On being ... a wing and a prayer

By Ingrid Sapona

Face masks, check.

Hand sanitizer, check.

Sunscreen, check.

Sunglasses, check.

Hat, check

Trashy beach read, check.

Beach blanket, check.

Pool noodle to ensure beach blanket at least 6 feet from other beach blankets, check. 

I’m writing this in early January…. If all goes according to plan, which means I say Covid-free, the pilot and crew stay Covid-free, the weather cooperates and the plane takes off, by the time you read this I’ll be in a warmer climate. My plan is to socially distanced seaside for a few weeks. Of course, if there’s one thing we’ve all learned the past 22 months it’s that things don’t always go as planned. 

Anyway, if you don’t hear from me at the end of the month, assume my prayers were answered. If that’s the case, On being … will be on vacation till February 15th. Stay well… 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona



On being … an alphabetical look at 2021

By Ingrid Sapona

Though 2021 hasn’t brought a return to pre-Covid life, I decided to return to the year-end alphabetical review. But before doing so, let’s pause to reflect on the over 5.4 million Covid deaths world-wide and the many millions of people left grieving those who died of the virus…

Now, my list for 2021:

A is for anti-democratic – the new laws enacted in various U.S. states that make it harder for people to cast a ballot are anti-democratic. Pure and simple. Interestingly, A is also for authoritarianism, which is the direction those who passed such laws have veered toward. 

B is for Biden – definitely not Trump, but not the breath of fresh air that many around the world were hoping for. Nearly a year into the Biden administration and many are coming to the realization that the U.S. will not revert to being the ally it once was.

C is for cheugy (pronounced chew-gee) – apparently, it’s Gen Z slang describing someone – or something – that’s late to a trend or someone trying too hard. For folks of my generation, I think the proper translation is: Oi…  

D is for Delta variant – you know, that scary Covid variant before the even scarier Omicron.

E is for enhancements – I suppose some people don’t necessarily see Botox as an enhancement, but apparently in the word of camel beauty pageants, injecting Botox to enhance a camel’s lips will disqualify you.  

F is for filibuster – unyielding adherence to the filibuster is more proof that the U.S. political system is broke.  

G is for ghost guns – these are guns that are assembled from kits and so they don’t have serial numbers. Apparently ghost guns aren’t treated as firearms under most U.S. gun control laws. But, not to worry – in practical terms, they’re as lethal as guns with serial numbers (and bonus: they’re easy to assemble).

H is for heartbeat – under Texas’ anti-abortion law – the Texas Heartbeat Law – anyone can bring a civil lawsuit (they’d be the plaintiff) against someone (they’d be the defendant) the plaintiff believes is involved in providing or facilitating the abortion of a fetus with a heartbeat. I wonder, do the folks who are anti-science (and don’t trust vaccines, for example) realize that we have science to thank for fetal heartbeat monitors?  

I is for is ivermectin – a medication meant for horses that, apparently, some people think is safer than the Covid vaccines millions of people have taken. How is this even a thing??

J is for Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory systems – turns out, JIT doesn’t work so well when shipping grinds to a halt.

K is for Kabul – you know, that city of over 4.5 million in Afghanistan that the U.S. and its allies couldn’t get out of fast enough as they abandoned the country in August. 

L is for legal fees – leave it to Texas to take the sting out of legal fees you may incur if you sue someone. Under Texas’ Heartbeat Law (see H, above) if someone (a plaintiff) brings a civil action under this law and they win, in addition to receiving damages of at least $10,000, the person they sued (the defendant) must pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. If a plaintiff loses in such a suit, however, they aren’t on the hook for the defendant’s legal fees – after all, Texas wouldn’t want to do anything that might discourage anti-abortion plaintiffs from suing.

M is for Miller vs. Bonta – a case in the U.S. District Court for the southern district of California that overturned California’s 30-year-old assault weapons ban. In the decision, which was handed down on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Judge Roger Thomas Benitez termed the ban a “failed experiment”

N is for non-fungible tokens – if you don’t know what these are, you’re better off. Even if they aren’t all scams, they’re a tremendous drain on the energy grid. I say, if you’ve got money to burn, why not just respond to one of those emails from a Nigerian prince or from someone who promises to transfer funds to as soon as you provide them with your bank account number.

O is for Omicron – with a lower case “o”, omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. But, with a capital “O”, it’s the current variant of concern related to Covid. Unless the folks naming the variants are just choosing random letters, it’s a bit scary to think that there have been so many variants of concern already! Let’s hope the world doesn’t learn more letters of the Greek alphabet in 2022 – or any other names for Covid variants, for that matter.

P is for predicted – Despite Biden saying no one expected Omicron, scientists who model pandemics told us that as long as there are many people who do not have defenses against the virus (because, for example, they’re not vaccinated) the virus would mutate. See D and O, above.

Q is for the Queen – say what you will about monarchy, I think Queen Elizabeth’s strength, stamina, and grace are remarkable. I hope that in 2022 she’s able to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in recognition of 70 years of service on the throne.

R is for Reddit and Robinhood – on an internet forum (Reddit) a group of retail investors started buying up shares of GameStop, which started the year selling at about U.S.$17. Apparently the Redditt group were trying to make a point because they noticed that hedge funds where short selling GameStop. The Reddit users drove the price of GameStop up, causing big losses for the hedge funds. Then, in late January, a popular investing app (Robinhood) that allows users to do certain trades for free, stepped in and prevented users from buying Game Stop shares on their platform (at this point the shares were trading at about U.S.$348). This series of events brought outrage on both sides. The hedge funds called for the government to make short selling illegal and the Robinhood users were outraged that the trading platform didn’t allow them to trade as they wished. I see this as whole saga as an example of what happens when things are designed with the goal of being disruptive. 

S is for the shadow docket of the Supreme Court – this refers to rulings the U.S. Supreme Court makes through summary orders, without the need to write an opinion and without pesky things like multiple rounds of briefings and oral arguments. A prime example was the Supreme Court’s granting of an emergency injunction in April blocking California’s Covid-based restrictions on in-home gatherings. Such rulings have been around for awhile, but the current Court is issuing them way more than the Court has in the past: from October 2020 through April 2021, it issued at least 20 rulings from the shadow docket. Of course, just because something happens in the shadows doesn’t mean it won’t have wide-ranging impact. 

T is for trust – without trust in those who govern, society will fall apart. Question is, can such trust be regained? Maybe the answer to that lies in asking ourselves who gains if trust in government isn’t re-built.

U is for unusual and unreal – the latest twist on ways of monetizing one’s home certainly struck me as unusual: people renting out their pool by the hour through Swimply. What’s unreal is how much people apparently are willing to pay by the hour to swim in someone’s pool. Sonny Mayugba, Swimply’s vice-president of growth, says that some folks are clearing $100,000 for the season.  

V is for vaccine – the Christmas gift science gave the world in 2020. The 2021 news about this phenomenal gift is not exactly what the public health experts had hoped for, however. In 2021, where vaccines were widely available many people were too stupid or stubborn to get it and where vaccines were not plentiful, millions wait to get it.  

W is for walked away – that’s what the world did in (or, more accurately, did to) Afghanistan this year.

X is for double x – I never realized there are two x’s in vaxxed. Did you?

Z is for Zoom bookshelves and other fake backgrounds people use during on-line meetings – the proliferation of such meetings led to people ordering customized fake backdrops, including bookshelves designed to reflect one’s interests and/or political bent

I thank you for reading On being… and I wish you and yours a safe, healthy, and fulfilling 2022. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


On being … the difference

By Ingrid Sapona 

I know people are tired of hearing about and thinking about Covid. But the fact is, Covid-19 is still killing with ferocity – it’s not slowing down. It took 114 days for the U.S. to go from 500,000 Covid-relateddeaths to 600,000 (Feb. 2, 2021 to June 16, 2021), then 107 days for the total to hit 700,000 (June 16, 2021 to Oct. 1, 2021) and just 74 days to reach 800,000 dead in the U.S. 

In mid-November I finally got down to Western New York. I hadn’t been in the U.S. since March 6, 2020. I was quite struck by the comparative lack of pandemic precautions taken by individuals and businesses there. On my return here, I jokingly told some Canadian friends that Covid is over in Western New York – or at least that’s the impression I was left with. For example, when I was there, masks were basically optional – waiters and waitresses didn’t even have to wear them. (Because of an increase in cases, I believe masks are now required in some places in Western New York.) 

I was also surprised at having to pull or push on doors in stores and restaurants. Early on in the pandemic touchless options were widely installed on doors and in washrooms here. Hitting a button with your elbow to open a door is pretty standard now. Most public places here have hand sanitizer dispensers located near the door and staff often ask you to sanitize before you head in. In Western New York, the only sanitizer I had access to was what I carried in my purse. The idea of “Covid protocols” – wearing masks, social distancing, good ventilation, hand washing, and the need to get vaccinated – can be found on posters and signs all over here. Not so in WNY. 

The past month or so I’ve also noticed that many American mainstream news outlets have taken to reporting that the majority of Americans are vaccinated. Even when there’s something particularly new and noteworthy to report related to the pandemic – like the emergence of the Omicron variant – U.S. news reports seem to always include the “fact” that the majority of Americans are vaccinated. They seldom specify, however, that by “majority” they mean 60% of Americans. 

Not continually pointing out that 40% of the U.S. population is unvaccinated – despite the fact that vaccines have been widely available in the U.S. for a year already – just seems irresponsible. During the height of the Vietnam War, it was scenes of body bags – not stories about the soldiers who came back alive – that focused the public’s attention and that finally led to change. Similarly, on hearing of the sinking of the Titanic, I’ll bet no newspapers wrote about the number of icebergs the ship missed that night! 

Here in Ontario, data related to Covid-19 is very much the focus of the mainstream media. The number of Ontarians who have tested positive is reported daily, usually by the noon newscast. The precise percentage (to one decimal point) of the population that is vaccinated is on page 2 of the Toronto Star every day. In fact, they report the percentage by age, as well by the percentage that are double dosed versus single dosed. 

For example, today’s paper reported that of Ontarians of all ages, 77.1% are fully vaccinated and 81.8% have had at least one dose. Of Ontarians five and older, 80.9% are fully vaccinated. While those numbers provide some reassurance, officials and media also often remind us that in Ontario we still have about 830,000 unvaccinated (that includes those under five for whom the vaccines are not yet approved). 

And now, Omicron is on everyone’s mind – and lips – here. Yesterday morning I held the elevator for a gentleman. As he neared, he mentioned how because of “this Omicron thing” he’s a bit reluctant to be in the elevator with anyone else. (Because we have to wear masks indoors in public places – including condo hallways – we were both masked.) I mentioned I got my booster the other day and, visibly relieved, he got on. 

Like everyone else, I wish the pandemic was over. But it’s not and so I think it’s important to keep talking about things like vaccination statistics and status. Indeed, I was reminded of the power of engaging people in the discussion just the other day. A friend was speaking with her 93-year-old neighbor who was excited that two of her grandchildren will be coming up from the States on December 20th. The 93-year-old mentioned that her grandkids would be staying in the basement for the first five days of their visit just in case, because she’s not vaccinated yet. Surprised to learn that her elderly neighbor isn’t vaccinated, my friend gently suggested she get vaccinated right away, because “having 9 days of vaccine is better than nothing.” Well, somehow my friend’s comment did the trick – the woman went and got the jab the next day! I wonder how many others just need a personal nudge… 

I know the pandemic won’t go away just by talking about it. But ignoring it, or putting a positive spin on it, won’t make it go away any faster either. Instead, I think a more effective strategy is to realize that while we have to take personal responsibility for our own behaviour, we can also make a difference by openly and actively encouraging others to do the same. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


On being … heartstring plucking

By Ingrid Sapona

Throughout the day we’re bombarded with ads and messages. For the most part, I simply ignore them. In many cases, the ads are not relevant to me because I’m clearly not in the advertisers desired age, gender, or income demographic. And, since most of the time I have the tv or radio on simply for background noise while I’m doing something else, I really don’t pay attention to ads.

But, as you probably guessed, today’s column is about a commercial that’s currently running here. It’s by Telus, a mobile phone company. Telus ads have always featured animals. Indeed, I don’t think they’ve ever had any people in their ads. But, the animals in the Telus ads aren’t characters, like the Gieco gecko or Tony the Tiger, nor are they mascots, like the Porter Airlines racoon

Telus ads feature up-close shots (or videos) of real animals superimposed against a white background. Sometimes the animals are just sitting, but often they’re strutting, running, hopping, or doing whatever that particular animal typically does. And, because of the white background, every tuft of hair, every eyelash, every fold or crinkle of skin seems accentuated, as do their deep, soulful eyes. 

With this particular commercial, what first caught my attention wasn’t the animals – it was the music. I recognized it immediately as “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars. It’s a catchy, up-beat ditty that goes back a bit. (I was surprised when I looked it up and found it’s from 2010 – over a decade old, but very memorable.) When I heard the song and realized it was part of a commercial, I couldn’t imagine what the ad was for. Before I could look up, the commercial was over. I vowed to pay attention the next time it came on. 

So, the next time I heard Bruno, I looked up in time to see a hedgehog sauntering off. Then, when I read the on-screen text that came up as the tune played on in the background, everything became clear – including how perfect Bruno Mars’ song is for Telus’ message. The commercial’s about the Telus GivesBack program, which aims to help Canadians in need. 

After the adorable hedgehog and opening text there’s a delicate fawn who seems to have found some friends. Then a baby goat wiggles its little tail in excitement when it finds other goats while Bruno croons that he’d sail the world to find you. As the song continues: “you can count on me like 1, 2, 3” a sweetly stoic-looking trio of rabbits appears. And, as the refrain continues: “I’ll be there”, a fourth rabbit magically peeks out from behind the others. And then, for good measure, two fuzzy alpacas appear, moving toward each other for a bit of a nuzzle, while Bruno sings the song’s concluding phrase: “You can count on me, cause I can count on you.” OMG the whole thing is adorable! 

Now, as soon as I hear the first few notes of the song, I can’t help but stop whatever I’m doing to watch the commercial. The other day when the commercial began I even I’ve noticed a sense of anticipation building in me as I watched. I anxiously awaited the 1, 2, 3 rabbits and then the fourth that the song assures me “will be there”. Frankly, it was a bit unsettling to realize the commercial had such an effect on me. For someone who thinks she’s immune to the power of advertising, realizing that a commercial can easily manipulate my feelings is disarming. 

That said, I take my hat off to Telus for the ad. Of course they’re blowing their own horn. But they’re also drawing our attention to overlooked needs (particularly of youth leaving foster care and families and seniors who can’t afford to stay connected) and they’re doing so in a creative way – so good on them. 

As we head into the holidays, anything that reminds us of the need to count on – and be there for – others is worth our undivided attention. Don’t you think?

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 


On being ... a long-awaited visit

By Ingrid Sapona

Now that the U.S. land border is finally open for non-essential travel, I’m headed to Buffalo today. There are a few things I have to look after, like closing a bank account and emptying out a safe-deposit box. There are also a number of friends I’m hoping to see. 

But most of all, I’m looking forward to finally “visiting” with Mom and Dad. It’s been 21 months since Mom died and over a year since her headstone was installed next to Dad’s. Though we ordered the headstone in January 2020, it wasn’t installed until that summer. And, because of the pandemic, I haven’t yet seen it. 

Even before the marker was set, two family friends – one who was a beloved caregiver to Mom her last few years – called me to ask where Mom is buried. They had both gone to try to find her but couldn’t. I explained that the headstone hadn’t yet been set. I wasn’t surprised they couldn’t even find Dad’s headstone because the cemetery is huge – 269 acres with over 152,000 people buried there. I gave them the plot number, but because it’s a park-like setting with curvy roads and hills, unless you know where to go, it’s hard to find a particular grave. 

When Mom’s marker was finally installed, I let them know. To my surprise, not only did they find Mom, they each sent me photos of her headstone. I guess I didn’t quite appreciate the love they had for Mom and I was so touched they found her. In fact, this year, on Mom’s birthday they ran into each other while visiting Mom! Though I was sad I couldn’t be there on her birthday, it was nice to think that she had company that day. 

I realize it may sound strange to speak of visiting with Mom and Dad at the cemetery, but that’s how I feel about it. I’m not just attending at their grave. When Dad and Mom died, we didn’t attend at the gravesite when they were actually buried. None of that ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust tossing of dirt on the casket stuff for us. Frankly, I couldn’t handle the finality of that. Instead, we had lovely church funeral services for each, but we let the funeral directors look after the actual burials. 

Dad died on November 11, 2005 – Remembrance Day (Veterans Day as the U.S. refers to it). Though I didn’t stop at the cemetery every time I was in Buffalo, I did go often to see him. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see Dad being lowered into the ground that I’ve always felt surrounded by his spirit when I’m there. During my visits, I always talked with him – filling him in on what was going on in my life. If I had an important decision to make, I would explain to him my reasoning. It wasn’t that I was looking for a sign or anything. I think just thinking he was listening helped me puzzle through things. I also made a point of reassuring him that we were all doing well. 

Canada marks Remembrance Day in a lovely, solemn way. In the weeks leading up to November 11th most Canadians wear red poppy pins on their lapels in honour of the war dead. There are also lots of tributes and stories in the news about different ways people honour the dead. This year there was a moving story on the CBC about a Vancouver-area hospice society who set up a “Phone of the Wind” – an unconnected, old-style rotary telephone – in a lovely, secluded section of a park.  In the news piece, a woman whose brother died of an overdose talked about how the phone has helped her grieve. Her brother was cremated and she said until she heard about the phone, she didn’t really have anywhere to go to talk to him. She said her first time speaking into the phone felt awkward, but now she and her young daughter use it every week to talk to him. She describes it as a way to connect and keep his memory alive. Funny enough, this past weekend CBSSunday morning did a piece on a similar phone in Olympia, Washington. Apparently, the idea originated in Japan as a way to help people grieving after the 2011 Tsunami. I completely understand the magic of the Phone of the Wind. I guess that for me – and for the friends who have mentioned that they too visit Mom – being at the gravesite does the trick. 

Though I’m looking forward to the visit, I expect it’ll be pretty emotional for me. For one thing, it will be very different knowing both my parents there. The first order of business when I get there will be explaining why it’s taken me so long to visit and to ask their forgiveness. I worry that Mom in particular thinks all her daughters have forgotten her, as none of us have been to visit her yet. I hope she’ll feel better when I explain that my sisters and I have all been well, unlike so many millions of people around the world who have contracted Covid. 

I’ll also be sure to tell both of them how grateful I am for the wonderful life they’ve helped me craft and for giving me such special sisters. But most of all, I’ll tell them something I wish I had told them more often when they were alive: that I love them more than words can say. 

If you’ve lost someone and are looking for a way to grieve, I hope you find a Phone of the Wind of some sort that helps you heal and allows you to visit with them. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... something

By Ingrid Sapona 

The notion that something’s better than nothing has a nice ring to it. And, while I think the adage has merit, when it comes to climate change, I worry that the saying may actually be counter-productive. In other words, I worry that people will confuse “something” with “enough”. 

In the lead up to COP26 – the UN climate change summit that starts tomorrow in Glasgow – like many, I’ve been thinking about the changes that are required to prevent climate disaster. Another thing I’ve been thinking about is whether it’s appropriate to even convene an international, in-person gathering to “tackle climate change,” which is what Alok Sharma, COP President-Designate says the conference is about. It’s not that I don’t think the world needs to focus on climate change, or that I worry the conference might end up being a super-spreader event. What I wonder about is whether the conference will amount to anything more than a boon for those selling carbon offsets to attendees. 

Of course, a high-profile, UN-supported conference does (re)focus the world on the existential threat that is climate change, so I guess that makes having it a good thing. And it clearly has been an “opportunity” for countries, world leaders, and companies to announce (or reiterate) their goals and commitments regarding climate change, which is also good. (By the way, if you haven’t heard Pope Francis’ comments to the BBC on Friday about the need for radical change, you should have a look – his thoughtful comments are very compelling.)  

Because of COP26, various news outlets have also been running features about technologies and innovations aimed at mitigating climate change. One such story on the CBC this week really grabbed my attention. It was about walks led by people from the forestry faculty at the University of British Columbia. The walks are part of the Cool 'Hoods Champs Program aimed at bridging the knowledge gap between climate science and everyday people. 

During the walks, participants do simple activities that draw their attention to things in their own neighborhood that can help mitigate climate change and they talk about things that are contributing to climate change. For example, participants are asked to count the number of trees and to measure them, noting that bigger trees provide more shade, which helps keep homes cooler. They also look to see whether rooftops are dark or light (lighter roofs reflect light and heat), and talk about the impact of ground that’s paved over.

One participant talked about how the walk motivated him to try to germinate chestnuts and other seedpods he collected. He proudly showed a sturdy chestnut sapling he grew and will be planting, noting that by the time his children are adults, the tree will help provide shade to their house. He also talked about how the experience has motivated him to think about what more he can do to reduce climate change. 

The professor who came up with the walks explained that there’s a lot of anxiety around climate change because much of the discussion is focused on doom and gloom scenarios. He developed the walks because he wants to show people that a brighter future is built neighborhood by neighborhood. The lead researcher of the Program said she sees it as a way to turn a negative into a positive and as a way to bring ordinary folks into the climate change conversation. 

Getting people involved in their own community as a hedge against climate anxiety is a great idea. And clearly the Program motivated the guy with the chestnut sapling to take action and to focus on the kind of future his kids might have if we don’t address climate change. But I worry that such programs might lull people into thinking that achieving net zero emissions only requires small steps. It’s like thinking that donating a can of corn, a pound of pasta, and jar of peanut butter to the local food bank at Thanksgiving will solve hunger in your community. Such acts clearly help a hungry person get through a day or two, but it’s not a long-range solution. 

Change of the magnitude required to contain global warming requires action that extends far beyond the kinds of things each of us can do on our own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t think we should all do what we can. It’s just that I think it’s important to also stress that such steps are but a start. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 


On being … a little like sausage-making

By Ingrid Sapona        

I’ve always believed in life-long learning. But I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for all the things I’d learn about myself as a result of my kitchen reno. 

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that I don’t have to have a ready answer to every question a worker asks. Having been a good student and well-paid professional, I take questions seriously and when I don’t have an answer, I feel put out. So, for example, when the contractor asked whether the dishwasher plugs in or if it needs to be roughed in – I had no idea and I felt quite stupid. Should I have asked that before buying? 

By about the third such question related to one detail or another regarding the appliances, I finally realized it’s perfectly fine to tell them if I don’t know the answer and to suggest they to consult the specs for themselves. While that kind of reply might sound like a no brainer, it doesn’t come natural to me, but I’m learning….

When a mini-geyser erupted as the countertop guys tried to put in the sink, I worried I chose one that wouldn’t work with my building’s plumbing configuration. And, given that the hole for the sink was already cut into the stone countertop, I was beside myself, thinking I had screwed up big time. The countertop guys explained the pipes would need to be cut, but that was a plumber’s work – not something they could do. Even then, as they explained the issue on the phone to my contractor, I couldn’t imagine the shutoffs could be moved and the pipes simply cut and re-fitted.

The next day, when the contractor finished, the new pipe configuration looked like a piece of modern art, with fancy, in-hose shut off valves that I’ve never seen. So, a few days later the countertop guys returned and with the magic of silicone glue (or whatever), the sink was in. No need to worry at all. Lesson learned: while this is my first rodeo, clearly (thankfully) it’s not the contractor’s! 

The fact that the condo’s small means I end up seeing things (like the geyser) and hearing the workers’ occasional murmurings of “whoa” and “whew”. I’m learning that such mutterings don’t necessarily mean something’s gone wrong, or that they translate to a finished product that’s somehow inferior. Indeed, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’d even think such a thing. I believe it comes from my having seen more than a few jury-rigged solutions on boats. 

Jury-rigging is about finding solutions when something breaks and you’re at sea and you’re forced to use whatever you have at hand. For example, if you discover a hole in the hull, you plug it with whatever you’ve got until you can find a proper, long-lasting solution. But often, when a make-shift solution works, it ends up becoming the permanent solution. So, whenever I hear an oops or some whispering, I wonder whether the fix they’ve come up with is the best they can do rather than the best solution. I don’t think it’s a trust issue on my part, but maybe it is…. In any event, I’m working to overcome those feelings. 

The bulk of the reno’s done and I’m very pleased with it. But there are a few add-ons I’ve asked for that will end up extending the process. These mini-projects have presented additional opportunities to hone another skill: the art of being specific “enough”. As the reno was just getting under way, I decided it was an opportune time to re-design all my closet shelving to better suit my needs. (I had to empty them all to have the new flooring put in, so why not try to reimagine them too.) 

From lengthy discussions with the contractor about the pantry cupboard, which was part of the original plan, it seemed clear we were both on the same page. And, when the pantry was installed, I realized he built exactly what I said. But, I also realized we hadn’t discussed the materials he’d use for the interior. I wish we had, as I’d have preferred something a bit different. My mistake. But, with shelving yet to be done in the remaining closets, I have another chance to practice articulating both the functionality and esthetic I’m after. 

As I mentioned, I’ve learned a lot about myself this past month. But I’ve also gained an appreciation for the fact that some things – like sausage – are best enjoyed when you don’t know exactly what goes into it and you don’t watch as it’s being made!

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


On being … strange consolation

By Ingrid Sapona 

In the last column I wrote about the kitchen reno. It’s going well – pretty much on time and on budget. So, though I had paid nearly 50% up front (down payments to different suppliers), there have been a number of major outflows from my bank account this month. When I see my ever-declining balance, I remind myself that it’ll all be worth it. 

So, a couple weeks ago I noticed that my driver-side front tire looked a bit low. Over the years I’ve realized that I’m not a good judge of whether a tire is low, however, so I didn’t panic or anything. (It was most definitely not flat – it just looked a bit bulgy at the bottom.) I made a mental note to keep an eye on it, and I did. 

Over the weekend I mentioned it to some friends while we were sailing, and one of them offered to have a look at it. He was surprised to learn that I had a tire pressure gage in my glove compartment, but that I hadn’t used it. I explained I never feel I’m using it quite right. He was shocked when he discovered the pressure in the tire in question was – if my gage was to be believed – a measly 15 psi. (All the others where at about 32-35 psi.) 

He followed me to a nearby gas station and filled the tire for me, telling me to keep an eye on it. Within a week it was looking about the same as before he filled it, so I figured I have a leak. So, one morning I decided to have Gord, my mechanic, check the tire. My hope was that maybe I had picked up a nail somewhere and that all it needed was a patch. 

No such luck. Gord found the leak but was unable to patch it because it was along the edge. Knowing that they always say you should replace both front tires if one goes, I said, “OK, I guess you’ll have to find me two new tires.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t that “lucky” either. Gord said I really need four new tires. When I asked why, he claimed he told me last time I was there that my tires were on their last legs. (That is not a direct quote – his language was more colourful.) Uh, no, I’m sure I’d have remembered that, I told him. 

I waited while he searched on-line for what he thought would be suitable tires for me. The grand total, including installation, ended up being $700 plus tax. When I told him that $700+ for tires wasn’t in my budget for this fall, Gord said, “Awe, that’s nothing! I had a guy in here last week and each tire was $700!” I told him I realize that lots of people spend WAY more than me on their car and so they probably have much higher bills, but how does that help me? His response: “I’m just saying….”  

When I got home Brian, the contractor, was working away. When I told him that it had been an expensive morning, he asked why. I told him about the tires and he too started with the “Awe, that’s not bad for tires…” I just shook my head and said, “I know, could have been more expensive, but still – it’s an unexpected expense just when I’ve been paying out a lot this month for the kitchen. And besides, how is knowing it could have been MORE expensive helpful?” That came out a bit curter than I intended and Brian sheepishly said, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to make you feel better….”  

I ended up mentioning the new tires to a few other folks and it’s surprising the number of people who try to console you about an expense by telling a story of someone else’s bigger expense. I don’t find such comments in themselves comforting. Indeed, it seems odd to me when others try to console by offering comparators that just don’t necessarily seem comparable to the person they’re trying to console. Indeed, every time someone reassured me the tires could have cost more, I felt like yelling: “For heaven’s sake, I drive a Toyota Corolla because I don’t want to pay $700/tire!” 

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what people say to console others. It’s a bit of a tricky business, isn’t it? That said, I think the true comfort comes in counting yourself lucky enough to have folks around you who at least try to make you feel better.

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona