If you’ve known me long enough, you’re going to have to relive this story with me, and hopefully you’ll still laugh and/or shake your head along with me…
Okay, so after I ran away from Jaz in Cork, I ended up in St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
Do you know where we’re at in the story?
In case you’ve forgotten how beautiful it is:
As you can imagine, I was a bit frazzled when I got there. I rushed in, looking over my shoulder more times than necessary for my clingy friend stalker. If I remember correctly, admission was by donation, so I handed five euros or so to the lady at the door. I remember that I was holding a lot of stuff – my bag, an umbrella, and now my wallet – and in the midst of the shuffle, the lady handed me a large pamphlet on the cathedral and a small white candle.
“It’s a prayer candle.” She said to me with a kind smile.
Then she sort of shooed me along with her hands, the adult version of patting a child on their bum to get them to walk away. It was like she could tell I was out of my element.
I love, love, love cathedrals and churches for their history and architecture, but I have never been a religious person. I’m a very spiritual person, but that’s an entirely different thing. You’d probably be surprised how little I know about Christianity and Catholicism. I’ve never even read the bible. I learned everything I know about bible stories during my English degree, because professors would talk about religious allusions in the books we read and I’d have to look them all up so that I could sort of sound like I knew what they were talking about.
“Yeah, yeah – that Adam and Eve reference – with the snake and the apple and the thing in the thing? Shut up – so blatant. They should have been more creative.”*
But back to St. Fin Barre’s. And the candle.
Okay, I know now that prayer candles are the ones you light when you’re at a church when you say a prayer, and then once a lot of people do that or whatever, it looks gorgeous, like this:
At the time, though, I had no idea what the hell a prayer candle was. All I knew is that I was juggling a ton of stuff when I got to the cathedral, so I threw the candle into the front pocket of my messenger bag while I wrestled my camera out and tried not to drop anything. I wandered around and had a look through the pamphlet.
And then I got carried away by the beauty of St. Fin Barre’s.
And then I left.
When I got back to my B&B at the end of the day, I was cleaning out my bag and I found it: the candle.
I scanned through the pamphlet again…and found the section about saying a prayer for someone you know…and LEAVING THE CANDLE IN THE CATHEDRAL.
I stole from a cathedral.
FROM A CATHEDRAL, PEOPLE.
That was the day I learned that even when you’re not religious, religion can make you feel guilty.
(I still have that damn candle. Oops.)
*That’s not how I talked in English class. I was way more concerned with people thinking I was super smart back then.
Like, I’m not one of those girls who has been planning their wedding since they were five. In fact, I’m twenty six and I still haven’t thought about it. And brides on TV shows terrify me (but I still watch some of the shows because they scare me), and so does the idea of a Disney wedding.
So when I’m at a party or in some other social situation where someone I don’t really know well and/or care about is talking about being engaged or planning a wedding or what their wedding was like, I’m like, “Okay, moving along, next subject, blah blah blah” in my head.
But then in the last few years, people I love started getting married.
It started with my BFF Louise in 2009. I was lucky enough to be able to attend her wedding literally four days before I moved to Scotland. At the time, we were still relatively new friends, but let me tell you, I could not stop crying. Louise looked so incredibly beautiful, and she was so happy, and I had the honour of being her wedding DJ and pressing ‘play’ on the song she walked down the aisle to. Shut up, right? It was amazing. I still feel all weird when I think about it.
I would talk about all of the gorgeous weddings in between, but I’d run out of room here, so now we need to fast forward to the end of 2011, when my brother told my family and I that he and his beautiful girlfriend Laura (my now sister-in-law!) were engaged.
He told me first, over the phone, and I cried. But then when he was home visiting us for Christmas, my mom was like, “So, which of the boys is gonna be your Best Man?” and my brother was like, “Actually, I was hoping that Andrea would be my Best Man.”
And I was like:
And then I CRIED.
Don’t even get me started on the ceremony. It was so perfect in every way, I can’t even. I’m honestly shocked that there are ANY nice photos of me, because I felt like I was ugly sobbing the whole time. I was choking back scream-sobs during the vows. Guys, I was holding back tears so hard that it made me sweat and I soaked the tissue I had stuffed in my bra for when I started crying during the ceremony.*
(Should have had a back-up plan.)
Okay, so yes, I’m an emotional mess when people I love get married. That’s normal, right?
But recently things have gone a step further.
Because now one of my BFFs – Jolene – is getting married, and she has asked me to be her MOH.
FYI, that’s Maid of (fucking) Honour in cool wedding acronym speak.
And not only did I cry when she asked me, but I’ve turned into a bit of a SUPERNERD about this wedding. All of a sudden, I want to ask her a bajillion questions about colour schemes, decorations, venues, and dresses. My god, do I ever want to just sit down and have a full discussion about dresses.
I want to start trying on dresses like, a year ago.
WHO HAVE I BECOME?
I don’t even care, because it makes me crazy happy to see my friends happy.
Lesson learned? I apparently care – no, CARE – about weddings. And I’m cool with that.***
P.S. My other BFF Mandelle is also getting married next year and I am ridiculously excited to attend. I know she’s drowning in plans, but I wish she were getting married tomorrow.
*I’m single, gents!**
**Should I have a complex about the fact that I am the only single one of my BFFs and I?
***When they’re for people I love. I’m still pretty indifferent otherwise. Sorry!
I want to tell you about the day my life became an episode of Friends.
My mom came to visit me for Christmas 2009 when I was living in Scotland, and since she had had a teenage dream of living in Antwerp, we decided to do something extra fun and spend New Year’s Eve in Belgium.
In the week or so leading up to my mom’s arrival, my kitchen fire alarm started to beep. It would usually happen when I was making dinner or making toast, so I would blame the extra steam/smoke in the kitchen and fan the alarm until it stopped.
Now, you have to know that fanning my alarm was a task in itself, because my beautiful flat had high ceilings – between 10-13 feet, I would say. So I would get a tea towel, stand on my tip toes, and flail around hoping for the best.
The beeping would usually stop and I would go on with my day.
But sometimes it would randomly beep at night when I wasn’t even near my kitchen. Sometimes it would beep once. Sometimes it would beep once every few minutes for an hour. I tried my best to ignore it, and it was so sporadic that it wasn’t really an issue – just an annoyance.
Also, I’m a bit of a freak about ladders – as in I don’t like to climb them unless I absolutely have to, so I decided there was no stopping the beeping for the time being.
Shortly after my mom arrived in Glasgow, we were awoken by the intermittent beeping. It was one of those is-that-sound-in-my-dream-or-in-real-life situations until it got annoying enough that I got up and realized it was my stupid kitchen fire alarm.
Being the truly awesome daughter that I am, I made my tiny mom climb the ladder my landlords had left in my closet to remove the battery from the alarm.
(She was cool with it; I didn’t like, force her up there.)
Wonderful. No more beeping.
Fast forward about a week. My mom and I had a lovely Christmas together, including a week or so of puppysitting my canine BFF, Audrey. It was somewhere around December 27, and we were preparing for our flight to Belgium. The flight was leaving EARLY, and we were departing from a regional airport outside of Glasgow, so we had to get up even earlier to allow for commuting time, etc., etc.
Right after we went to bed, we were awoken by a persistent beeping.
“What the fuck?” I said, crawling out of bed wearing a perma-scowl.
(I like to think I’m not grumpy about sleep until something wakes me up when I really want to be asleep. Then I can’t deny that I am a grumpy mf’er if you wake me up in the middle of the night for a stupid reason.)
It was the fire alarm in my living room this time.
I fanned it. It didn’t stop.
So, once again with the awesome daughter thing, I got my mom onto the ladder to examine the situation. She couldn’t figure out how to remove this one from the ceiling, so she jiggled it around a bit. The beeping stopped.
At this point, we had maybe three hours left to sleep before we had to get up to rush to the airport.
You know how when you have to be up stupid early, you think you’ll function at a normal human pace, but then when the time comes you’re all groggy and slow and complain-y, so things take a million times longer until you realize you should have actually given yourself like, an hour extra?
That’s what happened the next morning at 4:30am when we got up to get ready for our flight to Belgium.
And just as we were finishing our prep, THE FIRE ALARM STARTED BEEPING AGAIN.
My mom ran up the ladder, trying to jiggle it around some more. It stopped.
We started gathering our bags by my front door and the beeping started again.
“What is this, some kind of cruel joke?!” I exclaimed to the sky, sleep-deprived and rage-y.
I started to have visions (see: nightmare thoughts) of my stupid fire alarm going off while I was in Belgium and my neighbours like, calling the police or something, and then breaking into my flat to make the sound disturbance stop, and then of me coming home to Glasgow to find that all my shit had been stolen, or I had been fined an obscene amount of money or something.
“We have to make it stop.”
My mom did what any normal person would do in the situation: she yanked at the fire alarm until it ripped off the ceiling. Pieces broke off it. I didn’t care. We had to be at the airport. I threw the stupid fire alarm onto the kitchen counter and we took off.
That way, the only thing I had to be worried about while we were gone was my flat burning down and no one knowing. (Hilariously, something similar would happen to me just a few months down the road.)
(A) Life is often just like TV.
(B) Never ignore a persistent beeping.
(C) Shit always goes wrong when you don’t have time to deal with it.
P.S. My mom and I almost missed our flight because we were in such an insane rush to get to the airport, and then we got a little bit held up at airport security. Why, you ask? Well, my mom set off the metal detectors, and while she was getting a pat down, the security officer found something stuck in the collar of her sweater.
A tiny metal coil, from the fire alarm she had ripped off my ceiling and broken less than an hour earlier.
“What is this?”
“What is tha–oh, that’s a funny story…”
Thank goodness we didn’t get arrested before we got to Belgium.
I try to never make assumptions when I’m travelling to new places. I like to do a lot of research so that I know what I’m getting into, but I don’t want to colour my experience by thinking I know what a place will be like.
But sometimes you just do and you get it wrong.
After I finished my master’s degree in Glasgow, I took advantage of my proximity to, well, to a lot of places, and I did as much travelling as I could afford. My BFF Mags, her boyfriend Tim and I went to Paris together, and then we split up and did some travel on our own before meeting up again in Lisbon, where I spent a good chunk of time with family.
When we split up, I went to Amsterdam and Geneva by myself.
Geneva, as I’m sure you know, is the home of the United Nations:
From what I read, a lot of people speak English in Geneva.
At least I think I read that. But maybe I just assumed.
Because from my experience, almost no one speaks English in Geneva.
I was basically lost from the time my plane landed. Having done enough solo travel, I found my way to the bus that supposedly went into town, but with absolutely no knowledge of the city or its layout, I had no idea when to get off the bus.
I tried to ask the bus driver. He just shook his head at me and pointed for me to sit down again.
Here’s the thing: I’m Canadian. I have a pretty extensive French vocabulary just from living in Canada ad absorbing words here and there, but I only took French in school until halfway through grade four when I switched schools, because my new school didn’t offer a second language at the time. I speak Portuguese and Spanish, and a little bit of Italian, so I understand a lot of French, but I can’t speakmuch back. And unfortunately, I definitely don’t know how to form questions in French. I know “ou est” means “where is” and that’s about that.
So I sat on the bus and wondered what the heck I was gonna do.
After a long, long time, I started to wonder if somehow we had driven all the way through Geneva and I was going to relive my wonderful (see: frustrating as hell) bus misadventure in Glasgow. So I panicked and I got off the bus.
Another assumption I made about Geneva is that because it’s in Switzerland, which is insanely expensive, it would be beautiful and impeccable and clean like Sweden, which is also insanely expensive.
Don’t get me wrong, Geneva has a lot of gorgeous areas within the city, like this one:
But it’s also an old European city, so it has a lot of areas that have that old, gritty European feel. Which I totally dig, but when I’m lost and worried, old and gritty also makes me nervous.
My nerves were calmed by the fact that Geneva’s crime rate is like, 0%. (No, really.)
I wandered around, looking for someone to ask for directions. No one I encountered spoke even a word of English, and my poor French was getting me nowhere.
(In all fairness, if someone said, “Ou est….this!” and pointed to a random address on a piece of paper, I would feel inclined to ignore them, too. I probably wouldn’t, but I’d want to.)
Finally, I met a lady who said “non” to English, but in French asked me if I spoke any other languages. “Italiano?” She asked, perhaps seeing something in my features that looked Mediterranean.
“YES!” I shouted back in English. (Oops.)
On that trip, I got more assistance in Italian and Portuguese (thank goodness for Brazilians, who seem to be all over the world!) than I did in English or French.
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ weekend project, right?
When I lived on my own in Glasgow, I obviously ended up doing a lot of things I never really thought about before. Tiny fix-it-up projects around the house. Sometimes they were easy. Sometimes I called my BFF Margaret and her boyfriend Tim to help me, because Tim is good at like, everything.
And sometimes I was just an idiot and decided to take on the challenge.
Now, my flat was inherently damp. And it was lacking things like an extractor fan in the bathroom, which the contractors told me was essential if anyone wanted to keep living there healthily. But I also discovered that the bathtub was leaking, which is why the one wall in my living room (which shared a wall with the bathroom) was so mouldy.
And since my leasing agency sure as hell wasn’t going to help me (the useless bastards), I decided to at least try to take matters into my own hands.
I could see exactly where the main leak was: one corner of my bathtub had no caulking left on it, so water was going directly into the wall. I had seen my dad do tons of caulking during numerous home renovations, so I figured I could at least pretend that I knew what I was doing well enough to patch the problem temporarily.
But first I needed caulking.
As you may know, when you’re in a big city in Europe, you can’t just go down the street to a big box store like Rona or Lowe’s or whatever the hell they’re called; those stores either don’t exist, or they’re so big that they have been built on the outskirts of town, where there’s room for them. In Glasgow, going to IKEA is like going to the airport. You can even take the same bus there. It’s like an exciting field trip, only then you have to haul everything back on public transit and walk multiple blocks with a full-length mirror under one arm and a laundry drying rack under the other.
Where was I?
Oh right, caulking.
So I took a poll of my Glaswegian friends, and I learned that I could buy caulking at a “hardware store.”
Guys, a hardware store in Glasgow is not what a hardware store is in Canada.
When I say “hardware store,” most of you are probably picturing Rona or something similar: a big store with aisles neatly labelled things like, “bathroom fixtures,” “outdoors,” and, “paint supplies.”
I got directions to a “hardware store” from one of my friends, and I was both terrified and amused by what I found.
First of all, I had to take the bus into Anniesland, which is a mildly sketchy neighbourhood whose streets are mostly lined with bookies. I was watching out the window for my stop, looking for this so-called “hardware store,” and when I saw it, I knew I had found the right place.
It was a hole in the wall, located underneath a train bridge. It had one giant piece of cardboard in one window with “HARDWARE STORE” written on it in permanent marker, and another giant piece of cardboard in the other window that simply said, “FIREWORKS.” You couldn’t even see into the windows, because they were lined with the most random assortment of items ever: Tupperware containers, flashlights, packages of loose leaf paper, mouse traps, starter fluid, cleaning products, you name it.
“Great. That’s not scary at all.” I said to myself as I made my way to a crosswalk to go to the “hardware store.”
There were two old guys having a serious chat when I walked in. It must have been a really serious, manly chat, because as soon as I stepped into the store, the entire place went completely silent. I looked around and smiled at the man behind the counter, hoping no one would stab me for having breasts and daring to set foot in there.
“Awright?” He said, before turning back to his conversation and completely ignoring me.
I was fine with that, because in all honesty, I didn’t really want to tell this guy I was looking for caulking. I could find it on my own. And I did, eventually, after sifting through the tight, cluttered aisles of the “hardware store.”
I bought it and got the hell out of there.
When I got back to the Nightmare Flat, however, and started trying to caulk the bathtub, I realized that I had forgotten something crucial: a caulking gun.
There was no way in hell I was going back to the “hardware store.” I decided to improvise. I cut the tip off the caulking and squeezed the tube with my hands. It worked. I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t a massive job I had to do; I could definitely make this work.
I got a good chunk of the corner of the tub caulked, but as I neared the end of my project, it became harder and harder to squeeze the caulking out of the tube. I didn’t want to give up, though – I was so close to done, and I thought I might be able to solve my mould problem. I couldn’t stop now!
So I squeezed the tube harder.
“COME ON, LIFE! THROW ME A BONE!”
(My internal thoughts.)
I squeezed the tube as hard as I possibly could.
The bottom of the caulking tube burst open and caulking exploded all over my shirt, arms, and hands.
(My external thoughts.)
Here’s something you should know.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
Here’s something you probably know, that I didn’t.
Caulking’s made out of silicone(?) or something, and it is insanely sticky, and if you get it all over you, IT’S NOT COMING OFF.
I grabbed a hand towel I knew I would have to sacrifice and tried to rub as much off as possible. I managed to clean up the globs of caulking, but there was a horrendously sticky film all over my hands. I tried to wash it off with soap and water, but the stuff is water resistant (THAT’S WHY YOU BOUGHT IT, ANDREA!!!!) so it didn’t budge.
(My external thoughts, louder this time.)
After much panic, some rage-tears, and a minor mental breakdown, I managed to use an entire bottle of nail polish remover to get the caulking off my hands.
Luckily, the bathtub looked fine.
And of course, I would later discover that while I stopped most of the leaking water, the damage had been done. When the contractors came to fix my bathtub and removed the front panel/cover thing, the entire underside of the tub and the entire wall of the bathroom were coated in toxic black mould.
Lesson learned: Sometimes you just need to call in an expert.
In the second year of my undergrad, I was in this drama class I hated. It totally doesn’t matter to the story that I hated it, but I did, so I said it.
Anyway, we were stuck in this random, very old building on campus for some reason, rather than having a class in the fine arts building, and to say it was drama UNfriendly is a bit of an understatement. It was cold, echo-y, and it had brutal cement/linoleum floors.
We had to sit on those floors for a good portion of the three-hour class, which – guess what I’m gonna say – I hated. One day, we were sitting for an especially long time. So long that my right leg fell asleep. It wasn’t like, tingly asleep, it was like, DEAD LEG NUMB asleep. So when our instructor said, “Okay, everyone on their feet!” and we all had to jump up for our next exercise, I knew I was gonna have a problem.
I got up on my left leg no problem, but because I couldn’t feel my right leg at all, I put it down funny, rolled my ankle, and WENT DOWN. Not only did I fall, I fell over onto the ancient rolling chalkboard I was standing next to, hitting my side on its wooden frame. So that hurt.
But the story gets better.
Obviously, I was mortified about falling over in front of everyone, so I scrambled to get up as quickly as possible. But my leg was still completely numb, so every time I tried to put it down, I would roll my ankle again, stagger, roll my ankle again, etc. I fell over again.
Because it wasn’t cool enough to just fall once.
Did I mention that I was wearing platform creepers?
Have you seen this video?
That was me.
So that happened, and my foot hurt like hell, but I still had one more class to go to. I limped around campus, went to class, then limped all the way to the subway station to catch the subway downtown, where I would switch to a bus that took me close to home.
The tattoo parlour where I got all my work done used to be a block away from my bus stop, and my good friend Brian worked the front desk there, so I would often stop by to say hi and hang out. I think that on that particular day, I went to say hi mostly just so I could sit down for a minute, and also so that I could bitch about my stupid drama class.
“I think I broke my foot.”
“Like, ‘oh, I broke my foot,’ or for real broke it?” Brian asked me as we sat together on the concrete steps in front of the shop.
“I dunno. Maybe for real. It hurts like crazy.”
“Honey, you need to go get an x-ray.”
“I have to work at the bookstore tonight. Ugh.”
“You’re gonna be on your feet?!”
“Get them to give you a chair.”
“We’re not allowed chairs behind the cash desk. This is the worst.”
“Tell them you broke your fucking foot, and they need to give you a fucking chair!”
(I love you, Brian.)
So I limped to the bus, got myself home somehow, and had to change into my work clothes. When I went to take off my shoes, I realized the right one was VERY tight. Sliding it off was excruciating.
I peeled back my sock. My entire foot was PURPLEBLACK.
So I was at the gym last night for a Zumba class, and afterward, my friend and I sat down for a quick chat. The table we were at was near a long line of treadmills, and all of them were occupied.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I saw a girl step onto a treadmill that was moving FAST. She obviously didn’t realize that it was moving. She face planted, guys. It made a sound so scary loud I got goose pimples just thinking about how much it hurt.
It was like this, minus any pre-running:
Even more horrifying? The people on the treadmills surrounding her could barely be bothered. They just looked back slightly, unconcerned and maybe even mildly amused. My friend and I had the same immediate response, especially since the girl looked like she couldn’t get up right away.
“Are you okay?!”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay.” She responded in a small voice. She struggled to stand up.
And then, ringing through the air from the water cooler less than 30 feet away and hanging in the air like laughter at a funeral, I heard a woman saying, “I’m not done.”
I thought I had heard her incorrectly, so I turned to see her. Nope. I had heard correctly. The woman who had gotten off her treadmill for water and left it running at an insanely high speed got closer and repeated herself.
“I’m not done.”
She was deadpan, concerned only about her treadmill.
What is wrong with people?!
The girl who had fallen staggered to her feet and walked to the end of the line, where another treadmill had become available. The water cooler woman resumed her workout.
No apology, no acknowledgement of how dangerous it is to just leave a treadmill running, no, “Oh my God, are you all right?” – just “I’m not done.”
So I guess last night I learned that some people have no compassion/are natural assholes.
When I moved out, I stole one of his spoons. I know that sounds minor, but for someone as neurotic as him, I know that having a slightly incomplete set of cutlery would be rage-inducing. It was a small, but meaningful theft.
Also, if I’ve ever worked with you and you’ve been awful to me, I can guarantee that I’ve taken something off your desk, whether it’s your favourite pen or your stapler, and “misplaced” it.
(If it was a pen, I kept it, because I love pens.)
News stories like this and this are endlessly fascinating to me.
So what I’m trying to say is that over the years, I’ve learned that if it weren’t for my insane conscience,* I probably would have become an art thief.
*I should probably take this moment to formally apologize to London Drugs in Jasper Gates for the month they experienced an unusual shortage in Bubblicious gum.
**Because I’m just assuming that if I were a thief, I’d have a body like Catwoman. Right?