Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pedestrian/Car Accidents-A love story (not really, mostly a rant)

I am really sick of hearing about pedestrians being hit by cars.

What, in the name of God, is wrong with people?

I have seen many drivers blow through crosswalks with the lights flashing and other vehicles stopped. I realize that drivers can be assholes. I had one give me the finger, while I was in a marked crosswalk and everyone else had stopped. I won’t repeat what he yelled at me.

Every day I see people drive through crosswalks because the person hasn’t reached their lane yet, even though everyone else has stopped. Sometimes they are texting, sometimes they just don’t feel like stopping, or like they should have to.

Drivers need to own up and take responsibility. Do you want someone else’s life on your hands?

That being said, I am also a driver. I regularly slam on my brakes for people that step out in front me without even looking. They walk into crosswalks, or just into any random part of the street, while talking on, or looking at, their phones. Their hoods are up. They are chatting with their friends. They walk out in front of a parked vehicle and expect people to see them and to stop on a dime.

Don’t get me started on those who mosey across the street like they are on a Sunday stroll.

My favorite, and I promise I will swear at you loudly and slam on my horn when you do this, is the people who walk against the lights, expecting me to see them and stop while I have the right of way.This actually happens quite regularly downtown. 

I feel that when I slam on my horn and swear, thus scaring the life out of you, I am actually saving your life, because you might think twice about your moronic behavior next time.

Don’t get me wrong, drivers need to take responsibility. They need to take their time, pay attention and drive defensively.

No, I don’t take blame away from the drivers.

But here is where you lose me.

Why would you ever, ever step out into the street without looking and making sure there is nothing coming? Do we not teach this in elementary school? Is “look both ways before you cross the street” a lost art? A confusing proposition?

I have a theory that those who regularly drive are more likely to be responsible pedestrians, because they know certain things about cars. That cars have blind spots. That cars can’t stop on a dime (especially in wet weather). That drivers can’t see through other cars or traffic.

Drivers also can’t read your mind.  

I never ever cross the street, anywhere, without making eye contact with every driver that I need to stop for me to cross. I also wait until they slow down.


Because it does not matter whether drivers legally have to stop. It does not matter who has the right of way. It does not matter if I am in a crosswalk. They are in a car. I am a person. The car will always win.

Do you want to be right, or do you want to be alive?

BOTH drivers and pedestrians need to start taking responsibility and care on the roads REGARDLESS of who has the right of way.There will always be human error but there is no reason for the high number of pedestrian/car accidents that Halifax has been experiencing as of late. 

This city needs to start ticketing both pedestrians and drivers when accidents occur. Telling a driver they have no fault because a pedestrian walked against a light is not enough. The pedestrian should be charged, for endangering the driver’s life and their own.

Do not assume drivers see you and that they will stop.

Because you know what happens when you assume.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The lost art of manners

This past Friday, while making the trip home from Truro, I came upon a fatal accident that had just happened. The highway was immediately closed. They eventually re-routed us, and due to the addition of rush hour traffic, we ended up in a traffic jam like none I have ever seen.

I waited in four kilometers of traffic for over an hour, only to be turned around and wait in four more. This was just to get to an exit where the old highway was backed up from Enfield to Halifax. It was a nightmare and it took me over four and half hours to get home.

But I was patient, as were many around me. I wasn’t going to complain because, universe willing, I was at least going to get home, while two others were not.

I cried three times on that drive home. Partially from exhaustion, and partially because I felt for these two people and their families that I didn’t even know. 

But the polite, respectful behavior, and even a few smiles, from the people around me made the drive more bearable. Not so much once I got back to the city.

When I finally did make it back to the city I was drained. Emotionally and physically.

But I needed a new cell phone. Mine was dead to the world and I have no home phone. I knew it was Black Friday, I knew the mall would be insane. But I decided to brave it. Even though I hate holiday time at the mall because people can be assholes. It seems to come out more during the “season of giving”.

I braced myself when I was cut off in the parking lot and someone took the spot I was headed for. I held it together when twice a door was shut in my face instead of held for me when I was two steps behind. I responded with only a “you’re welcome” when the people that I held the door open for barged through without a “thank you”.

I stood in line for 35 minutes to talk to someone. That’s fine. I expected this. It’s Black Friday. I watched the two girls working get run off their feet. I watched various people push their way to the counter and demand that they get served without waiting in line. I listened to 35 minutes of complaining, bitching and moaning from the line behind me. I had several people push through the line without an “excuse me”.

Here is a hint to those who like to loudly complain: I did not want to be waiting in line either. I had a long day. I would have preferred to have been anywhere else. Listening to you complain, does not make the wait any easier. For you, or anyone around you.  If you do not want to wait, avoid the mall from perhaps October to February. Especially on Black Friday. The people working are not your bitches. They are people, trying to do the best they can with what they have.

Do us all a favor and shop online.

But I digress. Sort of.

When it was my turn, I gave the girl behind the counter a big smile and made a joke about the cranky people behind me. She looked at me warily and finally laughed when she realized I was actually making a joke. She looked beaten down.

When everything was said and done, she ended up upgrading some of my services without my asking. Simply because I wasn’t an asshole. I have worked in customer service and I know how much a smile or a kind word can mean from someone on a busy day.

It ended up being a decent experience because I chose to be friendly and polite. I never once lost my smile, even to the rudest people.

I will not get dragged to the bitter dark side. 

So I propose that during this holiday season, and maybe even all year round (gasp), we re-investigate the art of manners. The art of kindness. The art of patience. Because all three are tied together. The world does not revolve around any of us as individuals, none of us is more important than the other. Your actions affect countless others around you. It’s time we remembered this and became aware of it again.

Hold the door. Say “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you”. Smile at the cranky girl or guy at the cash register because maybe they have had a bad day. Maybe they are on the defensive for a reason. If someone is rude, smile and be polite back. If you find you have a long wait, sing a song, plan your grocery list. Or even take a few deep breaths and just be.

Sometimes it just nice to smile at a stranger for no reason. Maybe that’s all they needed that day.

The funny thing is, the kinder you are, the better it will make your day, not just someone else’s.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lest we forget

I wanted to write a blog post about Remembrance Day but I struggled. What can you say that hasn't already been said?

On November 11th, most of us are respectful.

I watched a group of construction workers stop work and bow their heads on the bridge at 11 am today. I am not going to lie, it was one of those moments that you see out of the blue, that touches you.

We wear poppies and we make donations. My street was packed today as hundreds attended a ceremony to honour our vets.

Similar scenes took place around the province, and the country.

But what about the rest of the year? Do we honour our vets, and their sacrifices, when we decide to not bother heading to the polls on Election Day? Or when we watch our oceans slowly die? What about when we watch children go to bed cold or hungry?

Leslie Nielson does a Remembrance Day piece that is played on the radio each year (that I can't find due to copyright issues) and there is a line that always resonates with me and it goes something like this...

'Why did you give up so easily the things that I was willing to die to protect?'

Every day we should be celebrating the freedoms that we have. We should be involved  enough in our communities and our political processes to ensure our government doesn't bend those freedoms. Or remove them completely in the name of keeping us safe or knowing what we need better than we do. We should be making decisions that protect this beautiful country, and everyone in it. Because, despite its issues, we are graced to be living here.

More recently in Canada we have forgotten something even more important than appreciation of what we have, we have forgotten to look after the very people who gave us these gifts. Our veterans themselves. They suffer mental and physical scars that most of us are lucky enough to never have to understand. And there is no help.

They are still fighting. Except now its for the protection and the care that they deserve for protecting and caring for us.

I wanted to address this issue myself, especially in the wake of some politicians fighting to keep their own pensions and benefits despite breaking legal and moral laws. But I thought of something I saw this past week and decided to defer to Rick Mercer, who addresses this issue better (and let's be honest, in fewer words...) than I ever could.

So I want to share Ricks Rant from November 5th, 2013 courtesy of 'The Rick Mercer Report'. I think it's important to hear.

I hope it serves to remind all of us, myself included, to remember the gifts we've been given and the men and women who made the sacrifices to give them to us.

Every day and in everything we do. Not just once a year.

Ricks Rant-Veterans' Pensions

Monday, October 28, 2013

What if it was me?

Photo courtesy of
On Wednesday of last week, Harley Lawrence, a 62 year old homeless man, died in a suspicious fire in a bus shelter in Berwick.

This story has haunted me for several days now and my heart goes out to the families and community that knew and loved him. It’s been heartening to see the outpouring of love and support.

I don’t know what has struck me the most about this story; the sadness at such a lonely and unfortunate end to a life; the cruelty of it possibly being deliberate; or maybe it is the part of me that is reminded that there are homeless men, women, teenagers, children and veterans across our province that suffer every single day.

I hand out change on street corners or intersections. I’ve bought coffees and sandwiches. But, at the end of the day, I don’t do much to change it or to help in any big way. It’s easy to forget. Because it’s not me.

But what if it was me? What keeps me from a life on the streets?

It is said an enormous percentage of Canadians are only two pay checks away from being homeless.

I have lived much of my adult life only one or two pay checks away from not being able to make ends meet. I have struggled from time to time myself to pay a heat or power bill or buy groceries but I have always managed.

I am lucky to have family and friends who would never allow me to end up on the streets. (That’s not to say Lawrence didn’t. From all accounts he had family that cared for him very much and I can’t pretend to know the details of that.)

But not everyone has people who care.

I have no issues with addiction, I have a decent education that will continue to increase my pay as I get experience.  

I don’t think I have any mental health problems. At least the voices in my head tell that me that I don’t…

In short, I am not homeless because I have been lucky.

I realize there is prejudice and misunderstanding that exists around the issue of homelessness. There is even more prejudice and misunderstanding around the abuse, addiction and mental health and financial issues that can lead to homelessness in the first place.

It is likely this prejudice, mixed with pure cruelty, which led to Lawrence’s death being suspicious.

Imagine, believing that someone is less than you because they are down on their luck.
It can all be hard to understand from the outside looking in.

But if you are unable to understand abuse, addiction, or mental health issues than you should count yourself lucky.

If you are unable to understand what its like to lose everything and find yourself on the streets with no one to turn to, with people feeling it’s OK to hurt or harass you or to simply avoid eye contact, than you should be grateful.

Because all that means is that you have yet to find yourself in their shoes.

With fall quickly turning into winter, there will be men, women and children who will not have a hot meal, a warm coat or a bed to sleep in. You can help make one day, or two or three, a little more bearable.

Many of our homeless are veterans, so celebrate Remembrance Day by helping out at a shelter.

Celebrate the season of giving by donating old coats, boots or mittens. Shelters are also in need of bedding, toiletries, and other items.

There are a million ways to help.

To me the best way to remember Harley Lawrence is to help others in need. Someday it could be you.

If you don't know where to start, here are a couple of links for you to check out.

Can’t donate? Send some warm words. They are free and will be passed along to those in the shelter. You might make someone’s day.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What the frack? (Otherwise titled, longest blog post ever)

Unless you have been under a rock, it has been hard to miss the insanity that unfolded in New Brunswick this week between RCMP and protestors of an American company looking for natural gas in Elsipognog, New Brunswick.

Rather than rant, although you may find a touch of sarcasm here and there, I will give a quick and dirty so people can make up their own minds. A Cliffs Notes of the fracking insanity if you will.

Fracking is the process used to extract natural gas from shale. A well is drilled thousands of feet down and then a cocktail of chemicals and sand is poured in to fracture the rock and allow the gas and oil to be removed.
Dangers of fracking include disruption to wildlife and their habitats, contamination of groundwater, methane pollution, air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals, blowouts due to gas explosion, waste disposal, large volume water use in water-deficient regions, fracking-induced earthquakes and infrastructure degradation.
Opposition to fracking isn’t new. Quebec has gone so far as to impose a moratorium on the practice, calling for more information and proof that it is being done safely before any more companies can drill. Because the current practice of hydro-fracking only became popular around 1999, less than 20 years ago, it is hard to tell the full extent of its damage on the environment.
In recent years, New Brunswick has begun to allow American companies to explore for gas. One of these companies is Southwestern Energy Co. based out of Houston (SWN resources). Reportedly, they have already faced lawsuits in the United States where communities have claimed that their drinking water was destroyed by chemicals and waste left by the company.
That means over 100 communities in New Brunswick are potentially looking at the same fate.
The provincial government can’t be blamed for having a bit of a hard on over the whole thing. In their minds they see the potential for a big economic boom. I see a province asking its people to take enormous risks with vague promises of reward.
New Brunswick has legislation allowing it to hold referendums on significant issues and there have reportedly been public calls for a vote over the fracking issue.
From what the media has been reporting over the last few years regarding this issue, despite his election promises of more public consultation and opinion, Premier David Alward has decided a vote is not needed. He feels he is protecting the safety of the province already. That is hard to believe. Research, policy and regulation can take years to build, so these companies can be in and out before the province even knows what the damage may be.
Meetings with protestors have been refused. Meetings to go to the U.S. to chat with oil and gas producers have not. 
Limited resources and time hold back the people who protest the fracking, facing a government who won’t hear them and big business with a wealth of power and resource.
David and Goliath.
What the protestors want, what the supporting MLA’s want, what the communities want, is a moratorium imposed until more information is collected. They also want to be part of the conversation and the decisions being made. There is likely more, but as an outsider looking in, I can't be their voice. 
I do know they want to be heard by the government that they elected. The one that promised they would finally be heard. This is not a lot to ask.
While protests have been going on for a while, one group, the one making the news, has taken up residence outside of SWN Resources since the summer. Much of the group has consisted of Mi’kmaq and Maliseet who fear for the environmental recriminations of fracking, but their movement has been supported by hundreds of other community members, MLA’s, human rights organizations and citizens from around the world.
They also claim to have rights to the land while the government claims it's crown land. I don’t pretend to know who is right here or to be knowledgable about that issue. 
This had been a peaceful protest up until yesterday when the RCMP showed up in the early morning to enforce an injunction allowing SWN Resources to go back to work.
They were there to support the rights of SWN, who was losing an estimated $60,000 a day, over the concerns of their own citizens who feel they are not being heard.
That quick and dirty brings us to yesterday's events. 
Ok I lied, here is where I rant a little.
Yesterday was a disgrace.
I understand the job of the RCMP is to be an unbiased third party who is asked to enforce the law and keep the peace. I understand that it would not be fair of me to point out the number of times the RCMP has been investigated for excessive use of force in these situations, so I won’t bring that up…ahem, and we will just focus on what happened here.
My opinion is that the RCMP showed up ready for war, not for keeping the peace.
They enforced media black outs which made it hard for reporters, or anyone other than RCMP, to document what happened.
There were snipers, dogs, and 300 to 700 armed officers in police carriers.  
Numerous reports state that the violence did not erupt until the crowd was sprayed with pepper spray and the RCMP got aggressive. According to some sources, one RCMP officer declared, “the Crown land belongs to the government, not fucking Natives.”
Unbiased third party indeed.
There was no previous violence to support the type of police presence that arrived. There were reports of two security guards exchanging words with the protestors and feeling threatened. That is it. 
Many believe they moved in not to enforce the injunction, but to avoid the October 18th planned day of action. 
Supporters were calling for people around the country to rally together and provide a flood of phone calls and letters to government in support of the protestors.
Letters and phone calls? Those violent protestors.
The events this week are hard to watch. I don’t agree with violence. It breaks my heart. I also believe that the RCMP encouraged, rather than discouraged it. But I have surprised myself this week by understanding the frustration, fear and anger that it stems from. We have become a very apathetic generation, hardened to the news. We react one day but, as government and big business know, we will quickly forget what angered us on the supper news the night before. When we do, they can do what they want, lining their pockets while we, and the generations after us, suffer for it.
Almost every major change in history has only developed after it exploded into violence. That is unfortunate.
It is also unfortunate that Alward allowed this situation to escalate to this point. He has had years to have these conversations, allow a vote, allow public consultation, to listen to HIS province’s concerns but rather than extinguishing these fires in advance and working to the best benefit of everyone, he has hidden behind his financial dreams for the future and an RCMP SWOT team.
What we have to remember is that this didn’t blow up because of a few days of being ignored, or a few months, its been a few years of the issue being skirted in New Brunswick.
I, for one, am thankful that there are still people out there standing up for my rights. 
Because I can be just as apathetic as the next person. 
Because it isn’t just their land or their communities or their water that will be affected, it is mine and yours as well. 
Violence is unfortunate, but until there is a government that is more willing to stand behind the concerns of its own people, before they stand behind an American corporation, this is what will continue to happen.
That’s my two cents.