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The age of discontent

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." While both extremes may be overstating the case, it was a time of mixed emotions. I was wrapping up the sale of my WHA townhome at Nita Lake.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

While both extremes may be overstating the case, it was a time of mixed emotions. I was wrapping up the sale of my WHA townhome at Nita Lake. Having sat largely empty for the winter, I was glad to lose the responsibility of looking after it, even more glad to pass it on to someone who wanted the space.

Aside from the ridiculous dance of sorting through things that once were important but no longer seemed so, deciding what to keep, what to pass on, what to send to the cosmic dustbin in the sky, there were the technical details of moving. Cut the power, forward the mail, move the phone and Internet.

Power was easy; a change of name. Mail was impossible; there was a conspiracy at Canada Post and the doors were locked tight. Calling into question once again whether George Orwell wrote fiction or nonfiction, the toxic combination of money and power politics had mounted a successful frontal assault on the country's dwindling middle class.

My strategy for dealing with mail was simple: spend the final month contacting everyone who sent mail to my soon-to-be old address and let them know my new address. When postal workers began their rotating work stoppage, this wasn't a problem. Mail got delivered. It may have been delayed but, let's be real here, how would you know? It always seems delayed.

I don't know why postal workers started their job action. It doesn't really matter. The details are of the sort that always need to be worked out in collective bargaining. Trouble is, the management(sic) at Canada Post didn't want to bargain. They wanted to dictate. And they had an ace - that may be ass - up their sleeve. A newly-empowered Conservative majority anxious to flex their intolerant muscles would love a chance to put the boots to a public sector union, hell, any union.

So, notwithstanding the mail seemed to be moving along with its usual inefficiency, management locked out the workers. Who did the Conservatives blame for this? Duh, the workers, of course. Management goes on strike, the workers get blamed. Management keeps getting paid, the workers get the shaft.

I actually have to hand it to the Conservatives. Not only did they keep a straight face when they blamed the workers for forcing them to legislate an end to the lockout - and likely an end to collective bargaining (see Air Canada) - but they didn't go as far as some of their mouth-breathing brethren in the U.S. and outlaw collective bargaining for terms other than pay rates. Then again, it's a bit early in their rule to be praising their moderation.

Having relegated what we've thought of as basic human rights - the right to bargain collectively between employers and employees - to a status somewhere below "The Economy," which they kept insisting was threatened by management's outrageous job action, the Harperites gave us a glimpse of the monster that still lurks within. Can't wait 'til they declare war on gays and women.


"... it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..."


Personally, management's postal strike didn't really effect me. All my bills are paid automatically on my Visa card and most of the mail I receive can loosely be termed junk. And so, it was a happy day when the phone blinked with a message... from Visa. My card had been "compromised," which is to say it may have been used at some establishment over the past year from which emanated "suspicious" activity.

"But I'm looking at my statement online right now," I protested. "My card's in my hand and there's no charge I don't recognize and there never has been."

"We'll be couriering you out a new card anyway. It's been compromised."

"Will the old one be good until the new one gets here," I asked foolishly?

"It'll be good for about another 30 seconds," muted laughter.



Not wanting to go through the hassle of explaining missed payments weren't really my fault, I thought I'd better contact everyone who billed my Visa, only some of whom I can remember. Since I'm eco-conscious and don't get paper billing, I pulled up my online account the next day, fortified by extra strong coffee, and prepared for a life on hold. Oops. No online statement. The old number was nuked, the new one didn't work yet.

"Where are my statements?"

"They'll be available by the end of the week."

"What possible sense does that make? You nuked the card, not the statements."

"It's for your own security."

"No it isn't. It's so you don't end up eating a charge from a suspect business you won't name?"



"... it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..."


And finally, there was moving the phone. Getting a phone installed four years ago was such an unbelievable, Orwellian nightmare, I wrote a column about it. So unimpressed by my narrative detailing their ineptitude were some of the execs at the phone company whose name I won't mention but whose initials are Telus, they wanted to sue me. Until they actually heard the tapes of my conversations and realized I'd been kinder to them than they deserved.

The new, wonderful woman in my life is a Shaw customer. For reasons I'll probably never fully live down, I convinced her to switch to that other phone company. Like I said, it was a stressful time; I probably wasn't making my best decisions. Our new home in Rainbow is hooked up to something, phonewise, more advanced than copper wire and, therefore, requires a special - read scarce - tech guy to come out and hook it up.

After several phone calls to (a) kill my phone/Internet at my old house, before it became someone else's new house, and (b) move the phone number/Internet to the new house, an act you'd be justified believing phone companies do, well, all the time, I gave up. I'm now a Shaw customer; Lord continue to have mercy on my soul.

Why? The scarce tech guy couldn't come out until the third week of July to connect the phone. But he couldn't come until some unspecified time after that to hook up the Internet. No amount of pleading could get him to do both at the same time.

To their credit, the customer service people I spoke with were wonderful. They realized this didn't make any sense. They were embarrassed even trying to explain it. They were doing a great job. Somewhere, further up the management chain, this seemed like a rational way to do business. I suspect those managers are close buddies with the ones at Canada Post and Visa.


"... it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...."