Thursday, November 27, 2008

Huffing and Puffing In The Ottawa Sandbox

Bob Rae and others in Ottawa are whining at the top of their lungs that the big bully, Stevie Harper, is going to remove all the toys (read "public funding") from their community sandbox. Even though the parents (read "taxpayers") of the neighbourhood kids are struggling to make ends meet these days, Lil' Bobby is demanding that new toys be purchased every year.

So he and his pals are now pouting, walking around with their little arms crossed, and stammering that they're no longer going to play in the sandbox. The parents, seeing their little ones so upset, nominate a woman in the neighbourhood, who is not directly connected with any of the children, to listen to all sides and decide what to do. Her name is Michaëlle. As an aside, all of the fathers of these kids think that Michaëlle is the hottest woman in the entire neighbourhood so they secretly relish getting to talk with her as often as possible! ;-)

Michaëlle calls together all the kids:

  1. Not so little Stevie Harper
  2. Un petit garcon, Stephane Dion
  3. Lil' Bobby Rae
  4. Mikey Ignatieff (who recently arrived from Boston)
  5. Lil' Jack Layton (who already has a little business selling computer tutorials on DVDs)
  6. Un autre garcon, Gillie Duceppe
  7. And the only girl of the bunch, Lizzie May
Michaëlle looks at all of the children and then focuses in on Lizzie. She asks her, "Young lady, you only look to be about 3 years old. Do you really play in this sandbox with the older boys?" Lizzie, who has seemingly been speaking non-stop since she turned one, starts talking about all sorts of wonderful things: "Green faeries in the forest and tricycles made by Suzuki that run on water and a white unicorn nicknamed 'Gore' and . . . ." Michaëlle, sensing this is going to go on for awhile, turns to the boys and asks them if Lil' Lizzie really plays in the sandbox. In unison, the 6 turn toward Lizzie and say "Non!" So Michaëlle asks the little girl to go back to her parents. She does so reluctantly but strolls away, talking to herself all the way home.

Michaëlle then asks the boys, "I trust you all understand that your parents have given me free reign to make whatever decision I wish. I need your promise that you will abide by whatever I decide."

Hearing this, Gillie puts his hands on his hips and says, "Madame, I hate this sandbox and I hate these boys. They're not mes amis and I will never agree to anything they ever say. I'm going to get someone to build me a new sandbox and I'll play there with my other friends!" With that, he stomps off.

Michaëlle rolls her eyes and continues, "Okay, is there anything else important that any of you want to tell me before we actually discuss things?"

Somewhat sheepishly, Stephane slowly raises his hand and says, "Well, the fact is that mon papa got a job in France and we're moving soon. So I won't be playing in this sandbox much longer anyhow. I think I better go." And with that, he politely leaves.

Michaëlle is somewhat ecstatic by this turn of events because the untenable group of 7 fidgety kids has now shrunk to just 4: Stevie, Bobby, Mikey, and Lil' Jack. She looks at them all and then focuses on Stevie: "From what I understand the other three seem to not like the way you're running the sandbox." Stevie nods and says in a very confident voice, with a barely detectable grin, "Apparently so."

She then looks at the other three and says, "Boys, perhaps you could tell me precisely what your issues with Stevie are?"

In a cacophany of little male voices she hears some semblance of the following: "Well, well, he's not playing fair. He wants to take away all of our toys and then we won't have anything to play with in the sandbox. Did we mention that he's not playing fair, you know?!"

This goes on for a few minutes, with the three of them endlessly repeating themselves. Eventually Michaëlle raises her hands and says, "Okay, okay, I think I get it! Stevie, could you explain things to me from your perspective?"

He contemplates for a moment and then starts talking:

Well, just last year our parents bought us a new set of toys for the sandbox. I've recently heard my parents talking and Dad might be laid off from his work soon. Mom has already had her hours cut back at the bank where she's a teller. My Uncle Bernie was up here from Windsor last week. I overheard him telling my dad that he and all his friends might be losing their jobs soon too. So I just decided that because our parents are going through all of this, it really doesn't make sense for them to keep on buying us new toys. Sure, in the big scope of things, the cost of the toys isn't a big part, but it's the principle of it and we need to show we care too. After all, money doesn't grow on trees.

So instead of them buying them, I think we should start trying to raise the money on our own to pay for the toys. My brother and I have already built a lemon-aid stand and I've put posters all around the neighbourhood saying that I will cut anyone's lawn for 10 bucks. There's nothing stopping Bobby and Mikie and Lil' Jack from doing the same. We can have more toys for our sandbox but we need to buy them ourselves.

"What a bright young man," Michaëlle thought to herself. But looking at the other three, she could see that their reaction was quite different. They were nothing short of stunned! Eventually, when they could talk again, there was but one word mostly coming out of their mouths: "But ... But ... But ..."

Then over the hedge, they all heard some other boy scream, "But I'm entitled to my entitlements!!" He giggled and could be heard running away. Michaëlle later checked the front of this house and the family name 'Dingwall' was emblazened beside the door!

Michaëlle looked again at the 3 boys beside Stevie, "Well, I think that your sandbox leader here has proposed something very interesting. I'm going to recommend that your parents keep him in as leader for the time being. Ultimately the decision is yours though. You can stop playing in the sandbox and demand that your parents hold another vote. But you know that this costs them time & money and you might not be happy with what they decide. In fact, they might just invite a whole new set of kids to come play in the sandbox with Stevie . . . ." She let those words hang in the air as she slowly strolled away.

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