5 Things I’ve Learned About Adventuring in the Rain

Overlooking Indian Arm
Overlooking Indian Arm

Ever since I was born, I’ve lived, worked, and played in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. Copious amounts of rain are just a fact of life here, and inseparable from the lush beauty of the area. It also means that we’re provided with limitless opportunities to grumble about the weather. Usually, my rainy days would be spent indoors with a book, which meant I got a lot of reading done, but it was also a lot of time spent sitting around on my butt. As I’ve gotten more into exploring the outdoors, I’ve had to learn how to incorporate rain into my adventures. It’s been an interesting experience, and this is what I’ve learned:

1. Waterproof has Limits

Recently, I invested in a waterproof jacket and a pair of water-resistant pants. I’m not sure why, but I likened these purchases to an impenetrable suit of armour that would incinerate raindrops with laser beams, and keep me dry and toasty in the heaviest deluge. I also had the utmost faith in my trusty hiking boots. After all, the boots were heavy-duty, and had heroically protected my socks from 8 inches of mud on a previous occasion. My fiance was similarly equipped, so a few days ago, we decided to tackle a rugged 15 kilometer hike, despite reports of all-day rain. With steady showers overhead, we found and exceeded the limits of our waterproof gear within the first hour. Since we were already soaked, and our feet were still relatively dry, we bravely (stupidly?) pressed on. At about the halfway point, our boots succumbed to the hydrological assault, and started taking on water. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine just how unpleasant the feeling of sweaty sock water squelching between one’s toes is, and the despair my feet felt at knowing we still had more than 7 kilometers to go. Once we reached the car, we likely resembled a couple of gigantic prunes, but were much better informed about the limits of our gear.

2. Build Extra Time into the Adventure

Having grown up in the greater Raincouver (Vancouver) area, I’ll admit that I tend to be nonchalant about the weather most of the time. In my daily commute and all my normal activities, rain doesn’t slow me down one bit. So why should it when I’m out adventuring? However, I failed to take into account just how slippery the terrain gets when it’s not flat pavement. Even with trekking poles to steady myself on the steep descents of our most recent adventure, I’m convinced that the myriad rocks and tree roots were purposely retaining water to try and break some bones, so we were forced to slow our normal pace as we cautiously picked our way down the mountain. As the hours slipped away, it became increasingly obvious that we weren’t going to make it back to civilization within our planned time. My fiance’s phone was dead (see above about the limits of our waterproof gear… seriously), and although mine was functioning, we were in an area with no reception. We’re part of a nifty little online service that notifies family in the event we don’t check in from a hike within our planned time. However, pruny foot skin, fatigue, and a dead phone tend to be distracting, so we’d completely forgotten that we might be the cause of inadvertent panic to our dear relations, until we’d left the park and I received a phone call with an “Are you all right?” Whoops. Next time, we’ll build more time into our adventure.

3. Don’t Expect Spectacular Views

This one seems like a no-brainer, but apparently we needed a reminder of it on our most recent jaunt in the mountains. We were hiking a trail called “Diez Vistas,” which is Spanish for “Ten Views.” Guess how many views we saw? Zero. Fifteen kilometers, and we saw exactly nothing. I think we probably had a vague hope that it would clear up, despite the weather reports, and despite the fact that the forest was obviously trying to drown us. Also, our first hike on this trail almost a year ago had initially been beset by clouds, which had cleared by the time we’d reached the first viewpoint. Spurred on by our irrational hope, we plodded from viewpoint to viewpoint, and each time were rewarded with a solid wall of grey. Based on visual observation, we couldn’t even tell if we were overlooking the lake on one side of the mountain, or the ocean on the other side. Though the hike was physically challenging, and though I feel proud that we were able to accomplish it, wet socks and undies made a very poor reward for our exertions. We’ll save that hike for good weather from now on.

4. Rain = Cold

Although we knew we were going to get wet on our most recent hike, we weren’t overly concerned about being cold. The temperature was forecast at a relatively balmy 18 degrees Celsius, and we normally resemble little furnaces when we’re hiking in dry weather. What we didn’t know before starting out was that wet clothing causes the body to lose heat 5 times faster than normal, so someone can suffer the effects of hypothermia at a much higher temperature than one might think. Although we probably weren’t anywhere near hypothermia, we could feel the creeping wet chill of the forest sink through our woefully sodden clothing every time we stopped to catch our breath or stuff an energy bar into our mouths. As a result, our breaks were short and few, and I’ve never been so happy to see the seat warmers in our car. Before our next downpour foray, a re-evaluation of our layers and insulation is definitely in order.

5. Do Go Adventuring in the Rain

Despite the sweaty sock water, sodden undies, treacherous terrain, and lack of scenery, I came out of our recent adventure with a real sense of accomplishment. We faced a challenge that was made even tougher by the weather, and accomplished our goal. We already knew that a measly sprinkling couldn’t stop us, and now we know that even a torrent can’t (though it’ll certainly beat us up). We may need to modify our wet weather hiking technique as we approach the inevitable downpours of a BC winter, but we’re still going to keep venturing out into the rain. If we let falling sky water stop us, there wouldn’t be much adventure happening around these parts.

Happy (wet) adventuring!

5 Things I’ve Learned About Women’s Fashion

Source: digitalistmag.com
Source: digitalistmag.com

I recently started thinking about the oddities of women’s fashion when I was forced to go to no less than eight different stores to find a dress for my dad’s wedding. My prerequisites were simple: it had to have a somewhat defined waist, and it had be any colour other than black. Also, since it was a tiny, outdoor wedding, a floor-length ballgown with sequins and sparkles wouldn’t have been appropriate. This misadventure reminded me of other times I’ve been left shaking my head in clothing stores, and here are some of my observations:

1. Jeans Shopping is an Exercise in Futility

Riddle me this: how is it possible that I lose 15 pounds, and then have to go up two sizes in order to find jeans that fit? Because this was exactly my experience last year. At some point in my weight loss journey, I realized that I no longer had any jeans that fit. Thrilled with my first glimmer of success, I headed to the mall. Before I started losing weight, I was lost in that grey area between plus sizing and regular sizing where nothing seems to fit. As I traipsed through the largest mall in British Columbia, I was certain that I’d have no problem finding jeans. Looking back at this delusion, I laugh. Again, my prerequisites were simple: straight leg, boot cut, or skinny, not so low in the hips that everyone could tell what colour undies I was wearing, and denim that didn’t look like my pants had been attacked by a rabid raccoon. But apparently, these parameters defined the Holy Grail of jeans, and the denim industry had decided to make the Grail simply unattainable. I think I finally gave up after I’d tried on a pair that were baggy in the waist, thighs, and legs, but so tight in the knees that I couldn’t walk. Later that week, I managed to find a suitable pair at Target that were two sizes larger than the pair I’d shrunk out of. I’m pretty sure that my facepalm echoed from the dressing room throughout the universe.

2. Shapeless is a Shape

Women come in all different shapes and sizes. So yes, I understand that it can be difficult to design clothing to suit everyone’s body. However, something that struck me during my recent foray into the retail realm was that shapeless, oversized dresses and sweaters seem to be the thing this season. I realize it’s probably just “the style at the time,” but as I wandered the aisles, I couldn’t shake the feeling that clothing designers had just given up on proper tailoring altogether. While I suspect that the present trend is unbelievably comfortable, as well as gratifying due to inherent vanity sizing, my body is eminently wrong for it. Bluntly put, I have big boobs and an ample booty with a small waist in between. Therefore, shapeless clothes make me look approximately 50 pounds heavier, precisely the amount of weight I’ve lost over the past year and a half. Perhaps I would have been spared the trouble of literally exercising my butt off if this trend had been popular back then. But at least I can climb stairs now.

3. Plus Sized Means Strange Prints and Wild Colours

Back when I was much heavier, all I wanted was to hide my body away from the world, and not draw attention to it in any way. Given society’s views on beauty, I’m sure I wasn’t the only plus-sized woman to feel this way. So I was extremely puzzled to find that many plus-sized clothing stores carried a lot of distinctive and bizarre prints, as well as eye searing colours. While shopping for a special occasion, I ended up with a dress that shall forever be known as “The Bacteria Dress.” I bought it because it was one of the more subdued prints in the store, and had an extremely flattering cut. However, it was covered with half-melted navy blue polka dots, and each half-melted polka dot cluster featured fuzzy halos of searing neon pink and blue. I’m not sure what else I could have resembled but a gigantic radioactive Petri dish. The Bacteria Dress has long since been donated, but its psychedelic colours will forever haunt my memory as a testament to the fashion industry’s baffling belief that plus sized women shouldn’t wear normal clothing.

4. Flimsy Fabrics

With the exception of my hiking gear, I’m generally not very hard on clothing. I have a desk job, which means that the biggest daily risk to my garb is rogue staples. But more and more often, I’m finding holes in my clothing. There’s the inexplicable gigantic hole on the left elbow of my favourite denim shirt, the unraveling arm seam on a sweater I’ve just bought, and various small holes where threads have broken in several of my shirts, making it look like they’ve been chewed by wolves, or maybe just a kitten. Modern fabrics tend to be unbelievably soft, but are also unbelievably thin, so I find they don’t stand up to normal wear (or hide the fact that I’m wearing a stripey bra). The only notable exception to this is my normal, run-of-the-mill Old Navy jeans. When I lost a fight with an escalator, the jagged metal teeth punctured my knee so deeply that I required stitches. Inexplicably, my jeans stayed in one piece. In fact, once I had washed the blood out of them, you’d be hard pressed to find exactly where the teeth had gone in. I’m not sure by what witchcraft this occurred, but until I figure it out, I tend to buy the thickest fabrics I can find, in case of future escalator attacks.

5. Pollution, Pollution Everywhere

While fact-checking for this blog post, I was shocked to learn that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, right behind oil. Dyeing, printing, and finishing are very chemically intensive procedures, and these toxic chemicals are sometimes dumped straight into waterways. For example, the Citarum River in Indonesia is regarded as one of the dirtiest rivers in the world, with many of the toxic chemicals found in the river coming straight from the waste water of nearby textile factories. In addition, going from raw material to finished garment uses a lot of water. I learned that it takes almost 20,000 liters of water just to produce a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. And once those thirsty, thirsty jeans and t-shirts are worn out, they often go to the landfill. It’s really started me thinking about the impact of revolving-door fashion trends. It also makes thrift store shopping seem a lot more appealing.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Weird Al Yankovic

Source: upvenue.com
Source: upvenue.com

He’s back in town! On September 8, 2015, Weird Al Yankovic brought his delightful, fast-paced musical comedy show to Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and I was there to laugh through it all. Though I grew up listening to his wild and hilarious parodies (and often heard his versions before the originals), I realized that I didn’t know much about the man behind the music. This is what I’ve learned:

1. He was High School Valedictorian at Age 16

Most people who listen to Weird Al’s music will agree that he’s undeniably clever. Parodies are notoriously difficult to do well, and through his mastery of the English language (“Word Crimes” anyone?) in addition to incisive yet sensitive humour, he’s made a long and successful career out of doing just that. But Weird Al is more than just “clever,” he’s very intelligent. He started attending Kindergarten earlier than his peers, and skipped the second grade. Unsurprisingly, he was labeled a nerd during his school years, but had the last laugh when he graduated from high school at age 16 as the class valedictorian, and went on to become a famous and well-loved pillar of the music industry.

2. The Birth of “Weird Al” and Food Music

Yankovic has been known as Weird Al for so long, that it’s hard to believe that his parents weren’t seized by the trend of “speshul snowflayke” naming that seems to be prevalent among parents today. He actually began life as the relatively normal Alfred Matthew Yankovic, and didn’t earn his iconic moniker until college. Reportedly, he was given this nickname by students in his dorm, but adopted it professionally when he started hosting a radio show on the campus radio station. His days at Cal Poly would set the stage for later success as well. In 1979, Yankovic recorded “My Bologna,” a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” in the men’s room across the hall from the campus radio station. He sent the recording to Dr. Demento, where it gained a good response from listeners. The Knack’s lead singer, Doug Fieger, said he enjoyed the song, and suggested Capitol Records release the song as a single. It was released on December 25, 1979, and Yankovic was given a six-month recording contract. And thus, the food music genre was born.

3. He’s a Vegetarian

In the 1989 film UHF, Yankovic invented a gastronomic abomination: The Twinkie wiener sandwich. Basically, the hot dog bun is replaced with a Twinkie, and the hot dog is topped with squeezy cheese. This caloric bomb of a snack pretty much represents the epitome of poor eating. However, in 1992, Yankovic was given a book that would change his diet forever. Apparently, Diet for a New America cited very compelling ethical, health, and socio-political reasons for vegetarianism. Yankovic has said that after reading the book, he could no longer rationalize eating meat, so he stopped. He has also said that he mostly eats vegan, but will occasionally “cheat” and have dairy. Though I’m not sure how much dairy canned cheese actually contains, it does mean that he could still enjoy a Twinkie wiener sandwich with a tofu dog, if he was ever seized by the male equivalent of pregnancy cravings.

4. His First Major Gig was a Disaster

Considering Yankovic’s incredible popularity with fans today, it’s difficult to imagine a crowd derisively pelting him with objects and telling him he sucked. But in 1982, that’s exactly what happened. Yankovic and his newly-formed band opened for the New Wave band Missing Persons, and spent the entire 45-minute set dodging hurled projectiles. As if that wasn’t ignominious enough, after the show, Yankovic was approached by a kid who asked if he was Weird Al. On Yankovic’s replying yes, the kid said “YOU SUCK!” He has since talked about that night as one of the low points of his career. After this disaster, Yankovic refrained from opening for any band until 1987, when he agreed to open for the Monkees. Fortunately, their fans were a lot nicer.

5. A Weird Al Parody is a Badge of Honour to Many Artists

With a few notable exceptions (I’m looking in your direction, Prince), music artists generally love Weird Al as much as his fans do. In fact, it’s become a badge of honour for many artists to have Yankovic parody one of their hits. Kurt Cobain has reportedly said that he didn’t know Nirvana had “made it” until he heard the Weird Al parody, and Lady Gaga referred to the parody of her song “Born this Way” as a rite of passage. Since Yankovic only uses his own parody ideas, artists have very little input as to the actual content of his creations. The only known exception to this rule is when Madonna reportedly wondered when Yankovic would turn “Like a Virgin” into “Like a Surgeon.” Apparently, Yankovic liked the idea so much that he recorded it, and it was released on the album Dare to be Stupid in 1985. So, while Yankovic may not accept fan submissions, if you become a pop music sensation, you may have the distinction of being honoured with a genuine Weird Al parody of your song.

Happy music making!

5 Things I’ve Learned About Ravelry

Source: vwmin.org
Source: vwmin.org

Back in this blog post, I mentioned an internet Utopia of fiber arts. Without a doubt, Ravelry tops my list of All-Time Favourite Websites in the History of the Internet, so I couldn’t be content to let it exist as a subsection of my blog. I’m proud to be part of their global community of over 5 million crafty individuals, and this is what I’ve learned:

1. There’s More than Just Knitting

Since I’m a knitter, I invariably fall into the habit of calling Ravelry “the knitting website” when I’m talking to fiber noobs. It saves me from launching into a pedantic explanation of the differences between knitting, crocheting, weaving, felting, tatting, etc… and prevents non crafters’ eyes from glazing over with supreme boredom as I expound. But calling Ravelry a website just for knitting is like limiting a detailed description of someone to just their hair. Yes, it is a fantastic resource for knitterly things, but it also provides a place for those who are into anything fiber related, including people who like to spin and dye their own yarn, or even raise the sheep that produce the wool! Since Ravelry, I’ve learned about many of the different fiber-producing animals, the process by which animal fluff becomes yarn, the names and uses of a million different kinds of fiber-related tools, picked up some tips on spinning and felting, and resisted the urge to buy my very own cashmere goat.

2. It’s a Gigantic Pattern Database

One of Ravelry’s raisons d’etre is to provide an internet home for the millions of patterns out there, all neatly tagged, indexed, and eminently searchable. From sweaters to “willy warmers,” (which are exactly what you think they are) from hats and scarves to dissected animals made of yarn, you can find a pattern for practically anything. Not all the patterns in the database are for sale, since some of them were only published in hard copy, but Ravelry can give you the name of the obscure magazine published in 1975 that has the pattern you’re looking for. There’s also a commercial aspect to the database. Pattern designers of all skill levels can use Ravelry to upload and sell their own patterns directly to members of the site, which is pretty much targeted marketing at its finest. There are also thousands of free patterns available, so even if you’re short on funds, you can still keep creating voodoo dolls and faux Viking beards.

3. Astounding Collective Knowledge

Since Ravelry is a community of over 5 million people at all different skill levels, it’s an excellent resource for learning how to do anything with fiber. It’s also a great place to learn about techniques and tricks you’ve never heard of before. For example, pre-Ravelry, I’d never heard of steeking. Apparently, steeking is a method of turning a pullover into a cardigan by *cringe* taking some scissors and CUTTING a freshly-knitted sweater down the center. Then, the cut edges are folded over and sewn like a seam. This technique is not for the faint-hearted, but some people swear by it. As a person who knits like a turtle on tranquilizers, I almost passed out at the mere thought of cutting into something it would have taken me months to knit. And, if you try a new technique and mess it up, Ravelry’s community of wise and wonderful people are there to commiserate and offer tips on how to fix it (although I’m not sure how one would fix a steeking gone wild). Ravelry’s small but dedicated staff have gone to great lengths to make the vast amount of knowledge contained in the “hive mind” easily accessible. As a result, I’ve learned how to do things with sticks and strings that I once thought were impossible.

4. One of the Friendliest Online Communities Around

Years ago, when I first joined Ravelry, I was blown away by the friendliness that greeted me each time I logged in. Previous online experiences had left me with the impression that the anonymity of the internet turned everyone into trolls, crazies, and jerks. Ravelry isn’t completely immune to these kinds of problems, but people are generally pretty well-behaved. Part of this might be due to the fact that, unlike other social media, everything posted on Ravelry is 100% public and associated with a member’s profile. If someone’s a jerk, it will clearly show in their posting history. A Ravelry profile is also the place to show off completed projects, unique creations, and original pattern designs. A lot of people don’t relish the idea of their beautiful work and for-sale patterns being associated with a jerkface, so trolling is usually kept to a minimum. In addition, the site’s administrators take bullying, harassment, and bad behaviour very seriously, so severe offenses can result in a lifetime ban. All of this contributes to the warm, fuzzy feeling that fiber curious people get when they are instantly welcomed into a huge online family of crafters. Just don’t ask us to knit you anything for free.

5. Where Does the Time Go?

As much as I love Ravelry, there’s one gigantic drawback to this fiber-based paradise. Between checking out exciting new patterns and adding them to my queue, reading the Main Six forums, catching up on the threads in the various groups I belong to, searching out new techniques, drooling over the latest squishy yarns, and watching beautiful new Finished Objects appear live on my computer screen, there’s very little time left for actual crafting! Inevitably, I’ll log in just to search out one specific bit of information, and the next time I look at the clock, two hours have passed, it’s time to go to bed, and I have at least five more projects planned. Though I still manage to get some actual knitting done in between logins, I estimate that it will take approximately the rest of my life to work through my pattern queue. But considering that Ravelry provides thousands of hours of entertainment and information for free, the only thing I can complain about is the length of the day.

Happy ravelling!

5 Things I’ve Learned About Turning 30

Source: birthdaydirect.com
Source: birthdaydirect.com

Happy birthday to me! Recently, I celebrated three decades of existing. It seemed like an appropriate time to wax introspective (or have a mid-life crisis), so here are some of the things I’ve learned about hitting the big 3-0.

1. You Get IDed Much Less Frequently

Throughout my 20s, it seemed like I was perpetually suspected of being an underage drinker. I know many places say they ID anyone under 30, but more than once, I’ve handed over my ID to a smug cashier who was sure they’d caught me, only to have them thrust the ID back with a crestfallen “oh.” This continued until a couple of years ago, when my visible grey hairs and wrinkles became more apparent, and I actually started looking my age. I still get IDed occasionally, but I’m sure that now it’s done out of politeness and a strict adherence to the “under 30” rule, rather than a suspicion that I’m actually 18 years old. Recently, I was informed by a person at a local liquor store that he was instructed to ID anyone who looks under 30 or suspicious, but jokingly refused to tell me which category I fell into. In future, I guess I’ll either have to accept ID checks as a compliment, or quit wearing my cat burglar outfit when I go in to pick up a six-pack.

2. There’s Aches, Pains, and Throwing Out your Back

Inevitably, the body starts to fail with age. No longer do I experience the bouncy, indestructible feeling of childhood. Gone, too, is the cynical denial of aging that marked my skinny teenage years. As a child, I could jump rope for hours, hopscotch on uneven terrain, and leap off the swings at an incredible height. I’m pretty sure that if I tried that now, I’d wind up with broken ankles, shin splints, and maybe a slipped disc or two. Even with normal activity, I’ve become painfully aware of joints that I didn’t even know the human body possessed. As a result, I’ve become a bit more cautious, and much less willing to throw myself headlong down a sled hill with a chain link fence at the bottom. But apparently age is a great saboteur, and has laid several booby traps for me. Sneeze just a little too violently? Back goes out. Turn the wrong way to speak to someone? Back goes out. Lean down to pick up a tiny piece of paper? You better believe my back goes out. Since it’s just a part of getting older, the only thing that can be done is to play “Bad Back Bingo,” and reward myself with a bottle of wine after injuring myself in a variety of mundane and hilarious ways.

3. “Party” has a Whole New Meaning

It’s a common misconception that getting older means you can’t have fun anymore. In fact, at 30, I’ve had some of the most fun in my entire life. It’s just that the definition changes. Sitting around in yoga pants, knitting a sock, drinking wine, and watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation might sound like hell to a younger generation, but it’s pretty much paradise to me. Or getting up ridiculously early on a weekend and going out to explore nature. Conversely, wearing a tiny dress that constantly threatens to cross the line into indecent exposure, and getting so drunk that I have no concept of where I am or what I’m doing (or eating – yuck) isn’t even on my list of party options. Neither is pretending that I know how to dance to crappy music with an overpriced drink in my hand. And, with the advent of awesome games such as Cards Against Humanity, the likelihood of games nights taking over from nights on the town has increased exponentially.

4. What Have I Done with my Life?

On milestone birthdays, it’s almost inevitable that one will stop and take stock of one’s life, even in a superficial way. It’s hard not to look around and compare myself to the other 30-somethings around me who have a fistful of degrees, own their own homes, maybe even own their own businesses, and have started large families. At that point, it’s difficult not to ask: “What exactly have I done with my life?” The answer is simple: I’ve done pretty much what I want to. I live in an amazing city that I love, I can adult when I have to, I have awesome hobbies, great friends, no debt, AND a nice crock pot, to boot. And as a bonus, I’ve made it to 30 without punching anyone in the face. I may have different life plans and motivations than a lot of the rest of society, but hey, that’s OK. One of the best parts about being an adult is that I get to make my own decisions.

5. I’m Too Old for this Crap

There comes a time in most people’s lives when they gain the wisdom and maturity to stop putting up with certain things. Pathologically toxic people, pointless drama, racism/sexism/ageism, other negative -isms, and bad coffee are some of the top offenders on my list. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that these things were energy-sucking life monsters, but I do know that I’ve been a lot happier since I locked them in a cage, pushed them off a cliff, dumped the bad coffee all over them, and walked away. I’ve also realized that life is just too short to try and please everyone, and that people are going to judge me no matter what I do. But, instead of worrying about it, I’m content to do what makes me happy, let the haters hate, and smile blissfully from behind my cup of exquisite coffee.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Waiting in Emergency

Source: imauk.com
Source: imauk.com

So far, I’ve got a pretty good track record where the Emergency Department is concerned. I was a somewhat unadventurous child (unless books count as adventure), and somehow managed to make it mostly through my teenage years without serious physical injury. My 20s have been a different story though, and while spending hours staring at antiseptic white walls, I’ve had leisure to entertain a few thoughts about waiting in the ER. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. The ER is Fun for the Whole Family

I particularly noticed this during my last stint in the ER at Vancouver General Hospital. I’d gone in with a knee injury (after I lost a fight with an escalator) that made it particularly painful to walk, or sit with my leg bent, or do anything, really. After hobbling down from triage, I was dismayed to find the waiting room overflowing with people. As I leaned awkwardly on my fiance for support, a fellow-patient with a hand injury noticed my discomfort and kindly gave up his seat to me. That’s when I noticed the waiting room wasn’t overflowing with patients, it was overflowing with extended family members. Now, I totally understand if a parent has to bring all the kids when little Timmy bashes his head, but there were no children around that night. After I’d been there awhile, a woman in her early 20s came in with no less than 5 family members, all of them able-bodied adults. It appeared that their roles as concerned relatives consisted of sitting in the waiting room chairs while patients stood around awkwardly, wandering into restricted areas while talking loudly on their cell phones, and taking turns harassing the poor nurses about when the young woman was going to be seen. Needless to say, this was not the only example of happy family togetherness I witnessed, which makes me think that they must know some secret about the amusements of the ER that I don’t.

2. If Possible, Bring Something to Do

Obviously, this bit of advice depends on your condition, but chances are that if you’re not actively dying, you’re going to be waiting awhile. When I went to VGH, my knee was bleeding and swelling, and I required a tetanus shot, so obviously I needed treatment sooner rather than later. But I also knew that my life wasn’t in peril, so I’d be pretty low on the triage list. There’s only so long one can endure “Waiting Room TV,” which caused me to worry that my digestive health and sleeping patterns were slowly destroying my life, in addition to already being worried that I might have a broken kneecap. Also, my cell phone’s fickle battery decided that staying alive for more than a few minutes at a time was impossible, and completely died about 15 minutes into my 5 hour wait. Fortunately, before I had left the house, I had the presence of mind to grab a book, which pretty much saved my sanity. At any rate, it sure beat the heck out of conversing with the blearily intoxicated, or listening to angry relatives expound on the “unfairness” of triage.

3. You Will get Hungry

It seems that every time I’ve ended up in the ER, it’s been near dinner time. Perhaps wandering around in a hypoglycemic fog makes me more prone to injury, or my timing is just impeccable that way. Regardless, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll be starving by the time I’m discharged. This was particularly inconvenient the time my jaw refused to open, and was throbbing from an attempt by Dr. Sausagefingers to shove a meaty digit between my teeth to see if I had an abscess. But I digress. Before I went to the ER with my knee injury, I scarfed down a pulled pork sandwich, since I figured I’d be there for at least a few hours. But as time wore on, the sustenance of delicious, slow-cooked pork faded away, and ominous rumblings began in my belly. For some reason, all the vending machines around the ER were empty, except for cookies that looked decades old and were filled with evil gluten. Around midnight, I noticed a discarded cheesestring on the floor of the waiting room. Dazed by pain and fatigue, and ravenously hungry, I briefly debated the pros and cons of eating it, since it was still wrapped. However, the insanity of eating cheese off the Emergency Room floor became apparent, and I stepped back from the brink. Next time, I’ll bring a snack.

4. Play “Guess the Illness”

It may seem callous to observe people while they’re obviously having a really bad day, but in order to take the edge off the boredom of waiting, I often try to figure out the reason people are sitting alongside me in the ER. Injuries are very obvious, as are nausea cases. Tip: If you get sick when others do, avoid sitting next to anyone that’s holding what looks like an empty french fry tray. Then there are the talented actors who believe that dramatically screaming out their symptoms in gory detail will help them bypass triage. No mysteries there. But then there are patients whose illnesses are less obvious. On my very first visit to VGH, I was distracted from my own pain by a man who was obsessively doing push-ups in a corner of the triage area. One, two, three. Then he would leap to his feet, take a turn around the room, drop to his hands, and one, two, three, again. I have no idea how long he was at it, or what his diagnosis was. Even more mysterious are the people whose appearance and mood give away nothing. Their colour is normal, they sit quietly until their name is called, they don’t appear to be in any physical distress, and walk with tolerable ease. Do they have a stomach issue? Blood disorder? Thyroid problems? Are they waiting for admission into a different ward? I’ve spent many an idle hour pondering, which thankfully also kills time.

5. For Goodness’ Sake, Be Nice

This is something that really irks me. I get it, nobody wants to be in the ER. People are ill, in pain, cranky with waiting around for hours, and, if they’re anything like me, probably starving and considering eating floor cheese. We all just want to be treated and get out of there. Anyone who’s ever worked with the general public knows that it’s like attempting to juggle cats with razor blades for claws, and that’s when people aren’t sick or hurt. ER doctors and nurses work crazy hours under enormous pressure, and can literally be the difference between life and death. Harassing them about a minor injury when other people could actually die is not only callous, it can delay treatment, because the nurses have to stop whatever they’re doing to listen and respond. So, just like mom says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” After all, doctors and nurses are only human.