Preparing for the Y2K New Year

The clock, as they say, is ticking.

In a few short hours, the last few seconds of 1999 will disappear somewhere just off the coast of New Zealand, and we’ll start to find out what we’re in for. Some believe it’s the end of the world, others believe it’s the end of our civilisation, and others believe it’s the end of the year. (Allison thinks that maniacs who spell “civilization” *incorrectly* (see the *correct* British spelling in the previous sentence) will be the death of us.)

I believe it’s the beginning of the future.

Sure, we may lose power for a few hours if something goes wrong, but that’s not going to wipe us all out. Rather, it’ll be the militants running amuck with a few tonnes of nitroglycerine. They’re the ones creeping me out. In many ways, I’m quite glad I’m sitting here in Nanaimo, away from the big cities. The worst that could happen is that I get stranded here when BC Ferries shuts down due to some unforseen navigation problem.

Predictions are in order for such an auspicious occasion, and I find it hard to pass them up. So here’s what I think will happen tonight:

  • A few places will lose power, either by some poor programming, by complete fluke, or through some maniac’s planning
  • Several thousand people will at some point lose their lives (this will come true regardless of what happens, based purely on the human death rate); whether this number spikes due to artificial designs (see the above-mentioned maniac) remains to be seen — expect several deaths due to drunk drivers
  • Hospitals around the world will be deluged by people convinced the world is going to end; there may also be a rush if the above artifical spike occurs
  • The banks will go on, as will your bank balances
  • Your computer will still start in the morning, provided you have electricity

And my most Earth-shattering prediction:

  • We’ll all be disappointed when nothing happens

Leave it to the media to psyche this New Year’s way out of proportion, including the addition of the moniker “Millennium”. This is NOT the new Millennium, folks — that’s next year. (Don’t believe me? Answer this question: Was there a Year 0? Answer: No. Result, the decades actually *end* with ‘0’, such as 1950, 1970, and yes, 2000.)

Oh yes, and unless Nostradamus’ predictions come true in the next 24 hours (and I doubt they will [insert sound of me knocking on wood]), there will be no Earth-shattering earthquake that sends us BCers into the drink. (If not, I’ll have a *really* good story for you in about 24 hours or so.)

So, with that, I leave you to the Most Overblown Festivities of the past Millennium (and yes, that you can actually bank on — there won’t be anything worse than this year), and I hope to see you all in the New Year.

Provided the Earth doesn’t end, of course.

Christmas Day in Nanaimo

Well, another Christmas has come and (almost) gone. It was an unusual Christmas for me, mostly because things have changed. My family is bigger than it was, and I’ve got a few more traditions to start remembering.

The first of these traditions is waking up at 8:00am. Around here, Christmas starts a bit earlier than in Oakville. This is primarily due to Mr. Collins, who was up at 5:00am, waiting for Christmas to begin. His energy certainly makes Christmas interesting.

Collins Christmases are big events … much bigger than Sowrey Christmases (not that there’s anything wrong with either of them). Waking up to a Collins Christmas means wading through to some place on the couch where you can spend a comfortable hour or two unwrapping presents. It reminds me of my childhood (no doubt in part to Mr. Collins’ enthusiasm).

Even the practice of opening a gift on Christmas Eve continues here. It’s a practice we Sowreys gave up a few years ago (I don’t even remember when), so it was a little strange to open a gift last night. But it really prepares you for the next morning.

Generousity is the word around here. In fact, “give until it hurts” comes to mind. Over the course of the past 14 hours, I have received the following:

  • 1 CD: Harry Connick Jr. – When My Heart Finds Christmas (from my parents)
  • 1 DVD: Saving Private Randy Special Edition (from the Collins)
  • 1 Penguin Shaker (I’ll get back to this in a moment)
  • 2 packs: Ferrero Rocher (3 chocolates to a pack) (Collins)
  • 1 Terry’s Chocolate Orange (Collins)
  • 1 stick: deodorant (Collins)
  • 2 rolls: 100 ASA film (Collins)
  • 1 CD: Will Smith – Willennium (from Jane)
  • 1 pack: Life Savers – Sweet Story Book (Collins)
  • 1 pack: Life Savers – Night Before Christmas (Collins)
  • 1 book: Tom Clancy – Net Force (from my Nana)
  • 1 bottle: Body Shop shampoo (Collins)
  • 1 bottle: Body Shop shower gel (Collins)
  • 1 bar: glycerine soap (Collins)
  • 1 train whistle (sounds like a real whistle, too!) (Collins)
  • 1 Reach toothbrush (Collins)
  • 1 Orange Crush(R) candy cane (Collins)
  • 1 homemade orange bath balm/bomb (Collins)
  • 1 feather duster (I think this was a hint) (Collins)
  • 1 pack: Hershey Chocolate Storybook (Collins)
  • 1 book: The Idiot’s Guide to Personal Finance in your 20’s and 30’s for Canadians (from my sister)
  • 1 book: The World Encyclopedia of Beer (from Allison)
  • 1 sweater: beige with striping (Allison)
  • 1 sweater: light green (Allison)
  • 1 shirt: button-down plaid (Allison)
  • 1 shirt: funky psychedelic black and white (Collins)
  • 1 game: Motorcycle racing (from the Vailmonts)
  • 1 set: bar tools, including bottle opener and corkscrew (from the Vailmonts)

That was just me. (Needless to say, I’m really glad we brought the car.) Oh, and before your eyes bug out from the length of the above list, I would like to direct you to one little detail: a lot of the stuff on that list is “small” stuff, such as candy and books.

Then there was the “collective”: Allison and I. Together we received:

  • 1 bagel-sized toaster (Vailmonts)
  • 1 pizza stone with cutter and lifter (Collins)
  • 1 spaghetti pot (Collins)
  • 1 set: chip bag clips (Collins)
  • 1 set: matching bathroom towels (Collins)
  • 1 game: Sim Theme Park (Randy)
  • 1 pastry blender (non-electric) (Collins)
  • 3 tins: Misty Mountain Chocolate Paté (Collins)

I’m not going to list Allison’s gifts … it’s already too much stuff. But like I said before: “Give until it hurts.” After this Christmas, Allison and I are going to make a donation to charity to compensate for the abundance of gifts. We are certainly thankful, and want to share thanks with others less fortunate than ourselves.

Now, back to that Penguin Shaker. It seems that Santa made a visit last night that I wasn’t aware of (my Santa was very good at hiding things so I couldn’t see them packed into the car). I apparently made her, er, his “nice boy list”, and was therefore the lucky recipient of a Penguin Shaker.

What’s a Penguin Shaker? Glad you asked. (Incidentally, if you haven’t already guessed, this gets my CGOTY award (Cool Gift Of The Year). Back in the 30’s after prohibition was lifted, there was a big trend to martinis. The entire movement spawned a style that included penguins (tuxedos; ice). Thus was born the penguin-shaped martini shaker. The basic shape is of a martini shaker, with two wings, and a beak. The beak has a plug at the end that (when unscrewed) acts as a spout; a built-in filter prevents the ice from coming out. It’s silver-plated and utterly gorgeous.

Following the unwrapping, we proceeded to breakfast, courtesy of Master Chef Randy. Then it was helping Mrs. Collins prepare the evening’s feast of roast beast. (Okay, turkey, but the Dr. Seuss in me was yelling to get out.) I spent a large portion of the afternoon chopping.

When the rest of the family arrived this evening, we exchanged a few more gifts, and then proceeded to dinner. Not much different than a Sowrey Christmas dinner, except that it’s a lot quieter here. (Those of us who remember the Sowrey/Sinnott dinners will remember the struggle to gain control of the table’s conversation.)

After dinner, we all broke up into various conversations. Allison adjourned downstairs for a while to use Randy’s PlayStation, where Allison totally wiped the walls with me. Allison is the video game equivalent of a pool shark — she starts off making you feel good, and then cleans your clock. I lost a few layers of skin (not to mention several notches on Ye Olde Ego Meter) when she trounced me 12-0 on Triple Play 98.

I hate sports games.

Okay, so I’m a poor loser. I get frustrated easily. I like being able to do *something* other than *nothing*. That’s when I get labelled “sore loser”. Things I need to work on for my New Year’s Resolution, I guess.

Anyway, that’s a Collins Christmas for you. ‘Tis time for me to consider getting ready for tomorrow … who know’s what it will bring?

Merry Ho-Ho!

The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
‘Cause they were all at the hospital.

Well, briefly anyway.

Our evening was off to a startled start, after Allison required immediate medical attention. This goes back to last Tuesday, when Allison had to have minor emergency surgery to eliminate some major pain. The incision she received was not sutured closed (as per the type of surgery).

This evening, it gave her a bit of trouble. Allison had been instructed to visit Emergency in the event her wound acted up. As it stands, it was a normal (in the sense that most people who get that kind of surgery often have some kind of trouble) and we went home.

Then it was off to Allison’s grandparents for the traditional Christmas Eve visit. This, of course, is a new thing for me. I’ve never been through a Collins (or Vailmont) Christmas before — I really didn’t know what to expect.

Singing. I should have seen it coming.

Carols, to many of which I have since forgotten the words; some I’d never even heard before. Mrs. Collins and Grandma Vailmont were belting out the majority of the lyrics, although we had a small argument about the words to “Frosty the Snowman”.

Tomorrow is my first Christmas away from my family. So yes, it does hurt a little. My parents and my sister aren’t by my side (or me by theirs). And due to Allison’s aforementioned surgery, we won’t see them this holiday season at all.

Originally, we had planned to visit Florida on vacation, and would spend some time with them. However, Allison’s doctor has effectively forbade her from travelling for six weeks (now five). So we had to cancel our flight. Needless to say, I’m really glad that for the first time, I bought flight insurance.

At least we could travel to the Island, even if we had to sit in the ferry lineup for (are you ready for this?) four hours. And we were there early.

Which reminds me of a detail I keep forgetting. Many of you have wondered when we’re getting married. You know that we got engaged, but the date kept changing. It’s official: 26 August 2000. The wheels are in motion. So why does taking the ferry remind me of the wedding? Those of you who will be driving will want reservations so you don’t have to experience sitting in a lineup for hours on end. It’s particularly bad in the summer.

Anyway, Christmas is fast approaching. But I’m doing just fine. Sure, I miss my family, but I’ve got an extended one here that cares for me. It’s great to feel wanted, particularly after years of making myself feel otherwise.

So for those of you who get this on Christmas Day, I wish you a very Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, depending on which you prefer). For the rest of you, I hope you had a great time.

Expect more within 24 hours…

How to Throw a Surprise Party

There’s nothing better than seeing the look of complete terror upon someone’s face. Especially if you know there’s a benevolent force behind it. Such as with a surprise party…

Allison’s birthday was on Sunday past. And I wanted to make it something special.

So at the beginning of November, I started contacting her friends, seeing who I could get to come out and scare the bejeezus out of my fiancée. I knew that I had to start early, because it takes a while to plan out all the little details. And it doesn’t matter how straight-forward something seems — there are *always* little details.

The last time I’d organised a surprise party was when my close friends Stuart and Therese announced they were moving to Calgary. I wanted to give them a farewell present, by showing them how much their friends would miss them. The party was as much for me as it was for them…

Planning it had been a nightmare … the logistics were murder. While Therese and Stuart were wandering about Europe, I had been pulling together their friends (with the help of Therese’s friend Rachel and Stuart’s friend Jay) and planning out all the details. How?

Rule #1 when planning a surprise party: Get the parents involved.

Why? Simple: If you don’t tell the parents, they’ll inevitably screw up your plans. Not intentionally, mind you, but they’ll do something that will make your well-laid plans worth sqwat. (Yes, “sqwat”.) So, if you get the parents involved with the process, you don’t have to worry about things backfiring on you.

That’s how I succeeded with Stuart and Therese’s party … and that’s how I succeeded with Allison’s party. The best part is, most parents are clever — they’ll suggest good ideas without you have to tell them what to do. In the case of Allison’s parents, they invited Allison over to Nanaimo for her birthday. This left our apartment open.

So brought about the second problem: How to get people into our apartment to surprise Allison. This took a lot longer than I thought it would, and the ultimate solution was so simplistic I had to kick myself for not thinking of it earlier. Keys. Cut a spare set of keys, and leave them with a friend.

Then it was setting up a decorator, and making sure that our Key Master would arrive before everyone else. Where we would go for dinner … even a theme for the evening.

But above all else, the hardest thing to do was keep Allison in the dark. She’s a smart cookie, and it’s really hard to keep things from her. Especially when it comes to her birthday. Luckily for me, Allison’s parents were running a good cover for me.

We left on Friday the 3rd, catching the late ferry to Nanaimo. This gave me enough time to clean up the bedrooms. We did this under the guise of not having enough time to clean before Allison’s aunt appeared on Monday for a visit. (I hadn’t asked her aunt to come the day after Allison’s birthday as an added distraction … it just kinda worked that way.)

But we didn’t get everything. Allison’s insistence that we leave negated any argument I could have to clean the kitchen table. I didn’t want to have papers all over it when her friends showed up.

The wonders of today’s modern technology no longer amaze me … I use them with gusto. I made several calls over my cell phone to Michelle (our Key Master) and begged her to clean off the kitchen table before people started to show up.

(There’s always one thing that doesn’t go quite right.)

Allison’s family birthday party was the next day, the 4th. This amounted to a wonderful dinner of salmon, which Allison had asked for. Also on the menu was chocolate cake. This was no ordinary chocolate cake, mind you — this was the King/Queen of Chocolate Cakes. It was called something like Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip with Chocolate Whipped Chocolate Filling, or something like that.

It was evil.

In a chocolatey good way, that is. I have never, ever has such a devilishly good chocolate cake in my life. (I’m actually beginning to salivate, just thinking about it.) I can’t even begin to describe what was in this thing … all I know is that it was really, REALLY good.

The next day, we were to leave on the 1:00pm ferry. We would arrive in Horseshoe Bay around 3:00pm, and back at our apartment around 3:30. We would talk, chat, whatever for about two hours, and then go to dinner.

That was the plan. But plans have a way of not working exactly as planned.

The ferry was at 12:30, not 1:00pm.

I started to panic a little.

It was a fast ferry. We would arrive nearly an hour before we were supposed to.

I started to panic a lot.

Miracles of modern technology. I called Michelle, and let her know that things were not as well-planned as I had hoped. We tried to figure out what I could do to stall. I had suggested taking Allison to lunch, but she wanted to eat something on the ferry … that ruled out lunch at the other end. I couldn’t take the long way home, as it would make her suspicious. Feigning car trouble wasn’t even a thought — BCAA would put an end to that right quick.

Then Allison proposed the solution herself — she wanted to go to IKEA. That would blow an hour and a half, easily.

So it was with much relief that we bypassed our apartment completely and went directly to IKEA. It was a failed mission, in that respect — the chair covers we had gone looking for were not to be found. IKEA didn’t carry them in the style we thought they would. We headed home, Allison a little apprehensive about what I had planned for her.

When we arrived (at nearly 4:30, about an hour late because of nightmarish traffic going back), I made sure to grab all the bags, thus tying up my hands so I couldn’t open the door. No, it’s hardly chivalrous. but I had to make sure that Allison was the first into the apartment. As we passed the security camera, I looked, waved, and smiled. Because I knew that the 12 people sitting in our living room were watching Channel 59 — the security camera channel. They knew we were there.

The elevator was a bit slow, by my heart was racing. It was part anticipation, and part realising that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But it was too late, so I concentrated on the anticipation. The hard part was not showing it.

The elevator took forever to finally deposit us on the 6th floor. I exited first, but let Allison lead the way. As we got to the door, I saw that our weekend paper was still wedged in the mail slot — our awaiting guests had not removed it. I was excited beyond repair. Allison had no clue what was about to happen.

She got in, remarked that the bathroom door was closed (our friends had tossed their shoes in there). The lights were off and it was dark inside, which was good because if we could see, Allison would have seen some of the snacks left on the counter in our kitchen. But she didn’t see it. (Mind you, Allison saw the extra jackets in the closet, and *still* didn’t clue in.)

Then it came. A giggle. From someone in the living room.

Allison gasped. Someone was in the apartment. Someone had broken in, and they were still there! As the onset of sheer terror was about to take effect, a very loud and resounding cry was heard (probably through the entire building): “SURPRISE!”

Several camera flashes went off. I’m told the pictures are priceless.

I nearly fell over laughing. Yes, I’m cruel. I admit it. It was mostly from pure relief that things worked out, after all. (Although for another 20 minutes or so, I was still a bit edgy, wondering if Allison was all right with everything.)

The group went out to dinner at a restaurant not far from our apartment. Wasn’t the best overall venue, I’ll admit, but it was the best choice given the size of our party. The place would probably be more interesting later in the evening.

After dinner, most people went their separate ways. (It was a Sunday night, after all, and many people had to go to work the next day.) But Michelle (our Key Bearer), Mike (her husband), and Tyler stuck around. It seemed that there were other things in the evening that I had not planned.

The evening became organic, developing its own events as we went along. We started off at Commodore Lanes, with some five pin bowling. I’ve discovered how to beat Allison in five pin: Get drunk. Both of us. Her bowling average goes way down, and mine goes way up. (Otherwise, Allison is virtually unbeatable in five pin.) The five of us had a grand old time being really lousy at many things. Especially table hockey. I’ve always been a lousy player. And foosball. I got creamed at that.

After our bowling excursion, we ended up at Death By Chocolate on Burrard. One of us mentioned that it was Allison’s birthday. When her dessert showed up, it had a candle on it. Our server just stood there, waiting. Finally, she said: “C’mon folks, work with me here.” We sang Happy Birthday, and indulged in really bad things for us to eat…

The day so ended as we headed home. Overall, it was a good day, all stress aside. Now I just have to figure out how to outdo myself next year.