Friday, February 24, 2012


I interrupt the chronicling of my life's various jobs to say that my husband and I are dog-sitting this week.  My daughter and her boyfriend are on vacation; we offered to look after the dog.

He's a nice dog, about a year old, and very cute.  Skittish at first, he warmed up on day two and has been the soul of doggy affection since then. 

So far he has:
-terrorised and chased our two geriatric cats,
-peed on the carpet twice,
-visited the cat box buffet and smeared poop on the living room carpet,
-found a wooden puzzle and chewed several of the pieces (I'm not sure, but I think 2 pieces are missing...)
-torn the felt base off same puzzle,
-pulled my arm out of it's socket during the frequent accident-preventative walks we have taken,
-barked at the cats for being cats,
-awakened us in the night with barking at the cats (he can see them through the glass pocket-door we use to separate canine from feline),
-scratched at our bedroom door in the middle of the night,
-awakened me with clicky little footsteps, also in the middle of the night. Click click click click.... 
-found a mud puddle at the dog park and frolicked in it with gay abandon, leading the other dogs on a merry chase (and causing their owners to hate us instantly),
-pulled me off my chair at Starbucks outdoor patio, (chair as fulcrum - whoops!)
-pulled my husband off his feet on the slippery leaves in the park, (grown man comes home with wet bum)
-and repeatedly pooped at the furthest possible location from the nearest outdoor trash can causing me to carry a bag of poop for the longest possible interval.

He draws attention wherever we go, eliciting questions and squeals and baby talk:
Is it a boy or a girl - what kind of dog is it - isn't he cute - how big will he get - is he a basenji - Is he a husky - he looks like a fox - isn't he a pretty colour - how old is he - what does Shiba Inu mean - isn't he a widdy biddy cutie pidey widey - Ootchie kootchie koo. Etc.

We tried removing the cat litter box to higher ground, but one of the cats just decided to poop where the litter box USED to be, rather than adapt to the new location.  We put the litter box back and resolved to check it every 3 nano seconds in order to avert disaster.  Unfortunately I let down my guard for 1.5 nanoseconds coinciding with a recent deposit, and the dog found the fresh treasure and well, you know.
Toss, flop, rub, smear, roll, repeat.
It's a good thing I fell out of love with my mint green living room carpet long ago. Too bad I can't afford to rip it out quite yet.

On the other hand (the one on the arm not pulled out of it's socket), dogs are fun! We have experienced doggy love and affection and slobber.  We have received sticks and balls and anything else fetchable many times.  We have had 10 times more exercise than normal.  We have seen real live people walking real live dogs in our very own neighbourhood (that place we only formerly drove through.  Other people - who knew?).  We have explored the local parks and trails and greenspaces. We have had the satisfaction of knowing that beloved doggy is not stuck in a kennel for the week or shut in a crate for hours.

We have had the thrill of witnessing the barking dog chase the yowling cat between us and the wall, pulling the power cord out and nearly taking the laptop with it...

(That's my toe. Ow.)
It's been an interesting week.  And now it's snowing, just when I thought winter was over, and I have to take the dog for a walk.  I'll never take my cats for granted again.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Second Job

My second job was delivering newspapers.  My friend Sharleen and I (we were 13 in Grade 9) decided we needed money - more money than we could make babysitting.  We heard of a route coming open; a boy in Grade 8 was moving on to bigger and better things, so we decided to split the route and split the money.
It was a large route covering a lot of ground.  The boy, Ian, walked with us the first day showing us each house and explaining where people wanted their papers dropped off.  Once a month we were expected to knock on each customer's door and collect the monthly fees.  We were also supposed to try to get new subscribers, if we could.  Ian had always carried all the newspapers himself, but Sharleen and I each found our half-load quite heavy. Ugh.  'What did I get myself into?', I thought.

Once the route was ours we had to decide how two girls should do the work of one boy.  If we'd been smart, we would have split up and walked through half the route each, but we were not smart - we were gabby - so we walked the whole route together and alternated delivering papers.  Idiots!
We lived in a small town.  In the 70s not many people locked their doors at night, and certainly none did in the day time.  Most people wanted the paper on the front porch, some in the mailbox, and some through the mail slot in the front door.  One lady, however, wanted her paper delivered to her dishwasher!
Ian showed us where to open the back door, take two steps inside the kitchen, and place the newspaper on top of the portable dishwasher (one of those affairs on wheels with a faux wooden top).  We were incredulous!  We don't knock?  We walk right in?
'Yup', said Ian. 
Nearly every day the lady of that house was home, in her kitchen, and she would nod and smile as I tiptoed in and put the newspaper down. Then I backed out, pulling the door closed as I went.

Once a month, as I said, we had to collect money.  I was glad we were together for this part, since I was still a gawky-shy-nerd, despite ascension to junior high school. We also tried knocking on doors to get other people to subscribe, but the most success we had was to get one man to commit to taking the paper every second day, if we could find someone else to alternate with him.  We never did.

One day while collecting, I was bitten by, of all dogs, a dachshund.  I had stepped into the front hallway of one house, invited in by the lady while she went to get her money.  I was just standing there and her little dog leaped up and bit the meaty part of my hand at the base of my thumb.  I was much too shy to say anything, so I hid my bleeding hand from the lady and reached with my left hand to take the money.  When I got home later that day my mom was furious, and called the lady to ask if the dog's rabies shots were up to date. 
I was mortified. Of course the lady didn't know what had happened and thought my mom was crazy.  Explanations were given and the next day that lady demanded to see my hand, and then apologized when it was clear that I'd been bitten.  "Why didn't you say anything?", she said, exasperated.  I couldn't explain;  I was too embarrassed.

Another day while collecting, we saw a boy from school. This boy, Ray, had red hair, pale eyelashes that fluttered a lot, and a lisp.  I knew he was an outcast at school, and that people called him names.  I didn't really know what 'fag' meant; someone said that Ray 'liked' boys, whatever that meant. Did he want to kiss boys? (I honestly could not imagine what else was possible - those were innocent times.)
  I do remember being surprised when he opened the door, and then thinking that of course he had to live somewhere, and then I wondered about his family and if they knew that their son was called names at school. He asked us what we wanted and then rolled his eyes and went off somewhere in the house to get the money.  I heard him saying in that TONE with that LISP, that the newspaper girls were here for their money. I also remember thinking that if he didn't lisp, and roll his eyes and be so, so, WHATEVER, then people might not make fun of him.
What did I know?  Did I think he wanted to be different?  That he enjoyed being called names, being shoved in the hallway, having no friends?
I thought about Ray as I walked home.  We didn't discuss it, but I remember thinking that if he was that way in his own home, then maybe he couldn't be any other way.  He was that way everywhere at all times.  He couldn't help but be who he was, even if it meant being an outcast at school. 
Now THAT was a bit of a revelation. 
(I, on the other hand, was learning to be all sorts of different people - whatever got me the most approval in any given situation.)

I don't remember how long I lasted at that job. I know at some point the $36.00 per month, split between us, wasn't enough to keep me interested in slogging through the route 6 days a week, and that when I decided to quit, Sharleen (who had asthma, but a lot more determination than I had) decided to do the route herself.
My second job, paying $18.00 per month, taught me to budget my money, taught me to knock on stranger's doors and even go inside, taught me that dachshunds were not to be trusted, and taught me that people are what they are. Even if it hurts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My First Job

Inspired by Friko, I've decided to do a series on all the jobs I've had.  Most are normal, some a little unusual, but I bet if you think about it you've had some unusual jobs too.  This wasn't one of them, or maybe it was......

Like many girls my first paid work was babysitting.  I had it easy - my customers were the next door neighbours, and their one child was always already in his crib when I arrived to babysit.  Basically I was paid to watch TV and eat ice-cream.  Their house, unlike mine, was immaculate.  I never saw any evidence of toys - they were always picked up and put away somewhere by the time I arrived.  The little boy would sometimes wake up - I would hear a small cry, and I'd go into his room, which always seemed really warm, and he would sit or stand up in his crib and look at me.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see him in his little yellow or blue sleeper, looking at me.  He usually wasn't quite awake, and I would stay and look at him until he lay down and went back to sleep.  If he seemed to be really awake I would wind up a little musical toy that was attached to the side of the crib and he'd lie down almost immediately.  I found out later that his mom always wound up that toy when she put him to bed, so he'd been conditioned to know that it was time to sleep.  I never once changed a diaper, never held him, rocked him, or had to clean up a mess.

These neighbours had a dog, named Rua.  She was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, similar in size and breed to a pit bull.  She never intentionally did me any harm, and I felt safe having her there in the house with me, but she was so eager to be loved that if I made eye contact she would see that as a signal to jump up and put her paws on me as high as she could.  Because she was  nearly 40 pounds of sheer muscle, and I was tiny, this would knock me over, and I would be licked and stepped on nearly to death. As long as I didn't make eye contact everything was fine.  One day when I came over to babysit, Rua was sitting on a towel in the living room.  Mrs. Neighbour told me that Rua was 'in heat' and that she would have to sit on the towel all evening.  I took this to mean that Rua had her period!  Huh? I'm sure I turned 6 shades of red when I figured it out.
Whenever Rua wanted to stand up and wander away I had to tell her to go back to the towel, and good girl that she was, back she'd go, looking abashed and resigned all at once.  I wonder if she had cramps? I think that was my hardest session of babysitting at that house.

When my eyes grew tired of staring at the TV and not staring at the dog I'd go to the freezer, find the ice-cream (it was always vanilla) and root around in the cupboards for something to jazz it up with.  Invariably this was Roger's Golden Corn Syrup.  I'd pour a completely outrageous amount of the sticky stuff over the ice-cream and as it cooled it got to be kind of chewy.  I'd stuff my face with that  (thin as a rail back then I hadn't even heard of dieting), leave the dish in the sink, and go back to the TV.  At that point in my life I had not been trained to clean up after myself (and I struggle with that to this day).

The most exciting part of the evening came when the the neighbours came home.  I wore glasses to watch TV, but never in public, and never outside (though I should have - I missed a lot, and was horrible at sports when I couldn't see...).  I was embarrassed to wear those ugly things!  Anyway, Mr. neighbour knew that I would have my glasses on to watch TV and he loved to tease me, so he and his wife would park the car in the driveway and sneak up to the front door, quietly turn the key and then BURST in, to see me snatching the glasses off my face in great consternation.  'Almost caught you!' Mr. neighbour would shout.  And I would shrivel a bit more into the couch and wait to get paid.
I was horribly shy and gawky, and a late bloomer to boot. I don't think the word 'nerd' had been invented yet, but when it was I fit the bill.

The very first time these neighbours asked me to babysit I was 12 or 13.  They offered me 50 cents per hour and I countered with 35.  See? What a nerd.  I think they ended up paying me the 50 cents per hour under the guise of giving me a tip.  At the end of the evening Mr. Neighbour (after scaring the bejeepers out of me) would walk me home.  Even though my house was 15 feet away from his house he would walk me down his driveway, along the front of his lawn, along the front of my lawn, up my driveway, and right to the door.  We never cut across his lawn; other than his shoes during lawn mowing, human shoes were not allowed to touch that lawn.

My first job paid me a princely 50 cents (give or take) per hour, and taught me absolutely nothing except not to make eye contact with a bull terrier, and not to relax with my glasses on.  When it came close to time for Mr. and Mrs. Neighbour to come home I actually sat with my hands gripping the sides of the eyeglass frame, ready to whip them off at the sound of the key in the door.
When I grow old and demented, and have to go and live behind locked doors in the old folks home, the staff are going to wonder why I throw my glasses off every time they come in to change my diaper.
Speaking of diapers, since I never had to do it while babysitting, the first time I ever changed a diaper myself was the day I gave birth to my own daughter when I was 26.  The nurse showed me how.  I didn't make eye contact with her, either.