It’s time to celebrate unsung heroes

Dear Uma: If there is anything designed to baffle, anger and frighten people, it is trying to resolve something and not finding anyone who is in…

Dear Uma:

If there is anything designed to baffle, anger and frighten people, it is trying to resolve something and not finding anyone who is in charge.

I was an hour and a half on the telephone yesterday, and an hour the day before (at least it was a toll free number) and I have still not been able to simply cancel the insurance on our house in Guelph.

Our ex-house, I should say; we sold it almost nine months ago, having owned it for three years and never lived in it.

I can’t even remember what it looked like other than the sunroom that convinced us we would have no life if we didn’t buy this place.

We are still dealing with a company that doesn’t seem to understand the residence no longer belongs to us.

The telephone calls came about after a month of e-mailing and getting no response whatsoever.

The length of the calls is due to the many transfers that take place; I get a voice, which asks for my name, address, telephone number and account number.

After confirming I am probably who I say I am and, indeed, we are on record as having business with the company, I am asked to describe my concern. 

Usually the voice identifies itself, asks questions and leads me to believe I have found someone who will be able to resolve this state of affairs, so ludicrous that it must be an embarrassment to a company of such stature.

After several minutes, the voice tells me I must be transferred to another voice. Thus my journey begins, transfer by transfer.

The problem is each transfer is to a voice that has never heard of me or my case, necessitating the taking of information all over again, starting with the spelling of my name.

The whole endeavour has got me thinking about these times of ducking and weaving; this era of smoke and mirrors, where the line between government and business has vanished and the leaders, the bosses, can no longer be called into account for anything. 

A few short years ago they would pontificate, baffle us with bullshit; nowadays they simply refuse to comment.

It reminded me of the people in Whitehorse who suffered damage to their properties after a contractor’s dynamiting went awry; they couldn’t find anyone to talk to about the incident.

The “leaky condo” scandal in BC, years and years later, is still causing financial hardship and all its attendant griefs among owners as they attempt to get some resolution as to who is responsible.

Recently, Vancouver suffered electrical blackouts in their business sector, during the height of tourist season. Dozens of businesses lost thousands of dollars, but no one is responsible.

Questioned as to how it happened, and why repairs took so long, BC Hydro officials answered like seasoned politicians; they managed to say a lot of words that meant nothing at all. 

Almost any incident or concern, major or minor, seems to end up in a bog of bureaucracy unpeopled by anyone who is willing to stand up and declare him/herself responsible, let alone willing or able to do something about the issue.

We elect each other to positions of power in order to have someone to take care of our chosen lifestyle.

We invest in the same way, purchasing goods or services from companies or individuals we think we can trust. We elect, we deal with, those who most reflect what we want; then we relax and go about our business, trusting the person (or persons) to do the right thing.

The fact that they rarely do the right thing does not seem to make us any more willing to engage, other than making the frustrated phone call, or sending a strongly-worded e-mail to vanish into the ether.

We do that only when we are angry or scared, when something happens that reveals the system we believe in, the people we have chosen to run it for us, is not only dysfunctional, but no one gives a damn.

As someone who has trained horses, dogs and children, you have told me many times that animals and children must know the rules in order for them to make choices and feel safe. If they do not feel safe, they act in ways that are unhealthy to themselves and/or a danger to others.

We seem to be living in a world where no one knows the rules, let alone abides by them, and it is getting messier and messier.

Most of us deal with it by simply keeping our heads down and hoping nothing happens to drag us into the open.

We fight our lonely little battles on the telephone or the internet and talk about them over our tea or wine, but we don’t often join together to try to change anything.


Because someone has to be the first one to stand up and say publicly that something is wrong and must be righted; a dangerous position to be in, upright and making a declaration; showing a willingness to be responsible, to take charge.

In plainer language, to be a target.

We have many examples of one person’s courage and determination changing things for the better for many people; it is too bad that there is not more media coverage on these intrepid folk beyond the one-off story tacked onto the end of the late night news, or the article in the Reader’s Digest one reads in the doctor’s office.

We need to hear and know more about this brand of heroism; it will hopefully encourage the rest of us to stand up for something we believe in, or show support for someone who is trying to make a difference.

In a small town, in particular, it shows true grit to be one of those people because there is no place to hide.

Here, if one feels there’s been a screw-up, or one doesn’t like something that is being done, or even proposed, there is a real person to accost, someone who can’t escape the position of being in charge because we all know who they are, where they live and work and who their family and friends are.

It is such a powerful and potentially terrifying thing to do that I am amazed and humbled by those who are brave enough to do it.

I don’t have to support them, or agree with their ideas, to admire and respect them for taking a stand.

Watson Lake has its share of these heroes, starting with a mayor who exemplifies this sort of stoicism in the face of constant sniping and griping about her and her councillors.

Maybe it is time we tried supporting people who are engaged in doing the work we want done but, for whatever reasons, are not willing to do for ourselves.



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.

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