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Friday, February 23, 2007

On the eve of my departure

Well, that's it. I fly back tomorrow, my Canadian adventure at an end.

Naturally, in time-honoured tradition I have barely started packing, I still have three loads of laundry to do and I haven't so much as cracked the seal on any cleaning products. Yes, this post is procrastination.

However, almost all my chores are completed. I closed my bank account today and deposited over $70 of quarters, 10c, 5c and 1c pieces. I spent the best buy vouchers that I got for my birthday - annoyingly Bestbuy is still sold out of the 14disc boxset of all the superman movies, so I settled for the 2-disc special edition of Superman Returns, plus the three star trek films I had not yet got. Before anyone asks, don't worry, my laptop has a region zero plug-in, so I can watch them!

The only remaining chores are to be done first thing tomorrow. I wanted to catch Smallville tonight, so I will be donating my TV to the thrift centre tomorrow, and returning my cable TV and modem to the Rogers store - just as soon as I've found one! Now I have to call a cab for tomorrow afternoon. Rumour has it, there will be a snowstorm. Bugger. That'll make carting my suitcases around a pain in the arse, and also make it more likely that my flight will be cancelled. Oh well, my first flight to this continent went disastorously wrong, there is a certain symmetry to it all going tits up on the way home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 82. Bell Canada.

OK, Bell Canada have pissed me off.

Firstly, I am irrationally annoyed that they want to screw me for $140 to cover the cost of my cell phone subscription now that I am leaving. Now, I am the first to admit that it was my fault for signing a 12 month contract, and that they are perfectly within their rights to charge me $20/month to cover the rest of my contract. However, the buggers insisted on making me talk to a straight man. Why is that an issue, I hear you ask? Because straight Canadian men are immune to an English accent.

You see, something that I have found in the past few months is that the Canadian ladies are surprisingly susceptible to an English accent. Whether I should be thanking Hugh Grant, Prince William or every Bond actor after Connery, I don't know. Nevertheless, I have found that even my council estate drawl allows me to approach and flirt with women well out of my league and charm my way out of paying library fines or penalty fees (the lovely lady at Rogers Cable dropped the disconnection fee when I told her how I'd lost my job and was going to retrain and to work with children - similarly, I played the bumbling Brit abroad and got my astronomical library fines halved "just this once" when I convinced the librarian that I couldn't log-in to renew my books over christmas. This was partly true - I couldn't, but I then forgot to actually return the books for a week after returning to Canada after christmas). But no dice.

So I was already somewhat less than enamoured with Bell on saturday, when I missed my bus out of town and needed to check my hotmail to lookup contact numbers to tell my friends I would be late for a party. I found a public access terminal, run by Bell, in the train station that charged the outrageous sum of $2 for 10 minutes. Depositing my $2, I logged onto Hotmail. Nothing. After several attempts I gave up and decided to check The odds of either site being down is miniscule. Nothing. The access terminal had no internet connection. It also had no refund button. For problems with the terminal, I was advised to call a freephone number between 9am and 5pm mon-fri or email support. How? There is no bloody internet connection!

So, having 40 minutes to kill, I decided to use a public payphone to call the engineer's repair line on 611. It is childish I know, but for the next 30 minutes I (extremely politely) harangued some poor call centre worker, demanding my two dollars back. The poor sod couldn't understand that I was a member of the public and kept on asking me my business account number or my home account number. He left me to talk to his supervisor three times. However, because I was being polite he couldn't just hang up on me for being abusive (calls are monitored - that works both ways!), furthermore, he didn't have the commonsense to tell me that I had called the wrong number. I suspect that had my bus not arrived, I could still be there now. What I should have done of course, was gently place the receiver on the side and tiptoed off to the bus. Instead I took pity on him and said that I would call back during office hours on monday.

Childish? Yes. Satisfying - oh yeah! I know that call centre wages are pretty poor, but I like to think that the time wasted on me cost more than the $2 Bell stole off me.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 81. Larry King (and mini-me Anderson Cooper).

Larry King, despite rarely darkening UK screens, was known to me before I crossed the Atlantic. I knew of him as the Daddy of US chatshow hosts. He's interviewed every US President since Abe Lincoln, is rarely turned down for an interview, is watched and loved by millions of Americans every night - and was impersonated in Gremlins 2.


Since moving here, I often find my TV tuned to CNN. Sure they aren't nearly as good as the BBC, but unfortunately BBC World is a rather stripped down affair compared to BBC24, with news bulletins every half hour and a seemingly endless parade of worthy but dull documentaries on life as a gay woman in Uttar Pradesh.

Every week night, Larry King puts on his bowtie and suspenders (note to UK readers - North Americans refer to braces as suspenders - at least until I tell them that suspenders are pantyhose in the UK...) leans over his desk, and asks inane questions for an hour, interupted only by commercials every 6 minutes and the always breathless Anderson Cooper plugging his own show immediately afterwards.

Now I realise it is a bit much to expect a President or former President, or even a Presidential hopefull every night, but I have to say the old boy really scrapes the barrell sometimes. For example 3 weeks ago he basically gave over his show to American Idol. He spent the entire night (for several nights in a row) "interviewing" former Idol runner ups asking if they thought Simon Cowell was a big fat meanie and then extending the 15 minutes of fame of the Muppet rejects who were canny enough to get featured in the show and bag themselves an agent. I suppose the only interesting thing to be garnered from the interview was the dizzy blonde former contestant who cheerfully (and perhaps a little too candidly) explained the intimate details of how Idol actually works. I.E you go through 3 rounds of auditions before meeting the judges, so that only the great and the freaky get through; that you sign a contract giving the producers the right to take the piss royally ad infinitum; that they own yo sorry ass.

Basically, King will give any one who wants it, 15 minutes or more of airtime. If you are a bullshit artist like Deepak Chopra, you get even more.

Last week, however, it became nasty.
On the Tuesday, news broke that an Astronaut had completely flipped, allegedly driven 1000miles in a nappy and confronted her love rival. Despite there being no information of any note at all, every rent a shrink near a cell phone was asked their opinion. Anderson Cooper scrapped his plans (probably some trifling piffle about the Iraqi civil war - not really important) to heap speculation upon speculation and supposition upon supposition.

Then Pay Dirt! Anna Nicole Smith is found dead!
For a man with a bad heart, King was so excited I was worried. Only last week, he had been giving the two competing fathers of her child an unnecessary amount of airtime, and of course he'd had her on his show dozns of times previously. It was nauseating to watch. Somehow, King managed to keep a sombre expression and tone, despite the fact it was obvious that he was furiously masturbating under the desk.

The thing is, I have little or no time for that type of Z-list floosy, and I found the whole public custody battle just another way of distracting the braindead masses from actually contemplating anything of worth. But I was sickened by the reaction only hours after her death. I turned over after a few minutes. When I came back about 40 minutes later (my cable box cycles through bookmarked channels in a preset order), not only were they still discussing her death - they were talking to legal representatives about when was the best time to take DNA samples - before or after autopsy.

The following night, it was more of the same with added shit-slinging from the wannabe fathers.

So to Larry King and Anderson Cooper, I award you a Tuesday Twat. Put it at the front of the trophy cabinet, you actually deserve this one.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 80. Canadian Online Companies

Yes, I'm in a bad mood.

With my pending exit from this continent looming, I have decided to take advantage of being over here to do a spot of travelling. I've decided to nip south of the border and fulfill a long-standing ambition to visit the Smithsonian Museum(s) in Washington DC.

Since I will need flights and accomodation, I decided to use to do so. On the plus side, I got flights (leaving Canada early in the morning and returning late at night to maximise the vacation), two nights at a seedy motel 2 miles from Capitol Hill and all the museums, and airport transfers for C$550. Not bad at all.

On the down-side, the buggers won't let me pay for it!

I've hit the great Canadian online "you don't have a Canadian credit card" wall of resistance. I've noticed that Visa is only international... outside of Canada. Seriously. I first had this problem booking flights home for christmas with I had to do all sorts of shit, like photocopying and faxing my UK credit card and passport before they would accept my reservation. Relatives hit a similar block when they tried to get to send me birthday and christmas presents. I tried to reserve some stuff online... same thing.

I tried to phone in the credit card number - but even the supervisor didn't understand what my problem was. "Just use your Candian card".
"I.. don't... have.. a... Canadian... Card"
I have a Canadian bank account ("We don't take cheques sir, we are an online company").
I have a CIBC "convenience card" (That isn't Visa or Mastercard, sir. You can only use it in ATMs")
I have a Canadian address ("We need the address the card is registered to").

Why is this? I'm told that this doesn't present a problem in Australia or New Zealand.

Finally I gave up and switched to I booked precisely the same trip, using the same flights and same hotel (then also added a couple of sight-seeing tours) for £300 (actually slightly cheaper by my maths). I went to pay and found that on if I were, for example a Canadian, I COULD SELECT A NON-UK CREDIT CARD.

Visa - accepted everywhere. Except Canada.




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