Category Archives: Bag Boy Blues

Real World Politics

Chaos in Print

There’s been this issue facing my mother for a while now, and she tends to talk about it a lot at home. As I think I’ve mentioned before, she is the board chair of Parkland School Division #70. They just had one mother of a debate, and it sure took a lot out of my mom. If you don’t mind, I’d like to pass on the particulars of this issue to you, in the hopes of getting some outside opinions on what went on. All the information I give you I got through my mother, so naturally there’ll be some bias in my reporting. (Aren’t you glad I was up front about my bias, rather than claiming to be neutral like some journalists?)

Let me present the tale of two cities. A city and a town, actually. We have the City of Spruce Grove; a city roughly the size of Camrose. Just five minutes down the road, there is the Town of Stony Plain; a town about 3/4 the size of Spruce Grove. They both reside in Parkland School Division #70. Now, a few years ago, some disturbing statistics were released to the public. The French Immersion program, as a whole in the province of Alberta, has declining numbers. Parkland School Division felt that, with these declining numbers, something should be done to strengthen the French Immersion program. A study was commissioned, and a year and a half was spent studying the problem. Right there, the Parkland School Division earned kudos. Most other school divisions in the province just arbitrarily made decisions about their French Immersion programs with no studies. A good case study is the Battle River School Division. When faced with these declining numbers, they went and axed the French Immersion program altogether, with no consultation with the people. But I digress.

When the study was completed, the recommendation was made to the school board. Three schools offered French Immersion: two in Spruce Grove, one in Stony Plain. The recommendation was that the French Immersion program should be consolidated at one school. One of the schools in Spruce Grove offering the program was best equipped to handle the great influx of students, and so it was chosen to be the French Immersion School. The recommendation passed through the board with a clear majority. I think it went unanimously, but my mother’s not here to confirm that. This was heralded as a great idea. The board was behind it. The people of Spruce Grove were behind it. The majority of Stony Plain was behind it. One of the most prominent French Immersion supporters in Stony Plain stepped forward and said “this is the right thing to do.” One of the most prominent French Immersion lobby groups in the province stepped forward and said “this is the right thing to do.” But….

For reasons unbeknownst to me, this did not sit well with the principal of the Stony Plain French Immersion school. He felt it was a bad idea. When this decision was made public, there was a handful of parents at the Stony Plain French Immersion school who objected to putting their kids on the bus for five minutes a day, when they could just walk to school. So, an opposition group began to form. A very loud, very mean, opposition group. They started publicly badmouthing this decision. They took out full page ads in the local paper protesting this decision. It wasn’t long before they won over one of the trustees on the school board. Now, this trustee started whining and complaining about the bad decision this board made, and she conveniently forgot the fact that she voted for this “bad decision” in the first place. She whined and complained so much, that a motion to reconsider was put on the agenda for the next board meeting.

When that board meeting came, the opposition group mounted a large protest. What I always find ironic is that they pulled their kids out of school for the day to help protest. To show support for the school, they pulled their kids out of the school. Another thing I find funny is that there were also twice as many pro-protesters that day. So, when the meeting came, the opposition group presented their evidence to keep the French Immersion program in Stony Plain. It wasn’t new evidence, though, and it was stuff that the board had already taken into account. With no new evidence, the motion to reconsider was denied, and the amalgamation was set to begin, with the French Immersion school in Spruce Grove opening in September. As far as the board was concerned, this issue was now done. But, the opposition didn’t see it that way.

The principal of the Stony Plain French Immersion school refused to begin amalgamation procedures. The parents stepped up their protest, making it meaner and nastier. They threatened to pull their kids out of the French Immersion program. This would mean that there would not be enough kids at the French Immersion school in the fall, and the program would die quicker. At this time, the opposition circulated a “fable,” portraying the board as bunch of reactionary nitwits who were anti-French, and didn’t know the whole story. So, let me get this straight. The board spent a year and a half studying this problem. The opposition spent a week studying the problem. And the board didn’t know the whole story. The fable was written anonymously, but the author claimed to be instrumental in ending slavery in the American south and freeing Nelson Mandela. At first, this fable was only mysteriously stuffed in the mailboxes of the school board trustees. The trustees ignored it. It then appeared in the newsletter of the Stony Plain French Immersion school, thus making the board the laughing stock of the community. But this was nothing compared to what was in store.

Remember that one trustee who sided with the opposition? Well, she did something that all her fellow board members considered a traitorous act. She called up the Minister of Education, said the board was dysfunctional and should be disbanded. I don’t know how well you follow school politics, but this is THE most serious charge you can place on a school board. Now, the Minister of Education was involved.

The Minister determined that the board wasn’t dysfunctional, but still felt it proper to conduct a review of this decision, seeing as to how it had “so much opposition.” The Minister sent out an expert to conduct the review. From day one, it was felt that this expert’s review was biased. Firstly, he only met with the opposition. After meeting with just the opposition, he felt that the board had erred, and was prepared to make his report. After much pleading and cajoling, he met with the members of the school board. But, his mind wasn’t swayed. Now, I know I’m still a novice to politics, but don’t you think this report felt a little one sided? If I didn’t make it clear, his report said that the board had made the wrong decision.

Then came the big meeting with Minister. The Minister gave them two options: either the board could reverse their decision and remain in control of the school division, or he could reverse the decision for them, and pretty much run the division himself. The board chose to remain in control, and begrudgingly reversed their decision. That school in Stony Plain gets to keep their French Immersion program.

So, what’s the aftermath? Well, the principal of the Stony Plain French Immersion school will probably be losing his job for his little insurrection. Plus, the English-speaking families in this school feel alienated over how this principal sacrificed all to save this minority of students. The opposition group is beginning to turn on each other. The author of the fable was uncovered, and legal action is being sought. That one trustee who sided with the opposition has pretty much alienated herself from the rest of the board and has gone into hiding. And Mom? Well, Mom just feels bad because she was doing the right thing, and a select few felt it was wrong. Suddenly this reminds me of the “moral” of an episode of The Simpsons: if you don’t get your way, just keep whining and complaining until you do. All this, simply because a select group of parents objected to a 5 minute bus ride. I want to call this a tyranny of the minority, but feel I would be a little extreme in saying that. All the board wanted to do was strengthen the program, and a select few just didn’t want to stick their kids on the bus. So, the program remains week, but no one has to ride the bus.

Oh, and do you want to know the final irony? The French Immersion school in Stony Plain is a dying school, and will probably have to be closed within the next three years for lack of students.

A Fool And His Money

Chaos in Print

Now that I’m finally getting some money in the bank, I thought I’d head into the city to blow that first paycheck. On my way home, I noticed that I needed some gas for the car. I was passing the Stony Plain Petro Canada, when I saw the great big sign saying “58.9.” I pulled in, and the friendly attendant bounced out of the station. He asked if I wanted it filled, and I said yes. He stuck in the hose, and started filling. It was at this point when I noticed that the price on the gas pump said “62.9.” I asked the attendant “Hey! How come the gas pump says 62.9, but the big sign says 58.9?” The attendant responded “Oh! That’s the self-serve price, and you pulled up to the full serve island.” I grumbled, muttered a few curse words, but what could I do? The tank was already half-full. I walked into the store, where the manager behind the counter turned to me and said “He forgot to tell you, didn’t he? Yeah, he’s supposed to do that before he starts pumping.” Normally, something like this wouldn’t bother me, but given the ordeal I had to go through to get my second paycheck, I was pissed.

“What ordeal?” you may ask. “Don’t you just bag groceries?” To know what’s going on, you have to flash back a week to what should have been my payday. My employers have me on a direct deposit system, meaning that my paycheck is automatically deposited into my bank account on payday. With the second paycheck coming, the direct deposit should be working for me. So, bright and early on payday, before I went off to work, I dropped by the ATM to see if my check had been deposited. I checked my account to see that I had been paid the grand total of…$35. I found this odd. For my second pay period, I was overworked, and had put in 50.5 hours. At $6.25/h, that meant I should have been paid at least $315.63. But no, just $35. This troubled me. I thought it best to wait until I get to work. Perhaps my pay stub would hold the answers. Maybe I just had to pay the mother of all EI deductions.

So, off to work. After a few hours of bagging the groceries, things slowed down for a few moments. My boss took advantage of this slow spot to hand out the pay stubs. I tore mine open to find that I had been paid the grand total of…$35. I was even more troubled now. When my break came, I sat down and analyzed my pay stub bit-by-bit. According to the stub, I had only worked a grand total of 20 hours. And, I had already been paid $90. Things started becoming clear. Since the direct deposit wasn’t working for my first paycheck, I got cash advanced $90. This was the remainder of my first paycheck. But where the hell was my second? My break ended, and I went down to see the boss, only to discover that, while I was on break, her shift ended and she went home. It would have to wait until tomorrow.

Tomorrow came alright, but, to my disdain, my boss had that day off. Who the heck was I supposed to talk to? My troubles seemed to grow. But, at this point, one of the punk ass teenage baggers came in, and he was screaming, yelling, and demanding blood. Turned out the same thing happened to him, and it brought out his inner Klingon warrior. He demanded to speak to the boss now. So, the supervisor called the boss, and she said she’d come down to sort this out. But, before the supervisor could pass this info on to the punk ass teenager, he stormed off into the night in disgust. Soon, the boss showed up. Now that she was here, I summoned up my courage, and asked if I may have a moment of her time. “Let me guess,” she said. “You didn’t get paid either.” She then went on to explain how there was a new person working payroll, and this new person forgot to send in a few time sheets. I was the fourth person in the store that this had happened to. She called the Big boss, the store manager, and relayed my problem. As soon as she was off the phone, she said that they would have a cash advance prepared for me on the next day I was in: Monday. This, of course, was Friday, and I had the weekend off. A whole weekend without money.

Monday came, and again my boss had the day off. So again, I had to spend a troubled day at work wondering if I would be able to afford gas to get to work the next day. Tuesday came, and my boss was working! I approached her. She said she had the paperwork all prepared, but the Big boss had the day off, and wasn’t around to approve it. Again, I was devastated. I mean, hey, sure I live rent-free in parents’ basement, but part of the deal of me using the car this much means I have to take care of it. And taking care of a car isn’t cheap.

Wednesday came. Again, I asked for my pay. This time, the Big boss was in meetings all day, and couldn’t approve the paperwork. Again, I went home distressed. Now, my inner Klingon warrior was starting to emerge. In my family, whenever legal matters arise, we all go to Mom, seeing as to how she’s turning into a career politician and is a former Justice of the Peace. My father, being a longtime member of the Alberta Union Of Provincial Employees, was also qualified to give advice on this matter. After I laid out my problem for them, I asked who was the higher body I complain to, and when would I be justified in doing so. They said that, after waiting a whole week for my pay, I’d be qualified in going to the Labour Relations Board. Ever notice how the more peaceful solutions tend to be more painful? I mean, you can demand blood, but cuts heal. A complaint to a governing authority, however, results in black marks on a permanent record that tend to haunt a person for a while.

I had Thursday off. My boss said that if the paperwork was approved, she’d call, and I could run on down to collect my pay. I canceled all my plans I had for Thursday, and spent the day waiting by the phone. Although I’ve never dated in my life, I now know how it feels to be stood up. Even though my pay was now one week late, I formulated my plan of action. If I didn’t get paid on Friday, I’d be placing a call to the Labour Relations Board.

Friday came. When I showed up, the first thing my boss said was “Today! I promise!” Halfway through my shift, the Big boss showed up for work. Three-quarters through my shift, my boss came up to me and said I could pick up my paycheck before I went home. I finally got my second paycheck. It was a eight days late, but I got it. Good things really do come to those who wait.

And that brings us to my excursion to the city. With two paychecks behind me, it was time to blow the first one. I purchased a video cassette copy of that great sci-fi movie that came out within the last year and a half. I had been dying to get it ever since it came out on video. Yes! I bought Star Trek Insurrection! Oh, and with the money that was left, I bought some little movie called Episode I. I vaguely remember seeing it, but from what I remember, I liked it.

So, what have we learned here today? Two things: good things really do come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue, and I am fortunate to have learned it at such a young age. Secondly, based on how that gas station manager and pump jockey laughed and gloated about how they “suckered another one,” I am never going to the Stony Plain Petro Canada again.

Midnight Ramblings IX

Chaos in Print

NOTE: Premises, premises. I’m sure you know this one. I e-mail my buddy “Neelix.” I tell him what’s currently bugging me about culture, pop and the other kinds. Yadda yadda yadda. On with the show.

Hey Neelix!

Before we begin our correspondence, I’d like to take a moment to complain about one of my other friends. You know who I’m talking about. Arlo. I mean, he is worse than you when it comes to responding to my e-mails. About two weeks ago, I knew that his semester at Augustana would be winding down, so I sent him an e-mail just asking him how it’s going. And, in his true fashion, he never responded. For all I know, he died and I missed the funeral or something. He has just ceased to exist to me. So, if you happen to run into Arlo, could you just get him to put a brief message in my guestbook or something, so I know he’s still alive? Thanks.

Anyway, on to my current obsession. I’m currently pouring over the multitude of facts that are available on the Internet about one of my favorite toys growing up, Masters Of The Universe. Of course, to many kids it was just known as He-Man. He-Man rocked! I’ll never forget the very first He-Man toys I got. For Christmas 1982, I got Skeletor, Faker (the evil robotic duplicate of He-Man), and Point Dread & the Talon Fighter. That was just so cool! But, my favorite memory of these toys has to be about a month later. I had come home from school. Mom had cleaned my room. And there, on top of my dresser, she had placed Point Dread, with the Talon Fighter on its perch. In the Talon Fighter was Skeletor at the controls, and Faker in the co-pilot’s seat. It just looked so much like that Golden Idol in the beginning of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Very cool.

You know, more so than with G.I. Joe, Transformers, or M.A.S.K., it’s Masters Of The Universe where I remember exactly when and where I got each and every toy I had. My absolute favorite one has to be my seventh birthday. Or was it my eighth? But it was my birthday. That year, my birthday happened to fall on a Saturday, so I was naturally up before everyone else to watch my cartoons. I tiptoed out of my room, so as not to wake my brother. I tiptoed past my parents’ bedroom, so I wouldn’t wake them up. I tiptoed through the kitchen. I turned, entered the living room, and came face-to-face with…Castle Greyskull. I had spent so much energy into being quiet that seeing this was a complete shock. I yelped in terror, turned around, and did a tiptoe sprint back to my room where I hid under my covers. I stayed there for about half an hour. Then I heard some rustling from my parents’ room. I poked my head out the door, and saw that my Dad had gotten up. He motioned for me to follow him, and we walked hand-in-hand into the living room. I didn’t just get Castle Greyskull, I also got Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, and Mekaneck. And how’s this for a sequel? That Christmas, my uncles failed to talk to each other, so I didn’t get one, but two, Snake Mountains. One uncle took his back. He never got me a replacement gift, though.

I also remember that last Masters Of The Universe toys I got. My last vehicle was Blaster Hawk. My godmother gave that to me for Christmas 1987. Because the disks it shot flew so far, my mother decreed I could only play with it outside. That also ensured I lost the disks faster. The last figure I got was Snout Spout. Remember him? He was the guy with an elephant head, and he shot water out of his trunk. But anyway, my parents’ had returned from my Great Opa’s funeral in Regina. My siblings and I didn’t go because it was May, and my parents weren’t going to pull us out of school for a week. So, when they returned that Friday night, my brother got a Billy Idol tape, and I got Snout Spout. This would have been, what, 1987 as well.

But what distresses me the most is how my love of Masters Of The Universe ended. It was summer of 1988. My interests had fully turned towards Transformers and G.I. Joe, so I decided to sell all my Masters Of The Universe at a garage sale. It all sold. So now, I have none left. Since I simply outgrew my G.I. Joe and Transformers, all that stuff is still lying around. But I have no Masters Of The Universe for me to play with when I get nostalgic. I’ll probably wind up buying Skeletor for $95 on eBay or something like that.

Oh, and for the record, these were all my heroes: Battle Armor He-Man, Prince Adam, Mekaneck, Man-E-Faces, Moss Man, Roboto, and Snout Spout. My villains: Skeletor, Battle Armor Skeletor, Dragon Blaster Skeletor, Faker, and Spikor. I was always distressed at how my villains were outnumbered. But I digress. My birthday’s coming, so if you’ve got $95 to blow at eBay….

But let us turn our attention to something more grown up: Disney animated movies! My sister borrowed Peter Pan and The Jungle Book from one of her friends recently. As I was watching them, it dawned on me. One of the recurring themes in all Disney animated films is the loss of innocense. In Peter Pan, just take a look at Wendy. She willingly goes off to NeverNeverLand with Peter Pan because her father orders her to “grow up.” So, she runs off in a desperate bid to hang on to her youth, and thus innocense. But, at the end, she learns that we must all grow up, and thus willingly kills her innocense. Then, in The Jungle Book, it ends with Mowgli and that girl going off to live together in that village. So, that makes the entire movie one last innocent romp before Mowgli decides to grow up, and enter the human (i.e. adult) world. Loss of innocense all over again. Then, there’s Snow White. Accepting that apple caused her loss of innocense. The Lion King and the death of Simba’s father. The death of Bambi’s mom! Need I say more?

Actually, this analysis frightens me. Reading up on the film American Psycho, apparently the lead character (and the titular psycho) dissects brainless pop songs the way I just analyzed these Disney films. So, does this make me a Canadian Psycho? Like what someone wrote on a message board: “Should we be more worried about the grown men who rent 14 hours worth of porn, or 14 hours worth of Disney cartoons?”

One last thing before I go. I don’t know if you heard, by Bob Homme just died. He will forever be remembered by legions of Canadians as the Friendly Giant. He was 81, and suffering from a long bout of prostate cancer. Actually, there were a lot of interesting facts about him in the paper. Like that other Canadian icon, Mr. Dressup, he was an American. He started The Friendly Giant in 1953 as a radio show in his home state of Wisconsin. CBC brought it to Canada, and TV, in the late 1950’s, and it had a lengthy run until 1985, when CBC pulled the plug. For a long time, the show shared a sound-stage with that other Canadian institution, The National. Bob Homme was not just the show’s star, but the (only) writer, creator, and owner of the show. He would tape 3 shows a day. He even ad-libbed most episodes! Oh, and he got the Order of Canada in 1998.

Bob Homme also had a passion for jazz and swing music, and he spent his retirement years wandering the streets of his hometown of Grafton, Ontario with his clarinet, giving impromptu concerts at the inns and restaurants. So, from now on, look up! Look waaaaaaaaaaay up, because that’s where the Friendly Giant will forever be.

And that’s all! Time to return to my newest obsession: looking for an Intelevision emulator so I can play my favorite Intelevision game of all time: Utopia. Wish me luck!


My Other New Job

Chaos in Print

So I’m now a card-carrying member of the Alberta Liberal party. Not only that, but I’m the treasurer of the Alberta Liberal Stony Plain constituency. How, you may ask, did this monumental achievement come about? How has one who has traditionally been so neutral in politics arrive at this? Well, it all starts with a boy and a dream. Actually, it just starts with a girl. But what a girl!

14 years ago, my sister reached the ripe old age of 6, and was primed to start the first grade. Now, with all of her kids in school, my mother was starting to feel bored around the house. Face it, there are only so many times you can vacuum the rug. This was the late 80’s, and daytime television had yet to reach the highs it currently experiences. So mom had nothing to do. Fortunately for her, elections were right around the corner, and opportunity was knocking. The school needed a new board trustee, and my mother stepped up to the plate. The campaign was long and vigorous, but she was soon elected to the board of 15 members.

For three years, she served the school with trust and honor. She was unique for a politician. She chose a path of openness and honesty, and people responded to that. Soon, the year of 1989 was upon us, and she was up for re-election. There was another candidate, but he was trounced. And once again, my mother served the board. 1992, and again she was up for election. But, things had changed. By now, the Klein government had taken charge, and education cutbacks were in full swing. The board was downsized from 15 trustees to 7. By sheer luck, and a good resume, mom was appointed to the interim board. When that election rolled around in 1992, and with the re-drawn boundaries, my mother was running in what was the geographically-largest constituency. And she got in by acclimation.

1995. Again, she got in by acclimation. And, she became the board chair. A slightly larger salary, and an office. I think this would be a good time to mention that the Parkland School Division #70 School Board is the lowest-paid school board in the Province of Alberta. It’s also the most effective. Mom’s got the statistics to back that up somewhere around here. But I digress. The present day is coming up.

1998. At long last, my mother had some competition! Some upper-middle class snob wanted to put in a bus line so he could send his kid to a “better” school. So, he ran against my mom. The fall of 1998 also saw my disastrous campaign for VP External at Augustana University. That was fun. Every night, we would call each other up and bounce campaign strategies off of each other. We even used the same slogan. She was “a parent who cares,” I was “a student who cares.” She won by a landslide. I lost by a landslide. This makes me wonder about the next generation of voters, and how the good old approach of getting out there and campaigning your ass off appears to be giving way to the “Rob Nichols Approach:” sit on your ass and let others do the work. But again, I digress.

And now we have arrived in the year 2000. Around January was when the phone calls began. The last provincial election was in 1997, so we are now entering the period where Ralph Klein can call an election any minute now. So, the Liberals are getting their troops in place. The Alberta Liberal Party started calling our house at all hours of the day. They needed a candidate for this area, and since my mother is so well known and loved through her school board activities, she was their first choice. With this Bill 11 crap going forward, the Liberals think that they can form the next government, and with this area being a traditional Tory stronghold, they needed someone with the presence to go toe-to-toe with our longtime Tory MLA. So they started calling Mom.

At first, Mom was a bit apprehensive to start pursing the nomination. There’s currently a big scandal going on in the school board concerning French Immersion, and she’s just about had it with politics. But we, her family, knew she had the right stuff to go for it. And so we started telling her that she should go for it. Word soon got leaked to the public that she was being wooed by the Liberals, and she was overwhelmed with public support to go for it. So, when the Liberals called again, she said yes.

With that done, the president of the Liberal Constituency, whom I shall refer to now and forever in these columns as “Retired Farmer Guy,” started calling. It was time to put in place the board of directors for the 2000 Stony Plain Liberal Constituency. Since my Dad has this job-thing that keeps him busy, and my sister has shown no political aspirations whatsoever, Mom asked me to be the Treasurer; just so there would be someone she knows on the board. And to her, I said those words that have gotten me in so much trouble in the past: “Sure! Why not? Sounds like fun!” So, back on April 18, the Stony Plain Liberal Constituency had their annual general meeting, I became Treasurer, and Mom announced that she would be seeking the Liberal nomination.

The date my mother is currently worried about is May 29. That’s the big Liberal convention where she runs for the Liberal nomination. Only members of the Liberal party can vote. And so I bought a membership in the Alberta Liberals.

And that’s whey I’m now a card-carrying member of the Alberta Liberal Party. I know, I’m sure you were hoping that it would be for some noble purpose, like showing my opposition to Bill 11, protesting the years of education cuts that Klein has made, or just because this province’s provincial park program is going down the tubes. Nope. I did for one simple reason. To show my mother that I’m behind her. And if this results in me being roped into a volunteer position for the next few years, that always looks good on a resume.

It’s time for my true selfishness to show. It should be mentioned that I’m not doing this to completely support my mother. Oh no! She has also let it slip several times in the past that I would be an ideal Executive Assistant for her, should she get elected. So another reason as to why I’m doing all this is in the hopes that, after the next election, I’ll be the Executive Assistant to the MLA, and on my way to a fine political career myself. God, I’m a bastard!

Prime Directive

Chaos in Print

The Federation will not interfere in the development of an alien culture.
— Starfleet General Order 1, a.k.a. the Prime Directive

This is something that’s been brewing in me for a while now, and I’ve just got to let it out. I really don’t like my sister’s boyfriend. I think he’s scum. I think my sister can do better. And I don’t know why she wastes her time with him. My problem is, I don’t dare express these feelings.

Let me give you a brief history of their relationship. It all started way back in the summer of ’97. My sister had a summer job pumping gas. He came in one day to fill up. He asked her out. They went out. They started dating. They became an item. It wasn’t long before she was back in school. He doesn’t go to school, being the same age as myself. My family and I soon started finding him a bit odd. Firstly, he refused to ever go to my sister’s school and meet her friends. In fact, he wanted her to quit hanging out with them altogether. Soon, he wanted her to quit the basketball team. He felt that a basketball uniform was too revealing. It was here that I wanted to say something, but I soon got my wrist slapped for that. More on that later.

So, they continued dating. If you consider him inviting my sister over every Saturday night to watch movies with his 3 buddies to be dating. He seemed somewhat controlling in my sister’s life. Whenever my sister spent a day with her friends, he had to hide it from him or face the consequences. In the summer of ’98, when my sister wanted to get a summer job, that sparked off another fight with him. You know, a good ol’ “no woman of mine is going to work” kind of argument. But, she won that one, and got a job. When my sister wanted to backpack across Europe this summer, that was another battle. He did not want her doing that. But she went. She called him everyday, but she went.

At this point, you are probably wondering why he didn’t go to Europe with my sister. Well, he believes that there is no reason ever to leave Entwistle. He thinks we’ve got it all here! That, and he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like to stray too far from his family. He was in therapy for a while, and his therapist recommended that he should move out of his parents’ house. So, he moved into a shack right behind his parents’ house. His parents finally bought him a house here in town, and that’s where he lives. Oh, and he quit therapy after two weeks because he thought he was feeling better.

Actually, he’s had quite a weird relationship with doctors. When he and my sister first started dating, he was an apprenticing millwright. But, it was hard work for him, and he was constantly complaining of back problems. Every two weeks, he was visiting a doctor in Edmonton to see about these back problems. Soon, we started looking at his schedule. These back problems tended to flare up around every payday. He would call in sick around every payday. And his doctor’s office was located rather close to West Edmonton Mall. Now, I may be jumping to conclusions, but it makes you wonder. Oh, he’s not an apprenticing millwright anymore. Now he works for his dad.

This leads into another one of his frequent complaints: weird family things. For example, my family likes to get together at Thanksgiving and have a big turkey dinner. He calls that a “weird family thing.” When we were kids growing up, we would occasionally go into the city for a day, have dinner in a fancy restaurant, and go see a movie. When he found out about that, he branded it a “weird family thing.” So let me get this straight. He works for his dad, only moved out when his parents bought him a house, thinks the sun rises and sets by command of his mother, but when my brother & his family come up for the weekend, it’s a “weird family thing.” I think there’s a flaw in his logic.

Speaking of flawed logic, he was home schooled. Enough said.

Even more so than me, he is highly susceptible to fads. But, we carry this weakness to different extremes. For example, I’m currently into Pokémon. This drives me to watch the cartoon, and read a few websites. When he was into mountain biking, he had to run out and spend $5000 on a new bike, which spent most of the summer forgotten in our garage. When he hits a hobby, he spends a lot of money, and he’s into it short-term. And, this has encouraged my sister to spend lavishly on him. Back in January, my sister spent a few thousand dollars on a ski trip for his birthday.

And that brings us to present day. Shortly after they returned from that trip, they broke up. For about the last year, they were fighting a lot, and during this ski trip, they finally decided to end it. I was ecstatic. At long last, it was over! A week later, she was hanging out with him. She was spending a lot of time over at his house. I finally asked her what was going on. She said that they broke up on good terms, and that they managed to remain friends, and it’s not her fault if I can’t understand that. Well, for friends, they sure fight a lot. I don’t think I ever made my friends cry as much as he makes her cry. Since the time they’ve been spending together has continuously grown, I’m assuming that they are back together. And still, I can’t say anything.

Why have I been silent all this time? It’s like this. Way back in the fall of ’97, when they were first dating, and he started laying down the you-can’t-hang-out-with-your-old-friends act, both myself and my parents started voicing our concerns. We were quite vocal. When I came home from college for Christmas, my parents pulled me aside. Apparently, all of our concerns (and my open hatred) were having kind of a Romeo and Juliet effect. The more we disagreed with her, the more she was shutting us out. And my parents wanted her home for Christmas. So, they told me to keep my mouth shut, and we hoped that soon she would see he was wrong for her and dump him. And I’ve been silent ever since. For 2.5 years, I’ve been silent. I never expected the consequence of this. Not only has my dislike for him just been brewing for 2.5 years, but my silence has made him like me. He likes me. Not only does it make my blood boil when looks at me and says “Hey, buddy,” but it makes me feel like the most duplicitous two-faced bastard on the face of the planet. And all because, 2.5 years ago, my parents laid down the prime directive.

Non-interference. It’s a bitch. From day 1, about 75% of their calls to each other have resulted in her breaking down in tears. Now, I’ve never been in a relationship, but I’m sure that one of the requirements of being a good boyfriend is not making your girlfriend cry on a weekly basis. I just don’t know how my sister puts up with it. My sister has begun openly considering going to NAIT in the fall and taking photography. I wonder what kind of toll that will have on their relationship.

Through the time that the Prime Directive has been in effect in Starfleet, a precedent has been set. The whole key is involvement. It just basically states that you will not get involved. But, precedent states that when one of the parties turns to you and asks for help, you are no longer involved. The Prime Directive no longer applies. And for years, I’ve been wondering if I should interpret my sister’s tears as a call for help. I want to help her. I just don’t know how.

Old Feelings, New Beginnings

Chaos in Print

Who out there has seen The Shawshank Redemption? One of the finer films ever made. Anyway, in the film there’s this character whose name escapes me at the moment. He was sent to prison when he was just a kid, and spent his whole life there. In his 70’s, he finally makes parole, and gets himself a fine job bagging groceries. But, it’s not long before he hangs himself. When word gets back to his friends still in prison, they speculate as to why he killed himself. The best explanation they come up with is that when you are in prison for so long, the walls become security. You become used to the rigid order day in and day out, and when you are finally freed, the lack of order gets to you, and you’d do anything to get it back. The prisoners of Shawshank Prison called that “being institutionalized.”

Shortly after I saw The Shawshank Redemption, I went back to Augustana to visit some old friends. There, I began to see how college life can be like a prison. You get up, march off to the cafeteria for breakfast, the off to your regimented classes for the morning, until lunch time rolls around. Then, the same thing happens for the afternoon. After supper, you’ve got your free time, which is generally spent in your dorm room studying. As much as people want to get rid of that order and head out into the real world, they know how scary it is out there. That’s where you get the people who take seven years for a three year program. All they look forward to is getting out.

And now, I find myself in a fine job bagging groceries.

Close to a year’s worth of job hunting, and this is all I get. Bagging groceries. And part time to boot. It’s not so bad. Instead of spending my afternoons watching Jerry Springer and Batman: The Animated Series, I spend it making sure bread doesn’t squished at the bottom of a shopping cart. And, since I’m on my feet for 5 hours out of the day now, I think I’ve begun to lose weight. I’ll be back to my old slim self in no time (although, I haven’t been my old slim self since I was 9). But at least I’m making $6.25 an hour. I’ll be rolling in it come June, when it’s time to start paying my student loans.

And the people I work with are OK. There’s my boss. She seems to be a delightful person. I’ve only been working for about two weeks now, but she strikes me as being one of these people who would rather be your friend than your boss. I’ve never understood that kind of managerial style, because it hurts more when you screw up and your boss comes down on you. Actually, what has me afraid is, now that I’ve been working for a couple weeks, she actually looked over my resume. Word is once again getting out that I have a B.Sc. Last time I had a job and my co-workers found out I was going for a B.Sc., I was turned into Mr. Wizard. I have no desire to be Mr. Wizard again.

Besides my boss, I have two groups of co-workers. First, we have “the elders.” Since I usually work afternoon shifts, these are the people I tend to be working with most of the time. They are a group of grandmotherly ladies, who are just killing time until the C.P.P. kicks in. They are nice, and tend to be tolerant with a new guy like me, just learning the ropes. The second group I have dubbed “the punk-ass teenagers.” These are high schoolers who are doing this as their after-school jobs. They tend to come in around 3 or 4 o’clock, just as my shift is ending. The female punk-ass teenagers seem to be nice enough, but its the men who make my spider-sense tingle. Like every bully who ever beat the crap out of me, they tend to look down their nose at me. I think that they’re just pre-occupied with sizing up the new rooster in the henhouse. Oh, to have raging hormones again!

But if this job is giving me one thing, it’s an appreciation for the life of a super-hero. Very often, it’ll get quite busy, and all 5 tills will be open. One bagger between 5 tills. Oh, how is one supposed to assess where one is needed? Do I go to the till where there are 9 people lined up with baskets? Or the one where there are two full carts? Just when I’ve settled in, I’ll here that cry from a cashier: “Mark! This person needs help out to his/her car!” So, I’ve got to drop everything and help that person out to their car. I come back in, and once again my dilemma begins. Which till gets a bagger, and which doesn’t? Which mother will be stuck bagging her own groceries? Who will live, and who will die? How does Superman do it?

This, in a nutshell, is my job. Whee. Once again, I find myself longing for order. How much so? Well, my sister was looking at her post-secondary options a month or so ago, and left the NAIT calendar lying around. I picked it, and flipped through it. I stopped on, of all things, broadcasting courses. Once again, I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming the Scarecrow professionally. Should I do it? Should I once again become a dark avenger of the airwaves, only this time do it for money? Doesn’t that make me a sell-out?

I feel that this is good for me. Someone once said that before you know who you are, you must first know who you are not. I’m sure a few months of doing something I don’t want to do will help me decide what I want to do a whole lot quicker. Near the end of The Shawshank Redemption, we find Red, one of our main characters, in the exact same situation. A lifer, in his 70’s, finally out on parole. He finds himself in the noble profession of bagging groceries. And, if the irony isn’t enough, he’s living in the exact same place where his friend hanged himself. For a moment, Red ponders going down the same path that his friend went down. But then he remembers that his friend Andy, who escaped a few years earlier, hid a message for him. Red seeks out this message, and finds that it’s an invitation, inviting him to join Andy in Mexico. So, Red boards a bus, and heads to Mexico. As life progresses, I hope I can be like Red. Freedom shouldn’t be a curse. If I don’t like bagging groceries, I can do something else, and I’ve already begun formulating “the plan.” There’s one thing I know for sure, and that is that bagging groceries is only a beginning.