Sunday, 18 December 2011

Merry Christmas Comeback

I discovered something else that makes me feel happy inside: people saying "Merry Christmas". I've been hearing it quite a bit lately.

It's surprising, actually. My friends and people at church quite naturally say "Merry Christmas" a lot, but I'm hearing it everywhere. Customers at Timmy's are saying it, and they're not merely responding to me but beating me to the punch. The clerks at Shopper's yesterday also wished me several Merry Christmases. But the one that really had me scratching my head was the little coffee newspaper that's distributed for free at various fast-food stops. It's a one page deal, half-full of advertising. Of the remaining space, approximately 1/3 of it is taken up with horoscopes. But there, in bold type, just beneath the horoscopes, this little paper proudly asserted:

"Merry Christmas! Celebrate Jesus, the reason for the season."

Something is happening, here. Perhaps Calgary as a whole has gotten fed up with the political correctness of the past few Decembers and having rejected that, is embracing tradition again. And it is tradition; although there are other festivals celebrated at this time, they have little history in Canada and are observed by far fewer people here. By the predominance of "Merry Christmas", it seems that the population may be admitting that fact, after trying vainly to be inclusive with "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" for the last few years.

Thus far, I don't remember a single "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" this month. They're out there, yes, but mostly in print (and not in all printed things, obviously!) People aren't saying them to each other; at least they haven't been to me. It's Christmas, and we're not ashamed of it! That makes me very happy.

"I'm not politically incorrect, I'm just euphemistically challenged." Gilbert E. Detillieux

Friday, 16 December 2011

Who, What, Where?

Sigh. It happened again. Except this time, it was much worse. And this time my supervisor heard.

It was the middle of the afternoon at the Distress Centre and perfectly quiet. Well, mostly quiet. I was reading. The other three volunteers were doing something or other to keep themselves amused. Then the clocks struck three o'clock.

I'm telling you, some really incredible TV show must have ended at three o'clock or something, because the lines went from perfectly calm to insano-nutso in a matter of a couple minutes. Next thing you know, all four of us were on calls. Next thing you know after that, all four of us were juggling calls. Then we started forgetting where we parked each call and we still had more calls coming in.

It was during this mayhem, as my mind was trying to keep track of multiple things simultaneously (and I'm not particularly good with multi-tasking) that I made my error. Part of my brain switched off and fell back onto that tried, true, and over-used greeting:

"Hi there, welcome to Tim Horton's. My name is Carla; what can I get for you?"

Yes, the caller got confused. So did I, because I didn't actually remember what I had said, and was wondering how the caller knew my name. I generally use an alias and don't offer it up in the first breath. So I briefly debated denying what I thought maybe I said then opted instead to ask the caller what I had said my name was. Eventually I admitted that I was named Carla, but I'm not sure the caller believed me at that point because I sounded so uncertain. I mean, I was pretty sure by now that I had my name correct, but I was still hoping vainly that I hadn't also said this was Tim Horton's.

Trying to recover, I asked the caller how I could help them. Came the reply:

"You're the one who needs help if you can't even remember your own name."

Perhaps they're right. I seem to be having trouble remembering where I am and to whom I'm speaking lately. At Timmy's this morning I took the order of a customer at the counter and told her, "That'll be six-forty-five at the window."

She just gave me a look and replied that she could throw the money at the window if I wanted, but that she sure wasn't going outside in this weather.

Bah. At any rate, after I got off the phone at the DC, I turned around and asked my supervisor if he had heard how I started that call, as I still wasn't quite sure how badly I'd messed up. My supervisor seemed a bit uncertain at first, too, but when I admitted that I thought I may have used my Timmy's greeting, he immediately broke out into laughter.

"Yes!" he exclaimed, waving animatedly. "You did! I heard it, but I thought, 'No, she couldn't have said that!' But you did! You did!" By this point he was holding his stomach and definitely not helping anyone focus on their tasks at hand. And it was no less funny when, two hours later, my shift finished and he doubled-over in laughter all over again.

I don't know whether I'm reassured or not that several other volunteers then told me that they occasionally answer their cell phones with "Hello, Distress Centre."

Ah, me. Whoever said that the Distress Centre is all serious?

Just goes to demonstrate that you don't need to worry overly much about saying the wrong thing to a suicidal person. I'm pretty sure my blunder didn't kill anyone, though I may have died a bit on the inside, myself.

“I'm not saying anything. I didn't say anything then, and I'm not saying anything now.” Dukhat from Babylon 5

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Executive Directors and Spontaneous Combustion

I got a job thingy at the Distress Centre for a few days this month. Like, I actually get paid. A bit. Nevermind that that it is mind-numbingly dull. But this job does have a few upsides:

1. I get to see and feel a bit about how the paid DC runs, as opposed to the volunteer side of things, which I'm already used to. Put faces to names and jobs to faces and such.

2. Perhaps, just maybe, I get my foot in the door a little bit?

3. I get to sit all day at the Executive Director's desk, in the large Executive Director's office.

She's gone on holidays or something, so no one's using it, and her computer is one of the few that's been set up with the database program I'm working with.

Over lunch, one of the staffers who works in the phone room and knows I'm just a lowly volunteer mentioned that she had walked by the office earlier that morning.

"Wow," she quipped, "Carla's sure moved up!"

And at one point a pick-up/delivery boy stopped in to pick up a couple of chairs. My supervisor showed him to the office and pointed out the chairs, but when he pulled out his clipboard to be signed, he offered it first to me. Ha!

Yes! Power trip! Executive Director at 22? And no! I'm not grown up enough! Do I look grown up enough to be that important?

Ah, well. I should enjoy it while it lasts.

And it has nothing to do with anything, but I was reading A Christmas Carol this week - the real, unabridged, Charles Dickens version - and ran across this quote. It has got to be one of the most awesome quotes from an old, dead author ever:

"[Scrooge] was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion, without having the consolation of knowing it."

I can't imagine how awful it would be to spontaneously combust without realizing it.

My sister was choking once, and my brother was getting concerned. "Don't die, Brianna! Because that would be really sad!" he exclaimed. Then he added after a pause, "But if you do die, could you at least spontaneously combust? Because that would be really cool."

Thankfully, she didn't do either.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

BBC's Merlin

I have been watching BBC's Merlin series and figure it's time for a review post.

First season - great!
Second season - intense!
Third season - interesting...
Fourth season - ....not so much.

Basically, it started out strong. The first season was new and exciting and for the most part, tasteful. Some of the "special effects" made me cringe, but the story itself seemed pretty carefully crafted. Morgana's dresses were beautiful and Gwen looked like a servant girl.

The cut of Guinevere's dresses and Arthur's shirtless escapades in the second season made me roll my eyes, but other than that, season two had some interesting character developments. The last few episodes in particular were wham episodes and the story itself was progressing.

It felt like the ball was dropped with Morgana in season three, and the blockheadedness of Arthur (and Uther, but especially Arthur) was starting to get hard to ignore. Gwen's dress was about the same as season two, but Morgana's dresses got (literally) breathtakingly tight. Arthur was parading around topless even more. Still, there was enough new stuff and developments to keep things interesting.

But season four? Despite the supposed changes and new (or promoted) characters, the status quo has remained the same. Unfortunately that status quo doesn't work anymore. The entire first three seasons were full of "When Arthur is king, things will be different and Merlin can reveal his magic to him". Yet Arthur is king and Merlin is still keeping secrets. In fact, he's keeping an awful lot of secrets that really seem pretty counter-productive to keep. It's just dumb.

Morgana is the main antagonist, and she's lost the character complexity that first made her interesting (though I am interested in why she bothers with the green eyeshadow every day). Agravain is boring, mysteriously lacking a motive, and not even handsome. Having supermodel characters seems ridiculous in some contexts (eg. Morgana/Morgause scenes) but if the character has nothing else going for him, at least make him nice to look at. In addition, this season is featuring more identifiably occult magic with which I am not comfortable.

Arthur's knights are interesting (Gwain is my favourite), and the reappearances of old-guy Merlin are as funny as his debut in season three, but it's not enough to redeem the nonsensicality and repetitiveness of the rest of the show.

The writers are clearly pandering to the goofy fanbase that wants Merlin and Arthur to be a couple, as evidenced by the number of "awkward" situations between the two of them. Gwen's dresses are so low and tight she's lost her "wholesome girl-next-door" credibility. If I'm not mistaken, next episode will feature Gwen in something like a crop top. Arthur's shirtless scene repertoire is through the roof (and the knights are joining him) and we actually had one episode where's he's completely naked.

Here's hoping things turn around pretty fast, because if Merlin continues on this trajectory, season five will feature Gwen strutting around cleaning the castle in a bikini top and Arthur will just decide that clothes are for cowards and doff his shirt permanently. Merlin will be functionally mute, despite all the rapport and trust he's earned from Arthur previously. Honestly, I'm losing interest. As of now, I'm hoping season four wraps up the series because I don't want a season five like this one.

Famous Merlin quote from episode one:

Arthur: I should warn you, I've been trained to kill since birth.
Merlin: How long have you been training to be a prat?
Arthur: You can't address me like that!
Merlin: Sorry. How long have you been training to be a prat, my lord?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Makes Me Happy

It's so easy to be cynical, but every now and again something happens that makes me warm and happy inside. Most recently it was a little fuzzy moose Christmas ornament I bought that holds a sign saying "Merry Chrismoose". And sometimes the things that make me happy are a little more significant.

Tim Horton's requires you to record the drive-thru window times during the peak hours every day. Designated for this purpose at my little Esso location is a white-board tracking sheet thingy. We do use it to track drive-thru times, but we also occasionally leave each other notes. They stay up for a while, then get erased to make the place look clean.

On my last shift before I left for camp this summer, I wrote "Have a great summer, everyone! Love Carla". I then left for camp and promptly forgot about it. Yet when I showed up for work again come the fall, my note was still up there. Apparently my well-wishes were important enough that nobody wanted to erase it until the summer was over. After I had worked a few shifts, it finally disappeared. It made me happy that they had left it up the whole time I was gone. I think it probably won second prize for note longevity.

But it's the first prize winner that makes me happy inside. One of my Timmy's coworkers suffered a personal tragedy. I'll change her name for privacy's sake, but someone wrote on the board to encourage her, "Bianca rocks!" and decorated it with a smiley face and hearts. Then I added "We love her!" and someone else wrote, "She is super-woman!" Following this, someone-who-shall-remain-nameless *cough* Madeleine *cough* wrote "Bianca is my lover," but I promptly erased that one.

That was almost two years ago. Bianca still sees it every time she comes in to work, and despite the numerous people who work at the Esso, it's never been touched. It's like it's become sacrosanct. It's an unspoken agreement; we didn't all get together and decide to leave it up forever. Nobody wrote "P.L.O." beside it. We erase around it and touch it up if a part accidentally gets scratched out. And it stays there. I don't know if Bianca still feels encouraged every time she sees it, but I do. Some people do care. For a long time. And I'm glad to work with them.

“Because while I do not know who the enemy is any longer, I do know who my friends are, and that I have not done as well by them as I should. I hope to change that. I hope to do better.” Londo from Babylon 5, which is probably my favourite show ever.