Thoughts at work: Mr Bean

So about a week back a friend comes into the bar I work at – the girl who taught me how to sling drinks properly in fact – for a sneaky bellini (in Vancouver that means an alcoholic peach slushy) and a quick chat. We hadn’t been able to talk much since she’d had to leave the restaurant (hospitality industry leads to some fucked up hours) so it was nice to catch up. Anyway, she told me a story a few stories about her recent adventures cat-sitting. Nothing crazy, mostly “I told my [family member] not to pay me so she filled the fridge with gourmet food that I have to eat before it goes bad” and the like, but one thing made me laugh.

My friend had been shopping (groceries) and had some other things that she needed to bring up to her [family member’s] apartment. Not wanting to make more than one trip (because no one ever wants to make more than one trip) she’d managed to sling all the bags and such over her shoulders until she resembled a hippopotamus waddling around on its hind legs, only to realise that she’d parked like an asshole (I’m using the North American spelling since she’s Canadian). Still within the lines but close enough to the person on her passenger side would have trouble opening their door. Like an asshole.

Now my mate, who actually tries not to be an asshole when she can, decides to move her car little to the side. Good on her. What she doesn’t want to do is put all the stuff she’s carrying down though. It took ages to load herself up and she doesn’t want to go through packing her shoulders and arms up all over again. So my friend does the only thing that makes sense at the same time. She swings the door open as wide as she can and stands half outside the car while she moves it. One hand, one foot inside the vehicle, the other foot on the street and the other hand sticking up into the air to keep a mess of shopping bags slipping off. And she got the bastard moved.

At this point in the telling of the story I’m watching her demonstrate the manoeuvre in the bar (it’s late and the place is basically empty) and I give her the best possible compliment I can think of.

“That is some Mr Bean shit right there.”

And it was, specifically reminding me of that time he bought a new chair. If you don’t know the one I’m talking about don’t worry. I got you covered.

Excuse me for four and a half minutes while I laugh my arse off (notice the proper spelling there).

Alright, I’m back.

One of the all time great role models, amiright? No, seriously. Mr Bean is great role model. I mean, I’m not gonna start suggesting you tie a sofa chair to the top of a mini and ride it home. Or blow up a paint can in order to rapidly redecorate. Or one of the many other ridiculous things that Rowan Atkinson’s incredible character has done. Seriously, don’t blow up paint cans when you want to redecorate. But if you’re looking for an example of ingenuity, determination, being able to both plan ahead and deal with crises on the fly, and – most importantly to an Aussie like me – practicality, then you can find no better.

So if I ever compare you to Mr Bean, there is a very good chance that it’s unironically one of the nicest things I could think of.

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Irrational irritations and other Unnecessary Issues (29/3/16)

So, Canadian coins are a little stupid. So are American coins, since they’re basically the same (aside from the fact that the Yanks haven’t gotten around to getting rid of the penny or the dollar bill like normal countries), but I live in Canada and use Canadian coin to give Canadian change to Canadians so this is going to be a more specific rant about Canadian currency (Canada!).

I don’t have a problem with the one and two dollar coin. Those are fine, and I’ve even gotten used to calling them loonies and toonies. They’re a good size and feel pretty substantial. Good shit. No, I’m talking about the silver. Well, technically I’m talking about the nickel-plated steel, but silver sounds so much cooler. Anyway, there are two things that piss me off in particular: size discrepancies and making change.

Size-wise I am of course talking about the nickel and dime. Why the bloody fuck is the Canadian ten cent piece so much smaller than the five cent piece? Why is the more useful, more numerous larger denomination the more inconsequential of the two? I don’t know why and, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is why you haven’t changed this Canada? Is it because they’re basically the same size as the American nickel and dimes and you’re worried that it might hurt tourism if you got your own currency Canada? Is that it? You don’t want to confuse poor American tourists? Well guess what, Americans don’t fucking care. The smart ones expect foreign-looking coinage in foreign lands and the stupid ones are too mesmerised by the fact that you have your own currency at all to care. Make your ten cent pieces bigger!

As for the second item on the list, making change, you need to ditch this whole ‘quarter’ nonsense and pick up on the Australian and New Zealand system of having a twenty and fifty cent system. Yes, I know it means printing a whole new coin (is it still printing if it’s not a note or bill, or is it called, like, stamping? Stamping new coins? Forging new coins? Can someone google this for me?) but guess what, you’ll need fewer coins in the system because shops, restaurants banks will need fewer coins in the till. Let me explain. Let’s say you need to give someone seventy cents change. Now to do that in Canada you need a minimum of four coins, two quarters and two dimes. In Australia on the other hand (with a fifty, twenty, ten and five cent piece available) you need a minimum of just two coins, a fifty and a twenty. And Australia beats or breaks even with Canadian on all but two occasions, twenty-five cents (a single quarter in Canada, a twenty and a five cent in Australia) and thirty-five cents (a quarter and a dime in Canada, a twenty, a ten and five cent in Australia). All the others are either ties or Australia wins. Need to give someone ninety cents? In Canada you need a minimum five coins, in Australia you need a minimum of three. Forty cents? Three in Canada, two in Australia. Fifty cents? Two and one. Less coin, more easily broken. Ipso facto, quarters are stupid as well.

Now, do I believe that Canada should change its money on my say-so alone? Of course I do. I’m fucking brilliant. But do your projections, work out your costs, mine your data. You’ll see I’m right, and you’ll regret not listening to me sooner. Because I’ll already be gone, back to the sunburnt land and our superior, grown-up currency!

Seriously though, loonies and toonies? Perfectly acceptable currency, very functional and I like the fact that you’ve given them nicknames. Also, thank God you got rid of the penny. Man, fuck the penny.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (15/3/16)

Yesterday was the fourteenth of March, 14.3 for most of the world but 3.14 for these arrogant North American wankers. Now I can complain long and hard about the American system of dating things, and I will at some point in the not too distant future, but this time I want to talk about something else. Y’see, thanks to the entirely irrational dating system used in North America yesterday was Pi day. Y’know, π. That number that ‘geniuses’ on TV use to prove that they’re geniuses by quoting it to the sixty-third decimal or some such bullshit, but us mere mortals usually round up to 3.14 (but never to exactly 3).

So yesterday was Pi day and that seems as good as any reason to complain about the lack of pies in Canada. The edible kind, not the numerical kind.

Well, there are pies up here in the northern hemisphere I suppose. I had pumpkin pie for the first time last Thanksgiving. It was alright, tasty enough, though it still doesn’t quite feel like it should be a dessert if you get my meaning. And other dessert pies aren’t unusual. It’s possible to get the occasional shepard’s pie floating around, made with mince that might even have come from a cow and reconstituted potato.

But I’m not talking about any of that, I’m talking about the proper Aussie meat pie. The kind that comes in a foil tin, fits in your hand and available from anywhere with a power outlet to plug in one of those mini-ovens (for keeping things warm and on display). Fuck 420, I wanna fuckin’ Four’N Twenty meat pie at that perfect temperature where the heat brings out the flavour of the beef and gravy but doesn’t burn the roof of your mouth. Mrs Mac or Sargents, drenched in tomato sauce (not ketchup, bloody tomato sauce) I wanna walk into a Vietnamese bakery (they don’t seem to have those here either, damnit) and a grab a steak and pepper pie on my way home from work, or suddenly realise that since I’m in Newtown I can sneak into a gourmet bakery and switch things up with a curry chicken or lamb and rosemary pie. I wanna goddamn meat pie. And a lamington. But mostly a goddamn meat pie.

There are a few places around that cater to the Aussie palate, but the only one that’s worth getting from a pie from is all the way up in Whistler (Peaked Pies, give it a go if you’re up there). Not surprising given the concentration of Australians up in Whistralia, but not a practical option down here in Vancouver. The other places just tasted… not good… enough? Yeah, not good enough. Like the meat was worse than the lowest grade horsemeat put into a service station pastry or the gravy tasted chalky and had the consistency of flubber or the pastry lacked the structural integrity to hold everything together or some combination of things. Just, not good enough. And still difficult to get to.

But good god I miss pies.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (2/2/16)

Jumping right into it this today, I’d like to say that one of my biggest pet peeves when I’m serving/waitering/bartending is customers who leave their shit in the way when I’m trying to put a plate down in front of them. It drives me absolutely (but still politely) mental. I’ll be approaching with three or more plates spread across my two hands, the customer will see the approach and put their phone or drink or faberge egg down in front of them, exactly where I intended to put the plate down. Then there’ll be this awkward moment where they just stare at me vacantly, waiting for me to place the food or whatever in front of them while I desperately (but still politely) try to indicate through limited body language that they need to move their phone, drink or faberge egg out of the fucking way.

Yeah, I know it would be faster if I simply asked them to move the obstacle away from the drop zone, but people always look really embarrassed when they need to actually be told they’re inconsiderate morons and that might affect my tip (not to mention there’s no challenge in just saying it out loud). More than likely though it’ll be whoever they’re dining with will notice the obstruction and be like, “Mom, move your phone,” or “For fuck’s sake dad! Put the goddamn egg away! I know you like to show it off but it’s very fragile and I doubt anyone here actually appreciates the exquisite Russian craftsmanship.” There’s an awkward laugh, maybe an apology and I thank them and (much more quietly) God because that one plate resting on the bare skin of my forearm had been sitting under the heat lamps for fucking ages and I could feel my flesh cooking and I’m extremely grateful to be able to put the bastard down and fang it back to the kitchen to run my arm under some mercifully cold water.

Thing you have to remember is that tables at most restaurants where you’re paying less than a hundred dollars a head for a main and single drink (another thirty for desert) is that they’re trying to maximise seating, so tables tend to be small. And small tables very quickly become cluttered. We do our best to keep clearing things up, and generally uncluttering, but we’re not about to start grabbing personal possessions and moving them without your permission and we’d like to minimise our contact with whatever you’re drinking out of (for your sake, as much as ours). We also don’t always have an arm free to move obstructions out of the way. So, when you see your server/waiter/foodrunner/bartender striding over with arms full of succulent morsels, do not just drop whatever you’d been distracting your hunger-ravaged mind with in the space in front of you. We need that space. Put it in your fucking pocket or handbag or whatever.

You shouldn’t have your phone out at the dinner table anyway. That’s fucking rude.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (19/1/2016)

Bloody hell, tuesday already? Almost slipped by me. Changing work schedules have messed up what day of the week I think it is. Anyway. I wanna have a quick chat to you all about skateboarders.

Now, I have nothing against most skateboarders. I’ve known and been friends with a lot of skateboarders over the years I’ve been kicking around this planet. I have a lot of respect for a talented skateboarder, with their ollies and kick-flips and well-tuned senses of balance. Hell, I respect untalented skateboarders even more. Falling off a skateboard can be a hilarious affair for everyone else and anyone willing to still climb back onto that narrow piece of plywood (or whatever skateboards are made out of) after a plummet deserves a nod. What grinds me the wrong way, however, is people who simply must travel any distance, no matter how short, on their board. I mean, after a while it just becomes unpractical.

Case in point, a couple of nights ago I was getting off the skytrain (still the most pretentious name for a public transport system around) and there was this kid who got off at the same station, from the same carriage, using the same door as me. A kid with a skateboard. A kid who promptly dropped his skateboard to the ground and rolled on it over to the stairs down to the street, a distance of roughly three metres. No, really, three metres, maybe three and a half, at a painfully slow pace made slower by the fifteen or so people who’d climbed off the train with us and were also converging on the stairs. I was halfway down the stairs by the time the kid managed to pick up his board and start his own descent. And I couldn’t help but think, “why didn’t you just fuckin’ walk it?”

And I get that if you love doing something you want to do it whenever humanly possible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You don’t see cyclists riding their bikes up and down the platforms (well, I did once, but he more just stood on one of the side pedals and pushed). Just because someone can parkour their way down the side of the building doesn’t mean that they don’t occasionally use the stairs. And sometimes just because you’ve got your skateboard handy doesn’t mean you have to use it. Fucking walk it.

And with that, I’ll take my leave. Have a good week everyone.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (8/12/2015)

So it’s December in Vancouver (and the rest of the world that uses the Gregorian Calendar for that matter) and apparently that means rain. Quite a bit of it in fact. Funnily enough I’d be willing to make the claim that it’s a bit similar in Australia, except the rain would be part of a tropical storm in the worst cases and a spectacular thunderstorm after a scorcher of a day in the best. Vancouver doesn’t seem to get thunderstorms. I miss them quite a lot. Ah well, not here to talk about thunderstorms. No, umbrellas are the topic today.

More accurately people who use umbrellas but have the spacial awareness of a three year old driving a ute (pick-up truck for my non-Aussie readers). Y’know, the kind of people who just don’t seem to give a shit exactly where they’re swinging their temporary shelters, and the potentially eye-taking spikes that hold the whole thing together, making you wish they handed out goggles (“they do nothing”) whenever you left cover and turning a walk down the street into a Matrix scene where you’re performing amazing contortions in order to avoid these people’s twirling hexagons of doom. In slow motion of course.

And getting past these people is no easy feat. Unsurprisingly the kind people who have no idea where their umbrellas are swinging are also the kind of people who have two speeds: so slow they couldn’t even get next door in any time-frame that could be referred to as “soon”; and stationary. So staying behind them is never an option for us busy, go-getting millennials. But try and overtake them at your peril, because they always seem to choose the moment you’re right beside them to suddenly veer towards you while laughing raucously, sending the sharpest point of the six or seven they’re carrying into your unprotected ear. Your poor, soft, fragile ear. The bastards.

And don’t expect it to be any safer when their umbrellas are down. No, that simply means there’s more power behind their thrust and swing. If it’s a long umbrella, probably gives them more reach as well. And since they’re not limited by the need to keep the thin synthetic membrane stretched across four to nine spears between them and the rain, they have much more freedom to include their umbrella in grand expressive movements that are a danger to everyone within two metres. No, you’re never safe from these people, not as long as they’re permitted to carry such deadly instruments.

Now, I know these aren’t bad people. Simply unaware. And some people have a valid excuse, they’re tired or sick or thought they were in fact carrying rather large novelty candy canes. But please, when you’ve got your umbrella up this season try and be a bit more aware of the people around you. Try not to stab anyone in their poor, fragile ears.

Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (24/11/15)

Evening all. Or afternoon. Or morning. Whatever time I post this/you read this. How we all doing? Bloody cold over here. Really bloody cold. Not as cold as a lot of other places in Canada, but still lower than what I’m used to.

So, something I’ve noticed as more and more people are wearing hats to stave off the cold, is the number of people who don’t take them off. Fedora, snapback, tuke (that’s “beanie” in Canadia, aren’t they kookie?), stetson, flatcap, whatever. People wearing hats will enter a restaurant, a bar, someone’s home, a police station, whatever, sit down at a dinner table, bar top, warm rug in front of the fire, interrogation table, whatever, and not remove whatever headgear they happen to be wearing. And this annoys me.

Like, when did this stop being impolite? Was this ever impolite? I was always taught that it was impolite to wear your hat at any indoor table. You sit down, you pull it off. Shit, you go indoors you pull it off. Sign of respect and all that. I’m not sure exactly why, probably something Biblically related (I wonder if a monk’s tonsure runs in the same vein) or to show weakness. “I have pulled off my helmet because I trust that you will not bash my skull in while we are having tea” or something. Maybe it was an insult if you left your hat on, like saying “you can’t even heat your fucking castle properly so I have to keep my hat on, you pathetic excuse for a host. And the tea fucking sucked! I asked for Earl Grey, not Green! That is a completely different type of tea!” I really should search for the origins of taking your hat off indoors. Point is though that I was taught that if you aren’t eating or drinking or discussing the political ramifications of whether or not Her Majesty’s heirs are tea or coffee drinkers over a beer outside, in the blazing Australian sun (that’s about to turn into a blazing Australian thunderstorm), then you take off your goddamn hat. Allowances are also made for when you’ve been skiing for hours and it’s almost as cold inside as out.

But people don’t do that. They leave their hats on. At first I thought to myself that this was a Canadian thing. But then I trawled through my memories and realised that, no, I’ve known plenty of Aussies and others who left their hats on when they shouldn’t have. I’ve just noticed it more often now that I’m working in an industry where I see dozens of people sitting down to eat a day. And I’ve realised that people don’t take their hats off.

Maybe I was just taught wrong. Maybe I’m a focusing to hard on an Anglo-Judeo-Christian perspective on manners. But you know what, I’m still gonna pull my fucking hat off. Because it’s polite. Am I fuckin’ right, or am I fuckin’ right?