Stupid Government Ad.

There I was, blithely reading celebrity gossip websites, and an ad came on the radio. In this ad:

A man comes home (from work?) and looks at the mail. He sees there’s a cheque from Universal Child Care. He questions his wife, who explains that they get a hundred bucks a month per kid “to use for day care, play programs, anything we want.” He summarises: “Twelve hundred bucks a year per kid? That’s better than a bill any day!”

Um, yes. It’s much better than a bill. But is it better than actually giving families enough money to cover day care? No. Is it better than ensuring that people (usually women, not always) who want to be a part of the workforce have a chance to be? No. Is it better than enabling families to procure more income, so that they may improve their lives and situations? No.

This ad, sponsored by the government, is patronising as all hell. It patronises as the couple is speaking in that government-ad way, where they make sure to present the information a couple of different ways, for those of us who are too dumb, to, say, calculate that 12 months X one hundred bucks = an actual 1200 smackeroos. Second, they sound so happy ad impressed about it. Yes! They can have a fraction of the price of day care each month per child, and they, themselves are clearly too stupid to figure out that a hundred bucks a month is like giving nothing. It’s worse than nothing, because it gives the brief illusion that the government actually gives a shit about families. It’s an insult, like leaving pennies as a tip for shitty service.

The ad also backfires, for me, and I’m betting for others, because of the hot rush of bile that rose in my gorge when I heard it. “Fuckers,” I thought. “The government thinks that that’s going to impress me? What about subsidising childcare completely so that that woman can get out of the house and have a job, thus contributing to the GDP, improving her family’s fortune as well as the country’s, as a whole?”

Okay, It took me a while to think of that, but the bile in my gorge was instantaneous.

It’s Summer. I Should Be Working.

Over at Rants For the Invisible People, Arwen has an interesting critique of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, “Nickel and Dimed”. Great critique, but the comments thread had me thinking about jobs I’ve had. Which, gentle readers, you know, often catapults me back to my favourite job ever, being a fuel barge attendant in Port Hardy.

WARNING: Long-winded reminiscence follows.
I arrived on the barge as a timid 17-year-old. Geekily, my parents came with me to meet my boss and soon-to-be coworkers. I don’t know what they thought of frail little me, but I am so glad they let me prove myself.

Seven days a week, I spent eight hours (sometimes more if there was an opening or someone called in that they needed fuel) hauling hundred-foot hoses as thick as my forearms. We had four diesel hoses, two gas hoses and a stove oil hose. Boats could be two or three deep around the barge and it was up to me to keep the customers happy and organized. In between hauling hoses, I lugged pails and cases of oil around, helped with oil changes, and ran fuel tallies in to the store.

If there was a lineup (which isn’t a lineup because boats float and don’t stay in the same place on the water), I had to keep track of who was next and shout at them that they could come in to fuel. One old troller, gossiping with my uncle in Nanoose Bay, shook his head in admiration: “They got a bossy little thing up in Hardy that can actually remember what order you came in! She wouldn’t let me jump the line at all!” Obviously, I stopped being timid and frail damned fast.

I was busy. I put on a lot of muscle that summer because I was eating pretty much all day. Of course, everything tasted like diesel, but I got used to it.

Sounds like Hell on Earth, right? A menial position where I was required to get exceptionally grimy and run around all day carrying heavy stuff and being nice to customers. No way. It was bliss.

First of all, I was paid very well. The barge was on union wages, thanks to the foresight of the Cannery Boss.

In addition, I was seldom treated like ‘retail staff’. The majority of business was repeat customers, and they were commercial fishermen. Some were polite, some were bawdy, some were brusque, but they knew me and I knew them. We learned how to co-exist.

Incidentally, the people who were most often rude were pleasureboaters with boats between 25 and 50 feet long. The smaller craft were inevitably friendly and happy. One of our favourites, Whistling Guy, was in his eighites. I never let him even lift a jerrycan, so frightened was I that he’d break a hip getting out of the boat. The larger boats were full of easygoing people who were out to have a good time, rich-person style. They used to give us T-Shirts with the boats’ names on them. But midsize craft skippers were the devil. They were guys who wanted us to think they were big-shots, so they acted like dicks. I still remember one guy whose shoelaces were co-ordinated to the colour of his boat, insisting he could jump the line of boats and get some ice for his cooler. I put in a call to the icehouse and Colie shot a quarter-ton of ice into this guy’s transom. Damn, that was funny.

I miss that job.

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