Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sevice This, Ontario

I don’t travel much, but I do like to visit the US occasionally.

“I’m going to get a handy dandy enhanced driver's license,” I thought enthusiastically when the government first floated the idea.

After a lot of phoning and e-mailing back and forth, the Service Ontario license bureau was willing to grant me an interview. I anxiously waited the two weeks it took for them to fit me in. They had nailed my appointment time down to the exact minute and I was in a state of high anxiety. If I missed it I might have to wait who knows how long for another chance. I hadn’t been to the States in over a year but because I couldn’t just cross the border willy nilly anymore, I felt a desperate need to see Buffalo again.

I arrived at my appointed time and I waited.

Now the upside of aging is that as your eyesight and hearing diminish, your chutz pah grows. After about half an hour of bench sitting I saw an empty wicket. I scooted into it before the person whose name was called could reach it. I eyed the old lady whose place I had usurped. I figured I could take her down if I had to, so I quickly explained my predicament to the woman behind the counter.

According to her, they had called my name at the appointed time but when I didn’t appear they had simply moved on, but now that I had arrived, they would try to fit me in.

Right. So kind. Get a bullhorn.

I went back to my seat, avoiding the old lady, and waited some more.

Eventually I was indeed serviced and it cost me forty some odd dollars.

I was serviced again last week when I found out my brand new enhanced license had to be renewed on my birthday. Same rigmarole about appointments. This time it cost me seventy-five dollars.


Take my advice, folks, if you have a burning desire to see Buffalo – get a passport.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Terrible Death

The death of the Olympic athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, was a terrible event.

I was disturbed by the assessment of one Olympic observer – a Canadian, I believe. He said, “Well, these guys are warriors!” The implication being that the possibility of death is something that the athletes accept and we shouldn’t mourn too much.

His words and the fact that young Mr. Kumatritashvili’s death was actually televised chilled me and sent me back a few decades.

The controversial film director, Peter Watkins, directed and wrote ‘Gladiators’ way back in the late sixties. I saw it in the early seventies when it made the rounds of the university campuses.

“Gladiators” was unsettling. The timeframe was the near future. Humankind had somehow realized after the development of the nuclear bomb that war between nations would mean the end of the human race. But what do do with all that aggression? Well, in order to quell our innate bloodlust, each nation agreed to send a team of soldiers to some remote site to compete in what was called ‘The Peace Games’.

Now it has been a long time, but if I remember correctly, the games were fought to the death and they were televised world wide. People got to sit in their own homes or local bars to cheer and watch their nation’s team kill or be killed.

Sound familiar? Feeling queasy?

Let’s not brush Nodar Kumaritashvili's death off. He wasn’t a warrior and his death should have been private. CBC had no business broadcasting the scene. As far as I can see he was a boy from a particularly poor part of the globe who had earned the chance of a lifetime – to come to our beautiful country and compete in the Olympic Games. Olympic Games, not war games.

We need to mourn. For him and for us.