Monday 26 Sep 2016

Progress
David Simmonds

Quite a nifty renovation they've done down at the local post office, don't you think?

Well, um, actually, no, not really.

Why?

Let's start with the exterior. The clock with a face but no hands is still there. Now, all about me are assuring it will regain its hands shortly. In the meantime, it sits, as has for the last umpteen years, a forlorn reminder of a bureaucracy that doesn't really care that much about a small rural post office.

Then there's that cold metal plate against the wall right underneath the not a clock. I asked at the desk why we had to bring our mail inside to drop it off now and, all assured me, there is supposed to be a sidewalk mailbox coming in, but it's on back order. A mailbox on back order at the post office; think about it. That's like Canadian Tire being out of tires, or Chapters being out of books: that's your stock in trade. Why start a renovation knowing you can't deliver one? 

In the meantime, the message is unspoken but clear. "No, we don't want you dropping off your mail here; we've had a bad experiences in the past with you trying to mail a parcel to your Aunt Gladys in Timmins, so you'd better come inside and get it weighed properly. Yes, you should feel guilty about mailing a letter with an ordinary stamp. Do you know what the real cost of mail delivery is?"

On the positive side, the accessible door now opens in a way that actually makes the building accessible. Well done, I say, repeatedly.

Moving inside, works me up, more. I must say the mailboxes are nice, bright and shiny new. The keys work just fine. I wonder if my mail not as crumpled as before. I also notice that the handy shelf and garbage/recycling bins have disappeared. Is this because Canada Post refuses to acknowledge that anything it mails to us deserves to find its way into the trash? The opportunity to offload, instantaneously, jetsam was a real convenience that I will miss.

That takes me to my real beef: the noticeboard. It's not completely gone, but it's shrivelled and lay under glass. To me, that is like sticking a dagger into the heart of the community. I realize there are also noticeboards at the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Foodland, and that other local merchants generously agree to affix event posters in their windows and dutifully take them down as well. The post office notice board was the 'go-to' place for information you could count on about the latest concert, garage sale, euchre tournament, Dukes game or what have you.

I enjoyed the polite anarchy of the noticeboard. It always outgrew its allotted space: I never saw anyone stick a coming event notice over somebody else's notice, unless the other event was over, in which case you were simply doing your colleague a favour by covering-over the notice. No, instead, what you did was, maybe with a slight overlap, add your notice to the spreading margin of the noticeboard. This was civility at work, and besides, it added to the buzz in the community; wow, you would think, there's a heck of a lot going on here. I'd better download this to the back of my hydro bill using my MacPencil OS4.2 in case I forget it before I get home. If the price for an overflowing noticeboard is a little peeled paint and a few pinholes in the drywall, let it be. Who cared when the obvious greater good was a more vibrant community, and more heavily attended pie auctions. 

A glass panel, marking an area of defined length and width, and already filled, separates us from our community notices, which makes it all seem a little more distant. It makes me a tad more reluctant to bring my notice to the board, because I probably have to go through some sort of 'soviet citizens notice approval panel' before I get permission to put my notice up. "Just what will you sell at this so-called garage sale?" they will ask. "Wasn't it pretty stupid of you to buy it in the first place if you're selling it again so soon? Didn't your wife warn you didn't need another toaster oven? Weren't you the person who tried to sneak an overweight envelope by with a regular stamp about six weeks ago? No. Permission denied."

Now I'm not pinning any of this on the staff of the local post office: every one of them is sweet and helpful. I'm sure it goes right to the top of the organization. What I am suggesting is a little bit of civil disobedience. Maybe, if I stake them to a souvlaki at the Plaza Restaurant, a flash mob from our local Lion's Club can erect a new and even more spacious bulletin board that will run the length of the mailbox room. Maybe we can just continue putting our notices on the wall and taking our chances that we'll anger Canada Post for ruining its paint job.

Maybe, just maybe, if I promised Canada Post that I would use the correct postage from now on, and stop making fun of its not a clock, it would put the bulletin board and the shelf and the garbage/recycling can, back where they were before. That would be real progress.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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