Monthly Archives: October 2013

My Clean Little Secret

My Clean Little Secret

Please click above to read my article published in the October 11, 2013 issue of the East Yorker paper, Issue No. 014.

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Smart Phones – Not So Dumb After All

Andrea Freedman

For the longest time I resisted getting a smart phone. I was hesitant about even having a cell phone in the first place and I didn’t see what all the hype was about.

When people would say things to me like “You can download [this or that] on it” or “You can watch videos on it”, I did not want any part of it. In fact, it irritated me and I protested that I was not interested in doing any of those things with my cell phone; I just wanted it mainly to make calls with in emergencies.

I realize that the norm these days in society is to be plugged in twenty-four hours a day; I for one find that difficult to accept, which is why only a select few even have my cell phone number. Not to mention, I find if I stare at that little screen for too long a time it makes my eyes hurt.

It drives me crazy when I see someone become absorbed in his or her smart phone, constantly checking it, or when I have to repeat myself several times over as the person I am trying to speak to is distracted by their smart phone.

Oh and the scrolling – I think you know what I mean. It is sometimes almost impossible to get someone’s attention for the simple fact that they are too busy checking e-mail or something else on a smart phone.

When I am watching a movie or sporting event with someone, something I think we are doing together, it really takes away from it if the person is more interested in being absorbed in his or her smart phone. I wonder what he or she could possibly be looking at, and what could be so pressing that I am being ignored as a result.

Now that I have recently purchased a smart phone myself I too can hardly stop playing with it and I have only just begun to explore everything I can do with it. At first I had my doubts about whether or not I would be able to figure out how to answer the phone, let alone how to use the other functions it offers but I must confess it is a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Every morning – sometimes even before I have had my first coffee – I get up and scroll through my e-mails, all conveniently viewed on my new phone without even having to start up my computer.

I like the audio notifications like the bird chirping sound it makes when I get a text and the little ring I hear when I have a new e-mail message. The memo section has come in handy when I wanted to write something down instead of waiting until I got home and risking forgetting what I wanted to write and the camera is great!

As a writer I admit I do anxiously check my e-mail over and over again to see if I have received any responses to any of my submissions. Now I do not have to anxiously walk back and forth to my computer constantly and I no longer feel like I have to go home in the middle of a beautiful day just to check my e-mail messages; I can do that wherever I can find a spot that offers free Wi-Fi.

Another simple but nice thing about my new phone is that, on the few occasions when I do receive or make a call, as opposed to my previous cell phone, I can actually hear the person I am speaking to on the other end!

Although I have a long way to go when it comes to being an expert smart phone user, I have finally begun to allow modern technology into my life. I am still getting the hang of things and I suspect I will be getting to know just how smart my new cell phone really is for the next while.

That does not mean, however, that I will ignore someone if they talk to me, choosing instead to bury my head in my telephone screen. Smart phones can be useful, as long as they do not replace actual face to face communication or get in the way of real in-person relationships.

I vow never to become one of those people walking down the street with their heads in their smart phones, barely avoiding being hit by a car or a collision with another pedestrian. Furthermore, if I get carried away checking my smart phone I will not mind at all if someone trying to speak to me brings me back down to reality.

That being said, it turns out that something I had so strongly opposed is actually – and I can hardly believe I’m saying this – making my life easier not to mention that it is kind of fun to use. I give in; modern technology can in fact be great – that is, as long as we’re smart about it.♦

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013

Restaurant Condiments Come in Handy in a Jam

Andrea Freedman

A few years ago, when my grandmother started taking the little jams home when we used to go out to restaurants together I confess that at first I found it a bit embarrassing.

On one occasion when we were out for lunch together, before we had even gotten settled at our table and had not yet ordered our food, she asked one of the waitresses if she would please bring her some jams. I was mortified as I watched the confused look on the waitress’s face.

I used to try to reason with my grandmother that she had jams and other such items in her fridge at home and that she did not need to take the ones from the restaurant home with her.

She protested that the jams were not actually for her own use, but rather for the lady who came in to help her a couple of days a week (“my sweetie” as she called her), so that she could give her a bagel with a take-home jam when she left to ensure that the woman would be able to have something to eat before going to her next job.

Although I eventually got over my embarrassment and got used to the routine with the jams, and despite my grandmother’s prodding, I nonetheless resisted taking any of the condiments home myself, explaining to her that it was more acceptable to do things like that at her age.

I must admit that there have been a few occasions when I was eating peanut butter at home and realized that I had run out of jam to accompany it. I wished then that I had listened to my wise grandmother after all when she urged me to also put some of those little packets of jam into my purse; they would have really come in handy.

Besides my grandmother, I have known some other seniors, and even a few people who are no where even near retirement age who are also in the habit of collecting restaurant condiments.

Go into any one of their homes and you will likely find containers or mugs filled with little salt, pepper and sugar packets, as well as plastic cutlery, ketchups and of course, in my grandmother’s case, jam. And there are always plenty of napkins, all of course acquired from restaurants and coffee shops.

Upon reflection, it could save a lot of money; however, I can imagine the horrified looks on my friends’ faces if they were to see me trying to smuggle restaurant condiments into my purse.

Recently, I saw an old lady at the grocery store tearing the stems off the peppers. When she saw me looking at her curiously she offered an explanation. “It gets rid of some of the excess weight so it’s not as expensive.”

The thing is elderly people can get away with little things like taking condiments and mutilating produce in stores. Something that hopefully comes with age is being able to let go of caring what other people think.

Many elderly people have spent much of their lives being tactful and discreet, not to mention all the money they have spent on groceries, condiments and dining out. They’ve paid their dues, monetarily and otherwise.

Now that my grandmother has moved to a nursing home she no longer needs the packages of jam and so, my opportunity, for the time being anyway, to take restaurant condiments home with me has been put on hold. I will have to wait until my parents start doing it – and believe me, I am in no rush for that to happen.

These days I enjoy weekly visits with my grandmother at her new residence but I still miss those times when she and I used to be able to go out to restaurants together and if I could have another chance I would gladly let her talk me into taking some jam home with me.

Since I can no longer let her coax me into taking restaurant condiments, not to mention all the other things she used to offer me when I used to visit her at her apartment, I at least let her convince me to have a piece of the chocolate that she now keeps handy in her room.

Someday perhaps I too will fill my purse with restaurant condiments but for the time being I will just have to continue adding things like jam to my grocery list.

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013

Getting Accustomed to Others’ Customs

Please click on the link above to view my article published in the August 29, 2013 issue of the Canadian Jewish News.

Oh Rats!

Andrea Freedman

In a recent blog post entitled Un-stung Hero I expressed my disdain for bees. Since then a disturbing incident occurred that compels me to talk about another pesky creature, the dreaded rat.

The other day, just as I was entering the bank, I had a strange feeling that I could not quite put my finger on. I noticed a man walking out of the building and an instinct made me walk around to the opposite door in order to avoid him.

After I had made my way into the bank, a lady in line just ahead of me turned around and informed me “That man who just came out of here had a rat on his shoulder!” She was so shaken up by the sight of it she felt the need to unburden herself to a stranger. I was secretly thankful that it not been me who had seen it.

On another occasion not too long ago at the grocery store, when I got to the cashier she was visibly upset. “The customer a few people before you had a rat on his shoulder!” she said. I was horrified yet once again grateful at the same time that I had not been standing directly in the line of fire.

It reminded me of a time when I was a teenager and a guy who went to my school walked around on weekends and evenings with – you guessed it – a rat on his shoulder. I recall one night when he was a customer in the store where I worked part-time and he brought the rat into the store with him. Even to this day I remember it vividly. I was screaming, breaking out into a sweat and cowering behind the counter.

For those of you living in Toronto and working downtown, you may recall a man who used to stand on the corner on Queen Street near City Hall with several rats at a time on his shoulders; somehow this was supposed to be a tourist attraction. Personally, when I first saw the man and his rats it scared me so much I almost ran into moving traffic just so I would not have to walk directly past them.

I do not understand this fascination with rats or why anyone would want to walk around with something so disgusting on one’s shoulder. Many years ago I knew someone who had rats as pets and when I expressed my fear of them he had the audacity to defend them as being ‘beautiful animals’.

Unfortunately, in some restaurants and grocery stores, unwanted rats – and I cannot imagine an instance where rats would not be unwanted – sometimes come along with the territory.

It is bad enough when pest control has to be called in to take control of a rodent problem, but to willingly invite rats into one’s home, especially if that home is, in a sense, shared among several other people, or to bring them out in full view is, in my opinion, unfair and unkind.

I do not think rats or any rodents for that matter should be allowed in stores or public places or where others are forced to share elevators and other common areas. If ‘owners’ of rats argue that restaurants, convenience stores etc. already have rats, that is just more proof of how dirty and unwanted rodents are. Some might argue that rats are clean; then why, I ask, are they so often found rustling through garbage and said to carry disease?

Some say rats are more scared of us than we are of them; somehow I doubt that; except for perhaps one incident. There was a lovely courtyard outside an office I used to work at where I enjoyed many breaks on nice days. It was like a little retreat away from work.

That was, until one day when I saw a huge rat walking around the bottom edge of the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. I screamed so loudly that – and I am not exaggerating – as I turned around to run away, I saw the rat actually jump in mid air.

I realize that there are some people who are not fond of dogs or cats, the more common, traditional house pets. While I do not relish the thought of being slobbered on by a large dog, I would take that any day over being forced to come face to face with a pointy-faced monster, its slimy tail dangling threateningly nearby.

Rat poison was invented for a reason. If you are considering adopting a rodent as a pet and especially if other people will be affected by it, perhaps you should reconsider and leave the rats in their cages or, preferably, in the sewers where they belong!♠

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2013