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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Day 39: Coffee or tea?

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 39: Coffee or tea?

Some people can’t function in the morning before they’ve had their first cup of coffee or tea. They are irritable, grouchy and altogether not properly awake. While some shower and get themselves ready when getting out of bed, other head straight for the kitchen.

While I appreciate a good cup of coffee too, I’m not as bad as some. I can wait until I’m at work. I usually first switch my computer on, see if there’s anything urgent, and then make my way to the nearest coffee shop.

However, last week there was a snag in my usual routine. When I arrived at my favorite coffee shop, I was told that they were all out of decaf coffee. Oh no, now that was bad news. While I’m perfectly capable of going without coffee for a short period of time, having no coffee all day is nothing short of a disaster.

There was only one thing for it … look for another coffee shop. I got directed to one further down the street. So, I walked, and I walked, and I walked some more. I finally arrived at the said coffee shop, and while it is part of a large chain in Canada, the shop itself was relatively small and packed with customers.

I queued for no less than 20 minutes and hoped that they too wouldn’t be out of decaf or this whole ordeal would have been for nothing. Fortunately, they had plenty of decaf coffee to which I added a warm, crispy croissant.

By the time I got back to the office, the croissant was cold and my decaf coffee had noticeably cooled, but okay, it was better than nothing.

The following day it was cold and rainy and I didn’t feel like walking all the way to the far-away coffee shop, but I knew there was a new place up the street.

The coffee shop was unlike any other. Instead of being furnished with small tables, comfortable chairs and couches, this shop had four long wooden tables, surrounded by matching chairs. A young crowd was sitting side by side, working on their laptops or holding a tablet.

A glance at the sandwiches and pastries display cabinet told me this place wasn’t cheap. There was something about the foot-long sandwiches, holding ham, cheese or chicken in combination with lettuce and tomato that screamed, expensive! The fact that none of the goods held a price tag was also a dead giveaway that this place was for people with deep pockets. Just how deep I would have to reach into my pocket I was about to find out.

When I asked for a small decaf coffee and a croissant, the total came to $6,25.
“How much?” I asked because I thought I misheard.
“$6,25,” the girl repeated. “Would you like the receipt?”
“Yes,” I said. 

Usually, I’m not interested in a receipt, but this time I wanted to see how much the coffee and how the croissant cost. As it turned out the coffee was $3,75 and the croissant was $2.50. Good Lord, $3,75 for a small coffee! At my usual place, I get an extra-large coffee for that price. And $2,50 for a croissant, where did this croissant come from … France?
Needless to say, this coffee shop was for emergencies only.

It's really is beyond me why companies don’t stock more of decaf coffee or some avoid it altogether. At my workplace, they have no less than 10 different coffees, 12 different teas, hot chocolate and an espresso machine but no decaf coffee. Yet when decaf is available, it’s the first type of coffee that is depleted.

As for tea … I enjoy a cup of tea almost as much as a cup of coffee, but because I can only drink decaf tea, my choice is limited. I have to stick to fruity teas or if I can find it Earl Grey Decaf. So, all in all, is there a certain decaf discrimination?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 38: This makes me so angry

I’ve just about had enough of this ‘#metoo’ nonsense, a campaign started by Alyssa Milano to draw attention to sexual assault.

Apparently, numerous singers and actresses are joining her in this project, all Tweeting ‘#metoo’, as well as ordinary people typing ‘#metoo’ as their Facebook status.

Little do they know that numerous actors complained about Alyssa Milano, accusing her of sexually harassing them. This particular actor in a scene of ‘Charmed’ complained that she just about ‘ate his face’.

As for those singers and actresses joining her in her ‘#metoo’ project … take a look at them. If these women are the target of sexual harassment, are the men really to blame for taking a chance? All of them are clearly sending the message ... LOOK NO UNDERWEAR! If it was permitted, they would bloody well show up naked.

And speaking of naked ... why not Google 'Alyssa Milano naked' and see what comes up. And this is a woman who complains about sexual harassment! LOL

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Day 37: Origin by Dan Brown – no spoilers

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 37: Origin by Dan Brown – no spoilers

Are you reading Dan Brown’s latest book ‘Origin’ yet? I picked up the book at the beginning of the week and the story is gripping right from the start.

While Dan Brown does an excellent job describing the scene, my curiosity got the better of me and I Googled a few of the things he described. For instance, the monastery in Montserrat, the Guggenheim Museum in Barcelona, the various artworks, a particular bridge in Budapest, a cathedral in the middle of nowhere, etc.

Of course, when I read on the subway, I can’t Google anything so then I have to make use of Post-it notes and stick them to particular pages of interest so I can Google this or that at a later time.

But speaking of the subway, it really isn’t a good idea for me to read ‘Origin’ on the train. I get so engrossed in the story that last week Friday I missed my stop. The first time I looked up I noticed that the train had stopped at Christie.

‘Christie?’ I thought, ‘I don’t pass a station called Christie. Christie is one stop after Spadina. Good grief I missed my stop!!!’ I quickly scrambled to my feet and got off the train.

On the streetcar, I didn’t fare much better. Even though the various stops are displayed on LED screens and a mechanical voice calls out the various stops, while reading I’m blind and deaf.

At one point I looked up though and saw the CN Tower. ‘That’s strange,’ I thought, ‘I never see the CN Tower.’ I glanced up at the LED screens and saw ‘Wellington Street’. Good grief, Wellington Street!!! I was way too far! If the next stop was Wellington Street that meant I had passed Queen and King Street without even noticing.

Damn Dan Brown, that was twice that ‘Origin’ got me into trouble and it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. And more trouble was just around the corner.

At lunchtime, I settled down on a comfortable couch in the company’s cafĂ© and prepared for an hour of quiet reading. After what seemed like only 20 minutes or half an hour, Dave – a colleague – appeared at my side.

“Conny, are you coming back to your desk?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, “when lunchtime is over.”
“Lunchtime was over 15 minutes ago,” he informed me.
When I checked my phone I noticed that it was indeed 1:15. Damn not again!

With currently 509 reviews on Amazon to date, the opinion of readers vary. 59% give ‘Origin’ a 5-star review, 15% give the book 4 stars, 11% 3 stars, 8% 2 stars, and 7% 1 star.

It’s safe to say that ‘Origin’ will receive a 5-star review from me. Any book that gets me into trouble three times in one day is worth nothing short of a top review.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Day 36: Hopes and dreams

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts.

Day 36: Hopes and dreams
Did you ever think that your ship just came in, only to find out that it was a dinghy and it was leaking? I had such hopes and dreams yesterday.
Around 11:00 a.m. I went out to buy a cup of coffee and noticed a zippered wallet laying on the side of the road. An open wallet and it looked like it was stuffed with banknotes. The wallet was actually bulging to the point that the zipper couldn’t close.
I wanted to pick the wallet up of course, but I exercised restraint as I’ve seen enough YouTube videos of pranksters making ordinary people look like fools. So, a looked to the left, and I looked to right, scanned the people across the street and when all seemed okay, I ever so casually sashayed over to the wallet.
I stole a sideways glance at it and tried to determine what type of banknotes it held … 10-dollar bills? 20-dollar bills? Maybe an even higher denomination? Whatever the value, I already had visions of a healthy addition to my savings account. The way the wallet was bulging there could have been between $2,000 or $5,000 or even more.
Once again, I looked to my left, to my right and across the street. When I felt sure that no eyes were on me, I bend to pick up the wallet. And oh, the disappointment. There was no money in the wallet, only a deck of playing cards. So off I went to buy my coffee with some lose change I had in my pocket and then it was back to work.
Speaking of finding money though … many years ago, my mom and I were shopping for school supplies when she noticed a bag in a telephone booth. She retrieved the bag and looked inside if there was a wallet. She found not one, but three wallets, all stuffed with cash. The wallets belonged to a certain Helena Vermeer. There was also an address and a telephone number.
Once home, mom took the money out of each of the wallets and counted it. One wallet held 3,000 franks (the setting is Belgium), the second wallet held 1,350 franks, and the third wallet held no less than 7,220 franks, altogether 11,570 franks. A considerable amount back in those days.
Mom called the given phone number and asked to speak to Helena Vermeer.
“Helena Vermeer is my mother,” a woman said. “Or shall I say, was my mother, she died two weeks ago.”

We were all stunned into silence. It was highly unlikely that a dead woman took her bag with her to go shopping.
To cut a long story short, the daughter had taken her mom’s bag and in her state of grief (or whatever) forgot the bag in the telephone booth.
She agreed to come over to pick up the bag and once she had arrived had the audacity to ask if all the money was still there. “I know exactly how much was in each of those wallets,” she stated. Then she snatched the bag off the table, asked if that was all, got up and left.
“Next time when I find something,” mom said. “I’m keeping it.”
She got her chance less than a month later. Mom, dad, my brother and myself had taken a trip to Brussels to shop for clothes. A friend’s wedding was coming up and we all needed a new outfit, a dress for mom and me, a new suit for dad and my brother.
We visited several stores in the city, but none had what mom was looking for.
“What are you looking for?” dad asked, slightly exasperated as we left the fifth store.
“I don’t know,” she said, “but I’ll know it when I see it.”
And she saw it alright. When we passed a particular store, she pointed to a dress on one of the window mannequins. The dress was expensive though. So expensive that dad peered at mom over his glasses with a look that said ... are you serious?
“I hope they’re not closed,” mom said, glancing at her wristwatch. “It’s after six already.” When she reached for the door, she found that the door was slightly open and when pushed a silver bell tinkled overhead.
Right away we all knew that something was wrong. Not only was there no staff behind the counter, and were there no customers browsing the merchandise, all the lights were off.
Mom, never one to give up easily, proceeded to call out. “Hello! Hello! Anybody here?!” Nobody answered.
“Just my luck,” she stated. “I finally find the dress I want, and now there’s nobody here.”
“We can come back next weekend,” dad suggested.
“No way,” mom said. “With my luck, that dress could be sold between now and then.”
Dad reasoned that the store probably had more than one of those dresses, but mom was having none of it.
“So what do you want to do?” dad asked. “We can hardly stay here for the night.”
“There’s only one thing to do,” she said.
To our surprise she legged it to the mannequin, deftly removed the dress, folded it and placed it on the counter along with her name, her phone number and the request to call her.
The phone rang shortly after nine o’clock on Monday morning. From what we could hear, mom had a short conversation and then smiling put the phone down.
“That was the store,” she informed us. “The manager promised to keep the dress for me. We go back next weekend to pick it up.”
As soon as we walked through the door of the store the next Saturday morning, it was as if the manager (a lively Italian chap) recognized us. He came from behind the counter, asked if we were indeed the XXX family and shook hands with us as if we were long lost friends. The other customers in the store eyes us with interest.
Mam was shown to a luxurious dressing room to try on the dress that she had left on the counter the previous week and not only did it fit like a glove, she looked fabulous in it.
“And now for the rest of the family,” the manager said, waving at a nearby hovering salesman, who approached my dad and brother. Dad protested that we were only shopping for a dress, but the man waved his objections away. He happily chatted, in a way only Italians can, that my dad and brother must try on some of his suits.
As for me, I was whisked away by yet another sales person to look at party dresses.
It all went so fast, we hardly knew what was happening, but an hour later we were all kitted out in outfits that would raise more than one eyebrow. I had already raised my eyebrows when I saw the price of my dress. To say that it was expensive was putting it (very) mildly. Add to that mam’s dress, dad’s suit and my brother’s suit … the total would be astronomical!
Much to our surprise though, the dresses and the suits were boxed, bagged and handed to us without a stop at the cash register.
“We haven’t paid yet,” mom reminded the manager.
“My dear signora,” the man said. “I couldn’t possible charge you for your purchases. Everything is on the house and you will notice that I have supplied you and the young signorina with suitable handbags.”
Seeing how stunned we were, the manager went on “You could have walked out with anything you wanted last Saturday. But not only were so honest to leave the dress behind, but you closed the door so nobody else could walk in. Such honesty has to be rewarded.”
We left elated and happy that some people still appreciate honesty.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Day 35: Work experiences

My Writing Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 35: Work experiences 

Where it comes to working experiences, I can entertain you with a string of anecdotes. In the early years as an immigrant in South Africa, it was nearly impossible to get a full-time job, but there was plenty of temporary work.

My very first temp assignment was for an industrial bakery. The bookkeeper wanted some time off and I was sent by a temp agency to stand in for her. One of my responsibilities was to calculate the worker’s wages with the Kalamazoo system.

The office, my co-workers and the work itself were all nice enough, but what really stood out were the perks of this job. 
Every morning at 9:00 the office was served freshly brewed coffee, along with a tray of thickly sliced, warm bread. The tray also held a bowl of real butter, as well as peach, apricot and strawberry jam.

At 11:00 more coffee, this time accompanied by a variety of scones, muffins, and cinnamon rolls.
Between 12:00 and 1:00 employees were served sandwiches with a choice of ham, salami, pate, cheese, or one of five salads.
At 3:00 coffee again, this time with a selection of pastries.
At 4:30, the official end of the day, every employee got a free bread.
I was more than a little sorry when after three weeks the bookkeeper returned to the office and my assignment was over.

A few month later, I was sent to a company where – before I was even allowed to enter the premises – I was called into the security office and was asked to take the oath of secrecy. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was soon to find out. 

This particular company built military equipment and my job was to type instruction manuals for the soldiers on how to make minor repairs. 
According to the oath, I was not allowed to discuss my work with anyone outside my department and certainly with nobody outside the company. I was to keep this oath for the duration of my stay and 7 years after I left the company. 
The biggest shock was when I came face to face with a tank. I had seen tanks in the movies and on TV of course, but that didn’t prepare me for seeing one in real life. Not only did I feel dwarfed by this enormous machine but I just about peed my pants when I saw its 9-meter (32 feet) gun pointed straight at me. I was teased mercilessly when I returned to the office as white as a sheet.

Life as a temp isn’t all fun and games though. Here in Toronto, I was sent to one of the big law firms for a three- week assignment. Very uncharacteristic of me, I left after just one hour. 

I knew the assignment wasn’t going to work when I arrived at the office and was shown to the desk of the girl I would be standing in for. 
Clearly, she loved spiders as there were spiders everywhere. She had several 8,5 x 11 colorful pictures of spiders pinned to the walls of her cubicle, two black and orange tarantulas were dangling from the ceiling, where a huge plastic (but very lifelike) black tarantula sat next to her computer.

Looking at the setup, I could feel a chill creeping up my spine, while the hairs on my neck and arms were standing up. 

I was supposed to work here! Me, whose terrified of spiders was supposed to work on a keyboard not 3 inches away from long black spider legs!

I tried to be brave and cautiously, from afar, placed a couple of Kleenex tissues over the black monster next to the keyboard, but it was no use, I knew what was under those tissues and even though I knew the spider wasn’t real, it still gave me the creeps. 

I informed the agency and left. As it turned out, three temps before me had done the very same thing.

In yet another law firm the environment was perfect, but the lawyer was a monster. He had a string of do’s and don’ts that included:
His printing had to be picked up every 20 minutes.
His teabag had to soak in hot water for precisely 45 seconds. Not 44 seconds, not 46 seconds, but 45 seconds.
His mail was to be presented to him in alphabetical order.
Cheques had to be stamped at an angle of exactly 45 degrees.
No work was ever to be visible on my desk.
This, of all things, presented the biggest problem. How does one do paperwork without any papers showing?
If these demands weren’t enough, the lawyer was terrible abusive in language. He screamed and shouted insults at the slightest provocation. If chairs weren’t replaced at exactly the right angle around the boardroom table, he would scream at his people for half an hour or more, getting angrier by the minute. If there were only 5 bottles of water instead of 6, this would set him off too.
When I suggested keeping bottled water in the fridge and only placing the bottles in the boardroom shortly before the meeting, I was on the receiving end of his wrath. To me, this made perfect sense as nobody wants to drink lukewarm water, but apparently, the lawyer didn’t tolerate suggestions.
When he came storming from behind his desk, ready to strike me, I got out a there. Verbal abuse was one thing, but I wasn’t risking physical abuse.
In hindsight, I should have let him. If he had struck me I would have had proof of the abuse. As it was, when I filed a complaint against the lawyer and the first thing the lawyer I contacted asked was “Do you have proof?” 

According to the lawyer, he’d seen this all before and a complaint without proof didn’t stand a chance in court.

Later I learned that he did contact the abusive lawyer who promptly denied everything.

I often played with the idea of putting together an anthology of work experience stories. Do you think this would be a good idea?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Day 34: What do you hear when you go outside?

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 34: What do you hear when you go outside?

What do I hear when I go outside? Well, that all depends on the time of day.

If I go outside at the crack of dawn, I hear a cacophony of birdsong. As you can see from the picture, there’s a large field behind the building where I live with lots of trees. Those trees are home to a variety of birds and first thing in the mornings they all have something to say. I sometimes wonder what they are twittering about. They could be discussing the dreams they had, debating what to have for breakfast, or simply making plans for the day.

A little further down in the picture you’ll see a pond. This pond is home to a number of ducks and geese. They too are quite the conversationalists. They can be heard when they’re coming in for landing as if the leader is giving instructions. Once on the ground, it often sounds like he’s giving feedback.

With them too I have no idea what they’re saying, but it sounds like every now and then these ducks and geese dissolve in peals of laughter.

Then there are the trains. Every 5 minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during the rest of the day, the SRT (Scarborough Rapid Transit) train passes by. 

Contrary to what you might think, the passing trains don’t bother me at all. In fact, I’m so used to them, I don’t hear them at all.

To GO-train, on the other hand, can't be missed. That train can be heard from quite a distance away and when it thunders past, anybody and everybody knows about it.

Micky loves that train. When he hears the train coming he rushes outside and sits on the ledge, or he jumps on a windowsill to watch the big green machine go by.

Other than that, there are all kinds of noises during the day. Cars coming and going, with quiet or not so quiet passengers.

In the distance, cars can be heard, along with the wail of ambulances or firetrucks. And every so often there is a loud bang. These bangs can be a car backfiring, an electric transformer blowing (as there is a power station nearby), or a gunshot. Who knows.

Late at night, when all should be quiet, a group of youngsters uses the parking lot behind the building as their personal playground. One car after another park in a dark corner and what happens next depends on that particular evening. Sometimes they play music, loud music, talk, and laugh.

Other nights they drink, and the more they drink, the louder they get. When they’re done, they smash the bottles leaving the glass and other debris behind. In the course of the evening, more cars come and go. It’s hard to see what goes on, but sometimes packages get exchanged.

Usually, after 2:00 a.m. all goes quiet.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Day 33: How to keep your jewelry safe

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 33: Jewelry – How to keep your jewelry safe

For today’s assignment, I’m supposed to write about keeping jewelry safe. Personally, I don’t have to worry about that because I don’t have valuable jewelry.

Well, strictly speaking, that isn’t quite true. I do have a few pieces which my mother left me. I never wear any of them though because I’m terrified of losing them.

Still, there may be others who might benefit from a few tips on how to keep jewelry safe.

Whether it is a jewelry set with precious stones, a Swarovski collection, or items you picked up here and there, we all have jewelry that is valuable to us for different reasons. If your jewelry has more sentimental value than dollar worth, how to keep your jewelry safe requires no more than common sense.  On the other hand, a more expensive collection will cost you more money to protect. 

Have your jewelry insured

Before you start thinking of where to store your jewelry, have your valuables appraised and insured. Jewelry insurance costs you only a few dollars a month but gives you peace of mind. 

Should anything get lost or stolen, you will be able to get a replacement or collect the value of the missing piece.  Read your insurance policy carefully or check with your agent for clarity. If you have an authenticity paper for precious stones, store them in a safe place.

Trust your jewelry to a safe

The safest place for you to keep your jewelry is a safe deposit box in a bank for the obvious reason that you may sleep better at night. The downside is that you have limited access to them, and you will pay an annual fee for use of the box.

If you’re staying in a hotel, ask if your jewelry can to be stored in the hotel safe rather than keeping valuables in your room. A wiser rule is to leave your valuable jewelry at home when traveling.

Consider buying a safe for your home.  Not only will a safe protect your jewelry from burglars or children who want to play dress up, many types of safes are rust and fire resistant. You can make up your own private combination that is best committed to memory.  

Remember, writing down the numbers increases the risk that your security might be breached.

If a safe is not an option, keep your jewelry safe in another type of box that can be locked, or put your jewelry in a cabinet that can be locked. You can also keep your jewelry in a not so obvious place.  For instance, in a shoebox among other shoe boxes or in a tin among other tins.

Keep your jewelry safe by being alert

When putting your jewelry on and taking it off, avoid places the items can fall into such as grates and vents. 

Take jewelry off before washing your hands.  Not only can water and soap dull semi-precious or custom jewelry, rings easily slip off soapy hands and end up in the drain pipe.

Keep curtains or blinds closed when taking jewelry pieces from their storage place. You never know who might be watching.

Be sure your jewelry fits

When in doubt about a good fit, put a ring on your finger and hold your hand upside down. If the ring glides down it needs to be taken to the jeweler for resizing.  

Rings shouldn’t pinch your fingers either. If they do, chances are at some point during the day you will take them off and might not remember where you put them. Rings should slip comfortably on and off your fingers.

Be sure that valuable bracelets and wristwatches are designed with a locking mechanism that works. If not, you can have a safety chain fitted.

Another way for how to keep your jewelry safe is to know when to wear valuables and when to leave them in their storage space. Events that attract large groups of people also attract pickpockets, who can expertly steal your handbag and jewelry without you even noticing it.