NOT IN THIS TOGETHER

This picture of a park on Saturday pretty much sums it up: The second wave of COVID-19 is coming soon.

Based on my somewhat limited in-person observations and what I’ve read from credible sources, we’re not in this together. We have those talking this pandemic seriously and those that don’t. I’m not going to bother trying to understand why. But here are a few examples of what I’ve seen:

There is a 6 unit townhouse next to me…you know the one…the one with all the garage. Yeah, that one. On a regular occasion, streams of Uber drive in and out, dropping off and picking up party goers…parties that last till 4 am. Not so social distancing happening.

The other day while I was picking up some dope at Rexall, I came across a woman who was waiting in line, mask on but not covering her nose. She was playing with it, pulling it off and on while complaining to her mother that someone had told her she was wearing the mask improperly. She looked at me, and I nodded and said she was wearing it wrong as both mouth and nose needed to be covered. She ignored me, but when I got outside, I could hear he say “that asshole in the wheelchair doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” I smiled and rolled along.

Trip to Sunripe to get some fruit. This store does a great job with sanitizing and distancing, although, as a dude in a wheelchair, I need a hand basket…which have been removed. Back to the point, a mom was shopping her three teenage kids who, as I moved around the store, felt the need to tough every item and well basically, act like morons. Mom never said a word.

The picture of the park above from Toronto isnt unique. Hearing from credible sources London parks are quite busy, with the caution tape torn off playgrounds. I know we have cabin fever and want to get out. The weather is great…finally. I’ve got a new leg and I’m dying to I’m and get out. But I can’t. This isn’t over.

A friend who works at a retirement facility, where people have died, posted this the other day:

I work with patients going through Covid. It is unforgiving, quick to change and highly contagious. Please take it serious. I see many house parties and group walks in my ‘student’ neighborhood. But most recently we had a student intern nurse test positive… Please take this serious for you, your parents and grandparents.

People are dying…right here in London. We’ve seen in the US what happens when we under react. To date, 100,000 dead with many more to come. I’d suggest we need to slow down, be methodical and take this seriously.

Letter to the Canadian Government

The following is an email sent to London MP’s, The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Disability Inclusion. The letter is addressed to Kate Young, MP for London West as Ms. Young sits on a committee reviewing the effects of COVID-19 on the disabled community,

Ms. Young

I’m following up on the recent tweet I posted and the petition I’ve started to bring attention to the fact that it appears that folks with disabilities are being left behind during these trying times. It is not a secret that CPP-D has never provided adequate financial support, with most of us living far below the poverty line. The current pandemic makes it that much more of a challenge.

Our government has responded well to ensure that MOST Canadians are receiving additional support. Seniors, those losing their jobs or temporarily laid off, health care workers and more have received support. All groups are deserving and I’m proud to see our government step up. I applaud the efforts. However…..

Those of us in the disabled community have been ignored. We’re seeing grocery items increase in pricing. We’ve been told, especially those immunocompromised, to limit trips out for supplies. We’ve been discouraged from taking public transit, so we rely on taxis or delivery services, a costly endeavour, Our rents have gone up. This year, CPP-D increased by 2% only to be taken away by the ODSP program. We’re encouraged to buy and support local business, yet we can’t afford a pizza delivery?

Some folks receive less than $1100/month, yet are expected to pay for medications, while paying rent and basic supplies. Many struggle to deal with the Ontario ADP program on top of all this. Mental health has already taken a beating, now, with these trying times, its much worse. Those who are receiving the CERB benefit, including students, have $2000 a month deposited into their accounts, yet the disabled receive $1100? Where is the fairness and inclusion?

The disabled community has and will continue to contribute to our communities. Many of us volunteer our time in an effort to give back. I’m a 53 year old man who would love to work, but not many are hiring a double amputee who is 53. During my working career of over 30 years, I contributed an incredible amount of taxes and community support. Now, 4 years into a life with disabilities, I feel like I no longer matter and I’m hearing the same from many others in my role as an advocate here in London.

We’re looking to you to treat the disabled community with the same respect, equality and support as everyone else. We have lots to give and we have hope that our government will take this issue seriously and provide a living support.

Thank you for you time. I’ve copied my local MPP because I’m concerned that not only has the Ontario government done very little for the disabled, I’m concerned that any additional support from the federal government will be rolled back by Ontario.

I am always happy to assist or answer any questions you may have.

Thank you again.

Gerry LaHay

Heartbreaking

There is no other word to describe how Canadians must be feeling right now. I feel extremely heartbroken and I know I’m not alone.

2020 has been painful and sad. We’re in who knows what week of the COVID-19 virus. Thousands of our loved ones have passed away with thousands more affected. We’ve lost grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters and friends. Health care workers and grocery store staff have been put through the wringer. 

Aside from the human cost, we’re seeing our communities suffer. Businesses closed, mental health issues on the rise, some have been thrust into poverty and isolation. We’re missing our family and friends, visiting our local coffee shop or favourite book store. Our nerves are raw.

And then, we lost 22 members of our community in Nova Scotia at the hands of a monster. As Canadians, we mourned. We were saddened and angered at the same time. We still mourn. 22 people needlessly taken away. Its almost unimaginable. 

A couple of weeks ago, we lost 6 members of our military when a helicopter crashed during a NATO exercise. Again, Canadians were devastated and we mourned once again. Six folks from our community, serving our country and the world, taken away from their family.

On the weekend, during Operation Inspiration, a Snowbird crashed shortly after takeoff in Kamloops. The pilot was seriously injured and another member of the team, Captain Jennifer Casey perished. I was initially against Operation Inspiration but when I the fly over here in London, it brought a smile to my face. Based on tweets and post, many Canadians had a moment of joy during the fly overs. The operation was a moment of happiness we needed. Now, we mourn again. This is a tragedy that hurts us all.



Many us of didn’t know those we’ve lost personally, yet it still hurts. But here’s the thing about being Canadian: we mourn together, we stand together, we fight together and we celebrate together. We’re a resilient bunch. I’m extremely proud to be a part of such a generous, kind hearted community.

We will smile again…I promise. For now, we weep and are sad. My heart goes out to all who are mourning. I’m not a praying kind of guy, but know that for all those who are suffering, I’m thinking of you and my heart does hurt…more than you. I’m so very sorry.

Cookies, Dirty Dishes and Lazy Kids

WHO LEAVES ONE COOKIE IN THE PACKAGE?

The other day, a read a post on Facebook that cracked me up and annoyed me in a funny way at the same time. Some one made a comment about leaving one cookie in the box in the cupboard. If there is something my kid’s were notorious for was leaving one cookie or cracker in the box. I get my mouth all ready for an Oreo or a Triscuit and there is ONE LEFT IN THE BOX. WHO DOES THAT??? Well, my kids did and it seems many others do as well. I’ve also discovered that its not just kids-spouses are just as guilty. At one point, this bad habit got so bad that we had 17 boxes of almost empty crackers. Getting fed up, I dumped them into one bag….a cracker melange if you will. Empty cracker boxes left in the cupboard, empty freezie boxes left in the freezer. The battle was ongoing.

Why do they do this? Is it a sense of courtesy to leave one cookie behind for the next person or pure laziness. Taking the last cookie means having to break down the empty box and put it in the recycling bin in the garage. I guess that was too much effort.

I then saw another post asking parents if they let their kids eat/snack in their bedrooms. My son was guilty of this-in fact, he was the champion. Once a month, his mother would tie a safety rope around her waist, grab a shovel and warn my boy that “she was going in.” We never knew what would be found in there: dishes that grew so much mold that they’d walk on their own? The dead carcass of some sort of wildlife? Zombies?

Don’t get me wrong. We tried to teach the kids that chores were a part of life and that if everyone pitches in, life would be easier for everyone. Couldn’t even get them to make their beds. I did the laundry for the most part. I’d get the kids to bring down their laundry each week. At times I think they needed a backhoe to get it all downstairs, but whatever. I wash, dry, iron what was needed and leave a nice tidy pile downstairs in the laundry room. Their job was to bring it up and put it away. HAHAHAHAHAHA. My daughter would bring her pile upstairs where it inevitably landed on her bed. My son on the other hand, would come downstairs each day, grab the outfit he needed for the day and off he’d go. I’d ask him why he did this and he’d simply say it was too much work. Um, what?

Don’t get me wrong, and people who know me know I adore my kids. However, they’re lazy little shits at times. Yes, they’d do some chores and could be quite helpful. I gave up the battle-rather, I surrendered. The fight and nagging wasn’t worth it. I discovered there were far more important things to get upset about or to focus on. Now, as adults, they are responsible, great young adults. I doubt that they make their beds though.

I Cracked

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After my trip to the prosthetist to get fitted for a new leg, and saddened to see some businesses closed down that I observed during the ride there, I returned home. My son had messaged me the day before about having a physically distant coffee. I hadn’t seen my son since Christmas and was missing him so much. So I thought, why not. Jump the gun and initiate the “double bubble” early. My plan was to bring coffee downstairs, as I bum walked down the stairs and sit outside….and keep my distance of course.

Phillip arrived and I said to hell with it and invited him upstairs where we sat outside on the balcony, a few feet apart. We chatted, laughed and had coffee for about an hour. It was exactly what we both needed. Sure, we text regularly, but to see his face in person was the medicine I needed to cheer up.

Phillip left and the guilt set in. I have been following the rules rigidly, not only for my own health, but the health of others. I believe in what our experts are telling me and plan to continue to take the steps needed to help flatten the curve and here, I broke the rules.

I know it’s no excuse. Many are missing their families. I cracked…this was my son. I love my kids more than you can imagine. We didn’t have the usual hug when he leaves, but he’s my boy…and I needed to see him. If I drop dead because of the visit, it was worth it. I’ve been closer to delivery staff and store staff…and I’m still alive. However, this selfish act on my part was irresponsible. The hour with my son was incredible, but the guilt I’ve been feeling is a little overwhelming. 

An Opportunity

I heard someone once say that during periods of change, instead of looking for the negative aspects of change, we should be embracing change and look for the opportunities that arise from change.

The current pandemic is one of those times I believe we should be looking at what we have learned during this crisis and take advantage of the chance to either make change for the better or enhance what we’ve already changed.

I was thinking of this subject the other day when it was reported that a worker at the Superstore on Oxford East here in London knowingly (according to the press) worked while symptomatic with COVID-19. Obviously the first, knee jerk reaction is anger. How dare this person put us and our bread at risk. I’m not making light of this situation. Having been a manager for most of my careers, I came to understand why a person may be motivated to work while sick. The paycheck is the answer in most cases. I had staff show up for work while sick even though in the food business, this was not acceptable. But people do it and I understand why. Is this a chance to ensure sick time is paid so that we can avoid this?

We’re seen reports around the world that with a reduction of vehicles on the road, pollution levels have been reduced. This is one of those “no-brainer” moments. Experts have repeatedly said that if we reduce traffic, we can improve the environment. This pandemic has proven their point. Is this the opportunity for governments to take climate change seriously and expedite their climate emergency plans?

During these trying times, we’ve witnessed the need for active transportation. People want to get out, walk, run or cycle. Our sidewalk networks have shown that it’s tough to be active with physical distancing. Is this the proof we need to enhance our sidewalk infrastructure?

Personal hygiene has been at the forefront of this crisis. Handwashing, gloves, masks. What troubles me is that every time we have a health concern, experts remind us to wash our hands. Hand washing is the foundation of good health and we shouldn’t have to be reminded constantly. Is this the moment in our history that people finally get the message?

Universal Basic Income….enough said.

Did we learn from the great Toilet Paper Hoarding of 2020 that we need to not panic, slow down and take a moment to think?

Will grocery stores finally install hand sanitizers all over the stores? I’ve been saying, well, for decades, that we should be sanitizing more often at food stores, especially after handling packages of raw meats.

Given the way the Donald Trump handled this pandemic, will those who support him actually pay attention and not re-elect him? Hell of an opportunity.

We have seen so much kindness shown by so many. Little acts go a long way. Reaching out and checking in. Will we continue this?

The epicenters of the virus in some senior’s facilities demonstrated that we have not done a good job ensuring the highest standards of care for residents or for staff who needed the supplies to manage daily care. Our seniors should never, ever have to face this again. Facilities like Henley Place in NE London, based on the number of reports and inspections completed show dismal living conditions for residents. Seniors assaulted or left on toilets for hours. Will we make it a priority to correct this horrid conditions our seniors live in?

Many businesses stepped up during the crisis. Some chose to take advantage of the buying public with outrageous price gouging. Will we show these businesses that we paid attention and stop patronizing them?
I’ve mentioned this once or twice, but will people with disabilities ever matter? Sure doesn’t seem so during this pandemic.

Many have shown incredible support for charities in need. Can we continue this community spirit when this is all done?

Teachers have always mattered, more so than ever before. Lets remember that.

Will we see more of a critical emphasis on health care, especially as it relates to mental health?
Is this the chance for the Ford Government in Ontario to continue to perform in an admirable way? As someone on Twitter said, he’s doing some stuff lately, but I have a good memory of what he did before.”

I could ramble on forever, cause, well, that’s what I do. Take this opportunity to look around your own world and ask if you’ve learned anything and can we seize this opportunity for change.

Free Shoes?

Don’t, don’t, don’t misunderstand me. As a valued, repeat customer of our health care system (wish they had some sort of reward program: get two amputations, get a free order of fries or something) I know first hand what an incredible job our health care workers do each and everyday. Not just the doctors and nurses, but the entire team. I wrote about this sometime ago (Hospital Teams). It takes a multitude of people to take care of one patient. I cannot imagine for one second what these teams are going through in this crisis.

However, we seem to promote the hero label while dismissing the efforts of the many, many others who are working their asses off during this pandemic. I bring this up after I saw an article that Nike was donating 30,000 pairs of shoes to frontline health care workers in the States. Shoes

This is amazing. Absolutely love it. These wonderful folks deserve it. But what about all the other heroes that can’t even afford to buy new shoes? I’m thinking of the overworked, overrun, underpaid grocery store workers…..you know, the ones who put up with our crap as they try and keep the stocks shelves as we overbuy toilet paper and flour. The ones who bust their asses trying to clean and sanitize, ensure there is lots of pie and treats and essentials. They’re the ones putting up with idiot customers, who, here in London Ontario, are sniffing the butter before buying (read this in a tweet….really????).

The average salary of a nurse in the US is approx. $75K USD ( $106K CDN). The average salary for the grocery staff, even at, say $18/hour is around $37K/year. I’m going out on a limb to suggest the grocery store staff deserve the free shoes as well! I’m not begrudging how much our health care workers make, not at all. They earn every penny. But so does the worker at No Frills.

My main point is that, as someone said, “we not all in the same boat, but we’re all in this together.” Retail staff, custodial staff (check LHSC where they have contracted the cleaning out), food service staff and many others play such an important role in our daily lives. Whenever, which is not very often, I go to a store, I ask the staff about their day and how they are being treated. I’m always appalled when I hear how poorly we are treating these people. Yes, a doctor saves your life, but the store employee is selling you your toilet paper…a needed necessity in life.

Bottom line: let’s look out for ALL the heroes out there. Without them, we’d all be lost.

Making a Comeback

While our current pandemic continues and the days seeming to meld into one another so much so that we almost forget what day it is, its a bit of a challenge to see the light at the end of all of this. We’re battling isolation, our local businesses are suffering and the numbers of those infected rising, its difficult to see how we can return from this. However, we can and we will.

While not the at the deadly levels we’ve seen with Covid-19, I experienced something similar in 2007. I was the Operations Manager for Cash Ops, Hospitality Services at Western and we had a food poisoning outbreak. This wasn’t a typical outbreak where one source was the problem. Unlike other food outbreaks where it was the tomatoes or the lettuce, it took some time to figure this one out.

I got the call one night from Campus Police who connected me with the Health Unit. We had a couple of people who got sick after eating at one of our franchises. We closed the outlet and gathered as a team with the Health Unit inspector. We were considered some of the best food handlers in the city. We had food logs, sampling, a good hand washing program and we thought we were doing everything alright. A few people got sick, but we had a handle on it and it was over. Or so we thought.

After a week, a second wave hit. Our main food court was shut down. The media arrived. Our staff were utterly devastated and at a loss. No one could figure this out. We cleaned, sanitized, had multiple inspections by the Health Unit each day, yet the source was unknown and the number of sick continued to climb. I remember seeing on of our supervisors, still working mind you, so sick. She was in pain and felt like hell. I was a wreak seeing her suffer like this.

We did everything we could. New sanitizing systems, training, testing, you name it, we did it. One Health Unit inspector was at a loss. He couldn’t figure it out. He and the rest of the teams were exhausted, both physically and mentally. Our team faced abuse from customers. For weeks this went on and finally, the outbreak was declared over. A report, which can be found online, never did definitively figure out why. One of our staff members was found to be a carrier and may have had a poor hand washing regimen. We never knew for sure. In the end, over 90 customers and staff got sick, some very serious.

We learned from this outbreak. New systems were put in place, a safety manager was put in place and life resumed. But it was a new normal, not the normal pre-outbreak. We survived. The lesson being that the Covid-19 will teach us and change the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. There will never be a “normal”. We will have a new normal as we move on. In the end, everything depends on us. We’re banging down the door at home, ready to run out the door and get back into the world. If we don’t learn from a crisis like this, we will never stop this virus. We have to change and the change needs to be permanent. We need a new normal and we need everyone to get on board. If we don’t accept the change, we’ll be back in trouble. And this type of trouble has been deadly.

At Western, we eventually re-opened and life resumed on a different path. Life can resume, but that is up to us. Rushing to “re-open” will lead to disaster. We need to slow down, think about what we’ve learned and resume life properly. It’s been horrifying to see people we love die….I hope to never see a crisis like this again in my lifetime.

Savour the Moment

My son turned 20 years old the other day. 20! What in the holy hell. He was just born a couple of weeks ago-I know as I was there. I am now the father of a 23 year old beautiful daughter and a 20 year old son. I’m 53 years old. How the hell did this happen? Where did the time go?

Time flies by while at the same time, it seems to stop. You’re at work and you’d swear the clock was actually going backwards. As you’re changing the 5th diaper of the day, you wish that you kid grows up faster so that you can stop dealing with poop. You want the kids to get older so they can be left alone so that you can go out with your partner for dinner, alone, for a change. During my now failed marriage, my wife and I never had a vacation together since the kids were born.

It was just last week, I swear, that I was lacing up my son’s skates for the first time. Last month it seems, I took my daughter to school for the first time. I know it was just last week I was making their lunches, or took them to the park, or taught them to ride a bike. It was like last year that I was coaching them in hockey or soccer. The trip to Universal Studios was a few years ago, but feels like it was just a few weeks ago.

My kids are grown up. Smart, University students who make their dad proud. I have lots of pictures and videos to remind me of the days when they were smaller. I smile, sometimes tear up but there was something I didn’t do: savour the moment when the memories were being made. I didn’t slow down and appreciate the fun times or the many moments that my kids made me smile, laugh or simply, the appreciation that comes with being a dad.

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I look back on the past years and while I am filled with happiness, I’m also regretful that I didn’t fully appreciate what was happening at that moment. Watching my daughter snag a line drive while playing third base or my son’s first goal on the ice. The pranks my son would play on me (damn kid was really good at getting into my Facebook account). The memories of watching Harry Potter or the first time I took Phillip to see Star Wars. Rolling my eyes when Sarah came home with a trombone yet almost in tears when I saw her in concert. We had so many great moments.

My advice to you young dads is to slow down. Enjoy the moment in time. Really appreciate the watching your babies grow up. Yes, take the pictures and videos, but really focus on the memories in your brain and your heart. Don’t sit there at age 53, celebrating their 20th and asking yourself “where in the hell did time go?” What may seem minor or somewhat meaningless now, will be a powerful memory in your mind and heart later on in years.

Garbage!

What happened to personal pride? Whether you’re an owner or a tenant, it seems some simply don’t care anymore.

Tenants and property owners/management companies have continued to demonstrate that making sure their homes are kept tidy and garbage free is far from a priority.

This is my neighbouring property. This is NOT a function of student rentals and the end of year move out. This is an ongoing issue. Instead of being that guy are calls the city, I attempted to work with the management company, Exclusive Rentals, the company who replaced the previous company who failed to do their jobs. They gave me excuse after excuse with no resolve. I reached out to the city and within an hour, they were on it.

Garbage like this is not only disgusting to look at, but the problem worsens when scavengers, both human and animal are involved. Ripped bags that then start blowing around to neighbouring properties. On Sunday, my own landlord was onsite to clean up garbage that blows on to his property.

Even after the garbage is collected, broken bags are left behind or recycling bins that are not picked up as they are not following guidelines for streaming are left to blow around. Tenants simply walk past…I dont get it. Pick up you cans and bins before they blow unto the roads causing safety issues. Yesterday, a blue box blew onto the road. Drivers darted around it until a City of London employee stopped and picked it up.

This is a problem all over the city. Some tenants don’t give a damn and property owners are too busy collecting rent and trusting management companies to do their job.

We can’t keep allowing owners/tenants to keep behaving in this manner and hold them accountable. The City of London has done a great job responding to these issues. I’ve even heard fines have been leveled against repeat offenders. One City manager even came to this property months ago to try and teach the tenants how to recycle, even providing free recycling bins. Yet, here we are.

This problem isn’t limited to homes. Walk along the stretch of Oxford between Adelaide and Richmond. Garbage everywhere and, for the most part, fast food containers and beverage cups seem to be especially prevalent. Add in poop bags and garbage that is spilled over from waste collection and you’ll find a disgusting mess. This is despite that fact that along this section, there are numerous garbage containers at bus stops, stores and gas station. We’re that lazy and inconsiderate? I read comments on social media from a variety of people who post pictures they take of the garbage picked up while plogging and while I applaud their efforts and am thankful, its gross.

The message to tenants and residents: stop being irresponsible slobs. The message to owners and property managers: take responsibility, have some pride and look after your properties. . This is the Forest City…not The Dumpster City.