Saturday, November 28, 2009

Suzy And The Gentleman Stud

I have to be quiet right now.

I don't want to distract the goings on here in my back yard.

I'm sitting here on my deck in the sunshine of the last Saturday in November – and it's cold.

I wouldn't be here if I had the choice.

But I'm a chaperone right now.

"But Fred, I thought your little girls are seven and eight?"

It's not my daughters – it's my beautiful and faithful black lab Suzy.

She's on a date.

The lucky boy is a two year old golden lab stud named Samson. And he's quite the looker.

He's got papers. A pedigree.

Suzy only has a smile, a wink, and a handshake from a farmer in the county for credentials.

You see, we are hoping that Suzy can have puppies.

This is the weirdest date I have ever chaperoned. There is a whole lot of bum sniffing going on – followed by this mammoth of a lab pooping all over my back yard – and peeing to mark his territory.

And Suzy, my beloved best friend is acting like a little slut. And I am encouraging it. If find myself holding Suzy still so Samson can have a better sniff – and saying horrible things to him like "See that Samson? What's that eh boy?".

But my encouragement isn't working.

This is their third "date".

They have come close a couple of times, but poor Samson, the stud extraordinaire, seems to be missing a key talent for recognizing opportunity.

Poor Suzy.

After the last two dates were over, and Samson went home, she lied in the corner of the living room and just sulked – like the girl nobody wanted to dance with.

Right now they are getting close, but they are running out of time. I would imagine that her owner's – Graham and Rene – are nearing the time to pick up Sampson and take him back home.

I sure would like to tell them the good news – but so far – the relationship between Suzy and Sampson is only a platonic one.

Best friends – but not romantic friends.

Perhaps next time Suzy should maybe work a little harder – a little make up or perfume – maybe something a little slinky to send the message.

Right now all she is wearing is her red collar. But then that is all Suzy ever wears.

Perhaps I should take Samson for a walk, and have a little man-to-man with the pup. Explain that under normal conditions I would be grateful for his gentleman-like behavior, but that this is different, and I am actually rooting him on.

I feel like a pervert out here watching.

But we have to know if the deed is done. There are financial obligations associated to a successful outcome to this transaction. There is no room for supposing – or wondering.

What if the deal were done and six weeks later Suzy had malamute pups?

I could just see the small claims court on the television for that one.

"Mr. Brill, please state the Nature of your case."

"Well your honor, we paid for lab puppies, but instead we got malamutes! We demand a refund of our stud services"

"Please elaborate", would say the dignified and honorable judge.

"We paid a sum for this dog over here you honor to do the nasty with my faithful black lab Suzy"

"That's not a malamute?" would say the honorable judge.

"Your honor, Mr. Brill paid us for a service performed by my amazingly handsome stud Samson here" would counter-point our new friends Graham and Rene.

"He still doesn't look like a malamute", would reply the honorable judge.

"The malamute lives next door", I would reply. "It would seem .."

"I think I can deduce for myself what indeed it would seem, Mr. Brill", would shout the honorable judge. "Did Samson and Suzy ever actually do 'the nasty'?" – of course the courtroom would snicker.

"We think so, your honor!", I would say.

"We don't know for sure", would say Graham.

"He doesn't look like a malamute", would say the judge. "Case dismissed!"

So I kind of have to watch.

It's almost like Samson is just too nice. He kind of wants to, but he doesn't want to give Suzy a bad reputation.

But that malamute next door can't be trusted!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Canadian Remembering American Thanksgivings Past

It's four o'clock in the morning.

I woke up about half an hour ago and couldn't go back to sleep. The TV was already on so I laid in bed and listened to a standup comic talk about how great it was to be back in Canada after living in Los Angeles for the last five years.

But they all say that, it's called playing to the crowd.

I got up and I turned on the coffee pot, and I wandered around the house and did a couple little things while the wonderful morning smell of the fresh brew permeated the upstairs.

The coffee maker usually comes on automatically at six-fifteen, which is usually fifteen minutes before the first head lifts a pillow, but this morning I couldn't wait.

When it was finished, I poured a cup, mixed it with a little sugar and cream, grabbed my laptop and came out to the garage where I have a makeshift writing area.

I couldn't sleep.

Even my faithful black lab Suzy is still sound asleep in our room by my lovely wife Darlene's side of the bed.

It's too early for Suzy.

It's Thanksgiving day … for the Americans.

Here in Canada it's just Thursday.

In a few moments I will go inside the house, wake up the girls and start the morning getting us all ready for days at school and work. And I will go into the office and take care of the normal tasks that I take care of everyday.

I might peek online to see how the Green Bay vs Detroit game is going.

When I come home tonight, we will gather at the table and have dinner and talk about our day, but it won't be Turkey, and there likely won't be any pumpkin pie. I think we have some left over lemon sponge cake my lovely wife made the nights before.

But it clearly isn't my holiday anymore.

My brother Paul and my nephew Ben drove over to Pensacola earlier this week to pick my Mom up and take her back to Baton Rouge for their holiday weekend. I understand Leigh Anne has baked a counter full of pies of all great southern varieties like Pecan and Pumpkin and Apple and even a Hershey-bar chocolate pie. They will watch football and play games and enjoy each other's company with Leigh Anne's parents across the road at their plantation like estate.

I miss them.

And I miss Thanksgiving.

As a kid growing up in Georgia, this was one of my favorite holidays. It was a four day weekend, and it meant the start of the holiday season.

It was never cold in Georgia this time of year – it just wasn't hot out anymore. It was just right.

I have my thick white woolen sweater on as I sit in the garage. The dim energy efficient light bulb just starting to warm up to a level that allows me to see.

The house would smell great all day, and through the neighborhood, the kids that didn't have to go visit somebody would gather for a game of pickup football or basketball somewhere. Football games were on a couple of the five TV stations we could pick up off the air, but we weren't sitting in the house watching a game. Why watch when you could play.

Sometime that day, Dad would gather up the tennis racquets and the huge basket of practice balls, and my brother Paul and I would go down to the tennis courts at Plantation Woods Swim and Racquet club and we would practice drills for a couple of hours. Dad would be at the net and I behind him at the baseline while Paul would be across the net at the other baseline returning the ball hard and deep to me to start the rally.

I can still smell it – the pine needles brown and brushed off the court surface – mixed with fallen leaves to give that sweet musty smell of fall.

We would spend hours down at the court like that, and it would usually end with a two set match between Paul and I while Dad sat on the court side watching, examining Paul's game while having a smoke and talking with the other members who had gathered to watch.

It was good tennis too.

Long rallies with one of trying to take the net first. If I got there first, Paul would pass me or lob me. If Paul got there first, he would volley back my pass attempts until he got one he could put away on me.

I very rarely won.

Tennis was big back then. Now it sounds odd to hear somebody talk about their love for tennis, but in the day … it was big.

Especially in Atlanta.

But we were always active. We rarely just sat around the house.

When the weather was bad, we had a pool table on one side of the two car garage, and a ping pong table on the other side. The pool table was a cheapie one my Dad got one day at a bargain price somewhere. It was never perfectly level – so you had to play the slant of the surface. And the cue sticks were from K-Mart, but still we had some good games on that old tin framed table with wood veneer pasted on it.

I have a really nice pool table now down in the family room by the fire place with a nice marble set of lights shining down on it just right. It's almost perfectly level. I play down there a lot by myself, trying to run the table break after break. My lovely wife Darlene's back won't let her bend over the table anymore to take a shot anymore – which is too bad because she was quite good and when we first moved into this house we had some great games. Now I am teaching my little girls to play, and they love it.

The ping pong table in our garage when we were kids was used more like a mini-tennis court by Paul and I. We would start the point as normal close up to the table, moving each other back another step with each shot as we started to drive the ball harder and harder – sweeping the paddle like a big tennis racket playing cross-court and slapped down the line when we have the other guy far enough to one of the corners.

Every point in every game we ever played in any of these venues always was critical and played with the utmost attention and dedication and effort and desire to win the point.

And then, at dinner time, we all got a little cleaned up, sometimes even dressing for the Turkey feast.

Thanksgiving day.

Now as I look back, I am so thankful that I have those memories. That I had my little brother Paul to battle against – my in-house biggest rival who slept in the room next to me – who tried as hard as he could to beat me – who was trying my best to beat him. The countless close matches with big moments and big points and great plays to win them.

Man I miss that.

And I miss the American Thanksgiving Day that allowed us so many of those moments.

My Canadian friends might be a little offended to me as I sit here and wax my version of poetic about the American Thanksgiving. They might even consider telling me that if I miss it so much, I should move back to the southern forty-eight states. And that's not the type of response I am trying to evoke.

It's just that when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, and the four day weekend, and the events that surround this holiday, the Americans do it better than our Canadian Sunday that comes with a day off on Monday version.

I think that's fair to say.

And I am jealous.

Because I miss American Thanksgiving very much.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

It’s Not Easy Being Green – But It Has To Be

I'll be the first to admit that I talk more about being green than I actually do.

I'll bet most of us do.

I was reading Ian Aspin's ReallyGoodThinking blog this morning - he was talking about how we have to be "Super Heros" - each and every one of us - to change the tide of the environmental changes we see happening before our eyes.

And I thought to myself - "Super Heros?, that sounds pretty hard. Good luck achieving that one!"

Clearly, with all due apologies to Kermit the frog, it's not easy being green.

I wrote a long piece here a year or so ago about developing trains that will carry cars like a ferry, and how if that were to happen – and actually catch on - the cars would evolve to be more compatible with the trains that ferry them.

But the two cars I own are gas guzzling pigs – A Chrysler 300 and a Jeep Liberty.

Why would I buy those two cars?

Because I live in the heart of North American automobile manufacturing – on both sides of the U.S. Canada border, and Chrysler (or Chryslers as we know them in Windsor) are a very big part of our local economy.

And because I got a really great deal on both.

I buy only the new style of low energy light bulbs – but only because the legislation in Ontario is that we have to use these bulbs. I actually like the old ones better – they don't need a warm up period when they turn on. If you flip the light switch they immediately come on bright – not dim like the new ones until they warm up to a point where you can see what you're doing.

I put environmentally friendly lawn care products on my lawn – but only because the province of Ontario has banned the old fashioned "good stuff".

We still use canned products like non-stick cooking sprays and such – that release fluorocarbons into the air and eat away at the o-zone.

And I will print an email or a word document or a spreadsheet so that I can take it away – digest it fully to completely understand what is being conveyed to me – and dispose of it into the office supplied shredding boxes when I'm done. If I need another copy – I print another copy when I need it.

Our washing machine uses only the "he" (high efficiency?) detergents – because that's the only type of detergent the washing machine can use – and it cleans our clothes much better than the old style one we had. And this dryer doesn't eat every button off my good dress shirts and slacks like the old one did.

I'm all for saving buttons. They're a bugger to sew back on.

Our swimming pool in the back yard re-uses most of the water it holds year after year – but we pump chlorine pucks, algaecides, and acidity equalizers into that water to keep it sparkling clear.

Who wants to swim in murky water?

One of the fellows I work with just finished installing some thirty-five or so solar panels on his roof. We were talking about it at lunch on Friday. He did the work himself and says he dumped about twenty-five grand into this project.

"I admire your conviction to do something to save the planet", I said.

"I'd love to tell you that's why I did it", said my slightly eccentric colleague. "Truth be told", he continued, "I did it for the financial return."

"Really?", I was kind of surprised, "How long before you can see a return on that twenty-five grand?"

"About six years?"

I just looked at him as he took another bite of grilled chicken.

"If I wouldn't have done the work myself, it would have taken be about fifteen years!"

I think he saw my confusion in the way my jaw dropped and my eyes bulged.

"It's not something everybody will jump up and do. I did it partially to see if I could", he explained. "It took about two years, and I cut a special hatch to my roof so I could get quick access".

"So I guess your wife has long left you then, eh?"

"No – she hasn't. She actually helped! Not voluntarily mind you!"

My eccentric friend – eccentric in the way many software programmers are eccentric – went on to continue telling me that the electricity he produces is now greater than the amount he consumes. He signed a twelve year contract with the power company – and he gets a larger check from the power company than he pays to the power company for the energy his house uses.

"All the power the panels create goes into the power grid and my house takes power from the grid just like anybody else's."

"The last time we talked, you were putting up a windmill?", I asked.

"I was, but the neighbors complained". He looked down at his plate.

They're not allowed to complain – another one of Ontario legislated green initiatives states that unless you are putting up a really big windmill, or unless your blocking a significant piece of scenery from your neighbors view, like a lake view or something – that they cannot complain.

"I didn't want the neighbors all hating me.", he said. "Besides, the maintenance to keep that turbine working efficiently enough to produce optimum power is pretty high".

Clearly, it is not easy being green.

Now, with all this being said, I know one thing to be true.

People – in general – meaning people who are not eccentric brilliant software programmers – are not going to go out of their way to be green.

People – in the manner of the common masses – will always take the path of least resistance.

The less the resistance – the better – until the clear advantage to the common masses clearly outweighs the inconvenience.

Twenty five grand for a large do-it-yourself project is not exactly the path of least resistance.

The only solar power used at my home is the blanket I put on my pool to warm up the water to a swimmable temperature in the early June and late August days. And those little garden lights that have strategically stuck in various parts of my grounds.

They both serve a convenient purpose and they do not do anything to contribute to the betterment of our environment.

Green cars either cost a ton of money – like the new hybrids and electric powered cars showing up on the market, or are so impractical for a family of four – like the smart cars by Mercedes – which look like they need to poles sticking out the front so the rickshaw pullers can help you get up enough speed to get on the expressway on-ramp.

They just don't fit yet.

I read a great book some years ago – written by an employee from IBM – in which he discussed what it took for a software program to reach "critical mass" – the point where everybody saw a feature in the program that they couldn't live without – like email of the day.

You have seen these applications emerge – the iPod to download and play your favorite music. The digital camera to take millions of high quality pictures to store on your computer and print when you need to. The various new applications on phones like texting that is quickly surpassing email as a means to communicate with friends and business colleagues.

These applications all have the same lowest common denominators. They are simple, they are convenient, they do not require a tremendous investment to use, and they are seen to make our immediate personal quality of life immediately better.

The push to be environmentally friendly has to continue to move this way. To be "green" must be convenient - and must show immediate benefit to the consumer.

It shouldn't have to be legislated by the government.

The green movement has to reach critical mass. Or – as Al Gore will quickly tell you, our planet is doomed.

Products we commonly use must become convenient and affordable to use to contribute our environmentally efficient objectives.

Currently there are some who a seen in the media as pushing the need to change our lifestyles quickly before the impacts of global warming completely change our big blue marble in horrific ways.

But their means for spreading their gospel is to guilt the masses into changing. Harping on our human flaws like our gluttonous waste of materials that demand greater landfills, or our gluttonous use of natural resources like water, clean air, and oil to serve our simple needs to get kids to soccer practice in large SUVs.

Making us feel bad won't make us change our ways.

And we don't as a broad mass of people yet fully recognize what the full extent of global warming means to us, more so to our children, or even more so to our children's children.

No matter how many power-point presentations turned into movies are presented by newly-bearded ex-presidential candidates.

We need that "What's in it for me" question to be clear – concise – and indisputable – understood by everyone!

And it has to be convenient.

The Inconvenient Truth exposed by Mr. Gore has to have a clearly convenient resolution. There has to be a resolution that everyone can adopt without sacrifice.

It's the law of achieving "critical mass".

It has to stop working against the path of least resistance, and instead start embracing that easy path.

People will go with the flow – if the flow goes where they want it to go!

I don't want to see the planet self destruct.

And I don't know how accurate the gloom and doom predictions of the environmental pundits of the day are.

But I do know that the as a whole, the human inhabitants of this planet are gluttons to the worst degree.

And gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.

Now that being said, I really have to get to work hanging our Christmas lights today before it gets any colder. It's more convenient you see to hang them now.

And I'm proud to say they are all LED lights. So I'm doing my part.

Why? Because LED lights are cheaper to buy now, cheaper to turn on every night from now 'til New Years Day, and they look nicer than the old style.

It's beneficial to me to use LED Christjmas lights.

See what I mean?

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Faithful Black Lab Suzy

Tomorrow is Suzy's second birthday.

If you are a constant reader of headstuffing, you will know Suzy as my faithful black lab who is with me almost every time I write.


Right now is no different. Suzie is curled up on an old ottoman, by my side again, with no idea that I am writing about her today.


She really isn't all that smart.


She can't read. At least not the big words.


And she really messed up my 2009 tax return. She missed a big deduction for a home improvement credit we got for some minor bathroom renovations we made in the family room.


If you have ever seen my downstairs bathroom, you would agree that the renovations are very minor. It's a very minor bathroom. Cement floor, a beautiful pedestal sink, a brand new toilet, and a curtain rod with a shower curtain on it where the shower will someday be, but where the kitty's litter box is hidden away. The walls are not even painted. Primed, but not painted. It's the guest bedrooms bathroom. It's also the bathroom we use when we are downstairs playing pool or darts.


Suzy loves that bathroom – and she loves to play in the kitty's litterbox.


She really isn't that smart.


My lovely wife Darlene is taking some offense right now, as she is convinced that Suzy is her dog, and that Suzy is more devoted to her than to me.


"Suzy me follows me around the house all day while you are work", she protests. "She is always under foot!"


"Yes, while I am at work", I reply.


"At night, when I go to bed and you stay up, Suzy comes in and sleeps with me", she counters.


Truth be told, Suzy goes to bed with my lovely wife because Darlene always gives her a treat as she climbs into bed. She keeps them in the nightstand. But as soon as Suzy hears the first snore from my lovely wife as she drifts off with her raunchy romance novel still clasped in her fingers, lights still shining brightly in the bedroom … Suzy comes back out into whatever part of the house I am in, flops down on the floor beside me a groans a "rouaughf" sound – hitting several octaves like a syrupy southern drawl - meaning I believe - in dog speak - to say "I'm bored".


Then Suzy will get up, put her head on my thigh (if I am sitting in the living room) and look at me with those great big marble black eyes – leaving me little option but to pet that sad looking face reassuring her that I love her with every fiber of my being – rubbing behind her ears and lowering my face down so she can give me a lick on the cheek.


When I come home from work at night – when the sun has gone down – I find the kids sprawled out on the couch and loveseat – watching Disney's Family Channel lineup of recycled kid shows about pre-teens who are dating and texting each other and in some cases flying around the world to be pop stars – or witches and wizards who with a flick of their eyes or wands can have anything they want – enthralling my eight and seven year old to the point of no distraction.


There is no running down the stairs to greet me and hug me and to tell me how much they miss me – instead they ask me to keep the noise down and inform me that there is no way I am changing the channel to watch important stuff like Sports Center.


My lovely wife Darlene will recognize my arrival – usually to inform the two vegetables flopped out in the living room that now their father is home and boy are they gonna get it now!


But Suzy, Suzy comes charging down those stairs to meet me at the foyer with such fever that I feel the need to help her stop before she flies through the window by the front door. She is jumping up and down and the back tail is wagging so hard that you would think I just returned from a two year stint in the armed forces and returned for a single nights leave before heading back out for my next tour of duty.


Suzy misses me when I am gone. And her first action after I acknowledge her with a hug is to find the nearest chew toy to bring to me to show how much progress she made while I was gone, and maybe I might grab it and play tug-a-war with her.


But I often don't.


I usually have to respond to my wife's request to take those little-living-room-squatting-vegetable-like daughters of mine into a room and spank some respect into them.


Well, that's the nightly request – but my action is more of a long conversation with each to find out why there mother is leaning towards murdering them.


And Suzy waits for me in the hall.


The kitties don't come rushing me. They simply remain on the windowsill or the perched on the back of a well positioned sofa watching my arrival – yawning – and looking at me as if to sarcastically say "hey – great – the fat guys home again!" - perhaps maybe because they have heard my lovely wife and daughters say it so frequently.


Suzy really makes me feel loved.


"Here he comes! – here he comes! – everybody! – here he comes! – He's Here!! - Hi! – Hi! – I'm down here!! – Look at me!!! – Yeah – here I am!! Down Here! – Oh I missed you so much!! Hi-!! I'm so glad you are here!"


Now to be fair, my lovely wife wanted a dog (as did I) and she hunted the papers for a good two months looking for just the right chocolate lab. Then one day – she found this one ad – a farmer – in the farthest point south of the province – who's hunting lab had pups.


Suzy was the runt. She stands only two-thirds the height of a standard black lab. Maybe that's why she is so loving.


When Suzy first met Darlene that fateful day when Darlene picked her out of a litter of four – Suzy brought Darlene a dead bird she found on her way from the barn to the back yard where Darlene was waiting - and was presented with the foul carcass as her introductory gift.


You should always bring your new mommy a gift. If you can't find flowers – a dead bird will do.


She really is pretty smart.


But when I first met Suzy, she cowered when I went to pet her.


She thought I was going to hit her?


My heart sank.


"She must have been beaten", I thought. I was ready to go over to that farm days later and give that farmer a piece of my mind. But then a family friend who really knows dogs explained to me that since Suzy was the only female in a barn full of male pups – and the runt to boot, that Suzy would be extremely submissive.


She ain't submissive anymore!


It's hard to believe that it was only two years ago.


And it's hard to believe that It has been a whole two years gone by.


We couldn't imagine a life without Suzy in our house.


A house without dog hair constantly clogging the vacuum cleaner. A back yard where one can walk bear foot without examining each step ahead for fear of finding puppy-mines hidden in the grass. A house where you're not constantly tripping on chewy toys or barking at the barker to stop chasing the kitties.


She really is a pain in the butt.


But it wouldn't be the same without Suzy.


It would be really lonely.


And the level of love in the house would be noticeably lower.


Regardless of who's dog Suzy is, Suzy really is a great dog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keys To Success

Times they are a changing.

Although I confess – I thought they changed a long time ago.

I stepped into the little kitchenette in my department this morning to grab a cup of office coffee.

No time to stop at Tim Horton's to grab my usual extra large double-double – office coffee would have to do.

A poster hung on the kitchen cupboard – above the microwave oven – the most prized advertising spot in the entire department.

You could announce anything and get a huge response by hanging your poster in this location – literally trapping every poor soul in the department to have to stand there and read it while the microwave slowly heats last night's left over supper comprised of stuff you didn't eat last night.

The poster was for a women's economic conference – to allow women to share insights as to how to be more successful.

"I want to be more successful too", I thought to myself as I read this poster.

At the bottom of the poster – disguised in a feminine fancy script so as not to be easily visible to the male eye – was written the single qualifying condition …

Exclusively for women!

"Hey …"

That can't be? We are now supposed to be equals, aren't we? Ever since Billy Jean King beat the snot out of that nerdy cross-dressing Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes tennis match back in the 70's? Ever since Margret Thatcher became Prime Minister of England, and Geraldine Feraldo ran for Vice President of the United States? Ever since Hillary Rodham Clinton ran for President only to get beaten by the first black man ever to run for office (bad timing or what?).

Ever since women's World Cup soccer?

Ever since Yoko Ono? And let's not forget Sarah Palin!

We were supposed to have transcended both race and gender prejudices by now. Right? The twenty first century and all that it brings?

That's why we now have metro-sexual men. Right?

I looked all over the cabinets in that tiny little kitchen for a second poster – the one for men – the one that held the date and time for the big Men's Only How To Be Successful seminar.

I couldn't find one.

I still had time waiting for the coffee to brew, and I stood there looking at the poster for women only to read. I hoped nobody would catch me – there might be a hint as to how to be successful in that poster somewhere.

Nope, I guess you have to go to the conference.

Then I started imagining what would happen if I showed up – with the twenty five dollar entrance fee – and tried to get in. Would they usher me out? Would they deny me access – access to these great keys of success that I am certain were to be delivered just the other side of that conference room door?

Would the cops come, and usher me away – take me down town? Call my wife?

I would likely have to dress in drag – a pant's suit – with reasonable shoes – something that would sing 'successful business woman'. And I could use my daughter's Hannah Montana blond Halloween wig.

But then I remembered I have a mustache and a beard now. I grow a beard most every November – and the mustache hides the scar on my upper lip – so I'm not shaving that off!

So much for going in drag.

What would they talk about?

It must be pretty juicy stuff if men aren't allowed in to hear it! I'll bet they are going to talk about how to get around the old-boy-business-networking that my dad and my dad's dad and his dad too worked so hard to set up for the last couple of millenniums. They will probably advise each other to start playing golf – and how to gain the edge in meetings by showing more cleavage – thus leaving the men in the department to babble and state wrong information – only to jump in with the right answers. They will talk about networking – and workshops – and sharing their feelings. All the while balancing teacups on their knees and munching delicately on little finger foods – and chocolates.

It's just not fair?

Then – only because our office coffee maker is nearly as slow as the elevator in our three story head office building – I started thinking about another angle. If there is no seminar for men only … then I should host one.

I could host the event in my garage. I could set my laptop on my workbench – and borrow one of those LCD projectors to shine a power point presentation up on the other wall – between the rakes, the hose wheel and the stack of old apartment size air conditioners we have moved several times but will likely never use again.

"Welcome to the Men's Only Workshop On How To Succeed More than Women" I will say, and I will show images of important women and motivate these men in my garage to believe these women are the enemy.

I will warn the men that now it is more important than ever to not be accused of sexual harassment in the workplace – because that will only play right into their hands! No dirty jokes – no off color humor. And I would suggest that from now on we refer to every female colleague as Miss.

"Why Miss Samantha – that is a very professional looking blouse you are wearing – but could you please button up the top two buttons – you are distracting me", I would say for an example.

And we would the share our feelings. "How did you feel about the Lions play last Sunday?" or "Didn't you think A-Rod had a great post season?".

After that, we would break, and retire down to my family room – where my family is not allowed – and we would play pool and shoot darts over a couple of beers – and see who could make the loudest noise come out of their body parts.

You have to play hardball these days. You can't just sit around doing a good job and think someone will notice and move you ahead in life. These women aren't sitting around. And apparently some of them in my office are looking to beat me out of the next promotion!

But imagine – if I followed through with this brilliant counter-strike of a plan – and I made up a poster to hang on the kitchen cupboard right next to the microwave – imagine the horrific complaints of a male only event being held that women could not attend – to help us men gain an advantage on those power-wielding ladies of the corporate world of today.

They would have me in front of the Manager of Human Resources explaining myself. And I would have to take some kind of a gender-sensitivity training course – probably on Sunday afternoons.

That's no good.

And it's not fair.

Finally the coffee maker had completed its task – and I poured myself a fresh cup mixed it with extra cream and sugar – when Madeline walked around the corner.

I mean Miss Madeline.

"How's the coffee, I just made it a few minutes ago?" asked Miss Madeline , with all the buttons on her blouse done up all the way.

"Pretty good!" I replied. I wasn't lying. It was actually a good cup of office coffee.

And I realized, I got it pretty good the way things are, and if I hung that poster I was dreaming up, I might not get coffee like that at the office ever again.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Family Outing To Get the H1N1 Swine Flu Shot

Well, all the leaves are down on the ground now.

And this is likely my last post of this year from the back patio deck. But it is really nice out here today. Just a little chilly.

The upside is that I can hear exactly where my faithful black lab Suzie is in the back yard – as she ruffles through the fallen brown and red ground cover of dried leaves.

So here I sit, in an old pair of sweatpants, my super-duper thick white wool sweater I usually reserve for February mornings with my windbreaker over top. And my slippers.

I look ridiculous.

The nice thing about being a married overweight man in my late forties is that I don't really care that much anymore about how I look when I go out in the back yard to have a smoke, drink a coffee, and try to write a headstuffing post.

It's not really that cold out. But I don't care.

I'm sick.

Well, not full blown laying in bed pleading with God to take me now sick – I just don't feel great.

Not since I had the H1N1 flu vaccination last Tuesday.

We all got it. All four of my little family members.

We had been talking about whether to get this shot or not for some time. You likely have been debating it too. My youngest daughter Ashley-Rae is quite susceptible to flues and lung infections – so we knew that no matter what the media was saying – we would be negligent to not get her vaccinated.

And who wants to be negligent?

Several weeks ago I had sent in yet another batch of lab samples off to the Good Doctor – in my now seemingly never-ending battle to watch my health. On Tuesday morning, a call was left on our answering machine from the Good Doctor asking me to please come in to the office to see him that afternoon.

Odd call.

So my lovely wife Darlene called me at the office to inform me.

"He wants to see you this afternoon!" she said.

"Why?"

"I don't know – but I am going with you" – my lovely Registered Nurse with twenty years of medical experience of a fine wife said – quite predictably I might add.

"What about the girls", I asked. "Who will look after them while you and I cart ourselves out to Amherstberg to see the Good Doctor?"

"They will have to come with."

Oh good grief.

We don't do family outings very well.

So I wrote a quick email to my boss that I had to leave early, packed up my stuff and headed home to pick up the family and head out into the county, all the time nervously wondering what the Good Doctor found so important that we all had to go out there on such short notice.

When we got to his little office building – the door was locked.

A few other want-to-be patients were mingling outside the door – waiting their turn to be let in. It turns out the place was packed with patients.

While we waited, the girls ran over to a nearby hill full of leaves and ran up the hill to roll down it through the leaves.

The want-to-be-patients waiting outside with us simply rolled their eyes at the fuss being made by my lovely wife and I sternly trying to inform my lovely daughters – now covered head-to-toe in crumbled leaf particles, mud, and grass stains to please come stand in line and be quiet and still.

It wasn't going to happen.

We don't do family outings very well.

They should make TV shows about families like mine with little girls who don't listen in public and say smart things back to their parents when they try to scold them in front of other people. Not like the TV family shows where the kids are quiet, well behaved, and share loving dialog as they wait in lines to do family things.

You should see how they act at a grocery store.

Finally the door opened up, and a heard of already-been-patients walked out. One was wearing a facemask.

"Oh my."

As we made our way into the waiting room – first applying heavy layers of sterilizing hand wash – we found the place was packed. All the chairs were taken, all the standing areas were being stood in – and so we remained in the hallway.

And the girls started dancing. They started dancing and twirling and spinning and bumping into people and talking back to us as we asked them not to do it anymore.

"What is going on here?"

The nurse behind the counter recognized my lovely wife whom she knows as a fellow a Registered Nurse with twenty years of medical experience, and she quickly ushered us into an empty patient examination room.

The girls hopped up the little examining table and started coloring with crayons on the paper that cover the cushions. Quickly they rolled out fresher paper to continue their own versions of masterpiece artwork on.

The nurse, a fine woman and friend of my lovely wife, simply rolled her eyes.

"Mr. Brill, we are happy to tell you that your tests came back negative and you are as healthy as a horse" said the nice nurse lady.

"Oh very good!" I answered. "But then why …"

The nice nurse lady smiled and turned to the desk, where she uncovered four needles. Darlene picked up one of the three vials adjacent to the needles.

"You have the H1N1 vaccine?"

"Yes", and she explained that the Good Doctor wanted us all to get the shot, especially Ashley-Rae who sat high on his list of little patients since she drew him a nice picture one day and he promised to hang it in the Art Gallery his wife was putting together. That and the fact that she kissed him on the cheek as a thank you.

"There is one here for each of you."

Let me explain. For the last two weeks in Windsor, the news has been full of stories about the long lines of people trying to get in to get the H1N1 vaccine. There was only one clinic held each day at a different location, and not enough vaccine to go around. Many turned away after long hours of waiting in line. Darlene and Ashley-Rae were actually turned away already at one of these clinics.

So there was a sense of relief.

But the girls panicked. They didn't expect to be getting a needle today. Ashley-Rae climbed behind the examining table to hide. Alannah went screaming over into a corner. Screaming so that all the want-to-be-patients still waiting outside the door could hear.

The nice nurse lady rolled up my lovely wife Darlene's sleeve and administered the shot in her bicep area. Then she made me take off my coat and shirt, and administered the next shot in my bicep.

"I didn't feel a thing", I said – half because I didn't, and half to calm down my panic stricken little girls.

"Me either", said my lovely wife Mommy, with eight years of Mommy experience and twenty years medical. "Are you sure you really gave us shots?".

Ashley-Rae climbed out from behind the examining table. I set her on the table and undid her shirt so the nice nurse lady could administer the shot in her little arm.

"I didn't feel it either", said seven years old Ashley-Rae – winking at me as she did so.

" I saw you winking at Daddy", said Alannah still cowering in the corner. "You're trying to trick me!"

I reached over and gently took Alannah's hand, and I set my little drama-queen eight year old daughter on the table – all the while screaming "No, No!" while not putting up any kind of fight. The nice nurse lady secured Alannah's arm, and gave her the shot.

"Hey, that didn't hurt at all?" surmised Alannah.

We all laughed, even the nice nurse lady, just like on one of those TV shows when the final scene is over and the screen is about to fade to black.

As we all gathered our stuff and walked out of the clinic office, we saw the Good Doctor leading want-to-be-patient into an examining room on the other side of the office, he looked over at us leaving and gave my lovely Registered Nurse of a wife with twenty years medical experience and eight years of Mommy experience a thumbs up sign. And he vanished into the other office and closed the door.

I could feel all the eyes of the large throng of still-waiting-want-to-be-patients staring at us loathingly. I looked at one elderly lady sitting there and whispered "sorry" to her. She smiled in that way of trying to be nice but not really accepting my apology.

As I drove my now-inoculated little family of four back to our little town on the edge of Windsor, I got thinking about the experience. Clearly my lovely wife had arranged this somehow with the Good Doctor. But I didn't want to know how. I looked over and said "Thank you".

She merely smiled back.

And back home we drove in the car, the girls fighting in the back seat complaining that "she was looking at me", and "give me back my stuffed monkey" all the way home.

We don't do family outings very well.

But it's good to not live in a sitcom.

And this H1N1 virus is a scary beast. I thought last year it was over blown. But people all around me this year are sick or out of the office not feeling well – much more so than in years past. And I bet next year it gets even scarier. Remember how they used to warn us that the antibiotics we were taking t fight the flu would one day create a super-bug? A real meanie that will be hard to kill!

Well I think those days might be here.

So I am very happy to have a wonderful lovely wife of a Registered Nurse with twenty years of medical experience and eight years of Mommy experience on my side.

Everybody laughs … and fade to black.







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