Badge of Shame

A few weeks ago a reporter from the Montreal Gazette contacted me. She was doing a story about how layoffs affect men, which she theorized was different that how they affect women. Someone had told her about me and my sudden job loss last May, and she thought I might have something useful to add to the article.

We spoke on the phone for a few minutes, and I suppose it was useful because she called back to say she’d like to send a photographer to get a shot of me to illustrate the article. I agreed, and the next day we did a quick photo shoot in a café near my (new) job.

That weekend the article was published in the Gazette. Nobody online seems to have seen it, but a lot of my analog friends did, along with people at work. Being part of the conglomerate, the Gazette circulated the article to many of the other papers in its network.

Last Saturday it surfaced at The National Post, this time bearing the unfortunate headline “A badge of shame.”

That headline is bad enough, but look how it was used in conjunction with an enormous photo of yours truly! Jeebuz H. Christ, what will the neighbours think? Thanks a bunch, National Post; you make me look like a kitten killer or a home wrecker! “Badge of shame?” WTF?


For the record, as you can read in the original Montreal Gazette version (titled “Men, Money, Anxiety”), I didn’t say anything about shame. Two of the other people interviewed (both unnamed) used that word, but I talked about fear. Unfortunately, I’m the only person in the article who ponied up my real name, and volunteered to be photographed, so someone at The National Post apparently thinks I wouldn’t mind having “A badge of shame” writ large under a photograph of me. (Update: The Gazette still has the annoying habit of removing stories after a certain amount of time has passed. Fortunately, the article is still available from the National Post, but without the original headline.)

(It should be noted that the author of the article, Lynn Moore, does not pick the headlines for syndicated versions of the article.)

Update: The Province, a Canwest ( tabloid in British Columbia, cuts to the chase. It snipped off the entire top three-quarters of the article and just published the part about me, under the headline “Man gets new job fast.” Ha!

Bad Information

One of the driving forces in my life is to find, and when I can, correct, bad information. By “bad information” I generally mean:

  • Information containing chasmic gaps
  • Incorrect information
  • Poorly stated information
  • Information that is unnecessarily hard to find

Lucky for me, the world is awash with bad information. I see it all the time, on an almost daily basis. Sometimes I think I should start a blog dedicated to nothing but pointing out, and when possible correcting, bad information. But that blog would end up taking over my life and I’d have to quit my day job, which, by the way, is all about good information.

Loyal readers of this blog will recall that I sometimes discuss bad information on the present blog. For example, there’s the recent post about Videotron’s bad information regarding its high definition channels. Then there was my rant about Mobile TV on Telus phones. And I’m not above tooting my own horn by showing you how a rewrite can turn a pile of poo into something meaningful (or at least understandable).

But mostly I just suffer and grumble and rant about it over dinner. (Hmmm. For the sake of my relationship, maybe I should start that other blog…)

Here’s a recent one. At the Longueuil Metro and bus terminal, which has been undergoing a large scale reorganization of the grounds and approaches over the past year (and will continue for another), they recently uprooted the bicycle parking. In the loop where the racks to accommodate hundreds of bicycles were, the following signs appeared one day:

Translation: “We must relocate the bike racks on Friday, July 4 at 5:00 AM. All remaining bicycles will be handed over to police headquarters.”

I don’t know how much advance warning was given for the move because I haven’t been riding my bike to the terminus lately. But I wouldn’t be surprised if these signs went up on July 3.

OK, what’s missing? How about where the hell is the new location for the bike racks?!

In the five years I’ve been commuting through that terminal I have on several occasions seen signs warning of something or other being moved, and they usually give the address of the new location. However, if you’re familiar with the area around the terminal you know that the streets are not typical and nobody really knows what their names are. So if a sign says “the clinic has moved to 2100 rue de Sérigny,” that means nothing; especially since rue de Sérigny has essentially five different locations (see below).

The many faces of rue de Sérigny (red arrows). The yellow box is the terminal; the main public entrance is at the top, so all that stuff around the sides and back is largely unknown to the average person.

No, what we need is a map. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy map, just a map that shows the old location and the new location, along with a few key buildings (like the terminal), for reference.

In this case, I’m sure there are people who still haven’t found the new location for the bike racks because they’re all the way around the other side of the terminal, on one of the rues de Sérigny, in an area that was essentially a “no go” zone before the reorganization. You certainly can’t see it from the old location, and it’s not like the new location just springs to mind.

Old and new locations; about 400 metres apart, with several buildings and and the bus departure gates in between.

More Elevator Troubles

Loyal readers will recall the problems I reported with elevator door buttons some time ago. Well, I’m displeased to inform you that it doesn’t stop there.

The building I currently work in has five elevator banks (not including the service elevator), and I seem to be experiencing an occasional but recurring problem when I’m at the top and want to go down to the ground floor. You see, everything within all of the elevators is identical except that one uses a different arrangement for the floor number buttons.

Before I continue, I need to point something out: I’m a rote boy. That means I do things by rote. I’m not good at remembering things based on meaning, and I don’t always want to think repetitive tasks through before I do them. I just develop kinetic patterns and try to leave it at that.

Unfortunately that is a pretty lousy way to do things and I’m always getting in trouble because of it. For example, if you ask me to recite my postal code, I am stumped. I haven’t a clue. But put a pencil in my hand and I can write it down without even thinking.

It’s the same thing with phone numbers. Ask me my home phone number and I’ll blurt out random digits like a bingo caller yet I won’t even come close to getting my phone number right. But give me a telephone and I can call home easily by following the rote-learned pattern on the keypad.

OK, back to the elevators. In all five of the elevators in that building there are two rows of buttons. In elevators one through four, the button for the ground floor (“RC” here in Quebec) is below the rows of numbers, centered between them. But in elevator five, the “RC” button is at the bottom of the left row (i.e., not centered).

That’s a 4:1 ratio, so I use elevators one through four way more often than elevator five. When I’m going down, I step into the elevator and push the centered button at the bottom of the rows with barely a glance. I don’t have to bend down and try to read the numbers on the buttons (brushed metal on brushed metal in a dimly-lit elevator – who designed that?) because “RC” is thoughtfully positioned differently from the others.

But every now and then I board elevator five. The “RC” button is not in the middle, but I’m not thinking about that, I’m just automatically reaching for the button in the middle. And of course, there is one; the alarm bell. (Elevators one through four have a similar bell, but you don’t notice it because it’s below the centered “RC” button.)

BRRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG! Then I have to explain to the crackling voice in the speaker that whoops, I hit the wrong button. How many times do you have to do this before the guard thinks you’re an idiot? (Probably not many.) But if you ask me, the idiot is the person who decided to use a different pattern of buttons in one out of five elevators!

Note that in the above illustrations, the “RC” button is already pressed, so it is illuminated. But when you get on the elevator it isn’t lit, so they all look the same when you’re not really looking.

The solution is actually quite easy. Since it would cost a fortune to re-design the panel to accomodate a centered “RC” (and the mysterious “D” button that only appears in elevator 5), they should instead spend about two bucks on a cheap metal non-functioning button that says “RC” and has an arrow pointing to the real “RC” button.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep bugging the security guard once or twice a week.