(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.

“What?”

“Turn on the dishwasher.”

“Really?”

“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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