An ode to my town prison

Sung to the tune of Starships “We Built This City”

I hate this city
I hate this city
I hate this city,
with all my soul

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So “far off”

Some people are jerks. There’s no question about it, some people are just pure and simple jerks who will take any opportunity to be jerks, including pretending to not understand what someone is saying. I’ve seen it for myself.

The secretary

A long time ago, my mother had an appointment in a government office. She went to the office and approached the secretary, stated her name and said she had “an appointment with someone on Team 3, with someone named Rick, or something like that”. She said she wasn’t sure about the name, but it was something like “Rick”, but it was definitely with someone on Team 3 (there were six “teams” in the office with two or three people per team).

The secretary said she wasn’t familiar with an employee in the office named Rick. My mother reiterated that she wasn’t certain it was Rick, but it was someone on Team 3 at this time with her (she re-gave her name). The secretary then proceeded to spend 20 minutes searching for someone named Rick.

Eventually, another employee walked by, and the secretary flagged her down and asked her if she knew someone named Rick (my mother chimed in with “or something that like that, on Team 3”), and the other employee said there was a guy on Team 3 named Eric.

The secretary said “oh, ehhhhhh-rick”. Needless to say, my mother exhibited a herculean resistance to rip into the secretary. 🤦 ¬_¬

The vendor

Another time, my mother went to a farmer’s market with a few family members, specifically, with her—give me a second—her cousin’s aunt, the aunt’s husband, and their two daughters. Her cousin’s aunt and uncle-in-law didn’t grow up in North America, so they had accents, but their daughters grew up here, so they spoke English just fine.

At one booth, he asked the vendor how much the strawberries were, but with his accent, it sounded like “estrawberries” (it’s pretty common for non-native English speakers to precede words that start with an ‘s’ followed by a consonant with an ‘e’).

The vendor then spent a few minutes pretending to not understand what he was asking about. This one wasn’t stupid like the secretary was, this one was just a racist prick. 😒

The donut

I had my own experience with pricks pretending to not understand. A couple of years ago, when I was out of town, I had a Tim Horton’s coffee during their yearly Roll-up-the-rim-to-win contest and won a free donut. I kept the cup, brought it home with me, and took it to Tim Horton’s. I went in and presented it to the girl at the counter and asked for a cruller. She contorted her face and said “A what? 🤨” A cruller, I repeated and pointed at the crullers. She said, “oh, you mean a croooooler”. ¬_¬ I just nodded and took my donut and left, but if I didn’t have crippling social-anxiety disorder, or better yet, if I were Samuel L. Jackson, I’d have said “No, bi—! I mean a mother-f— crUH-ler!”. 😒

There is no way in hell that she could ever convince me that no customer ever has pronounced it the way that I did, which I only do because I learned it that way because that’s how almost everybody pronounces it. She works in a mofo donut shop and crullers are one of the most popular donuts. Unless she just started working there, there’s 0% chance that she’s never heard it said this way. 🙄

It could have been worse

Many years ago (I think I’m now old enough that this is no longer an understatement :-\), I was home one night after school and had nothing to do. My mother was out, at her dart league, and my sister and her friend were downstairs watching TV. I was in university at the time, but I had no outstanding school work that night and couldn’t think of anything to do. I was completely bored. I’ve always had a lot to do, but for some reason, I just couldn’t think of anything specific to do in that moment, at least nothing that I could easily start doing right away.

Despite not being diagnosed with it, I definitely have (and likely always had ADHD) and find it excruciatingly frustrating to sit still and do nothing. I need constant stimulation. It got pretty bad that night. I swear I felt actual, physical pain from the boredom. At one point, I was squirming on my bed and writhing in agony (looking back, it might have been what they call in the Autism community, “stimming”).

I decided to get something to eat. I went down to the second floor and looked through the fridge for something. I don’t think I was specifically hungry, but I just needed to do something, anything. I ended up grabbing an orange, a tangerine, and a grapefruit (I like citrus).

On the way back up the stairs, I continued keeping myself busy by playing ball with the orange, throwing it up in the air, then bringing my hand down fast from above it to catch it with a hard thwack. I got back to my room and sat on the bed and continued throwing the orange up and catching it, increasing the speed at which I would smack-catch it.

Then, on one throw, I didn’t quite close my fingers fast enough, and instead of catching the orange, I ended up hitting it, hard. The orange came towards me, propelled by the hard hit from my hand. It flew downward in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, it had taken up residence square in my crotch.

Needles to say, I keeled over, once again writhing in agony, squirming in physical pain, but this time, not from boredom, but from the likelihood of being unable to bear children anymore. I wriggled around for a while, waiting anxiously for the pain to subside, but it took its sweet time.

Then I started laughing.

I was thankful that it wasn’t the grapefruit.

Fat and Gay

When I was in elementary school, starting in fourth grade, we had to start taking French (because Canada). Unfortunately, fourth grade was also the same year that Scott transferred to our school and immediately began bullying me. (Apparently he was also bullying other kids, but all I knew was that he kept picking on me.)

One day in French class, our teacher was having us practice by having kids use other kids’ names in a sentence. Not surprisingly, with my luck, she happened to pick the worst possible combination of kids and sentence. She told Scott to say that Alec is tired.

Without missing a beat, beaming with a smile at the free opportunity to do a bit of “clever” bullying that he had been dealt, Scott proclaimed loudly, Alec is fat and gay.


Gee, who would have expected that? ¬_¬

But it gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective). Also without missing a beat, the teacher corrected him by enunciating, Non Scott, “Alec est fatigué.

Bitch, he knew exactly what he was doing! 🤦 It wasn’t a mistake, it was on purpose. Duh. 🙄

I don’t know which is worse, that she didn’t see the obvious opportunity for bullying, that she didn’t know that he was a bully, or that she actually thought it was mistake and was too dense to realize it was intentional.

The whole point to teacher’s college is to teach educators about non-academic stuff like handling children. That was a pretty epic fail.

Of course, at the time, I was absolutely mortified, but now, as an adult, I can look back on it and laugh. It is pretty hilarious. 🤷

Language invasion

A while back, I started listening to the German rap group Fettes Brot (they’re essentially the German Beastie Boys). After enjoying listening to their music for a while, I wanted to appreciate the songs by actually understanding them, so I got of all the language materials I could find at the library and spent four months teaching myself German. I wouldn’t say I’m conversationally-fluent, but certainly travel-fluent. The strange thing is that after I learned German, I seem to have forgotten French, which I grew up with and spent six years learning in school. It’s almost as if the German part of my brain invaded the French part.

What, too soon? It’s been 75 years. 🤷

The really weird part is that whenever I try to do a German accent, it sounds French. 😕

Oh Come On

One time my mother had an appointment with someone in a small office. The people in that office were divided into a few teams of three and she was to meet someone on Team 3. She had gotten a letter some time earlier telling her the date of the appointment and the person and his team with whom she was to meet. She didn’t take the letter with her, but she had remembered the gist of it.

She arrived at office and approached the receptionist. She said that she has an appointment with a guy from Team 3 and that she didn’t quite remember his name, but it was something like Rick.

The receptionist gave her a quizzical look and said that she doesn’t know a Rick. My mother explained that it may not be Rick but rather something like it. The receptionist again looked confused and frustrated and said that there is nobody by that name in the office.

My mother stood there waiting while the receptionist spent several minutes looking around for the appointment and when coming up empty, looking for some sort of clue as to who my mother had the appointment with.

Now my mother was getting irritated and tried to help again by saying that the appointment is with “Rick, Nick, Mick…” The receptionist still had no idea who it was supposed to be.

Another person who worked in the office walked by at that point and the receptionist stopped her. She told her coworker that “this lady has an appointment with Rick…?” My mother quickly chimed in, that it was with someone named Rick or something like that. The other woman immediately said “you mean Eric?” My mother gave a sardonic look to the receptionist who said “ohhhh Eeeeric.”

It’s Not So Bad

One night my mother went out to her dart game and my sister had a friend over and they were watching television downstairs. I had absolutely nothing to do that night, nothing to watch, no homework, nothing. I tried to think of one of my formerly many hobbies to do but came up empty. I was so bored that I hurt physically; I felt the boredom in my bones and muscles. In fact, for a minute I was actually writhing around in physically agony. I decided to get something to eat then figure out what to do.

I went downstairs and checked the fridge. To top off the hollow, emptiness of that night, there wasn’t even anything to eat. I ended up just grabbing some (gasp!) fruit from the drawer. I got myself an orange and a grapefruit.

On my way back up, I juggled the citruses all the way up the stairs. When I got up, I started to play another game with them where I would toss one up then catch it with an overhand swooping motion towards myself, causing the fruit to hit the palm of my hand hard.

I returned to my room and sat on the bed flipping through the channels. I stopped on something that I didn’t really care about and continued the fruit-catch game with the orange because it fit in my hand better and gave a more satisfying thwack! when it hit my palm. I did that a few times when on the last catch, I didn’t quite get a good grip on the orange and it slipped out of my hand and flew straight towards me. It hit me square in the groin and I fell over on the bed. I lay there in agony a hundred times worse than what I felt a few minutes ago. After a few seconds of pain, I began to laugh.

It may seem odd that I would laugh at getting hit so hard in the testicles with an orange, but it was a laugh of relief because it could have been worse, it could have been the grapefruit.


Michael came home from the library that night as he had done every night that week. As a senior in college, he had gotten used to putting off having fun in exchange for studying. He was determined to graduate with honours and was well on his way to doing so. He lived off campus in a small apartment by himself with his cat Jack. He had gotten Jack for his 13th birthday and had practically grown up with Jack. Living alone in the apartment was dry after having spent his first year in a dormitory with plenty of friends his age. However he had decided that to really be able to focus on his work, he would not have roommates. To make it less lonely, Michael had brought Jack up to live with him. He liked the feeling of being in control of his surrounding and yet not being completely alone. Michael would occasionally go out with his classmates but not as often as they would.

The year was half over at this point and classes had ended so that the students could prepare for Christmas exams which were coming up soon. Michael had spent many days and nights at home studying and tonight was no different. As usual he had divided his day between his various subjects and tackled them one at a time. He understood that he was less focused the more tired he got and so he studied the harder subjects in the morning, the easier ones later in the day, and his elective courses at night. He did not drink coffee until he got to college, at which point he soon became practically addicted. He drank so much coffee to help him stay away and study that his urine smelled of it when he went to the bathroom. This being his final year, Michael was putting an especially large number of hours into attaining the best grades he could. He would stay up for as many as 20 hours per day and get only four hours of sleep. To make matters worse, when he did finally get to bed, he would be so twitchy from the coffee that he would lay there awake for a few more hours.

After several hours of studying and occasionally attending to Jack, Michael finally decided to wrap things up and go to sleep. He made sure that Jack had food and water to last until the morning and that his litter box was clean. He brought Jack out to his cat-bed in the living room and headed back to his own room. Setting aside his books, he slid into his bed. He lay in bed staring up at the ceiling thinking about his studies. He tried to get his mind off of his school work by looking around rapidly in an attempt to tire his eyes. He stopped when he heard a loud cracking sound.

Michael was used to noises in this old building. The building had been around for many years and was in a state of disrepair, which is how he was able to afford such a large apartment on his own. Even so, Michael was always uncomfortable when he heard the noises because they were so unnatural. There were cracking noises, squeaking noises, bending noises, and various other types, all of which would occur in very unnatural ways. There was one night where he would swear he heard a creaking noise actually moving around the house. He knew it was not Jack because Jack was too small to make that kind of a noise. Another night, he heard a thumping noise in the living room and thought that it was Jack jumping off the couch but was surprised to see Jack lying on the desk in his room. Over the past couple of years, Michael had slowly built up a nervous dislike for the apartment but had accepted it since he had no other choice. He needed a place of his own and could not afford much. He decided that since all they were were just noises, he would force himself to ignore them and keep this place until he graduated, which was now only a few months away. This turned out to be easier said than done. Except for him, there were few other residents, and the security was sloppy at best. It was not difficult for anyone to enter the building, and this was not the best neighbourhood. On top of all that, there were some red neon lights across the street which shone ominously into parts of Michael’s flat, throwing horrendous shadows around. Even worse were nights with full moons. Those nights were the worst because the everything would take on a creepy blue glow which in parts would blend with the red neon lights to form a most grotesque look. Overall, Michael had felt really torn about the place. On the one hand he needed privacy to study, but on the other hand, he would have liked to have several roommates to reduce the foreboding and creepy feeling this old place gave him. That’s one of the reason that he brought Jack to live with him. Jack was company and quite brave at that. Being a cat, Jack was not afraid of noises, lights, or shadows. Quite the contrary, Jack welcomed the novel breaks in what were usually boring days, and delighted at the thought of what kind of vermin was causing them.

His ears pricked up as he did what he always did when he heard a noise in the flat. He lay perfectly still, breathing as slowly and shallow as possible in order to pretend that he was not even there. He was a reasonable and rational person and knew that there was nothing there. As a scientist, he had calculated the odds of there being some kind of crazy person in his apartment, let alone a monster were ridiculously low; he had better odds of winning the lottery. Still, the darkness, the coloured light, the shadows, and the noises all built up to quite a terrifying experience that even the most brave and logical person would have difficulty to simply set aside. Michael listened closely to determine the nature of the noise, and attempt to figure out where it was coming from. The large cracking sounds was followed by a thump which was in turn followed by a sort of beating sound. He could not be sure, but he suspected that the beating noise was coming closer. He closed his eyes hoping that the sooner he fell asleep, the sooner he would lose consciousness. After all, when he is unconscious then he is not afraid. If the noise is nothing, then he will awaken in the morning just fine. If the noise was in fact something, then the worst that would happen is that he would awaken briefly just before dying. Either way it was better than the torment his mind was putting him through. Or maybe not. He opened his eyes. The thought that a large creature or person could enter his room while he is oblivious and completely helpless forced him to leave his eyes open. He considered turning on a light to dispel the shadows and allow him to get some sleep in peace but that would require moving and moving would require disturbing the balance that he was currently a part of; a balance where nothing was occuring. He glanced at the clock. The glowing red digits read 5:42am. This was getting ridiculous, it was very late and he had to get some sleep. He could no longer afford to lie there awake, afraid of the dark like a silly child.

Michael wracked his brain for a solution. He was a smart person, how difficult could it be to think of a way out of this silly mess? He decided that he would reach for the small 3-stage desk lamp and turn it to the lowest setting. That would be sufficient to put him at ease without making him feel like a little boy who needs the lights on. But how would he do this in the dark? His bed was in an unlit part of the room as was the corner of the desk with the lamp on it. He did not need to get out of bed, but would have to sit up. Suddenly a thought struck him. He would turn the tables. Instead of being scared by some unknown, and probably non-existing monster, he would be the one to scare it! He would count to three, no five, no ten. On ten, he would jump up as fast as he could, flailing his arms wildly, and making the most horrible noise he could conjure. That would catch any monsters off guard and give him the second he needed to reach for and activate the light. If there was nothing there, then all that would occur is he would feel a little silly and go to bed. If there was something there, then he would catch it by surpri
se and have the advantage. Michael steeled himself for his plan. He counted to ten, then eleven, and twelve. When he got to 30, he chided his cowardice and was thankful that he did not have any roommates to witness this show. By the time he got to 75, he was determined to do it on 100. As he approached 90, he took a deep breath. On 95 he thought that he might abandon the plan since he had not heard any sounds for the past several minutes but it was too late. By the time he had finished that thought, he had reached the count of 100, and he sprung into action. He pounced up as fast as his muscles could flex, and waved his arms like a madman. He shouted and screeched through several different variations of noises from a loud popping noise, to a high-pitched squeal, to a rolling, gurgling yodel. As he did this, he tapped once on the touch-activated base of the lamp and just as quickly slammed himself back down into bed. The whole thing lasted about three seconds. Michael was not staring at the slightly lit ceiling. He lay as quiet as before trying to listen for any noises. He heard nothing. He glanced quickly out of the corner of his eye and saw no movement. The room was barely lit but it was enough. He saw no monsters or madmen and felt a wash of relief flow over him. He closed his eyes and at some point drifted off.

The next morning Michael got up and went through his usual routine for the day. He hopped in the shower, got dressed, and prepared breakfast. He poured some food and water for Jack and got himself a big cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. He called for Jack and ate his cereal while checking the news on the television. A few seconds later he called out to Jack again and finding no interesting news, turned off the television. After a few more minutes, he finished his cereal and called Jack again. He was starting to worry because Jack was as used to his routine as Michael was. He looked around the kitchen and living room. He searched behind the couch and in all of Jack’s hiding places. He checked the litter-box and the bathroom on the way to his bedroom. There was no sign of Jack anywhere. Michael entered his bedroom and looked around but found nothing. He looked under his bed and behind the desk; still no Jack. He opened the closet doors and collapsed backwards. Jack was lying there in the closet on his side, in front of a small hole in the wall. Michael prodded Jack to wake up but knew the horrible truth. He picked Jack up and found him to be quite cold. Hoping that whatever happened to Jack had just occurred, but knowing that it was too late, he jumped in the car and rushed Jack to the animal hospital. Michael pleaded with the receptionist to get a doctor and paced impatiently in the waiting room, holding Jack in his arms. A veterinarian came out and inspected Jack. With no more than a glance and brief touch, he confirmed to Michael that Jack was indeed dead and had been for several hours. Michael was crushed. The doctor asked Michael if he knew what had happened but Michael was at a loss to explain the death. He was told that they can do an necropsy to find out if he would like and Michael agreed while biting back tears. He left the hospital and drove home.

He slumped back in his couch and waited for the phone call. He did not study at all that day, and could not have cared less. He simply lay back on the couch waiting anxiously and soon dozed off. He fell asleep and had nightmares the entire time. He dreamt of horrific monsters and giant rats clawing and biting at Jack in slimy holes and sewers. He dreamt of crazy humans attacking Jack while he was tied down to his bed by invisible chains, helpless to do anything but watch.

Around midday, Michael awoke with a jolt. He was covered in a cold sweat and quickly remembered what had happened. He felt a pain run through him when he realised that Jack was dead for real. He threw himself across the couch and reach for the phone. He answered it, dreading what the vet might tell him of how Jack died. It was indeed the vet who was calling with the results of the necropsy. He told Michael that Jack did not suffer and died quickly, that Jack was not poisoned nor injured. Michael was relieved to hear the doctor tell him that Jack’s death was more or less natural. He dropped the phone in abject horror however when the doctor told him the ultimate cause of Jack’s death: last night, Jack had experienced some kind of shock or trauma that had caused him to have a heart attack.


I recall a scary event that occurred to me when I was younger. Our junior high is next to an old Chinese restaurant that served Cantonese and Szechuan style foods that was shut down a long time ago. We used to tell each other all kinds of stories about it and why it was shut down. We even used to sneak around it to try to see inside.

One dark night in winter my friends and I were walking home when decided to force each other to go inside and see what we could find. One guy completely chickened out and said he would not go in whatsoever. I said that I would not go in, but I would pick the lock for the others. I ripped out a crowbar-like metal rod out from a part of the roof and used it to break open the rusty old padlock (we had had quite a lot of rain for the past several years and a lot of things were rusty in the neglected areas of town.) One of my other friends went in for a few minutes but came running out soon after completely freaked out. We asked him what he saw but he said nothing, he just got too scared to go on. Then last guy went in.

We waited for almost ten minutes and didn’t see him. We called in to him in the most taunting, jovial manner we could to allay our own fears. We didn’t hear from him. A few more minutes elapsed and suddenly we heard all kinds of crashing and banging and the noise was coming towards us. We practically wet ourselves figuring that we were about to die.

We were about to turn and run for our lives when we saw our friend running out as fast as he could. When he got out bent over and began to vomit furiously. He must have vomited up five pounds of bile for as many minutes before he stopped, pale as the moon. We now knew the stories were true. We could only imagine the horrible things our friend had seen, the decaying bodies, the blood stains, the jars of body parts. The unimaginable horrors that could make a person vomit so badly. We summoned every bit of courage we could and asked him what was in there, not really wanting to know. He was too flustered and could not. We walked him home and went home ourselves. The next day we walked to school together and noticed that he gave a wide berth to the old restaurant as we neared school. At recess he related his ordeal.

He told us that he had gone in and looked around. He tried the lights but not surprisingly they did not work. Fortunately the moon was pretty full and quite bright so he had enough light to see well although the place had an eerie blue glow. He had found the main dining hall to be boring so he moved into the kitchen. The kitchen was pretty much what he expected but found it a little creepy that a bunch of old equipment was still there. He looked through the cupboards and refrigerators and found some old cans and jars. He told us that they all looked normal albeit kind of old. He found some bottles of wine and thought we could take them, drink them, and perhaps make some good money since wine gets better with age. He also found some old cans of Chinese soups and noodles, dried pasta, fruits, old candies, and a supply of chopsticks and fortune cookies. He went on to tell us that he took a swig of the wine but it tasted awful, tried a little bit of the canned noodles which also tasted awful. I asked him what he expected since they were several years old. He said that the candies were okay and the fortune cookies were good if a little stale and had eaten a few and put some in his pockets for us. We told him to hurry up and get to the scary part, the part that made him run out and vomit. He told us that after the kitchen, he made his way into the office. He checked around to see if there was any cash but found none. He looked for anything of value but other than paperwork, there was nothing around. So he looked at some of the papers and that’s when it happened. On top of the pile of papers on the desk was a formal looking letter from the health inspector. We knew this was it. We knew that he was about to tell us what had caused this place to be shut down, and we were right. He told us that he read the letter and found a list of offences that the inspector had found. There was the standard fair like cooks not wearing hair nets and garbage not being taken out often enough, but the thing that had really shaken up our friend and scarred him for life was this part of the list:

6 – Wine stored improperly, mold found in older bottles
7 – Traces of rat feces detected in a can of noodles
8 – Hair found in a fortune cookie