Look Ma; No Lunch Box

 Aug 31, 2018 2:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

   Back to school? Humbug. There ought to be a law against summer ads for school supplies.  Come  August you cannot visit a Staples or a Wal-Mart or most other stores without running a gauntlet of “back to school” stuff. In my view, this practice creates kiddy school supply junkies.

   After all, just weeks earlier, the kids finished school with all their supplies. What happened to all their stuff? Did it all suddenly vanish?

   While sitting on my neighbour’s deck recently sipping a Heineken, Leo’s kids were hounding him for must have school supplies.

   His daughter Melissa demanded if he had bought her new school knapsack yet.

   Leo asked her where the Batman knapsack he had tripped over in June was.

   Melissa replied, “I don’t know dad. But I need one with Spiderman now. That’s only fair.”

   Her comment I thought certainly added a new dimension to the fairness test. 

   Meanwhile his son Josh pleaded that he absolutely needed to buy a dozen red pens. When Leo queried where Josh’s June stash was, Josh responded, “Dad, you just don’t understand.”

   Melissa, interrupting, said, “If you get him more red pens, you have to get me that Spiderman knapsack. That’s only reasonable”

   Her argument was unassailable I thought.

   During their heated debate, my mind drifted, visualizing research on the subject, like a study undertaken by a professor Jean-Jacques Lemouche, of l’Université de Montréal, who found that pencils do indeed disappear over the summer. He was adamant that three boxes of his former HB yellow pencils had turned into butterflies on July 1 and they were now flying around all over Mount Royal.

   Oxford Professor of Metaphysics Sir James Pedley disagreed with the butterfly theory. His study concluded that every summer, all school supplies simply get sucked into a school-supply Bermuda Triangle. “I’m sure you’ll find my computer mouse there,” lamented the professor.

   The issue also caught the attention of Sigmund Freud, who observed that most of his patients were very depressed at the end of summer, as they could never find a pen or a pad of paper. Although he initially dismissed this neurosis, Freud noted that his own lunch box disappeared every July.

   Even Albert Einstein was plagued by this problem. He ran around frantically one August day repeating to himself, “E=MC2” and shouting, “Quick, I need a pencil. Where is the pencil cup I had in June?”

   I went home and thought about writing to my MPP about pushing for a ban on these back to school ads, which incite the kids.

   But just to hedge my bets, next summer, I am keeping an extra eye open on my own pencil case.


My Son the Gondolier

 Aug 15, 2018 10:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

     My wife and I visited Venice not long ago. It was a fine summer evening, and we decided to do what comes naturally in this charming city, namely, take a gondola ride. I asked the gondolier how much. The Venetian air was charged with romance and passion, and price, of course, was of no concern. The good fellow replied, “€150 [a.k.a. $225 Canadian loonies] per hour, sir.”

     I said, “Thank you, sir,” and we decided instead to settle for a chocolate gelato. This also comes naturally.

     While strolling along San Marco Square consuming our gelati, Shoshana and I discussed the gondolier’s charging €150 per hour. Many lawyers would only wish to make this much, or almost double what Legal Aid pays per hour. I asked myself why should a gondolier charge more than a lawyer. What do they have that we don’t have? I decided to make a comparison.

     First I considered the popularity factor.

     People generally have fantasies about gondoliers being romantic minstrels who sing as they wind their way through the canals. A ride along Venice’s labyrinth of waterways can often be a fairy-tale experience.

     A visit to a lawyer evokes a slightly different atmosphere. The greatest similarity to the aforementioned experience one can draw is that many clients claim that lawyers have taken them for a ride. I don’t know about the singing part, but I’m sure that if you ask an assessment officer reviewing a lawyer’s bill, none will tell you that clients have ever suggested that their lawyer, while conducting a cross-examination of a witness, break out singing “O Sole Mio.” Lawyers, however, are known for singing the blues.

     As for the romantic part, there are some lawyers whose love lives would leave even the most colourful gondolieri drifting far behind on the Grand Canal. But this reflection is not about Bill Clinton.

    And lawyers and gondoliers are both popularized prominently in the arts. Gilbert and Sullivan wrote an operetta called The Gondoliers about the enchanting life on Venice’s canals. However, William Shakespeare wrote, “Let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    Then there is responsibility. If lawyers mess up, it’s likely the client will sue them. The gondolier’s job is relatively claim free, short of his running his gondola into another, at all of 5 kilometres per hour.

    However, gondoliers probably do have some form or errors-and-omissions insurance. You never know when some disgruntled client might turn around and sue the gondolier for screwing up the song “Funiculi, Funicula.”

    Then there is training. I found that although lawyers invest years as students, we constantly had to pursue professional development.

    A gondolier can remain at his comfort level indefinitely. After all, what is left after the teacher shows you how to stand upright in the back of the gondola and push your oar? I don’t imagine there was a newsflash in the Gondolier’s Newsletter recently that proclaimed: “Gondolieri! Those black-and-white striped shirts you have been wearing since the year 1542 are no longer valid after October 1. After that date you must switch to sleeveless white undershirts.”

    And perhaps the best part of the job as compared with lawyers is that all gondoliers get paid in cash immediately. Over the barrel. Or should I say, over the paddle?

    After Lorenzo says “arrivederci” to you, he has already pocketed your €150. With lawyers, in most cases, unless they get all their money up front, they can calmly say arrivederci to their fee. They will have a receivable that will be as useful as an umbrella in Pompeii the day Vesuvius erupted. However, this may sometimes still be better than a government-issued Legal Aid certificate.

    A trip to Venice can certainly entice lawyers to make a career change. So what are lawyers waiting for? They have choices. Anybody know where you can get a good deal on those striped shirts?




What colour is my Unicorn?

 Aug 1, 2018 10:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

    Where are the manatees? I don’t see them.

    I like animals and so when I travel I jump at the opportunity to visit animals indigenous to the area. However for some reason I never get to see them.

    For example, while in Florida recently I heard there were manatees, those giant sea cows, worth watching. Further research revealed that the best place to see them was in a “Manatee Park”, in Fort Myers. Sounded good.

    We trekked to Manatee Park, paid the required entry fee and with enthusiasm, we scrambled over to the river bank expecting to see manatees.

    I thought they would be jumping around like dolphins, or at least basking in the sun along the shore like seals. Uh uh. They were all submerged. All we saw were some rotund looking shadows drifting around slowly in the murky water. A ranger said to us, ‘They’re all down there. See, there’s one.”

    I wasn’t satisfied. They could have been some Disney type mechanical blimps. Fake manatees. Disappointing.

    I had a similar experience in Newfoundland with whales. We took a bus tour out along Cape Spear where we were assured we’d see these noble mammals. As we drove along the Cape, the guide announced, “Look left, whales.”

    What whales? I saw only the Atlantic, kilometers of it, and a community of seagulls milling about. I could see a similar gaggle of gulls in my nearby mall parking lot competing for the remains of a tossed away Big Mac.

    I commented, “Where? Where? Point?”

    The guide said ,”Look towards 2:00 o’clock. About 500 meters out. You’ll see the spray from his blowhole.”

    Right. And if I go to the Air Canada Centre, I’ll see the Stanley Cup.

    On the same trip I was told I could see puffins. The tourist office assured me that a place called Ellison about 4 hours out of St. John’s was the puffin capital of the world. As the lady put it, “Get your camera ready. You’ll see thousands of those fluttering birds.”

    I fell for that one too. We got to Ellison in the late afternoon, parked the car and walked about a mile to the edge of a cliff. From there we could see a small island about 300 meters away. We could also see a handful of what, from that distance, looked like butterflies.

    That evening I asked our hotel hostess where all those puffins were. I figured maybe those whales ate them?

    She told me that the puffins generally congregate at dawn. She looked at me like I came from another planet given my obvious ignorance of the gathering habits of puffins.

    It seems the existence of non-existing animals is universal. When we were in Australia we visited a zoo. The zoo’s prize guest was their Tasmanian devil. As soon as we got there, my wife and I raced over to the Tas’s habitat as one would do when you get to the Louvre and you make a B-line to the Mona Lisa.

    You guessed it. From the fence we saw a cave but no devil. A large sign read, “Tasmanian devils are shy creatures. The sight of people makes them bashful and can cause them to stay in their cave.”

    That explained it to my total satisfaction. Why wasn’t I surprised! Served me right. In retrospect I should have made myself familiar with Tasmanian devil’s privacy policy.

    And so where are the manatees? And the whales, puffins and Tasmanian devils?

    Am I gullible or what?

    I’ve never been to Scotland but I just know that if I do go I’ll foolishly make my way to Loch Ness.




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