Mar 19

Over Christmas, I got the flu…the plague. There was a well documented H1N1 outbreak going on at the time, and I’m pretty certain that’s what I had because it’s been years since I’ve been that sick. I hardly ever get sick. I might get one cold per year. Anyway, it was the middle of January before the symptoms were fully gone, but even then I had a nagging cough. By the middle of February the cough was still there, although less severe. By the middle of March, the cough was pretty much gone, but my lungs still felt kind of congested and I didn’t feel like I could draw a full breath. I decided to go to the doctor.

Now…I’m not a day-to-day hypochondriac, but if something gets to the point where I think I should go to the doctor, I’ll be able to give you a detailed rundown of what the problem probably is and how long it’s going to take before it kills me. My first thought was that I had mild pneumonia, but it was only a few hours before I realized it was actually lung cancer.

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. My friend Fiona went to the doctor because she had a sore throat, and a couple of years later she was dead. Turned out the sore throat was a symptom of multiple myeloma. She was 6 months younger than me.

When I get to the doctor’s office, he does the usual doctor stuff with his stethoscope and all that, and then he says, “I want you to go get an x-ray. Here’s the requisition.”

“Oh shit”, my brain says to me.

“Go this afternoon.”

“Ohhhhh shit.”

“I’ve flagged this as ‘stat’. I want you back tomorrow.”

“Ohhhhhh shiiiiiiiit.”

That’s confirmed then. It’s cancer. I’d better clean up my email so my parents and kids don’t discover what a depraved loser I am after I die. I’d better figure out who all the people are that I owe an apology to. That’s going to take a while.

I left the doctor’s office and went directly to the radiology lab, and went back to see my doctor the next day. He says “the x-ray is clean. Tell me something, do you get heartburn often?”

“Uh, yeah. Mostly when I’m in bed”, I say, confused by how my cancer hasn’t shown up on the x-ray, and trying to figure out how invisible cancer can cause heartburn.

“OK good. I think what’s happening is that the acid reflux is leaking into your lungs. Go get this prescription. Take one pill a day.”

“Forever?”

“Probably.”

Turns out the valvey thing* that’s supposed to keep all the juices in my stomach is a little bit worn out and leaky. A small amount of acidic goo is dribbling out of my stomach, up my esophagus, and somehow making it’s way into my lungs. It’s a bit like when your shitty old car’s shitty old engine starts blowing blue smoke because it’s worn out and too much oil is getting into the cylinders. My doctor said it’s common in babies because their valvey thing is not fully developed yet. I stopped him before he could say “but your problem is that yours is old and shitty.”

When I were a lad, 20 short years ago, I used to complain about what an ordeal it was to go anywhere with kids. Everywhere you go you need a stroller and a bag filled with diapers and creams and a change of clothes and bottles of milk and snacks. Nowadays I look at my backpack that I take to work, and the only real difference between it and a diaper bag is that I also carry a book. The rest of my daily needs are a variety of creams and pills and drinks and snacks. It won’t be long until carrying a change of clothes and underwear is prudent.

Getting old sucks, and anybody who says it doesn’t probably wasn’t very physically active in their youth. The slow deterioration of my body is depressing. I’m fine with my aging brain and personality, but physical aging has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. Even in my mid to late 30′s, I loved being able to go skateboarding with impunity. The potential of a heavy wipe out at some point was no reason to not do it. Cuts and road rash and broken bones heal. Now I worry about falling off my bike if I have a stroke while riding to the grocery store that’s two blocks away.

I have gout.

My right knee makes an interesting but alarming grinding noise when I stand up.

I snore.

I’m getting my 78 year old dad’s arms.

And now I have a god-damned prescription that I have to take every god-damned day for the rest of my god-damned life because my god-damned valvey thing isn’t even as good as a god-damned babies.

I guess I need to buy one of those little plastic pill boxes with separate compartments for each day of the week, and set up a bunch of reminders on my phone so I don’t forget to take my old-guy chemical cocktail every day.

People like to say “50 is the new 40″ or “40 is the new 30″. That’s nonsense. You can’t just subtract a decade from your age to make yourself feel better. I’m 50.

50 is the new 50.

*(the lower esophageal sphincter)

Mar 05

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of school bus driver Kendra Lindon and her former employer First Student Canada, you can read about it here. In a nutshell, she broke a company rule by picking up kids in her personal vehicle, but her excuse was that there was dangerously cold weather (-26 C wind chill) and her bus wouldn’t start, so she didn’t want to leave kids standing at the bus stop. Sounds reasonable, right? 

Problem is, somebody saw her and decided to rat her out to First Student, who then decided to fire her. Sounds unreasonable, right? Especially given the fact that the person who narc’d her out was concerned that she apparently doesn’t have enough seat belts in her SUV for all the kids she was keeping warm. The fact that school busses don’t have ANY seat belts was apparently missed by both the rat and First Student.

The whole argument about her being a good samaritan and First Student being assholes (an asshole?) has been discussed ad nauseam in the local media and on Facebook, Twitter, etc. so I’m not going to go any further into it.

What I’d like to talk about is corporate communications.

This post is less about the woman who got fired than it is about an apparently dysfunctional company that seems to promote a culture in which people are unwilling or unable to think for themselves. Typically, this happens in situations where people are afraid of the consequences of speaking their mind. That’s when people start to pass the buck in order to cover their own ass. It looks like that’s what has happened here, but we can’t know for sure because nobody from First Student is talking.

Here’s a quote from the National Post article I linked to above:

Mike Stiles, assistant location and safety manager for First Student, said he couldn’t comment on a personnel matter and directed inquiries to head office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nobody from head office returned a call.”

Of course they didn’t. How can you properly manage a company or comment on anything in Calgary when you’re in Ohio? It probably doesn’t matter anyway, because in all likelihood the corporate statement would have been a stock answer that everybody knows is bullshit. A thoughtless sentence or two pulled from the corporate manual, with emphasis on spinning the story to make First Student look like they give a shit about what’s happening in some god-forsaken, frozen outpost 3000 kilometres away. After all, isn’t it always freezing cold in Canada?

My question is “why couldn’t anybody directly involved in the situation answer the inevitable questions from the press?” First Student in Calgary has mis-handled this entire situation right from square one, seemingly because nobody has the stones to stand in front of the people asking questions and say something…anything. Even “We’re in the middle of investigating the complaint and will comment once that investigation is complete” would have been acceptable…except it wouldn’t because they’d already fired Kendra Lindon.

You have no balls, Mike Stiles. Working for a company that won’t allow employees some flexibility to deviate from the rule book when necessity dictates that they do so is an unhealthy workplace. If you get fired for speaking up, you’re better off without the job anyway. If they discipline you, give them the finger and quit. Good God man…have some pride in yourself. You’re embarrassing.

It’s not just First Student that has this Madmen-era ethos about what can and can’t be said about “the company”, and who can and can’t say it. We see it all the time in big companies. I understand that every employee can’t just go spouting off, but if an employee is the designated local spokesman then you should let them speak. Avoiding the situation and/or spinning it in an attempt to make the company appear clean every. single. time. just makes you look like a bunch of dicks…right Big Oil?

I’m tired of having my intelligence insulted by corporations with their idiotic and often borderline fictional public statements. I’d think a lot more of you if you admit you’re at fault once in a while, and simply apologize. Everybody makes mistakes. Just say sorry and move on. We all learned that in kindergarten, so why doesn’t it apply when we’re grown-ups?

First Student is getting their ass handed to them in the PR department over this matter. That’s shameful. Let’s say – for the sake of discussion – that firing the employee was 100% justified. It doesn’t matter anymore, because Kendra Lindon beat them to the punch with the press and social media, and got everybody believing her side of the story while First Student fumbled around trying to save face (or whatever the hell it is they’re trying to accomplish).

All because nobody in Calgary could or would make a statement. Nobody in Calgary saw how firing a driver immediately and without investigation under unique and extreme circumstances could backfire. They apparently didn’t see how Kendra was going to be perceived (rightly so IMO) as being a compassionate and independent thinker, while they stumbled around avoiding the situation. I’m cringing for you First Student Canada.

In conclusion, it’s disappointing to see Southland (First Student’s main competitor) not react to this. Somebody there should have phoned Kendra Lindon and hired her as soon as this became public. Then they should have phoned all the local media outlets and updated their social media channels and boasted about the fact that they are a better company who recognize good thinking when they see it. Throughout all this, I haven’t heard a single word from Southland. My guess is that they don’t want to rock the boat and get involved in a situation that doesn’t directly involve them.

Pussies.

If either First Student or Southland wants to hire a guy who isn’t afraid of telling the truth and/or rocking the boat, give me a call. That’s a rhetorical invitation, of course. No company wants a guy like me speaking for them. They want people who can lie, and they want people who scare easily.

Here’s how I’d fix this if I was the local spokesperson for First Canada: I’d say “You know…we obviously messed up when we fired Kendra. We’re very sorry about that, and we’re very sorry that we caused her any distress for doing what anybody would have done. She was right. We were wrong. We’ve re-instated her effective immediately, and removed this incident from her record. She’ll be receiving her full pay for the days she was away from work, and I’ve invited her to join me for a catered lunch meeting in which we’ll review what happened, why it happened, and how we can prevent it from happening again. I’m also interested in getting her input on any other rules and procedures we should consider re-visiting, because we’re interested in improving our company whenever possible. Kendra has 10 years of experience, she’s clearly intelligent, and I think we should be taking advantage of that. Again, First Student is sorry for the way this all played out. It’s embarrassing, but we’ve learned our lesson and we’re forging ahead. Thank you.”

 

Feb 18

I missed last week’s post because I was in Vancouver over the weekend, and I spent Sunday night editing the latest episode of the podcast.

I’m late with this week’s post because the long weekend messed me up. I never know what day it is at the best of times, so having a Monday holiday was confusing for me.

~~~~~~~~

Reading-2013-PosterNever trust a review written by somebody who has a well documented love of the thing they are reviewing. That being said, trust me…Biffy Clyro in concert at the Commodore Ballroom were incredible. Everybody should be so lucky to see an arena headliner in a 900 seat club. In Europe, they headline festivals with bands like Green Day and Eminem.

It’s hard to say why they were so great, exactly. My best guess is that the confidence and big personalities required to play in front of 150 thousand people carries over into a small setting, and they seem bigger and more confident. It’s not something I can really describe. You just have to experience it.

This was chapter 3 in the Arizona & Iain concert series. I hope to continue to add more chapters as long as the girl will go to shows with me. We’ve always had a love of music in common, ever since she was born. No matter how good or bad life was at any given moment, we could always stay grounded by sitting and talking about music for a few hours. Her taste has evolved as she’s grown up, so we don’t always like the same thing anymore, but I trust her opinions more than anybody’s. If she tells me to try a new band, I’ll give it a shot because she has good taste. She is a music lover.

Anyway here’s what we’ve done so far:

  1. Foo Fighters with Motörhead and Biffy Clyro in Missoula in 2011
  2. Thirty Seconds to Mars with Panic! At the Disco at the Hollywood Bowl in 2013
  3. Biffy Clyro with Morning Parade at the Commodore Ballroom in 2014

I traded in 1000 Airmiles for the plane ticket, so it was only $185 return for the taxes and fees. I paid about $90 for one night at the Days Inn downtown. Tickets for the show were only $30. It cost more to take the kids to see Van Halen at the Saddledome, and we had nosebleed seats for that. It was still great, because it was Van Halen…but Biffy at the Commodore was magic.

Special thanks to my pals (and fellow Biffy freaks) Alec and Jes for turning me on to the Moose Vancouver. All food on the menu is about $6, and it was delicious. It’s kind of a dive bar, and they play Iron Maiden and Megadeth all night. My kind of place.

I’m a lucky guy to be able to do stuff like this. Doing stuff is better than having stuff.

IMG_1674

Biffy Freaks

Feb 02


“Queen of the Press Club” – The Soft White Sixties

For decades I’ve been taking 15 seconds out of my day to write a single sentence that always begins “I’m grateful for…”. Some days I forget, but I’d say I get it done 95% of the time. When I first started doing this, I’d just write it on whatever scrap of paper was close at hand. I’d put it in my pocket for the day and then throw it away into the universe at the end of the day. Yes…I littered. A lot of the time, the scraps would go into the wash. It was never intended to be a collection that I could refer to, but an “in the moment” thing that reminded me how fortunate I am.

Last year, I downloaded “Day One” for my iPhone. It has a few benefits over the scraps of paper:

  1. It pops up a reminder every day reminding me to make an entry
  2. It’s always with me, because my phone is never more than a couple of feet away
  3. It catalogues all my past entries
  4. It prevents littering

The catalogued back entries have been interesting to re-visit. I find that I’m almost never grateful for things, but instead am grateful for people and experiences. This surprises me, for some reason. I kind of wish I had some of those old scraps of paper so I could see if this was always true.

Apparently,  money isn’t really as important to me as I thought it was. Obviously some of the experiences have required cash, but what I’ve found is that I always preface my daily note in those instances with “I’m grateful that I have enough money to…”. Sometimes it’s a relatively small amount of money, enough to buy a cup of coffee that I really enjoyed, for example. Much more rarely, it’s a lot of money…enough to take a vacation or buy a new toy.

Don’t misinterpret this as some sort of hippie bullshit about positive vibes making your life better. Don’t compare it with prayer either, because it’s nowhere near as formal as prayer, and I’m not talking to anybody but myself. I don’t have any evidence that this practice has had any kind of positive or negative impact on my life, other than that it makes me feel good for the 15 seconds that I’m doing it. In that regard it’s completely selfish.

I took last Friday off work. I slept in, and then headed over to my old friend Paul’s house to record a podcast with him. Yes…the entry for Friday was “I’m grateful I can take a paid day off work to go hang around with Paul”.

On Saturday, my parents dropped over for 20 minutes to have a cup of tea on their way home…”I’m grateful my parents came for a quick visit.”

Today, I spent a couple of hours with Neil, Dean, and Ellen discussing our plans for a TV show. They’ve been my friends for longer than they haven’t been (Paul too). I’ve known them all for about 30 years, give or take a year or two. You know what today’s sentence was.

I’m a lucky guy, and I bet if you start making a point of noticing it, you’ll find you’re pretty lucky too. Can life be better? Sure it can. But it could be a lot worse too. I could have been born in sub-Saharan Africa, for example. It’s good to remind myself of that every day.

That’s it, I guess. I don’t have anything to rant about today. Sorry.

PS…

Somebody told me that meditating helps with maintaining peace of mind and a generally happy outlook, so I decided to try it. I can’t tell you if it works or not, because I usually end up falling asleep.

 

 

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