My Appropriate Get Up

By Jim Hagarty

Early start on a chilly day earlier this week.

Getting dressed.

Blue jeans. T-shirt or long underwear top? Go with the latter, just in case. Sweatshirt over that. Fall jacket or winter coat? Winter one. One with the hood, just in case. Lined cap. Winter boots – no snow, but they’re cozy and warm. Pair of light gloves.

All set.

Drive downtown. See a young guy walking there – short-sleeved shirt, no coat; shorts; running shoes, if he owned sandals he might have worn them. I drive by him like I’m going caribou hunting, he strolls along like he’s on his way to the beach.

Getting old really sucks.

My Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By Jim Hagarty

Ever since the fateful day when video game machines crossed the threshold of our home, a great divide has developed between the older and younger generations dwelling within. Sometimes it seems as though we are separated by some invisibly wired wall – old fogies on one side, young whippersnappers on the other – with the screams from the seniors unhearable by the juniors.

We are heading in totally different directions. We fret over hours of still-developing youthful hands on pistol-grip controllers. We think repetitive strain injury, they think fun, fun, fun. We think carpal tunnel syndrome, they think, who cares, this is fun, fun, fun. We think “outside time”, they think, no fun, no fun, no fun. We think attention deficit disorder brought on by hours of flickering TV images, they can’t remember the last four questions we just asked them.

We finally say, “NOW”.

They say, “Just a sec.”

We ask, “Why is it taking so long?”

They answer, “I have to save it.”

We accuse, “You’ve started a whole new game, haven’t you?”
They protest. “No, I’m still trying to save it.” Out comes the timer. Miraculously, the game is saved two seconds before the ding.

There are two cords involved in our game machine set ups. One from the electrical outlets to bring power to the TVs and one from the game machines to apparently bring life to the children, like some sort of electronic, digitized intravenous line.

But the timer-induced reprieve doesn’t last and frustration boils ever. Desperate measures are called for. Dad knows where the fuse which controls the upstairs TV is and slips downstairs to the electrical box to remove the intravenous and try to get the patients eating on their own again. Not his proudest moment.

“Dad, there’s something wrong with the TV. It just quit.”

Hmmm. I have no idea what’s wrong, you reply, shame washing over you like the sun on your face on the first day of spring. A half hour later, fuse is snapped back on. Game after game, the boy plays hockey through the TV, a game that is so realistic it is unbelievable.

“Wanna have a game Dad?”

Well, OK, you reply. You don’t want carpal tunnel syndrome but you’ll play just one. You get whupped. A rematch, you suggest.

Whupping continues.

Another game.

Whupping without mercy.

One more.

Somewhere, the hockey gods are crying or laughing, or both. Wounded pride and curiosity sends you back to the machine when evening falls and only adults and cats are still awake.

Maybe with a little practice against a team controlled by the machine…

Game one.

A loss.

Game two.

Bigger loss.

All is quiet in the house.

Wife, cats, kids – all asleep.

But Dad is in a duel to the death with a little grey box, a bunch of boob tube Toronto Maple Leafs and a heartless squad of Red Wings who taunt him after every goal they score.

Repetitive strain injury be darned. This is fun, fun, fun.

Bad Luck of the Draw

By Jim Hagarty

There is a man I know who annoys me. My issue, not his, and I can’t say exactly why he bugs me except that in my few encounters with him I found him to be somewhat pushy. I saw him from a distance on Tuesday and my blood simmered. He’s a prominent figure in our community and he enjoys his status, even promotes it. Maybe that’s what bugs me.

Stupid to have this reaction still after all these years but it’s practically part of my nature now.

Wednesday, I was in a waiting room and before me, on a coffee table, lie a few dozen magazines. In fact, there were 52 of them. The reason I know that number specifically is I counted them after this happened: I looked them all over and saw one peeking out from beneath another so I grabbed it. Guess whose mug shot was large and smiling out at me from the glossy cover?

I could have picked any one of 51 other magazines, but that is the card I drew from the deck. The joker, of course.

Settle down blood, settle down.

What’s In a Name?

By Jim Hagarty

What’s in a name? A career, if you’re one of the lucky ones

This column is dedicated to Jack Hammer, the power-tool salesmen about whom I have written before, the man with the perfect name for his job. Someone whose destiny was pounded out the day his parents named him.

And to all the others in the world who have it so easy, l say, well done. For you needn’t fret over career choices. Just follow your moniker; it will show you the way.

I cite, as my first piece of evidence, Your Honour, the person of Bonnie Beaver, president of the American Veterinary Association. I can’t imagine her in any other capacity. Ditto Jen Cutting. Surely she was accepted into hairdressing school based solely on her surname, and now is a successful coiffeur.

Chris Moneymaker, the accountant, won the 2003 World Series of Poker, and what else would you have expected him to do?

If I was president of 3M Canada, and chances are good that I may someday be hired for that position, I would rush out and hire Penny Wise to be my business manager, which the company has done. I’m not a huge believer in luck, but how could a person with that name mismanage any denomination or amount of money?

Of course, there are the simple ones, such as former Blue Jays slugger Cecil Fielder. Or the laughably easy, John Tory, the new leader of the Tory party in Ontario. He showed a lot of Grit in running for the leadership, but the result was a Never Doubted Probability (NDP).

Those of us old enough to remember the little incendiary device known as the “match stick” which, with a bit of scratching and thrusting against a rough surface would burst into flame – for the disposable lighter generation a concept surely too difficult to imagine – will remember a certain name associated with those matches and that is why it does not surprise us surprise us that Mike Eddy would be named president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

And who couldn’t know that the Ontario caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada would choose Gary Goodyear to comment on recent meetings the party held with auto industry representatives to hammer out a party policy in that area?

And just as Alison Fryer didn’t really have much choice but to open The Cookbook Store, Kevin Sites had to become an NBC videographer to travel the world and show the people back home all the you know what he was seeing.

I think Zak Firestone is the right person to be sending out press releases for the Fire Safety Days a battery company holds each year. And when I send my son out with the Boy Scouts to learn all about living in the wild, I want nobody else but Terry Wilder looking after him.

And in what has to be the crop circles of surnames, this item appeared in newspapers this summer, surely emitting some sort of signal that aliens really have arrived. In August, Rev. James Profit, a Jesuit priest in Guelph, opposed plans by Wal-Mart to build a store near a Jesuit retreat centre. OMB panelists Bob Boxma, a Toronto lawyer, and John Aker, a former Oshawa and Durham Region councillor, listened to arguments from lawyers representing Wal-Mart and the city on one side, and the Jesuit Centre and a citizens’ group on the other all about the arrival of a big-box store next to the Jesuit Centre and how this would bring about the paving over of acres and acres of prime farmland. In a battle of wits between Boxma and Aker, l wouldn’t know on whom to bet.

Maybe I should ask that gambler Chris Moneymaker. He’d know.