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Sabbatical, 2004
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It’s our Pleasure to Serve you – Part Five

Going Home

Wednesday, October 4, 2006
in Toronto, Ontario

At ten o’clock this morning my packing and my cottage winterizing chores were well underway, but not as far along as I might have wished.  Heather’s list was quite extensive, and involved putting upholstered cushions in storage boxes or plastic bags; putting kitchen counter items into this cupboard or that drawer; and covering the printer.  Some linens were to be boxed, some to be brought home for laundering.  List or not, I also knew I had to turn off the fridge, pack leftover food to be taken to our daughters in Toronto, and bag the garbage and recycling.

At 10:10 AM the phone rang.  Was it the technician?  No, it was Heather.

“Did the phone guy come?”

“Nah.  I kind of hoped this call would be him, but it’s you.  How’re you doing?”

We chatted for a while, and I – ever the dutiful husband – reported on my careful completion of her instructions.

Back to the packing and the closing up.  An hour went by and I kept finding more things that needed doing.

At 11:15 AM the phone rang.  Was this the technician?  No, it was our daughter, Rachael.

“Did the phone guy come, Dad?”

“He didn’t, and I’m still stupid enough to have hoped that this call was him!”

We chatted, and I told her that, because I was leaving the lake later than planned, she shouldn’t look for me to arrive in Toronto before 7:30 PM.  As I was planning to take my two daughters and their husbands out to dinner, we set a nice, late hour to be at the restaurant, and hung up.

Rain was falling in a thick, dark curtain.

Putting all my luggage and my computer bag in garbage bags, I manhandled them down to the dock.  The plastic boat was full of rainwater, so I bailed it by lifting it onto the dock and turning it upside down.  Then I tossed it back in the water and loaded my gear.

One last thing: I ran down the trail to my brother’s cabin in the faint hope that the Bell technician had simply walked in and fixed the line.

Undo the padlock, run into the bedroom, lift the receiver.  Dead.  Silence.  Nothing.

Lock everything up again, and run back down to my dock.

Oops, the Canadian flag.  Take that down and put it in my cottage.  One last look around.  Everything look shipshape?  Good.

Row across, load the rental car.  Drag the Fisher Price boat into the trees, flip it over, put the oars underneath.  Drive up the hill.  Oh my goodness me, those Québec Hydro guys have cleared away a huge swath of old forest over here!  And they left a cottager’s outhouse, once invisible in the trees, bare and alone on the hillside.  Wait till the owner sees that!

Stop at the cottage of my favourite handyman – a year-round resident – to discuss a project he’s going to do for me over the winter.  We commiserate about all the noise over the past ten days, and laugh ruefully about the bare hillside and the solitary outhouse.  Then, goodbye to the lake for this year.

Over the top of the hill and down to the gate.

I get out in the rain to open the gate, and notice a plastic sandwich bag taped to the latch.  The paper inside has our name on it. I open the bag, and stand there dripping wet, stunned.

“Bell Canada. October 4, 2006.  Technician ID B51609,  Time: 11:05 AM.”

And, hand printed in capital letters, this:


In the ensuing weeks there were several more attempts to contact Bell Canada’s Customer Service – from Toronto, and from our home in Winnipeg.  On one of them I logged an hour and a half on the phone, and was switched to the Business repair call centre in Madras, India – not once, but twice!

Finally, from Winnipeg, I actually reached Max Brutus again, who on October 6 informed me that his District Manager would be calling me “within 48 hours.”  Because Max also provided me with his email address, I sent him a message on October 20 which included this sentence: “By my calculation, even subtracting the Thanksgiving weekend and another weekend... it has been one hundred and ninety one (191) hours since you made that assurance, and nothing has happened.”

My brother’s phone, of course, does not work.  He very much objects to paying all winter for service that he does not have.  Of course, it is uncertain to whom he might express such objections.

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