Wrong seat. Wrong country. No phone. No mouse.

June 1, 2016

So, I just filled out Canada’s most recent census, barely beating the May 31 deadline and thus staying out of jail and fulfilling this duty of those of us living in this great country.

Before letting me go, the questionnaire asked if I or anyone in the family would mind if all the sordid details on said census form could be made public, presumably with personal detail (such as it is), in the year 2108.

That is 92 years from now.

I will be very ripe.

I’m going to bet the farm that even my children, if they’re still alive and waiting for me to die so they can collect their inheritance, will also have greater cares at that time.


Sure, use whatever family news or whatever nothingness that might help. Why do you think people blog?


At the dentist today, earlier.

Liz, no cavities; Jon, no cavities; Hannah, no cavities.

I’m told I have “geographic tongue.”

No really.

Too much travel, not enough Vitamin B, it seems.


He’s a Brit in Canada and we’re on the phone and he’s a writing colleague and life has taken us in different directions since the last time we spoke. That was more than 15 years ago.

But he asks what everyone does at this time of year – “So how long have you been back?” And I answer, it’s been just a few weeks, but it always seems longer – whether just arriving in our Canadian home or our African home, it always seems like you’ve been back forever when it’s only been a short time.

And yes, there are some things that still throw you off. Take getting into the car to drive off. “You know how it is,” I say, “when you drive on the left side of the road.” (The Ugandans have followed the Brits on this one.) “I’ve actually got in the vehicle, sat in the passenger seat, and went to turn on the vehicle only to find I’m in both the wrong seat and the wrong country.”

He laughs.

If you missed it recently in The Spectator (that is The Spectator, the hip daily newspaper in Hamilton, Canada, not the weekly conservative magazine based in the UK), then here’s a bit more on adjusting to life back in Canada.


The mouse and the dishwasher

(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, May 20, 2016)

HAMILTON, CANADA ✦ So it’s the middle of the night and my wife walks into the bedroom and says: “There’s a mouse in the dishwasher.”

This is strange even for our household, the sort of announcement that suggests my wife is hallucinating from working way too late, again, or that I’m having one of those dreams.

I’m the longtime keeper of the family’s craziest dreams, dreams that can easily rise a notch on the crazy meter during times of distress, which we’ve all in this family experienced lately during everyone’s readjustment (reverse culture shock and all that) to Canadian life.

There’s the Canadian school for the kids (much easier), and driving on the road’s right side while sitting in the vehicle’s left (much harder), and overflowing supermarkets with floors you can eat off (much cleaner), and the weather (much cooler) and such things.

This is our 14th year of such transitioning from one continent and home to another — you’d think it’d be second nature by now — but not once have we had a mouse in the dishwasher, not even in Africa, where, OK, nobody has a dishwasher.

After her announcement, my wife told me in no uncertain terms to get out of bed and get the home invader. She then continued on about my manly and husbandly duty, and this is why she married me and why else am I around in the house, anyway?

To which I said: “No.”

This is because I’m an early riser and thus an early-to-bedder. Once I’m down, even the apocalypse will have to wait until morning.

“Just turn it on,” I said.


“Turn on the dishwasher.”


“Sure, why not? Turn it on, babe.”

In the morning, after my wife explained with great earnestness how the mouse, for sure, had landed in the dishwasher, after I inspected the unit for any remains of a drowned (or worse) little fella, and after my wife told me to, please, PLEASE, wash the dishes again, she made the point with firm clarity that this is not a column.

Nobody wants the world to know they live with a mouse, which, even in Africa we don’t, (armies of ants, at times, sure), likely due to our African home’s three cats.

“We’ll just blame the tenants,” I said. We rent our Canadian home while abroad and surely we’re not responsible for every little household matter the tenants could improve on.

The other notable homecoming news is that if you’re trying to reach me by mobile, don’t bother. Faithful readers may recall from this space that my mobile, an old flip-phone purchased in Dubai more than a decade ago, is rather worn. Now I realize that no mobile is just as good.

I came to this realization where every great thought germinates, in church, in the men’s room specifically, where I recently stood and, you know. The guy beside me was doing the same. In one hand he held his, you know. In the other, his mobile phone.

“Yeah, the service just ended,” he said into the phone while I wondered why anyone would bother to attend any service if they look forward to its end with such expressed enthusiasm. While still talking, he then finished, you know, opened the door and continued to walk into his day.

You may find this a strange reflection of our time, but what about Canada’s bizarre mobile costs? I’m here to tell you it’s much cheaper elsewhere, certainly in Africa where entire nations have leapfrogged land lines and gone straight to mobile technology. In Uganda, even the poorest of the poor have mobiles.

This is because you don’t get charged for receiving calls, just making them. You, certainly as the rich foreigner, the “Mzungu,” (any Canadian is rich by Ugandan standards), will get contacted every day from callers who quickly hang up; that’s your signal to phone back.

In either case, to avoid unwanted calls and unwanted rates, in a startling countercultural manoeuvre, I’m going totally land line for my next several months in Canada. If you call the house, though, do realize that I might have to ask you to call back later.

Chances are that I’ll be, you know, busy washing the dishes. Again.

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June 1, 2016 • Posted in
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1 thought on “Wrong seat. Wrong country. No phone. No mouse.”

  1. Ha ha.

    I work in the Dominican Republic and they do the same thing with their cell phones.

    I enjoy your posts. I knew your wife when she was a resident at St. Joe’s and I worked in the Delivery Room a lifetime ago.

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