Opinion

Take time to appreciate what our city crews do

I am happily ensconced in downtown Duncan in a place I fondly call the watchtower.

It came by its name because the building is of watchtower-like construction and there is always something going on outside the windows.

A few days ago, I was woken way too early by the abnormal sound of silence, a quiet much like having a thick blanket thrown over my head.

Exploring beyond the confines of my bed the window view provided the answer: Duncan was blanketed with snow, snow deep enough to silence all noise.

The only sound was the almost indiscernible soft thud of huge snowflakes hitting the ground.

Returning to the warm memories of my bed I faded back into snowflake dreamland.

My dreamland visit was short-lived when the snowy silence  was sheared by the sounds of heavy machinery, and flashing lights found the gaps in my window blinds. Bed-shaking snowplow blades against cold asphalt added to the industrial disharmony.

Despite the cacophony I was comforted knowing city crews were out before most of us were even thinking about waking up, taking advantage of the city stillness to get it ready for the day ahead.

Out in force, they were working fast and hard to erase the effects of the fast-moving snowstorm that had dumped a good amount overnight. A storm so serious it caused (gasp) the Brew Pub to close early two days in a row.

By midday that same day the snow ended, downtown streets and sidewalks were almost bare of snow.

The small amount not moved by city workers quickly disappeared as the early spring sun finished the job.  It was as if the storm had skipped the city.

I am quite proud of the city I call home and I am equally proud of the work city workers do to look after the city. From snow clearing to plant-watering, weed-picking, hanging lights up, taking lights down, and doing things that they might not agree with because it is their job to do.

You don’t have to go far these days to hear a joke about city workers. They are told in every town and city, no matter the size.

A recent letter to the editor criticized city workers for taking their break at a local Tim Horton’s, a letter I considered unjustified and very ill-informed.

City workers are often painted with bad strokes, no matter whether it is for their coffee break habits, their huge paychecks, or the manner in which they work. Unhappy people always need scapegoats to criticize and city workers are there to provide.

Duncan city workers are far from this caricature.

They are the ones out in all weather, often doing the dirty work in difficult conditions. They are the first responders in many situations. They were the front-line workers for exhaustive hours in the 2009 flood.

It is not just the public works crews that deserve commendation. Ccommissionaires are the faces you are most likely to meet if you have business or things to do downtown.

I remember the days when a commissionaire’s uniform meant a dour personality and probable parking ticket.

Nowadays we have Stu, our local Cape Breton’er shout-out guy. Always a smile, a hello from across the street or, if you get to know him a little better, a quick hand-to-hand coupled with a little bluenose wisdom.

Get to know your city workers. We are lucky to have them.

Say thanks sometimes.

Paul Fletcher is former Duncan city councillor who writes monthly in the News Leader Pictorial.

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