The Old Man And I

Do you need a laugh? Maybe a little creep-out?

I had a nervous uncomfortbale laugh and then immediately washed my hand five times.

This evening I stayed again at the hotel instead of going out, which meant I was dining alone.

My Waiter (I really should get his name), gave me the option of sitting in a back corner tonight, thank you! As it is getting close to the end of my trip I decided I might as well go all out and try 3 of the 5 courses available on almost every Italian menu. How does anyone stay thin? I ordered an Appetizer, First Course and Dessert with a coffee.

I managed through the Appetizer and the First Course when two older gentlemen entered the dinning room and sat at the table beside mine. They were sharing a news paper and seemed to be discussing it’s contents.

My Dessert arrived and as I finished up reading an email, noticed out of the corner of my eye one of the old men getting up from his seat and making his way towards me.

He arrived at my table and asked “Are you Italian”, in what seemed like Italian. I shook my head no. That pleased him and he continued by listing off a bunch of languages I might possibly speak, “French, English etc.”. I stopped him and responded “English and some French.”

Ahhhh, and he reached down for my hand, picked my left hand off the table. His the palm of his old hand was fleshy, soft and warm, the top of his hand was veined, hairy and rough. He raised our hands together and kissed the back of my hand and I pulled my hand back.

He pointed to my waiting dessert and asked in French, “Is it good?”

“I Haven’t tried yet,” and I took my spoon and a small bite and gave him the thumbs up. He was pleased and asked me to point out which dessert it was on his Italian language menu.

Before he left my table he took my hand a second time, held it slighly longer than the first, kissed it again, looked into my eyes to said Ciao.  

I looked away. Uncomfortable.

I am slightly frazzled, but I have this and I focused on my dessert and my coffee.

The wait staff dropped off a dish of complimentary biscuits on my table. I ignore the biscuits, how do they do this? Pre-appetizer rolls, sliced dried baguette, three course meal AND Biscuits! 

The old man noticed and again got up from his table. He asked if I minded if he had my biscuits. He didn’t try to take my hand, I didn’t look at him and I gestured “Go ahead”.

I am completely involved in my email, but I noticed movement to my left and I took a little sideways peak over. He was sitting, staring at me, jiggling his legs giving me the impression was waiting for an opening, a reason to pop back over to my table. I went back to my email and focused, focused on not looking up. I felt trapped. I desperately wanted to leave the room but I feared he’d follow me, so it became a little game of whom can out-sit whom!

He managed to stand up. He waited. I did not look up but I could sense the movement as he made his way back to my table. I cringed. He leaned in much closer than before and in his broken French he asked me, “Do you want to have breakfast with me tomorrow.”

I wished desperately for my invisibility cloak.

I shook my head no and said, “That will not work for me.”

He is not detterred and repeats in earnest his question, “Will yo have beakfast with me tomorrow.”

I shook my head no, more vigorously than before.

He is an old man, he’s been told no many times, he isn’t going to give up and he tried a new route, “Give me your hotel room number and I will call you.”

MY HOTEL ROOM NUMBER AND HE WILL CALL ME! I wanted to die.

This time I left out the shaking of my head and the verbal no’s and I pulled out my arm gesture that I’ve picked up while being in Italy. The arm gesture that gets in your face and is the ultimate go the F*ck away. I had tried the nice Canadian approach and it clearly did not work.

I pulled my right arm up from my lap and I shook it firmly from side to side in front of his bent over nose.

He knows I am not Italian and doesn’t believe my agressive arm gesture and he simply said, “What time are you planning to have breakfast.”

I ignored him. I was out of material and he shrugged and left the dinning room.

I am ready to come home thanks.

The Waiter And I

It’s day 8, the city away from the tourist core is alive with city culture, groups of friends and food which reminds me of home. Finding a little restaurant on a side street that is playing 90’s hits and churning out dinners to write home about. I love that part of Milano, but I miss my people, I miss my home, I miss my coffee shop and I miss my dojang.

Tonight I stayed in the hotel to dine and broke down and ordered the Burger off the dining room menu, comfort food. The hotel dining room was quiet with a few fellow guests and for the first time in 8 days I found myself dinning Milano time – fashionably late, after 8pm.

The waiter has been here all week. Maybe he sleeps in the hotel? I can’t escape him. He servers me breakfast, I see him flitting around at lunch and he is always there in the evening. They know my last name and my room number. I enter the room, they nod, circle my name on their list of hotel guests and I find myself a seat.

I won’t lie, that’s a nice feeling. They know who I am or at least HE knows who I am.

He’s been watching me and I take blame for accidentally initiating it the first night I arrived.

Not hungry after my flight I decided to do some grocery shopping and picked up fruit, granola, yogurt and other easy snacks for my room. It wasn’t until I was settled into my room when I realized ‘how was I exactly planning on eating the yogurt?’

I showed up in his dining room well after closing time asking for a spoon. He looked at my quizzically, walked over to his sidebar, opened the drawer and pulled out a serving spoon.

“This?” he asked in uncomfortable, broken English.

I gave a little laugh wondering why he would choose to pull out a serving spoon of all spoons, why would anyone want a serving spoon? He was confused. I was confused. He looked at me then back at the spoon in his hand, ‘I’d asked for a spoon, what was the problem?’

Desperately wanting to eat my yogurt and feeling panicked I reached out, “Yes, perfect” and I took the serving spoon and immediately thanked him in Spanish, “gracias”.

Right there I made my impression. Who was this bizarre North American entering his dining room at 10:30 in the evening, asking for a spoon, laughing, accepting a serving spoon and thanking him in Spanish!

And so it began. Standing at the elevator bank, mindlessly playing on my phone, waiting, I’d get the feeling of being watched and instinctively I’d look to my right. There he’d be, far off in his dining room, sporting a most serious face, his dark rimmed eyes boring into me.

I’d shiver, was I in trouble for borrowing the serving spoon?

I’d imagine him thinking, “What is that girl doing with the spoon? Something sinister?” Followed by him requesting the cleaning staff check my room while I was out.

The elevator doors would open and I’d dash into safety.

Yes he was my server tonight and as expected he was watching me, not out of the corner of his eye, he was looking at me squarely. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do with his seriousness. It was freaking me out. If you know me at all, I prepared myself to do what I most often do when I feel uncomfortable….I prepared myself to crack a lame joke in hopes that I’d get an eye-roll, an annoyed smirk and then he’d leave me alone. From experience it works and it was a good plan.

What I wasn’t prepared for is to be one upped by an seemingly super serious Italian waiter.

“Can you put it on my room please,” I asked after I finished my meal and then for good measure added my last name as he was walking away from me.

He stopped, turned slightly, a hint of a smile on his face and he said in his broken uncomfortable English that made it difficult to understand, “You are the boss then!” And his hint of a smile went to a full-on smile, I could see his teeth.

He just cracked a joke!! A lame joke!! Maybe he’d been preparing it all week and he finally had his chance!! I should be so proud, but unprepared to be outdone I replied in the most serious businesslike voice that I can muster, “No, not the boss.”

Immediately I saw my mistake as his face went from beaming to ultimate disappointment as he quietly acknowledged that I didn’t think he was funny. Not wanting to disappoint the waiter who had lent me one of his many serving spoons and who had spent the last 8 days glaring at me, I smiled broadly and quickly recovered, “Oh but I pretend to be the boss.”

This pleased him and off he disappeared behind his counter, giant smile on his face.

The Italian man had made a joke!

I am good to come home now.

P.S. Over the next few days when I catch him glaring at me with his serious face and piercing eyes, I am going to imagine him thinking up his next lame English joke. So pleased ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh Germany

imageI forgot how much I enjoy Germany.ย  If this was my final destination I’d be excited.

I even wore my gazelles, so they don’t hate me for my Nike and UA gear. Sorry in advance.

But what is so intriguing about Germany?

They are stoic and it amuses me. I tried, I couldn’t keep a straight face.

There is just something when people are so serious that their face might crack if they smile, I can’t help myself and when they smile back it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s a small triumph when I get a smile, a wink, a “have a happy Easter”, out from underneath the quiet sterness.

Now, I am curious is this advertised book about smiling and immediately facing disaster? Because if so, that might explain my life!

I am kidding,ย  half kidding, no I am fully committed to having just made a joke โ˜บ

The Gear

  Yes I did, and maybe I will.  

This trip feels really bitter-sweet for a few reasons, some work, some personal and I’ve been struggling to get excited about it.

Milano. Come on! I know right?  Well wrong. From having to pack, yuck, to realizing my curated schedule is going to be dramatically disrupted to missing my hour long morning commute when I get to think – I am working on getting  excited. 

So in my attempt to make things a little more “normal” while I am away I googled and found the highest-star rating Muay Thai gym I could find close to my hotel.  Awesome.

Emmanuel is on the ball.  He replied sometime at 2am his time to welcome me to his club.  And then it started sinking in.  I was what?  Going to randomly show up at some gym where I don’t speak the language and from the photos on their website, they are serious.  Never mind that this is the first time in the country, being sent by work to an office where I am not so sure they know what to do with me when I arrive.  

Let’s add on some more unknowns while I am at it and commit to meeting a group of what looks like a hard-core Muay Thai group.  

And so I spent the better part of the day Saturday and all morning Sunday stressing about whether to pack my gear.  If I don’t pack my gear I don’t need to show up.  If I pack my gear, I might be lugging it around three airports for no reason.  

If I don’t take it, I might be royally disappointed and be getting ansty for my flight home.

In the end I packed the gear.  Emmanuel, I am one step closer to setting foot in the gym you proudly call your own.  

And now it begins again, should I have brought my shin guards, my chest guard, what about a mouth guard? Am I still going to have teeth in April!

If it was linear, it wouldn’t be my life ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunday Coffee

An afternoon at the coffee shop while procrastinating on my future is helping me….procrastinate.

There is a couple on a first date. They sound as though they are both on interviews. Each taking their turn talking about the “year’s” they’ve spent honing their professional crafts. They are maybe 30 so I wonder how they’d describe these same stories in 10, 20 years from now. These young adults are our future.

What does life do to us? Experience shapes how we tell a same story from one decade to the next.

What was funny, or smart, or classy or important in our 20’s, isn’t so funny, smart or classy and important in our 30’s and as I imagine our 40’s, 50’s or 60’s – I have yet to arrive!

We mimic. We observe. We try on other people’s stories. We jump into life and we learn. Our beliefs sometimes shift or become more entrenched.

We learn to take ourselves a little less seriously.

Life is good.

Coffee is great ๐Ÿ™‚

On Packing

 
 It’s almost time. I’ve begun digging through my closet, making myself a list to pack the perfect away-bag.

I didn’t call the tailor to follow-up on the pants. I haven’t even picked out fabric! Way behind and I am resigned to piecing together a work appropriate wardrobe with what I own.

I like dressing up.

What I don’t enjoy is hauling around 10 pairs of shoes to fit 10 different outfits. I exaggerate however when attempting to pack for in-cabin luggage, space becomes a premium. Shoes become the first thing to get cut from the bag and hence my burning desire for well tailored pants that keep their shape and only require one pair of shoes.

My room becomes a war zone of shoes, boots and clothes strewn about.

In between trying things on, humming and hawing I distract myself with reading the news. Then I decide to dig up my small bills of foreign currency. You know, 1’s, 2’s and 5’s for tipping and paying road tolls.

Ah, my passport. Let me have a look at all the entry stamps I’ve received so far…Munich, Barbados…the list goes on and I smile at the memories. Maybe I’ll do a day trip to Salzburg, a jaunt down memory lane.

Then I flip to the picture page.

Oh, ha, I had a cold, my nose is red, my hair messy. Bah.

Then I look at the issue date….then the expiry date….

Suddenly my anxiety over my wardrobe, the lack of fancy tailored pants is replaced by sheer panic…it expires in less than 25 days!

I check this website, that website, I fill out my replacement passport form.

I convince myself I am going to be ok.

And I will be ok the moment I am holding my new passport, where as a reminder of my neglect I’ll continue to be sporting messy albeit unwashed hair for 10 years.

Post-Valentine’s Day 2016

“Puberty destroys Valentine’s Day.” Unknown man said to the barista. “I’d rather be single than be in a bad relationship. And I think most people if they thought about it would prefer that too.” He continued, “When we are mature and we find someone is nice but we realize that there isn’t a connection, we then can make the decision to be friends instead.”

Amen to that, unshaven, dishevelled man who clearly lives on his own. And I mean that in the most endearing manner. The same could be said for me, in my high top kicks, flannel shirt, and 5 year old faded jeans. I can’t remember if I washed my face this morning. A-T-T-R-A-C-T-I-V-E!

I was struggling to focus on reading my book, the conversation behind me diverted towards the philosophy of changing political beliefs, “Often time as people age they become more right-wing rather than changing their beliefs from right-wing to left-wing.”

I nod to myself, according toย Pew Research, the older generation today in the US is certainly more conservative on the extreme.

But not to get political, that was the start to my Valentine’s Day 2016. I can pretend to dislike Valentine’s Day but the fact is I rather like it. It is the one day out of the year that complete strangers are compelled to talk to one another about their beliefs on love and relationships and … politics.

There is that undertone of love gone wrong, a memory of a past relationship not quite reconciled, a little baggage here and there and it’s ok to share in riddles.

We are connected through our experience of pain?

I’ve yet to overhear complete strangers on Valentine’s Day discuss relationship stories of great love and gain.

But perhaps I simply need a new coffee shop! ๐Ÿ™‚

The Cannonball

I’ve been in my job a year, it feels like it’s been 5. Work is good and I’ve managed to avoid the 15% per month work travel that was part of my contract. I didn’t think I’d get so excited about not traveling, but I managed to find things to do, like see my family more often, join a dojang and a running group and become addicted to all three.

I built a routine. Something I hadn’t done ever and you know what, those feel-good books are right. Routine is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and oddly grounding :-P. It’s a breakthrough perhaps only for me and +30 years late but there is no time like today.

So I escaped work travel and I was sad about that, but now that 15% travel in my contract is coming at me full force, “You missed a whole year of work travel so we are bumping your travel up to 90% for this year. How d’ya like us now!”

Ok so they didn’t really say that to me and it’s not 90% but for now there is a “plan” where I’ll have to be packed for 5 weeks straight.

That concerns me slightly – WHAT DO I PACK!

A uniform, I’ve decided. Black dress pants and fitted dress shirts. Boring and functional.

And that is how I ended up on Queen Street East.

After a futile shopping experience where the kids in the Retail shops ignored me and what I did try on just didn’t fit, I resorted to the Internet.

Tailored clothes!

Ok so it feels a little like I am back in the 30’s but I’ve also done my research and the price difference that I am paying between something off the rack that sags in the wrong spots, that will to rub to shiny within months and something that is fitted to me and will last year’s, is minimal.

What has The Cannonball Coffee and Bar have to do with Tailored pants?

Nothing really except it is a Toronto GEM and happens to be just down the street from the Tailor. It has great music, the yummiest breakfast bagels (served after 5pm even!!) I have ever tried, plus their coffee is pretty good.

And the only reason I am here is because work asked me to travel, I need pants, I found a tailor and am enjoying an impromptu evening at one of my favourite coffee house’s in the city.

The Book Club

Where do I start. At the end perhaps.

I was walking quickly towards my car. Down the one way street.

The man standing on the patio, smoking his cigarette called out to me, “You look cold.”

“Yes, I am but I suppose it’s winter!”

“True,” he responded and I kept on marching.

I was shivering, I was cold even though my feet continued to sweat from being in my boots and indoors for two hours, having participated in a book club.

I can’t quite say I actively participated. I participated to the point of laughing when things were funny, shared small talk with the person on my right and on my left, when appropriate (only pre-book club, during break and post-book club) and typed tidbits on my iPad.

I was the only one typing and I am sure that was obvious. I noticed other people jotting things down in their note pads, but no typing. Just me. Typing, smiling, laughing, sometimes looking serious (or at least in my head I was serious) and enjoying my time in a circle full of strangers.

Strange. I know.

The discussion around the book was lively with many different ideas and insights shared. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the group. This is not a “group think” club. At times it was so academically informed that I was having difficulty keeping up with the concepts that, thankfully, were then followed by light-hearted jokes.

And real funny jokes. I always got the jokes!

I arrived a few minutes early. There was a small group of people waiting outside of the auditorium. The librarian was rustling with the keys, finding the one that fit the lock to open the door. Inside the room I sat down on a chair in the circle and willed myself NOT to pull out my phone. The point of a book club is to be social, no place for my phone. It felt awkward (really, I know) so I rationalized with myself that my iPad would be acceptable – I needed access to Google Books in any event!

The man two seats away leaned over towards me.

“DId you read the book?”

“Part of it,” I replied

“It didn’t like the book. I don’t know who picked this book. Look how big it is,” and he pointed to another book club member who had brought along a library copy.

I nodded towards him not sure what to say to keep the conversation going, but no worry, he continued, “They could have at least picked a book about relationships and marriage. EVERYONE likes reading about THAT,” he emphasized.

I didn’t know how to respond. I clammed up. Of course everyone likes talking about relationships and I imagined in my head what the next bits of conversation would be like and I shyly turned away to my open iPad. All of a sudden I couldn’t bring myself to be social.

Shortly after a second gentleman arrived and sat between us. It didn’t take long before the two strangers were talking up a storm.

“There is a woman I know,” the first man was saying, “She met a Canadian man and moved to Canada. She’s a widow now.”

“Oh yes,” replied the second gentleman

“I can, you know, set up a date for you but she’s older,” and then he stated her age.

The second gentleman nodded and I didn’t catch his reply but I’d like to think he said yes to a set-up to the man who likes talking about relationships and marriage!

๐Ÿ™‚

Favourite lines of the night:

  1. “Life is random.”
  2. “We tend to blow things out of proportion.”
  3. “If you want to be happy, join a book club don’t buy a fancy car.”

I enjoyed my night and recommend joining a book club even if only to be a smiling typist.

In The Eyes

I joined a MeetUp Group this past December. This is the 3rd or 4th MeetUp Group I’ve joined but only the 2nd one where I am likely to show up to one of their outings. I admit the groups I’ve joined tend to be a little nerdy and one in particular had some full-on nerd humour in the comments section about the planned events.

“I am busy but I totally want to be there, can you move the event to another evening.” Followed by a reply “If you know how to program, create a clone object of yourself.” Doubting, “Will the object inherit the knowledge?” Reassurance, “Of course if you make an exact copy and you can merge the two so you can consolidate learning from both sources.”

Funny? Eye-roll. It’s funny.

And if I had of been able to make the event, I would have been the creep at the back of a room of 200 people, grinning broadly, being amused to exhaustion.

I missed the event, sadly, but this next event I am going to make. It’s not about data or programming and from the comments section, its going to be much more serious.

This time it’s a book club. Not a “regular” book club. Like the one’s where people show up to a house, 7, 8 people trickle in with food in their hands, no books in sight. This is a bona-fide book club. They have rules. Rules on how long you are able to verbally express your thoughts regarding the book along with other general behaviour do’s and don’ts.

I can do this and the book is intriguing, interesting even.

The book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” discuses how our brains use two distinct functions to process tasks. Fast processes and slow processes, just as the title suggests.

What I have learned up to chapter two is that tasks that require slow thinking are “pupil dilating” and they take more effort to perform. Tasks so demanding that “In the first 5 seconds, the pupil dilates by about 50% of its original area and heart rate increases by about 7 beats per minute. This is as hard as people can workโ€”they give up if more is asked of them.”

Seriously.

So when that person, with whom you are interacting, pupils dilate to 50% of their original size and their heart-rate increases during a slow thinking task, requiring effort, they are on the verge of having given up.

I’ve about given up on this blog post.