Tag Archives: paranoia

What The F…ish?!?

This week’s WTF?!? moment occurred when I ran across an article that mentioned fish pedicures.

Now, I pride myself on my ability to successfully distinguish a fish from a human in 9 out of 10 cases, via the simple observation that fish generally have no toes.  So when I discovered that fish pedicures were apparently a “thing”, I was gobsmacked.  I figured it must require extreme skill and outstanding manual dexterity (or perhaps some recreational pharmaceutical products) to locate and subsequently groom fish toes.

I was ’way off base, of course; but the reality is almost as worrisome:  It seems that a ‘fish pedicure’ is actually done to human toes.  The to-be-pedicured foot is submerged in a basin containing hungry carnivorous fish, which tidily nibble away all the dead skin.

My mature and well-thought-out response to this revelation was “EEEEEUWWWW!!!” immediately followed by, “There is NO F(ish)ING WAY I’d do that!”  Which might actually be a sensible reaction, since it turns out that a woman lost all her toenails as a result of a fish pedicure.  That doesn’t surprise me in the least.  What amazes me is that anybody thought it was a good idea in the first place.

I mean, seriously:  Hungry carnivorous fish.  Human toes.  What could possibly go wrong?

But maybe I’m just showing my plebeian roots.  I grew up on a prairie farm, and in summer we swam in our backyard dugout.  Leeches would attach themselves to any exposed skin and suck our blood if we stood still for even a few seconds; and just in case that’s not enough to give you nightmares, there was also some kind of water bug whose sadistic specialty was to get inside one’s bathing suit and inflict an agonizing bite on whatever they found there.  (Remember, bathing suits cover all the tender bits.  Just sayin’.)

I’ve mistrusted aquatic critters ever since; and now I have one more reason.

So the next fish that comes near me had better be sliced and served with a side of wasabi.  Or pan-fried in butter; I’m not picky as long my teeth are sinking into the fish and not the other way around.

Brrr!  *dons steel-toed boots, just in case*

Book 14 update:  I’m already on Chapter 3, woohoo!  And I just wrote a scene that may turn me off Gummi Bears forever.  Such are the hazards of living inside my brain. *sigh*

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“Thorough”. Yeah, That’s It.

Now that we’ve moved to Vancouver Island I’ll likely end up flying instead of driving to visit other provinces.  And that means… *cue ominous music* …I’ll have to rent a car when I arrive.

I hate renting cars.

Despite the fact that our vehicle insurance policy includes full coverage for rental cars, my hand always trembles when I initial the “I decline insurance” box on the rental contract.

I just know that if I crack up the rental car and submit a claim, my insurance company will smugly point out the microscopic print where it says, “Coverage only for green-and-purple polka-dotted vehicles rented on the second Tuesday of the sixth week of any month beginning with ‘Z’.”

And if that’s not enough to stress me out, there are the spine-chilling threats in the rental contract itself:  “If you fail to return the car within 72 hours of the return date you may be liable for criminal prosecution and fines up to $150,000.

I have nightmares about accidentally putting the wrong date on the contract.  I imagine a cadre of malevolent car-rental agents clustered around a large ticking clock:  “Seventy-one hours and fifty-eight minutes… fifty-nine… Seventy-two hours!  Send out the enforcers!  Muwahahahaha!!!!”

And don’t even get me started about the form that itemizes the existing damage on the rental car.  The agent always makes me sign it before I even see the car.  When I object, they wave a casual hand and say, “Oh, don’t worry.  Check over the car before you drive away and if you need to add anything to the form, just bring it back and we’ll update it.”

I always find more damage on the car than what’s shown on the form.

So I make the long hike back to the office.  Car rental agents are trained to flee the area as soon as they’ve handed over the keys, so when I get back the desk is abandoned.  After a lengthy wait and a few calls on the “courtesy phone” (a complete misnomer), an agent grudgingly returns to the counter.

Then they walk with me to the car, eyeball the long scratches on the roof, and say, “Oh, don’t worry about those.  We know those are from the car wash so we don’t need to mark them on the form.”

I argue that the form shows all damage, not just the damage they feel like reporting; they argue that “everybody knows” they never worry about “those” scratches.

At last I prevail and they sullenly update the form and stalk away, leaving me to slide into a car that reeks like a 30-year-old ashtray despite being designated “non-smoking”.  Though I guess technically the car is non-smoking; it’s just that its drivers weren’t.

Then I spend the whole trip worrying that somebody will hit/steal/vandalize the damn thing and/or I’ll run afoul of some other fine-print wording that “everybody” but me knows.

At last I return the car with immense relief, and then spend the next month watching my credit card statement for damage charges in case somebody vandalized the car in their lot after I parked it but before they inspected it.  I can’t decide whether I’m freakishly paranoid or only extremely thorough…

Okay, never mind; I know the answer to that.

But I still hate renting cars.

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Self-Driving Auto-Paranoia

A couple of days ago I discovered an article about how and when a self-driving car should be programmed to injure or kill its passengers.  It’s an alarming proposition, but it’s actually a valid point:  if the car has to choose between wiping out ten pedestrians or only its driver, simple logic says it should choose the lesser number of casualties.

But the realization that my future vehicle may be plotting to kill me makes me just a wee bit mistrustful of technology.

Or, in my case, more mistrustful of technology.  I’ve never been good at leaving my safety in the hands (circuits?) of inanimate objects.  (Or even animate objects, for that matter.  I’m a lousy passenger even with a human driver – I spend as much time watching the road as the driver does.  But that’s another story.)

My point is, I’m suspicious of any electronic device that wants to make decisions for me.

Take my GPS, for instance.  The lady inside my GPS can usually get me where I want to go, but she’s not always good at it.  When we’re in unfamiliar territory, Hubby usually drives while I navigate.  Theoretically the GPS should be all we need, but I never go anywhere without a paper map; partly because my GPS has a tendency to announce “Low battery!” and/or lose its satellite connection at critical moments, but mostly because I don’t trust it to choose the best route.

I can set it to ‘faster time’ (which is usually dog-slow) or ‘shortest distance’ (synonymous for ‘via goat-paths and dodgy neighbourhoods’), but there’s no setting for ‘common sense’.  So, after a few forays through dense forest on steep roads no wider than our car (though, as the GPS insisted, that road was technically ‘paved’) our trips have become a power struggle between the GPS and me.

The GPS lady says, “In… two hundred metres… turn left.”

And I say, “Ignore that.  It doesn’t know what it’s doing.  Keep going straight.”

Hubby, like all husbands with a modicum of self-preservation, silently follows my directions while the GPS says in snotty tones, “Recalculating.  In… one hundred metres… make a U-turn.”

Me:  “Ignore that.  Keep going.”

GPS (getting cranky):  “Recalculating.  In… three kilometres… TURN LEFT, IDIOT!”

Me:  “Ignore that…”

Given the choice, I’d rather have an up-to-date paper map and only use the GPS to pinpoint the location of the nearest Dairy Queen.  (And don’t get me wrong; that’s a critical function.  I need frequent ice cream breaks when I’m on the road.)

But antagonizing my GPS is probably a bad idea, because the new cars will have them built in.  And if a hostile GPS triggers the ‘kill-the-driver’ algorithm, I could be in serious trouble.

On the surface, the self-driving car seems utopian:  I could be snoozing or reading or snacking while my car takes me safely and efficiently to my destination.  But in reality I’d probably end up sitting in the driver’s seat with both hands on the wheel, simultaneously watching the road and keeping a wary eye on the car in case it tries to kill me.

But maybe I’m just paranoid.

Or maybe that’s not a ‘maybe’…

* * *

And speaking of technology… there’s a new discussion over at the Virtual Backyard Book Club:  Aydan’s Tech Gadgets – Love ‘Em Or Hate ‘Em?  Click here to have your say!

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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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