Friday, 28 October 2011

notes on a white board

Alison Kuipers wrote a good novel a few years back that consisted entirely of notes between a girl and her mom with conflicting schedules -- the kind of notes that get stuck under frig magnets or scribbled on bulletin boards. I enjoyed the story of love and loss and humour and growing up, but couldn't help wondering how it would have played with male characters. Would a boy and his dad express their feelings and interests through notes? Well, Ed and I have been sharing a kitchen and white message board for more than a year, and the answer is ... well, what do you think?

We Scrimgers are not afraid to communicate. The board is often full of writing. We are not fond of feelings, however. Or should I say we are not fond of mushy feelings. No LOVE YOUs or TAKE CAREs. But we do not mind expressing our displeasure. The suggestion WASH DISHES was up there for two days when I was away a few months ago. When I came back the dishes were still undone, so I turned a suggestion into an order by adding an exclamation mark. WASH DISHES! Came downstairs the next day and Ed had added a third screamer and a curse: WASH DISHES DAMMIT!!! I confronted him later. He was yawning and I was making coffee.

What is going on with the dishes? I asked him.
I'm waiting for you to do them, Dad.

I was surprised.
That was my note, I said, pointing to the white board.
No, I wrote it,
he said. I hate the dishes piling up. See, there, that's the way I write my M, all loopy like that.
, I said. I was sure I remembered writing it. I did the dishes and rubbed out the note.

Later that week the board was co-opted to record the results of home-made crokinole tournament played on our dining room table. Ed and his friends picked countries to represent, and I was interested to note the progress of Macedonia (Ed) against Brazil, Sweden, and Cote D'Ivoire.

Not the stuff of story, eh? I know. Not many movies of the week based on these plot lines, specially when people's choice Macedonia went into a tailspin and finished fourth.

Currently we have a shopping list on the board. You could read it as a poem, I suppose. Or a piece of cryptic prose. HOT SAUCE, BREAD, FEAR. I know where to find hot sauce and bread, but wonder about FEAR. What does Ed want with it? And where can I buy it?
Unless it's BEANS.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

sandwich generation

Epic conversation last night -- my son and my dad on technology. I was in the middle, aware of the incomprehension on both sides. They were fish and bird, and I was the worm between them.

Sam began by describing a new game he and a buddy were playing on the PS3. It involved -- well, it doesn't matter what it involved, killing aliens or filling holes or stealing cars or mining for gold or something. The point is the PS3 platform. My dad wasn't interested in a video game dispenser, but when Sam explained that you could also use the PS3 to watch movies he started waving his hands.

Are you saying that this device of yours does more than play games?

We were in my parents' living room. Sam and Dad were both on their second or third drinks, which may have influenced the conversation. The baseball game played along quietly in the background.

Totally, Grampa. It's like a computer. You can use it to get Netflix.

I was thinking of ordering Netflix. But I thought I could use it to watch the movies on TV. Dad to me.

You watch Netflix on TV, but you need the PS3 to connect your set to Netflix, I said.

Stupid system. What kind of world is it where you need a zombie game device to watch a movie? All these machines hooked up to all these other machines. It's worse than 1984. Dad.

Yeah, I know. Me.

You should get a PS3, Grampa. Sam.

Hmph. How big is it anyway? I don't want a great big box sitting on the floor.

It's ... Sam.

Is it bigger than a breadbox? Dad, smiling. This was a phrase from my childhood. Many a game of Animal Vegetable Mineral revolved around this question. On TV the batter swung at a breaking ball way out of the strike zone, and missed.

What the heck are you talking about? Sam.

A breadbox. You know, a box where you keep --

Whoa! Slow down, Grampa. Sam was laughing now.

Don't you know what I'm talking about? A breadbox is a wood or metal box you kept on the counter. The boy knows what a breadbox is, doesn't he? Dad to me. I shrugged. The batter fouled off a pitch.

They used to keep bread in a box? So weird! What kind of a box? How big was it?

What do you mean? It was as big as a breadbox.

I finished my drink. The pitcher threw a belt-high fastball past the hitter, who was so upset he slammed his bat onto the plate and broke it. The inning ended.

Why, Grampa? Sam had his hands up, pleading.

Why what?

Why did you keep bread in a box? Why a box? Why not leave it in the bag? Or in a drawer? Why take up counter space? Why go to the extra trouble? Who were these people? Sam, to me.

Yeah, I know.

We were people who could turn on the TV and watch it, said Dad. We didn't need a box to connect to another box to connect to the internet to get a movie on the TV. Who's crazy now?

There was a tire commercial on TV. A car spun out of control on an icy road.

A PS3 is about the size of a square cake pan, Dad, I said. And, Sam, a bread box was about the size of a microwave oven. And I need another drink.