COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Montreal, Opinion, Travel

Inform Restaurants If You Can’t Keep A Reservation

Bars and restaurants in Montreal are slowly getting back to business after the long pandemic-induced close down. It’s not a matter of lifting all restrictions, but enough that indoor eating can resume.

Sadly many restaurants couldn’t hang on until things started to reopen and have gone under. Even those establishments that have managed to survive COVID19 are not home free. A significant shortage of experienced staff is making reopening all the more difficult. Many restaurant staff, when faced with the loss of work due to closures, found other employment that they are not willing to give up.

It’s been a tough time; take a moment to let restaurants know if you can’t keep a reservation.

One of the other hindrances to reopening restaurants is no-shows. Part of the COVID19 reopening requires restaurants to insist on reservations. When a restaurant owner looks at his or her list of reservations for an evening, they can adjust staffing as required. However, when people who have made a reservation, but then don’t show up, the cost is borne by the restaurant.

In a former career, part of the service offered by our company involved luncheon meetings. Over the course of a decade or so, I probably made close to a thousand restaurant reservations at establishments right across Canada. It was not uncommon for these plans to be changed or cancelled.

I can’t think of one time when the person did not make a point of thanking me for letting them know.

I made a point of always contacting the restaurant to let them know that the reservation had to be cancelled. In addition, I can’t think of one time when the person did not make a point of thanking me for letting them know.

It’s been a tough time; take a moment to let restaurants know if you can’t keep a reservation.

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Humor, Montreal, News, Opinion, Politics, Quebec, Travel, Wordpress

COVID19 In Our Rear-view Mirror

It’s so close you can almost touch it. But not just yet. I refer to the time when the COVID19 pandemic will be, like Lubbock, Texas in the Mac Davis song, in our rear-view mirrors. I can’t imagine what Mac had against Lubbock, but he was sure pleased to be leaving. Things are getting better but we’re not there just yet. However, many restrictions have been lifted, or at least eased.

There are obvious post-pandemic-return-to-normal things that people look forward to; perhaps the most popular being the ability to travel again. I’m not much of a traveller myself, but even the chance to take a daytrip somewhere will be welcomed. Nor am I a great one for socializing, but having groups of people gather in homes and backyards, without masks, distancing, or trying to figure out who is in what bubble will also be grand.

A return to normal sidewalk behaviour, where passing pedestrians smile and may even nod at each other rather than shunning each other as if they were lepers will be, like going maskless, a breath of fresh air to me.

The things I am looking forward to are more subtle. Starting with not having to wear a mask – ever – anywhere – anytime. I’ve never had any inclination to the medical profession, and the pandemic has shown me just how fortunate I am in that respect. In a word, I hate wearing a mask. As a wearer of eyeglasses, I find that a mask has one of two effects: either my glasses fog up, or fall off. Don’t get me wrong, I wear a mask whenever it is required, and have throughout the pandemic, but the instant I can take it off, I do so. The concept of an airgasm is not lost on me.

I also look forward to a return to normal sidewalk etiquette. In an effort to maintain proper social distancing, people have taken to giving each other a wide, often very wide, berth on sidewalks, often stepping completely off the sidewalk into the street, around parked cars then retaking the sidewalk once again. When the pandemic first struck my city posted ‘Share the road’ signs in an effort to let drivers know people would be encroaching on their turf. Under normal conditions this overt avoidance of approaching walkers may well be construed as impolite. A return to normal sidewalk behaviour, where passing pedestrians smile and may even nod at each other rather than shunning each other as if they were lepers will be, like going maskless, a breath of fresh air to me.

I fear that one of the long-term effects of this hand sterilizing practice will be the loss of required antibodies, the things that help us fight all sorts of things on a daily basis, leading to a variety of illnesses.

In Montreal we had a curfew. There were strong opinions both for and against it. However, it was really a bit of a paper lion. Between the hours of 8:00 pm and 5:00 am no one was allowed to be outside. Mind you, there were exceptions – many exceptions. Frontline workers, from medical staff to bus drivers were allowed to be out for work. Many other jobs were considered essential, including food delivery services. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the now ended curfew regarding the spread of COVID, but I have to admit that on winter nights the serenity it provided was a nice change.

The incessant squirting of hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting stores, houses of worship, malls, banks, bars, and restaurants will be something I won’t miss. I fear that one of the long-term effects of this hand sterilizing practice will be the loss of required antibodies, the things that help us fight all sorts of things on a daily basis, leading to a variety of illnesses. But then, did I mention I’m not a doctor?

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CNN, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Donald Trump, Health, Humor, Montreal, News, Opinion, Politics, Quebec, Travel, United States

What Part Of Don’t Travel Do You Not Understand?

My next-door neighbour (or neighbor as they prefer), the USA, is a huge country. With a population of some 350 million people, and rising, it is a vast land. It is strong, patriotic, and advanced. Yet it also has one of the highest per-capita rates of COVID-19 in the world.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, the USA has the world’s sixth highest rate of novel coronavirus. This is something that, as a neighbour, is hard to come to grips with. Yet the same can be said, for many reasons, about the last four years under the out-going president. Trump played to his base, those who deny scientific facts, and he foolishly and dangerously went easy on fighting the virus so as not to be seen as limiting people’s rights. No mask enforcement. No real lock-downs. Both of which contributed to the high rate of infection.

The libertarian spirit of individual freedom is all fine and dandy, until it affects others. I have the right to swing my arm until it hits your elbow

Those out in the streets and malls prancing about mask-less in open defiance of suggestions and regulations, are placing fellow citizens in danger. The libertarian spirit of individual freedom is all fine and dandy, until it affects others. I have the right to swing my arm until it hits your elbow.

Yet it’s easy to blame the Trump nutters.

Today is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the USA. Traditionally the busiest day of the year for travel. You might assume that, under the circumstances of a worldwide pandemic, coupled with the poor handling of the virus, the number of people travelling would be almost nil. But no.

These are people I call ‘Fair Weather Virus Warriors’. They are all in favour of masks, social-distancing, self-confinement right up to the point where it really affects them

As I sit writing, CNN is providing its annual airport coverage. Delays due to weather, but mostly lines of people waiting to board flights. Not all of them can be Trump supporters, or he would have won the election!

These are people I call ‘Fair Weather Virus Warriors’. They are all in favour of masks, social-distancing, self-confinement right up to the point where it really affects them. Like when it comes to visiting at Thanksgiving. Then maybe the virus isn’t all that bad. When push comes to shove, They’ll do what they want, regardless of outcome. Scientifically minded experts are predicting a rise in COVID-19 cases in the weeks after Thanksgiving. But they’ve just got to fly to Aunt Edith’s place for turkey with the folks.

Here in Quebec, we have a similar high infection situation. The province is the second largest, yet has the most cases of COVID-19. There are many reasons, mostly seniors’ residences that were neglected for decades. But the government is trying to balance the upcoming holiday season, a time when families gather, with stemming the second wave of COVID-19.

With a bit of luck and a whole lot of common sense, we may be able to avoid, or at least reduce a post-Christmas post-Hanukkah spike in cases

To that end, bars and restaurants will remain closed until at least January of next year, During the period of December 24 – 27 people can gather at home in groups of up to ten people. But not all four days, just two. New Year’s Eve celebrations have been cancelled. Yep, no gatherings of any size for New Year. That’s it, that’s all.

Is there a mass outpouring of threats to resist, ignore these restrictions? Not really. The majority of people seem to understand that this is not going to be a normal holiday season. With a bit of luck and a whole lot of common sense, we may be able to avoid, or at least reduce a post-Christmas post-Hanukkah spike in cases.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Dublin, Easter, History, Ireland, Politics, Travel

Dublin: History You Can Touch

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My wife and I recently took a trip to Ireland. There are so many aspects of this wonderful country that strike the visitor. But perhaps chief among them is the history, both ancient and modern, in which Ireland is steeped.

… and you thought Jesus Christ was the only one who rose on Easter

One-hundred and four years ago, on this day in 1916, a group of rebels in Dublin and other Irish cities, launched yet another attempt to throw off the iron fist of the English. In what would become known as the Easter Rising, (and you thought Jesus Christ was the only one who rose on Easter) 485 people were killed during the six days of fighting.

Of those 54% were civilians, 30% were British military and police and 16% were Irish rebels. More than 2,600 were wounded. Many of the civilians were killed or wounded by British artillery and machine guns or were mistaken for rebels.

As insurrections go this one, based on the immediate end result, failed miserably. The huge numbers of British troops quashed the rebels and arrested the leaders.

Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol yard where executions took place.

In a show of obdurateness, the British made quick work of incarcerating, courtmartialling, and executing the leaders of the rising. The result of this rush to judgment was to make these men and women into martyrs. 

The result of this rush to judgment was to make these men and women into martyrs

Even many Dubliners who were opposed to the rising as a means of achieving freedom were deeply moved by the executions. The deaths fueled a movement that, over the next six often bloody years, would lead to independence for at least a part of Ireland. 

As you make your way through the streets of present-day Dublin you are reminded constantly of the violent struggles that took place a mere century ago. Beautiful architecture, statues, and memorials show the signs to this day of bullets from the past. Maybe these mementos of a worse time contribute to Dubliners’ great sense of craic!

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Music, Travel

Those Lonely Old Self-Quarantine Blues

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I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not so good for my liver

I went to the clinic concerned for my health,
Sneezed once and had the waiting room to myself.
The doctor said to self-quarantine and showed me the way,
I said no problem, I can do that for an hour, maybe a day.

I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my liver.

He explained I was to do it for an entire fourteen days,
Stunned, I looked at him in a non-feverish daze.
That’s two weeks confined in a four and a half,
After one even Fawlty Towers won’t make me laugh.

I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my liver

The doctor told me there’s a COVID19 pandemic,
Without a cure I said this whole thing is just academic.
First thing that comes to mind when I think of quarantine,
How did we survive COVIDs one through eighteen?

I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my liver.

I used to cross the street if I saw someone I owed money;
Now I avoid folks just in case my nose is runny.
I fear we will all lose our developed social skills,
In an effort not to spread the dreaded COVID chills.

I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my liver

I guess fourteen days isn’t all that trying,
Yet there’s something that needs clarifying.
When the time is up, we can’t go out unopposed.
Besides anywhere we’d want to go is closed.

I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my liver.

Quarantine is easy, those who went to war did what they were asked,
Like my grandad in 1914 I now spend my days getting gassed.
Some elude boredom by engaging in acts of physical fitness,
I’d rather welcome a chance to talk with a Jehovah’s Witness.

I’ve got those lonely old self-quarantine blues.
I can’t remember when I last wore shoes.
I sure am glad the local dep will deliver,
But I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my liver.

I’ve been wielding mop, vacuum and even broom,
Soon my place will look like an operating room.
Never will I forget that self-quarantine has its own smell,
Maybe it will catch on, Eau de Purell.

© Deegan Stubbs 2020

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, News, Opinion, Travel, United States

Foolish Young Men Flout COVID19 Warnings

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Spring Break during COVID19

Research shows that young people,  in particular young men, are the least likely to take seriously the whole concept of COVID-19.  We have all seen news coverage of crowded Spring Break beaches in Florida, as well as college kids ignoring restrictions and gathering to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Countless stories of the World Wars relate tales of men in their late teens and twenties joking about going overseas

That young people can be rebellious is not news, I suspect most of us when were once young may have done the occasional stupid thing. Hopefully, it was nothing that caused any lasting damage.

Even during times of war, young men, those with the most to lose, were the most eager to get to the fighting. Countless stories of the World Wars relate tales of men in their late teens and twenties joking about going overseas.

I have a hunch that for many of those men, the bravado they expressed prior to departing for war was stifled upon their return. Having experienced the real thing’ the humourous side of things was lost.

But there is a significant difference between laughing in the face of potential personal danger, and blatantly ignoring public health precautions: you can’t give someone else war. You certainly can spread COVID19.

Those who flout the COVID19 social distancing stipulations put not only themselves at risk, but those with whom they come into contact.

The cocky young men who gave the impression they were looking forward to going to war faced a situation in which only they could be injured or worse. Those who flout the COVID19 social distancing stipulations put not only themselves at risk, but those with whom they come into contact.

For Christ’s sake grow up!

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Ireland, Montreal, Opinion, Travel, Vacation Time

Airlines’ Preferred Seating Scam

 

Musicians

I am not an experienced traveler. For various circumstances, I did very little traveling for many years. Things have now changed and my wife and I are venturing out into the broader world. We have just returned from a week in Ireland; my wife’s 60th birthday present to me. Over the next little while, I will post on this absolutely wonderful experience. But first some bitching.

The first culprits, and perhaps the most culpable, are airlines

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry; so why is it always open-season on tourists?

The first culprits, and perhaps the most culpable, are airlines. My wife booked our flights a full six months in advance. Yet when we checked-in with Aer Lingus in Boston (we flew Montreal-Boston-Dublin) we had been seated separately. Not merely a row apart, or an aisle between us, but I was in row 9 while my wife was in row 47. That’s an entire cabin away.

Seats

The check-in kiosk computer gave us an option to change seats – for a significant fee. Wouldn’t you think that seats would be assigned sequentially? If two tickets for a flight are bought it seems only logical that you would seat these people together. Or perhaps a family of four – mom, dad, two kids under ten – should be seated together. But no. There’s no cash in that.

I have been told that some airlines actually have applied algorithms that break-up bookings in an attempt to squeeze extra money out of passengers. Isn’t it bad enough that the fares are wicked, the seats require a shoe-horn to get into, and the food looks good on the menu, but only two options are ever really available?

But, there’s a solution! DO NOT pay for “preferred seating” unless you want a specific seat (e.g. by the emergency exit)

On our return flight, Air Canada Boston to Montreal, they seated us four rows apart. Anything to screw tourists I guess.

But, there’s a solution! DO NOT pay for “preferred seating” unless you want a specific seat (e.g. by the emergency exit). Rather about an hour or so before boarding go to the airline representative at the gate and explain the situation. On both occasions, we were able to arrange logical seating with no mention of an additional charge.

The airlines will try, but don’t give in!!

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Marketing, Opinion, Travel, United States

It’s Always Open Season On Tourists

Which is why I always wonder why, if cities, towns, countries, cherish the infusion of outside cash, is it always open-season on tourists?

I could never be accused of being a world traveller. I’m much more a homebody, preferring the creature comforts of my little niche in the world. Yet lately I’ve been making forays out of my comfort zone. New York City and Costa Rica are two examples. However, just because I don’t get about much, does not mean I don’t appreciate the economic benefits of tourism. Which is why I always wonder why, if cities, towns, countries, cherish the infusion of outside cash, is it always open-season on tourists? 

It just seems to be taken for granted that as a tourist you are going to get screwed left, right, and centre. And, evidently, tourists are supposed to just shrug and laugh off paying exorbitant prices for daily items. From souvenirs to airline meals, prices are insane. It’s not bad enough to be targets for thieves and pick-pockets, even reputable establishments get on board when it comes to squeezing  coins from those beloved travellers.

It just seems to be taken for granted that as a tourist you are going to get screwed left, right, and centre.

Recently my wife and I were in the Miami International airport sitting-out a few hour lay-over. No problem, we were not in any rush, and it was nice not to have to hurry to get a connection. While waiting we decided to have a meal. We went to Shula’s Bar and Grill for a burger and a beer given it was located closed to our gate.

The place was not busy, and service started out fine with the delivery of menus. A little while later the waitress returned to take our order. We each asked for a pint of draft Coors Lite as listed on the menu.

“Sorry,” she said. “We don’t have any draft beer here”.

Not the end of the world, do you have Coors Lite in any form; bottle or can.

“Sorry, how about Bud Lite in a can?”

Wonderful, two of those would do us just fine. In no time at all the two cans had arrived at our table and, not too long after our hamburgers made their appearance.  

Also, a gratuity of 18% had been included. The service was alright, but not 18% quality

While eating what were very tasty burgers indeed I noticed a woman at another table who, having had just an appetizer was taken aback by the ungodly price when her bill arrived. Gobsmacked to say the least, the woman paid and left in a huff.

I ordered another Bud Lite as we had plenty of time to kill. My wife had a coffee. When the time came to pay, I knew it was going to be ridiculously high. I knew the burger prices from the menu, but not the canned beer prices. So I was just a wee bit shocked to read that the cans were US$8.50 each. A significant mark-up. But what the hell, the people who come to airport restaurants are either travelling for business which means they will be reimbursed, or … you guessed it … tourists. Soak them good!

Also, a gratuity of 18% had been included. The service was alright, but not 18% quality.

I asked to pay by credit card. She brought the handy machine. My credit card chip had been damaged, so I was limited to Apple Pay, but this being MIA, a major airport in a big city, I had no doubt they would accept Apple Pay.

Unfortunately I was wrong. When I took out my phone to pay she told me “We don’t accept that method”. 

Okay, this was considerably inconvenient, but not the end of the world. I plucked the last of my US currency from my wallet and placed it in the little folder and waited for my change. It was only three or four bucks, but having already paid an 18% tip I wanted my change. When she got around to our table she said – wait for it – “Sorry, I don’t have any change”.

I plucked the last of my US currency from my wallet and placed it in the little folder and waited for my change. It was only three or four bucks, but having already paid an 18% tip I wanted my change.

Now I was getting a tad cranky. First no draft beer, even if it was on the menu, then wicked prices for cans of beer, followed by an automatic 18% gratuity then no convenient payment method all topped-off with a claim of no change, had me annoyed.

I did something I rarely if ever do, after listing my grievances, I asked her to show me to the manager. She replied by saying, in a tone that suggested her exasperation with me, “Oh, I can get your change if you really want it”.

Clearly she just wanted to augment her 18% tip by claiming to not have any change. She was, I suspect, used to business travellers and roll-over-and-take-it tourists. I hope she put the extra few bucks to good use, as I could only shake my head and walk off to my gate.

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Costa Rica, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Travel

Costa Rican Civility

After three weeks in Costa Rica it has occurred to me that, aside from the physical beauty, the concept of civility is what has struck me most. This should not come as a surprise, considering this country celebrates the disbanding of its military in favour of education. I’ll provide more about this in a future post.

There are two kinds of driving in Costa Rica; highway and very narrow winding roads. The greater San Jose area seems to have long ago surpassed its maximum number of cars, resulting in streets chock-full of stationary cars, buses, and trucks. I highly recommend visiting the capital, just don’t bring your car.

A typical rural Casta Rican road

The more rural areas feature winding roads without, for the most part, sidewalks. These streets weave in and out and up and down, and are shared by both vehicles and pedestrians which seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. Yet somehow it works.

The civility of which I write is well illustrated in the Costa Rican driving customs. Given the nature of the road layout, many merges exist. A driver giving another a chance to join the main flow of traffic is shown appreciation not by a wave of the hand, but by a short two-note toot on the horn – think Road Runner, not New York cabbie – and, once fully ensconced in traffic, a momentary display of four-way or hazard lights. Very civilized indeed. I’ll save my motorcycle tirade for another post!!

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, New York City, Photography, Travel, United States

Missing Red Dot

Any luck finding the all-important red dot?

A couple of months ago my wife and I visited New York City. We stayed in a hotel on the Upper West Side, clean, convenient, and not too pricey. The only problem was the dodgy emergency exit signs.

We were on the eleventh floor, one that had clearly once had larger rooms that had been chopped-up into smaller studios. The hallway was a bit maze-like, but all we did there was sleep so no big deal.

One morning while waiting for the elevator I took a peek at the emergency exit diagram just in case. In fact since returning I have looked at the photo above on several occasions but for the life of me (thankfully figuratively) I cannot find the important You Are Here red dot.

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