Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Driver's Bubble

           As I alluded to in my previous post I am now a regular and constant fixture on the cities’ public transportation. That’s all well and good, but today I witnessed something that made me long for the days of driving. As I was crossing the street a car pulled up to the stop sign, as I looked inside to gauge whether or not the driver would roll through or allow me to pass, I saw her singing and doing a little head bobbing. She stopped upon seeing me notice her and I couldn’t help but smile a little. Seeing this made me miss the days of the car-rock-out.
            There is something about driving along and listening to some catchy beats that I sorely miss. I think it has to do with being in that special zone, that driver’s bubble. A time when despite the fact you are surrounded by windows, you feel as though you’re alone. I always hear horror stories of long commutes to and from work, but I always enjoyed those moments (admittedly I always had relatively short drives, if I was say coming in from Surrey everyday I would probably want to ram my face through a plate glass window).
            When I was driving I always felt a certain calm, I enjoyed that time as a little me time. A few minutes when I could think about whatever and hopefully get in some solid car-dancing and it really didn’t matter what I was rocking out to. That is the great thing about a solid driving bubble rock-out. I could through down a wicked drum solo on the dashboard while listening to the Chili Peppers or belt out to the world how much of a Firework I am.
            For whatever reason as soon as I was in that little imagined world of privacy I was a rock star. Sure, every once and a while I would get busted and feel a little sheepish, but there is usually very little judgment from other motorists. And one of my favourite things to do when busted was to try and get whoever saw me to sing along. I know when I see someone having a drive-time dance party and they’re really getting into it, I’m a little jealous. I’m curious as to what they’re listening to and hardly ever think less of them, actually I usually think more – except that one time a couple months ago when I saw a guy in a honkin big pickup cranking Hootie, come on? Hootie?
            I’m not sure what it is, but there is some strange magical force that takes over when sitting behind the steering wheel. I don’t for a second think about what I’m singing or how ridiculous I might look doing the Sprinkler at a red light. But this only seems to happen in the car. I no longer drive but I still listen to music all the time. My Ipod is a steady accessory, but I rarely have a walking-down-the-street rock-out.
            I came close the other day while crossing the street at Broadway and Macdonald. I was mid crosswalk and listening to a song called Livin’ In The Future by the Boss, when the late great Clarence Clemons chimed in with a bad-ass sax solo. I had a hard time suppressing my urge to give a Michael Jackson inspired leg kick and air-sax my way across the street. If you’re familiar with the work of Clemons you’ll understand, if not I strongly suggest you give him a listen.
            I suppose there would have been nothing wrong with a little dancing in the streets, but I felt restrained. As though my actions would have been viewed as those of a spacey weirdo instead of a dope guy having a blast, which is how I think I may have been received had I been driving. Which I guess again speaks to that magic force that arises when sitting at the wheel. Strangers seem to recognize that special zone, a common bond amongst those who need a few moments of spontaneous jamming. When otherwise normal folk feel the right to be completely silly and good for them. If only there were more times when it was acceptable to cut loose and act the complete fool the world might be a better place. However, that might diminish the specialness of the driver’s bubble.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Loser Cruiser Beefs

           For the last year or so I have become a regular user of public transportation and like most people I have my gripes about the system. Now as a resident of the city of Vancouver I never have to travel very far. Because of this my complaints seldom are about the operation of the transit system. I find it very easy to get almost anywhere I need to with little or no hassle. At times it can be somewhat slow, but that is usually due to the need to take two or more different buses. This is rare as three different transfers means I must be going to some extremely remote place that I am to lazy to add 15 minutes of walking.
            My complaints almost always lean towards my distaste for the other riders and their poor bus etiquette. There are many regular occurrences that I see, but there is one in particular that happened the other day, which is why I now am writing this. You see I always try my best to take the B-line or any other express bus, as I do not like having to stop every couple of blocks. That probably stems from my long life as an automobile driver/passenger. It just makes the trip seem so slow and as anyone who knows me can attest, I’m just that much more important than the rest of the riffraff on the bus.
            Anyway, a couple days back I had to take a regular old bus as it was late at night and I was not in the mood to wait another 20 minutes for the B-line. I along with maybe 15 other people was waiting patiently and boarded at Commercial Drive. Then as so often happens two blocks away someone who just got on rang the bell to get off. Now you might ask yourself ‘isn’t that what they are supposed to do?’ and the answer would be yes, but my complaint arises from this. Why the shit are these people and their ilk waiting for ten minutes to get on a bus to take them three blocks?
            It might seem like a trivial complaint, but it really gets my goat. I’m not sure if these people are aware of it, well clearly they’re not, but I’m kind of a big deal and don’t have time to waste on stupid ritards who can’t walk three blocks. These nincompoops who are too lazy to take a short walk end up slowing the process for all of us.
            You might be wondering how I know for sure the exiting passenger got on the same stop as me. Well it is simply due to my ever-present sense of voyeurism. If I am going to stand around for several minutes waiting for the bus, I am most certainly going to scout out all those around me. Searching for possible problems, ugmos, well fitting lulu pants or possible terrorists. I like to know who is going to be on the bus with me. There is also an aspect of determining potential seat competitors. Some people like to stand, others rush for a seat, I almost always prefer the seat option as I usually take lengthy bus trips – otherwise I’d be walking. I’m a seat rusher, especially if there is say some elderly or feeble person at the same stop.
            I know that sounds horrible and it is. My motives for beating the cripples to seats are two fold. The first being that if there are indeed several seats available and I am fortunate enough to grab one early then more often or not it will put a later seat grabber in the bind of having to give up his chair for the old woman/pregnant lady/ super fatty. The second motive is that if there are only one or two seats and I grab one then I will no doubt end up having to give it up to the feebs, thereby looking like the gentlemen too all those not to brain hampered to notice my good (albeit secretly dastardly) deed.
            Another reason I really like to sit on the bus, especially on a non-express bus, is because of all those quick stop passengers. If I am going to half to endure a constant stop/start trip I’d like to sit. Maybe the most common quick stop snafu I encounter is the Clark Drive stop on the B-line. I take this bus quite a lot and almost every time there are those who wait at Commercial (the first stop) then get off at Clark (the second).
            I do make a couple small allowances for certain people. I fully am understanding of the need for a three block bus ride if you are carrying a huge load of groceries or the aforementioned pregnant lady and of course to the elderly individual who takes those small painful looking steps. You know the type, the ones who can never make it across the street before the light changes, painful to watch.
            It’s at this time of year when I find it particularly awful to be stuck on a slow moving bus. It’s always raining so nobody wants to walk, school is in session so there is a constant stream to UBC. And also due to the cold the drivers crank the heat despite everyone wearing their winter coats and rain gear, which always results in an awful mix of stuffy, damp, cramped conditions as well as the constant fear of being frottaged. I suppose I could try and learn to relax, take a Zen approach. Think of that time on the bus as a chance for quiet reflection in an otherwise loud and bustling day. Nah.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Guy Waiter

This is something that if you’re a friend of mine we may have discussed in the past. It’s something that I almost want to put into my Maligned Maneuvers category, but doesn’t quite cut it. This is more of a situation than a maneuver and the best examples occur when dining at a certain type of chain restaurant. Eateries such as Cactus Club, Earls, Milestones, Joeys, Moxies and of course The Shark Club. The situation being when you are seated in the section of the one guy waiter. I understand that this particular gripe is somewhat gender specific but I’m going make it anyway.
The main reason I don’t like getting the guy waiter is pretty obvious, I’d prefer a buxom young filly in tight clothes to bring my food and drink instead of some Brad. Lets be honest I’m not there for the quality board of fare, not that I oft frequent these establishments but when I do it’s usually with three or four of my buddies for a little chow and a lot of drinks. So having an attractive staff is a strong selling point.
On top of that, being the sophisticated young men my friends and I are it’s nice to make lewd comments amongst each other when our server is away from the table. So when we do get seated at a table by one of the bevy of hot hostesses and are informed, “Andrew will be along shortly to take your order” it’s a bit of a let down.
I think it’s also fair to say tips won’t be as much for a man as when the food is placed on the table by an attractive young woman who has to stretch out to reach the far end of the booth. It should come as no surprise that men are easily susceptible to long eyelashes and a full bust. Sure it’s a less than classy admission, but meh.
 I think this notion is probably not lost on the male servers either. Sure it isn’t a fair practice but good service being equal, I’m more likely to loosen my purse strings for a tight fitting dress than some shmuck trying to be my buddy. Oh yes, the buddy-buddy approach.
If you’re not familiar with the buddy-buddy approach, be thankful. The classic intro in this approach usually sounds something like,
“How we doin’ boys? Cool cool. Can I get you some drinks to get the night started? Alright, alright. Are you eating full meals or just some appies and drinks before hitting the town? Nice, well I’ll get those right out for you.”
Occasionally there is one final part to this approach that pushes it over the top and that is the tableside crouch. When the waiter sits down on his haunches and maybe lowers his voice to see about the night’s plans, for the purpose, I guess, of being one of the gang. The absolute capper is the rare but brutal knuckle rap on the table as he departs.
This tactic occurs, I believe, when the waiter knows he’s up against some tough critics – in a group of young men – so tries a little too hard to be friends with the customers. I have friends, evidenced by the table of fellow patrons. So I don’t need a new one, particularly one who is there to bring me my food. It’s not personal, just part of being a greazzy twenty-something.
As a final note I’ll say it’s been a while since I’ve experienced this situation, mainly because I don’t sup at these restaurants that often anymore. In part due to the vast array of quality food available in the is fair city and because when you start pushing 40 bucks after tax and tip for a couple beers and a mediocre burger, it sucks.  So considering how rare I visit these chow halls combined with the less than stellar pricing, it is particularly shitty when you get the guy waiter.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hope She Has VD

               Yesterday I found myself visiting the doctor’s office. As I am like thousands of other people I do not have a family doctor so I went to the walk-in clinic. While there I was able to witness something that is not all that uncommon to doctor’s office’s, actually not that uncommon in general, whether it be a dentist, post office, passport office or really any place that has a waiting room. So I was obviously waiting, the less than cheery receptionist told me it would be an hour or so, which was fine. I know that coming to a walk-in means waiting and I had a book, so no biggie. As the wait time dragged on I noticed several perspective patients approach the desk to check and see how much longer the wait would be. A reasonable thing to do I suppose, especially as how this clinic will allow you to leave without losing your place. So if the wait is still going to be another 45 mins, why not walk across the street for a coffee or what have you.
               Everything was going fine, the wait was a little tedious but that is to be expected, I can deal with it. What I had a harder time dealing with was the young woman who took the lengthy wait time as an affront to her person, some sort of personal attack on her precious time. I was sitting right in front of reception so I could not help but overhear/watch the entire interaction she had with the staff. Like many others before her she went up to ask how much longer the wait, but the answer she got wasn’t good enough for her. “Yeah well you said it would be an hour and it’s been an hour and a half.” The tone she chose was one of aggravated annoyance. It’s a tone I’ve heard hundreds of times from those who feel that somehow an unexpected delay to their day has been perpetrated on purpose.
               The nurse/receptionist/medical assistant responded to her with a smile and an apology and did her best to inform the patient of the remaining wait time. She said that this girl was fourth on the list, but that two of the people had already been called and not responded, so she was probably in the next two people to be called. This was still not good enough. This impatient patient again reverted to her “do you know who I am tone”.
               “What does that mean? How long will it be?”
               “Ahh there’s just one more person in front of you, so you’ll be called after them.”
               “I don’t know what that means. How long is that? Why is it taking so long? I don’t understand what you mean by two more people, how long is that?
                This exchange went back and forth for a couple minutes, with the girl demanding to know how long two other patients will be and what the receptionist meant. I had a brief internal struggle over telling the girl two more people means, “ to sit the fuck down and wait.” Luckily my small sense of politeness won that debate.
                 Like I said before the wait really wasn’t that bad for me until this girl had to be such a sucky bitch face. Maybe part of it was my general taste for her whole aura. She wore grey tights on a cold November day and not the good grey either, it was that light grey that if you saw someone in the gym wearing that colour you’d cringe. Up top was a pseudo army canvas jacket, a large loose knit scarf wrapped itself around her neck (as I imagined my hands could be) and on her head was a similarly knit toque, thrown on only halfway so that her dyed red bangs could protrude from underneath. She really had a solid hipster hobo-chic thing going. I think the main irksome factor came from the tone of voice and body language. Her head tilted to the side and her jaw slightly ajar. Not slack, but a little open with the muscles promoting the chin, her tongue slightly pushing on her lower lip resulting in an expression of shocked disbelief over this horrible injustice happening to her.
                  Realizing she was only going to have the same answers repeated to her she finally decided to return to her seat, making sure to give an insincere and sarcastic “thank you” once her back was turned and she was already several feet from the desk. A “thank you” spoken more to the room at large than the actual staff and said with enough volume so everyone knows she still has manners despite the shockingly shabby treatment she just received. After watching this display I couldn’t help but feel as though this girl would also take a discourteous tone when dealing with the pimply-faced kid working for minimum wage at the customer service desk at one store of thousands in a mega-corporation chain or flight attendants. Making sure to let them know she wasn’t happy the flight was delayed and confused by how someone who serves drinks and headphones has not yet gotten the plane off the ground.
                 So she went back to her seat and it couldn’t have been more than five minutes before she was called upon to see the doc. Again my inner sense of jerkiness took over, watching her walk into the back I couldn’t help but think to myself,
                  “I hope whatever she’s got its fatal, bitch. Whoa whoa whoa, too far Clay, too far. Hopefully its just the Herpes.”
Funny thing was she was back there for all of two minutes before she came storming back out. Not sure went wrong but if possible she seemed even more hard-done by than when she was made to wait. Her head was again tilted, with the mouth hanging slightly open, jaw forward. Only this time she added aggressive blinking to the look, not rapid blinking but really hard, pronounced blinks. Like she could blink away the unfairness she felt. Seeing that look made me feel better about my wait time, the fact that her day was so ruined took away the poor feelings she had earlier made me to feel. It was nice watching her storm out of the clinic with an expression that said,
                “I can’t believe how awful this has been and now I’m going to be late for Derrick’s show opening on German Nihilism. Not that he’ll even care, ugh, what’s with him, it seems like he just doesn’t care about anything. Fuck it, I won’t go. I just want to go home smoke from my hookah and enjoy a nice cold PBR.”
                But hopefully she just looked that way because of the Herp.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Intersection Crosswalk Interception Stop'n'Talk

In this piece of writing I would like to introduce the first of what will no doubt be many similar musings. I put them all in the category of my Most Maligned Maneuvers.

Close reading of the title of this entry should give you a pretty good idea of what it is. This particular move happens when a person “the defender” finds themselves crossing the street - best examples will occur at large intersections - about halfway across the road said pedestrian comes into contact with an acquaintance “the attacker” who for some reason feels it necessary to start a conversation. Thus creating an awkward moment in which the defender has to do some very quick decision-making.

“Do I keep this very brief, just say hi and keep moving? Do I stand in the middle of the crosswalk and create a tableau for motorists to watch? Do I backtrack to my side of the street and continue the conversation on land? Do I try for the power play and make this fool backtrack and follow me? Or do I simply snub this useless schmuck of the poorly timed gab and get on with my day?”

I think you’d agree that these are a lot of choices to be made in the short time it takes to walk across the road.

Now you might be asking yourself why I deem conversing with a friend so unpleasant. It is because in my experience such a person is usually not a very good friend, if a friend at all or even worse a Facebook friend.

This fact of pseudo friendship is what sticks in my craw the most. I, at the best of times can be described as grouchy and am not one who ever finds himself in the mood to chit-chat with a casual acquaintance.  If this person were actually a good friend of mine they would know this. So I always do my best to avoid having to talk at all or if I can get away with it even acknowledging this windbag exists and here’s how.

Thanks to technology the ability to completely ignore someone is becoming easier all the time. So for those of you like me who don’t care to waste words with some yokel in the middle of the road, I suggest always walking with an iPod or equivalent music device. This electronic shield is the first and best line of defense, it allows you to either ignore them entirely or give just a simple head bob as you pass by. It will deter all but the most insistent of twits.

Should you encounter a more persistent conversationalist and find yourself stuck in a roadway repartee there are other options. My favourite is the PowerPlay. In this maneuver you’ll have to feign interest in this schmuck and convince him/her that if the conversation is to go on it needs to take place on the safety of the sidewalk. Here is where the power move comes in. Using either sly hints or sheer will power you have to force the ‘attacker’ to turn around and return to their original side of the street.

I like this move because after ending the exchange you are free to continue on your way all the while having forced them to once again wait for the light to change. A subtle (and petty) but rewarding punishment for the inconsiderateness of an asinine exchange of pleasantries. The PowerPlay doesn’t always work and sometimes the ‘attacker’ will realize the folly in a mid-stream discussion and keep moving, which is just as good an outcome.

There is still one more scenario that is even worse than having to engage in some small talk with your crosswalk competitor. I speak of the time when you are standing on the corner waiting for the light to change and you see this person across the street and they see you. And you know that very shortly you’ll be faced with all the dilemmas described above.

In that moment you can usually see it in their eyes. A little spark of fecklessness as they quickly scan their brains for some useless banter. Should this happen there is no real escape. It’s the eye contact that was your ruin. They know you saw them, you know they saw you seeing them and they know you know they saw you seeing them. You’re hooped.

One last note in that all of this goes out the window if the person you encounter is a dear friend or say a family member. This poses an entirely different set of challenges, as it is hard for even the curmudgeonliest of us to shut down ones own mother. In that case you’ll just have to endure and hear about how the cats are doing or cousin Freddy’s trip to Mexico. Which just may be the absolute worst case of the Intersection Crosswalk Interception Stop’n’Talk.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Occupy This

            In recent weeks and particularly in recent days there has been a lot of press devoted to the OccupyVancouver movement. There have been many arguments for both sides filling up the newspaper, TV news, radio call-in shows and I can only assume the Twitterverse (I say assume because I have yet to join. The blog is enough, baby steps). Anyway, with all the coverage the movement has received I’d be remiss to not comment at all. Instead of rehashing the many pros and cons of the current riff-raff filling up the Art Gallery lawn I shall talk of a specific incident I witnessed the other day.
           A couple of days ago, as I had not yet visited the freak show, I thought I should check out the circus before it is removed. So I wandered downtown, all excited to cruise around the tent city with a critical eye and make snap judgments about all the crusty members of this so called political movement for change. And I did.
          The main conclusion I drew from my visit was that these people had no real agenda, plan or rational thought. I’m not sure how this so called 99% is going to get anything changed by sitting on the VAG steps smoking cigarettes or listening to some sort of trance music whilst spinning some ropes with lights on the end rave dance thingies.
             I did find it interesting that there was a library. It seems to me that if these unwashed ragamuffins really wanted to make some changes they might start by reading some books about the root causes of the world’s great financial/political/social ills. Or perhaps reading up on some of the new laws being debated, however briefly, in Ottawa. Or instead of protesting the civic mayoral debate, engaging in it. Not likely. I assume there aren’t a lot of voters amongst this group who doesn’t like the way the system works.
             Moving on, as none of that pertains to the incident I referred to. As I was leaving the camp, walking south on Howe, I passed four young persons heading the opposite direction, two men (boys) and two women. As I became level with the foursome one of the guys hocked a loogie on a police cruiser parked at the curb. Seeing this really bothered me, I mean really.
             When it comes down to it I don’t really mind if someone feels the need to spit on a cop car, but there was something about this fellow that made it not okay with me. It wasn’t the act of spitting that irked me, but rather the overwhelming sense that this clown really had no idea why he was doing it. I thought about stopping him to ask about his motivations, but I didn’t. Although I have a pretty good idea about his response – “because fuck the police and shit”.
              With that response I ‘d imagine you can somewhat picture the type. Both of the guys walked with the sort of waddle that only comes from pants worn not just low, but below the ass low. To the point where six inches of boxers are visible. The spitter was wearing huge sweatpants and an equally oversized hoodie. His friend had jeans and a winter coat with a large hood and what I only assume was a wife-beater and a silver chain underneath.
               The girls matched up perfectly. Both sporting a variation of dangly earrings, too much eye make-up, really light blue jeans underneath calf length black boots and a waist length winter coat that if not, certainly should have had a faux fur collar. I’m certain that if this jacket were removed one could get a large eyeful of midriff due to a too short shirt and then after passing by, some variation of thorn or butterfly tramp-stamp.
               So I guess it wasn’t really the spitting that bugged me so much as who was providing the salvia dart. To me this guy represented everything wrong about a large segment of uninformed, misguided and poorly educated young people of my generation. Often the type to have a very negative impression of the police as though they are all bad guys out to wield power to screw citizens.
              Yes it is true that there are plenty of bad cops and it does seem like there is always some story in the news about police misdeeds. That doesn’t mean the institution of police is a bad thing that needs to be spat upon. And that’s what I really wanted to ask this guy. Why do you think the police are the bad guys? Is it because they arrive at the scene of car accidents to investigate what happened? Or spend their time tracking down major drug dealers and murderers? Is it because they responded to a 911 call to a household in time to stop a man from further beating on his wife or kids?
              Or is because the concept of authority ruins your notion of how the system should work? Because your beer was poured out? Because they might move you off of public lands which you have decided to squat on and pretend you have a political agenda? Or because almost always when there is a story about the police it’s about misconduct or abuse of power? I guess that’s it. For this particular young douche bag the negatives outweigh the positives and the Po-nine are always the bad guys. So might as well discharge any excess phlegm on one of their cars, because fuck the police and shit.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It Starts

               Hello and welcome to The Clay Pen. The premier place to go to read all the wonderful, weird and wacky thoughts emanating from the mind of Clay Yen, that’s me. Posted on this blog will be all the rants, rambles and sometimes even the short stories that are constantly swirling around my head. I aim to provide a place for readers to come for the occasional laugh as well as a haven for some insightful intelligent and thought provoking material. If you’re reading this I assume these are things you crave. I make this assumption because your judgment seems to be of the utmost quality, signaled by the fact you have visited this page in the first place.