Friday, February 27, 2015

do we really want to know?

I've mentioned how I have wonderful neighbours, and I do. They've helped in countless ways, allowing me to borrow trailers to load up brush to take to the dump (which is mulched and recycled), or to pick up a load of coal. They've ploughed my driveway or have showed up with a front-end loader to move snow. Kind-hearted up-the-street neighbour Bob has removed more than one kill the cats brought me that I couldn't deal with very well (I've since improved, and most of the slower or dumber ones have been caught and killed, so until the snow melts, I think i'll have little to worry about there).

I do not live in a large community, and during winter, its population diminishes as many go south for warmer climes.

So, when glancing over the paper and reading the police beat news, it's easy to find names of people you know. Many of the offences are menial, speeding or driving with expired licence plates (there is no notification from the Department of Motor Vehicles here; you are expected to look at the tags every so often and realize when it's time to renew them). Some are a bit more nefarious, drug trafficking, or breaking and entering.

And there are crimes that people can forgive readily: someone going 6 miles over the limit, or forgetting to renew their licence plate sticker doesn't ruffle a lot of feathers. And then there are other crimes that people never forget, chiefly the ones dealing with abuse or killing.

We had a shake-up recently when a stalwart figure next town over was found to have bilked monies from a local charity. He'd been doing it for years, and over the last decade or so ended up with quite a tidy sum. His name is now mud and anyone who was friends with him have done what they can to distance themselves, in no small part i'm sure, to show they're not like him.

I knew of this man, but as i'm not so well connected, it wasn't personally meaningful. I felt anger at the idea of the many working folks who gladly gave to this charity to help out those in the area less fortunate now finding that so much of their gifts ended up in this man's pocket. I'm sure it's also affected people giving to other local charities, or looking far more closely.

But just this week, I read something in the paper about one of my neighbours, someone who has helped me time and again. Someone caring, nice, stable, reliable. The list can go on and on. The last time we chatted, I saw that this neighbour was a bit distracted, but everybody was. It was after that horrific early November snowstorm we had, and it unseated a lot of people's confidence. So, I noticed the furtive look, and wondered about it, but said nothing, knowing that there was some illness in the family, and perhaps that weighed on the family's conscience.

One of the things I like about my neighbours is we don't pry into each other's business. We show concern and help out as we can, but we don't infringe on someone's private life.

And so, this week, when glancing over the paper at the police report and court cases, I was stunned to see that this neighbour pled guilty to a crime that did not fit the person I had come to know. A crime that many would never forgive and even fewer would forget. It explained the furtive look because I saw that the paper also published more details about it near the back, and the arrest occurred several months back, and the accused was out on bail. That would explain the furtive look.

I didn't see it coming. I would never have guessed this in a thousand years.

I thought back to my banking days. This was a thousand years ago, when many were still paid with weekly paycheques, and although debit cards were used often at automatic teller machines (ATMs), the debit card to be swiped at the store was a very new thing, so people still wanted to have cash on hand. And any number of times, several people from the same company would pile into one car and either come into the bank or go to the drive through and get their money, make their deposits. One man I remember well was Dennis. He had dark eyes that gleamed, a killer smile, and infectious laugh. He'd often come to the drive through with three other colleagues, all women, and they'd joke and talk while the teller processed their deposits or cashed their checks. Dennis was married to Sherri, although they split up not long after I started at the bank. It was a small town where most everyone knew most everyone else, and heads shook sadly. Pity it didn't work out. Sherri came in the bank one day, pretty excited. She and Dennis were going to have a date, and she was hopeful, because she never wanted the relationship to end.

Although I didn't see them as a couple, in some ways they just didn't go together in my mind, I wished her well. It was clear she was still crazy about him.

They went out on their date, went back to her place, and he killed her. Blood was spattered all over, one fireman told us who knew someone who went to the scene.

It gave me the chills because I had seen Dennis a day or two before, looking as dashing as ever, and never an inkling that this was on the horizon.

He was found out, of course, tried, and convicted. Found guilty and got the death penalty.

All of us were dumbfounded. None of us had a clue that their relationship had a violent past until afterwards. We talked of people we knew as bank customers and how some people made you feel uncomfortable, you just knew something wasn't right, and you didn't feel safe. But how could not one of us not pick up something about this man?

I'm unsure how things will go with my neighbour. The conviction carries a period of imprisonment followed by probation.

In the swindler-next-town-over situation, I feel a detached anger. In this case, I feel very sad for everyone involved.

Do we really want to know what goes on behind closed doors? If we did, would we be able to avert some of these things from happening, or would we be simply impotent witnesses? I know I can make compelling arguments for both sides and be right.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Gearing up for another blizzard

This winter has been strange. We usually get about 100 inches (255 cm) of snow a year, but it usually is sprinkled throughout the winter season. This year, we had a huge storm in November, not much in December and not a lot in January until the last week of the month, and that seemed to unleash the snow monster. We've broken records for three-day totals and ten-day totals. The temperature has run a bit cooler than normal, too, so when the snow falls, it's been pretty fluffy. Bad for snowmen, good for shoveling where the back is concerned, and skiers are in ecstasy.

I feel that I should have consulted with someone who lives in Buffalo, New York, and get the skinny on snow management engineering because many of us are running out of places to put the snow when we wish to move it.

My plow man stopped by earlier in the week to push the snow farther back from my driveway. The top of the pile is easily over 12 feet (11 metres), and I realized with a bit of a start that I really needed to roof rake.

No, it's not some weird sporting event, they truly make rakes with extension handles that you can use to scrape the snow off the roof. The one I have has two long extensions, and while it's okay, it couldn't get the entire roof unless I were to do something crazy like stand on a ladder. Um, no. SFB told me that I could get extra extensions; that's what he does, and then I would be able to reach at least most of my roof and still keep myself firmly on the ground. He also casually mentioned that his wife couldn't really lift it when he had all five extensions on it, and I wondered if i'd be in the same boat. I don't think my upper body strength is appreciably greater than hers.

But, with another 2 feet of snow (61 cm) forecast, along with 60–70 mph (90–130? km/h) winds, I felt that I really needed to attend to the snow on the roof. Today was the day; i'd go to the local hardware store and see if they had something that would fit my roof rake. And just before I was going to head out, I looked at one of the local buy/sell/swap facebook groups where i'm a member, and saw a woman's post that her husband was looking for some extra shovelling or roof raking jobs. I sent her a message, and she responded right away. They were next town over, had to drive through my town to get home to theirs, and would stop en route. The husband, Kevin, was amiable, and glad to do it. We talked price, and he said he hadn't really done this for money before, wasn't sure what to charge.

I was probably too honest, but told him I had never paid anyone to do this and would have no idea of what the going rate would be. He figured it would take him about two hours, and I mentioned a figure that was a bit higher than I wanted to go, but I also felt the highest figure i'd go was really too low for the work involved. He agreed to the price right away, so I probably did say a generous price.

He went home for his tools and came back. No standing on the ground and doing the best he could for him. No sir, he hauled his industrial ladder out of his truck, got up on the roof as quick as a flash, and for the better part of two hours cleared away the snow. He shovelled all that fell onto the deck as a result, and we were both very happy.

I got the feeling after I paid him that he maybe really needed the money and recalled the times I was a waitress and on occasion, i'd get a really big tip, which I needed to make ends meet. It appears in my current season that I have a chance to pay it forward.

And frankly, the idea that my roof is ready for two more feet of snow to land on it and I didn't have to wear out my arms making that happen? Priceless.