And The Lights Went Out All Over The World!



Cylon, from Battlestar Galactica at

I am a fan of technology. I think smartphones are cool, although I don’t like them when they interrupt conversations. Computers can do amazing things, and the internet, in spite of being created by the military to host porn, has democratized information. So, all in all, I’m a fan of technology.

However … there are places that technology should not be. Places where, thank you very much, good old plain, analog solutions are best.

Take the restroom, for example.

The word “restroom”, by the way, must be one of the best euphemisms ever created. I don’t know about you, but I have never rested in a restroom. Done my business? Yes. Washed up? Yes. Seen amazing feats of boyish prowess performed? Yes.

Rested? No.

I’m a bit of a connoisseur of restrooms. This is not because of some morbid fascination I have with human processes. No – and this is probably too much information – I just happen to spend quite a bit of time in restrooms.

On a regular basis, I get some special sauce dripped into my veins. (And no, this part has nothing to do with restrooms … although I understand your confusion.) This is done, appropriately in my case, in the bowels of an old building. An old, and until recently, analog building. Not too long ago, though, the twentieth century reared its head.

We got the internet.

Now, I didn’t do a cartwheel or anything – which, by the way, is tough to do when you have an IV in your arm and you are attached to a pole – but that was nice. Cell reception down in the bowels of huge, old, concrete buildings is never very good, so the interweb helps while away the hours while Dr Oz is playing on TV.

Nature often calls during these times, and, when nature calls, I always choose to respond.

I walked into the restroom, and I immediately knew something was different. The light, whose switch until recently had a sign on it saying “Please turn off lights when leaving”, came on. Automatically! Is this some sort of witchcraft? I hesitantly made my way in and settled myself in my favourite stall. Which is actually the only stall, but why split hairs.

So, there I was. Resting and minding my own business. And the lights went out.

Now, I’m not afraid of the dark. As a kid, I was, and so I forced myself out into the dark to confront my fears. I guess I must have been successful, because the dark doesn’t scare me. Much.

The dark, however, makes certain, restful movements more difficult. Not the movements themselves; more like the clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Ron.

I figured – and here is where my technological savvy was most helpful – that the light was motion activated. So, I thought, if I just make some motion, the light will come back on.

It’s sound reasoning like that that has gotten me to this life of luxury that I enjoy  today.

So, I shifted on my restful perch. Nothing. I wiggled around and moved my legs. Nothing.

I reached my arms into the air and sang “YMCA”. Which is tough to do when you are in a small stall with your IV pole crammed in with you.


I carefully stood up and stretched an arm heavenward. Success! The lights were back on. Hurray for technology!

I finished resting and proceeded to reach for the flush mechanism.

Hmmm. Where the heck is it? And what is this blinking red light? Are the Cylons taking over the earth, starting with restrooms?

Again, my vast, technological prowess took over. Perhaps the toilet operates on the same principle as the lights?

I waved my hand in front of the blinking light. Nothing. I tried sitting down and standing back up. Nothing. I even thought I’d try lifting a hand heavenward. Hey, it worked for the lights.


There must be a button or lever or something for cases like this. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find anything.

Shit. Literally and figuratively. You see, I can’t not flush a toilet after I’ve used it. People coming after me don’t need to see the surface of Mars in the toilet bowl. Although, one time, there was a pretty cool statue of Michelangelo’s David.

So I frantically searched for some way to flush the stinking toilet. By now, I’m on my hands and knees, with an IV pole riding my butt. As I grope around the toilet, somehow – and I’m pretty sure there was some divine intervention – the toilet flushed.

And the lights went off. But the lights I could fix, so I figured my ordeal was nearly over.

I just needed to wash my hands.

Until recently, I was able to wash my hands using a simple tap mechanism: I turned the handle and water came out of the tap.

There were no handles.

However, the same spawn of Baltar appeared to be controlling the water flow, so I moved my hand in front of the blinking light.


I tried waving my hand in front of it. Nothing. By now, my frustration level was mounting, and if the nurse had taken my blood pressure, it may have been slightly elevated.

As I tried to calm myself, a voice spoke in the back of my mind. “Ronald-san. Paint the fence.”

When Mr Miyagi tells you to paint the fence, you paint the fence.

I moved my hands up and down, to no avail. “Ronald-san. Try side to side.”

I tried side to side. Then I tried “Sand the floor”.


Out of frustration, I gave the sink the finger.

Out came the water.

I quickly put my hand under the flow, but it turned off; however, I was able to restart it by continuously keeping my driving finger extended.

Success! I nearly cried with relief.

Now, the only issue was to dry my hands. Until recently, I had been able to pull a paper towel out of a slot and dry my hands. Apparently this was too difficult a task to manage. Now the helpful Cylon was suggesting that I wave my hand to receive a piece of paper towel.

I placed myself directly in front of the towel dispenser, drew myself up to “attention”, and threw the machine a smart, crisp, one finger salute.

The lights went out just as the dispenser dispensed some paper towel.

We Don’t Climb Trees


I try to mind my own business – which is hard, because it seems there are so many people who could benefit from my wisdom. But …

There are times when I have to stand up and be counted. Have my voice heard. Rail against the injustice. Even if it’s done on an obscure blog that only 7 people have ever read. And one of those is my Mom, so I’m not sure Google counts that as a view or not.

I was at the dentist’s office the other day. Wait. Wait! It’s not another “Dentist Story”. Really. The setting was the dentist’s office. That’s all. Honest.

In the “stall” next to me, a very young brother and sister were getting their teeth checked for the first time. The dentist was counting their teeth, giving them rides up and down on the chair, and generally making a trip to the dentist appear to be like a trip to the fair. If they still had fairs.

Now the fact that I never had fun at the dentist is not where the injustice in this story happens. If you can believe it, this is not about me. Well, I’m sure it is. Maybe it’s not overtly about me.

From what I gathered – I was staring at the ceiling with a drill, some sort of pick, and I think a small basketball in my mouth, so my attention wasn’t focused on the outside world – the sister was in the chair, and the little boy, who was maybe 3 (get them young!), was looking out the window.

“Daddy! Look at the trees! Let’s go climb them!”

As much as I could, with the dentist’s hand – and possibly her foot – in my mouth, I smiled. You see, I loved climbing when I was young. Trees. Barns. Monkey bars at school. My Mom was convinced that I was part chimpanzee, at least on my Dad’s side.

Who am I kidding? I still like to climb stuff.

There is something about climbing. It unites your body, mind, and spirit in a way that few things do. Yes, your body is the vehicle for the climb, but your mind must be active. You need to plan your route, look for appropriate hand and footholds, and, if climbing trees, be on the lookout for a dead branch that won’t hold your weight.

But your spirit … Oh, my friends, what does a climb do for your spirit! Upon reaching the top, you are swept into a feeling of ecstasy and wonder. At the very least, a job well done. Mission accomplished. Fear and danger overcome.

At best, a sense of wonder, excitement, and the knowledge that you are one with the world. Yes, I was a tree hugger before it was cool.

And so I was excited for the little boy. I pictured myself helping my sons into trees when they were young –  and smaller than I. The excitement on their faces. The lure of adventure. These were the things I imagined for this little guy.

Then his father said these 4 (or possibly 5, depending on how you count contractions) words that no father, mother, or grandparent should ever say:

“We don’t climb trees.”

You don’t climb trees? What the hell? Pardon my French, but this is outrageous. You don’t climb trees? This is not an OK thing to say. Not only is climbing a tree a religious experience, it is one of the true joys of life. You don’t climb trees?

The father continued on. “Climbing trees is dangerous. You will get hurt if you climb a tree. You could fall out of the tree and get really hurt. We don’t climb trees.”

I didn’t know what to say. Well, I couldn’t say anything, as there were potholes being filled in my oral pathway, but my flabber was so gasted that I was speechless.

I’m not saying the father was wrong in his assessment of tree climbing. Yes, if you climb enough, you will get hurt. Skinned knees and hands. A branch in the eye. Momma birds will attack you if you come close to her nest.

And yes, you will fall.

But you have to weigh the pros out as well. You need to remember the feeling of accomplishment that you get. How you overcame adversity. How you experienced pain and kept on going. How, in spite of wearing old, brown, suede, worn-smooth Converse runners, you made it from point A to point B. And lived to tell the story.

These things are not only required, but they are our birthright. Better a broken body than a broken spirit. Or worse, a spirit that lives in fear.

What did that little guy learn that day? Not only can’t he climb trees now, but he won’t be climbing anything in the future, either. Plus, the world just became a little scarier. Now even the trees are out to get him.

Society is obsessed with safety.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in an era when it was OK – expected even – to get hurt. To try new, and often dumb, things. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but I did learn them.

I tried to give those same experiences to my sons. I remember putting them both into our big willow tree for the first time. The nervousness in their eyes. Fear even. The few tentative handholds. The confidence in their ability to go higher. The shining eyes after they made it to the top and experienced the thrill of accomplishment.

These are experiences that have become a part of who they are. Was I worried about them when they were high enough to break something on the way down? Damn right, I was. Was the risk worth the reward? Absolutely.

Nowadays, everything is safe. Playgrounds have thick padding, and all the “dangerous” items have been removed. Helmets are required for everything. Trampolines are a thing of the past. Safety labels assume that you are brain dead. “Hoisting this 500 pound refrigerator on your back may cause injury.” Really. I’m amazed we don’t have airbags on bicycles.

But safety is like a unicorn: a nice idea, I guess, but it doesn’t exist. It’s a myth.

A friend of mine, who carefully and faithfully saved his beans over a lifetime of work, had about half of his net worth wiped out by the recent “market correction”. It’ll come back, but his retirement has been compromised.

I’m not saying don’t save for the future. You should. It is not only prudent, but it is also wise. Just don’t think that it makes you “safe”. Things happen.

I’m not a political guy. I don’t follow the news. But even I heard about Bill C-51. I don’t even pretend to know the ins and outs of it, but I suspect it was passed to protect our safety.

I think I mentioned that I think safety is a dragon: it flies, is scaly, has that cool ability to shoot fire, but, ultimately, doesn’t exist.

So we give up a few more rights and freedoms to be kept safe. I can now be held for something like 7 days if CSIS decides that I’m an unsavoury character.

All in the hopes of keeping me safe. All because we live lives of fear because we aren’t allowed to climb trees anymore.

How about that? Worldwide attempts to combat terrorists all comes back to not letting little boys (and I only use boys as an example. I also hope that girls are climbing trees and doing dumb stuff, too. Why should boys get all the fun?) climb trees.

What a funny world we live in.

And so … take some risks. Maybe you’re past the stage where you are climbing stuff. Although, really, are you? Or are you just afraid of what people would say if they saw you at the top of the tree in your front yard?

Anyway, find out where you can be a bit “unsafe”. Push through your fear. You might just discover that the pain was worth it. Required, even. A difficult path makes the destination that much sweeter.

After all, you wouldn’t stop having sex just because it might be messy and just a bit awkward.

So, the next time we meet, go ahead and say what you want about me. Pie in the sky. Not grounded in reality. Pollyanna. Idiot. Fool. I’m a peace loving Mennonite, so I’ll take it in stride.

But, if you say “We don’t climb trees”, and I don’t have a mouth full of dental instruments, I might just have to punch you in the mouth.

Is It Still Safe?




Szell (Laurence Olivier) performs dental torture on Babe (Dustin Hoffman) to determine if it is safe. From the movie Marathon Man.

I may have mentioned that visiting the dentist is not my favourite thing to do. In fact, I can think of quite a few things that I’d rather do; pay a parking ticket, receive a quick kick to the shins, or clean dog poo off my lawn. [And this in spite of the fact that I don’t own a dog. Clean up after your own pets, people!]

Still, it’s not the worst thing that can happen.

I’ve had a series of interesting experiences with dentists. One of the earliest I can remember was when I was about … hmmm … I guess I can’t remember. Early on, anyway.

My dentist, who was about 6′ 6″ tall and about 400-500 lbs*, came in to have a look. “Mmmm. Uh huh. Oh.” And on and on like that. Finally, after spending about 7 hours in the chair (me, not him), he says “We are going to need to do an extraction.”

This, by the way, was back in the day when they still did extractions.

I said “Sure. But what – exactly – is an extraction?” Except that it came out more like “Saaah. Baa whaaa – aaaaly – ss aaa traaactor”, because he had most of his fist in my mouth.

I learned what an extraction was. And I didn’t like it.

So, my early emotional and physical scarring may have something to do with the fact that I now view dentists with some skepticism. That and the fact that I think they’ve got a bit of a scam going.

And by a bit of a scam, I mean a scam. Come on – $150+ to get your teeth cleaned? Yes, I know that your Water Pic is really fancy, but still.

Anyway, there was a period in my earlier life where my teeth required a lot of TLC. I’m not sure why. Maybe genetics. Maybe diet. Who knows. I can’t think of any behaviour that I was regularly partaking in that would cause dental problems. Risk of blindness, sure. But not dental problems.

Anyway, my more recent dental escapades have been chronicled elsewhere. Suffice to say that not all things have gone well.

A couple of months ago, an old filling was loose. And by old, I actually mean less than a year old. More accurately, I could have said a new filling was loose.

Apparently something hadn’t been sealed properly, and decay had set in under the filling. And the decay irritated the root. Which became infected. Or impacted. Or abscessed.  Whatever you call it, it hurt.

I decided to find a new dentist.

I made an emergency appointment with a dentist at a nearby clinic. When I was introduced, I was not thrilled. You see, she was young, intelligent, and attractive.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have nothing against young, intelligent, and attractive women. Or old, intelligent, attractive women. In fact, you could say I have a “thing” for intelligent, attractive women.

So much so that I married one.

Anyway, my previous experiences with attractive dentists have not gone well, and this one didn’t start off any better. “Mr Schellenberg, you seem to have some issues going on in here.”

I would have said “No sh*t, Sherlock”, but her hand was in my mouth.

She then proceeded to lecture me on dental hygiene, the dangers of not having regular dental checkups, and the sorry state of Canada’s foreign policy.

Now, I don’t now – nor have I ever – enjoy being lectured. In fact, because of my past dental escapades, I am pretty good in the oral hygiene department. I brush regularly, use a dentist approved toothpaste, and floss bi-annually. Or bi-ennially. I always get those two mixed up. I also have my teeth checked daily by a professional.

I may have gotten something mixed up, there.

My righteous indignation, which I righteously keep just below the surface, righteously bubbled up. I was about to explain how my hygiene – oral and otherwise – was pretty good, that I do have regular checkups, and that Canada’s foreign policies have been in the crapper since the days of Lester B Pearson.

I got control of myself, however, and kept my mouth shut. Or, in this case, open.

“You are going to need either a root canal or an extraction. I would strongly recommend a root canal, as there is hardly any money in extractions.” She may have worded that differently, but that’s what I heard.

Refer to my previous post for my thoughts on root canals.

“I can’t help you today, but, if you can come in early on Monday morning (this was Friday), I’ll come in early and help you out.” As they had squeezed me in in an emergency situation, I thought this was a pretty good deal. She gave me a prescription for penicillin and sent me on my way.

Monday morning came, and, as I hadn’t slept much anyway, I was at the dentist’s office early. “So, what have we decided?” she asked. I’m not sure what we decided, but I had decided on an extraction.

“OK,” she said. Cheerfully. “Let’s get to it.”

She hauled out a needle, jabbed it into my gums – and down into the bottom of my jaw, I think – and let it “freeze” for a bit.

“Feeling numb?” she asked.

I assumed she was talking about my mouth. “No,” I replied. In fact, I didn’t feel any numbness, tingling, or even shortness of breath.

“Hmmm. You must be resistant to the medication.” This is not surprising, as I have had, at one time or another, nearly every medication known to humanity shot into my veins.

For medical reasons only, of course.

She gave me another shot. Nothing. Cheerfully, she got out Big Bertha (my term, not hers) and had another go. This was a much larger needle, with a trigger on it. Like a trigger on a gun. Or, in this case, a cannon.

Thankfully, at least my gums were numb, because I could feel that the needle was so large it was punching holes into my gums. And maybe even into the ozone layer. Although I’m not a scientist, so don’t quote me on that.

A few minutes later, I couldn’t feel a thing. In any part of my body, actually.

And so the ordeal began. And by ordeal, I mean about 15-20 minutes. A little wiggling here, a little cranking there, and finally some pulling and … out it came.

This in sharp contrast to the last tooth I had had extracted. Which took two dentists – one being a cute blonde and the other being a good looking man with forearms the size of Popeye’s – over an hour to extract.

With plenty of “pressure” for yours truly.

It is rare, in this new dawning of the Age of Aquarius, to meet someone who truly loves her work. My new dentist is such a person. As she was trying to get the last root out, she was laughing delightedly. So was the assistant.

“Ron (it was Ron, now, not Mr Schellenberg), you’d be laughing too, if you could see how this root keeps dancing out of the way.” I took her word for it.

It was as painless a procedure as I could expect. Since then, I have had more work done, and all has gone well. In spite of the fact that this is all to fix fillings that were done in very recent memory.

By a dental office which shall remain nameless.

I’m not passing any judgements, just yet. I figure I’ll have to give it a year, and see how it goes. My insurance is already burned through, and there’s still some more to do, but … so far so good.

I don’t know why people want to be dentists. Sure, I guess the money is good. And by guess, I mean the money is good. But you have to look at some disgusting stuff, smell bad breath all day, and use devices that have been banned as instruments of torture since medieval times.

And you have to be bathed in that ugly, yellow light. Let’s face it, that’s not the most flattering shade. Plus, it can’t be great at a cocktail party. [Do they still have cocktail parties? If so, do you just stand around and drink cocktails?]

“And what do you do?” the lecherous older man asks the young, intelligent, and attractive woman.

“I’m a dentist,” she says. “How often do you floss?”

“Oh. Um. Yes. Well. I say, isn’t that Lester B Pearson over there?” (The sound of footsteps running.)

Still, I’m glad there are people who do it. It would just be nice if they were all … you know … good at what they did. Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic about my new relationship … with a young, intelligent, and attractive young woman.

Just don’t let my wife find out.


*I mention his size simply to give you a visual of how imposing he was. And by imposing, I mean scary. Which, if you are a dentist, is probably a good thing. “And here, Mr Schellenberg, is the bill.” I gasp and fall to floor in the fetal position. The dentist looms over me. “If you know what’s good for yous, yous’ll keep your trap shut and fork over the loot.”

Because, for some reason, my dentist now works for the New York mafia.