Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For All Other Enquiries, Press “0”

The frustration one experiences in attempting to contact anyone in a large or even moderately large organization by telephone is compounded initially by automation and latterly by privacy legislation. Both features appear designed to defeat the caller in his or her attempt to communicate. The incident invariably ends in complete annoyance, usually only heightening the angst which prompted the effort in the beginning.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

Generally speaking one is admonished to pay attention to the details in whatever one does. The motivation is seemingly to do a thorough job and avoid unexpected traps. While this counsel undoubtedly has its place in things like architecture, law, medicine and a variety of other disciplines including carpentry, plumbing and painting, I think however that the adage can be viewed in a different sense; namely, that if one becomes too detailed about life, the attention can contaminate the broader more sustainable brush strokes of living. Construed in this alternate connotation, the warning is directed to the avoidance of minutiae which can overshadow the more generalized principles of conduct which form the pillars of existence.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Le Vieux Montréal

I think we can all accept that in spite of our best efforts to the contrary we never really know from one minute to the next what is about to transpire, nor how our day will unfold when the ensuing twelve hours after breakfast have come and gone. In retrospect I can see that having an open agenda (and an open mind) contribute greatly to the unpredictability of one’s life.

Today for example was for all intents and purposes very much a normal Saturday morning, though I confess it was singular for its spectacularly sunny, cool and dry weather and the not insignificant added feature that we had nowhere in particular to go and nothing especially pressing to do. In fact the only item of any moment on the horizon, as we sipped our coffee and digested our breakfast, was the rather uninteresting possibility of investigating the purchase of a new mattress (something which, granted, we are all too quick to dismiss as trifling when watching the television advertisements but which oddly becomes gripping when one is faced with the actual need).


Many years ago I heard from a family member (likely it was an account by my paternal grandmother in Fredericton, New Brunswick following the death of my grandfather) that my grandfather despised Canadian Pacific Railway even though he always traveled by CPR and on his death he had a considerable amount of money invested in it. Apparently my grandfather was disgruntled by the tardiness and inconsistency of railway travel. I feel the same way about Bell Canada. I am prompted to evoke this particular repugnance first because I received from Bell today yet another bill (a so-called annual “Maintenance Service Agreement” which is about as useful as buying tsunami insurance) and then this evening I got a scary email message from my home internet provider (Bell Sympatico) that I should give them another $5 per month to avoid exceeding the limits of my current internet plan. An examination of my historical usage has satisfied me that any occasions of excess usage far from warrant the extra monthly charge. This type of marketing disturbs me enormously because it is largely without foundation. This ploy is reminiscent of another communication which I received from Bell previously. That mass mailing promoted a newer and more expensive long-distance plan allegedly for the reason that it too would save money in the long run. When I called Bell about the matter and asked them to prove the proposition to me based upon my historical records, it was readily apparent that there were no savings to be had at all. This I view as tantamount to misleading advertising, based as it is completely upon hypothetical or mistaken or no information at all. It hardly comforts me to be guided in my dealings with this huge corporation by the prescription “caveat emptor”! To the unwary Bell represents a leach which eats away at one’s resources by small but incremental bites. Every month I pay Bell for multiple services; viz., house phone, house internet, house wireless internet (2nd outlet), office phone, office internet, cellular phone and annual maintenance. I won’t even begin to think about what I pay in all! In light of this monthly drain it annoys me no end to receive such rubbish communications from Bell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Back to Basics

While one wouldn’t wish to disturb the appeal and tranquillity of the day’s brilliant sunshine and cloudless blue skies, there is nonetheless the perfect storm brewing worldwide as numerous independent economies struggle to upright themselves, the Far East is embroiled in escalating friction which is driving the price of oil ever higher, Japan (one of the world’s largest economies) is facing years of reconstruction after the devastating tsunami and earthquake (exacerbated by nuclear explosions) and the ripple effect of all of the above is already starting to be felt in the price of food. Closer to home, the declining condition of the housing market in the United States is now so well known that it is no longer the subject of recondite enquiry. Added to this is the rising cost of electricity, especially provoked by the latest rage for “green” power, whether hydraulic or wind, and the premium being paid for it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Drive on the First Day of Spring

I had a short and virtually sleepless night. Last evening I was arrested by introspection and unable to drag myself to bed until half past two o’clock this morning. I had been flipping television channels for hours (something I rarely do – watch TV that is) and watching the most extraordinary things for me (a baseball documentary on the Public Broadcasting Station). Even after I got to bed I felt as though I were awake most of the night, just a margin above the threshold of sleep, unable to submerge myself below the level of consciousness. Anyway as usual I listened to the six o’clock news on CBC Radio 1 this morning. It is now 7:45 a.m. and I am sipping strong, black coffee at the kitchen table, attempting to reassemble myself.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Auctioneer

Promptly at 7:00 p.m. as prearranged I seated myself in a wing chair in the lobby of the Château Laurier Hotel, picked up the house telephone and requested the telephonist to connect me to Mr. D... the gemologist from the Toronto auction house. Mr. D... answered the call immediately and told me that he was in suite 684. I then proceeded up the elevator and down the wide, hushed corridor to the suite. I carried the Italian leather bag in which were stowed the articles I brought for consideration. It pleased me that his suite was part of the Fairmont Gold collection, the so-called "hotel within a hotel" having its own check-in on the fourth floor and a private lounge for evening cocktails and morning breakfast with white linen and silver service. The pomp of the venue assuaged the faintly nefarious element of our congress.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those days when things get awfully busy, even meddlesome. Lately I feel like that charred duck running about trying to put out forest fires. Now someone needs to put out the flaming duck! Getting on top of one’s affairs is not an easy undertaking especially for someone who abhors the merest disturbance or interruption of a treasured routine. Yet life proves again and again to be quite disinterested in such preferences! One is left to hang onto one’s hat and enjoy the ride!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Last evening as we herded out of the Old Town Hall following the concert performance, the snow had begun in earnest. In typical March fashion the snow was wet and driving forcefully, almost horizontally. Walking across the bridge to our car, careful to avoid slipping on the icy surfaces, we mused ruefully upon the plight of those who were obliged to travel further than the mile we had to go to get home from the Judge’s residence where we had dined hours before and left the vehicle.

Public Nudity

After thirty-five years of ornamenting my person and embellishing my surroundings, I am now divesting. I recognize that many of the things which I have acquired either no longer interest me or do nothing whatever stuck in a dark drawer. Stripping one’s self of the accoutrements of cultivated society is a manifestly relieving experience. Not only does it lighten the load, it also makes practical sense. Certainly there was a time when I derived pleasure from my things, but as the scope of my social and other vistas narrows I am less inclined to indulge myself in the same materials. The journey towards objective liberty is admittedly prompted in no small measure by the desire to turn back the tide of unbridled spendthrift habits. I can at least say that not all is for naught, since many of the articles which I am abandoning, while not all having appreciated have at least held their own which is more than I can say for most consumables.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Small Consolation

After having cautiously minced my way to work yesterday in a freezing rain, I had little enthusiasm this morning for having to struggle once again with frozen sidewalks so I drove to work even though the sun is shining brilliantly. I suppose it is just one more excuse for avoiding exercise and for driving my car, but it really is more than a challenge on foot. Besides I happen to know from a municipal Councillor who attended our Board meeting last evening that the Town is cutting back on its winter maintenance schedule in hopes of saving some taxpayer dollars. In the result I am opting to give the sidewalks a miss for the time being. The temperature may rise to something above zero today, and that may melt some of the offensive ice and snow which is clustered about the sidewalks. Remarkably the Judge continues to walk with his guide dog whether Tuesday or Doomsday. By his own admission, the sidewalks are perilous, but he was nonetheless clutching his newspaper and goods from the bakery as usual.