Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jarring Fun

I had finished my news shift Sunday morning and, once home, was chillaxing contentedly on the couch, watching sports on the television.

At one point, I happened to hear my wife in the kitchen, marveling at how the smell of freshly-made strawberry jam had remained in the mason jar she dug out from under the kitchen counter.

Listening, I thought to myself, I love the smell of fresh strawberry jam!

When my wife returns from a shopping trip to Bath and Body Works, I usually manage to mooch a bottle of strawberry-scented hand sanitizer to stash in the car!

Much as I enjoy the smell of strawberries, I confess I was too lazy to get up and go to the kitchen to smell the inside of the mason jar.


Moments later, lo and behold, the mason jar was making its way toward me!

My son, having chimed in his own endorsement of the allegedly intense strawberry smell, offered to let me sniff the fruit-scented jar.

Jar containing intense strawberry scent
It occurred to me that my son’s willingness to bring the jar to me was generous, if not slightly unusual.

He helpfully twisted the top off and held the jar under my nose. I didn’t take a huge sniff, but I didn’t take a cautious one either. The whiff I took was, admittedly, unguarded.

My brain immediately and unmistakably labeled the smell “sewer”, so I was puzzled.

In the milliseconds that flowed past, I was also disappointed I didn’t smell the sweet strawberries I had expected.

Not my wife, my son, nor his girlfriend, could explain the drastic olfactory discrepancy, because one of them had slipped to the floor in hysterics, the other was standing but keeled over, and my wife was sitting at the table, trying to keep from falling on to the floor.

They call themselves "family". Hmph.

The devious, nauseating nature of their scheme had yet to be revealed.

Oh well, they duped me, I concluded. They told me the jar would smell like strawberries and it smelled like soaked socks that had sat forgotten for far too long.

I wasn’t sure the gag was worth the tears streaming from their eyes, but their uncontrolled laughing and gasping continued.

I went back to watching ski cross on the television, deciding, with some indignation, their laughter was strangely intense for a prank that, on the surface, seemed fairly lame.

The laughter continued.

I eventually looked back at the collection of clowns, when one of them, probably my son, managed to explain, rather proudly I might add, that he had cut the cheese earlier in the day and bottled it.

My brain quickly recalled the odor and, for a moment, I had to suppress mild revulsion. Then, I pragmatically decided it was already over and done, and it was time to allow my nose to move on.

I gave the group the stinkeye and, I cannot lie, I longed to make their eyes water in the passing wind!

Alas, it appears my destiny is to carry this twisted experience along with the rest of my baggage.

Unfortunately, what the prank lacked in sophistication, it more than made up for in outrageous inanity and silliness.

Still, for me, the world has changed radically.

Now when I hear Jim Croce sing about “Time in a Bottle”, I think about a far less mystical feat; flatulence in a bottle. Christina Perri may be singing the words, “Jar of Hearts”, but, trust me, that’s not what I’m hearing.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Good Apple

The ticket-checkers who work on AMT commuter trains can be egotistical power trippers. The same goes for some of their metro workers and bus drivers.

I’ve heard stories and, in some cases, they’ve made headlines.

I learned last Wednesday that not all of them are moronic clowns. Bad apples don't spoil the whole bunch.

On Monday and Tuesday of last week, my son loaned me his train pass. Monthly train passes don’t need to be scanned at the validation device. Last Wednesday, I used my own Opus card, which consists of individual train tickets that must be validated for each train ride.

Opus validation device
I forgot to validate my card. I only realized as I climbed aboard the train for the ride downtown. 

I was suddenly awash in sweat and hyperventilation, not necessarily in that order! 

The ticket-checkers are not on every train; it’s a spot-check system.

What were the chances they would be aboard my train in the middle of the afternoon?

For the entire trip, I twitched nervously with each loud voice I heard around me, glancing up and wiping several millilitres of burning sweat from my eyes every time the train door rattled open.

It was only when there was one stop to go that I began to relax, and that’s when the door slid open and they walked in, calling to passengers to prepare their proof of payments.

I couldn’t believe it; of all the putrid luck!

The ticket-checker finally stood at my seat and I, wallet in hand, simply admitted I had forgotten to scan my Opus card.

I spoke in English, the official language typically ignored by the AMT in its announcements and publicity.

He took the Opus card from my hand, asking, in English, if I took the train every day. I explained that I did not take the train every day and that Monday and Tuesday, I had borrowed a train pass from my son and, perhaps taking for granted I had the pass again, I had forgotten that my card needed validation.

I don't normally take the train on Wednesdays.

Placing my card on his hand-held verification device, he said he could see that my card had been scanned the week before and then he proceeded to ask me for some ID. He took out a pad and began jotting down my information.

In the end, he very kindly gave me a warning, reminding me the fine for taking the train without a valid ticket, or pass, was $120.

I thanked him repeatedly, assuring him I would not forget to scan my card in the future. He smiled and said, “It happens.”

No joke, the rest of the day, my inner Canadian felt terribly guilty about not having been given a ticket! It stupidly nagged at me. It’s as if I feared the AMT employee might be doubting my honesty, thinking I had pulled the wool over his eyes. Which I didn't.

His kindness, considering the reputation and stories I’ve heard about AMT ticket-checkers, seemed exceptional.

Will I give other AMT enforcement personnel the benefit of the doubt next time? No, but I’ll always give that particular ticket-checker the benefit of the doubt.

I got lucky that day, not because I didn’t get a ticket, but because I most likely got the only AMT ticket-checker who is a decent human being.

I haven’t seen him since; perhaps Agence metropolitaine de transport has detected his decency and are taking corrective measures.

If and when I do see him again, I plan to thank him once more.