Category Archives: Whimsical

Life Lessons from a Cabbie

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The day before I would take the taxi ride that resulted in my learning the story below, I was in a fourth-year English seminar discussing The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. The professor talked about how the Orient tale was often used in the eighteenth-century as a fantastical narrative form by Western writers concocting stories that commented on their own domestic circumstances. Orient tales like Nights were then often abridged into children’s books imbued with bourgeois morals designed to educate Western readers on how to be good, upstanding Britons.

I don’t drive, and living in Toronto I’ve been happy to take public transit wherever I go. Yet my family doctor is in Oakville, so when I need to see her I go home for the weekend and take a cab to my appointment on the days when my parents can’t give me a lift. So it was that the day after my class I found myself speaking with a middle-aged cab driver who told me that he was from Turkey.

After talking for a while about his family and kids, he then asked about me. I told him that I was about to graduate from U of T in June.

“You are entering your donkey years,” he said.

I thought that I had misheard him, but when I saw him looking at me through the rear-view mirror, eyes smiling, I realized I hadn’t. I asked him what he meant, and he told me this story.

Once upon a time there lived a donkey, a dog, a monkey, and a human. The donkey, dog, and monkey each had a life expectancy of forty years while the Human’s was only twenty. Yet each animal had their unique grievances: the donkey was weary of a life spent working hard for others and being treated poorly for little compensation. The dog was weary of guarding his property and spending its days barking to protect it. The monkey was upset because all anyone ever did was make fun of how silly it was. Yet the human had no grievances  because it’s life was easy and pleasant; its only complaint was that it was so short.

Watching from above, God saw their grieving and transported them to Heaven. He listened the donkey, dog, and monkey’s complaints in turn before turning to the human.

“The other animals say that they wish their lives were shorter because their lives are so tedious and difficult, but your life is good,” God said. “What is then is your grievance?”

“Nothing; I only wish that my life were longer,” the human replied.

Thinking for a moment, God at last announced that he had a solution to all their grievances.

“The donkey, dog, and monkey are all weary of their lives and wish them to be shorter. So I will cut each of their lives in half, and give these extra years to the human,” he said.

The cabbie said that I was now, at twenty-one, one year out of my human years and into my donkey years. My human years were easy, carefree, and pleasant. Upon graduating, my donkey years would involve my taking jobs where I worked hard for long hours with little pay as I climbed my career ladder. When I turn forty, he said, I will enter my dog years, where I have made it to the top of my career and am now barking orders at people below me and guarding the success that I earned in my twenties and thirties. When I turn sixty, I will spend the rest of my life in my monkey years, when my grandchildren will make fun of me for being so silly.

“In all my life, I have never met anyone who was able to disprove my story. Can you?” He asked me. I said I couldn’t. He was exactly right.

When we arrived at the clinic I told him that I would share his story, and I did, with my family and friends. Now I am sharing it here, so you too can share the wisdom I learned from a cabbie.

The Intimacy of Strangers

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How do you get to know a person? You talk to them, right? Hi. What’s your name? What do you do for a living? Where are you from? Most relationships start with small talk, but there’s an intimacy to being strangers to someone that can’t be described with a single word or phrase. Because of clashing schedules and busy lives, many of us have spent at least one moment or another alone, whether it be studying in the library during a break, grabbing a quick bite or even commuting to school. When I’m not zoning out looking through a window or burying my nose in a textbook, I like to think about the endless possibilities to be had with strangers. As Alice Munro put it, it’s like “looking into an open secret, something not startling until you think of trying to tell it.”

Just the other day, I was waiting in line to order at Subway. I wasn’t sure what to order, so I decided to listen to the guy in front of me and copy his exact words. “One six-inch sub of the day on honey oat bread, please.” I noticed a slight tremble to his voice. Was he nervous to order? Was he, also like me, unsure of what to order? Or maybe he was just so hungry he couldn’t think properly. I wondered what it was.

Walking towards the 510 Spadina streetcar from the northbound subway, I trailed down the path where street musicians often play for small change. I happened to be right behind a girl who seemed to be my age. I figured we’d both walk by casually but then she reached into her purse and tossed in some loose change. Did she always participate in this random act of kindness? Or was the music especially deserving today? Was this something her parents or guardian had taught her to do? I wondered what it was.

I didn’t think much of these thoughts until we discussed Alice Munro’s Open Secrets in English Class (ENG215 if anybody is wondering). Through the few observations the narrator makes on a couple, she begins to wonder about the possibilities behind them and this startled her. We can see so much without even saying a word. We can choose what to say and what decisions to make, but at the end of the day, it’s the little things we do that reveal our open secrets.

A LOVEly Valentine’s Day

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Alone on Valentine’s Day? Do not fear, for Aphrodite is here (jokes, it’s just me)! Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and while being with that special someone on this holiday is always great (if you have one), who better to spend the day of love with than your girl friends? These ladies are, after all, the ones who have been there and supported you since the beginning. What’s also amazing is the fact that we live in a vibrant and fabulous city with tons of potential for V-Day fun.

Firstly, what’s better than a night full of food and gossipping? Nothing! Toronto has a wide range of restaurants and pubs that have the perfect Valentine’s Day atmosphere. For those (like me) whose heart is dedicated to Hogwarts, there’s The Lockhart near Dufferin Station. For those (like me again) who like sweets, there’s the Nutella Bar! Another entertaining idea is going to a theatre production. Possibilities? Kinky Boots at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, The Winter’s Tale at the Coal Mine Theatre, Gaslight at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and many more.

If your ideal girls day is one of relaxation, what better way to spend it than at the spa? Toronto has a variety of spots doing Valentine’s Day packages. Want to stay home instead? A DIY spa is easy to make.  Glamour has some great tips, including how to make a sugary scrub and tasty (healthy!) drinks. Another way to relax on Valentine’s Day is to watch a rom com. Whether at home or at the movies (How to Be Single is coming out on February 12th), binge-watching romantic comedies with your besties at a sleepover with popcorn and nail polish is a good idea any time of year.

Hope you feel the love! XOXO!

Printables: February 2016 Calendar

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February 2016 Calendar now available for print! Instructions on these origami roses can be found below

Introducing the February 2016 calendar! The January calendar was a hit, so I’ll be continuing this line of printable calendars until April!

The calendar is available in two different sizes (click for a dropbox link)

a smaller one

and

a larger, full 8.5 ” x 11 ” one.

I tried to keep this calendar as universal as possible, but I just couldn’t waft away the aroma of Valentine’s Day! Whether you’re single or in a romantic relationship, Valentine’s Day is a day of love and care. You may go with a simple card from your local craft store for your friends, a box of chocolates for your family, or even a bouquet of roses for your special someone. Why not go with something handmade like an origami rose (this one will last you a lifetime!) Check out the pdf here for instructions.

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A stem for the roses can also be made from rolling a small piece of green paper. (Disclaimer: I did not make this rose myself!)

Happy February!

My TAs: A Confession

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We’ve discussed professors in the past, whether they’re nice or loud or mean or weird… but have you been observing your TAs, too? Here is what I think of mine!

I have three TAs this semester. The first one for film studies is a near-middle-aged man, light-brown skinned, possibly from Romania or Italy or Spain or somewhere in the Middle East. The day I saw him, he was wearing an oversized brown-buttoned shirt, and a pair of grey jeans. It was not interesting. I thought that he was experienced in the subject matter, but whether he was or not, he didn’t seem to want to share his experiences with his students. He spoke with the voice of a dying mosquito, and seemed very nervous. He can never finish a sentence in one breath, like he’s always thinking madly about the next possible word to say so we won’t think he’s talking rubbish. AND he said he did not know what Twitter was!

My next TA is in my computer science tutorial. Unfortunately, and ridiciously, his voice is shy monotone. He’s young and tall, and  the first time I saw him he wore a maroon turtleneck with a pair of old blue jeans. The class gave him the silent treatment, and he just stood there, hunched, with a silly smile on his face, and I suspect that in his head, he was screaming “Somebody say something for God’s sake! I am so terrible at this.”

My last TA was also in film studies. She is very talkative and easy-going! Hurray! This TA gave us a pretty thoughtful and fun lesson with plenty of questions and discussion. So, does this mean that females are better at being TAs? I sure hope not! Man! What are all you male TAs doing these days? Straighten your backs and show us your strong, confident male selves! That being said, despite all their different characteristics I do like all of my TAs. I hope I can say that for the rest of my degree!