather that was starting to clear, and her tongue got tangled between ‘precipitate’ and ‘dissipate’.  And the phrase ‘It’s starting to depissitate’ was born:  The perfect way to describe a sleety rain shower.

It’s nice to know that she and I share the same language difficulties.  Or, as she once accidentally said when describing a different trait that runs in the family (I can’t even remember what the trait was now)…  “It’s a genital thing.”

To this day, the word ‘congenital’ makes me snicker. And I never use it.  ‘Cause I know if I do, it’ll come out as ‘genital’.

I’m just not a cunning linguist.

* * *

Many thanks to my good-natured sister and the radio station where she works for giving me permission to publish this.  As she said herself, ‘what the fucktuations’ was just too good not to share.

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Filed under Humour

This Poop Requires Cultured Decoding

Yes, it’s that time again!  I’ve mined the rich vein of entertainment that is my blog spam.

Earlier I noted that my spam seemed to be getting more hostile, but fortunately that trend has flatlined.  Maybe they read my blog post and took my jibes to heart?

Nah, I know.  Spammers never actually read anything, as this one admits:  “I like to party, not look artilecs up online. You made it happen.”  – Glad I could be of service, though it’s unclear whether I influenced his/her propensity for partying or looking up artilecs.  But at least I’m good for something.

This spammer agrees:  “Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how could we communicate?”  – All I can say is ‘How indeed?’

But it’s nice that they want to keep in touch.  This spammer did, too:  “Would you be fascinated by exchanging hyperlinks?”  – Well, “fascinated” wouldn’t be my exact word…

But they’re encouraging:  “If you keep up the great work I’ll visit your weblog again.”  – Am I the only one who spots the logic problem here?  How will they know if I’m keeping up the great work unless they visit again?  What if they visit and I’m just spewing useless crap?  (Well, more useless crap than usual.)  Have they found a way to retroactively un-visit my blog?  If they have, I hope they share, ‘cause there are a few experiences and visuals I’d love to be able to un-visit.

Like this one:  “When you change the timing belt, dressed in pink with a pink Hermes leather on the playground…”  – Wait, you guys have been spying on me, haven’t you?  I knew I should have worn my black leather the last time I changed my timing belt.  Pink shows the grease so badly.

And here’s more proof that I’m under surveillance:  “You look absolutely stunning with your natural hair!”  – Remind me to save my unnatural hair for Halloween and full moons.

Sometimes my spammers wax informative:  “Not we are all born with a backbone but you can turn just one in”.  – Good news for the spineless wimps of the world.

And speaking of good news, “The good news is, bonobos”.  – Well, thank heaven!  Without that knowledge, I just don’t know if I could have gone on.

But there’s more good news:  “I have read so many articles or reviews on the topic of the blogger lovers…”  – Wait, blogger lovers?!?  We get groupies?  Why haven’t I heard about this before?  And where are mine?  Please don’t tell me I’ve been missing out on major groupie action.  I mean, seriously, we all know bloggers are the rock stars of the internet… um, the sex symbols of cyberspace… um… eh, never mind.

Some spammers look up to me as a valuable source of advice:  “What Happens To A Boy If She Takes Viagra?” –  Erm… I think we may have to start with the basics here.  You see, there’s this thing called “gender”.  Boys are “he”…

Which leads nicely into a discussion of the birds and the bees:  “Your individual stuffs nice. All the time deal with it up!”  – At least I think they’re referring to the birds and the bees.  It certainly sounds suggestive.

But it’s hard to be sure.  After all, as my latest visitor sagely observed, “This poop requires cultured decoding.”

And ain’t that the truth?

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Filed under Humour, Writing

Play Nicely, Kids… Please.

I’m climbing up on my soapbox today, so if you’re looking for funnies you’ll probably want to skip back to Sometimes Words Fail Me.  I’ll return to my regularly scheduled silliness on the 29th.

 

I just finished reading a blogger’s vitriolic review of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. I don’t know Ms. Meyer and I’m not a Twilight fan, but…

The blogger eviscerated Twilight with razor-like precision. And then she got out her chainsaw and her hobnailed boots and waded into the remains, leaving a bloodbath in her wake. It was brutal and ugly.

It made me sad.

I believe negative reviews are valuable. They help create realistic expectations for our potential readers while steering away the people who aren’t likely to enjoy our work. We learn from criticism and become better writers because of it.

That said, even an objectively-stated negative review rips out little pieces of an author’s guts and cauterizes the wounds with a small, fierce flame. We accept that as the price of admission. We put on our big-kid underwear in the morning, and we go out knowing that getting knocked down is part of the game.

But a blistering, hate-filled attack drains the lifeblood from our hearts and the joy from our souls. And it’s pointless, except maybe to provide some twisted satisfaction for the attacker. Abusive screaming isn’t an effective teaching method.  It doesn’t make us better; it just makes us bleed.

I wonder if this blogger stopped to consider Stephanie Meyer while she was writing her rant. Not ‘Stephanie-Meyer-The-Bestselling-Author’; just Stephanie Meyer, a human being with same desire for respect and acceptance as everyone else.

Imagine what it’s like to be told that the product of your heart and soul; the result of your weeks/months/years of effort and sacrifice and self-doubt and triumph… is worse than garbage. Should never have been allowed to exist. Deserves to be ridiculed and held up as a shameful example.

Ms. Meyer has thousands of glowing reviews to soften the sting, but I can’t help thinking about a debut author receiving that venomous review on the day she lost her ‘real’ job and the car died and her teenager screamed “I hate you!”

Maybe that blogger is a reasonably nice person who got carried away and simply didn’t stop to think about the author (and fans) who might be hurt by her words.

Or maybe she’s a bully making a pathetic and cowardly attempt to elevate herself by trampling another human being beneath her feet.

I hope it’s the former.

I don’t expect to like everything I read, and I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. Poisonous reviews have been a reality since the first caveman daubed some mud on a rock wall and his neighbour yelled, “What the hell is that crap?” (Or maybe it sounded more like ‘Ug poo-poo!’.  I’m guessing here.)

I’m certainly not suggesting we should suppress negative reviews to protect authors’ poor, fragile egos. That would harm both readers and writers.

But it makes me sad when I read such deliberate cruelty.

Why inject more ugliness into the world? Isn’t there enough already?

*Sigh*  😦

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Filed under Commentary

Boom. Splat.

That’s the sound of my brain exploding.

You may recall my computer died a couple of weeks ago.  The reload went pretty well, until… *cue ominous music* …I loaded a new(er) version of my accounting software.

It crashed.  Even my geek skills couldn’t persuade it to work, so I phoned and waded through the usual labyrinth.  Why do companies choose automated telephone systems?

“Hey, let’s take customers who are already frustrated by our product and irritate the shit out of them by making them respond to ten minutes of increasingly obscure menu choices before putting them on hold.”

“Ooh, good idea!  And let’s set it up so if they press the wrong number they have to hang up and start again.”

“Right on.  Should we play music specifically designed to promote speechless rage?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea, but I think we should intersperse it with monotone assurances of how important their call is to us.”

“All in favour?”

“AYE!”  *roars of demonic laughter*

I finally got through to a human being.  In India.  Obviously I missed a point in the decision-making process:

“Let’s route the call to someone with a tenuous grasp of English, an unintelligible accent, and absolutely no hands-on experience with the product.  Both the now-frothing customer and the poor underpaid bastard in India should suffer as much as possible.”

“Support” refused to help me unless I a) paid for the call; or b) bought the 2013 software.  After reflection, I bought the new software, comforting myself that it was probably good to get the latest version anyway.

I installed it… and discovered it’s impossible to update contact names.  Call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to direct invoices to the person who’ll actually approve them?

I called India again.  When I finally vanquished the automated menu, the support guy put me on hold for several minutes while he searched for my customer ID.

He couldn’t find it despite the three numbers I supplied from my receipt.

He told me I’d have to pay for the call.  After a terse conversation and some deep breathing on my part, he finally unearthed evidence of my purchase(!) and agreed to help me.

Apparently the definition of ‘help’ was lost in translation.

I explained the problem.  He put me on hold for several minutes while he consulted his helpdesk database before coming back with a completely unrelated answer.

I explained again.  Hold.  Another unrelated answer.

Repeat six times until he grasps the problem.

Then he put me on hold for several more minutes before trying to get me to change the invoice template.  That would solve the problem for the one invoice I’d called about… but completely mess up the umpty-thousand other invoices in the system.

I (not-so-)patiently explained to him how his product works.

Hold.

Repeat until I bleed from the eyes.

An hour later, I gave up and requested a case number so I could try another day.

Hold for ten minutes.  Then he came back with another useless attempt at a solution.

Slow, distinct enunciation:  “Just.  Give.  Me.  A.  CaseNumber.”

Hold for five more minutes.  He finally spouted a (probably random) number, and I hung up.

I got a survey from the company.  The first question was ‘Were you satisfied with your recent technical support call?’  When I chose ‘No’, their next question was ‘Please explain why your issue was not resolved.’

Boom.  Splat.

Uh… I dunno… maybe because your support system sucks?

I never did complete the survey.  I just couldn’t get past that question.  Can anybody help me out with an appropriate answer?

P.S. I can’t believe I forgot to mention this last week: Curmudgeon-at-Large wrote a fabulous Fallen Arches post, “Corned Beef on Spy“.  It’s hilarious in its own right, but if you’ve read my books, you’ll get the satire (Updated: Oops! That should’ve been “parody” – I just looked it up) immediately.  I laughed my ass off.  Go.  Enjoy!  (C-a-L, I’m sorry for my brain fart – thanks again for honouring me with your wit.)

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Filed under Commentary, Humour, Life

Creepy Stalker Here

As I’ve mentioned here and here, there’s convincing evidence that I’m a sociopath.  But a few days ago, an unsettling thought bobbed to the scummy surface of the cesspit that is my mind:  Maybe I’m also a creepy stalker.

I mean, really, what’s the difference between a close friend and a stalker?

Close friends know your likes and dislikes, have a pretty good idea of your schedules and habits, call you frequently, and show up regularly to spend time with you.

So do creepy stalkers.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder.  Social skills aren’t really my best thing.  I fake them well enough for short periods, but then I scuttle back to my hidey-hole and hunker down behind my computer to converse with (at best) people I know only through a few typed words on my screen and (at worst) imaginary characters in my books.

I do this for days and weeks on end.  I go out to the pub once a week for a beer and some conversation with real human beings, but that’s about it.  If I wasn’t married, I’d probably go for days without human interaction, so it’s not like I’m really socially aware.

How many times can I call somebody before I’m officially being creepy?  If they don’t call back, does it mean they’re just busy or forgetful?  Or does it mean they’re screening their calls and thinking, “Oh, God, it’s Diane again.  She’s so creepy.  I’m going to pretend I’m dead.”

Problem is, most people are too polite to tell me to buzz off.  I tend to take people at face value and I’m disinclined to obsess over the emotional temperature of everyone I meet, so I don’t really know whether they’re genuinely glad to see me or if they give a whole-body shudder and take six showers after I leave.

I think it’s probably a good sign if they return my calls, unless they’re calling to decline my last ten invitations and tell me they’re going to be busy until the year 2045.  But that only happened with the last three people I called, so it’s not really statistically significant, right?

Maybe the restraining order is a clue, though.  More analysis is required.

Last week I was at an all-you-can-eat restaurant where each table had a little cylinder that was green on one end and red on the other.  As long as you wanted more, you left the green end up, and they kept bringing food.  Red-end-up stopped the whole thing.

That’s what I need:  a signalling system.  Green means “it’s all good”, yellow means “you’re starting to creep me out”, and red means “stay away from me, you nutball freak”.

That system probably wouldn’t catch on, though.  It seems most people actually prefer a little ambiguity in their relationships.

I guess the upside of all this is that sociopaths generally disregard the feelings of others.  Maybe this isn’t such a burning question for me after all.

So… wanna go for a beer tonight?

How about tomorrow?

Friday’s good for me, too…

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Filed under Humour, Life

Flash (Non)Fiction: It’s All About Trust

When I rang the doorbell of the upscale house wearing my faded jeans and waist pouch, it occurred to me that most lawyers probably expect their business clients to be dressed up.

Well, tough.  I’d had a busy day with no time to change my clothes.  He’d just have to deal with it.

I heard footsteps and movement at the other side of the door.  Then nothing.  Maybe they weren’t even going to let me in.

After a lengthy pause, the door swung open and the receptionist greeted me.  “Diane?”

I put on my business smile.  “Yes.”

I stepped into the entry and was removing my shoes when she said, “I’ll need your driver’s license.”

“No,” I blurted reflexively, my posture squaring into battle-readiness before I could stop myself.  I smiled and relaxed my weight onto one hip, hoping to soften my initial reaction.  “What do you need it for?” I added.

“The Law Society requires it.”

“Not the last time I saw a lawyer.”  Shit, suspicious much?  Settle down.  “But it’s been a while,” I added, trying for a tone of casual interest.  “When did they bring that in?”

“2010.”

“I’ve seen a lawyer since then, and they didn’t ask for it.”  Go for non-confrontational, dammit.  “But it was right around 2010, so maybe it was before the new rules.  Why do you need it?”

“Because of 9-11.  We need to know you are who you say you are.”

“But a driver’s license doesn’t prove that,” I argued.  Shit, this probably isn’t reassuring her.  Try some empathy.  “That seems like a pretty onerous responsibility for you.  Do they make you check everybody against a database or something?”

“No, we just collect the information in case the Law Society asks for it.”

I crushed my tongue between my teeth and managed not to say ‘that’s stupid’, but apparently she got the message anyway.

“I’ll go and get Mr. X.  You can discuss it with him.  Please have a seat.”

In what had originally been a dining room, I perched warily in one of the sleek leather chairs arranged around the small, pristine meeting table.  The long pile of the carpet looked as if it had been freshly raked and manicured.  Jeez, there wasn’t even a footprint on it except my own.

In the adjacent living space, the long boardroom table was surrounded by identical leather chairs, all aligned to exactly the same angle.  The carpet was perfect.  The floor-to-ceiling drapes were perfect, every fold carefully arranged.

Like a funeral parlour.  Soothing, neutral, and designed to conceal something rotten.

I tried to ignore my paranoid discomfort without success.  What kind of operation was this, anyway?  The website had shown a downtown address, not a house out in the ‘burbs.  I hadn’t thought too much about it when we’d set up the meeting, but now…

I shook off the thought and occupied myself by studying the certificates and diplomas precisely aligned on the wall.  Mr. X had a lot of qualifications.  That’s why I’d selected him.  I wanted a specialist I could trust to set up this deal properly.

Footsteps made me sit up straight.  Mr. X rounded the corner and I hid my surprise.  He looked a lot younger than his picture on the website.

“Diane?  I’m X.”

I rose, smiled, and shook his outstretched hand.  He didn’t fully grasp my hand in the short handshake.  He sat without facing me, pulling his chair close to the table and placing a sheaf of papers directly in front of him as if for protection.  I swivelled my chair to view him diagonally across the edge of the table, leaning casually on one elbow and keeping my body language open and relaxed.

“So that’s interesting about the driver’s license,” I prompted.  “I’m the privacy officer for my company, so I’m curious about your requirements.  That seems like a lot of responsibility for the Law Society to place on individual lawyers.”

His eyes darted sideways.  “Not really.  They don’t do anything with it.  It’s just since 9-11.  They’re watching out for money laundering and things like that.”

I’ve heard 9-11 used as an excuse for all kinds of shit, but implementing a policy nine years after the fact was really reaching.  And if I was smart enough to launder money, did they seriously think I’d be too dumb to get a fake driver’s license?

Oh, well, stupid or not, if the Law Society required it I might as well give…

“How did you find me?”  His abrupt question interrupted my thoughts.

“I searched on the internet and found your website.”

His eyes flicked away again.  “Oh.  I try to minimize my web presence.  And that wasn’t my real website.”

Wait, what the hell?

Before I could speak, he added, “You must have gotten one of the ones that somebody took over.  You know, like the Yellow Pages or something.  Not X.ca.”

“I was on X.ca.  It had your picture and areas of expertise-”

“But that’s not current.  I moved two years ago, and it’s still not updated.  I don’t know how the other lawyers manage to get everything updated when they move all the time.  You were on the wrong site.  That wasn’t my real site.  It must have been the Yellow Pages or something.”

I blinked despite myself.  “Um, I’m a computer geek, and I’m positive…”  I abandoned that tack and switched gears.  Maybe he just wasn’t a techie kind of guy.  “It’s not hard to get your site updated,” I began reassuringly.  “You just need to get your web designer to-”

Again with the shifty eyes.  “So about this alter ego trust we discussed over the phone.”

I eased back in my chair.  “Um, yeah.  You mentioned a ballpark figure of $5,000.  Is that all your fees, or are there other fees or disbursements?”

He waved his hands vaguely as if outlining an object about the size and shape of a breadbox.  “It’s fees.”

“Okay, but are there any expenses other than your fees?  What about disbursements?  Any additional fees for registering…?”

“It’s what it costs for me to do the work.”

I couldn’t help glancing to the corner of the room when his eyes twitched in that direction.  Nothing there.  When I looked back at him, he looked away.

I pulled my briefcase closer and made politely regretful noises.  “I’ll need to look into this a little more.  The setup costs aren’t looking as though they’ll justify the benefits in the end.  I suspect it won’t go ahead.”

Let me rephrase that.  It sure as hell won’t go ahead with you.  You totally creep me out, buddy.  Maybe I should’ve asked to see your driver’s license.

I stood.  “I appreciate the time you spent with me on the phone and meeting with me here today.  May I pay you for your time?”

He didn’t meet my gaze.  “No, that’s all right.  Goodbye.”

A lawyer refusing payment?  This was definitely too weird for me.

I crammed my feet into my shoes and fled.

***

True story – this just happened to me last week. 

Was he trying to get rid of me because I wasn’t dressed “right”?  Maybe he thought I was a criminal because I was reluctant to hand over my driver’s license?  Maybe he had a medical condition that made his eyes twitch?

Maybe I wouldn’t have been so defensive about the driver’s license if it had been an office instead of somebody’s house; or if they’d mentioned it over the phone when I made the appointment; or if we’d actually decided to do business together before they asked for it.  I know I was acting like the paranoid freak I am… but…

What do you think?  Would you have run screaming?

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Filed under Commentary, Flash Fiction, Life

Driving Ms. Crazy

Some days, even the simplest things get ‘way more complicated than they need to be.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes I’m convinced I’m speaking Swahili because nobody seems to grasp what I’m trying to say, no matter how many different ways I phrase it.  I’m convinced it’s the Universe’s way of keeping me humble enough to summon up some charity and patience when somebody else suffers a brain/speech malfunction.

But sometimes it’s really difficult to refrain from beating my head against the nearest hard surface…

We were going to a store that had recently moved.  I was driving, and my passenger (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) was giving me directions.  I knew we were going to 9th Avenue, but I wasn’t sure of the address.

Calgary is divided into quadrants, so there are four possible locations for any given address.  Without the suffix “SW”, “SE”, “NW”, or “NE”, you’re lost.  I was pretty sure the store was in one of the southern quadrants, but I didn’t know which one:

Me:  “What’s the address?”

Passenger:  “I don’t know the actual address, but I know where it is.”

Me:   “Okay, where is it?”

Passenger:  “On 9th Avenue.”

Me:  “I know it’s on 9th Avenue, but where?”

Passenger:  “Just take Bow Trail.”

Me:  “I know how to get to 9th Avenue, I want to know where I’m going once I’m on 9th Avenue.”

Passenger:  “I’ll tell you where to turn.”

Me:  *suspenseful pause*  “And… where will I be turning?”

Passenger:  “It’ll be a left turn.”

Me:  “Congratulations, you’ve given me no useful information whatsoever.  Where the hell is it on 9th Avenue?”

Passenger:  “Oh!  It’s at the corner of 9th Avenue and 11th Street.”

Me:  “Southwest or Southeast?”

Passenger:  *growing impatient with my obtuseness*   “No!  It’s on the northeast corner of 9th Avenue and 11th Street.”

Me:  *gritting teeth*  “The northeast corner of 9th Avenue and 11th Street Southwest or 9th Avenue and 11th Street Southeast?”

Passenger:  “Oh…!  Southwest.”

Me:  *sigh*

Before you make any assumptions about gender vs. navigation skills, I’d like to point out that my passenger was male.  Just sayin’.

I can’t imagine how the phrase “It’s on the northeast corner of 9th Avenue and 11th Street Southwest” could have become any more complicated.  What should have been a five-second exchange turned into a ridiculous “Who’s On First” comedy routine.

It might have been funnier if I hadn’t been playing the part of the straight man while trying to steer my car through traffic to an unknown destination.

But it’s okay.  I know with absolute certainty that within days of posting this, I’ll be the one in the passenger seat, obfuscating the directions while the driver’s blood pressure rockets into the danger zone.

Come to think of it, I seem to recall the following conversation not too long ago:

Hubby:  “I’m supposed to turn left here?”

Me:  “Right.”

Hubby:  “Right?  Shit!”  *swerves over two lanes of traffic*

Me:  “No, left!  I meant, that’s right… that’s correct; you’re supposed to turn left…  Never mind, I’m an idiot.”

Thanks, Universe.  I owe ya one.

Anybody else have one of those “Who’s On First” moments lately?

P.S.  I’m so pumped – my new book cover designs are finally done!  Check ’em out in the “My Books” panel at the right – or bigger versions here.  They should start hitting the stores in a week or two.  🙂

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Filed under Humour, Life