Peter Serves Canada

Prologue; This week’s column was going to be about the movie “Top Gun”, as they have started to film the “sequel”, 32 years later. However, the situation changed, and I adapted. Look for a “Top Gun” column somewhere down the road.

This Tuesday, I visited the Service Canada office I retired out of. As I walked into the all too familiar setting, a former co worker greeted me. “…somebody spoke and I went into a dream…” a)

I worked at a number of offices and worksites over my 40 years plus working with the Canadian government, mostly in Toronto. Started off at 20 Holly St, then 200 Dundas East, then 20 Eglinton W, then 2291 Yonge St, then 1 Yonge St and so on. They ranged in degrees of ambiance from the CN Tower to the sidewalk on Bloor St W, in front of the Senator David Croll Apartments. When I wound up at 25 St Clair Avenue East in 1996, my unit (“the front end”) was located on the 4th Floor at first. In 1998, we moved to refitted quarters on the 1st Floor.

So many adventures in that “open concept office” building! Let me tell you about some, not necessarily in temporal order.

I was interviewing a Canadian Football League b) player who had been traded from British Columbia to Hamilton. He was applying for Unemployment Insurance Regular benefits. As we were working on the important stuff, he mentioned conversationally that he had put a hit on “Pinball” Clemons that made the CFL’s annual highlight reel! I shushed him, as he was in enemy territory. He left, and a few minutes later, a co worker came over and asked “Did he mention “Pinball” Clemons?” I replied that he had sat beside him on an airliner 😉!

We had temporary “offices”. Talking to a claimant, I leaned back in my chair and heard a loud report, before falling backwards onto the floor. A part of my swivel chair had given up the ghost, depositing me on the floor. The length of my shins coincided with the breadth of the seat of my chair, and I couldn’t move. I was laughing as a co worker came into my office. The first thing the client said was “Honest, I didn’t touch him!” It took 3 people to extricate me from that precarious situation!

A co worker was interviewing a woman applying for Employment Insurance Maternity benefits. He went off to get a form of some kind.

Her water broke while he was away from his desk, and I hied to advise him of this. Things worked out for the best, in the end.

They made a mistake and made me a “Floor Warden”. Once a month, there would be a “warning system test” for the ten floors of our building. Over the intercom, they would announce that they were “testing the warning system”, starting at Floor 10 and working their way down. They once announced “Floor One Warden, check in!” I went to the place where the “batphone” was, to find a new employee using it. She was saying “Oh, I’m not sure, I must check.”

I took the phone over and rectified the situation. I then asked her why she had answered the phone. She replied that it had been ringing. I asked if she had heard the “floor warden ” announcement and she said that she had. I then pointed out that she was not a “floor warden”, so she should, in future, let those who are qualified handle things, as Fire Safety is serious business. (And Mr Rogers lied, you’re not special!)

Speaking of those “Floor Warden” tests, procedure was to pick up the phone and answer (for example), “Floor 6 OK.”

For my part, I would answer “Floor One, crew in good spirits, no signs of scurvy!”

At the first meeting of the building emergency team I attended, the chair, who had made those calls, asked, “Who’s here from Floor One?” I responded, and recognizing my voice, she said “You’re Peter!” 😉

We had safety alarms everywhere on the first floor, very piercing alarms. One day one went off and I raced to disarm it. I started to walk away, as it was usually triggered by mistake. However, it went off again almost immediately! Looking at the panel, I saw that it had gone off out in the waiting area, at the same desk where the previous alarm had originated. I walked out and found 3 adults and a 4 year old, waiting to be seen. The child, obviously bored, was hitting the alarm. Wearing my best “game show host smile”, I walked over and asked who had business in the office today? An adult said that he did, and I said “Well, if that kid hits the alarm again, it will not get done here today and yes I can!”

We would have a Christmas potluck, and in those easy times, I made a killer trifle. I made 3 trifles for our lunch, one neutral and two “do not smoke after eating” loaded with sherry.

One of my unit mates had a lot of one of my “loaded” trifles, and quickly got into the same shape. Her husband had to drive down from Richmond Hill to retrieve her. When I heard of this, I thought “…He’s either going to punch me or hug me!..”

I got hit by a car in 2003, and wasn’t back to work until mid 2005. The adult supervision herded half of us at a time into a room about a month after I came back fulltime and put up a Will Rogers quote as a graphic. It said something like “Even if you’re on the right track, if you don’t keep moving, you’ll be run over.” Then the manager started to talk about changes coming and how she was really tired of it all.

I could not and would not resist taking a swing at that beachball.

I quipped “I know what you mean, I’ve been feeling a little run down myself lately!”

The place broke up in laughter, and it still gives me a chuckle thinking about it.

The manager started to verbally “tapdance”, thinking that she had offended me.

So many great times, so many great people on both sides of the desk.

So they are having a get together on June 22nd, and the aulde place closes June 29th. The staff will be scattered to the winds temporarily, at least.

I have heard rumours that the building will be turned into (what else?) a condo.

The thought of people trying to make babies near where I swore at the photocopier is frankly, bizarre.

See you soon.

  1. a) Beatles reference
  2. b) Canadian pro football league


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