Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Last Temptation of Laura

I caved.

It had been going so well - almost four months, and no signs of weakness; just the odd craving that was easily ignored or satiated with a few beers.

And then I got lost coming back from Albert, a town which is of little interest to anyone, except that it's where we get gas for the BH vehicles. I'd never been there before, but one of the secretaries was driving home and told me to follow her there - a cinch, right? I got there, filled up, turned around and started retracing my path.

I don't know where it all went wrong - I'm thinking one of the roundabouts, dammit, all the exits looked the same! Whatever the cause, I soon found myself in unfamiliar territory. A moment of weakness - and that's when they struck. Searching around for a sign or landmark, I saw it off in the distance, shining like...well, golden arches: the Golden Arches.

What could I do? I was powerless to resist. Hungry, tired, alone...the next thing I know, I'm at the counter all "Un Royal Cheese"...

Anyway, I was still lost, and drove around aimlessly, adopting the time-honoured strategy of "Maybe if I drive around a bit more, I'll see something I recognize!" Okay, stop laughing - it worked, dammit! After 20 minutes or so, there stood a ginormous sign with an arrow that read "Laura, go this way". Or maybe it said "Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Park Turn Left". Whatever. The point is that I made my way home in all my clogged-artery gloriousness.


I have not met any of the new guides yet, but I already have a favourite: the one who brought us a Globe and Mail. That's how I first heard about this. I think it's the best friggin' idea ever.

Friday, April 23, 2004

A couple of awesome things

Here and here

Ethics and etiquette

Alright, kids, time to flex that mental muscle. Here's an exercise in how you would deal with irritating or inappropriate behavior. Ready? Too bad, here we go!

Scenario A You're walking to the local neighborhood pub, and one of your travelling companions insists on describing to you, in detail, the battle of Waterloo, eg "It was really Napolean's battle to lose. Only two armies were really equipped to face him after his return from Alba; one was Wellington's British Army...although he had a lot of foreigners...Dutch...Belgian...Hanoverans..." 5 minutes later...Now Wellington had taken a strategic position, the low-lying hills made it difficult for the cavalry to advance...Napolean's first wave of attack was easily repulsed...15 minutes later As the infantry advanced, fifty across, they OWOWOWOW LAURA STOP POKING ME IN THE EYE WITH THIS SHARP STICK!!!!

Okay, maybe that last bit didn't happen, but it would have if we hadn't immediately arrived at the pub for a tall glass of sweet, sweet beer...But I ask - how do you tell someone that they're a boring lump and you're not interested? Or should you just suck it up? Or should you just poke them in the eye?

Scenario B You're at a proper military funeral for a WWI soldier whose remains were only discovered a few months ago. There is a gathered crowd of over a hundred people for the ceremony. Partway through the opening address, through the hushed crowd, comes the sound of some asshole jingling coins in his pocket. This continues through various readings, prayers and hymns. The priest then announces a moment of silence, during which nothing can be heard but the whistling of the wind, muted birdsongs and omigod that asshole is still jingling those fucking coins! Glancing around you, you eventually locate said asshole. Jingle jingle jingle jingle...You give him the stink eye, the evil eye and then the death stare, but nothing seems effective. Do you wait patiently for him to stop? Or do you stomp over, grab both his hands, and crush his fragile little bones while screaming "How you gonna jingle now, asshole? HUH? HOW YOU GONNA JINGLE NOW!!!

Discuss amongst yourselves.

On, and a propos of nothing - this rocks - big shout-out to Payton for sending it along.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

And you may find yourself...

In Englebamer, France
And you may find yourself,
Watching a camel chase a sheepdog,
And you may ask yourself,
Well - how did I get here?

Pardon me for ripping off these guys but it really was a once in a lifetime moment. I`m also trying to work in a stanza about chasing the loose sheep back into their pen around the monument, but I can`t thing of anything that rhymes with "electric fence"...

But such are my days of late. For a tour guide, I give surprisingly few tours, and must occupy my time in other ways...the flags are memorized, the pile of books to read is quickly diminishing, the cracks in the ceiling are all present and accounted for...and so on. I was, therefore, quite thrilled when the BH shepherd, Mr. Schiettequatte (I kid you not, really, that`s his name...no, really!) invited myself and Joce to go for a pony ride over at in his village, where, as luck should have it, the circus was in town. And his dog went over and harassed the camel...and there you have it! The most surreal moment of my life. And the most hilarious as well...I mean, come on! It was a camel! In northern France! Chasing a sheepdog around and around in circles...around and around...a camel...and a...sheep...dog...heh...okay, maybe you had to be there.

Ahem - anyway, work is quickly coming to end. Not a moment too soon, either, because there`s, like, people and stuff coming to the sites now. I know! Where do they think they are, a historical monument or something? Meh, I guess it doesn`t matter much, seeing as I`m outta here on the 3rd of May. I can`t wait to start travelling around Europe - there`s so much I want to see! Although I`m kinda peeved that I missed this important cultural event. Oh well, I guess you can`t do it all, right?

Letting the days go by
(All the sheep are kinda dense)
Letting the days go by
(Running through the electric fence)
Into the pen again
(Now that the camel`s gone)
Once in a lifetime
(Working at the monuments)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Hat Trick

I don't know if this has ever happened in the history of Vimy/BH guidedom, but for one brief shining period this week - we had all three vans in the shop. One of our greater accomplishments as a team.

Or somebody's trying to kill us.

Anyhoo, it starts with the Vimy van (affectionately known as 'Bijou') going in to get the handbrake fixed. And then - well, you are, of course, all familiar with the fun that is 'Charlotte' losing brake fluid pressure. Icing on the cake was when we were given 'Mitsou' and the battery conked out on the way to work when we stopped to recycle our many empty beer and wine bottl...er, I mean, when we stopped to save a busload of nuns...um, and a really cute puppy. We finally got both vans back the other day, but Bijou is back in the shop 'cause her fanbelt screeches like a banshee.

Which leads me to random rant about France #284: The One Where Laura Wonders Why French People (in particular, but not limited to, men) Think That Young Canadian Women Are Idiots. So, we stop at the recycle bin...er, I mean the nun-bus depot, and then we can't start the engine again. It revs but won't turn over, and makes that horrible sound of a dead/dying battery. Also the battery light is on. Also the van hasn't been used in the past two months and we only drove it a little ways, not enough to recharge the battery. So the three of us put one and one and one together and wind up with "dead battery".

But the security guard? Is all, are you sure? And we're all, yes, for the following reasons. And he's all, could it be something else? And we're all, maybe, but...no. And he's all, let me listent to it...hmm, sounds like the battery. I'll get maintenance and see what they think. And they he phones us later and is all, yup, it was the battery! Good guess girls! Here's a pretty ribbon for your hair! Or maybe not that last part. But still, it's one of those moments where I feel like shaking someone and shouting "I AM NOT AN IDIOT!@@#$#@!" Furthermore, it seems like, but (WARNING - HUGE GENERALIZATION TO FOLLOW) any moment of independence or decision-making or self-assertion are strange, even repulsive, to French men. But so far I have punched no one in the face, and have not even come close since last week's incident on It's a Small World After All...

Friday, April 02, 2004

Magic and Madness

Howdy do, folks. Been an exciting week for a change. On Tuesday we piled into one of the death vans (more on that soon) and drove to every WWI site between here and Ypres, Belgium. Well, maybe not every site...'cause there's, like, hundreds. But at least a good dozen or so. We wrapped up at the Menin Gate where my co-worker Ann and I laid a wreath to honour the Canadian missing - something I will never forget.

A few days later, Ann and I were off to the most magical place in Europe! Or maybe we went here . Either way. Having now been to (embarrassed cough) all three Disney theme parks, I can honestly say that this one measures up in rides and attractions, and definitely beats the other two in terms of angry yelling employees and strewn cigarette butts.

For those of you who've never experienced the North American Disney magic, I should explain that Disney employees are taught/brainwashed to act in character all the time - whether you are "Mickey Mouse" or "Picks-up-garbage-with-a-stick" guy. If you are a ride operator, then you also have a character; like pirate or wench at "Pirates of the Caribbean", etc.. So, normally the staff at a ride like, say, "The Haunted Mansion" all act like scary servants at a haunted mansion. In Florida, they interpret "scary" as "speak in a spooky voice and cackle". In France, they interpret "scary" as "yell at small children and clap your hands in frustration people who don't understand your short, guttural bursts of English". Lost in translation, indeed.

Anyway, the weather was beautiful and our average wait time for rides was 10 minutes, so can't really complain. Although I did almost punch a 17-year-old French guy in the face during "It's a Small World After All". But who isn't provoked to violence by that song?

Right, right, so moving on to item number last. Some of you former guides may be be sad (read: estatic) to hear that Charlotte, the grey van, is en panne (translation: the brakes failed as Alex and I were driving home). No worries, nothing too serious. It happened just as we got downtown: first the engine started making a noise like a jackhammer (we think it was a loose belt...thingy) and then stopped when whatever piece that was making that noise fell out. I'm all, "Dude, I have no idea what that was!", and Alex was all, "The brakes don't work!", and I'm all, "What???Omigod!" and then Alex is all "Just kidding!" and I'm all "Phew, you scared me!", and then Alex is all "Shit, they just stopped working!" and I'm all "$#%@@#$@%!!@@#". He managed to get us both to the nearest Shell station, and then all the way home after the manager of the Shell station told us we couldn't leave our van with no brakes there. Ah, France, where the customer is number two! Literally.