Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

30 April 2006

May You Live in Interesting Tim's



Hi folks. Too busy having a life to blog at the mo. Actually, it's not the having but the intensity of said life that's keeping me away. In the past six weeks I have:

  • Gotten married
  • Vacationed in Paris
  • Changed careers
  • Moved four hundred kilometres


and oh yes--


Occasionally I find time for coffee at Tim's, but that's about all I can fit in--or afford :-)

My folks helped make it possible--we couldn't buy in this market purely on our own--Hell, we had a hard enough time finding rental space! So I apologize abjectly for all the nasty things I said about them when I was fourteen-to-eighteen.







21 April 2006

It's Been a Daaaaaaamn Long Time



So here's a damn looooong post.

Hey there, Avid Fan.

Que Pasa? (Which means has Kay been through here?).

When we last left our hero (me), he was about to uproot and move to the toolies. And indeed he has done so. The Metropolitan is now more of a countripolitan. But that name's probably already taken.

I mean, look, the SO got "Mastercowfish" when she asked Blogger to suggest a nickname; Which one has to admit is kinda cool--aquaculture (and particularly tentacles) being a fairly big thing out in the blogosphere.

So I've started a new job working for a small publishing group and so far I love it! Mme Metro and I haven't quite found a place to live full-time yet, but we aren't sleeping in our car either.

The move? It went smoothly. Ish. Actually, someone almost #^(&ed it up big-time--namely me, but I had the invaluable assistance of a company I'll call "A-haul"--don't strain yourself wondering if that's a U-phemism. I was going to call them iDrag, but BMW and/or that fruit company might have objected.

But before all this went down, we went to Paris. Having gotten married on March 11th (any takers on how long it'll be 'till I forget that date entirely? No worries, I keep my external memory in Mme's head) we felt a honeymoon was appropriate.

Paris flashed by ina blaze of neon and Gothic stone (want details? Mme M. has them nicely covered), and we found ourselves at home, seated in chairs on opposite sides of the living room and saying "Well. So this is it, then".

Mme M. packed thirty-five boxes of books on the morning I gave my notice at my old job. I didn't feel a lot of resistance to the move from her quarter.

The first major foul-up: we forgot to hire professionals. We're both over mumble-mumble years old, an we've each accumulated a large quantity of the detritus and debris which in its agglomeration is referred to as "life". We're over the point where we can simply call on our friends and offer them pizza and beer to do the heavy lifting.

We had in fact discussed the very question, following my repugnant experience helping a thirty-something friend move herself plus soon-to-be-ex and kids from whence they had dwelt lo these many years, and we had agreed to hire pros when the opportunity aros. So when I saw Mme M. piling boxes in a ziggurat against the wall I wondered to myself: "Didn't we say we were going to hire professionals?"

But since she was a-packing, I just continued working my way through my last two weeks. As a result, no-one ever said "Honey--when are the pros coming in?" Which was why in the end:

We called our friends.
We gave them pizza, and beer,

and a damn fine dinner.

Thank you Jamie, Brent, Justin, Lorraine, anyone else I'm forgetting to mention, and especially Christina--a real (hot) estate agent who went so far beyond the call of duty (by hiring someone to clean the place post-move) that she has definitely earned her (not insignificant) commission in spite of it taking only three days to sell the joint. And of course, Mme M. did most of the packing--certainly the organized bit.

Lesson #1. Hire professionals. I probably won't do this for the dozen-odd box move we'll have to do into an apartment or other rental since it'll all be very minimal. But when we buy a house I fully intend to sit in a lawn chair in the shade, sipping a beer and saying "Uh--be careful with that, eh?"

Lesson #2 Book truck early, and never again from "A-haul".

The lousy sonsa . . . Why I oughta . . . And as soon as I have a moment to spare, I assure you I will. But meantime, I'm gonna slander them viciously right here on the 'net.

Now first, the fault was largely mine, I know that okay. I should have booked at least a week in advance. But between working my notice off and my habit of exhaustively researching the price of things I want to buy/use/rent/consume, the two weeks went by with a whoosh.

So on the Wednesday before a Friday move, I discovered that there had been a record number of one-way rentals for moving trucks in the Lower Mainland. "A-haul" claimed to have rented two thousand trucks that week.

But they were reassuringly reassuring. I quote:

ME: Uh, I realize this is a bit late, but do you have a 17-foot truck available for a one-way move to the Okanagan for Friday?

AH: Sure. Of course you may have to pick it up outside your immediate area.

ME: How far? We're not talking, like, Chilliwack here, are we?

AH: (Chuckles indulgently) No, no. But it might be in North Van.

After some further discussion, I booked for said 17' truck at a cost of some seven hundred bucks, all in. I decided against moving the car for which this page is named 'cos it's cheaper to store it, for now, than to rent a trailer to carry it. Especially since I had no idea where it was going to reside. Nor where I was going to, come to think of it.

Thursday evening the call came through. An appropriately perky woman of the female persuasion called me and identified herself as A-Haul:

SHE: This is A-Haul calling. You booked a truck for tomorrow?

I: (With satisfaction) Yup.

A-Haul: Well there's one little thing--we didn't have a 17-footer. Will a 14-foot truck work okay?

I: (With slight relief) Oh, uh, well I guess it should be okay. Where do I pick it up?

SHE: That's the thing--it's in Chilliwack.

I: (Rocking slightly back and forth from mild shock) Now hang on a sec . . . What kind of a deal are you going to do me for that?

SHE: Well, we'll give you the 14-foot rate.

I: (Now starting to seethe) Well since you're giving me a 14-foot truck that seems only fair. I meant what are you going to do about the additional 200-odd kilometres and the extra fuel cost? Not to mention what it's going to cost me in terms of my time. In order to pick that up for seven AM I'll have to get up and on the road at five! Then there's gas for my car . . . and how do I arrange to get my car back? I have to find someone willing to drive me out there . . .

SHE: (Sounding slightly offended) Sorry sir, that's the best I can do . . .

Eventually I bullied my way to her supervisor, who magnanimously assented to giving me 250 "extra" kilometres. Considering that any mileage (kilometrage) over 500 costs forty bloody cents per, that seemed acceptable-ish. But she refused to reduce the rate, nor cover fuel costs. This was, apparently, the best she could do. I wonder: what's the best the Vice-president of Soothing Pissed-Off Soon-To-Be Ex-Customers can do?

It cost about $25 in diesel, a Mc Breakfast and a large Timmy's with doughnut for my driver. My time, at $21 per hour, amounted to $42 or so--one way. But I'm only charging for one way, despite actually having to travel the same road three times! Aren't I a nice guy?

The truck turned out to be gasoline-fuelled--might as well have been steam-powered by today's standards--and I paid $80 to fill it about two-thirds full. Just as well, too, 'cos when I summed it all up that pigmobile got about 3.5 kilometres per litre, including another fuel stop half-way to our destination. I reckon about $40 of that was unnecessary waste due to having to backhaul about 100 klicks with gas at $112 per litre.

The lights on this Edsel of a moving van worked only when no-one was looking. I had to remove the taillight lenses and clean the contacts to ensure that I had brake and signal lights. A job that would have presumably been done, by whatever 16-year old dropout A-Haul keeps employed to avoid having to pay an actual mechanic, before the truck left the central depot in Arizona in 1996. More of my time wasted.

The "mom's attic" (advertised as a feature but really an appendix of a space designed to let them claim that an 11-foot floor-space truck is a "14-foot" truck) showed definite signs of wear and tear--particularly tear. It had been repaired by, so far as I could tell, squirting silicone sealant into the gashes caused when some unlucky 19-year-old plowed it into a low bridge, service station, or similar. I bought a $5 tarp to protect against rain--and only later notice that the A-Haul contract specifically states that the truck is "water-resistant" rather than waterproof. Yeah, so's a wetsuit, for a time.

Faced with the condition of the vehicle, and unable to find anyone else to rent from ('cos believe you me I checked), I bought (grind teeth) contents insurance at $60.
And you know, what pissed me off wasn't the lack of a CD player, the &#!++y fuel economy or even the uncertain power steering. It was the total lack of cupholders.

Since the aforementioned steering behaved much like a shopping cart, both hands were required to maintain control. This meant that I could not have my coffee and doughnut at the wheel. A small thing, but as a friend once said: some small things are the formeldahyde-soaked little red Maraschino cherry on the crap sundae, y'dig?

Against this sort of institutional bloodymindedness, this determination to make the customer experience as unnecessarily unpleasant as possible, even the gods struggle in vain. But the gods never rented me a gas-guzzling, waddling, leaky tub of rust. And if they did, they'd regret it.

So, if you're reading this Mr. VPoSP-OS-T-B-E-Cs, I intend to ask for $200 back off the rental. Your truck was crap--should never have been used for one-way hauling except possibly to a wrecking yard. Oh--and I've incurred additional storage charges because the truck I got had three feet less space than the truck I booked for. My scooter had to stay behind, and that's gonna cost storage.

Still, we made it across half the province. And now we're sort-of homeless.

The rental market here is unbelievably tight, especially if you have pets. But since we're slowly running out of cash, I see a harmonious solution: I'm looking for delicious recipes . . .

I wonder if A-haul rents RVs? Except that as a former longhauler I'd rather live in a shipping container than an old-folks pigmobile.

Hope this astoundingly long post makes up for the lack of posts lo these many weeks. Now back to work before someone notices!







01 April 2006

Part of my Childhood Died Today


The Quebec Zoo was one of Canada's finest, if not one of the world's. It chose to specialize in birds at a time when other zoos decided to go with grand spectacles and panda sex.

Thank you, Bernard "Dirty" Landry. As stated in the article, M. Landry, the National Chauvinist Bloc Quebecois* premier by accident of history (or as he would prefer it "The Once and Future King") told the federal government in 2001 to take its federalist millions of dollars and get stuffed. This he did in order to avoid having to fly "the red rag" over the polar bear enclosure.

One certainly cannot mis-estimate the political astuteness of this move, coming as it does from the man who attributed the squeaky narrow federalist victory (50.5% of the vote) in the last referendum on Quebec separation to immigrants and allophones.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, Friday April 4th, 2003, in an article on Quebec chauvinism:
"Mr. Landry himself, late on referendum night in 1995, checked into a Montreal hotel where a woman from the Philippines served him at the reception desk. He launched into a tirade, upbraiding her because she was an immigrant and the immigrants had voted No. She complained to the Human Rights Commission, and Mr. Landry, after early denials, finally apologized when he realized that the exchange had been caught on a security camera."
One is left with a pressing question, one which might set the whole zoo closure in an appropriate political light:

Do polar bears speak English or French?

*A note for non-Canadians. As part of Canada's thriving (or possibly "writhing") political culture, we accept that we have a sometime-official opposition party at the federal level, the Bloc Quebecois, who are trying to win a democratic election in order not to run the country, but to take Quebec out of Canada entirely. The party Bernard Landry led, the Parti Quebecois, is the provincial equivalent. They give us grief, and in best squeaky wheel tradition, we give them more money than we toss at the Newfoundland fishery, an equally iconic and disruptive institution.

Every so often the nationalist poisons must be purged. One way of doing this is by holding intense and bitter referendums that no-one actually wants to the seperatists to win, including the seperatists themselves who would then have to face the first philosophical problem of all new nations: If you squeak in the forest and nobody listens, where's the money coming from?

We hope that this helps put the zoo closure in proper context.