Battling the Children's Crusade

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:56 a.m.

In his novel, Pattern Recognition, William Gibson called the endless adolescent crowds that invade Camden Market in London on Saturdays, the Children’s Crusade.  We, in Lennoxville, have our own Children’s Crusade between 8:00-9:00 every weekday morning.  I’m referring to the parade of young adults who emerge from the houses and apartments on College and Depot Street and trudge across the bridge to the Bishop’s University/Champlain campus.  They brave the College Street crosswalk and dare traffic to stop.  Mostly it does; sometimes it doesn’t.

With time, many of us are getting better at seeing pedestrians who have a right of way that they did not have before.  It was only a few years ago that any one who wanted to cross College had to dash out when no car was coming with the hope that an automobile didn’t just materialize from another dimension.  It should have been an Olympic sport, but unfortunately, there are no medals for courage or agility in outwitting cars.

I should be more sympathetic to the students’ plight but as a motorist, I’m getting testy.  Is it just me or does the traffic on College seems worse now than in years past, and is the crosswalk the cause of the problems?  I have seen joggers run blissfully past me as my sporty little car that is capable of great speeds painfully inches its way toward the third traffic light just in front of Bishop’s where I wait to make that left turn across the bridge that will take me to work.  I could understand this kind of traffic if I was back in Montreal or even New York City, but Lennoxville?  This is a small town of 5000 tops, even when the students are here.  What’s with all this traffic?

On mornings when the traffic is moving, it’s a lovely 5 minute drive with the mountains, the trees, and church steeples all looking very pastoral and very pretty.  Yes, those are the mornings that make you glad to be alive.  Most mornings, however, I am faced with the monumental decision of which street will be less congested, Queen or College.  My coffee is not strong enough to fortify me with the prescience needed to make such a crucial choice.  If I go down Queen, I can make a left turn by the Town Hall, and if I’m lucky, I can make another left on to College from Depot, but I have to be cocky.  I have to have nerves of steel to sneak out in front of the traffic and make my way to the Promised Land in hopes that the crosswalk won’t bog the traffic down too much.  At least my hairdresser appreciates my problem; the traffic has turned my hair gray and she’s making money dying it closer to its once youthful brown.

It could be that the new 410 overpass will alleviate some of the traffic so that the large trucks that are a pesky component of the morning traffic will go another way, but I’m not overly optimistic.  There is still the Children’s Crusade to contend with, and though the kids finish school and graduate, there are more, always more, to take their place. 

If this is the case, once the new highway is up and taking the strain off in-town traffic, we can be sure that more experts will come up with a new scheme, maybe a fourth traffic light, so that at least you could move for a few minutes before the next student waits to cross the street.  Maybe we could see a footbridge go over College Street, something like the bridges in Venice, or maybe they will come up with hover crafts so we can all fly to work like George Jetson.  Yes, that’s the answer…except by that time, I will have retired.  Pity, I always wanted one of those.

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Jury Duty and More Jury Duty

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:44 a.m.

Two weeks have gone by since I wrote my last column about reactions to jury duty.  I’ll cut to the chase: I got exempted because of my poor French skills (I’m not proud of that), and the fact that I am health care proxy for my 91 year old father who lives in The Bronx.  In the last two weeks, Dad has taken a turn for the worse. I will head down to see him soon, something that I would not have been able to do had I been selected, so thank you, Sheriff’s Office, for your understanding at a bad time.

On a more cheerful note, I’ve had some wonderful conversations with friends and emails from folks who have been called up for the selection process. One reader was convinced that if she thought about jury duty often, she would get called up and sure enough she was:

“I tend to believe in the law of attraction...What I think I create. Well.... I have been thinking briefly, but profoundly about this event and I "knew" that this was coming for me. When I received the notice I felt such a contradiction of feelings. I felt excitement and terror all in the same bundle. I think I am bilingual enough to be chosen, but I really don't know how strict their demands will be. I have such mixed feelings especially because I am a teacher and my students and I are beginning to build a strong and cohesive community together, I feel worried about them as I imagine the possibilities. So, my rendezvous is Wednesday, October 13th (I am not one bit superstitious) I hope and wonder and dread what the outcome will be.”  She wasn’t the only teacher that heard the call of Lady Justice; I’m wondering how many teachers if any will wind up as jurors.

What I find truly interesting is that some people that I spoke to and heard from by email expressed an honest concern about doing the job properly, whether it’s following the nuances of the case in both official languages or going in with preconceptions about the accused.  I received one email that explained this worry with a story that I’m going to reproduce here:

“I've honestly been working on not judging people by their looks for a good twenty years. When our daughter was tiny, we went to the fair and she wanted to go on a bouncy castle thing. Adults weren't allowed beyond a certain line. She had to take off her shoes and in her excitement got a knot in her laces. A big guy, tattooed arms, shaved head and leather vest approached her and I was about to scream ‘Get away from my kid!!’ when he knelt down, untied the knot and gently lifted her up on the air mattress. I try to remember that.”

Other people’s reaction was to ask me how I “got off.”  There was a fair amount of understandable worry that they might be perceived as being more bilingual than they really are.  For example, at the courthouse, one of my friends got into trouble when she said, “I don’t speak French.”  This was not what the lawyers wanted to hear; they wanted to know whether or not potential jurors could understand French.  When my friend quickly explained that she meant to say that she didn’t understand French, she received her exemption.  Yet another friend who is over the age of 65 - which is supposed to be an automatic exemption - tried calling up to get out of going in but was told that he had to go – I, on the other hand, was exempted by phone.  Go figure.

Meanwhile the process continues, and I wonder if the search for a juror will move to another locality where they will try to find twelve more not so angry men and women who will give the accused their fair shake at justice.  If you see a yellow letter in the mailbox, try not to panic.

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A misty morning , September 26th

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:33 p.m.

Over and over again, RG told me to take the camera out.  Sometimes I do listen to him.  I pulled out the Sony, went upstairs and decided it would be best to get the zoom lens out.  I'm awkward at it but I managed to exchange lenses without too much of a hassle, and most importantly, without asking for help.

I went out on the balcony and took about 35 shots.  This was my favourite.

People keep asking me how it is that someone who grew up in New York can live in the Eastern Townships.  I've been here for close to 22 years.  If this photo doesn't answer the question, then there's a part of me that you really don't know.

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