Monthly Archives: November 2012

Do You Mind? My Mouth is Full

Andrea Freedman

Nothing makes me revert from adulthood back to feeling like a scolded child quite like when I go to the dentist.
I really do like my dentist and sometimes share a few laughs with him. Nevertheless, as a grown woman, there are certain things I do not feel that I need from my dentist or, for that matter, his staff, and that includes the gratuitous lecture about flossing that goes along with each and every one of my dental appointments.
It is usually the hygienist, rather than the dentist himself, who makes me feel worse than anyone. It never fails that while my mouth is full of dental instruments that is inevitably the time she chooses to give me a talking-to about the merits of flossing and the potential dangers of not doing so diligently. I am beginning to think this is done purposely; she strikes when her victim is at his or her most vulnerable.
It is not that I do not appreciate that hygienists and dentists have a duty to inform patients on proper oral care; what bothers me is that while they are providing this information, it is usually said in an accusatory way. I had one hygienist who would shake her head and make a sound effect and comment with each individual tooth she was working on. “Oh, wow, look at the size of this piece of tarter.” “This tartar really gets under the gum line,” shaking her head “You’ve got to look after it, you have to stick to your flossing routine every single day or this plaque just grabs onto your teeth and stays there.” “I don’t know how many times I have to emphasize how important it is to really get that floss in between those teeth.”
They try to instil fear into the patient, sharing horror stories of neglected gums leading to heart attacks and other potential health problems, not to mention loss of teeth, while you are forced as a temporary prisoner in that chair, to sit back and listen, helpless to defend yourself. I don’t know what is worse, having my teeth and gums scraped and poked or being subjected to this perpetual annoying reprimand.
It is also stressful to hear that even though I do in fact practice good oral hygiene and I do show up for each and every one of my dental appointments, I could still have trouble with my teeth and gums in the future. I wonder what they expect the patient to do or say while they are being forced to listen to that.
I have tried to just close my eyes and tune out the hygienist but if I open them for even a split second I see her looking at me up close from behind her mask. I cannot see her lips moving but I know it is she who is speaking and I wish for silence. Unfortunately the only time I was permitted to listen to music under my headphones while at the dentist was when I had a root canal. It was almost worth it just so I could drown out any words of reproach.
Dentists wonder why people hesitate to make appointments with them or why once they do, the appointments are often cancelled. The anticipation of going to the dentist in the first place is bad enough. Combine that with being held hostage by the hygienist and her nagging; rather than being helpful, it is downright irritating.
Despite sometimes being made, when visiting the dentist, to feel like someone who does not practice proper oral hygiene because I am prone to excess plaque build-up, I actually do take caring for my teeth very seriously and quite frankly, I do not appreciate the implications to the contrary.
Not to mention, I am actually paying for this. It sticks in my proverbial craw worse than an unfilled cavity. “Why do you think I’m here anyway?” I would say if I my mouth was not full of instruments and I was able to speak clearly. I would think they would be happy that I have all this tartar so they can keep charging me for more frequent appointments, rather than give me a hard time about it.
While I do appreciate and understand that good oral hygiene and especially flossing are important, being made to suffer through constant reproaches every time one is at the dentist may actually be a deterrent for some people to go to the dentist at all.
I think it goes without saying that most of us do want to keep our teeth in good condition as we get older. Nevertheless, personally, I would like to have my teeth cleaned professionally without being verbally badgered in the process; that just might be the one thing that prevents me from rescheduling my next dental appointment.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012

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Invitation Or Obligation?

November 21, 2012

Invitation – Or Obligation?

By Andrea Freedman
The other day, my husband and I received a wedding invitation in the mail from someone we barely know, with a response card requesting a reply by a certain date. The trouble was, the date had passed three weeks earlier. The all-weekend function was to be formal, judging by the reference to Elegant Attire, and was to be held in two weeks from the date we received the invitation. Only two weeks to ensure that our schedule was clear for an entire weekend and to find, purchase and possibly alter clothing that was appropriate for the occasion.
Clearly we were B-listed, invited at the last minute and expected to pretend we didn’t notice. Why then, I reasoned, should we feel an obligation to enclose even a small cheque with our reply card as a token gesture, when it was quite obvious that the people throwing the party could not care less if we attended? I’ll tell you why. It’s a silly thing called etiquette.
Etiquette in certain cultures sometimes calls for an obligatory observation of proprieties, such as, for example, compelling people who are hosting weddings to send invitations to family members of family members, friends of friends and anyone else they or anyone in their families have ever met. Etiquette also forces the recipients of such invitations to either go to the function, like it or not, and give a gift, usually in the form of a large sum of money, regardless of whether or not they can afford it, or not to attend at all, but to put a small monetary present in the response envelope just the same.
For generations, people have felt burdened by societal pressures. I have heard from friends and family members over the years that one “has to” or “must” do certain things in order not to look bad or embarrass family members, no matter the absurdity and no matter if it means acknowledging an invitation or attending a function against one’s will, and even if the fact that one is on a second-tier guest-list is glaringly obvious.
I pondered whether I should actually succumb to the expectation that had been placed upon me or whether, if I chose to respond at all, to not send any cheque, no matter how small, and stop perpetuating this nonsense once and for all. I laughed to myself as I pictured the hostess receiving our empty envelope, perhaps shaking it or holding it up to the light to be sure there was no mistake and there was no cheque stuck inside. For one brief moment I thought about calling her bluff and throwing off the seating arrangement by actually accepting the invitation at the last minute.
I realized that I did have a choice in this matter. I was torn between doing the “right thing” or taking a stand and breaking a nonsensical cycle, practicing what I preached by not sending a gift that I would be giving with resentment rather than genuine good wishes. In the end I decided to be true to myself. If I was going to criticize others, the least I could do was not be a hypocrite. With that, I checked ‘No’ on the reply card, wrote a brief congratulatory note wishing their family the best of luck and then took a deep breath and sealed the envelope, void of gift.
I did not feel even an ounce of remorse at saying that we could not attend, and felt that the mere fact that I acknowledged this ridiculous invitation at all was good enough, despite the part of me that felt that the best response would be to simply throw it in the garbage.
If someone doesn’t really want to send an invitation, and they know full well that the recipient would most likely not have any desire to receive it, what is the point in putting obligations on people? I hope that the next time somebody wants to extend an invitation or do anything, for that matter, merely out of a sense of political correctness, that they forget the pretence and save themselves the stamp.♠

Copyright © 2012 Andrea Freedman

Are You Pushing Away Ideas — and Work — by Trying Too Hard? | The Renegade Writer (guest post)

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What’s Your Name Again?

Andrea Freedman

November 13, 2012

To say that I am bad at remembering names is an understatement. Ask me the date of someone’s birthday, what was said word for word, details of events and I will have no trouble remembering any of it, not to mention that I never, ever forget a face. But if my life depended on it, I cannot remember people’s names. It is so bad that even immediately as a person is in the middle of telling me their name, by the time they are finished I have already forgotten it.

If I don’t remember a person’s name, or if I simply do not feel comfortable speaking the name they want me to, I only speak to that person when they are looking directly at me, so that I do not have to say any name at all but he or she still knows that I am talking to them.

I have been in a few awkward situations where I am unable to introduce someone due to the fact that I do not know what to call them. Occasionally, either because a person clues in or perhaps because they find my lack of introduction rude, they sometimes introduce themselves, to my great relief.

I would rather leave well enough alone and not risk the embarrassment if I do introduce someone and actually make a mistake.

“This is Linda.”

“Actually, it’s Lisa.”

In my own family, there are so many relatives that when we have our annual family picnic, everyone wears name tags. I used to laugh about it, seeing that we are all related and you would think we would know one another’s names. I now realize the wisdom behind it.

At the office where I used to work, due to the number of employees at the company, it would have been almost impossible to remember many of their names, had not someone come up with the idea of posting everyone’s picture on the office internet page. I found myself reviewing everyone’s picture and corresponding name on a weekly basis, so that I would be prepared if I bumped into one of them in the elevator or staff lounge.

I can hardly believe it when people remember the surnames of people they hardly even know. This might have had something to do with why I found it so difficult to retain names in my head in history class back when I was in school.

It has been suggested to me in the past that a good way of remembering someone’s name is that when you are first introduced, reply by saying “Nice to meet you so and so.” Supposedly, regurgitating a name as soon as it is told to us can be helpful in ingraining that information into our brains. There have been times where, even though I just heard a person’s name two seconds ago, I am hesitant to say it out loud for fear that I will make a mistake.

Some people might take it the wrong way or think that I do not care about them enough to bother remembering their names but that is not the case. Interestingly enough, I am more likely to remember the names of my neighbours’ pets, even if some of them resemble human names, than I am their actual owners’ names.

On the other hand, assuming someone remembers them after having only met that person on one occasion could be seen as a sign of arrogance. This is the type of person who buds into a conversation at a party and expects to be remembered, by name, no less.

Having lived in the same city my entire life, there are many faces I recognize, people who I have worked with, met at parties over the years or gone to school with. Even people in my neighbourhood smile or nod cordially when we see each other. Sometimes I will say hello to someone on the subway because I know I have seen them before; but please, don’t ask me what most of their names are.

I still kick myself for asking “What’s your name again?” to a nice lady my husband and I met on vacation a few years ago. We had already chatted with her and her husband on several occasions while at the resort we were staying at for the past week. It was almost the end of the trip; not quite the right time to be asking what a person’s name is. As I watched the smile fade from her face I knew immediately that I had made an error in judgment, one I wished I could take back. We both would have been better off if I had left her name out of it altogether.

Sometimes when I am asked “Do you know so and so?” I will respond with “I know the name.” On those occasions I actually do know the name, but not necessarily the face that goes with it. If someone has a catchy name, perhaps something that rhymes, I might remember that but not the face that goes with it.

Recently when I asked a man in a professional capacity what his name was and he replied “Samuel,” I realized in embarrassment that he already told me, only moments earlier.

When I deliberately gave out the wrong name to a virtual stranger, at first I felt bad for lying but then I thought who cares? In all likelihood, the next time I bump into this person, if he is anything like me, he may very well forget that made-up name.

Fortunately, my memory serves me well when it comes to other important things. Remembering names is not my strongest skill and I suspect it never will be. If I start asking “What’s my name again?” then I will really start to worry.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012

A Broken Bone, A Welcome Break

November 6, 2012

Andrea Freedman

One night at a get together with friends, in the blink of an eye, I stood up, lost my balance and came crashing down hard on my ankle. The alarmed voices of my husband and friends made me even more frightened.
“Did you hit your head?!”
“Watch out for the broken glass!”
I was traumatized and in severe pain. I could feel the bones in my ankle moving around and my left foot was not on straight.
After I had been carried to the couch, as I lay there with my leg elevated, pouring with sweat and shaking – and wondering if there was any way I could make this go away and avoid going to the hospital – all I could see ahead of me was six weeks in a cast. When I did go to the hospital and I was told that I had severely broken three bones in my ankle that would require surgery, I was not happy but nor was I surprised. I wished I could rewind those few seconds before I fell; I was so angry with myself, knowing that it might have been possible for this accident to have been prevented.
For the first time in all of my forty-four years, I was forced to go to the hospital and I was in no way prepared for the fear that overcame me. I had never so much as had chicken pox or been stung by a bee and I was terrified. Had my good luck run out? Not only was my balance thrown off, so was my confidence.
I imagined in disgust that I would forever be relegated to wearing flat, sensible shoes. As someone who works out religiously, I worried about possible weight gain from inactivity.
After waiting at home in a cast for two weeks, haunted by flashbacks and afraid that I might trip over a speck of dust when I hopped to the washroom on my crutches, I woke up on the morning of my surgery, after a fitful sleep.
Before I knew it, the operation was over. As the last of the anaesthetic wore off, I literally cried from the agony and counted the minutes until it was time for my next painkiller.
After the pain was under control and I was relaxing on the couch at home, I resigned myself to the fact that the break I had suffered had given me another, more welcome break; a break from having to wake up to the alarm every morning, a break from the subway, the rushing, the crowds with their heads in their Blackberrys and annoying elevator chatter. What had begun as a nightmare turned, in a way, into a blessing in disguise.
When I attended appointments at the fracture clinic of the hospital, I began to recognize some of the other patients and we quietly celebrated each other’s small victories. I was delighted to hear of improvements after each of my multitude of ex-rays. When the ‘cast man’ as he jokingly referred to himself removed my first cast, I was afraid to look, not yet ready to face what I had imagined underneath. Maybe next week, I told myself and eventually I braced myself (no pun intended) and looked in horror at my sickly skinny, scarred leg, complete with staples.
After weeks of being unable to put my foot down, I ventured out with my sister and took my first tentative steps. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard her say, “You know what you’re doing, don’t you? You’re walking!” When I was ready to begin physiotherapy, just hearing the words “You’re doing great!” gave me the confidence I needed to start moving again.
As I began to feel better and get outside, I met a lot of interesting people that I might not otherwise have met had I not broken my ankle. I was touched by the kindness of others and the encouragement I got from people, not only my own family and friends, but neighbours, fellow gym members and strangers, some with bone crushing stories of their own.
When I walked through a handicap door, there was always someone there to hold it for me. Out of the blue someone would come up and ask me if I needed help. But what meant more to me than anything were the kind words I received from people who were permanently handicapped themselves, strangers, some of them resigned to using a walker or cane or in some cases a wheelchair.
I may fall down, but I don’t fall off the wagon. I managed to stick to a modified exercise routine the entire time I was recuperating and I am proud to say that I did not gain one single pound. Although it will be a while before I can run again, I am back at the gym and in pain again, in a good way.
I have learned a few things from this experience. I am not invincible as I had thought I was; perhaps I will even get stung by a bee one day. If that time comes, I think that I will now be better equipped to handle it. I know who I can count on and who my real friends are, and that when you really need them, even those closest to us can come through with shining colours or be a source of great disappointment.
For a while I had a taste of what it is like to be disabled. I have a new admiration for those who are forced to deal with physical impairments every day of their lives and still manage to remain pleasant toward others.
The pain and stiffness still lingers and on a rainy day I am reminded of the hardware that now holds my ankle in place. Nevertheless, after three casts, crutches, a brace, ill-fitting shoes, sponge baths, excruciating pain and overall inconvenience, I am happy to be standing on my own two feet again – even if it is in low-heeled shoes for now.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012

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The Ladies’ Room?! – a disturbing look into the secret conduct of women in public restrooms

October 30, 2012

By Andrea Freedman

It is no secret that public washrooms worldwide can cause even the most rustic of us to recoil in disgust, but when it comes to women’s restrooms, the “Ladies” room is a term that is used rather loosely, because ladies are the last thing that most patrons of public ladies’ rooms behave like. In fact, it is said that women’s public washroom conduct is much worse than men’s.
Whether it be in a health club, restaurant or office, public ladies’ rooms are generally the receptacle for bad manners and inconsiderate, often repulsive behavior. It is here that women who are otherwise impeccably spotless in their own homes let loose, abandoning all sense of decency, hygiene and to my mind, reason. I mean, who in their right mind would not realize that disposable toilet-seat covers are meant to be disposed of, not left on the seat after you leave, inviting the next person to share in the flimsy piece of paper separating them from the toilet, thereby defeating the purpose of the seat cover in the first place?
If I am lucky enough to come into a used-seat-cover-free stall, no sooner am I disappointed when I see the drops of “moisture”, for lack of a better word, mysteriously adorning the toilet seat – in the ladies room. I find this baffling although I am certain that in most cases I would just as soon rather not think about how those little beads of water got there. Regardless, if you accidentally wet the seat, is it so difficult to think of the predicament you are putting the next restroom patron in and take some toilet paper and wipe it off – and remember to flush that piece of toilet paper once you have finished?
And pardon me, but aren’t we all taught to flush immediately at the time of toilet training? Why is it then that so many of you seem to have forgotten how to flush?
Recently, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what hit the fan when, there it was, glaring me in the face, a rather large “gift” deposited in a public ladies’ room stall and left as a shocking greeting for all to see. I was appalled. Did this actually come from a lady and why was she so eager to show it off? Speaking of showing off, is that what people are doing when they open the door to their stall mid-flush, the contents of what they left there not quite yet out of sight for someone else who might be approaching to go into that stall next? How intimate do people actually believe others wish to be with them in the ladies’ room?
Public restrooms are no one’s first choice but unfortunately most of us have to use them on a daily basis. The ladies’ room is sometimes a sanctuary, an escape for a few stolen moments during the day, but is also a necessary, unavoidable place. It can either be a pleasant or horrifying experience; it’s all up to us. Ladies, we could all benefit so greatly if we could just all work together here and get a hold of ourselves and before we leave the ladies’ room next time, remember that we are not animals, that we must dispose of our feminine hygiene products in a discreet fashion, throw our used paper towel in the garbage rather than on the floor, flush the toilet, wipe the seat and remove whatever we have ourselves placed there at the beginning of our visit. Oh and wait – aren’t you forgetting something? Please, for all of our sakes, wash your hands!♠

Copyright © 2012 Andrea Freedman

Hold Your Nose And Your Tongue

October 22, 2012

By Andrea Freedman

While chatting with a neighbour in the elevator of my apartment building, I was informed of an incident where one of the other residents filed a formal complaint against their next door neighbour for smoking marijuana, claiming that the smell infiltrated her unit.
I have a problem with people who complain about such things and I would be strongly opposed to any enforcement of rules against it by our building staff. I have never been a cigarette smoker and I have smelled cigarette smoke in the hallways; regardless, I would never in a million years complain about it or try to make a neighbour’s life more difficult. When I heard of the incident, although I myself was not on the receiving end of the complaint, it angered me nonetheless.
Having lived in an apartment for many years, I can tell you that there are far worse odours to contend with besides the smell of marijuana. I have often been assaulted by strong cooking smells, not to mention the occasional garbage smell, pet odour and in one extreme case, a neighbour who did not change their cat’s litter.
There is one floor in the building where when the elevator stops there, one cannot help but immediately notice the odour of moth balls. Speaking of the elevator, it can be very unpleasant to be in such an enclosed space with someone who, especially first thing in the morning, has not showered or brushed their teeth. On the other hand, sharing the elevator with a neighbour who has dowsed themselves in cologne is no picnic either; nor is it pleasant to be in a confined space with someone who has alcohol left over from the night before exuding from their pours.
It depends on what one finds offensive as far as smells go. What one person considers a foul scent may smell like a fragrant perfume to someone else. While one tenant may argue that his or her rights are being violated by having to put up with the smell of cannabis, the perpetrator could protest the infringement to their privacy and freedom.
Perhaps there are a few fusspots who actually believe they smell odours from other people’s apartments seeping into the vents in their units, and in some rare cases marijuana or another smell may creep into the next apartment, but it is so minimal that it hardly seems worth the potential grief that complaining about it could bring. Not to mention, in a large building, I think it would be highly unlikely that not one person in the entire dwelling smoked marijuana.
Living in harmony with one’s neighbours is really more important than the smells our prissy noses have to contend with. I would suggest that a little weed is by far not the worst smell that must be endured by apartment dwellers. People need to relax and take their noses, literally, out of their neighbours’ business.
These days there seem to be more and more rules. One’s home should not be a place where we are subjected to strict regulations. Surely there are enough guidelines and laws to be followed, without having to worry about nonsensical complaints or harassment from others living among us.
People should be free to do whatever they want in their own homes, and that includes those of us renting apartments. There are certain noises, eyesores and smells that people living in common or multi-unit dwellings sometimes have to adjust to or learn to ignore. While not everyone can afford to buy a detached house, there are houses available to rent, providing a scent-free haven. And if that doesn’t work, and one is bothered by smells of marijuana or anything else that wafts through the outside air, I suggest going inside and firmly closing all the windows. If all else fails, do yourself and your neighbours a favour and try some nose-plugs.♠

Copyright © 2012 Andrea Freedman