Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey, I gotta job for ya.

A few years ago I worked in a warehousing facility in Richmond, BC.
It was a big place. Almost 200, 000 square feet of space. We shipped and received fridges, stoves, washing machines, inflatable husbands* and numerous other products and oddities. (What the knitted breast cups * were for was anyone's guess!)
I pushed paper. A little here, a little there. And I had the pleasure of speaking to the irrate customers whose shipments got lost somewhere between the Strait of Malacca (can you say 'pirates') and the Port of Vancouver.

It was a stressful kind of job. It always amazed me the fuss some people would make when their shipment of 'bangle toys'* failed to show up, or their load of 'plastic ster hop'* was damaged. Some of them couldn't have been any more stressed out than if it had been a new heart for their Grandmother's transplant that had gone astray.

One day my boss came to me and said, "C'mon, I've got a job for you. Can you drive standard?"

Can I drive standard!?! You bet I can. With glee. With joy. But I didn't say that. I just said, "Yup."

Turns out, we had also started shipping exotic cars. (No, not illegally! I made sure that all the paperwork for customs was in order, that was the other part of my job. I didn't make friends with all the gun-toting agents 'cus I was scammer!)

Ferrari's, BMW's, Porsches and lovely Lamborghini's.

And my job? My job was to drive those beautiful gleaming cars through the tightly packed warehouse and into a space so small that the mirrors on the cars had to be bent inwards so they didn't scrap off.

Yeah, I drove them into the containers.And then?
Then I had to get out of those cars. Somehow.

Occasionally I could squeeze out the door (after a piece of cardboard had been slipped between the door and the edge of the container) but most times? Most times saw me slithering head first over the back seats and through the trunk. Much to the amusement of my boss and the warehouse employees. I had to kick of my shoes before I even got in the vehicle. Didn't need my 3 inches heels gouging unsightly holes in the buttery leather.
On one occasion, I had to clamber onto the rear bumper of a Navigator, over the roof and then inch along the window frame in my socked feet (thankfully the window was down) to get to the front of the vehicle to unhook the battery. Then I had to turn around and reverse the order to get out.
Containers are really tight spaces when you cram a Lincoln SUV in there.

Once, two BMW's were being shipped over from Germany. These two cars had been shipped over for a commercial so no one was allowed to see them as they weren't 'on the market' in Canada at that time. They were wrapped fender to fender in white plastic, with only a tiny hole opened on the driver's side to see through.

They even flew two men over from Germany to oversee the off loading. I thought they were going to flip when my boss brought me out and said, "She'll be offloading them."
"Ja? SHE vill do dis??" They gruffed unhappily.

Oh yeah.

Offloaded both of them and loaded them straight into a covered truck for them to drive away on their super secret project.

I considered it a perk of the job.

And why did I get to do it?

'Cus everyone else was too scared. Scared they'd hit something, scared they'd scratch the paint, scared of being in the container.

Or they were too big. Crawling out through a car trunk requires a smallish person. Which I was. At the time. Heh.

Lucky for me, I'm not scared of anything.


They had plenty of insurance.
*yes, those were real 'things' we shipped.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kept safe.

My pack was at my feet and I was happily reading, whiling away the time in a tiny semi-abandoned train station on the border of Hungary and Croatia.

A loud male voice startled me out of my book; when I looked up a uniformed man was staring down at me.

Seemed to me he wanted to see my ticket or maybe my passport. I produced both quickly. It was, after all, about 10 days after the attacks on New York, so it seemed to me that the extra precautions were understandable.

He looked quickly at both, then spoke to me in a rattle of Hungarian. My last name is Hungarian so I suppose he was hoping that I would understand.

Not a word registered.

He sat down beside me.
Slowly slowly we started communicating. Mostly by me drawing in my notebook. A really poor map of my travels to date seemed to interest him, as well as my hand drawn map of North America in which I had pin pointed where I lived. Then suddenly he spoke again and finished his sentence with a loud, "BOOM!"
He grabbed my book and drew out the Twin Towers and airplanes and looked expectantly at me. "Boom!" He repeated.

I could only shake my head and look sad, but that seemed to satisfy him.

Around this time I was starting to get hungry (hungry in Hungary!), so I motioned eating and drinking. He understood.
Picking up my bag, he motioned for me to follow him. Out into the dark and deserted night we went.

On the other side of this little train station was a wee cafe. He bought me a sandwich and a beer and kept me company as I ate.

Another security guard had come up and they had a quick conversation, presumably about me from the glances, and satisfied, the other fellow moved on.

Before I was done my repast though, a small knot of old men who had been sitting in the corner smoking and drinking motioned 'my' guard over to their table. There was lots of loud words exchanged and much gesticulating.

The guard came back to me hurriedly and picked up my pack and hustled me out of there very quickly.

Back to my wooden bench, pack at my feet.

This guard continued to sit with me the entire time I waited for my train that night. He helped me with my pack when the train arrived, spoke to the porter on my behalf, helped me on the train and got me settled in.

There was a mix up with my ticket, seems I hadn't paid enough to get to Venice, but my guard helped me straighten it out with a minimum fuss and cost.

I rode the night train through Croatia and Slovenia. Every few hours guards armed with machine guns would yell and bang on the doors. "Passporto! Passporto!".

Until I returned from my trip I didn't understand why I was removed from that smoky little cafe so quickly.

Then a friend, a recent immigrant from Croatia, explained that a single woman, alone in a dark cafe must be up to no good. The old men were suspicious of me and wanted me out of their cafe.


In retrospect, my travel tale could have ended very differently and much less pleasantly. My 'guard' may not have been legitimate. Being robbed by a uniformed 'official' is a tale that many travellers have told. That and worse.
To be honest, I hadn't considered that possibility until just now. Hmmm. Seems fortune was with me that night!
Thanks LGS, you inspired me with your own travel tale!

(oh, and unfortunately that picture isn't mine. But it IS a Hungarian train station!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Just another day in Victoria, BC.

Gargoyles...not just in Paris anymore! This fellow was frowning down from an old bank building.

The view from the inner harbour in Victoria. This is the view from very near the famous "Empress Hotel".

The view from the Malahat. This is from the very top of the Malahat...driven to travel from Victoria to places north on Vancouver Island. In this case, it was for me to get to Nanaimo to visit my darling friends!

Oh look! Me fixing my car!

Ah, Darth Fiddler. Every city needs one.

A Dragon in silhouette.

And tonight...Weird AL!!
I'm so excited. Hope he does "White and Nerdy". I'm thinking about making that my personal theme song!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I just read a book that described exactly what resides in my most horrific nightmares.

Alexia sine agraphia: the inability to recognize the printed word.

Howard Engels' book, "The Man Who Forgot How to Read", is a short memoir with a view into a published authors trip into a very dark world.

One morning he discovered that, due to an unnoticed stroke in the night, he was no longer able to recognize words.
He describes that mornings Globe and Mail looking as though it had been translated into Serbo-Croatian.

A self described 'omnivorous' reader.
Unable to read.
Interestingly, he retained the ability to write.
But he couldn't read his own words either.

Now, I recognize that in the larger scheme of things, simply not being able to read isn't truly 'the end'.
But for me it would be close.

I recommend this book.
Though Engel is a cheery, 'make the best of it' sort of fellow, you can't help but feel his constant sliver of fear that he may have read his last word.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


This is my favorite time of day and my very favorite part of the week.

It's the Saturday morning of a l-o-o-o-ng weekends.
The sun is (trying) to shine, I've got a fresh cup of coffee in front of me and several interesting books waiting to be read.  

And that's not to mention a Fall Fair to attend and a few local farmers markets as well...3 glorious days stretch ahead, filled with possibility.

Does it get any better than this?
I hope everyone has such a wonderful time ahead of them!