Monthly Archives: November 2017

Silence? No, But Close Enough

I have mentioned many times how much noise there is at the library these days.  People talking, people laughing, cell phones ringing, cell-phone chatter, kids screaming — all compete for the space in the air at the library.  Times have changed since stern spinster librarians would “Shhh!” you for breathing too loud.

I wear foam earplugs, but they only mute the noise.   A voice in my head told me that I can block the noise by wearing the earplugs, and headphones playing white noise, or rain and thunderstorms.  I tried it.  It worked!

It’s not silence, but it’s close enough.



Meaningless Customer Service

Loblaws is a grocery store.  For 20 years they also ran a bank called Presidents Choice Financial (PC Financial).  The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) supported PC Financial. Unlike other banks, there were no service charges for your everyday banking with PC Financial.  Also, you earned points towards groceries when you used your PC Financial bank card to shop at Loblaws.

On November 1, 2017, PC Financial and CIBC parted ways.  A Loblaws cashier told me that I would lose my points unless I got a PC Plus card before November 1.  That way I could keep earning points when I shopped at Loblaws.

I got a card and thought I was earning points for all my purchases.  Not so.  I would only earn points for the PC Plus offers I downloaded to my card.  That meant going to the PC Plus website and looking at what they have to offer.  If I bought those items, then I would earn points.

If I had known this, then I would not have bothered getting a PC Plus card.  I have limited Internet access, and shopping is not a priority for me.  I will not waste time going to the PC Plus website and look for their offers so I can earn points.  I want to earn points for anything I buy.

Foolish me thinking that letting PC Plus know my concern would make a difference.  I sent them an e-mail saying that I no longer scan the PC Plus card because I am not earning points.  I also said how shopping is not a priority, so I don’t take the time to download their weekly offers.  I suggested that they return to earning points on everything you buy and not just their suggestions.

Here is the e-mail I received:

Dear Gary,

Thank you for contacting PC Plus Member Services.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate you bringing this matter to us. 

We are always looking for new ways to better satisfy our member’s needs and appreciate that you took the time to share your feedback with us. We will be sure to share your comments with the appropriate department for further review and consideration.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you for participating in the PC Plus program and have a great day!


Kenneth Bryle I PC Plus Member Services

PC Plus™

Don’t forget to load your PC Plus offers this week!


. . . and appreciate that you took the time to share your feedback with us

This is saying the same thing as the previous sentence:  . . . and appreciate you bringing this matter to us. 


We will be sure to share your comments with the appropriate department for further review and consideration.

Sounds good, but how meaningless it is.  Which department?  What’s to review and consider?  I want to earn points when I buy things the way I did when I used my PC bank card.  The real message is, “We’re not going any further with your complaint, but we’re not going to tell you that.  We want you to believe that we care and are following up.”


I told them that I am no longer using the PC Plus card because I am not earning points.  Did I mention that I told them that I am no longer using the PC Plus card because I am not earning points?

Thank you for participating in the PC Plus program and have a great day!


I also told them that I don’t take the time to go online and download PC Plus offers because shopping is not a priority.

Don’t forget to load your PC Plus offers this week!


As I said, foolish me thinking that e-mailing PC Plus my concerns would make a difference.  As with form letters, now we know that there are form e-mails.

Adventures With Cancer

Several months ago the doctors, at Credit Valley Hospital, diagnosed a high-school buddy with pancreatic cancer.  But after more tests the doctors said, “It’s not pancreatic cancer, but there are spots on your liver.”

He went for a biopsy for the spots on his liver and the doctors said, “No cancer.  But we may have not done the test right, so we want to do it again.”

He went for a second biopsy and the doctors said, “No cancer.  But we want to investigate further.”

After a further test, the doctors said, “You’ve got Stage 4 Liver Cancer.”  And they started making arrangements for palliative care.

He went for a second opinion at Princess Margaret Hospital.  The doctors there said, “You’re not showing the usual symptoms for liver cancer.  We want to see why your liver is inflamed. We want to do more tests.”

Last Monday he went for tests at Princess Margaret Hospital.  He was to return Thursday for the results, but Thursday morning he was too weak and his ankles swelled.  He went, via ambulance, to Credit Valley Hospital.  The tests from Princess Margaret Hospital showed that the cancer has spread from his liver to his pancreas, and he has an infection in his liver.

I went to see him yesterday in the palliative care unit of Credit Valley Hospital.  He was in good spirits, but as long as I have known him he is always in good spirits.  Unlike the doctors, he hasn’t given up.  He is tired and weak, but he is taking one day at a time.  Who knows?  Miracles happen.

The doctor’s diagnosis? “It’s just a matter of time for him.”  But isn’t that something that they can say about all of us?

I Knew It!

Over 20 years ago, my car died and went to Heaven.  I have used public transit ever since.

It wasn’t long after using public transit that I worried about the noise levels—especially on the subway.  I tried calling the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to find out decibel levels.  For two weeks I was transferred to various departments and left voice messages.  No one returned my calls.  I concluded that the TTC did not want the public to know the decibel levels on the subway.  I have worn earplugs for the past 20 years.

I expressed my concerns about the noise levels on public transit to several friends.  I said how I worried about hearing damage while on the subway.  These friends dismissed my concern as frivolous.  “You’re worried about nothing,” they said.  That did not stop me from wearing earplugs.

A study published in Journal of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, mentions how the noises on the subway can damage hearing.  I knew it!  I knew it!  I knew it!

I also know that studies have proven that studies contradict each other.  That means that the TTC will publish a study stating that using the TTC not only improves hearing, but causes weight loss, whiter teeth, and a longer life.  This may be true, but I will continue to wear earplugs while on the subway.

Fifty-Four Years Ago Today . . .

On Friday November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy found out that he was not as well-liked as he thought.

According to the Warren Commission, set up to investigate the Kennedy killing, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot Kennedy.  According to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), also set up to investigate the assassination, Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.

To repeat, the Warren Commission says that a single assassin killed Kennedy, and the HSCA says that Kennedy was probably killed as the result of a conspiracy.

Uh?  I’m confused, but that’s probably because there’s something wrong with the way I think.

Good Luck? Wealth From Heaven?

It’s a superstitious belief that it is good luck for a bird to poop on you.  It’s a sure sign that wealth from Heaven is on the way.

These garbage bins sit in a lane near College and Yonge Street in Toronto.  Look how much good luck is covering them.

How much luckier can these garbage bins get?  Where are their riches from Heaven?  No matter how much good luck they receive, courtesy of the birds, nothing changes.  These garbage bins are not getting any luckier, or any richer.  Is this because garbage bins do not believe in superstitions?

Another Definition for Nigger


The other day I was walking up a lane towards the YMCA on Grosvenor.  A man, in his forties, walked down the lane towards me. His blond hair wasn’t sure in which direction to be messy. His clothes had more dirt and holes than cloth.  He had not stood close to his razor for several days when shaving. But his blue eyes stood out the most. Insanity and hatred danced in his deep blue eyes.

When he was close to me he said, “You’re a fuckin’ nigger!  A fuckin’ nigger!”

“Thank you,” I said as I kept walking.

I turned to see whether he was coming at me.  One should never turn one’s back on a nutbar.  He just stood there.  Insanity still danced in his eyes, but it had a new dancing partner: confusion.

So, why did I thank him?  I exercised my power to choose.  It’s a power that nothing and no one can take away from me. defines nigger as a noun . . .


1. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.  

      1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person.

      2. a contemptuous term used to refer to a member of any dark-skinned people.

2. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.  a contemptuous term used to refer to a person of any racial or ethnic origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.

3. a victim of prejudice similar to that suffered by black people; a person who is economically, politically, or socially disenfranchised.


That definition is too negative and complicated.

To quote my good friend Humpty Dumpty, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “When I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean . . . ”

In The Gary Johnston Dictionary, nigger means genius.  See?  Positive and simple.

I am not a genius, but I like I like it when people call me one.

On Sitting Still

My father could not sit still.  He was always busy doing something.  He was at a loss when his work, Gray Tools, gently forced him to retire.  He had worked there for over 48 years.  He had trouble filling in his days.

My grandfather could sit still.  Dad said that his father would spend his entire three-week vacation sitting on the front porch.

“Pop,” said my father, “you’re on holidays.  Why don’t you go somewhere instead of sitting on the front porch all the time?”

“Son,” said my grandfather, “each day I have to get up early and go to work.  In the winter, I am the first one making footprints in the snow.  Now I don’t have to go to work.  Now I don’t have to go anywhere.  I am happy to sit here all day.”

My father could not understand.

I take after my grandfather.  I can sit still.  I am not afraid of silence, and I have no problem filling my days.

I don’t know what my grandfather thought when he was sitting on the porch.  When I am sitting still, I explore the world of ideas by thinking, reading and writing—more thinking than reading and writing and, often, lots of thinking about reading and writing.

I haven’t gotten bored so far.  I can play with myself.  I enjoy playing with myself.  (Get your minds out of the gutter!)  I don’t need anything outside of me to keep me occupied.  Take away the book and the writing materials and I can still sit alone in a room and stare off into space.

To others, it seems that I am doing nothing.  Far from it.  I am exploring worlds beyond worlds beyond worlds because imagination is limitless.  There is never enough time when I crawl inside my head.



In Flitters Feld

When I was in public school, every Remembrance Day (November 11), we had to recite John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.  In Gade 2, when I was 7 years old, the teacher told us to draw a picture of Flanders Fields.  My spelling was atrowshus back then.  I titled my picture In Flanders Fields, but to everyone else it read In Flitters Feld.  (I did not realize that field was plural.)

The teacher never mentioned my creative spelling, but it gave my parents a big laugh when I brought the picture home.  Every Remembrance Day, even as an adult, they would remind me how I had misspelled In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Finding Dimes

My mother was born on Christmas.  Her birthday was part of Christmas celebrations.  Instead of a birthday cake, my grandmother would make a Christmas pudding.  She would light the pudding, and my mother would try to blow the pudding out.  My grandmother hid a dime in the pudding, and my mother would always find the dime.  Every Christmas, right up to when she died, Ma would always find the dime.

After she died on November 9, 2002, my sisters and brother reported finding dimes.  They took it as a sign from Ma.  My niece reported that a dime flew off a shelf in the baby’s room.  No one knew how the dime got on the shelf in the first place.

I never found any dimes until about a year ago. One morning I said out loud, “Ma, how come I never find any dimes?”  That day I found a dime near a bus stop!  And occasionally I have found dimes since—especially when I am troubled about something.  Finding a dime stops me from feeling troubled because it’s my mother telling me that things will be okay.

This morning I said out loud, “Ma, you died 15 years ago today.  How about me finding a dime?”

As I was walking towards the washroom at College Park, there was a U.S. twenty-dollar bill on the floor.  Twenty dollars U.S.!  “Hey Ma,” I thought, “you outdid yourself!”

But the bill looked funny.  I took it to a bank, and it was counterfeit.

“Nice try, Ma.  Luv ya!”