Having just finished up a big push at work, I can now take over from Mason Baveux and change the password to the blog account. I take it he didn’t do anything actionable, did he? I didn’t find any lawyer’s letters in the mail, or a severed horse head in the bed, so I suppose we can go on.
I got to spend an enjoyable couple of weeks in the Ohio state capital, working like a pit pony, but still having a bit of time to look around, examining the state of the Union, from a Canadian’s outsider point of view. Which is always a nice way to observe things, as Canadians don’t stick out, at least visually: This allows us to stay under the radar and watch things.
First off, Ohio is taking a beating economically. Ohio is a manufacturing state; they make things and we all know how the auto industry is doing. Layoffs are common, as are foreclosures. One suburb I drove through, a reasonably middle-class one, had a For Sale sign on every tenth house. Some were listed as foreclosure properties. This wasn’t a new suburb, but one that had been in existence, at least by my guesstimate, for seven to ten years. New enough, but not new-new. Families, or their banks, had had enough and had pulled the yellow handle.
The media: There were the usual state and local outrages (“Mayor’s Aide Sells Guatemalan Housekeeper’s Kidney to Saudi Businessman in City Office”) and hours dedicated to the swine flu. Commercials were almost all local, the predominant advertiser being either a debt consolidation company, or a car dealer with the slogan “Everybody Rides!”, flogging their in-house financing. Don’t ask what the interest rate might be, as you would have to look up the word usury in the dictionary.
The local newspaper was barely thick enough to mop up a spilled glass of water. This tells me that editorial consists of two people repackaging AP feeds and doing the cop call every 24 hours. Ads were almost all car dealers trying to move some inventory, with a smattering of nail and spa shops offering their services. In the classified ads? More internet job scams that I could actually count.
The folks: Being in a hotel in the suburbs means you get an odd and not necessarily accurate cross-section of the folks. Spending some time in a local restaurant and eavesdropping on conversations told me that things were sort of OK, but everyone is sweating it.
Then again, you look around and see a trailer on the back of a year-old pickup truck with a couple of ATV’s on board. Or shoppers at a local supermarket with full baskets, going through the check out. Even if Central Ohio is taking a walloping, Columbus is the state capitol, a university town and also has a reasonable sized high-tech and insurance industry to buffer some of the economic wobbles.
However, I didn’t see that many of the “My Child is an Honor Student at Meadow Lane Elementary School” bumper stickers. Or, for that matter, too many of the WWJD signs, placards, stickers or tats. Or at least none of the tats were where I could see them. Note to those who do have a WWJD tattoo? I’m fairly certain Jesus wouldn’t have ink, or fifty eight piercings either. Give it up.
Sports: Oh hellyeah. I saw literally thousands of examples of fan-wear, stickers, license plate frames and all the other symptoms of sports zombies let loose in the neighbourhood. I did catch a few minutes of a sports talk radio show and it was as puerile and moronic as any in Toronto.
Canada. The few locals I did get to talk with knew what street Toronto was on but were at a loss as to the rest of the country. This is hardly surprising. I was asked if Nova Scotia was part of Canada. I said it used to be, but Holland took it over in 1972, so its now a Dutch protectorate and uses the guilder as currency. This bait was swallowed whole so I waited for the hook to set, then finally said no, Nova Scotia is still part of Canada: It’s just that the rest of Canada refuses to admit it.
The other big question was health care. My explanation is simple. We traded higher taxes for cradle to grave health care in 1954 and it generally works well enough. At least you don’t have to declare personal bankruptcy if you break a leg and don’t have health insurance, which is the trade-off we have.
I did get busted for ‘Ooot’, ‘Aboot’ and ‘PROcess’ instead of ‘Awt’, ‘Abawt’ and ‘PRAWcess’, but I can live with that. It also scared a few folks that I can speak enough French to get along and rarely use ‘Eh?’, which might make me a Bad Canadian in some eyes. I did manage to redeem myself by using Y’all properly, as a collective noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, gerund and proper name.
In summary? The Neighbours are doing OK. Not great and they’re a bit scared, but they seem to be hanging in. These days, that’s about all you can hope for.