Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Karma is a Bitch!

Schadenfreude: German [ˈʃaːdənfrɔydə]
delight in another's misfortune
[German: from Schaden harm + Freude joy]

I first learned the correct meaning and proper usage of this wonderfully descriptive word through a song. I was sitting in the audience in a small theatre on Broadway several years ago, when a puppet character from the smash musical Avenue Q instructed us all on its definition. A sample of the lyrics:


D'ya ever clap when a waitress falls
And drops a tray of glasses?


And ain't it fun to watch figure skaters 
Fallin' on their asses?


Don't you feel all warm and cozy
Watching people out in the rain? 

You bet.



People taking pleasure in your pain.

I suppose that there is a degree of Schadenfreude just in delighting in a song about Schadenfreude. We all do it and we all attempt to hide from it, but I will readily admit that there is a certain amount of guilty pleasure in watching a real asshole get his comeuppance. Allow me to explain.

This past Saturday, The Husband and I decided to dine out at a local Thai restaurant of which we are particularly fond. Twin Son and His Better Half joined us at this very small, very quaint, but always understaffed hole in the wall. We enjoy it. The food is to die for, they make allowances for our veggie lifestyle, the owner knows us well, and while it is always busy, it is well-managed and well-kept. We were amongst the early customers that evening, but it didn't take long for every table to be filled with diners. While we obliviously went about our evening, chatting about the craziness of the day, the G20 riots that were taking place at that precise moment in the downtown core and the impending thunderstorms, we noticed a small power surge, (most likely affected by the weather) had caused the lights in the restaurant to temporarily dim and flicker. What we were not aware of at the time, was that the quick hit power failure had messed with the bistro's computer system and all of their order taking capabilities were down. The meal was served painfully slowly in shifts. Dishes were coming out of the kitchen in spurts. Rice was on the table for 10 minutes before anything else was served. Even getting a glass of water was a true test of patience. It was very much out of character for this establishment, but we knew that the staff was coping the best that they could under the circumstances.

Most of the customers in the place saw that this evening was not like other evenings, and most were willing to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. Everybody that is except one notable dickwad! Dickwad was loud, rude, abusive in his language and generally a miserable human being. He yelled, cursed, rode hard on the backs of the serving staff, and at one point actually picked up his bowl of rice and took it to the kitchen himself in an attempt to make the point that he wanted his food served all at once not piecemeal. The poor little waitresses could do nothing to please him. He complained about the temperature of the food and he complained about the taste. He angrily demanded a rebate on his bill and he swore up and down he would never set foot in the place again. (Thank God!! May he forever stay away!) The four of us attempted to continue on with our meal as best as we could even through our collective embarrassment, but the restaurant is small and thus his tantrums were the centre of attention until he and his wife finally got up to leave.

There was a audible sigh of relief from the remaining patrons when Dickwad and wife exited, but we were soon to extract a karmic revenge. Here's where the Schadenfreude kicks in. He was obviously still fuming as he unlocked his car door. As he yanked on the driver's side handle, he must have pulled a bit too hard and a bit too angrily, because the door jerked open heavily and smacked full-flush against Dickwad's knee. He hit the ground like he was dropped from a window. He lay on the parking lot pavement writhing in pain for a good 3-4 minutes, and when he finally did managed to pull himself up, he remained doubled over in obvious agony for a few more. The four of us witnessed this scene from our booth within the safe confines of the restaurant and as we all saw what had unfolded before us we looked at each other and just started to laugh out loud. I realize that it wasn't very nice. We probably should have made our way out into the parking lot to help Dickwad, but we took it as a sign that even his wife didn't come to his aid. I wholeheartedly admit that I loved it. There was something innately satisfying watching this rude prick get a karmic head slap from the universe. Thank goodness he wasn't seriously injured as he did get into his car and drive off, but he certainly must have had a black and blue mark for the ages as a souvenir and a reminder that every action in this life is followed by a proportional reaction.

The world doesn't always go according to our best laid plans, and sometimes we just have to go with the flow when circumstances present themselves. My guess is that Dickwad never equated his sore knee with his behaviour in the restaurant, and that he will behave just as badly toward the next poor shlub that doesn't do as he demands. I, on the other hand, felt that karma had the final say on the matter. She really can be a bitch.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Party Anyone?

As the bricolage that is the G8 summit and it's evil bastard spawn the G20 roll into town this week, I have become acutely aware that there is very little left about which to bitch and moan. It has all been said and by far better pundits than am I. Ok! I won't be able to attend the second coming of Roy Halladay because the Jays have been shuttled off to Philly for the weekend. Forget any kind of trek into the city for theatre or dinner. Even if we could manage to get there, (traffic congestion promises to be as artery clogging as the worst possible cardiac episode) most businesses in the downtown core have wisely shuttered for the duration. Universities in the area have shut down for the days of the summit and the school board has cancelled all buses for kids, bestowing upon them an early start to their summer vacations. "Toronto the Good" is now a police state, with fences running around its perimetre and an armed constabulary patrolling on foot, horseback, and bicycle in full riot gear. We citizens have become well versed in new-aged weaponry such as water canons and piercing noise guns that will easily disperse crowds that become too vocal or too agitated. And just think-all of this could have be your's and your cities' joy for the bargain basement price of $1.1 billion. That is just the cost for which the taxpayer is on the hook. Included in the price tag? Security and cops of course. So many are required that we have had to import them from other jurisdictions. A fake lake and a media centre to show off the Muskoka beauty that the press corps will never see because they can't all fit at the site, will cost 2 mil. Facelifts for northern communities that no leader will come close to viewing are costing millions more. Nobody can even begin to calculate the revenues lost to businesses that are shutting down on the first weekend of the summer season. Not to mention the fact, that we Torontonians never asked to host this sham. We wanted the Olympics. Now, that is an event we could have all gotten behind. Who cares if Sweatered Stevie has a nice chat with Barry or Angie? Certainly not the citizenry of my hometown.

Since complaining has gotten us absolutely nowhere and leaving our homes for the next few days will prove to be an adventure in orienteering, I have instead decided to host a virtual G20 Summit party. All suggestions are welcome. I thought that we could come as our favourite world leader. I know that I could pull off  Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina. The resemblance is striking, no?

Stop laughing now! That's an order! Well-I think I could make it work.

The Husband and I will construct a fence around our fake lake that doubles as our swimming pool, to simulate the prison-image of Toronto that the leaders will undoubtedly take home with them. Every guest must provide a cover charge to help offset the flower planting that needs to be done to bring the property up to G20 standards, and we need to purchase a few rubber duckies so that it will have that Huntsville feel. I am certain that I can convince the local neighbourhood watch to provide security. Please understand that they will be armed only with cellphones so if anything goes missing or is damaged, "dems da breaks!" The squirrels that illegally inhabit my yard are more than happy to act the part of unruly rabble-rousers and I am certain that I could scare up a BB gun or air horn to knock them off of their perches. Perhaps my neighbour's little shi-tzu will bark impatiently as she is known to do on occasion, to fend off the riff-raff. Please, no parking in the driveway or on any street within the containment zone.

I thought that we might serve cocktails. How about a mug of Angela's Ale? Maybe you'd prefer Lula's Hard Lemonade, or an Obama Mama? I am really not the drinker in this family, so I am open to suggestions. Munchies? A caldron of Calderón sopa or maybe Myung-Bak ribs. Vegetarians might want  to avoid those.

We will save money on decorations by using the various country flags that are being flown proudly across the city in celebration of the World Cup. No need to invest twice. Everybody who attends must attach one to his/her car window. I am partial to the red and white of my home country, so the rest of you can fight over the remainder.

I am willing to take any other suggestions that party-goers might have. Since it is virtual-invite any and all comers. Meet you back here on Friday. Halladay is scheduled to pitch.

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Cure for Insomnia

Please don't hate me sports fans. You know that I am truly one of you. I am the loyal idiot who has supported the hapless Maple Leafs through 40 some odd years of futility. I am the jerk who rises early on a Sunday morning in July to watch breakfast at Wimbledon. I can tell you who won this year's Indy 500, (Dario Franchitti) this year's Kentucky Derby, (Super Saver with jockey Calvin Borel in the saddle) and this year's Masters tournament (Phil Mickelson) without the benefit of the wiki links that I have courteously provided for all of you. I can argue the merits of the Roy Halladay trade vs keeping Cliff Lee in the Phillies rotation with the most devout of baseball fan, and I can hope against all reasonable hope that Sam Bradford is the answer that the Rams have been searching for under centre since the crazy decision to cut Kurt Warner in favour of Mark Bulger. I can quote you the rules of curling and I really do understand the muddle that is free agency. I watch the NFL and NHL drafts on television. Yes, I am a fanatic in the true definition of the word. So it truly pains me to discover that there is a sport that is more than a little bit uninteresting to me. I speak of course of the "beautiful game" that is the entire world's obsession--soccer.

I realize that I am in the minority with this opinion, and believe me when I tell you all that I have really tried to like this snoozefest of a game. Every four years, this undeniably multicultural city in which I reside becomes all atwitter at the mere mention of soccer's World Cup, this year being hosted in South Africa. Work stops when various nations are at play. Construction literally comes to a standstill in this city and productivity in the towers of Bay Street grinds to a halt as everybody crowds into bars or around their computer screens. Today, Little Italy in the midtown section of Toronto was packed with rabid fans cheering on their homeland heroes. (Given the tightrope that the Italians walked for most of the game, they almost had to give many of the patrons oxygen to avoid the inevitable hyper-ventilation!) Me? I decided early on this week that I would try to once again understand why watching these unquestionably superior athletes run around a pitch playing to an uneventful 1-1 draw was the least bit exciting. Whenever I have found myself at home for these early tournament games, I have turned on the HD and tried to watch. I have yet to make it through a half, let alone a full match. I usually doze several times throughout. Waiting for a goal can be torture and the subtleties of the game are lost on me as the commentators never explain the "action". These European play-by-play guys have about as much vitality and spice as Cheez Whiz! As if that weren't bad enough, the diving and bullshit writhing on the ground in pain is enough to earn several of these players Academy Awards. If that crap were to occur with the same frequency in hockey, some guy would find himself the recipient of a well-place elbow to the jaw!

This nonsense was on the front page of the Sunday New York Post. C'MON!!! IT WAS A TIE!! Sorry-a draw. This is what passes for excitement in the biggest tournament in the world? Yesterday Germany actually broke out for 4 goals against their obviously inferior opponent and it was considered a offensive juggernaut. For some perspective?  In 6 Stanley Cup games this year the Blackhawks and Flyers combined to score 47 goals. In 11 games as of this writing, a paltry 18 goals have been scored by 22 teams thus far. I have goosebumps just thinking about the the own goals and strange bounces.

I haven't yet found the hook that billions of others around the world have evidently discovered when it comes to this game. As a true sports fan I do believe it is my obligation to try, but I am quickly running out of patience. Well, at least there is music. I am seriously thinking of taking up the vuvuzela. What do you think of that as an accompanying instrument at Rosh Hashana? Tekiyah!!!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

10 Things in 25 Years

As The Husband and I careen into the silver streak tomorrow, it got me to thinking as to what little pearls of life's philosophies I have managed to glean from this man with whom I have spent more than half of my time here on earth. It couldn't be remotely possible that 25 years have passed and all that was passed down to me was to keep the bedroom door closed during the day because the upstairs heats like a fricking microwave, and that this oversight on my part is the source of his insomnia. No. There surely has to be more than that. So, after some intense memory gymnastics and some deep soul searching, (if it is even possible to find my soul!) I present you all with 10 things I have learned from The Husband over 25 years of matrimonial bliss.

  1. Never eat at a buffet. There can be nothing worse in this germ-infested world, then hoards of people pawing over, coughing into, sneezing on, or handling what will eventually wind up on your dinner plate. The promise of big portions and an array of choices is a fallacy perpetrated on an unsuspecting public who end up paying exorbitant prices for food that cannot be eaten and is of questionable quality. Not only that, one gets to stand in line to wait for the privilege of questionable food and are obliged to serve oneself. Which leads directly into number 2.....
  2. I am too important to stand in line. Every person on this planet is given a finite amount of time to do it all. Have you ever stopped to consider how much of that time is wasted standing in line? Well, The Husband surely has and he refuses to do so whenever he can avoid it. If there is a lineup at the barbershop, the haircut waits for another time. If there is a lineup at the grocery store, the milk really wasn't all that important in the first place. Let the kids eat dry cereal. While he has most certainly taken this philosophy to extremes at times, there is value in his thinking. We do waste far too much time waiting around for others to get on with it. Our time on this earth is precious. Don't make me wait!
  3. Teaching your children to drive is the only thing that we parents are charged with doing, that we can literally die attempting. The system is set up to get us. While we should all let professionals teach them the basic rules of the road, the only way our children can possibly get enough hours behind the wheel in order to pass a road test, is to sit in the driver's seat with a licensed driver (usually a parent!) beside them. To his great credit, The Husband acted as crash test dummy in our house for both boys, as I was far too fearful and far too quick-tempered. That said, he did discover after one particularly white-knuckled ride with Older Son that death was a real possibility in these ride-alongs, and railed against a system that put all of our lives at risk.
  4. Pork makes you stupid and fish should only be seen swimming in water, not served on a dinner plate. Without even realizing that he was way ahead of the curve, The Husband was living the life of a partial vegetarian for a very long time. When people remark to me today that they cannot believe that he has given up a carnivorous lifestyle, I quietly answer that he was already half-way there. When the time came to fully veg our lives, he had already decided long ago that certain foods were not for him, so it wasn't the hardship that most believe. 
  5. If you want something done right, get the right person to do it. The Husband has never been able to figure out the science that is laundry. The one time he tried very early on in our relationship was not pretty. Suffice it to say that we both needed to purchase all new underwear. I do the laundry. I do it well and there is no argument about it, because we both want our clothes to survive the process. I am the right person for the job. This philosophy is equally applied for driveway clearing, grass mowing, eavestrough cleaning etc. If he deems that he is not the right person to carry out these tasks, he simply finds someone who is more competent. I would rather that this delegation of authority occur, than the snow pile up or the grass remain uncut because he can't or won't tackle the job.  
  6. Risk taking is a necessity in life if one wants to be truly successful. According to The Husband, the best decisions that he made in his life are the ones that came with the most risk. Since I am probably one of the riskier decisions he ever made, I would wholeheartedly have to concur. 
  7. Where one starts out is probably not where one will finish. The Husband is an electrical engineer by training and education. He never once practiced. He was on the cutting edge of computer software design and he got out just as things were starting to boom. He took a sabbatical at a young age because he wanted to volunteer his time and money for a worthwhile cause and today, he is deep in the trenches of starting a new venture that hopefully will see all of North America saturated in artisan vodka. Nobody could have predicted that path. 
  8. Passion is the key in life. If one is not passionate about job, family, recreation, or hobbies, then why do it? He has always told the boys that it didn't matter one whit what they decided to do with their lives as long as they were passionate about it. Yes, they are still searching. But there is a certain security in knowing that their father will always back them in their endeavours if he believes that they are doing what they love. 
  9. Chocolate is a food group and alcohol makes everything a bit brighter. Enough said!
  10. The Husband is without a doubt in my mind, the smartest person I have ever met. He is without peer when it comes to problem solving because he doesn't just see and anticipate several moves ahead, but because he sees the next move and knows that it is the right one. He is an out of the box thinker that is truly visionary in a world of linear and reactionary individuals. He is calm and cool when everybody else is running around screaming "the sky is falling". He rarely does anything without thought, but when the decision is finally made, he is comfortable with it and supports it with the strength of his convictions. Ok, he can be a bit passive aggressive at times and I would prefer it if sometimes he would argue at the top of his lungs so that I didn't feel so lonely in our loud discussions, but it is this very composure that I find truly masculine. He doesn't need irrationality because his intellect makes that passe. 

I am certain that The Husband might argue with a few a these points and I am even more certain that he will be embarrassed by the entire posting. That said, I couldn't possibly have allowed 25 years of marriage go by unremarked. I am simply too opinionated!  I have been truly blessed during the past 25 years with The Husband, and while it is true that I do on occasion use him for a battering ram in this space, I know that I am able to do so because of his unqualified support, love and devotion to our family. Here's to the silver, Bernie!! Meet me here for the gold!