Polar Bears.

S, one of my Sunday students, is doing a project on polar bears. I pride myself on knowing a lot about animals, in a kind of overview sense, but Holy Cats! Polar bears are so cool!

They have black skin. It’s not just their noses or feet. It’s all over. This helps them attract and retain heat in the frigid Arctic temperatures.

Their fur is transparent and hollow. It looks white because of the sun and all the glare, but the hairs are really little hollow needles, designed to take in as much sun as possible, letting the black skin absorb it, and warming up the little hollow tubes.

Female polar bears can be 9 feet long, according to S’s research. Males can be 11 feet. We measured this aginst her family’s dining room table, and decided that must be when they’re standing on their back legs or something. They are the world’s largest land carnivores, but 11 feet? it’s just excessive. Go on, measure. Eleven feet is hayuuge!

But something was bugging me as I came home. Didn’t I read something about them starving? Lo and behold, I get online and find BitchPhD has written about it today!

They’re drowning because of Global Warming. Polars are prodidgious swimmers, but the melting ice floes are causing them to have to go further afield to find the juicy, fatty seals that comprise the majority of their diet. They can’t decide to cut back. Staying alive in the Arctic burns a lot of calories. They eat a lot (On average, 9lbs of meat per day), so they really have to keep on their polar toes.

So here’s my solution: We find the fattiest, juiciest senators and other politicos, airlift them into Polar Bear territory, and save those bears. The bears would have enough to eat, and the politicos would be, for once, doing something useful.

So who’s with me?

Oh, That’s What Happened.

I forgot. I’m a misanthropist. That’s why I have so few friends; Most people bore me so badly that I don’t want to become friends with them. The sheer tedium of listening to them opine about their sad little lives fills me with despair and the only recourse is to remove myself before I form a relationship with them where I am forced to listen to their minutiae.

I didn’t intend to be this way. In fact, I can remember a time when I was interested in people. I enjoyed hearing about their lives. I wanted to get to know them better. But people, you know, their stories are so similar, if they haven’t the gift to tell those stories well. People, themselves, can be heartbreakingly tedious. No gift for narrative. No surprising turn. Nothing exciting. No fire inside them. A veritable pablum of human life.

So it was in this sullen frame of mind I wandered down to the Army and Navy today. I had some vague idea of looking at shoes. Mostly, I was killing time. Some of the shoes, I loved. But as is the case at the A&N, they weren’t in the size or colour I wanted.

But here, what are these? A pair of CAT mary janes in charcoal leather and black stitching. Marked down to $14.99 from $44.00? They’re cute, they’re comfortable, and they’re practical. SOLD!

So I take them to the checkout. The sales rep is ringing them in when the rep beside her says, “We can’ get dat off.”
I look at her. She points to the security tag. “We can’ take dat off.”

Now, I am not a Nieman Marcus shopper, nor Holt Renfrew do I frequent. Yeah, I’m not really rich. I’m used to check0ut-stand snags, because the stores I shop in are lower-end. So I smile at her. “Where can I do that? The other cashstand?”

She shrugs. “Nowhere here. We don’ juse dose tags. Dose shoes are from anodder store.”

I am alarmed. “Can I still buy them? Look at the price!”

She looks and smiles in a faintly approving manner. My frugality is noted and worthwhile. “Jou can buy dem, but we don’ have de t’ing to take it off. Good price, huh? Jou got anodder way to take dat off?” She gestures to the tag.

I poke at it. “Nothing. It’s illegal to have a machine to take them off, isn’t it?”

She grabs the shoe with the offending tag and gestures for the other cashier to keep ringing in peoples’ purchases on the other register. “Illegal, I dunno. Let’s see.”

She starts to pull the tag apart with her fingers. She’s straining, and I can see the white around the edges of her fingers as she pulls. Her fingers have chapped skin, the nails bitten down. These are the hands of a woman who does more with her hands than work at the A&N as a cashier. Briefly, I wonder what formed those calluses, what caused those jagged nails. I glance at her nametag. her name’s Daniela. She’s from somewhere in South America, to judge from her accent, but I don’t want to ask where, because I don’t want to break her incredible concentration. She’s still pulling. Her mouth thins in effort.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” I plead. “They’re only shoes.” She’s about 5’2, built as tiny as I was in grade Eight.

She eases up to rest her fingers. “I get hurt, I take a few days off. It’s okay.” Laughs and shrugs one shoulder. And she goes back to work, bodily prying the pin from the alarm tag.

She’s making headway. The pin, which had fitted snugly to the device, is now askew, after a few minutes of prying. She looks at it thoughtfully. “We need Hardware.” Bangs it a couple of times agaist the counter and them marches downstairs, me trailing like an off-season fishing lodge float pulled by a seemingly-small tugboat, past the Ice Fishing display. “Where’s Jose?” she yells. Someone points.

“Jose. Take dis tag off,” she orders.

Jose turns the shoe thoughtfully in his hands. “Why we have dis tag?”
She shrugs eloquently, a movement of the shoulders that says, What kind of a stupid store sells things it can’t get the tags off? This is a stupid place to be in, a stupid situation. But thats the way it is. Says, “Store got it like dis.”

Jose regards the shoe thoughtfully for a moment and then motions us to follow him to an under-the-stairs workbench area that I’ve never seen before. Rummages for a while. Grabs some wire strippers. “Dose better be skinny enough,” warns Danielle.

He nods. “Skinny enough, just see.” He takes the shoe into his hand and gently, gently, eases the wire cutters towards the pin. Clamps down. When he snips it, the pin flies off, and we all cheer.

Daniela and Jose, I salute you. You proved to me today that there are people in the world, apart from those I already know and love, who are worth getting to know. I’d like to know more about you.

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