10 Slightly Unconventional Move-In Tips for Budding University Students

Waterloo, ON: It’s that special time of year when youngsters and their parents crowd the roadways in University towns and cities. Their large vehicles are jam-packed with personal possessions such that you can’t help but think of a cruel game of Tetris as they putter down the road. It’s that time when mom and dad shed tears for their beloved children as they leave their nests and brave the big world. It’s that time when they pretend to be sad, but then bath in the serenity of an emptier home, whispering, “Thank God for move-in day.”

I myself just moved into a new apartment with three other people. It’s very modest (small) and I require three separate keys just to get into my bedroom. The landlords use a three-key system so that they can charge lots of money to replace a missing key, and I’m certain they’ll be running a business off of my carelessness. For all others who have a set of keys, I highly recommend a key ring attached to a neck strap that you can hang on your doorknob. This way your keys are kept together and you won’t forget them when you leave. Key advice aside (no pun intended), I thought I would share some other move-in tips from my personal experience, having done it twice, for the benefit of other budding University/College students.

I’ll number my tips from one to ten, but don’t assume there is a hierarchy to my advice (unless you really like hierarchies, then you can pretend that some of these are more important tips than others):

1) Blinds. Get some for your window. They work great for saving the casual pedestrian from your nudity.

2) Make a damn list. Don’t be lazy – do it well before you move in. If you have trouble remembering things like me then you’ll definitely want to plan out everything you’re going to take well ahead of time. You will forget to put lots of things on your list, so the benefit of making one early is that you can just keep adding to it until you’ve written down everything you can think of.

3) Compare your list with your roommates. I didn’t think it was going to be an issue, but me and my roommates accumulated an excess of kitchen supplies like mugs, cutlery, measuring cups, and electric kettles (random, yes). In a society where the local Walmart is a short drive away, it’s easy to stockpile lots of crap that won’t even be used. Make sure you and your roommates nail down the necessities and have someone in charge for each item and compare lists so that you don’t have too little or too much of anything.

4) Ensure there’s enough space in your vehicle to transport your belongings. If your dad is like my dad then he’ll have a zealous determination to pack a bed, a dresser, two chairs, a massive teacher’s desk, some boxes of kitchen supplies, bags of clothing, textbooks, and whatever the hell else into a Toyota Sienna. It’s not as easy to do as it seems, at least not without disassembling EVERYTHING into its basic elements and causing some minor structural damage to the furniture along the way. When in doubt, rent a box truck or plan for two trips.

5) Don’t take anything for granted. You’ll suddenly be missing mom’s corn broom and dish soap when you’re tip-toing around the kitchen on grungy floors and maneuvering around piles of dishes festered with rotting food. Most people who move into a place have to start from scratch – everything that you have at home that usually goes unnoticed can often be overlooked when packing. Again, writing a list well ahead of time can help you remember to pack commonplace items like a toilet bowl brush and toilet paper (although most parents will buy you enough bathroom tissue to mummify all your friends).

6) Plan and organize with your roommates. They’re either with you or against you; if they’re with you, you’ll decide as a group where everything goes in shared living spaces and then create a schedule of chores to keep the place clean and tidy. If they’re against you, they’ll either refuse or be apathetic about sharing household tasks in which case you need to subtly enact revenge on them through small but increasingly frustrating acts of vandalism (if they’re female, leave the toilet seat up).

7) Bring the booze with you (but not if you’re underage! That means you, froshie). You probably won’t have time to go to the liquor store amidst the move-in chaos, and there’s nothing better than a stiff drink after a long day of packing, loading, unloading and unpacking. If you’re feeling classy, then warm up those freshly unpacked wine glasses with some vino; I suggest an Argentinian Malbec, which seems to give a lot of “bang” for a poor student budget.

8) Get to know the area, preferably before you get drunk off of your alcoholic provisions and then decide to go running through the streets looking for the convenience store (because you really want Sweet Chili Heat Doritos) and then get lost in a drunken stupor. Some good places to map out are the local food mart, laundry mat, and general supply store. It also might be worthwhile to figure out how to get to school in case you plan on going to class.

9) Food. Get some. Try to convince your parents to buy you groceries before they leave you to your own methods. Use this argument if they’re a little squeamish about it: “Mom/Dad, could you please buy me some food? Food is good because I can eat it and then not be hungry. It is also one of the necessities for staying alive along with water and shelter.”

10) Buy second-hand. You’ll be amazed at how many things are for sale dirt cheap on Kijiji since a lot of upper-year students are moving out as you’re moving in. Look for garage sales and even free stuff dumped at the edge of the curb – you’ll save yourself a lot of money and will be helping to reduce the amount of waste entering our landfills.

With all these tips in mind, I wish you, reader, a successful move-in day. And if you’re already moved in, then you now have this wonderful blog post as a resource for next time (aren’t I modest?).


Early Christmas Comes to James Street: Hamiltonians Outraged

Hamilton, ON: Officials describe the latest ploy to disturb the sidewalk traffic of James Street South as both cruel and abnormal. With summer coming to an end, many citizens were horrified last week to find a segment of the street outfitted like a scene from a theatrical Christmas movie.

Scene of the crime

“It’s a classic case involving some aspiring anarchist who just wants to provoke civil unrest,” says Carolyn Briggs, whose ordinary walk to the bank degraded into a harrowing trek through a festoon of fraudulent Christmas decor. “It’s even worse than Sears releasing its Holiday Wish Book in August – I have enough things to worry about right now than holiday shopping for my spoiled children.”

But for some it wasn’t the idea of Christmas that scared them the most; rather, it was the crafty patchwork of thick snow that lined the edges of sidewalks and crept up stairways. “The idea of snow in August is enough to put me in an early grave. I don’t like snow because it means winter and freezing temperatures… My father used to call it ‘brass monkey’ weather because it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!” laughs Mr. Deckle, an 82-year-old resident who still thinks his jokes are funny. “You gotta love those winter enthusiasts too, and the rare bunch that actually prefer it over summer. Why? Because they like to snowboard! I bet whoever made the mess on James Street is gearing up to break their legs on the slopes of Mount Tremblant this winter.”

Despite bitter feelings, many people are more concerned about figuring out who or what turned James Street into an early winter. Bess Heather, a local snoot from the Chateau Royale condominiums, claims she saw the entire thing: “It wasn’t just one person who did this, it was many. I saw them all show up in these big trucks and trailers and then unload all this equipment. Some of them blew fake snow all over the ground while others set up all those cutesy Christmas decorations,” she says with an annoying New ‘Joisey’ accent. “What’s worse is that some of them had these big movie cameras and were filming a couple people (who were obviously in on the whole thing) walk around in the snow. What they were filming them for, I don’t know, they probably wanted to put it on YouTube.”

But not all people on James Street are upset over the matter. One shop owner, who did not wish to disclose his name, has his own opinion on the incident: “Since Christmas came early to James Street, sales have been the best they’ve been all summer! God bless the Christmas spirit,” he says with a smile on his face, smelling like pumpkin spice and evergreen trees.

www.xkcd.com – check it out!

My new favourite webcomic site: http://www.xkcd.com

The daring public transit getaway: foiled by a clever bus driver.

Hamilton, ON: Since taking the bus to and from work for the majority of the summer, I’ve noticed several underlying social conventions that maintain a stable and uneventful ride. Because people like me, for the most part, find comfort in routine simplicity.

For instance, like good passengers, we do our best to avoid any physical or verbal confrontation that, god forbid, might indicate some semblance of human interaction. So we don’t tell the poor man who smells like sauerkraut baked in beer that his close-quartered presence triggers the gag reflex (true story). And we most certainly don’t tell the global warming skeptic, who is preaching very loudly, that his evidence of recently soaring temperatures is anecdotal and poorly weighted against current scientific literature (true story). Because that’s what us good passengers do: we mind our own business.

Or at least we pretend to.

In reality, anything exceptional and beyond the pale of a monotonous trans-city bus commute is a welcome experience. That’s why I found the events following a holdup at John street incredibly entertaining.

When we reached the bus stop, the driver got out and performed a walk-around inspection of the wheels and engine. It was amusing that he gave us absolutely no explanation as to why the hell we were stopped or why he was inspecting the bus.

With a steady and sober face, I imagined the questions that must be buzzing through the people’s heads: eg. “What’s going on? Is this normal?” … “Why is our driver waiting outside? Is it because this bus might explode?!” … “Should I maybe stop starting my day by snorting a line because I sometimes tweak? OH SHIT FUCK WHY ARE WE STOPPED HERE?!?!?!” Okay, maybe these were things that I was thinking, except for the part about snorting lines – good bus passengers don’t snort lines, and I’m a good bus passenger. It was a joke.

The serene atmosphere quickly deteriorated into a spectacle of eye rolling, watch checking, and subtle mutterings of annoyance. Some, with a final indignant sigh or other such telltale expression of frustration, left the bus to catch one of the other lines that run down Main street. And so our numbers dwindled.

But I wasn’t in a rush because I’m usually early for work anyways, so I waited patiently. One of the few remaining passengers with a red and angry face stuck his head out the window and shouted at the bus driver, asking why we were stopped. The bus driver told him that there was “some” problem with the bus, but we would be leaving soon. An ambiguous explanation, yet it seemed to satisfy the angry man, so he sat back down beside what I then noticed to be a large black garbage bag full of stuff. By now, living in Hamilton for so long had rendered my curiosity obsolete to something so trivial as a large black garbage bag filled with an assortment of commodities, so I asked no questions.

Ten minutes later the police arrived. Unexpectedly, and determinately, they were upon us. A couple officers stood outside and talked into radios strapped to their shoulders. Another approached the front doors of the bus. (HELL YES, things were getting exciting.)

When a stocky police officer with a bad-ass mustache climbed onto the bus, the man with the big black garbage burst out of his seat and started to make his way to the back doors. But the mustached police officer walked straight up to him and said, “How’s it going?” Seems like an innocent question, if not the worst fucking prelude to an arrest in the history of crime catching.

The officer asked the guy with the garbage bag to turn around and patted him down. Throughout the entire procedure, garbage-bag guy pleaded the fundamental question of “Why?!” as his ass was cuffed and hauled off the bus. HAHA.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet, the bus driver was notified that a convict was on the bus and had staged a mechanical failure to stall the man with the garbage bag before the police arrived. “Mr. Thief, did you think you could have gotten away with your stolen bag of goodies on bus number 5? No way. IT’S A BUS OF JUSTICE.”

If we can determine a moral for the story, it’s probably that if you’re going to steal shit, don’t take public transit. Those bus drivers, in their fancy blue shirts, trousers, shiny black shoes and socks pulled up to their nipples, are warriors of the law. Oh and they are also stewards of a very efficient public transportation system – I still made it to work on time!

Sometimes people feel the need to scream. I get it, I guess.

Hamilton, ON: A couple of weeks ago, it was one of those stupid hot days. Those ones that slap you in the face when you walk out of your air conditioned sanctuary and then wrap you in a thick body suit of sweat, smog, and any grime you’ve managed to pick up during the day. It didn’t help that I had eaten Indian food earlier, so whatever the hell was bleeding out of my face smelled like curry and samosas.

The supra-normal level of air conditioning on my bus, which normally grips me by the balls and chills me to the bone, merited afterthoughts of regret as a blast of hot, stinky air welcomed me off the B-line and into downtown Hamilton’s urban heat island.

My usual commute down Queen Street was largely uneventful as I brooded over the sweaty hell that was Hamilton that day. I was only one of a few sorry-sons-of-bitches traveling on foot for the lack of a car or an excuse to barricade indoors and cool off in scant amounts of clothing. However, there was someone down the next block walking in my direction and flailing his or her arms. Weird, yes? Kinda, even for Hamilton.

Curiosity peaked as the distance between us closed to about 20 meters. By this time I had diagnosed a male schizophrenic screaming at whatever fantasy was disturbing his frail grip on reality. Some might have been frightened by his intensity, but through personal experience I’ve realized that, despite stereotypes, Hamilton crazies are usually harmless and interesting people. Even if they’re not, they’ll most likely be too self-absorbed in their external reality to mind you any attention.

If you’re going to be afraid of someone in Hamilton, beware those riding motorized chairs (the ones for really fat people). They’ll run your ass down.

Anyways, by the time I was close enough to get a good look at the guy (I have awful vision) I realized, to my surprise, that his appearance did not set off the crazydar: this young dude was clean-cut, well-dressed, and, revealingly of mental integrity, using an Ipod. Through my experience, you never witness a crazy person working consumer electronics. I should clarify that when I use the term “crazy person” I refer to craaaazzzzy people – those ones who yell at birds and walk around town with determination, yet who do so without shoes or a destination.

So not only was this guy listening to a song on his Ipod, but he was screaming (with deep, guttural growls characteristic of death metal groups) what I assumed to be the lyrics while flailing his arms down one of Hamilton’s busiest roads at the busiest time of day. Who the hell does that? His “singing” was as obnoxious as it was incongruent.

But a thought train led me away from my original opinion until I envied him for being able to shamelessly express his emotions with an audio and visual recreation of whatever music he was listening to. He was out enjoying himself while I sulked about the heat on my trek home from work. Hell, if the guy’s able to have a good time in unfavorable weather conditions, then I have like 4 months to embrace my innate stupidity before the winter season.

If you catch me outside shuffling through snow while beating my chest and singing opera metal, please don’t judge me.