Thursday, December 26, 2013



I will not waste your time swearing about our ghastly Christmas when Mother Nature froze our Christmas balls and our limbs and our (good) will and any respect we might still have for the people who say they are in charge of our city and our province and our power.
After all, too many have experienced what the Downings endured. And you may have had it worse, not having a gas fireplace, which didn't put that much heat into the rec room because the blower, of course, was not working, or the fireplace in the living room which didn't produce much heat besides  smoke because it was built 70 years ago before heatalators were common.
So before the temperature on the thermostat gave up the ghost, our house temp may have been 11  (or 52 in the F temperature that I still use.)  And that was a hot spot. I thought our bedrooms would become ice caves complete with stalactites.  When our bones felt like frozen pork chops, we took baths because the gas water tank doesn't need electricity like the furnace.
I got a savage pleasure out of trying to burn some of the icy limbs from the giant Chinese elm on city property out front which savaged our power line and wiped out the neighbour  before Hydro turned off all the power east of Royal York and south of Bloor for  four days.
As I type, my fingers still stiff, I am waiting for the lights and all the electric gadgets of civilization to die again when Hydro finally shows up to help the neighour still in a frigid dark. (They came after eight days.)
Thank heavens we could escape to a crowded pub although most of the staff seemed trapped away from work. The trip was dangerous because most traffic lights were out and some idiots just drove through smaller signalized intersections without even pretending to stop. Probably Hydro bosses!
Firefighters blocked the street on either side of our driveway with yellow emergency police tape, but it was ripped down within a day by motorists or pedestrians who didn't give a damn.
It was heaven - but I would have settled for hellfire - to go to my son Brett's house, where after lovely dinners on Christmas Eve and the grand day itself, they seemed a trifle worried we may well be there into 2014.
However, I do want to make some points instead of just ranting at the people who are supposed to provide my house and cottage with electricity most of the time and have failed.
The excuse always is that it was the storm of the century or the worst ice storm in city history or the most rain that has ever fallen on T.O. since Noah tried to build beside the Humber. Maybe they could buy transformers that don't blow up whenever raindrops keep falling on my head.
I wrote a blog/column on July 10 headlined Drowning Remaining Confidence In Hydro.  Anyone who wants to spend an interesting time can meander via Goggle to columns I have written about blackouts and Hydro billing and general arrogance that even annoys Liberal premiers  - and gawd knows they're used to crap.
Why do they call them emergencies when they're routine?
Just in recent years at the cottage,  we have had outages that have lasted three and five days, and the only reason our food survived once is a nice neighbour who runs a grocery store put our food in its freezers. During this summer and the record excuse of a rain storm, our city food putrefied during the blackout for three days of hot weather. Now with the record excuse of an ice storm, it sits in drums out on the porch and we're not reloading the fridges until either March or some Hydro heads roll.
I listened while screaming curses at 680, the all-news station, where the first advice was to dump food from the fridge if power had been out a few hours. I observed to Mary and most of Elsfield Rd. that if the dumb so-called expert promulgating that advice actually lived in the real world of Southern Ontario, they would be throwing good food into the garbage on a regular basis because outages have become too common.
If power is out for part of the day at Burnt Point on the Trent north of Campbellford, we don't really notice.  I don't get as mad as at the current corrupt billing of Ontario Hydro where its so-called "smart" meters are so crazy, I have actually paid much more for electricity to our second cottage than for the main cottage. And the "bunkie' wasn't being used.
(I know the hydrocrats tried to distract us by renaming themselves Hydro One, but it's the same outfit which can't run an electric system without huge debts and absurd overbilling.)
My son Mark urged me to write about the obvious discrimination in what areas get power restored first. Last summer, when Toronto had the worst rain fall since the earth crust cooled, it seemed every last street got power before we did. They probably restored power to Martians living along their canals before us.
So this time lights from the junior school across the road shone into our chilly bedrooms, and the streets south and north of us even flaunted Christmas lights, while the press conferences told us vaguely that power had just been restored in some vast areas or maybe above the Arctic Circle.
Hydro had these maps you could see on your computers which never seemed to change. Of course most of us couldn't use our computers and smart phones were going kaput every second as batteries died. Yet Hydro urged us to report downed power lines via the Internet not the phone.
Do I really have to tell the bloody fools at Hydro, and the banks and Rogers which are charging for paper bills, that there are still a substantial number who don't use computers, particularly when there is no electricity, and compulsory use of the Internet should be against the law, particularly when there is a blackout, and telling people to use computers at such a time does not constitute "service" or "response".
Such emergencies should be golden opportunity for the forgotten medium of AM radio. Instead 680 recycled general info, for example that the premier was going to speak in careful generalities, and 1010 was in its usual talk-show hangup where callers have no info but just want to yammer so they can tell friends they actually inflicted their views on a few more people than just suffering neighbours.
What I would have found useful is a press conference for the first 10 minutes of every hour where experts - not Rob Ford telling us it wasn't an emergency - told us where power was about to be restored to specific streets. And they would group them into north, west, centre, east, etc, and you could listen and learn whether you were about to get the same electricity being enjoyed  by the richer neighbourhoods around you which apparently have more clout with the councillors.
There must have been plans. Surely they weren't fixing randomly. Since the electronic media give us info only in shallow bites where a whole minute is an eternity, the newspapers should have stopped firing people and started listing plans by the pages. They could have listed major intersections and told us what was happening there: Nothing? Maybe by Friday? Maybe by June?
Surely there were listings of needs besides the obvious ones of hospitals. There was an impromptu flavour to too much of it.  I know of  one nearby street that had power except for a few houses.. One man who had been told he would have to wait until the weekend stopped a Hydro crew heading to another street and persuaded them to fix his house first.
I realize a lot of constables, firefighters and Hydro crews spent long, dangerous and frigid stretches of what should have been an easy holiday time helping the rest of us. Good for them! God bless them, merry gentlemen (and ladies too.)  But I just wish more bureaucrats and politicians supposedly in charge realized that what the public yearned for was real information. Surely those battalions of PR flaks and officials whose main function now is to sanitize messages and block the routine flow of useful info could actually earn their keep and figure out how to get useful info to the public.
Instead we were told, for example,  that 115,000 homes were still without service, and it was believed that they were located somewhere on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
Useless as tits on a bull! Which is an expression dating from the earlier days where great expanses of the city without power for days because of rain and snow would have had the utility commissioners elected to supervise the supply firing bosses and telling the spokesmen that they sure as hell better have something to say more useful than it might get normal some time this century.
Never has this city had more ways to get real messages out. Never has this city and its power agencies and the provincial government failed so utterly in telling us exactly how long we would have to suffer.
For shame! If I was one of those men and women who had to work so long helping us and restoring power in such difficult conditions, my bosses would embarrass me.
If I was Canadian Tire, I would stock up on a lot more generators, and make them big ones. Maybe we should bring back Civil Defence. The first enemy we would guard against would be Hydro.

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