Change

I took the wife to a nice hotel for a change and a rest.  The bell-boy got all my change, and the hotel took the rest.

The reason I originally came here for a job, was that, for 150 years, this area has been known to be in the forefront of industry – insurance companies, breweries, distilleries, and all kinds of manufacturing jobs, often with companies that were on the cutting edge for their time.  While I bemoan the passing of the manufacturing jobs, the region continues to reinvent itself in the service, and technology theaters.

Despite over 80% public disapproval, the mayor and several councillors continue to midwife the birth of an ego/memorial, street railroad.  They want to be remembered as the visionaries who breathed life back into a downtown area which has been moribund for 30 years, although their project may be years too early.

Even though my taxes will go up, it seems to be working.  New, upscale restaurants and clubs are already opening, down the main street, and an old, ex-Sears store has been converted to apartments.  A block below my auto-parts plant, at a major intersection, the main plant and head office of my bankrupt shoe company has been converted to condo lofts.  Yuppie acceptance was so avid, that move-in dates were delayed for over a year, while they built two more stories on the old four-floor building.

Between the two buildings, a new bus/train/LRT station is going in.  Across the corner, a U-Haul office was torn out, and a ten-floor apartment is being built.  On the final corner, the Community College has erected their School of Optometry, and School of Pharmacy, where the chiropractor’s son is studying.

Up the hill behind them, and over the railroad tracks, across from my old workplace, the owner of the strip-mall property has just announced a complete rebuild.  Gone will be our tacky watering-hole bar, and a Tim Horton’s outlet which died after our plant closed, because of poor access and parking.  Built before drive-throughs, it moved two blocks up the street and took over a failed Wendy’s.

Research In Motion, also known as the RIM Corporation, was founded in our sister city to the north, and made BlackBerry Phones, until the company name finally changed to BlackBerry.  When they had almost as much money as Carlos Slim, or Oprah Winfrey, they endowed a think-tank known as CIGI, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, who try to show political entities all over the world, how to run their fiefs cheaper, smoother, fairer.

RIM Corp also created the Perimeter Institute, a collection of mathematicians, cosmologists, theoretical physicists and quantum mechanics experts, guys with really tiny wrenches.  Supported by BlackBerry, they’re busily trying to develop things like FTL space-drives, teleportation systems, and quantum computers.

It’s been visited by the likes of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who is bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to TV.  Steven Hawking has stopped by to bless and anoint it, and is returning this spring.

After RIM/BlackBerry became rich and famous, the two inventive, innovative founders were eased out by the shareholders, and a bean-counter administrator was hired to run it.  Run it he did – almost into the ground.  While it was in its death spiral, he grabbed his $55 million Golden Parachute and bailed out.

The latest CEO seems to be turning it around.  A 3000 unit order by a major US police department is not enough alone to revive it, but is a vote of confidence which may have caused Ford Motors to decide to put BlackBerry technology in their cars.

When they were carving BlackBerry’s tombstone, Panasonic moved into my old auto plant.  Merely a marketing and R&D office at first, they soon made it clear that they were willing to purchase real estate that RIM was selling off and use it to manufacture Panasonic Smartphones locally.

A couple of years ago, Google opened an office in a rehabilitated tannery, a block beyond the new pharmacy school, sharing space with automation and robotics firms.  The area is so promising that they have decided to expand, moving up the street beside Panasonic, into a space where I used to make Jeep parts.

When I started working there, my favorite local radio station played good, solid, baby-boomer Rock and Roll.  Over the years it changed to Soft Rock, and then to Pop, and finally to Bubble-gum, not fit for anyone over 22 to listen to.

A young man at the plant introduced me to his station.  Coming from just at the edge of clear reception, 35/40 miles away, it loudly and proudly called itself The Hawk.  For years it played only Classic Rock!  Sadly, commerce and changing demographics forced it also to change to Soft Rock, and finally Pop, under the inspiring moniker, More Radio.

I don’t think I was exposed to Justin Bieber, but I heard his girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and the entitled and irritating Taylor Swift, who I never, never, ever want to have to listen to again.  One evening recently, the son wanted More information about the ex-Hawk station, so he accessed their website.  He came rushing out of his room and turned the stereo in the living room on.

Apparently, at 5 PM on a Friday evening, without any hoopla, or even a warning announcement, they quietly changed to All-Country, all the time.  I have become my father.  The radios in the house and car have gone silent.  It’s all right though.  If any of you have words of consolation for me, I can’t hear them.  I took a screwdriver and poked my eardrums out.

Some of it’s good.  Some of it’s….meh.  I’d settle for a lot less, “Plus Ça change,” and a bit more of “la même chose”!  Alas, woe is me!    😉

Neighborly Help

My wife, my son and I all tend to be loners.  We are not anti-social.  We are merely un-social.  We are friendly with many people, but Friends with very few.  We have a relatively new neighbor.  She is a delightful, bubbly, divorced woman of about forty.  The RIM Corporation, which produces the Blackberry phone, and various other electronic devices, is headquartered locally.  She works for them in the marketing department.  I understand that she gets paid extra to help haul away part of the huge pile of hundred-dollar bills lying around.  She has two Blackberries, one a gratis unit, used for company business, and another, which she got at cost, for her personal use.

She rang our door-bell one evening, to apologise, and explain a strange little occurrence.  Her father is my age.  He could retire, but he is a professor, who still teaches a couple of courses at the University of Buffalo, New York – two hours away, in a different country.  He drives up to visit regularly, and we had met and spoken, and at least exchanged names.  He had called from Buffalo, earlier in the evening.  Quite computer-literate, he had looked up our phone number on-line.  He said that she should have some company, and wanted to know if they were still there and if she was all right.  The wife carried the cordless phone outside.  There was a pick-up truck in the driveway.  She went up to the door and rang the bell.  There was conversation from inside and the smiling daughter answered the door.  The wife assured him that everything was well, and asked if he wished to speak to her.  He declined, but asked that she tell the daughter to call him later.

The City of Kitchener is where the blue box recycling system was invented.  Now we also have green bins, for kitchen waste and large, heavy paper bags for yard waste.  I’m all for saving the planet but, it can be a pain in the organizational ability, at times.  Most blue boxes are about a bushel capacity, and stand a foot tall.  This woman is a busy, single person who probably doesn’t cook, just for herself, much.  I haven’t gone through her blue box, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it contained lots of pizza boxes, Chinese take-out containers, Michelina microwave-dinner boxes, etc.  Perhaps because of the excess of packaging, she got a double-tall blue box.  It’s the only one on the street.

She put it out a couple of weeks ago, and came home to find it missing.  The first one is free.  Buy any replacements at a hardware store.  She got another one.  Garbage day again, she was coming home from work and there, five houses up the street, is her box, still with her house number, in big bold black magic marker.  Somebody’s got a lot of nerve, but not a lot of brains.  She stopped the car and brought it home with her.  Now me, I might have thought about calling the police.  Having taken her stolen property back, she is now worried about??…What?, the guy’s going to come down and demand it back?

She was on the phone to her dad in Buffalo, talking about many things, including this little contre-temps.  She uses a VOIP-type computer system for long distance, but, in the middle of telling her dad about her worry about the thieving neighbour, the local provider cut out.  At that point her guests arrived and she just left calling Dad back, till later.  But he got worried and tried to call her back and, of course, got no answer and thought perhaps her silly worries might not be so silly.  All was well, that ended well, and we were more than happy to reassure a worried parent.  I am sure that she would do the same for us.  We exchanged land line and cell-phone numbers as well as email addresses to ensure that we can.

Last Friday evening, I took a slightly panicked call from her.  The singer, Jann Arden, was performing locally, and she had a chance to get three last-minute tickets to the show.  She bought and paid for them on-line, but when she went to print off the confirmations, with the bar-code necessary to get in, she hasn’t been printing enough stuff, and the ink in her printer was all dry.  Do we have a printer?  Yes!  Could she bring over the file on a thumb-drive, and print them out?  Of course!  She only needed three sheets printed, but brought a dozen with her.  The show starts at eight, and it’s six-thirty.  She still had to pick up her friends, drive to the venue, park, walk in and get seated.  Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!  I hope she had a great time.

We have had her over twice, in a year, for an informal supper.  She has a surfeit of friends, but I think that aside from the minimal social contact, she, the non-cook, appreciated a homemade meal.  We have done the same with some of my daughter’s friends, and ex-friends, and others who have impinged on our tiny social circle.  We have not pursued these people, to live in each others’ pockets, as friends, but we continue to be friendly with those who come near us from time to time.  Feel not sorry for us, for we are not complete hermits.  We love mankind – just at a distance.