Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mama never said life would be easy

I've been trapped in an apartment for two days.

Not locked in, but trapped here waiting for people to come and replace a hot water heater that spontaneously died around 2am or so and flooded the hallways in the apartment Jeremy and I are staying at until Oct 1st.

The mishap began at 3am two nights ago when I felt a suspicious "squish" under my feet during a trip to the bathroom. Looking down, I realized the carpet was soaking wet and that it wasn't supposed to be moving...

Our roommate, who owns this apartment, phoned Reliance (who we quickly realized we could not rely upon at at all) to set up a repair. Promptly at 11:30am that morning, two very nice guys knocked on the door and spent the next 10 minutes hemming and hawing at the water heater. Then they went out to the parking lot and spent another 20 minutes on the phone, awaiting instructions.

"This building has an order to replace all natural gas heaters with electric ones. So we have to wait for the owner's permission to do this."

Since I wasn't the owner, this was going to be a problem. Our roommate decided to take the rest of the day off and wait here until things got sorted out.

(Spoiler: Obviously I wouldn't be writing about being trapped for two days if this had gotten sorted out)

At 5pm, he called them back and was promised they would look into things and get back in touch with him shortly. Nobody called back, and the inhabitants of this little apartment resigned themselves to another morning without hot water.

In hopes that things would be fixed this morning, my roommate called Reliance back again this morning at 8am, told them that I had the power to approve a replacement water heater, etc, and to please come and fix this asap.

(Spoiler #2: Once again this has obviously not happened, as I'm writing this rant about being stuck in this apartment)

Nobody called, nobody came. No hot water. No dishes cleaned, no showers enjoyed.

The only fun part of this has been listening to them screw up my name. So far, it's been Melanie, then Melissa, then they were calling me by my roommates last name, "Mrs. ____".

It's 2:45pm now - almost two business days have passed and still nothing. I personally have called 8 times (particularly annoying as this is NOT EVEN MY APARTMENT) and have recieved 1 call back from a supervisor, who said there was a work order for us between 1 and 4pm this afternoon.

"Don't worry Miss Peters..."

"No, it's Peterson - Melinda Peterson!"

"oh, sorry. Anyway, I know you're very frustrated but I'll call you every hour on the hour to make sure to keep up with this. Somebody will be there this afternoon!"

(Spoiler #3: anybody remember my Uhaul story?)

I called a 15 minutes ago, got another poor agent who has no idea what's going on (none of them have), and was told first that a my supervisor was not available, offered to transfer me to another person, then came back a minute later saying,


"No - it's MELINDA. Melinda Peterson." (loud sigh)

"Oh, sorry. Okay, I can see here that she already has the message to call you back - she'll call you shortly".

I leave for work in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Not sure if that's enough time to replace a water heater, but if they show up here soon, they're sure as hell going to do it.

Let's hope a cold shower will cool me off...

(see how I make jokes? hahaha.)


It's 7:45am on Wednesday morning - we still have no hot water!

Apparently in order to get a new hot water heater, the old one first has to be removed by Reliance, then a new group of guys has to bring in the electric one.

Apparently this is the reason for the hold-up.

I heard my roommate on the phone this morning at 7:15am talking to a contractor who heard the story repeated for the 14th time now (apparently they don't know how to read the notes that are attached to this number).

"No, sir, I am NOT happy. The water heater burst on Monday in the middle of the night and we've been two full days without hot water. This is the start of day 3. This is unacceptable."

I wouldn't have been so polite. The only other company that has been this incompetent was Uhaul...

Apparently he's supposed to get a call by 8am. We'll see...


He didn't get a call.

(big surprise)

*** We finally got the hot water heater installed at 2:30pm on Wednesday. Almost 3 full business days after calling to report the problem. ***

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Penny Journal

Summer 1995

We were 16 years old - a group of close-knit high school kids who spent all of our time together and thought we'd always be friends. There was usually some kind of drama happening in our little crowd, but somehow things always worked out and we stayed friends.

That summer was my first summer with a Real Boyfriend, a guy named Nick, who was a student at St. Charles College in Sudbury (which used to be an all-boys Catholic school until we started in grade 9 - but still had strong connections to our all-girls Catholic school, so we were always meeting guys from "SCC"). During a band trip to Calgary, my friend Laura introduced me to Nick and Steve, two musically-inclined boys whom she'd met during the high school production of "Footloose" the previous year.

It took a long time before Nick and I actually became an "official" couple because he had to "ask me out" before I could call him my boyfriend. (I wonder if that rule still exists now - or if teenagers are using the term "hooking up" instead of "asking out"...) After spending tons of time together in Calgary, Laura and I kept in touch with Nick & Steve when we returned home, and as we introduced one another to our friends, a group formed that would stay together for the duration of high school. Myself, Kim, Laura, Brandy, Steve, Nick, Mike, and Ryan - we went on band trips, road trips to concerts, spent hours and hours on the phone, hung out at each other's houses, skipped class together (sorry Mom!), went to dances and formals together - we grew up together. We even performed this song in the town square in Philadelphia... (although I should add that it was a completely spontaneous show)

So back to 1995...

That summer there was a lot of drama happening - much of which was recorded in the Penny Journal - which was just a red notebook that I had been using as a diary and had one day covered in pennies (likely out of boredom). Our group of friends was pretty close-knit at that time, so I had no problem sharing my journal with them - to the point that it grew into a community diary that we all wrote in.

Since it's not really mine alone to share, I'll spare the details of what we wrote.

Back then, my camp was the place I spent most of my time. I was getting older and really beginning to appreciate having the lake at the bottom of the stairs. A few times we got into the liquor cabinet (thinking we were so badass having 1 drink of cookies & cream liqueur) which of course resulted in some of the more humorous entries (and more song lyrics because when you're 16 and drinking, "this song is EXACTLY how I'm feeling right now!" is a pretty common phrase).

The Penny Journal was a place for us to write notes to each other, to vent, and laugh over, and it became a symbol of that summer (for me anyway), That was when I discovered Manitoulin Island, went on my first date, spent 13 hours on one phone call, and promised myself that my friends would always be in my life.

It's been 10 years since our last year of high school - 10 years since we were in grade 13, planning our graduation and dreaming about university and the unknown future. On a ride to check out Wilfred Laurier University with my friend Brandy, I remember her father giving us a big speech about how our friends would probably lose touch by the time our freshman year was over. He told us that high school friends don't stay close over the years and that we might as well accept the fact that soon we'd all be going our seperate ways. Brandy and I were furious that he'd popped our little safe bubble - our assumption that we'd always be friends. She tearfully argued with him that as long as we tried to call and write to each other, and visit during holidays, that we'd stay close...

Of course, her dad was right. By Christmas of my freshman year, I barely spoke to most of my graduating class, and even the girls who were from my high school branched out and made other friends when classes started that fall.

As for us? The group of 8 who swore we'd always be friends?

I was the Maid of Honour at Kim & Steve's wedding, proudly (and tearfully) standing beside them as they made their vows, smiling as Laura sang to them during the ceremony, and sharing a drink with Nick (a groomsman), Mike, and Ryan at the reception.

Laura, me, and Kim

Some of us talk very rarely, some of us talk all the time.

We don't share a journal anymore, but some of us are blogging (some more regularly than others!). And I know that on my wedding day I will be able to say "some of the people here today have been a part of my life since high school" - and that a couple of them will even be standing there next to me...

August 1993

"Oh my god! Mary?! I haven't seen you since high school!"

"Sharon! oh wow! Hi!"

I looked at the lady my mom was talking to, and the girl who stood partly behind her, giving me the same shy "uh... hi" look I had on my face. Turns out my mom had gone to high school with this Sharon lady and they had lost touch since graduation.

"This is my daughter, Melinda. She's starting grade 9 next week".

"This is Kim - she's also starting grade 9."

They looked at us grinning - "you two should look for each other when you start classes!"

As we walked out of the school with my new uniform in a bag, my mom turned to me and said" I always liked Sharon. She was such a nice girl. And who knows honey? You and Kim might end up being really good friends..."

Monday, September 17, 2007

rainy day

She sat in her room alone, a book in her hands and the windows open to let in the sound of the rain falling in the trees outside. She wore jogging pants, an old Cotton Ginny sweater and had her hair tied back in a ponytail - the perfect outfit for a day indoors. It was one of those quiet summer days when her friends were staying at home or busy - she didn't mind being alone though - it was a day for writing in The Penny Journal and thinking about everything that had been happening lately.

As usual, she was listening to the Tragically Hip, one of the Best Bands Ever. Just like always, she started with her very favourite: "Wheat Kings", singing softly along with the music as the rain added a rhythm of its own (that somehow fit perfectly). She picked up her the journal and filled a few pages with the teenage angst that seemed so important to her 17 year old self - dreams and drama, notes about her friends and all of their crushes - things that years later she would read and smile as she remember how innocent they all used to be.

Letting the music continue, she put the book in her lap, sipped her cup of chicken noodle soup, and listened as the chords for "Fiddler's Green" filled the silence...

September Seventeen
For a girl I know, it's Mother's Day
Her son has gone alee
And that's where he will stay
Wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler's Green

His tiny knotted heart
Well I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear the whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
That the same wind that moves her hair
Moves her boy through Fiddler's Green

He doesn't know a soul
And there's nowhere that he's really been
But he won't travel long alone
No, not in Fiddler's Green
Balloons all filled with rain
As children's eyes turn sleepy-mean
And Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler's Green

She wondered what exactly the song was about (one of she and her friends' favourite discussions seemed to center around the meanings of song lyrics, particularly ones by The Hip) and then realized that it was the middle of August - school was starting soon, and it would be September 17th before she knew it.

Not much time left to enjoy the summer...

She picked up the phone and dialed a number, "Hey - what are you doing? Want to come out to the lake?", smiling as she and her friend made plans for another sleepover night.

Maybe today they'd figure out what Gord was writing about...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Diary of the Girl Next Door

December 31st, 2006

"C'mon sweetie! Give me a snog! It's New Years after all!" shouted a young man wearing ripped jeans, a purple velvet suit jacket and glowing sunglasses.
'Only in London', I grinned to myself as I watched his spiky-haired companion oblige with a lusty kiss, while pushing my bangs out of my face.

"Why do you keep playing with your hair?" asked Jay.

Ever since I'd gotten the Worst Haircut Ever, the bangs that usually swept the left side of my face had taken on a life of their own, falling in front of my eyes every few minutes and refusing to tuck behind my ears.

"It's bugging me", I sighed, then smiled up at him, thinking about how exciting it was to be in London with thousands of other people while we waited for Big Ben to chime in the New Year.

Sometimes it amazed me how far away from home I had traveled. 7,000km away from home. Just a few months earlier, I had been sitting on the dock at the lake, surrounded by familiar sights and people. Now we were huddled in our winter coats on a ledge looking at Big Ben, the Parliament Buildings and Westminster Abbey, listening to accents from all over the world shouting and singing as people celebrated the arrival of 2007.

We were drinking rum & cokes that Jay had brought in his backpack along with towels, a bag of chips and a couple of bottles of water. As usual, I had my camera in my hand and was trying to take some perspective shots to show people back home just how many people were crammed into the square.

As we counted down to midnight, I thought of the year ahead and wondered if things would finally go our way.

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to miiiind!" We hugged and cheered and sang along with the other travelers, conscious of the fact that all of our old acquaintances were on the other side of the Atlantic.

"Happy New Year!"

I looked up at the sky and made a wish that this would come true...

What do you think? Interested enough to read more? If there was ever fodder for trying to write a book, it's my experiences in London... (a fiction book, by the way - just with some real life references)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

First Day of School

"Good morning! Can you believe how freaking early it is?!"

"No kidding - I'm so glad I've got my Timmy's with me!"

8:15am, September 11th, 2001

Ayse and I met in the cafeteria at Laurentian University on our way to our very first class of our last year of university. We had Systems and Theories of Psychology at 8:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and were badly in need of our extra large double-doubles. Sipping coffee, we weaved through students, grinning at the freshman who made their wide-eyed and tentative way through the long corridors towards their first classes.

"I can't believe it's our last year of undergrad! Just think - next year we might be doing Master's program somewhere."

"I know! I already have ideas for my thesis too - just not sure which one I want to pick yet."

We continued down the hallway and into the classroom with it's long desks and over-bright lights, chatting about school and saying hello to friends from our program.

Since it was the first day of classes, we expected things to be fairly brief, as most professors would introduce themselves and the course, then give out the syllabus, tell us what textbook to buy, and any other information we might need to know, then send us on our way. This particular professor looked like an aging hippie, loved to talk about hockey (which I thought was great), has two PhDs, and seemed just off-the-wall enough to entertain us twice a week for an hour and a half, starting at 8:30am. After 15 minutes, we were leaving the classroom with papers in hand.

"I've gotta head out to the pet store for cat food - want to come with?"


Traffic was pretty heavy in Sudbury that morning, but we were in high spirits and didn't notice as we sang along with the radio and planned the rest of the day.

Then the radio announcers came on...

"And as we've been reporting all morning, it has been confirmed that a plane has run into on of the Twin Towers in New York City this morning. We don't have many details right now, but please keep tuned in and we'll let you all know as soon as we learn more".

We look at each other in surprise.

"Um. A PLANE?! What the hell?! Okay - honestly? How do you hit a building with a PLANE?! That's crazy!"

We had no idea what was going on... well not until we walked into the pet store.

This particular pet store has a very friendly atmosphere, and a little TV in the waiting room that people watch while waiting for their appointments. That morning, there was a crowd of people in the room (which in itself was unusual) all staring intently at the TV.


Then we saw it.

The sight that every person in North America and most of the world knows so well: a plane coming out of nowhere and slamming into one of the twin towers. CNN was reporting live and discussing the first plane and what had happened, when somebody yelled "Oh MY GOD!"

A second plane seemed to come out of nowhere.

I remember the crowd of people in the little pet store gripping each other's arms and sobbing "what the HELL is going on!?" as we watched the second plane end it's journey by crashing into the second tower.

We thought it was World War Three... it was like watching a movie over and over again, hoping for the ending to come where somebody would fix everything or that it was all just a dream.

The shock never did wear off - I kept seeing the planes over and over again, and become increasingly numb and horrified as we continued to watch the CNN coverage through the morning.

Ayse got frustrated quickly and refused to watch anymore about what was happening, but I couldn't help myself - it was like I HAD to see it, HAD to watch it, relive it, as though from doing that I would gain some understanding. Countless discussions, video clips, phone calls and endless questions in the following days helped to ease the shock, but I'm not sure the hurt will ever completely go away. It's amazing how the events of September 11th can still make me cry - a person who has no connection to what happened other than a wonderful visit to NYC during high school. I can't imagine how the families must still be feeling...

It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since that day. 6 years later, I'm someone who is responsible for teaching kids to respect each other and learn about the differences between themselves and others so that this never happens again. I hope I'm up to that challenge because I truly believe the future of our world depends on it's children.

May, 2007

"Miiiiss! I hate Christian people! They're mean!" shouted A, one of the Muslim kids in my classroom in London.

Shocked, I turned around to see a little boy with an angry face who clearly didn't understand the significance of his words. It was obvious that he hadn't learned to say that on his own...

"A! Now why would you say that?"

"I don't know - they're loud and mean and I don't like them!"

"Did you know that I'm a Christian?" I said this gently to the child, who had always liked me.


"Yep! And you know what? I don't think you hate me, do you?" (with a smile)

"No Miss! I love you! I don't hate you!" He was starting to look confused.

"Okay then, so maybe you don't hate Christian people after all then, A. Plus, I think Islam is a lovely faith - you have some beautiful things written in the Qu'aran and you also believe in a lot of the same things as Christians. Just because we don't believe in all of the same things doesn't mean we can't be friends, right?"

"You know the Qu'aran?!! How do you know that??" He was always amazed that I knew anything about Islam...

"Yes, A, I do, because I think it's very very important that we learn about each other's beliefs so we can understand and be respectful of each other. Don't you think the world would be a better place if we were all friends?"

"Yes Miss, I do! Maybe I could teach the class about the Qu'aran!"

After that, I stopped teaching the class about religion. Instead, I let THEM sit up on my chair with one of their friends and tell the rest of the class about their religion and beliefs. Sometimes they needed a bit of intervention, but it was truly amazing to watch 7 year old children explain to their wide-eyed peers about their beliefs in God (or gods) and share their faith.

"You know what boys and girls? One day you're going to save the whole world!"

I pray that every person affected by this tragedy will find some peace today.