On The Cusp Of Silly Season


On the cusp of silly season is lost on those without an inkling of what my job entails. The magnitude of Christmas party season poised to ignite defies explanation. I could say I’ll be busy, I’m always busy, busy isn’t silly. Silly is working 18 days straight, working 80 hours a week, getting home at 4 am, showering and heading back to work. Silly is loading and unloading 3 cargo vans in the middle of night, silly is brewing hot chocolate at 2:30 am, loading 7,000 pastries out at 6:30 am and serving canapes to 2,400 guests at the ballet. Silly is how many pounds of turkey and bottles of wine we’ll transport in the next three weeks.

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Those of us crazy enough to embrace my profession live for silly season. Surviving Christmas party season is a badge of honour, we live for silly season. The more extreme, physically challenging, convoluted, impossible timelines or elaborate execution, the better. Bring it on! It’s silly season and I’m stoked. See you in a few weeks.

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Pondering 100 Years


This ponder is dedicated to my dear friend and co-worker Tony. A true gentleman, salt of the earth and kind soul whose thoughtful tribute to the 100th anniversary of SS Princess Sophia’s tragic demise touched my heart.

 

The SS Princess Sophia, before her tragic end. (Alaska State Library, Sadlier-Olsen Family Collection)

http://princesssophia.org/

On the 100th anniversary of armistice take a moment to ponder the 100th anniversary of Princess Sophia, a maritime disaster worth remembering. Below, Tony’s letter to his Princess line shipmates….

One hundred years ago today, in the early morning hours of October 24th 1918 the CPR’s Princess Sophia ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal,  about 60 miles south of Skagway, Alaska, bound for Juneau and points south   The ship had left Skagway with a full load of ‘end of season’ passengers at 10 pm, three hours late.   It was one of the last two sailings southbound before winter set in; Princess Alice was on her way north and would be just about the last chance to travel south.  About 400 people were waiting in Skagway, many of them seasonal workers and crews from the paddle wheelers on the interior lakes.   There was excitement building over rumours of an end to the Great War but a number of the passengers and crew members were already sick with the ‘flu, the influenza epidemic which would kill at least 20 million people worldwide, 30 to 50,000 Canadians.

The weather deteriorated soon after departure and at the time of the grounding the Sophia was travelling at 12 – 14 knots through a snowstorm with a 50 mph tailwind.  Navigation was conducted by sounding the ship’s whistle and calculating the distance from the steep cliff sides of the channel which was about 8 miles wide at that point.  The vessel veered off course,  too far to the west and struck the reef with so much force that it was driven almost its entire length high onto the reef but settled level.  There was a radio on board and Captain Locke managed to alert both Skagway and Juneau.

The ship seemed securely wedged and not too much damage was visible to the hull. There seemed to be no immediate danger.  A decision was made wait for moderation in the weather before allowing rescue attempts from the several small vessels which had arrived to help.  At low tide it was not possible to launch the lifeboats because of the surrounding rocks and even at high tide it was thought that they would be dashed against the rocks before they could clear away.  For forty hours the ship remained on the reef awaiting the forecast improvement in the weather.   An all out rescue effort was planned for high tide on the 26th but towards the evening of the 25th fresh high winds and pounding seas moved the stern of the vessel completely around and it began to slide into deeper water.   Princess Sophia sank late on October 25th, with the loss of all the passengers and crew, about 340 souls in all.  Many bodies were found trapped inside the vessel and others were still being found in the water up to eight miles away for weeks after.  Princess Alice carried many of the bodies back to Vancouver and arrived on November 11th,  Armistice Day.  The ship anchored off shore and did not enter the port until the next day.   The arrival almost went unnoticed amid the great celebrations surrounding Armistice Day and its announcement only appeared on an inside page of the newspaper.  Despite being the biggest maritime disaster in Alaska’s history the event was quickly almost forgotten.  Unlike the great Titanic disaster, there were no survivors of the Princess Sophia sinking to tell their stories.

The attached photo is of Princess Sophia arriving in Vancouver sometime between 1914 / 1918.  The resolution is high enough that if you zoom in you can clearly see some stewards on the foredeck …..   white shirts and bow ties!  Perhaps they were looking out for wives and girlfriends on the dock.  Many soldiers are visible and there seem to be officers waiting dockside as well as a band playing just above the foredeck.    Also attached a picture of some crew members,  stewards again I think, on board before the disaster.  I wonder what the tips were like in those days.    The route the ships took back then was the same as the Princess Patricia in the 1970s,   the same ports in a different order.    It is a sobering thought to think that all of us passed that same reef many, many times,  northbound and southbound and always in darkness.   Luckily we had the benefit of radar,  depth sounders  …..   and Angus Twatt often at the helm,  a fine seaman from the Orkney Islands!

This afternoon at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver the B.C. Maritime Museum installed a plaque commemorating seven O’Brien family members lost on Princess Sophia.

https://www.vicnews.com/news/museum-marks-100th-anniversary-of-the-unknown-titanic-of-the-west-coast/

29 Cents And Counting


Drove home at 2 am, couldn’t say what day it was and didn’t care, work wasn’t expecting me back for 11 luxurious hours. Eleven hours reminded exhaustion there’s more to life than work. Noticeable layers of dust cloaked my laptop, all I wanted was time to catch up on WordPress. Forcing hindsight to explain how I let work topple my love for daily ponders could wait, I had eleven hours – two at my laptop, one to wind down and fall asleep, seven at rest, another to wake, shower and get myself back to work.

I didn’t need hindsight wagging her finger to know I’d stretched myself too thin. I might have happily opened WordPress and left it at that, but no, I had to open Quora and ruin my life.

For perspective, WordPress is my first love, Quora a dangerous affair. WordPress feeds my soul, Quora delivers esteem building strokes, strokes in the form of Top Writer affirmation and more views in a day than WordPress musters in a month. I hate myself but can’t stop. Trouble is, there aren’t enough hours for WordPress let alone Quora.

Back to eleven hours and a dusty laptop. I wanted to ponder October meteor showers on WordPress. Opening my laptop for the first time in days created a maelstrom of conflicted direction. Best guess being checking Quora stats before settling into WordPress stemmed from innocent desire to get it out of the way, who knew a private message would ruin my life.

Quora moderation invited me to enroll in the Partners Program. What Partners Program? I only have eleven hours and you’re choosing tonight to personally invite me to enroll for paid content? Register a PayPal account, keep asking great questions, blah, blah, blah. What fresh hell is this? I don’t have time!

Cosmic ponders went unspoken, my laptop slammed shut, I crawled into bed. One week and 72 work hours later I dusted off the screen, what choice did I have but to play along with Quora? Enrollment took a few minutes, my first question took a few more. As of tonight I’ve earned 29 cents, 29 convoluted cents awarded to an overworked caterer who only wants to ponder the cosmos. I need my head examined! Sigh.

Huh


Never assume a client appreciation cocktail reception hosted by a wealthy cosmetic dentist is going to be dull. Swanky venue, meticulous client, ice sculpture, money no object floral arrangements and enough food to feed an army. What could possibly go wrong? We’re on our game, everything on time and in place, staff graciously passing breathtaking canapes, copious platters of stationed cheese, antipasto and charcuterie artfully woven along the spine of a central table.

Wait a minute, what’s wrong with you people? See that tiny plate on the table, small plate means small bite. No one invited you to dinner, why are you behaving like this is your last meal? Congratulations on a new set of teeth, but I’m begging you, show some self respect. Forty minutes into a three hour reception, we’re out of food – oh crap! Time to inform client, ease concerns and dispatch a chef to secure reinforcements. Momentary lapses in unabashed consumption ripple through the crowd. One of my servers reports guests ate all the garnish on his platter. WTF!

Thirty minutes later two behemoth platters of deli meat and cheese hit the table, my chef sets a timer – gone in 22 minutes. Now client wants more dessert, politely drawing the line I decline and head back to the kitchen. Along the way a guest asks for a moment of my time.”What’s your favorite colour?” she asks, clearly surprised when I answer “green”. “Oh my, don’t know if I have green” she mumbles while digging in her purse. Now she’s holding one of my hands in hers, pressing a cellophane wrapped cross in the other and declaring “close enough”.

What’s happening, please let go of my hand! A missionary you say, made this cross yourself, sent 100,000 crosses to Haiti after the earthquake?  Please let go of my hand! Propriety kept me from calling bat shit on 100,000 Haitian crosses, I heard myself say “that was a kind gesture”. Thanking her for the gift relaxed her hand long enough to remove mine from her clutches.

Never let it be said that mine is a predictable profession.

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Hot Dog Water


It’s street festival season in Vancouver. Yesterday, 17 blocks of Main Street welcomed thousands to annual Car Free Day celebrations. Hundreds of vendors marked twelve feet of curbside real estate with colourful tents. Block after block of inexpensive dresses made in India, food trucks, jewellery, yoga classes, political action groups, straw hats and local crafts. Lavender Kombucha in one hand, bacon raspberry chipotle jam sandwich in the other ( don’t judge me 🙂 ), an eager young man in a hot dog costume drew my eyes to the “Hot Dog Water” tent.

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Hot Dog Water CEO Douglas Bevans, mustered his inner Gwyneth Paltrow to proclaim –

“We’ve created a recipe, having a lot of people put a lot of effort into research and a lot of people with backgrounds in science really creating the best version of Hot Dog Water that we could,” “So the protein of the Hot Dog Water helps your body uptake the water content, and the sodium and all the things you’d need post-workout.”

A sign breaks down the “health benefits” of Hot Dog Water.

Scores of festival goers lined up for free samples of chilled hot dog water. Move over Gatorade, there’s a new boss in town. Hot dog water is the future of weight loss, vitality and brain function. Still skeptical? Rest assured proof is in the cost – one bottle of hot dog water sells for $37.99,  two for the Father’s Day special of $75.

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Bevans won’t say how much hot dog water he sold, but cheerfully points to a statement clearly displayed at the booth –

“Hot Dog Water in its absurdity hopes to encourage critical thinking related to product marketing and the significant role it can play in our purchasing choices.”

From Global News –

Bevans, a tour operator by trade, is also an artist, and said the Hot Dog Water concept was actually dreamed up as a commentary on what he called the “snake oil salesmen” of health marketing.

“It’s really sort of a commentary on product marketing, and especially sort of health-quackery product marketing,” he said.

“From the responses, I think people will actually go away and reconsider some of these other $80 bottles of water that will come out that are ‘raw’ or ‘smart waters,’ or anything that doesn’t have any substantial scientific backing but just a lot of pretty impressive marketing.”

Vancouver festivalgoers invited to enjoy a cool glass of… hot dog water?

Kudos to you Douglas Bevans – well played.

 

Crazy Train Rolls Into Work Town


Every so often crazy train rolls into work town. Usually we hear it coming, sometimes signals fail. Crazy train doesn’t discriminate, we never know who’ll climb aboard.

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Yesterday crazy train rolled into an all day professional conference for doctors. Repeat client, nothing too fussy, routine conference defined by breakfast, morning break, lunch and afternoon break. Despite leaving for work at 4:15 am, I looked forward to seeing this client again. Remarkably, special dietary requests were few, only one in fact, a Dr. B who identified as Celiac. I remembered Dr. B from the last conference – requested gluten free meals, rather than eat our food, provided her own meals to re-heat. No problem Dr. B, I’ll warm up your gluten free pizza.

This morning Dr. B arrived with Tupperware boxed lunch and polite request to reheat when appropriate. A few minutes later one of my servers presented a zip-loc sandwich bag of what looked like oatmeal. Server said “I was asked to add half a cup of boiling water to this”. Why didn’t Dr. B talk to me when she gave me her lunch? Never mind. Crazy train hadn’t whistled, how were we supposed to know it was about to derail?

Does this look like a restaurant, do you see anything else in a bowl? We’re off-site caterers, never mind, we have hot water, I’ll find a bowl. There you go Dr. B – nice ceramic bowl, half a cup boiling water, personally delivered by a keen young server smiling with a sense of accomplishment – enjoy your breakfast.

Moments later server returned with furrowed brow, exclaiming – “She snapped at me, said it wasn’t instant oats and demanded a microwave” . “We don’t have a microwave, she asked us to add hot water, where is she now” flew back in rapid succession. “Looking for a microwave and extremely upset” replied server. Barely had time to mutter “give me a break” when another co-worker announced Dr. B was in the bathroom crying hysterically. It’s too early for this shit Dr. B!

Everybody relax I’ll talk to Dr. B preceded reconnaissance of the ladies room, Dr. B’s sobs could be heard in the hallway – kill me now. I opened the door, “please don’t be locked in a stall”. Oh crap! What fresh hell is this? Note to self – caution staff to report accurate information – not in my wildest imagination could her performance be defined as shedding basic bathroom tears. Unaware of my presence, Dr. B wailed “I’m all alone, no one will help me. Why won’t anyone help me?” “Help me, someone help me” What the fuck, enough! “Excuse me” accompanied the knock on crazy train’s bathroom stall. “I’d like to help but you need to come out”. “Go away, I need to compose myself”. Gladly Dr. B, take all the time you need. I left to inform client that one of her doctors was in meltdown.

” Dr. B asked for hot water, no mention of microwave. We don’t have a microwave, would have told her so from the start. How are we supposed to know what’s in her sandwich bag? She’s crying in a bathroom stall, wailing pleas for help, threatening to go home” rolled off my lips. “She does this a couple times a year” sighed client. Really? In public? went unspoken. Professional obligation fulfilled, Dr. B was crazy train’s problem not mine.

An hour later servers cleared Dr. B’s oatmeal bowl – it was licked clean. Hang in there Dr. B! Nothing like a good cry, public display of crazy and chorus of despair tinged attention seeking outbursts to work up an appetite. Heat your lunch? No problem Dr. B.