Friends of the Richelieu. A river. A passion.

"Tout cedit pays est fort uny, remply de forests, vignes & noyers. Aucuns Chrestiens n'estoient encores parvenus jusques en cedit lieu, que nous, qui eusmes assez de peine à monter le riviere à la rame. " Samuel de Champlain

"All this region is very level and full of forests, vines and butternut trees. No Christian has ever visited this land and we had all the misery of the world trying to paddle the river upstream." Samuel de Champlain

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Kiss of Death

During the early 80s, thanks to a job agency, I had found a temporary job that I liked at an international company in downtown Montreal. For a couple of years, when the company needed extra staff at their dispatch center, they would give me a call for me to come in to work.

It was a challenging job where I would meet interesting people. I would answer phone calls from customers needing servicing on their computers and calls from technicians calling in to update their workload schedule. It was a paperless office. Everyting was done on computers.

Sometimes technicians would be called in to work at dispatch, but it was not considered a promotion, far from it. Most temporary dispatchers were women like me, but most of them were younger than I.

At some point, a technician was called in from his work on the road to work with us at dispatch. Of course, he already knew all of us, and made a big show of greeting us all when he came in to work in the morning. And he liked to walk around the room and kiss the ladies while saying good morning. Most of us were too embarassed to say anything at first, saying good morning back, but very soon I feigned being on the phone the moment I saw him come in and would brush him off while talking on the phone when came my turn to be kissed. I noticed some other female employees did not appreciate the special attention he gave them, and soon complained to me when we met in the bathroom.

And so I decided to go see our boss in his office, door closed. When I told him of the embarassing behavior, he assured me that he had not noticed anything, although that was hard to believe because his office had clear glass walls.

Soon after, H.R. called me up in his office and asked me to explain the behavior I found embarassing, and asked me to name the other employees who werer inconvenienced by that behavior.

I finished my employment time that year, and even though my ex-boss asked me to re-apply for the job the year after that, they never re-employed me, although the other younger employees were called back to work in dispatch. I was disappointed, but not surprised.

Monday, April 9, 2018

When Men Tell Women What To Wear

Back in the early-mid 80s, I was looking for a job. I had just worked 10 years for Bell Canada, and 3 1/2 years for IBM, both in downtown Montreal, both multicultural-bilingual workplaces.

A job agency had found me a temporary part-time job at a Quebec-based very well known company as a receptionnist-mail-clerk, again in downtown Montreal. A few employees there were from English speaking descent, most were bilingual, but a few were French-speaking only Quebecers, in all about 70 employees in a sky-rise office that would be my co-workers.

It was Fall, and I had a collection of tweed, wool and cord skirt and jacket ensembles to wear with tailored blouses, vests, matching wool kneesocks and leather penny loafers, a very British-European look for Autumn.

A few weeks after being told that they would keep me as a permanent employee, my immediate boss, the head Accountant, called me in his office early one morning. His own boss, a very English speaking Controller, was out of town on business, so I wondered what my own boss wanted.

After making me sit in his office and closing the door behing me, he explained that the way I dressed was not acceptable. I would have to buy some dresses and hose and high-heels, and had 2 weeks to do so or I would be fired.

I was so stunned, I could barely believe what he was saying. He made me repeat what he just said, and sent me back to my post. I had to assume he was serious.

Still in shock, I felt I had to talk about this with somebody, and the person I could most relate with and considered a friend was the President`s secretary (personal assistant), so when she came to pick up her mail, I asked her if I could talk to her some time during the day. Seeing how upset I was, she made me come to her desk during my coffee break.

At her desk, I told her what just happened, and was still in shock and I cried. She asked me if it was true that I had laughed at my boss. I said that I may have had a frozen smile on my face only because I could barely believe what he was saying. I told her that even if I wanted to, there was no way I had the money to spend on a whole new wardrobe in 2 weeks, and could not walk with high-heels, not being used to them. She told me not to worry and to go back at my desk.

When the Controller came back, he came to see me and told me not to mind what my boss had told me a few days earlier and assured me that I told the right person about it.

Soon, my boss was transferred to a plant in Ontario, where I was told the worst of working conditions of our company were to be found there. I could hardly see my boss there as he could barely say hello in English even if he wanted to.

A few years later, somebody quietly told me that my ex-boss who did not like my knee-socks and flat-heeled shoes had commited suicide. I did not have it in my heart to rejoice at the news.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Beams: What They Mean To Me

I bought the house already tattered and tired. I knew it would require a lot of work to make it nice and tidy, but I was young and had all kinds of plans.

For the main space, for example, I wanted the walls that made the hallway, the living room, the kitchen and the closed-in porch all to come down. Big beams would replace them to hold up the not quite finished second floor.

And so the walls started coming down: only a few 2 X 3s were left standing until the beams could be lifted up in their place. The longest beam was to be 26 feet long, so how to make sure it could be brought inside the house and be able to close the front door afterwards?

The only way to make sure was to do a dry run in a smaller scale. I drew the main floor plan down to scale, the 2 by 3s became pins, and the longest beam, the one I was the most worried about, became a length of plastic straw, cut down to scale.

It became clear that in order to bring the 26 foot beam inside the house, the electric range would have to be removed from its cubby between the lower kinchen cabinets so that the front end of the beam could be pushed into that opening. Then the other end of the beam could be swung in front of the bedroom door opening. But it was going to be very tight, and so the bedroom door would have to be removed, and the dresser behing it moved out of the way also.

This way the beam could be backed up in the bedroom, and the other end of the beam then could be swung back into the main room, out of the range`s location and pointing towards the opposite corner of the house. Then the other end of the beam would come out of the bedroom into the main space, and it now would be just a question of pushing the beam under its permanent location thanks to lenghts of pipes and round pieces of firewood to roll it on the floor.

And so I was ready on delivery day, but the delivery men who came to check the place out were not so sure, but after convincing them that I had made all the measurements, they reluctantly brought in the 26 footer.

Sure enough, everything went as planned. And some 25 years later, the beams became an integral part of the design when that space was finally finished.

Looking up at my beams I am reminded that with a lot of determination, the right tools and serious planning, I can achieve anything I really want to!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Chez Morisset

Photo: another old Richelieu landmark

Another Richelieu landmark was brought down to rubble this morning. The two story house on Richelieu`s main thoroughfare belonged to a family who lived upstairs and whose father kept a truck-stop kind of restaurant where one could have his home-cooked meals, buy a newspaper, candy or gum and cigarettes while listening to the jukebox, center of attention to the local teenagers.

When I was a child, on hot Sunday summer afternoons, my father would bring us there to have an ice-cream cone. My father also bought his Montreal Star newspaper there, and sent me there Saturdays to pick up his copy put aside for him. That is the only time my father wanted me there: he strictly forbade me to buy candy, gum, or hang out with the gang listening to the latest hits of that rock and roll he did not care too much about.

The owner of the restaurant had a daughter about my age who went to the same school as I did, but she was much more popular than I was, of course, her having a juke-box and restaurant and all. I was never really accepted by her or her friends because I was not allowed to hang around in the restaurant. I did not mind that too much, because I much preferred to spend my time by the river or in the surrounding fields rather than stay cooped up in a smelly restaurant all afternoon. Because, of course, everybody smoked in there, and me and my parents did not.

When the father/owner of the place got too old to stay in business, the place tried to survive as a breakfast truck-stop, then a dairy bar during the summer months, but the locals simply did not go there any more, and truck traffic was now mostly on the Eastern Township Highway, a couple of kms upriver. So Mr Morisset had it good while it was going. It was never the same again after he left.

And now the building is demolished....

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Asburdity of Man

"Young man, nature is not frightening, it`s people who are frightening! You just need to get to know nature and it will become friendly. This creature known as man is of course highly intelligent, he`s capable of manufacturing almost anything from rumours to test-tube babies and yet he destroys two to three species every day. This is the absurdity of man." - Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain

Monday, February 19, 2018

Le monde des bilingues

"Il semblerait qu`il y ait quatre catégories de facteurs qui contrôlent séparément ou souvent groupés, le choix de la langue chez le bilingue: les interlocuteurs, la situation dans laquelle a lieu l`échange, le sujet, et enfin, la fonction de l`interaction. Concernant les interlocuteurs, un facteur important est la maîtrise qu`ils ont des langues. Normalement, on choisit la mieux connue par les deux afin d`assurer une communication efficace." - François Grosjean, Parler plusieurs langues - Le monde des bilingues

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The distant sound of water flowing over the dam

"Before she closed the door behind her, Jane turned for one last look at the river. The eternal promise of spring hung in the air and the rain that fell seemed perfumed with it - almost the smell of green itself.

Closing the door, she heard- before it shut - the distant sound of the water flowing over the dam, and she closed her eyes to watch the river in her mind, flowing downstream to continue its everlasting journey towards open water, open skies and the promise everywhere of life. "
- Timothy Findley, Spadework