The Floods of 2013 (and a Bowel-Moved Reminder to Stay Grateful)

Warning: Content and photos may be offensive to some readers. So feel free to skip this one. Or acknowledge that everybody poops, and enjoy!

Let me begin by saying how sorry I am for all of those who have been displaced from their homes, for those who have lost their homes, their pets, their belongings. I have been watching the footage on tv like so many across the country, absolutely dumbfounded by the widespread damage.

Being so far removed from the actual “action” of the flooding, I guess I wasn’t taking seriously the urgency of the situation here in Calgary on Friday afternoon. I was sitting on my floor, watching the CBC’s footage on tv, eating toast, drinking coffee, tickling the baby, pretty chilled out overall (although sad about what I was seeing). There was a knock on the door. It was my friend, Ernesto (name has been changed to protect the identity of my friend, Jermaine). I was shocked to see him, as Ernesto recently had a lobotomy (actual medical procedure changed to protect patient confidentiality, which is important after a cholecystectomy) and has been strongly advised not to exert himself in any way – no lifting, minimal walking, that kinda thing. Hence my surprise in seeing him at my door, drenched in rain water, carrying a full tank of propane.

“Ernesto, whatever are you doing here?” I asked (apparently this conversation took place in a 1960’s black and white film).

“I didn’t have my car so I walked to get propane in case we lose power and to fill my gas tank in case the city’s gas supply runs dry and they aren’t able to get any more into the city. Luckily we’ve already stocked up on bottled water. How about you?”

[It is important to note that Ernesto is way cooler than me and I am big time ad-libbing. Anything dorky in his dialogue is pure HOAR reenactment error.]

So here’s Ernesto, not even supposed to be on his feet, taking the initiative to stock up for his family. And here’s me, with jam on my face, wearing my dont-judge-me-there’s-been-a-flood flood (sweat) pants, watching TV. Like an asshole.

He strongly suggested I get to the store to at least get water and, if possible, propane and gasoline. I felt compelled to act, but by no means desperate or frantic. My gait pattern as I walked to the car would still likely be described as casual and/or slothful.

Then I made the mistake of going to Walmart. If you ever want to feel a sense of chaos and imminent doom, go to a suburban (probably a redundant descriptor) Walmart during the early stages of a natural disaster. It was mayhem. I had to park in an adjacent parking lot a good half kilometer away. As I made my way towards the entrance, bending into the wind and rain and struggling to keep the blanket over the baby’s seat, I literally had to hip thrust out of the way of several speeding vehicles. The shopping carts were all gone (I was told later that, at a nearby Sobeys, a fight actually broke out over the last shopping cart. No joke). So I struggled my way through the store towards the water aisle with my giant infant in his dripping wet bucket seat. The number of bodies in the one store was gross. And they were moving as if they were being chased. The water aisle was bare. Well the shelves were. The aisle itself was like a mosh pit of people. Disappointed, wet, frantic people wearing expressions of despair and saying things like, “get home now and fill your bathtub with water while you still can!”

Dear Lord. I was trying to not give into panic but, I thought, I have clearly underestimated the severity of what’s happening. I was suddenly feeling a little more than ill-prepared for a crisis. I attempted to call J to see if he was ok but my calls weren’t going through. Great.

The walk home would have taken me four minutes. The drive took close to twenty. The roads were chinched with cars moving at a crawl.

[Newfie Word of the Day: chinched.]

I got home – with no water or propane or candles or gas or cell phone reception – and tried my best not to worry. To push this along, J made it home safe and sound, water stayed safe to drink, power stayed on, and I realized my phone’s supposed to drop calls because it’s an iPhone. Like I said, we got lucky and I’m grateful. Our community was far-removed from the disaster zones. It made me question the frantic people in my local Walmart but, I guess, how could they have known how bad it would get, right?

And their distraught department store behaviour would soon look justified, low-key even. Some people react to news of disaster with panic, worry, devastation. After seeing the footage from the hard hit areas, such reactions are justified. Other people react to such times in different, perhaps less efficient ways…

Saturday morning I woke up grateful to see the sun shining – albeit through a haze of mosquitos. As I knew the kinder weather would be short-lived, I hurriedly got lil’ M in his car seat and headed down to the the underground parkade to grab his stroller from the trunk. My car is a good fifty yards from the elevator. As I started the walk, I had to step around a giant puddle.

What is that? Milk?

As I approached my stall, I could see glistening behind my car. Is that glass?

Sure enough, smashed shards of beer bottle covered the floor behind my car.

And wait, what’s that coming out from underneath the car?

It was a towel. A towel covered in…something. Shit? Is that shit?

It was shit. And how do I know this? Because on the floor in front of my car sat a tightly coiled pile of it. Of the human variety.

I was dumbfounded. So let me get this straight, I thought, someone went out – maybe just as far as this parkade – got wasted (I could only hope they weren’t of sound mind), smashed some beer bottles, took a dump in a random car stall, wiped (!!!) with a mystery towel that came from God knows where, threw said towel under the car, then proceeded to the elevator. Likely vomiting a milkshake en route. I know we all handle tragedy differently but come on!

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I stood there and cried. I cried because of what was happening in the city around me. I cried imagining the sadness of those displaced from their homes, their memories underwater. And I cried because someone pooped in my parking space. It was a culmination of things. The poop was just the topper.

Looking back I see it as comic relief. Considering the grief of the world around me in the moment, I believe it was the universe saying to me, You’re alive. You’re safe. Don’t sweat the bullshit! Don’t sweat the human shit, either!

The flood relief efforts in the city have been astounding; a heartwarming display of overwhelming solidarity. The water levels continue to decline,

[Sidenote: why does the word “sandbagging” make me snicker like a teenage boy?]

people have begun to return to their homes, and the shit – which still remains in my indoor parking stall – has turned from yellowy-green to a less threatening brown colour. It is a (terribly unhygienic) reminder to me to stay grateful. At least that’s what I tell myself.

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Babies and Boobies and Birds, Oh My!

I bought a zoo membership. It’s not typically something I’m into, going to the zoo. I might check it out once every few years. But being on maternity leave forces you to find different ways to occupy your time in order to keep the baby stimulated and to keep you from passing out on the toilet at home from sheer exhaustion.

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but I have an irrational fear of bears. I know you’re thinking, “no, bears are dangerous. That’s not an irrational fear”. But I’m for sure talking “fear” of the irrational variety. As in, if I walk along a tree-lined trail in the middle of the city, I have the fear sweats. Despite the fact that people always say “no bear has ever been sighted in this area” I am convinced that I will be the first person to ever “sight” one. And to, very quickly thereafter, have one cut its giant baby teeth on my skull. Ignoring the inherent narcissism in what I just said (one neurosis at a time, people), I show definite signs of ursaphobia.

Long story short, I took this picture of a black bear today. This is not magnified, this is actually how close I was.

On an unrelated note, I also – while at the zoo – took this picture of my baby wearing aviators, a cardigan and no pants. And apparently, a do-rag. I took the liberty of giving him a beard to protect his identity. It’s just a bonus that I’ve always loved drawing beards on things.

I’m getting sidetracked. I digress. Where was I going with this? Ah yes. Peacocks. Do you know they let those things roam freely in zoos? That’s insane!

Here’s a bird with a known ego, an in-your-face, something-to-prove attitude and Vegas show-girl attire, to boot. We’re gonna go ahead and set it loose in front of your children who will likely provoke the flamboyant “kitty” and (earmuffs, kids) potentially have their eyes pecked out in a display of fabulous aggession.

So I’m sitting on a bench with a friend who also has a baby. In front of us is a giant, beautifully manicured grassy area of the zoo. Immediately behind us is wooded; huge evergreens and mulch. We’re both nursing the babies when, in my periphery to the right, I see a strutting peacock. He’s sort of walking in our direction, but they have such an air of indifference that it’s hard to tell.

For most people. I can always tell.

What exactly can you tell, Heather?

Thanks for asking, mom. What I can tell is that an animal, any animal, given free will and space to roam, will attack me and those unfortunate souls who share my company. I am an animal whisperer. And what every animal is whispering is “Heatha…you go’n git it”.

[Best not to question the accents of the animals. It’s just how they occur in my head.]

Ironically, my friend, Jen, was in the middle of telling me how she is deathly afraid of birds, right down to pigeons. So I felt obliged to point out that Cher, the Bird – though quite some distance away – seemed to be meandering in our direction. Jen seemed remarkably calm, and continued to gaze down upon her feeding babe. She said he’d likely just walk right past us.

Uh oh. Our friendship is relatively new. She doesn’t yet know about my sixth sense. The animal whispering one.

I tried to keep my voice calm and pretend I was also gazing down upon my nursing babe. When really I was just gazing at the grass to my right at just the precise minimum distance required to see the little F’er in my periphery. My nipple may very well have been in lil M’s eye, bless ‘im. My mind was wholly elsewhere.

“Um, really? Because,” [nervous laughter] “it seems like he’s looking right at us”. [Nervous laughter]

“Nah, he’ll just walk right on by”.

That’s when I got the feeling I get when shit’s about to get real. The same feeling I got repeatedly the night I babysat the demon cat (https://heatheronarock.com/2012/06/28/crouching-tiger-hidden-adventures-in-babysitting/).

This thing is on to me. He’s smelled my fear.

Before I even finished the thought, the fucker (dollar for the swear jar) started the slow, threatening emergence of its insane feather display and turned to face us directly. And to stare into the pits of my mind.

“Um, Jen?”

With that the bird did some sort of ruffley thing with its feather display that made a hiss sound. He was ready to party.

At this point he was about fifteen feet away from us. He took a few steps towards us.

“Jen?!”

“He’s not gonna do anything”.

A few more steps.

I stood up on the bench, my baby still latched on. I think.

Cher knew he had me. He started running towards us.

That was it. I bolted into the trees behind us.

“Don’t leave me!”, Jen screamed.

“Run!” I called back, and she was at my heels in seconds.

Now, the only thing worse than being chased by an angry peacock, is being chased by an angry peacock with an infant in your arms and your bare, flaccid boob flapping freely. In public.

That’s pretty much the end of the story. The flapping boob was the climax. The demon bird backed off finally but held vigil between our deserted strollers. We were too afraid to go back. We struggled through the trees until we were on the main roadway and headed back to the greenspace. At this point, a camera-happy crowd had formed around the crazy bird, which looked like he may have mistaken our strollers for sexy lady-birds. He seemed to be defending them in all directions. We managed to find a firefighter (no kidding) in civilian clothing. It was not without fear and careful dodging tactics, but he managed to save our strollers, one at a time.

We ended up sitting on the far end of the greenspace after that. The peacock stayed put, his feathers still displayed, walking in slow circles to amaze onlookers. Cocky bastard. Or should I say PEAcocky bastard! Huh? Huh? Am I right?

[I need to start hanging out with adults more.]

For the record, lil M kept his cool the whole time. I’m so glad he’s still too young to see what a pussy his mother is.