Spook-ular values: A Halloween parable

Photo by Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

It started with a body on a bus. This was followed by a second body on a bus. The interval between the discoveries was so brief that it felt like it couldn’t be a coincidence, though it proved to be so. Still, there was no getting over the public perception that there was now an epidemic of bodies on buses.

What triggered the great outcry, however, was that in both cases the bodies on the buses had gone undiscovered for hours, riding back and forth along the line in their respective cities. People thought they were asleep. People had sat right beside the dead bodies on the bus! It was shocking. It was outrageous.

“People should be able to interact freely in public spaces, particularly publicly funded places, without fearing that the person next to them is dead,” the pundits declared in fraught, alarmist tones. “What the dead do in their own homes is their own business, but they gave up the right to government services when they gave up breathing.”

The pundits were joined by a groundswell of people on the right who muttered (mostly online) about security threats, community values, odours. The dead had to be stopped, they stressed, before our schools and hospitals were filled with corpses.

“I have nothing against the dead, but…” they wrote.

Or: “Some of my best friends are dead, but…”

Or: “No heartbeat? No service!”

Or: “The problem with the dead is you can never tell what they’re thinking.”

Looking to score political points with the living, the government rushed forward Bill 666: “An act to foster adherence to State non-mortality.” The act declared that no one could give or receive government services if they happened to be dead.

Critics on the left were appalled. They argued that the deceased were being unfairly persecuted. The chances of a dead person receiving services were extremely low, they pointed out, especially considering how difficult it was to receive services even among the living.

And given how few documented cases there were of the dead demanding services, critics described the law as overkill. “One rotten body doesn’t spoil the bunch,” they claimed.

Despite these misgivings, Bill 666 went into effect, and though the government had hoped that acting decisively would bury this controversy, the public failed to be satisfied. Not content to ban the dead from public services, people began targeting the sick and the elderly who seemed inclined to die.

Protestors marched outside hospitals to stop the critically ill (or “would-be dead,” as they were called) from receiving the services they needed in order to stop being critically ill. As a result, many of these patients died, proving the protestors’ point.

The public also fretted about the particularly vulnerable being indoctrinated by the dead. There were reports of mobs attacking black-clad teens reading Thirteen Reasons Why.

The law, however, was effective; by no means did the dead receive any services during this time.

Nonetheless, there were those who continued speaking up for the dead, telling their stories, which, frankly, weren’t that interesting. There was a wave of online activism with the hashtag #deadlivesmatter. People called on the dead to stop taking this matter lying down.

“It is time,” the sympathetic living called out, “for the dead to rise up! Rise up! Rise up!”

So the dead did.

Out of their graves, the dead emerged – angry, frustrated, decomposing. They took to the streets, reminding some people of that Michael Jackson video, but with poorer special effects.

As one, they marched (staggered, oozed) to the government legislature, where a megaphone was commandeered, and one among the dead came forward, lifted it to his frayed lips and, as a hush fell over the hordes, made his demands:


This last part is controversial. No one could say for sure that the spokesman for the dead had said “Nicolas Cage,” but the dead had the living outnumbered, and, for lack of a better option, Nicolas Cage was summoned.

The dead quickly devoured Nicolas Cage, which was understandable.

In the ensuing rampage, the right contended that they had seen this coming, that the dead couldn’t be trusted, while the left pointed out that none of this would have happened if the dead hadn’t been disenfranchised, not to mention disemboweled.

But it was all moot, as the dead quickly decimated the living until they were all, indeed, the dead.

Taking over the legislature, the dead immediately repealed Bill 666, and three cheers went up – “nnggh-ngghh GRRNARRGHH! nnggh-ngghh GRRNARRGHH! nnggh-ngghh GRRNARRGHH!” – as they celebrated their equality under the law and their full access to government services.

Although it still takes forever to get a family doctor.

Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Gushing over local tap water

“Residents of Sherbrooke are drinking the best tap water in Quebec, according to a jury made up of water experts and a sommelier…. The winning choice was based on clarity, odour and taste, much like wine is judged.” – CBC News website

With the clarity of a professionally maintained aquarium, St-Étienne’s water offers up the delicate aroma of fresh snow, wet leaves and the slightest hint of bowling shoes. Triggering nostalgic memories of drinking from the garden hose and strange stirrings after spying your friend’s mom in a bikini, our sample starts with a sharpness at the front of the tongue due to calcium deposits, then finishes at the back of the throat due to gravity. However, we remarked a certain shortfall in overall wetness, and thus found it quenched our physical thirst yet not our thirst for greater meaning in a relentlessly cruel world. 8.1/10

At the outset we should mention that the integrity of our sample was potentially compromised by the fact that we were unable to find a clear glass and were instead provided a chipped coffee mug emblazoned with the phrase “World’s Greatest Bladder,” which was admittedly à propo given the scope of this exercise. We should note also that the mug was wiped “clean” with a back issue of Silage Aficionado. But, as the saying goes, when in Farnham, do carry a lot of hand sanitizer. Consequently, we cannot fully confirm that Farnham water has the clarity of weak broth, the odour of a hat lining and the taste of Crayon shavings, but we cannot fully rule it out either. 4.7/10

Weedon Centre
Piquant, fruity, with musky overtones. But enough about our sommelier. Instead, let us immerse ourselves in the boldness of Weedon Centre water, which erupts from household taps with unbridled virility, churning the air with a mist of bracing effervescence, refreshing the pores and moistening shirtfronts in an entirely provocative and distracting manner. In the nose, we sense the crackling ions of cumulus nimbus, with a well-deserved slap of vintage Hai Karate. This is a superb match for a nihilistic clarity that speaks of frigid Himalayan nights accompanied only by a box of limes, a steel blade and a passionately dedicated Sherpa. Nonetheless, when the water jumps from the glass and charges pell-mell down our throat without lingering for a taste, without asking, without any tenderness at all, it goes too far, too, too far. 7.7/10

We were so perplexed by Stanstead’s tap water – fizzy clarity, burnt hair odour, oatmeal-y taste – that we had it analyzed. The results indicated that it contained high levels of manganese and iron along with traces of sulphur, potassium, lipstick, Woolite, cotton candy, pen ink, cat hair, malt beverage, hair gel, Pop Rocks, Benadryl, parmesan cheese, asphalt and the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. But don’t let that stop you because, no matter what the locals tell you, Stanstead water is actually pretty good! 8.2/10

Rascally, with complex overtones of briskness and butterscotch, not to mention an entirely whimsical dereliction of duty, Coaticook water is not the working-class quaff one might anticipate. Rather, it is cheerfully self-effacing as it aerates joyfully in the glass, as if to say, “It will be my pleasure to nourish your tissues and aid in overall digestion.” There is a heady, citrusy quality to the most pleasing odour. Taste-wise, we happily stumble upon a sort of sweetness, setting off pleasure receptors that aid in the overall satisfaction of what can only be described as “a refreshment.” Bravo, Coaticook, for your delicious and delightful water! 10/10*

What do we look for in drinking water? Hydration? Yes. Refreshment? Certainly. Companionship? Possibly. An income tax deduction? Unlikely. What we seek when we open the tap in our home is peace of mind. Sherbrooke tap water is reassuring in its wateriness. It is nearly invisible in its clearness yet not so invisible as to create a tripping hazard. It offers up the odour of well-adjusted white people performing moderate aerobics. In taste, it is complete, with an introduction, a body and a conclusion, along with a complete bibliography of mineral content in APA format. It is the very essence of water. Super watery. What we think of when we think of water. Therefore, we can conclusively say, after sampling and judging countless municipal waters, that we seriously need a drink. 9.8/10

* Disqualified after it was discovered the judges had been drinking Fresca.


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The cat who cancelled Thanksgiving

Regular readers know that I harbour a certain prejudice against cats, and like most prejudices, it’s defined by my own narrow experience. But this summer, our middle daughter Katie moved back home along with her own two cats, Lincoln and Chandler. That’s when I discovered not all cats are jerks; only our cats are jerks.

Not all cats, for instance, perform track-and-field over sleeping torsos or confuse” snuggling” with “barging,” just our cat Polly. And while I’m sure Nellie is not the only dangerously overweight cat who cannot properly clean herself, she may be the only cat that meows insistently outside the bathroom door each morning until one of the humans dampens a baby wipe and cleans her butt.

Lincoln and Chandler, on the other hand, possess the qualities I look for in a cat: avoiding contact and staring blankly.

Lincoln is the blank one, a bit of a dullard. His head is too small for his body, which makes me certain he’s functioning entirely on a primitive brain stem. His favourite thing in the world is an eraser. When you pick him up, he goes limp, as though the thought of escape never occurred to him. As though thought never occurred to him.

But Katie loves him, so we take good care of him while she’s studying in Ottawa. If something needs wiping, we’ll wipe it.

That’s why when Lincoln seemed not himself early last week —not eating, not drinking, not a bit of eraser time — I called the Coaticook vet Wednesday morning, and they told me they could see Lincoln at 9:00 o’clock.

Within the space of two hours, Lincoln had an appointment with the vet, had travelled to the vet, had seen the vet, had blood work done, had received results of said blood work and had been checked in overnight for treatment. Meanwhile I was on a waiting list for seven years to get a routine checkup.

I took time off work for the visit, but that was okay, even if it was for a cat, because Katie loves her cats. Likewise, we cancelled our Thanksgiving plans at Deb’s sisters, where all our children had planned to converge, because now we had to take care of Lincoln. Plus Katie loves her cats, and she wanted to see them, especially the sick one.

So all our kids came home instead. We found a last-minute turkey, at Walmart of all places, and it tasted like a regular turkey, and we bought sweet potatoes there too, and they tasted like what you’d expect Walmart sweet potatoes to taste like.

Katie arrived Friday evening with Em and her partner Altan, then James arrived Saturday evening, and Abby was here all along, though most of the time in her room, because she’s 16 and possibly part cat, the avoiding and staring blankly kind.

And we ate and we drank and played geeky games. We hiked up Mount Orford thinking we’d glory in the leaves at their most brilliant, but halfway up the clouds and mist rolled in, and by the time we got to the top, we couldn’t see fog-all, so we hiked back down and ate and drank some more.

We picked apples, feeling pretty clever eating the free “samples” off the trees and then paying for more than we’ll ever eat, which is Western commerce in a nutshell.

Then everyone dispersed, taking the leftovers with them, and I went to the fridge and thought, WTF: Where’s The Food?

And while all this climbing and geeking and picking and eating were taking place, we were all the while watching Lincoln, picking him up to see if he was purring happily, asking who had last seen him drinking, keeping the toilet water fresh because he’s that kind of cat. At one point we wondered if he was looking dopey, which is no easy assessment when a cat is naturally dopey.

When it became clear he had not been eating the vet’s special cat food at five dollars a tin, Deb and I had to forcibly get some in his mouth as instructed, only to discover later that Lincoln simply didn’t like the vet’s special cat food at five dollars a tin.

We were all thankful he was okay and were grateful to be together for a short time, even if none of this was what we had planned and all because of a cat.

And if you see me trying to coax Lincoln out from under a chair or rubbing his belly or making meowing noises or tossing an eraser his way, I assure you it is solely because Katie loves her cats.


Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Revenge of the Thanksgiving turkey

Everyone? Everyone? Can I have your attention please? Uncle Charlie, stop palpating the pumpkins for just a minute. Kenny, if you could refrain from gnawing the charred carpet… Thank you. Can you all see me through the smoke? I’d like to say a few words before we get to my traditional Thanksgiving grace.

I know this is not our usual Thanksgiving setting, out here on the sidewalk behind the police tape. I swear I had no idea the oven would burst into flames like that. Bart, you’re my brother, and I don’t blame you for selling me what turned out to be a fire hazard. Caveat emptor, right? That’s Latin, Bart.

I do admit I had been worrying about the stove, what with the fuses blowing every time we made tea. Why, just the other day I said to the wife, “My grandfather turned his back on a toaster once and it cost him his lower extremities.” But did she listen? Yes, she did. And I’m not just saying that because she’s standing beside me holding some kind of leg iron.

Obviously we won’t be having turkey. It was one of the first things to go. Explode, really. That’s not something you see every day. I’d especially like to wish a quick recovery to the firefighter who was rushed to the hospital with stuffing-related injuries. I’m not sure what his name is but the wife described him as “not the hot one but the one who was hot enough.” Best of luck to you, sort-of-hot guy!

Next, I want to thank all of you for sticking it out, despite the inconveniences you’ve suffered. Jenny, I’m confidant those burns are superficial and in no way require medical assistance or a call to your family lawyer. Just keep icing it. I know the house is out of bounds but luckily you can apply the frozen giblets Aunt Sherry grabbed as she fled the house. Way to go, Aunt Sherry. Don’t quite understand your priorities but well played nonetheless.

Of course, not everyone is still here. I don’t think any of us knew there was an arrest warrant out for cousin Andy until the police showed up. Who knew Andy could run so fast, eh?

The important thing is that we’re all together. Boy, there’s nothing like a three-alarm fire to make you think. No, Grandma, I said “think,” not “drink.”

That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, right? Being grateful for what you have, not the things you’ve lost, like the turkey, the house, the wife’s collection of porcelain chinchillas. When you’ve been in a turkey-related fire, you come to appreciate what’s really important. I mean, at least we have our health, right? Oh, sorry, Uncle Pete. I forgot about your skin condition. But for the rest of us, it’s important to remember your health. And to not get too close to Uncle Pete.

Now, I see the investigators are waiting to take statements — and please, don’t mention the time Andy set fire to the mime; that really has nothing to do with today’s unfortunate incident — so I think we should proceed with grace. We’ve managed to salvage four sweet potatoes, a jar of hot dog relish, a kielbasa that was curing in the basement and several tins of cling peaches. I know it’s a tad distracting with the news helicopters circling overhead but if you would just bow your heads…

Lord, it’s us out on the street
Our feast we will not get to eat
Fled the kitchen – couldn’t stand the heat
Scorched the turkey, smoke was murky
Burned my loafers (size: petite)
And still to You we are most gracious
For mountains, streams and meadows spacious
For people shy and those loquacious
(Feeling pious, showing my bias
Feel just like Saint Ignatius)
Grimy with soot and turkey parts
We’re thanking you with all our hearts
And when we order out à la carte
(Maybe Thai, don’t know why)
Please pass the bill to my brother Bart


Originally published in Don’t Everyone Jump at Once, Blue Ice Books 2013

Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

I am running for town hall?

A number of people have asked me about a rumour going around that I plan to run for municipal council. If ever there was a time to address such a rumour – one day before the nomination deadline – this would be the time. It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to confirm today that I have also heard the rumour and that the rumour is, indeed, going around.

Am I running for council? That’s a good question, although, like many questions, one must wonder whether it should be asked in the first place. For instance, “Where, oh, where can my baby be?” is a simple enough question but one that might draw the attention of Child Protection Services.

What’s important is that we all agree that I would make an ideal local representative, and not only because I know words like “promulgate” and “bildungsroman” and “glottal,” which, as you know, are terms used in the sewage treatment industry. They also double as words that can be deployed at your garden-variety ribbon-cutting ceremony.

It certainly makes sense that I would run for council. I have lived in Stanstead for 25 years and been fully awake for 16 of those. My background in journalism and public relations has taught me not to trust a word I say, and you can count on that.

If elected, I would espouse a collaborative approach with my fellow councillors to find solutions that align perfectly with my views. My strong convictions are evidenced in my extensive and well-documented history of hissy fits in professional, volunteer and household settings.

Am I maybe not running for council because my French isn’t good enough? Or is it possible I am not considering not running because my French isn’t not good enough? You decide; here are some examples of my bilingual prowess:

“If elected, I promise to eliminate ‘work sessions’ wherein officials hash out matters behind closed doors and later rubber-stamp these decisions at public meetings, thereby preventing voters from seeing which elected officials are effective and which are great big drips.”

« Je suis une banane avec le gros camion, donc ben voyons, j’arrive sur le porte de poulet et je chante, ‘bye-bye mon cowboy.’ »

“Of course, this is an empty promise, since I am just one voice among six councillors with no significant influence other than unseemly pouting.”

« Non, je ne regrette René Simard. »

Truthfully, my only handicap is that I have a difficulty understanding people when they speak French. However, I also have difficulty understanding English people, so it’s fair.

At this point, I should probably address the elephant in the room: the elephant and I are just good friends, and those photographs were clearly taken out of context.

I would also like to be up-front concerning allegations of under-documented pets that may or may not be residing with us at this juncture and at previous junctures and a juncture to be named later.

Two of these alleged pets do not belong to us but are on permanent loan from our middle daughter who thought that kittens were exactly what she needed while her life was in flux. (Flux, by the way, is a lovely suburb of Ottawa but not especially cat-friendly.)

As for the other three alleged cats, a certain animal protection agency conned us into fostering them “temporarily” when they were alleged kittens, knowing full well that we (my wife) wouldn’t have the heart to send them back to that euthanasia joint, so we allegedly rescued them from oblivion, but only after we paid to have them neutered, and now they allegedly have a good home, with our weekly alleged purchases of cat food and litter representing 15% of the alleged local economy, which makes you realize that instead of being reviled for my not entirely licensed alleged pets, I should be commended (although for something so alleged, they’re awfully unallegedly fat).

Not to mention the fact that a few years ago when two of our earlier, fully licensed cats went missing, this certain agency responded with nothing more than a bureaucratic shrug, so forgive me if I’m not inclined to fund an enterprise that provides squat and then turns around and offloads soon-to-be-morbidly-obese cats that are plotting to kill me by waking me up three times a night, thereby promulgating long-term sleep deprivation and shortening my life-span. Plus litter. So much alleged litter.

And that, dear voters, is the kind of substance and hissy fit you could expect from me were I to run for office, which I’ve heard might be true. But probably not. At least not anymore.

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Bye-bye pool

We warned the children we were getting rid of the swimming pool. I swear we warned them. Maybe they didn’t believe us, thinking it was one of our idle threats, like “We’re going to move to the country!” or “We’re going to organize the yogurt containers under the sink!”

But we did get rid of the pool. We tore it down on Saturday, an unseasonably hot day when, ironically, we really could have used a swim.

For some time now, our pool had been showing signs of aging – extensive stains, sliminess, leaking – which, coincidentally are identical to my own signs of aging, not to mention that hardly anyone frolics around me half-naked anymore either.

The pool had lost its will to live, and I had lost my will to vacuum it. In fact, someone asked me this week, “When did you decide to get rid of the pool?” I told her, “About five years ago.” “Oh, when did Debbie decide to get rid of it?” Well, that was this summer. “If we can’t find the leak, we should get rid of it,” she said. As the person who maintained it the most and used it the least (water is wet), this was music to my ears.

I’m positive we mentioned this possibility to the kids.

We never did figure out how it was losing water, and with its years of usefulness (again like me) past, we decided to pull the plug.

I started draining it last week and by Saturday was ready to dismantle. There was still three feet of water in it, but I figured that would drain as I worked. First thing was tools. Correction: first thing was borrow tools. I called Steve.
Along with Steve’s tools, I got Steve. “I’ll come over and help, if you don’t mind,” he said. “I like taking things apart.” A man after my own heart; destroying things: what can go wrong?

While the water drained, we set to work unscrewing the aluminum rim of the pool, then the braces. Soon our good neighbours Clint and Bonnie came over to assist. It was a regular pool party. We unhitched the lip of the liner and began rolling away the siding. By then, there was still about two feet of water trapped in the bowl of the liner. Nothing that a good stab with a crowbar couldn’t fix.

As the water flooded into the neighbours’ yard, we began tearing at the liner and ripping out the pipes like we were polystyrene-starved savages. Soon there was nothing left but a basin of sandy water in the middle of our lawn.

I took a photograph and posted it on Instagram. “Low tide. #byebyepool,” I wrote.

A few minutes later, Abby, our youngest, texted from work: “What the damn hell!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!”

“It was time,” I wrote back. She responded with a sad emoji.

Soon the other children chimed in.

“No way,” Katie wrote from Ottawa.

“What!?” Emily piped up from Montreal.

“WTF,” said James with a GIF from North Bay.

“Wow!!!” commented former neighbour kid Sean from PEI.

Nothing like a bit of yard renos to bring the family and pseudo-family together.

Having gone through the denial phase (“I used the pool all the time!” Abby argued, inaccurately) and anger phase (“I’m still not happy about this decision”: Abby again), the children quickly moved on to the bargaining phase, namely what were we going to put there.

“A hot tub!” suggested Abby. “An infinity pool! A trampoline!”

“How about grass?” I suggested.

“Lame,” James texted.

“Maybe horseshoe pits?” I suggested.

“Better than nothing,” he replied.

“You don’t have to mow around nothing,” I noted.

As with getting rid of the cable no one watched and the land line no one called, the children have jumped right into the acceptance phase. Not that they have a choice. The pool is gone. The last of the water has seeped into the ground and there’s nothing back there but a vast circle filled with sand.

I’ll admit there’s a certain bittersweetness to this, as with any passing. I think in particular of all the pool parties, the cheering and splashing, the floaties and noodles. This marks another stage of the children growing up and moving on.

The cats, however, are here to stay, and I see them eyeing that great big circle of sand in the back yard. They think they’ve gone to heaven.

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Please do not hassle me about my therapy toaster

No, this isn’t a “toaster” I’m holding on my lap. It is my therapy toaster, and, no, I will not put it in the overhead compartment, because that would clearly defeat the purpose of bringing my therapy toaster onto this airplane. If I store the therapy toaster, it would no longer be soothing my anxieties. It would be luggage, and luggage never soothed anyone.

Yes, I do plan to hold this therapy toaster on my lap for the duration of the flight. Do you think I would entrust my therapy toaster with a stranger? They don’t know the settings! They’ve probably never used a “defrost” button in their lives! They’d have no clue how to properly empty the crumb tray!

Oh, you mean, will I be putting it away during take-off and landing. No, I won’t be doing that either. Trust me, if there’s turbulence, my therapy toaster won’t be a hazard to other passengers because I will be clinging to the thing for dear life.

My, you’re full of questions about my therapy toaster, aren’t you! I’m glad, because this gives me a chance to speak to you about my requirements. I need you to accommodate my special needs by finding an electrical outlet for me. To plug in my therapy toaster, obviously. It’s not a therapy toaster if it doesn’t toast! Duh!

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say “Duh!” That’s the cold toaster talking. I’m afraid I’m going to need my therapy toaster operational as soon as possible. I’m beginning to feel somewhat antsy, or it might just be my socks won’t stop sliding down to my ankles. Either way, I’m slightly uncomfortable, and that violates my right to unconditional bliss at all times.

So if you would just run this 20-foot extension cord down the aisle to the nearest outlet, that would be wonderful. If it’s not long enough, I’m sure someone would be willing to switch seats with me, once you explain to them the nature of my condition. Unless they’re ignorant.

Now I’m starting to feel less glad about your questions. In fact, I feel you are being highly insensitive and possibly racist. Yes, racist – you clearly prefer white bread to stay white.

I will calm down. That’s what the therapy toaster is for, obviously.

There is so such a thing as a therapy toaster. You’re looking at it.

Fine: here’s the paperwork demonstrating that my toaster is a certified therapy toaster.

There is so such a thing as “The Black and Decker Institute.”

How dare you suggest I printed this myself using Microsoft Publisher templates! Does Publisher laminate? No. This is laminated. Professionally!

What makes it a therapy toaster? It makes perfect toast. Don’t scoff! Never underestimate the power of perfect toast – not too dark, not too light, crispy, but no sharp edges that cut the roof of your mouth. I’m calming down just thinking about it.

This toaster has gone through months of testing to be perfectly calibrated for maximum toasting satisfaction, with options for various breadstuffs. Most days, I just need toast, but bad days are bagel days. And I can count on my therapy toaster to be there. Believe me, I’ve been frustrated by toasters in the past, toasters you don’t dare turn your back on.

And here is my card stating that I am entitled to have my therapy toaster with me at all times, including in the workplace, at restaurants and on public transportation, but not in the bathtub.

Who diagnosed me? I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s any of your business. I would appreciate if you would respect my privacy. And I wish everyone around me on this plane who has never known what its like to live with psychological needs that I certainly don’t need a “doctor” to “diagnose” – I wish everyone would stop staring at me and think about how lucky they are not to need a therapy toaster in their lives.

What do you mean it might as well be a therapy waffle maker? Don’t be ridiculous: hinges are highly stress-inducing.

No, this is my therapy toaster, and I would appreciate it if you would show a little sensitivity to my otherness from your position of privilege.

Also: could you get me some English muffins?

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