Friday, December 11, 2009

In the Neighborhood

I was at the bank the other day and on the counter near the teller was a bowl of red noses.  Well not noses, exactly, but little cardboard replicas of the mascot for Operation Nez Rouge (Operation Red Nose).  Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and with a string attached, sort of like a keychain, the little fellow with the red nose had a message printed on the back.  Translated from the French it says, basically, "Let us (Red Nose) take you home."

Operation Red Nose was started in 1984 in Quebec City by Jean-Marie de Koninck, who wanted to do something about the problem of people driving while intoxicated, which seems to increase around the holidays. He recognized that drivers don't take taxis home after leaving the bars, not because of the cost, but because they don't want to have to go back and get their cars the next day. So his idea was to create a kind of escort service to have someone come and pick the person up and drive them home, in their own car.

Now in its 26th year, the guys (and gals) of Red Nose will be there for you if you've been drinking and aren't fit to get behind the wheel. They work in teams to drive you home in your own car, for free. Given that this will soon be the season of the dreaded black ice, this is a very good service to be available.   Red Nose teams also show up, in costume at office Christmas parties, restaurants and clubs around the holidays to remind people they're available.  They are always given a hearty welcome.(And what a nice idea, to put their calling cards on bank counters and gas stations and grocery checkouts, where people can take one and hang it on the dashboard of their car, "just in case.")

Meanwhile, some other local news:

Kruger is planning to temporarily interrupt production of its Paper Machine No. 3 situated in its Wayagamack plant, a mere 10-minute walk from my house, for a period of two months starting from the 23rd of this month. Trois-Rivières was once known as the pulp-and-paper capital of the world but demand for newsprint has declined throughout North America (90% of the mill's production goes to the U.S.)  Last summer we visited a recycling facility near here, which is struggling to survive because the price customers pay for their recycled paper has gone way down and they are losing money.  The temporary shutdown of Paper Machine No. 3  at Kruger will affect 100 workers. Production will resume on February 23.  At least, for that short time, maybe there will be a little less pollution billowing out from those smokestacks.  Yay.

There are some storefronts in my neighborhood that have been empty for over two or more years.  Our little post office in the shopping strip closed a year or so ago and now to mail a package, unless you want to go all the way downtown, the closest one is the Cinq Etoiles Depanneur (kind of like a 7/11) where, in a corner just past the fresh breads and croissants and pie counter, across from the copy machine is a mini-mini-postal outlet.  Just last week the Animalerie (pet store) around the corner closed down and left.  The place would be perfect for a little coffee shop or used bookstore.  Don't I wish!

Jobs are hard to find here, as are family physicians.  It took me over 5 years to find one who would accept new patients, and that came about only through sheer luck.  Last summer in our sector there was a devastating fire which completely destroyed an entire building, displacing eight families.  Scarcely four months later, the debris has been removed and a new building erected in its place, ready for occupancy.  A gigantic waterfront project is underway and bridge repair is ongoing at Pont Duplessis. So while some parts of the economy are only eeking along, others are slowly picking up.

Anyway that's some of the news from secteur du Cap this week.  L'Accorderie will have a community supper on the 16th.  That's the local service-exchange organization where people are paid in hours instead of cash and the Hour Bank keeps track of hours earned or spent.  Everyone's supposed to bring a plate of food enough to feed four people.  Santa has said he'll show up.

The snows have arrived, and with it the bitter cold.  L'hiver encore....  I love winter, though.  It makes me feel alive.

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