Sunday, December 28, 2008

Miss Congeniality

I am including this post for two reasons – firstly because Luke thought that this story was hysterically funny, and secondly because I hope that it will serve as a warning to those of us who have an altruistic nature, occasionally to our detriment. I realize that my second reason makes this post sound fairly ominous, and so I suggest that you divert your attention to the humour of the incident.

On Saturday morning, I was running some errands for my family. I stopped at Norwood Pick ‘n Pay, and was en route to the vet where I work to pick up the kittens who were due to spend the weekend with me. The roads were almost completely deserted, on account of the annual Johannesburg mass exodus to the coast, and I pulled to a stop at the traffic light on The Avenue in Norwood. As I waited for the light to change, I glanced at a thin, middle-aged white woman, who was standing on the corner, attempting to hail a minibus taxi. She was unsuccessful, and the oncoming taxi zoomed past her, obviously taking full advantage of the quiet roads (not that taxi’s generally pay much attention to other cars anyway). I leaned forward to glance at this, and as I did so, the woman noticed me, and ran towards my car. “Maybe she’s lost, or from another country” I thought, as this would surely explain why she was standing on the side of a suburban road, trying to get a lift. She came round to the driver’s side of my car – where my window was rolled down – and politely asked if she could have a lift. Rapidly glancing at her before unlocking the passenger-side door, I concluded that she seemed harmless enough. Petite, thin and dressed in jeans and a bright pink t-shirt – to match the awful pink sunglasses that she was wearing -, she seemed to be relatively ordinary and not particularly likely to endanger my personal safety. Besides, I was only going about 500m up the road, as I assumed that I would drop her at the intersection at the top of the road. The traffic light finally changed as she got into the car and I made my way towards Grant Avenue, while she rapidly explained that her car was being repaired and that she was eternally grateful to me for giving her a lift. And then she asked if I also had R60 for her. She had only been in the car for a minute and I was now starting to wonder if this was such a good idea! My doubts continued to grow as she asked what my name was, and then declared that Candice was her favourite name - what a serendipitous occurrence! She introduced herself as Jan. By this point, I had carefully stowed my handbag behind my seat, and was silently counting the intersections until her designated drop-off point, which I decided to confirm. As it turned out, she actually wanted to be dropped off at the KFC on Louis Botha Avenue. I weighed up my options – on the down side, this was not actually on my route to the vet, but on the plus side, Louis Botha is quite busy, even on a long weekend, and it was only 2 minutes away. Besides, Jan was now chattering to someone on her cellphone, asking them for 150 grams of chocolate (as I began wondering whether her skeletenal frame was due to Weight Watchers – or possibly anorexia) and so I kept driving. Having finished her call, she turned to thank me once again, although I noticed that despite Candice being her favourite name, I was now being called Kim. I also noticed a somewhat alcoholic aroma wafting from her. Counting the minutes until I could drop her off, I pulled onto Louis Botha, and decided to compromise by dropping her off at the BP Garage, which is about 100 metres from the KFC, as I concluded that I had done my good deed for the day. Pulling into a side road, she thanked me, wished me all the best for the festive season and hoped that God would bestow his blessings on me, hugged me and alighted from my vehicle – much to my relief, especially since my handbag remained untouched.

I now vaguely remember being warned about this woman a few months ago – a warning which I obviously forgot on Saturday! It was certainly one of my less-than-sterling judgement calls – one which I plan to not repeat in a hurry, not because I’m overwhelming paranoid about my safety, but rather because I need to learn to stand up for myself and know when to say no because my gut-feel is telling me to do so and to not feel guilty about it – even if it means saying no to a random stranger named Jan. I think I shall limit my good deeds to looking after kittens and volunteering on suicide hotlines instead.

The upside (?) of this incident has undoubtedly been the amusement factor of seeing straight through someone (that “Candice/Kim” thing just reduces me to giggles) – as well as Luke now recounting to everyone how I picked up a woman on the side of the road! For the record (just in case he tells you this story), she was not a prostitute (despite the unfortunate dress sense) – or at least, I didn’t stick around to find out! The fact that she asked me for money will be ignored…

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Surviving Christmas

The annual interrogation has begun! Every year, people ask me how my Christmas was. And every year, I politely explain that I’m Jewish, and that my Christmas day was thus not spent cooking, carving turkey or comparing gifts with family members around the Christmas tree. Looking suitably mortified, people then begin apologizing profusely for the misunderstanding and then generally ask “So, it’s just a normal day for you then? So, what did you do?”

I probably have a little more experience than most people in terms of religious holidays, as I have spent quite a few Christmases with my Christian family members, as well as having celebrated Jewish holy days. And so, I have developed an interesting religious understanding of both sides of the coin, which has come in rather useful! I always look forward to Chanukkah and I succeed in doing Christmas shopping like a demon (as an aside, I am extremely chuffed with the gifts I chose for people this year), while not getting overly bogged-down by the commercial nature of the holiday, as I always find something creative to do with each gift (although baking and making my own wrapping paper may have been going too far this year). It basically comes down to the fact that I really draw satisfaction from finding the perfect gift for my friends and then adding a personal touch to it, and I like being able to do something special for those around me, regardless of the religious connotations of the holiday. And I’m not at all bothered when people wish me a “Merry Christmas” – I just take it as them wishing me well over the festive season! Oddly enough, this year really has felt a bit strange, and it may well be because of me wishing people a “happy Chrismukkah”! Yes, I did say Chrismukkah – I have combined Christmas and Chanukkah to form this unique holiday, and have used it to convey general festive greetings to people, with some degree of amusement!

And now allow me to provide a little cross-cultural insight into what I have done today, on the 25th of December! I woke up at 6:21am, to the sound of my phone receiving a text message. I was still slightly asleep, and so didn’t bother to read the message, but rather rolled over and went back to sleep until 7:30am or so, at which point I woke up and wondered who on earth would have sent a message so early. I narrowed it down to 3 guesses – my boss, Richard, who could be at work, checking up on the dog with tick-bite fever, Helen, the other receptionist from work, who has a 6 year-old daughter, or Anthony, who has notoriously strange sleep-cycles. Having read the message, I discovered that it was Helen, and guessed that her daughter had likely woken the entire household on Christmas morning in anticipation of opening presents! Having had breakfast and then retreated back to bed to read for an hour, I decided to wash my hair, in the hope of feeling more human. It helped, but only slightly, as I realized that my Myprodol hangover was here to stay. I had taken 1 tablet the night before because of the intense pain which has been creeping from my left hip, along my leg and down to my knee for the past 2 days, and with little hope of seeing a physiotherapist, I had decided to drug myself to see if it would help at all. Unfortunately, the Myprodol only succeeded in knocking me out for 10 hours (explaining why I fell asleep after receiving the 6:21am SMS), and did little to ease the pain in my leg. Having checked my Facebook account and email, and feeling terribly unmotivated, I retreated to my room to elevate my leg (which only made my foot go numb) and lost myself in Marion Keyes’s “Sushi for Beginners”. And believe me that when I say “lost myself”, I really do mean it! Somehow, the Myprodol hangover produced not only serious fatigue (which is still present, 25 hours later!), but also resulted in me empathizing with the characters in the book to a rather extreme extent! I not only read 300 pages of the book in 1 day, but also felt like I had become a character (and not in that wretched post-modern way of ‘relating to the text because of individual subjectivity’ stuff) in the book! In 1 day, I feel like I’ve moved to Dublin, become a magazine editor, fallen for a stand-up comic and been cheated on by my stand-up comic boyfriend with my best friend, and ended up… Well, I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, in case you ever feel compelled to read the book! Fair to say that at this point, I’m quite glad that I was reading light-hearted chick lit, rather than some murder mystery or the usual books on mental illness that I usually read! I also feel compelled to explain that I don’t usually read chick lit – I got the book from book-club, and having enjoyed some of the author’s other books, decided to read this one as a change from my usual reading choices!

So, other than having sorted through my interesting stash of Christmas presents, and having sent a few “happy Chrismukkah” SMS’s, today has been a rather relaxed day! I have also received a few interesting SMS’s, from Kirstan (who hopes that I find a special someone beneath the mistletoe), Paul (who wished me a “Messy Chris Hani Car”) and Luke, who sent a suitably “normal” message by comparison! And that has been that – aside from having spent the day wondering whether mistletoe is a shrub, tree or vine, and whether I could buy a pot-plant of the stuff, just for fun!

Please note though, that this is by no means an accurate account of what most Jewish people probably do on Christmas! This is just what I happened to do today, on account of some Myprodol, cloudy weather, a sore leg and a good book! In any case, a happy Chrismukkah to you all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


This post was actually supposed to be about something else – the topic came to me the other day while I was swapping CDs in my CD player and I thought that I should write it down so that I wouldn’t forget it. Naturally, I didn’t write it down and I now have no idea what the fantastic blog topic was. Maybe it will come to me again sometime…

So, by default, this post is going to involve some reminiscing – not about the forgotten topic, but rather about a really amazing thing that happened a month or 2 ago, and which I haven’t had the chance to write about. I am an avid 94.7 listener (alternating every so often to 95.4, UJ FM, mostly because of the alternative rock music which dominates their playlist), and listen to the afternoon drive show with Alex Jay on most afternoons, especially since that is usually the time when I’m at work, and the radio is normally on in the background (provided I can hear anything over the barking dogs). Aside from the “5 o’clock Funnies”, one feature of the show which I really love is “The Drive Song”. Basically, Alex has spent the past 4 months or so asking listeners to let him know what their favourite driving song is, and every day at 17:35, he calls someone who has emailed in a suggestion and has a chat to them and then plays their song. There have been some really good suggestions over the past couple of months, and the songs themselves have been quite diverse – everything from London Calling to Bohemian Rhapsody. It got me thinking about what my favourite drive song is too.

And then one morning, I woke up with Greenday’s cover of John Lennon’s song Working Class Hero in my head, and realized that it would make a pretty good drive song, mostly because I’ve had a couple of moments of doing 90km on the M1 while singing along at the top of my lungs to it! And so, giving it no further thought, I emailed Alex Jay and sent in my suggestion. No sooner had the email gone, did I realize that I might have to speak on radio if my song was chosen! I panicked for a couple of minutes and then calmed down, assuming that the chances of him calling me were as slim as any self-respecting emo boy’s skinny jeans.

There I was, a week later at work, when my phone rang. I ignored it, because I was helping a customer, and didn’t get the chance to check my voicemail until 15 minutes later. The voice on the message was awfully familiar – and then I realized that that was because, at the same time, Alex Jay was speaking on the radio behind me. He called me back an hour later, just to make sure that I would be able to answer my phone at 17:30 so that I could chat to him about the song, and having got permission from my boss to drop everything – including abandoning any clients who might be waiting at 17:30 - I anxiously awaited the phone call. And so, at 17:30, Alex called me, and I listened to the sports report while I waited for him to introduce my song. I was marginally terrified – despite having done public speaking for 12 years – but managed to chat to Alex about the song, explaining that I loved to head-bang to it in traffic, and dedicating it to all my friends who were writing exams. Alex was incredibly friendly and fun throughout, and most of my nervousness subsided. And then he played the song and wished me luck for my exams! And those were my 15 seconds of fame, which, while rather unexpected, were awfully cool too, even if only 1 of my friends actually heard me on radio!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stranger than Fiction

This is probably the quickest update on my “20 Firsts” list so far! I am pleased to announce that I have finally finished reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, and have thus completed the entire series. This probably doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, but I have waited 4 years to actually do this! I still remember debating possible plots with Dean and Thomas in 2004, just after the sixth book in the series had been published, as we tried to figure out what J.K. Rowling had in store for Harry in the final book. While it was published in 2006, I didn’t buy a copy for a couple of months – mostly because my mother was hunting for a copy that didn’t cost R300, and since I was immersed in tons of reading for my English literature courses at the time, I didn’t even have the opportunity to read it when we eventually bought it. And so, the book has been sitting appetizingly on my shelf for the past year and a half or so, waiting to be read. I eventually gave in last December, and decided that in my 2 month long holiday, I would read the entire series, but I ran out of time – especially since I was presented with two 900 page books to read for my course (as an aside, I would just like to warn everyone never to read “Middlemarch”. It is amazing – nothing happens in it, consistently, for over 900 pages, and then it ends. I am 1 of probably 5 people in my course who have read the book, and I suspect that 3 of the other people actually only read the Sparknotes). I did manage to re-read the first 5 books, and as soon as my academic work came to an end this year, I reached for the sixth book, which I finished about a week ago, and then moved onto the final book. It has been nail-biting stuff. I must confess that if one were to walk past my room, you might also hear me exclaiming aloud, to no one in particular, as I read about the final exploits of Harry, Ron and Hermione, and, as many predicated I would, I even cried as I read the last few chapters. I finished the book about an hour ago, feeling a tad emotionally drained, as well as rather elated, and a little sad that there will be no new tales about Hogwarts, Gryffindor and Blast-Ended Skrewts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dressed to Kill

I have recently realized – with a bit of panic – that I have just over 6 months left in which to complete my “20 Firsts” list. With almost 2 months of holiday still left, I hope to get at least a few more of them completed soon. One which has been completed, however, was my mission to find somewhere to wear my little black dress. I’ve had the dress for at least 4 years, and have just never worn it, mostly because a suitable occasion has never really arisen for wearing the dress, since I don’t get invited to too many cocktail parties. The dress itself is a knee-length halter-neck, with a rather plunging neckline. In fact, the neckline probably accounts for at least 80% of the reasons why I haven’t worn the dress! As much as I would look good in it, it has just always felt a little too risqué to wear to a birthday party or dinner. It should probably also be mentioned that I actually didn’t buy the dress myself, as it was a gift – and I know that my taste is clothes is a lot more conservative!

Opportunity finally called a few months ago though, when Chris – of all people! – announced that he was having a semi-formal theme for his 21st birthday party! The theme was “Jo’burg Society”, and Chris’ vague description of suitable attire stated that boys should wear collared shirts, ties and pants which were “not jeans”. Girls were to wear whatever the female equivalent of the male attire was, and between us, Natalie and I assumed that this hinted at the cocktail dress department. And so, I decided that this was finally my chance to wear the dress!

The party itself was actually one of the most enjoyable 21st’s that I’ve been to this year! I had decided to drag Luke along, as my partner/date/plus-one, as the prospect of driving to Fourways alone was not one which I particularly relished. Having arrived at Luke’s house to find him picking out a tie, and after a quick (and very strange) chat with his dad, we were off, dressed to the nines – and personally, I was feeling a little nervous, on account of the somewhat daring dress. I really didn’t want to tarnish the impeccable reputation that I’d established with Chris’ family! Upon arrival at Chris’ house, we were greeted by Chris, Natalie, Dione and Morgan. It really was strange to see everyone dressed up, after having only ever seen each other in our casual, everyday outfits – usually jeans, t-shirts and comfortable shoes – for the last 3 years! After some socializing (and the awful realization that some of the students who Luke TA’s were around), we wandered off the other side of the house, where tables had been set up for supper. Having found our seats – each marked with a tiny wooden animal (which Chris assured were not chosen as a result of any personal resemblance to any of us) – we enjoyed the food, as well as some amusing video footage of Chris’ life and his dad’s emotive speech. Chris’ own speech was even more entertaining – mostly on account of his dry wit, as he told us how lucky we all were to have made the guest list for the party! And then he sprang a surprise, by telling us all to look at the back of our seats, where a new name tag was hidden, and to get up and find this name tag. This was Chris’ way of getting us to mingle – at least for dessert. It worked fairly well – I ended up the midst of his high school friends, but soon escaped when Kirstan and Marc arrived. After dessert, as everyone else either settled around the fire or went to dance, Kirstan, Marc, Luke and I amused ourselves by holding a spontaneous photo-shoot, assisted by the big, white wall which served as a background, as we spent the next hour striking increasingly ridiculous poses. This would later explain why the photos from Chris’ 21st only featured about 5 shots in which Chris was present – the rest were filled with Luke and me pretending to be matric dance dates or all of us posing as ninjas. We eventually exhausted ourselves, and spent the rest of the evening sitting outside, with Luke and Marc delving into philosophical discussion, while Kirstan and I dashed off to dance to the occasional song.

CD cover for our nonexistent band pose.

Matric dance shot

Super-ninja shot

All in all, it was a greatparty, and I finally got to wear my little black dress somewhere appropriate – and turned a few heads in the process! Hopefully, I’ll get to wear it again sometime soon!

Proof that Chris was actually at his own 21st!