Another hole in the ground

The Canadian Government needs to start investing more money in higher quality protective headgear because the moon isn’t doing its job anymore.

The moon is supposed to attract most asteroids to it. Of course, some will get through because the moon isn’t always on our side of the planet. But still, craters can be found everywhere in St. John’s, N.L. unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Ontario and Alberta.

“It’s a yearly battle here,” said Barb Sweet, a St. John’s woman I lived with during my internship at the Telegram. “The city sometimes just can’t keep up with all the repairs.”

The strangest part is you never even hear the asteroid hit and they show up out of nowhere on the roads after winter is over. Stranger still, the asteroids seem to be attracted to Newfoundland like invading aliens to the United States.

It’s a perpetual wasteland on the St. John’s roads. Craters left behind from the year before are joined with new ones each winter. People risk the lives of their cars each day and night.

No one’s been hit, thankfully, but it’s a gamble when stepping through the pool, which forms in the craters after a rainy day. It’s a gamble because you don’t know how deep the hole goes.

“It can be really bad at night. You never see the pothole coming,” said Steve, a cab driver that requested I not use his name.

Cars lose bumpers, tires need replacing and tire alignment gets so out of whack some people could have steering wheels turned permanently to the right just to drive in a straight line.

I say these are asteroids causing the damage. But Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans swear their just potholes. I think it’s a conspiracy but I’ll tell their story.

It’s Canada’s native pothole we’ll talk about now. Not asteroids. Weather is a pretty intense thing here but let’s be honest, “how about that weather” never works as an opening line.

 

According to Deputy City Manager, Public Works Paul Mackey, there is well over 2,300 potholes on the city streets this year.

St. John’s deals with crazy winters. I’m not talking 40 below on the celsius meter. I’m talking about minus 20 one day and zero degrees the next. All this flip-flopping makes for a really bad time for the roads.

Luckily enough for residents that’ll be in the city longer than me, as soon as the weather gets a bit brighter and the snow and wet clears up, the potholes will go away for another year.

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Nothing but net

The white and grey winged beasts were back again today. The horrid creatures are everywhere across Canada – from the East Coast to the West Coast, still not sure if they’re in the territories but I’ll bet they are.

Like clockwork, Wednesday comes around and the winged beasts’ ear-splitting screeches fill the skies if you aren’t careful and take precautions.

All the people of St. John’s are trying to do is remove their accumulated waste from the week for curbside pickup but the beasts take full advantage and force the clean up on the people that allowed them their fine breakfast.

Seagulls they call them, which isn’t much different from what I’ve known them as. And from what I’ve learned, the good news is they’re usually the only real issue when it comes to garbage. That may be because the small land mammals have a hard time on the steep slops and the aquatic mammals can’t climb the slopes but don’t quote me on that.

“I don’t see skunks or raccoons usually,” said Craig Sanders, a resident in St. John’s, N.L. “We usually just deal with seagulls when it comes to roadside garbage.”

The proud people of Newfoundland and Labrador have found their solution.

Slopes don’t do so well for bins. If the wind doesn’t send the bin or its lid sailing, the garbage man leaving the bin on its side will send the bin to the bottom of the hill instead. But if you’re not careful you’re out at the end of the day cleaning up the warzone the gulls left behind because it’s not like the garbage pickup crew are paid to do it.

So, the Newfoundland solution to this steep dilemma includes anything from a blanket to the ingenious weighted net.

“Garbage must be placed in a bin or covered with an approved net or blanket from April 1 to November 30. All garbage must be completely covered,” is written on the Curb It St. John’s recycling and garbage pickup website.

The good news is the gulls seem to give the people a break during the cold winter months.

It’s a mystery how the net keeps the gulls away. The nets are quite holey; holey enough for a gull to fit it’s head in and snack.

But this is a mystery I’m happy for because at least it means no cleanup. Unfortunately, the nets aren’t cheap, some going for a little over $20. But it’s a small price to pay to avoid cleanup. Just be sure to keep an eye out. The gulls might be getting smarter because some nets disappear. It’s either that or people don’t want to pay for one and a net precariously resting on the sidewalk can be an easy “gift.”

From A to B

There are a lot of ways for a person to get from one place to another. Walking, running, biking, driving, flying, swimming, and so on.

For a guy living in Ottawa, my trip to Newfoundland and Labrador opened my eyes to a new way to travel. Calling the cab.

Luckily, the local newspaper I have been interning with pays for the drives as long as it’s work related, but without that I probably would have taken the buses and missed out on this difference entirely. Buses have their own difference, but none that blow me away so much as the St. John’s, N.L. cab drivers.

In Ottawa, I cabbed plenty of times either to the bars or clubs, the casino, home or groceries. I cabbed all times of the day when buses weren’t an option. And the experiences were less than enjoyable.

Cabbies in Ottawa almost always have a Bluetooth hooked up and in their ear, and a majority of them are talking to someone nowhere near the cab in a language I haven’t put the time in to learn so I can’t really learn anything about the driver by listening. Sure, they’ll say a few words if you talk with them, but I’ve only had experience a select few that would actually hold a conversation with their passenger.

My first thought was, “is it me?” Because that’s just how I think.

Then I flew to St. John’s, N.L. and called my first cab.

“How ya doin’?” asked the cabby. When I asked him if I could use his name for my blog he said he’d rather not, so cabby will be his name.

Already I’m surprised, here’s a guy that pulls up and the moment I open the door he’s starting a conversation.

I tell him I’m doing good and give him the address I want him to take me to.

“Sure thing. You’re not from around here, are you?” he asked.

So, of course I’m thinking, OK, I got a talkative cabby. We spent the rest of the $20 cab drive talking about where I’m from, what I’m doing here and what I plan on doing, and talking about him and his life story.

But as I took more cabs, I found more cabbies liking a conversation.

And the best part, the drivers aren’t crazy. In Ottawa, my first couple times in the cab had me with my hand clutching the suicide bar over my head in the backseat.

This by no way is me saying Newfounlanders are good drivers. They are, they’re just crazy on the road in their own way. The general outlook on life is, ‘no rush’. And that says it all.

“You meet some interesting people on this job,” said the cabby.

And he was right. On both sides. I’ve met a cabby that told me he spent 30 years as a journalist. There have been a bunch of retired old guys just looking for something to keep them busy and have extra money in their pocket. And then there was the drivers who are sick of their job and want something new. They all have stories. Some even have stories about people they’ve driven.

“The trick,” another cabby told me, “is to stay away from the night shift around George Street. It’s good pay but you don’t always have a good time.”

I learned so much about where I should go while in Newfoundland, things I should see, stuff I should do. I knew only my brother while I’ve been in Newfoundland and he’s a student so he knows mostly things involving George Street. So the cabbies are the ones who saved me from six weeks of boredom in my internship with the Telegram.

I’m not sure what cab drivers are like in other provinces, but I feel like trying them out even if I don’t have to because here in Newfoundland it’s all so different from Ottawa. Whether the change is because of the strong patriotism Newfoundlanders have for their province or because the province is separated from Ontario by land and Ocean, the change is good.

 

 

Welcome to your job

Starting at my internship at the Telegram on my first day, I had no idea what to expect. Here I am, in a new province, a new environment, around new people.

Would the office be serious or strict? How much work would I get? Will I be successful? Will the people in the office even like me? Will I like them? Will I like this job?

It’s safe to say I was stressed.

“Are you having fun, Erich?” asked my editor, Steve Bartlett.

Normally, I’d say yes to this question out of some sense I have in thinking it’d be rude to say otherwise. But it wasn’t so easy to say that and that’s a good thing.

The office was great. Get your work done and have fun doing it. The office was full of laughs. Bartlett always joked around and people were friendly and helpful.

I started feeling myself falling into the role of a proper journalist and seeing my name in the paper was plenty exciting. It has all been thanks to the people in the office.

The only stress any of these journalists appeared to deal with involved getting their stories in on time and being able to contact a source. Though I’m certain a few of them still had a mickey or flask hiding in their desk for emergencies.

This has been my first taste of a real job. A job you work as an adult. This isn’t the corner store or a call center. The thing is, the only jobs I worked back in Ottawa were the student jobs so to say I see a difference would be wrong. I have nothing but those student jobs to measure by.

“Open heart surgery, that’s stressful,” said Bartlett. “We just write about the stressful situations, there shouldn’t be stress her. Have fun.”

If the people and the job here is anything like what’ll I’ll be working with in Ottawa or elsewhere, I’m more than happy. And if not, I guess that’s just another reason why Newfoundland is awesome.