Category Archives: Nova Scotia

Spring Bouquet for Transit Driver

Yeah, yeah, yeah…it’s Saturday night and I’m going to take advantage of the fact that most people are out on the town, doing important stuff like smooching with their sweeties and I AM NOT! Sigh. Maybe it’s something in the spring air or the effects of drinking the HRM tap water, but I feel a burning desire to give one (I SAID ONE) Metro Transit bus driver a pat on the back, tip of my jaunty beret, nod of approval, and spring bouquet all rolled into one. Given the intense satisfaction I normally derive when I have the opportunity (and there are plenty of them) to blast Transit drivers (see earlier blogs), I feel oddly conflicted and confused about this new-found bus driver appreciation…but here goes; On Friday, I was riding the #14 bus, bound for the UU church on Inglis to rehearse a ‘green opera’ which I am writing and co-directing (don’t ask. I’ll tell you about it sometime). The driver was a little behind schedule, not unusual for a Metro Transit bus. It was past peak hours minutes (This IS Halifaxl) so the bus was not the packed sardine it can it can some times. I lulled into my typical bus stupour but remained minimally alert, which allowed my brain to count the turns that the bus was making (to figure out where to get off…driver had not asked me, and I thought he had sounded a tad frazzled and would probably forget to tell me anyway). It turns out that I need not have bothered. I also did not need a compass or GPS to realize that the collective, “Hey!” from passengers (Oh those eloquent St. Mary’s students!) meant that we had blown by Robie street without making the #14 route’s right hand turn off of South Street. The driver realized what had happened quickly enough (maybe it was the three panicky students who swarmed the guy within 2.749 seconds of realizing that the bus was off route). I listened to the following exchange between the driver and students ( they had quickly lurched forward to stand next to the driver, I-pods temporarily disconnected from their heads to allow their ears access to their cell phones;
Driver: “Sorry, I’m used to working the #41 route…it’s Friday….I’m so sorry.” (#41 goes right up South)
Student A: “Is this the #14 or not?”
Driver: “Sorry, I apologize…it’s Friday”.
Student B: “Are we going anywhere near St. Mary’s? I’m supposed to meet someone in…3 minutes” .
Driver: (sounding very tired) “I don’t know where to turn around”
Student C: “Are we going to go back to Robie Street or not?”
Old geek sitting across from me: “What the hell is going on?!!”
Driver: (to the driver of a passing bus he had waved over) “I have no idea what to do. Where can I turn around? What would you do? I’m ten minutes behind schedule as it is.”
Other Driver: “Just get back anywhere on the route. Happens to me all the time”.
Driver: “I don’t want to leave anyone behind on Robie or Inglis which is what’s going to happen if I blow off the route”.
Other Driver: “Do whatever you feel like” (he then left, helpful soul that he was)
Student A: “Is this the #14?”
Student B: “I’m getting off right now!” (at which point he leaped off the bus as though his pants were on fire)
Student C: “Is we still in Halifax? I’m not from here…”
Student A: “Is this the #14?”
Driver: “Everybody sit down please. I apologize…it’s Friday” (he then drove off as though his HIS pants were on fire).
We embarked on the most unusual of bus trips. We headed east, then maybe south and west…north even? I had no clue where I was, but I did not seem to mind (how unusual for me…hence my feeling of confusion). People cursed and grumbled and sighed and tisked all up and down the bus.
Me: “Can someone please tell me where we are?” (The driver was still busy driving like a man possessed).
Student C: “I don’t know where I am either”.
Old geek across from me: ” The son of a. b..ch is going back to Robie Street to pick up his route where he left off!”
Upon hearing this news, I felt an unexpected appreciation for this driver (who was still apologizing profusely as anyone got off his bus). When we finally reached my stop, (some 20 minutes off schedule by now and way too late for rehearsal),
I said to him: “Don’t worry, stuff like this happens all the time to me too….it’s Friday!”

Suspicious Minds

You know that the world’s going to Hades in a hand basket when a sad story, such as the one broadcast all over mainstream media today, leaves people feeling so mixed up. Or is it just me? A woman in Nova Scotia drowned a couple of kittens last summer and got fined $5.00 for it in court today. Yeah, yeah…this initial ‘teaser’ lead bit on the radio leaves you thinking…”You crazy, sadistic b..tch! They should drown YOU”. Then, you hear the sad flip-side of the story; she fed a stray cat, fed it some more (The Cat Came Back is the song that comes to mind- Harry S. Miller 1893), and bing, bang…she’s got one cat+2 kittens… She’s poor, can’t get help from her town’s officials, and decides to euthanize the kitties in a bucket. Groan. Of course, Suspicious Minds (written by Memphis songwriter, Mark James and the last #1 hit for Elvis Presley in 1969- his last) like mine ask, ‘What cat has only two kittens’!? Maybe she lied about THAT too…and actually drowned a litter of 14. Not that it matters much, they’re all dead, regardless. But NOW, the SPCA is crying foul. They want “BIG FINES AND JAIL TIME”! said their head mouthpiece with emotion. My question? Where were you guys when this nutty, albeit well intentioned stray-cat-feeding woman was busy phoning around, trying to find someone to off the felines? Sure, “dangerous precedents are being set”, yada, yada, but NOW you’re worried that everyone is going to think it’s OK to euthanize Fluffo ’cause it’ll only cost five bucks instead of the usual $179.00 at the vet? Sigh. Then, the legal beagle for this woman (gotta be legal aid lawyer) said a bunch of really stupid things (he compared his client’s action against that of the person “who hanged that dog in Point Pleasant Park” …I can do without hearing that sort of thing). It did not endear me to the situation or to this woman…still…she’s poor…she loves the animals…a regular Doctor Doolittle ….who simply done too much. “We’re caught in a trap….”

Hiatus

I have written this blog (and 236 others, two of which were deleted…why did  I do that?!) for just under one year. Some 20,500 people have dropped in to date. I am currently involved in a writing project (very interesting stuff which I’m sure you will all want to pay big bucks for…or not). That’s the good news. The bad news, for some, is that I am taking a temporary break from blogging. Others may see this as cause for celebration (the crass, reactionary types). Regardless, I am outta here for a time, but like MacArthur (or was it some other dude?)  said, “I shall return”. Thanks to all the regular readers, the web drifters, and especially to those who have taken the time to send comments (except perhaps, the demento types who really seem to have a loose grasp of reality and lack social decorum).

Opal, my long-suffering (that’s just an expression!) guide dog bids you adieu for now too. She says to tell you that she will update you personally on the progress I make with my writing  project (literary pimp, that she is). It just wouldn’t seem right to go on blog holiday without one more pop-culture reference all wrapped up into a piece of wise advice:  “Stay calm, be brave, and wait for the signs”- (from the Dead Dog Cafe gang on CBC Radio),

What if?……..

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What if,  when we awake tomorrow, to a new day and a New Year (and a boatload of snow in Nova Scotia), we also awake to…the complete absence of news items relaying the tragic traffic accidents and deaths which occurred after too many people got ‘happy’ with liquor in celebration tonight.  What if we never hear another announcement of soldiers dying in Afghanistan and elsewhere? What if the federal and provincial governments suddenly decided to support their poor, elderly, ill and disabled citizens with programs, services and benefits that would allow these people to lead dignified lives? What if a collective consciousness suddenly finds world leaders talking about “the Interconnected Web of All Existence” (knowingly and lovingly) and galvanizes them into immediate action to resolve issues that threaten our planet, like global warming? What if individuals across the globe are hit by uncontrollable urges to be honest, kind, generous, patient, and loving to one another? Imagine that! …but, John Lennon already did, “and I’m not the only one”, he claimed.  So, what if we just give peace a chance?…oh wait, John Lennon already sang to us about that too. (By the way, the ‘B’ side song on the single,  “Imagine” was “It’s so Hard” in the USA and “Working Class Hero” in the UK). Happy New Year everyone.

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

It doesn’t take much to excite me. My compadre , Troy (a blind guy) made the mother of all discoveries this week, after much finagling and phoning to the Yellow Pages folks in search of a free, searchable,  information phone service for the Yellow Pages. He found a wonderful, little known tool and shared it with me. Now, we are sharing it with EVERYONE.  This is free!!! What makes it particularly exciting, is that, now I can ‘browse’ the Yellow Pages, just like the sighted folk. It’s accessed through a toll free number here in Nova Scotia. You call the number, (you can opt for a short tutorial), and say, for example, “Halifax, Nova Scotia”. Then say, “pizza”, if you are hankering for a pie. The ‘automated attendant’ or voice menu will ask you if you want, “Pizza Restaurant, delivery, or any pizzeria”. I chose “delivery”. Then, the clever interactive voice offered me 10 choices.  I didn’t really want a pizza, but hey, if I had… Then, I tried “photographers”, “shoes”,  “plumbers”, “banks” and more.  When searching  for shoe store options, I was asked if I wanted to “search by neighbourhood, near a landmark, near an intersection or city wide “….and so on.  I listened to  a list, and could choose to “connect, get the address, or get the number”. 

This is a minor miracle for me and other blind people who spend many an hour fritzzing around with the regular 411 service in search of numbers for stores or businesses. The only business or store umbers we can get from 411, are ones WHICH WE KNOW THE NAME AND LOCATION OF!!! So, for Nova Scotians, the toll free number is: 1-877-310-9356. Blind people! Program it onto your speed dial!! Let your fingers do the walking.  For  most of the rest of Canada, the number is even simpler: 310-0411. This works for land lines or mobile phones. The web site, is there too, of course for the computer geeks (www.yellowpages.ca). My only caution is, to speak clearly, ’cause sometimes the ‘automated attendant’ says, “I don’t  understand you”…story of my life.

Halifax Explosion’s Blinded Victims Remembered

Yesterday, I received a blog comment from a fellow named, George. It came for moderation and was directed off the ‘about Helen McFadyen’ page. George asked why I had not mentioned the significance of the day, particularly in light of the many victims who were killed, disabled, blinded…and my oft-spun blogs on the subject of blindness , “but being a PFA (Person From Away) it might not be familiar” to me….To tell you the truth, I did not ‘twig’ right away. I thought he was referring to the tragic news item from Afghanistan,  (100th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan) and that he was in some sort of reminiscing mode about Veterans. I’ve been woefully overworked, and writing ‘real’ articles and documents like a woman possessed (actually I’m a woman possessed by deadlines). so much so, that I had a restless night (that and my killer joint pain from this lovely, damp weather). But then, it struck me. I was mentally calculating dates (Christmas and all the billions of pot lucks and other events that require attendance) when I  decided to get up and check my Braille calendar. Thank you for the wake-up call, George. Of course, I am very familiar with this significant piece of Canadian/Nova Scotian/Haligonian history. I obviously missed the radio news reporting on local ceremonies.

Yesterday’s date was December 6th.  91 years ago (1917) on this date,  at approximately 9 am, the city of Halifax experienced the biggest man made explosion the world had ever seen. It came to be known as the Halifax Explosion. Before the sun went down that day, more than 1000 people would die, 1000 more would die later, and 9000 would be severely injured or maimed. Any person (including PFA’s) who lives in Halifax for a little while, will learn about this event. It is marked by solemn ceremony every year, and the local media always attempts to cover it in a big way. What happened? Canada was preparing for war (the Big One). The Halifax Harbour was busy. A Belgian relief ship (Imo) was preparing to clear the Bedford Basin, bound for Europe and the war. As it was going through the Narrows, the French munitions ship, Mont Blanc and the tug boat, Stella Maris which was towing two barges, all converged. A flurry of whistles followed, as the ships tried to figure which was passing to which side. The result, was a collision between the Mont Blanc and the Imo. The Mont Blanc was loaded with TNT,  benzol fuel and picric acid. The immediate result of the collision was smoke and fire. The Mont Blanc drifted towards the shoreline as it burned and smoked.  This scene drew curious people to their home and workplace windows to watch.  The CBC sums up best what followed; …”The steel hull burst sky high, falling in a blizzard of red-hot twisted projectiles on Dartmouth and Halifax.” The aftermath also included a tsunami-like wash of water (as high as 18 meters) over the survivors.

Result of Halifax Explosion:

  • In the Richmond area,  the destruction was so total that people could not recognize where their homes had been.
  • In the North end, entire streets were in flames as wood stoves, lamps and furnaces tipped over.
  • Firefighters came within hours from Moncton, Springhill, Amherst and Kentville, but their equipment (hoses) would not fit with differently-sized Halifax hydrants.
  • By noon hour the  officials  had gathered at city Hall, and The Halifax Relief Committee was put together in 45 minutes to begin to deal with issues of shelter, transportation, finance, food. Later that day,  more committees formed; medical relief, mortuary, fuel and Dartmouth Relief committees.
  • Medical aid began to arrive to support local hospitals. Aid stations sprang up. Massachusetts was a significant contributor of assistance (Halifax continues to send a huge Christmas tree to Boston every year as a symbolic thank you). Emergency triage treatment included amputations,  lacerations, eye removal, and life-saving surgeries.
  • Eye injuries and blindness were experienced by many Halifax Explosion survivors. One reason for this, is the tons of glass shards that exploded out of windows where people watched as the Mont Blanc drifted. Doctor G. H. Cox, an ophthalmologist arrived from New Glasgow to perform 12 hours of non stop eye surgeries.  The explosion caused 600 people to suffer eye injuries and 38 were totally and permanently blinded.
  • Many of the 1500 who died that day, died as buildings collapsed and burned around them.
  • 12,000 buildings were severely damaged. 1630 were completely destroyed. 6000 people were homeless.

 

Thank you for reminding me, George.

Funky Dog Will Go To Metro Dog Wash

When it comes to hygiene and grooming, the relationship between a dog and its human caregiver is not unlike that of child and mother. Mums (and dads) take great interest in the body odour of their kids. Kids are popped into tubs as funkiness sets in. Parents absently spit onto tissues and clean off gooey messes on the fly. They pick at, clean off, wipe down,  wash and rinse the various creepy, smelly  substances that append themselves to their loving tots. They change diapers or examine their kid’s poop in the toilet bowl, not with revulsion, but with the inquiring mind of a scientist. Ditto the dog owner with their pooch.

Recently,  someone at church casually mentioned that Opal “has a little bit of a smell”.  I dismissed it with. “She smells like a dog”.  I went home and ruminated on this comment. I love Opal’s smell, but I’m her mum. That pretty much makes me incapable of objectivity.  It wasn’t always like that. The very first time I ‘picked up’ after Opal at CGDB,  I nearly hurled. The first time I experienced her distinct ‘wet dog’ odor after we had been out in the rain at the training centre,   I really began to wonder how I would survive life with a dog when we got home to Nova Scotia where it rains A LOT.  I once worried about my clothes having dog hair or goober (saliva) on them. Now, I seem oblivious to any of it. On the contrary, like any mum, I  inhale her smell and it makes me smile.  However, I am not impervious to rational public  opinion.  I  called up my sweetie immediately after the church lady’s comment and demanded the truth. “Does Opal smell funky?”, I asked.    LA.  spoke  to me as cautiously as a hostage negotiator would.   “Umm, well darling, she does have a little stronger smell than usual these days”.   I  was shocked…and worried.  It’s November. I hadn’t anticipated a bath ’till spring.

The happy news is that the forecast  high for tomorrow is 14 C. With a lot of planning, I have arranged for a ride home from Metro Dog Wash, so that Opal (who is terrified of dryers), can get home without getting a chill after her bath. Metro Dog Wash is the best little business in town. You take your pooch to their storefront location on Cunard street, and  for a modest fee, use one of their numerous waist-level sinks (dog walks up a couple of steps) to wash your own dog.  If you have an old, arthritic dog, you can use the walk-in tub at floor level. There is a device to tether the dog so that there is no Great Escape from the sink. You use their shampoos and conditioners.  There is an endless supply of  temperature-controlled water coming from the hand-held hoses and sprayers. They provide rubber aprons for the washers, and Zoom Grooms to use on the washees. Then, when your fido is all clean and rinsed, you can use as many towels as you want to dry him off. There are dryers for dogs who are braver than Opal.  You leave with a clean dog, minus the mess you would have at home. Metro Dog Wash offers grooming services and sells lots of dog gear too. Best of all, they offer a 50% discount off of their bathing fee for service dogs. I highly recommend it.  (Visit via link on blogroll) If all goes according to plan, Opal will smell lovely to me AND my church friends next Sunday.