Why you need to start your own detective agency, STAT

Melissa Chaib 1

The house on Dever Drive was green stucco. One of those early 80’s shoeboxes that we tried to make feel like home, but that always ended up smelling like something we never cooked. We had lived there for four years by the time the yard sale rolled around.

My brother Colin and I took on the responsibility of the extra float. We also manned the lemonade stand. You don’t know this when you’re a little kid, but lemonade stands are pointless. Nobody ever wants lemonade, they just buy it because you’re a cute 8 year old.

It was July, and it was hot. Desert hot. Dry heat that refuses to let you sweat but makes you feel constantly thirsty. Colin and I propped our little table up in between the two crab apple trees in our front yard, taking extra care to avoid getting tangled in hanging caterpillars.

We sat there for two hours while my Dad heckled with neighbors over the price of his ham radio gear. Our youngest brother, Stephen, lay napping on the grass beside us in his diaper while our last brother, Ben, was busy trying to re-claim all the toys he had previously decided to put up for sale. No one wanted lemonade. The yard sale was full of too many other goods.

“I have an idea” I said to Colin. “Let’s become detectives.”

Colin, 6 at the time, was thrilled to participate. I got smelly markers – orange and cherry scented – and wrote the words out on a piece of cardboard.

DETEKTIVES AT YOUR SERVIS

As I propped the sign up in front of the lemonade, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace from across the street came over.

“Whatchoo got there?” Mr. Wallace boomed.

Oh, we’re detectives now!” I called out.

“No, no” he said “behind the sign?”

I turned, deflated, to get him a cup.  “It’s our Mom’s lemonade” I said “fifty cents.”

He drank it fast and asked for another before leaning in to whisper something to us.

“I’ve got this problem, you see” he began “…it’s my apple trees…”

Colin climbed up onto the table excitedly, prepared for whatever was to come.

“The apples just keep going missing. Do you think you could sort this out for me?”

We took his ten dollars, with a promise of ten more to come when we gave him the answer. He took another glass of lemonade.

Mrs. Wallace looked at him with sparkling eyes and as the two of them walked away — Mr. Wallace to the ham radio and Mrs. Wallace to the Tupperware — Colin and I made the decision.

“Racoons!” we yelled after them. “It’s got to be raccoons.”

Colin held out his hand for the other ten dollars.

And we both knew at that moment our detective careers were over.

***

When did we start to feel self-conscious about reaching for the stars and falling short? When did we start worrying about the logistics of our big dreams and stop doing it because it might be nothing except for kind-of fun? What is it about the dread pirate responsibility that stops us in our tracks? Why, as we grow into the ages where the possibility of success is two-fold, do we pop the top back onto the Pringle container? We don’t need to fear rejection letters and bad Trip Advisor reviews — the only thing we have to fear is not putting the sign up.

This week, go forth and start your own detective agency. Who knows, you might even make a quick 20 bucks.

XOYW1

image credit: Melissa Chaib

Trust me, you’re not the biggest creep in your apartment building

I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of an exhibitionist.

I mean, I would never go into the adult entertainment industry or join a colony, but if I was a celebrity I would be all over the Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball stuff. Nakedness has just never been a thing for me.

Now, don’t start with the whole “well I don’t like how I look” garbage. Ceasing to care about being naked has nothing to do with what you look like without Spanx on — it has to do with freedom, which is what we’re all about over here if you hadn’t noticed.

The necessary step is not pulling a Rumor Willis and exercising your right to bare tits all over Manhattan, the ingredient I’m looking for is the ability to stand in front of a mirror and say “I feel good” (not “I look good”) and continue on with your dish washing. Which is exactly what I was doing when I remembered that my curtains were open, it was 10PM and my apartment was bow-shaped.

“I told you to wear pants!” Steve messaged me, “We’re not the only creeps in the building!”

It’s become a favorite pastime of ours to shut off the lights and spy on the neighbors. Seriously — if you’re one of them, I’m sorry, but you provide way better entertainment than Kourtney & Khloe take the Hamptons. Sometimes we’ll make up conversations you’re having. Sometimes we’ll create entire life stories — which you honestly make it really easy to do when at 9pm every evening you turn on Pink Floyd laser-show lights in your 200 square foot living room and leave them on for the entire evening with the shades up.

My sole intent is to catch people doing it a la that Sex and the City episode where Samantha invites the girls over for popcorn and wine to spy on her neighbors who just can’t get enough of each other.

Yes, I’m weird. Maybe even illegal — I’m not sure of the repercussions of telling you all this — but what I am sure of is that Steve was right. We are not the only creeps in the building.

There I was, minding my own business, in the process of some seriously delicious and empowering naked me-time when out of the corner of my eye, I saw him.

Just standing there, glass in hand, looking at me.

I immediately followed the proper protocol for encountering a bear (as opposed to a peeping Tom) — I yelled for Steve, who wasn’t there. I then said “Oh, shoot,” — in other, more explicit words. I told myself he could smell fear, so I had to continue to be confident, & then I slowly and [hopefully] inconspicuously started to back away from the window.

I made the one fatal mistake of looking directly at him, which he responded to by jumping and turning off his light.

Gross.

I finally made the call to just fake a fainting spell an slither to the floor, where I crawled into the bedroom (where the curtains were shut, because #privacymatters) and remained for the rest of the night.

At least I got to bed early.

I remember reading a book called “The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want” a million years ago. One of the things it stated as being a “seriously bad girl move” was to dance around wearing nothing with the curtains up. At the time, I didn’t have my own apartment so dancing around naked made for quite a few awkward family moments, but when I did finally move out I was way more concerned about landing an episode of Criminal Minds written about my untimely and nude murder than I was about being a bad girl.

Over time, however, after one becomes experienced in the ways of both apartment living and living alone, you kind of forget that your windows are two-way.

Which is actually why I was doing the dishes that way in the first place. Who likes pants?

When I woke up this morning, I had forgotten all about the late-night rendevouz I had just hours before with corner unit, floor 12 guy. I walked to the washroom (in clothes). I showered. I got out of the shower . . . only to realize that my towel was back in the bedroom. I booked it — a total of 20 feet if I’m being generous towards the size of my place — straight into my towel.

As I plodded my way back to the washroom I couldn’t help but look out my windows into the units across from me. Some of them had curtains drawn, but most of them were wide open. I saw a girl eating breakfast (I almost typed Cheerios but realized that was taking my creative liberty too far), I saw a man looking out over the ocean, and as I finally let my eyes drift towards corner unit, floor 12 guy I prepared myself to come face-to-face with him.

Instead, I saw him where I’ve seen him every moment I’ve peered over there since I moved in (often, obviously). Seated in front of his television, playing Call of Duty (not artistic liberty. I can see the little people on the screen).

He wasn’t sitting there staring across at me, waiting for my next blunder. He wasn’t searching the skies for the next naked person. He had just gone right on living.

Which is exactly what I should have done when I noticed him in the first place.

Living in close quarters with strangers does incredible things for your psyche. It shows you you’re normal. It shows you you’re not normal. It exercises this little muscle inside called trust that is defined as “that thing you do in silence that assures people in the elevator you aren’t going to bring up what you saw them doing last night.” It makes you feel excruciatingly alone — but also really on public display. It reminds you — often — that you are not special, and that this is a good thing.

Because you’re never going to be the first naked person in the window.

You aren’t going to be the last.

& you’re never going to be the only creep in your apartment building.

XOYW1

photo by Saga Sig

What you miss out on if you wear sweatpants

liz

When my brother called me at 11PM to come and pick him up from an hour away, I was lying in bed with a glass of wine in the dark, scrolling through Pinterest, trying desperately to put myself to sleep.

It was Friday.

I mention that only because it’s adorable to picture me, at 11PM on a Friday, trying to lullaby myself to sleep in a pair of sweatpants over pictures of small apartment spaces decorated flawlessly.

“Yes,” I said, “I’ll come.”

Hair a mess, flannel shirt buttoned unevenly, fluffy socks, the whole nine yards. No one would see me. I would go as is.

But something stopped me just as I was about to walk out the door. It was a primal instinct that said Andria, put on real pants, k?

I know, right? How dare my instincts be so judgmental. I can wear sweats out to White Rock in the middle of the night if I want to. But I changed my pants, because everyone knows you have to listen to your gut. I put on black skinny jeans and motorcycle boots. Because that was the most comfortable option I had other than my 10 year old high school sweatpants.

I drove an hour with a wedgie. I had changed my pants but I hadn’t changed my sweatpant-worthy underwear.

When I arrived at the venue, my brother got into the vehicle high on life. He had just finished playing the (epic?) “Raise a Little Hell” with the (oldie but goodie) band Trooper. He was in no mood to go home.

Instead, we went to the casino. A place I was not dressed for, but would at least be permitted inside of.

We had a beer. We played (and lost) some penny slots. Then we put $10 on black and we won.

I HAVE NEVER WON ON BLACK BEFORE.

Granted, $20 wasn’t anything to write home about, but I’ll tell you what it was worth . . . it was worth getting out of sweatpants for.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we don’t want to put in our best effort. We want to slum around. We want to stay pimply and chubby. We want to keep picking our nose, even though there’s someone beside us at the red light. We want to go to sleep without brushing our teeth. We want to wear our bitch-face on the subway. Sometimes, no matter what our head wants us to do, we say no. And it’s in times like this we must remember Elizabeth Taylor’s famous words.

Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.

Hey, it might make you ten bucks.

XOYW1

Behind the bar : Your waitress is smarter than you

waitress 2

“So,” she asked me over the clanking of ice in the shaker, “what do you do in real life?”

I breathe a sigh of relief. Not that there’s anything wrong with being identified as a waitress, but I’m a shitty waitress on a good day and my maroon lipstick tells my patrons everything they need to know about how seriously I take my job. Oh, I like the small talk alright, but my ability to mix an old fashioned the same, twice in a row, is non-existent.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

Here in the dimly lit brick-enclosed space that smells of muddled oranges and spilled bourbon, I can be whatever I want. “Real life” is out there. In here is a three month overdue Telus bill and a used car with $11,000 of insurance on it’s back. In here is the blood in the veins of the hustle, and everyone knows there’s more to the story.

No one wakes up one morning and says “I’m going to be a waitress!”

Unless you’re me on Monday — I said those words because I needed some fast cash.

In here are ten fanny packs, six pouches of change and forty notepads from the dollar store, all waiting to have “medium rare, seat 1” written on them. There’s nothing glamorous about wiping tables and spilling mayonnaise on your Chuck Taylors — but at midnight on a Thursday, The Black Keys playing through speakers above your head, shoes sticking to the splattered patterns of Jim Beam on the laminate, $120 dollars in your pocket and $70 in the bank, you feel slightly superior.

Not because $190 is enough money to pay half of your overdue Telus bill, but because this is the one job you can have that people won’t use to define you.

“How about you?” I asked her as I handed her the whiskey sour to take to a table in the back.

“I’m in my last year of neuroscience,” she said.

We all have to start somewhere.

XOYW1

 

 

Sunday Confessional: How I choose who to sit beside on the bus

you cant sit with us

Ever since that story came out about that guy who chopped up his seat partner, I’ve been a little extra cautious when I sit down on the bus. I mean the rule of thumb is that we don’t judge others — as good Christian folk we try not to notice a person making the same mistakes over and over, and we ignore the extra wing of eyeliner that in theory is a good idea but in practice just looks ridiculous. But the truth is, under every single one of our gazes lies an inner dialogue that — despite our efforts — ain’t always nice.

When I travel by Greyhound it’s because flying within Canada is stupid expensive and because my travel plans have been so last minute I couldn’t have made it to the airport in time. It’s not really by choice is what I’m saying. It’s a necessary evil of being on the go. There isn’t one single person ever, probably, who was all “man, I just had the best Greyhound trip.” That’s just not a sentence people utter.

I mean, if there’s one place in my little town that people go when they want to learn the definition of derelict — it’s the Greyhound station. It’s very transitory, very post-apocalyptic, the coffee tastes like gasoline and costs fifty cents, and absolutely everyone is traveling from somewhere like Fort McMurray or Moose Jaw.

And see? Just like that — judgement.

So how do we do it? How do we determine, through our horrible squinty eyes, which judgements take priority? I personally like to be the person at the window seat so I don’t have to be the one who decides if she’d rather have dread-locked smelly guy or sleeping mom with screaming baby — but I can only maintain my self-important bitch face for so long before someone’s pillar of judgmental priorities has me at the top.

And sometimes, I don’t have the luxury of getting on the bus first. Sometimes I have to wait my turn and — GASP — make that call.

I know we can’t judge books by the cover. I know what Jeffery Dahmer looks like and I’ll be the first to admit I think he was kind of hot in a creepy ’80s way.

I know we can’t judge the players of Big Brother by their first game.

I’ve been trying to convince my dad for years that just because someone rides a Harley doesn’t make them a criminal. I just happen to have always accidentally picked the criminal ones. My bad, dad.

People are filled with so many surprises. The beautiful 20 year old with her nose in a book — the one you think you’re safe beside — yeah, she conjured up some freaky shit after she read 50 Shades of Grey.

We just never know! Sure, the cover of a book can probably tell you what income bracket someone lives within and whether they like to lift, bro, but that’s about as far as it goes. It’s a horrible, horrible practice. And the thing we always seem to forget is that everyone knows we’re doing it.

So I’ve developed a method of madness that is still totally judgmental, but that makes the whole process a little easier. I simply sit down beside whoever looks like they wouldn’t mind having me fall asleep on their shoulder accidentally. Yeah, maybe it’s because they want to chop me up. Maybe it’s because they’re leaving Fort McMurray for the first time in 60 days. Maybe it’s because the lady is reading a Bible in her seat and she knows that the nice thing to do is just let me rest my eyes for a bit at her expense. Whatever the reason, I judge based on what I think they think of me as opposed to the other way around.

Then I get off the bus and think to myself great, now my face smells like patchouli. 

XOYW1

How to flush a British toilet

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Honestly, there are some moments during which you just need to stop and ask yourself … what am I doing wrong in this life?

There are some things you will never know until you learn them the hard way. Some things you will never want until it’s too late. Some things you will not wait for until the moment crashes into you disastrously. There are some things in this life you should Google before “winging it.”

I know this now.

Ask anyone what the difference is between a Canadian and a UK toilet and they’ll tell you the same thing.

“Nothing.”

“Just flush.”

That’s a lie if I ever heard one. Anyone has obviously not had the experience of turning around to find a dangling chain attached to their toilet.

“Pull,” one would think.

One is an idiot.

Thankfully, I learned long ago that it’s not a faux pax to bring your iPhone into the washroom. Goodness Gracious.

Hello from England — the land of tea & crumpets! I’ll be traipsing around this side of the pond for the next while, but I promise this is the last you’ll hear of their toilets.

Actually, I can’t make that promise. Looking back, I’ve written quite a bit about toilets. You could only be so lucky.

Let me know your favorite haunts & I’ll tell you what kind of trouble I get into with the Queen.

xo & yw

 

The Benefit of Life’s WTF Moments

slap

Sometimes I do things that blow my own mind, in a WTF kind of way.

There was the time I thought a peel-off face mask was a good idea, even though I have a hairy face.

There was the time I thought “trimming” my eyebrows with scissors would be more authentic than tweezing them and consequently ended up looking like I was trying to make some sort of rebellious eyebrow-art statement.

There was the time I openly tried to seduce my grade 10 science teacher and got put into a different class (BOO.)

There was the time I ate 5 Ikea hot dogs in a row.

The time I dated a man who had a tattoo the size of his back of a devil-woman performing cunnilingus on another devil-woman.

The time I stabbed a girl in my Sunday school class with my stiletto and made her bleed through her tights.

The time I used a fake cancer story to avoid getting hit on at the bar, and the guy had just lost his sister to cancer.

The time I had 8 tequila shots at my staff Christmas party, while wearing a strapless dress.

And the time, yesterday, when I had 4 final papers to write and decided what I really needed was to have way too many day drinks and go to the strip club at 4 in the afternoon.

I just can not even fathom myself.

When these things happen, hangover or no hangover, life feels pretty bleak for a while afterwards. You’re embarrassed, or uncomfortable, or sad, or confused, or angry, or in pain, or wanting to go to AA, or all of the above in reference to both yesterday’s activities.  In addition, you look in the bathroom mirror and say WTF, self, WTF. Sometimes in reference to your eyebrows and sometimes in reference to how, in a matter of moments, your life seems to have fallen apart.

Here’s the thing about WTF moments though… they slap you silly. And sometimes, when you’ve fallen asleep and you’re just letting life drag you around, a good slapping is exactly what the doctor ordered.

So you put the bottle down, you buy an eyebrow pencil, you set higher standards, you eat a salad, and you remember to never again buy a peel-off face mask.

xo & yw