I'm not your bitch, don't hang your shit on me.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

Whether being sung by LaBelle, or a quartet of whorish-looking 20-somethings, those lyrics are understood by everyone, even if they are in French.

Unfortunately, not many people know more words or phrases in that language. Sure, they can say Bonjour, or S'il vous plait, in badly-accented English, but it doesn't mean they know what they're saying.

And, as a reminder, the term french fries doesn't count.

With Canada being a bi-lingual (or multi-lingual, depending on where you live) country, I am fortunate enough to know both official languages. Spoken and written. Many years of schooling has prepared me for badly-dubbed, foreign films and the occasional back-handed comment about my hair and clothes.

This knowledge is both a gift and a curse, depending on personal perspective. Personally, I am on the fence.

Being employed in an environment where no one speaks French (let alone, a modicum of English), you're the one who has to deal with the francophone population. Fine. No problem. Glad to be of service. Only these French people happen to work for the media.

Just like the anglophone media, the francophone media can be either friendly because you want to speak specifically to them, or pissy because you're bothering them at the most inopportune time - which is, apparently, always.

There is a particular method that I employ when doing my calls. Some media outlets are very particular on how you approach them; Francophone outlets, especially. It's a provincial thing.

"Est-ce qu'il y a un person qui peut m'assister en anglais?" Always start in their language to respect their cultural heritage.

"Mais oui. 'Ow can I 'elp you…?"

On a subjective level, I see their point of view. If someone phones me, and speaks in their native tongue, I feel like it's my duty to bow to their culture. Customs. They called me, not the other way around. Thankfully, I am able to respond (in several languages) - Steven, the human Berlitz course.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about my co-workers. They would not know how to handle the language barriers in London... Ontario.

While I am on the other line, the phone rings, and someone else picks it up. There are murmurs and a distinct, "Uh, ok, you want to speak to Steven?" with the emphasis on Steven.

The sounds of squeaks and footsteps precede C’s appearance by my desk.

“There’s someone on the phone for you. I don’t know what they’re saying, but I think it’s French.” Shocking! I’m surprised he even knows how to use the phone.

”Bonjour, c’est Steven,” I say in a slightly lilted accent, when I bring the handset to my ear.

”Ah, oui, bonjour! Vous m’a telephoné à quelques minutes. Je suis Marie…” Aren’t they all named Marie?

”Oui, oui. Merci de me rappeller. Mais, si tu veux, puis-je parler en anglais? C’est la meilleur manière que je sais choisir les mots correctes. Plus clair. Is that ok?”

”Ok. Ce n’est pas une problème.”

Surprisingly, the rest of the conversation is a mixture of both langues. A few words of French are interspersed within the English ones. Overall, the chat has a light and breezy quality to it. Very cosmopolitan. Very French.

“Merci pour votre assistance. Bonne journée,” I say at the end of our talk.

”Pas de problème. Au revoir.” Click.

Knowing that I can improve on these dextrous language skills with a more knowledgeable person is good for my ego because they can lead you in the right direction, no matter if you can hear them giggling in the background when you over-roll your r’s on certain words.

What is also impressive is that I can insult any one of my co-workers while on the phone without them knowing it. Jokes are funny in any language. No one cares if you mispronounce a word or colloquial term.

"Je ne desirais pas coucher avec toi. J'ai mal dans la tete..."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Don't let the door slam your ass on the way out

Parting is such sweet sorrow. That is, for people you like. For the ones you can't stand the sight, or sound of, parting is a jubilant celebration.

After having to endure several years living next to these people, I am (almost) jumping for joy because they are moving. Far, far away. Hopefully, to another country.

These people are the defintion of white trash. They make Britney, Cletus and Fetus Federline look like Russian Royalty. Yes, they're that trashy.

Sadly, physical evidence of inbreeding exists a few doors down from my home.

From the car pile-up that lines their pebble-strewn driveway, to the ramshackle house that lies is steps away from a wrecking ball, these people appear to have come from some backwater town.

Countless fights, where yelling multiple versions of fuck is as far as their vocabulary progressed, are a daily ritual. Their screaming keeps up the neighbourhood, but they don't care. They're probably half deaf.

Come sun or come snow, there is never a day where you see a gaggle of dirty kids running along the sidewalk, or running their dirty mouths in the middle of the street.

True, I know nothing of their past. But, I also don't want to know anything. We all have our stories to tell. Some people don't want anyone to know what lies beyond the walls. Some people would rather let everyone know what is going on.

But, it doesn't matter, anymore.

The moment they leave, and when the dust settles, everyone will go back to their lives. The neighbourhood will be quieter and cleaner, the property values will increase, and things will go back to normal.

Hopefully, the next people who move in won't be worse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rush rush

The subway station is busy at this hour. Passengers run from the train station, to the token seller, through the turnstiles, and down the escalator to the underground transport. The energy is palpable.

The transfer machine prints out my ticket, and I trot towards the escalators with my briefcase in my hand and the ticket clasped in my teeth.

Before I get there, a young woman cuts in front of me. She stands in the centre of aisle, so no one can pass her. Rude.

The rumble of the subway is heard and the vibrations reverberate through the walls. A strong, hot gust of wind blows though the station, sending hair and lose clothing flying. The train arrives.

As a large group of people run up one escalator, my side waits for this woman to move. She doesn’t. She’s in no rush, unlike the rest of us. The line-up of people behind her grows, and grows impatient. We tap our fingers on the strip of rubber that runs along the sides. We’re all going to miss our ride if she doesn’t move.

Clearly, her telepathy is on the fritz since she can’t hear the thunderous roar of us screaming, Move your bloody ass, you fucking bitch!

She’s also lucky she can’t hear what’s going on in my mind because I’m two seconds away from throwing her off the side of the elevator so everyone can catch the subway before it leaves. Nothing would give me more pleasure than hearing a distinct splat of her ass hitting the hard floor below.

Finally, the escalator reaches the bottom, and she walks – slowly – to the northbound side of the platform. Me, and everyone else, runs to the southbound platform, trying desperately to avoid having the doors slam shut.

No such luck. The doors close and the subway train zooms away. One person manages to fuck it up for the rest of us.

Next time, I’ll push anyone out of the way if they try to cut in front of me. Not for me, but for the other passengers. It’s the only considerate thing to do.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Crappy confidence

Being competent in your abilities should prepare you for lies ahead in life.

True, there are those who are better at what you do, but confidence makes the difference. It’s what differentiates Donald Trump from Donald Duck – just don’t mention the hair.

Sometimes it’s innate. Sometimes it’s learned. Sometimes it’s present. Sometimes it’s on sabbatical.

So, why does mine go on vacation at the most unfortunate of times? And when it’s away, my body feels the difference immediately.

No longer do I feel the strength that comes from within. That certain something that makes you proud and make you stand up straight. All of that vanishes, and a nervous tension is what I'm left with.

Sadly, bad posture is only a fraction of what goes on. Most of the trouble lies in other parts of my body…

From the belly button up, there's an overwhelming feeling that I'm not able to retain anything inside. It can happen when I’m eating a meal to when I’m changing clothes. From the belly button down, things are worse. Let’s just say I spend a lot of time in the bathroom when I should be spending that time proving myself to others. And, no one wants to be in the crapper when I’m in there.

Believing you’re competent isn’t the same as believing you’re confident. Competence comes from years of work and experience. Confidence comes from knowing you’re good at your work – no matter the experience. You can have one without the other, have them both, or have neither.

It’s a crap shoot.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I'm not wearing any underwear

Recently, I came across an MSN search regarding the words, I'm not wearing any underwear. Why? Don't ask.

My problem is the circumstances surrounding that search. I don't have anything against those who want to know who is and who isn't wearing any underwear. Nothing at all. What I find unsettling is being listed amongst those searches. What is really bad is being number four on that list.

What is up with that? Number four? Out of, like, a zillion sites?

The point of being listed as the number four, means there has been several people looking for this particular phrase - not just me. With every search, the numbers rise, accordingly. Actually, judging by the numbers, it's quite popular. And who knew I was popular? Of course, it's for the wrong reason...

Never did I expect recognition come at the expense of shameless sensibilities of others.

Oh, that reminds me... I'm still not wearing any underwear.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Gluttony for punishment

It taunts me. It stares me in the face and laughs. But, I can't stop. Masochistic.

"Degrade me, hurt me, make me feel the pain," I say.

"You can never get enough of me. You know how it feels when you're without me. You're nothing. You hear me, you pussy? Nothing!" is the reply.

Yet, I take it. I allow the pain to endure as the torture begins. It feels so good, I don't want to admit it to myself. It would be criminal. But, I want more. More. Give it to me. Now.

So, tell me...

How bad is it to eat an entire McCain Deep and Delicious cake? Mind you, it was in two sittings, not one - although all in the same day. The chocolate cake below, with the creamy frosting above is to die. In fact, I think I will die since my cholesterol levels have escalated to unhealthy heights.

But, I don't care.

Let my stomach grow bloat, and let my love handles expand. Let my chins double, and my cheeks fill out. I can take it. I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment.

Especially when it's so delicious.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four years later

The coffee is brewed and poured into a mug. The toast is hot and buttered. The only thing required is sitting my ass in the recliner, watching Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer helps wake me up.

As I flick through the channels to find the local ABC station, I place my mug on the floor and start to bite into the toast. It's still warm.

There, on the screen, is an image of the World Trade Centre. Part of it is smoking. You see several angles of the tower - right, left, up, sideways, below.

Then, a plane comes into view and disappears behind one tower. Black smoke poofs behind another tower.

What sort of action movie is this?, I think as I munch on the bread. Does Arnold have a new film coming out? I turn up the sound to hear what they're saying.

The words of the newscasters and the images of the buildings leave me confused. My brow furrows. My head tits to the side. My mouth is slightly agape. These images don't make any sense to me. This isn't a movie since every channel plays the same loop.

Several hours afterwards, my coffee is cold and the toast lies in my hand. My face remains the same, yet I'm fully alert. Confusion lingers. The only question that rolls around in my mind is What?

Four years later, I still remember where I was, what I did, and what I saw.

Four years later, that one question still remains unanswered.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The emancipation of me-me

Emancipation – freeing someone from the control of another.

Me-me – a name so nice, I wrote it twice.

With the release of her new album, Mariah Carey has received flack over its title. What does she have to be emancipated about? She is the most successful, female entertainer in the history of music, with over 150 million albums sold. She is powerful and still (relatively) young. She has more money than several billion people.

And don’t get me started on that voice…

When someone like her feels emancipated only after achieving phenomenal success, how do you think that makes me feel?

I’ll tell you.

It makes me feel shitty.

Not being someone who hasn’t stepped foot in Mimi’s shoes (although I imagine they’re high-heeled and sexy), I feel like I have so much further to go before having a semblance of freedom. With freedom comes happiness. And, who doesn’t want to be happy?

Mariah took fifteen years to be happy. I don’t have that much time.

To do that, it’s important to think smaller - much smaller - in terms of accomplishments. Work at a normal job and make a (half-) decent living. Have a group of friends who I enjoy their company. Pretend that crazy woman and the fat man, yelling at me in the mall, aren’t my parents.

Small steps.

Because if it isn't for the minutia, me-me won't get emancipated in any shape or form for the time being.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The games grown children play

When we're children, there are so many games that we play with other people our own age. Whether it be physical or imaginary, there are multiple variations on the same theme.

Some children grow up to be adults, while others remain grown children.

They continue to play variations of the same game. The rules change slightly, and the players are being played.

They play with your heart, and they play with your mind. But, they never play with themselves.

Not as stimulating, I guess...

They find thrills in manipulating the lives of others, while believing no one will get hurt. It's all a game, n'est-ce pas? It's fun! It's exciting! No one can get hurt playing a game.

Unfortunately, they don't realize they're the only ones playing.

I don't like playing games. So, don't play games with me.

We are not children, and I am not a toy.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Customer service disservices customers

Normally, taking the time out of my day to spend it talking on the phone is something I like to do to free me from logical thought.

Of course, this means nothing when the other person on the line is a customer service representative. Logical thought smashes through the window, and crashes on the ground below.

Not that I have anything against them, mind you.

In the past, I have worked as a customer service rep. I know what they have to go through. The customer is always right and you're always wrong. Well, not me, because I always told the customers where to go - with a smile, naturally.

But, I was a very good at what I did. And, that is why I always ended up servicing those who were never satisfied.

Make sure they get exactly what they want, was my motto.

It seems this motto doesn't apply to everyone.

While on the phone with customer service, I ask Maria the state of my situation. Everything she says negates the other phone call I made to customer service the day before.

"That's not right," I say. "I was told something completely different." I am defiant. I was right and she was wrong. But, Maria doesn't think so.

"That's what the computer says," she answers.

"Well, the computer is wrong."

There's tension. Maria doesn't like my attitude. In her self-rightous beliefs, she's accusing me of error. To me, that's the same thing as calling me stupid. And, don't call me stupid, lady.

Fine. I'll work around your data processing errors. Before I hang up, I ask one final, simple question.

"I'm sorry sir, but I can't understand what you're saying," she says with mock apology. This must be how she makes others feel inadequate about their intelligence.

"Oh, it must be because I'm on a cell phone. Bad reception..." I say as I rub my hand over my forehead. I repeat what I just said.

"I'm sorry sir, but I can't understand what you're saying." Her tone is more insincere. I explain my problem, again. The fire is rising and the heat is burning my neck and shoulders.

"I'm sorry sir, but I can't understand what you're saying," she stifles a giggle.

That does it.

She can't understand? She can't fucking understand? What is she, some ESL student from Guatamala? And, what the fuck is she doing at a call centre?

Without screaming at her, I repeat the same sentence. Slowly. Very, very slowly. If this woman can't process this, than I am going to ask for someone else - her supervisor.

That is, before I find her, and strangle her with the phone cord, and beat her over the head with the handset.

But, I give up by telling her it's all right and that things will sort themselves out. Bitch is smirking at her desk, I think. She thinks she's smarter than I am, but only an idiot would think that.

Thankfully, I hang up.

The customer is always right, I say in my head to convince myself that I'm not wrong.

ARGH! Is this what passes for customer service? If so, forget I asked for your help.