how you want to frame it


In February, HBC announced that by fall of 2012 there will be no stores operating under the Fields banner in Canada. Perhaps this was the reason behind the disgruntled worker's attitude when I tried to return a couple of picture frames.

"No returns," she said, pointing the sign written in thick Sharpie above her head.

I needed the kind of frame that stood up on a table and I failed to check the back of the ones I'd just bought to see if they had that flap of cardboard on the back.  Mistakenly, I'd bought the kind with just the metal loops that can only be hung on a wall.

"I was here five minutes ago."

I was holding the two, 8 1/2 x 11" black frames that were still wrapped in plastic, a $4.95 price tag stuck to the top right corner of each.  I also had the two frames I needed, with flaps on the back, each with a $4.50 tag on them.

"It's not even a return," I said. "I need the cheaper frames, and already paid for the higher priced ones."

"Store policy," she said.

Her face was now flushed, serious.  She was visibly upset.   She pointed up at the sign.

"But I need them to stand up.  I can't use the other ones."

She wouldn't budge.

"You can use them for other pictures," she said.

I didn't tell her that I was aware of how a picture frame could be used.

Instead I said, "I need to put photos of my dad in the frames so they can stand on a table at his funeral tomorrow.  I can't use the other ones. Throw them in the garbage.  Take them home if you want.  Put them back on the shelf.  They are not what I need.  I made a mistake."

It just came out.  I didn't even want her sympathy.  I didn't want to be there at all.  I wanted to scream. I wanted to shake her. I wanted to ask what the hell was wrong with her.

Moreover, I wanted some pictures frames that stood up.

I get that there are rules, policies. There are also times to bend those rules and ignore those policies.

Or, as the case was, not.

I paid for the frames, thanked her for being unreasonable, and wished her a nice day.

Maybe the imminent store closure was the reason behind her temperament.
Maybe the death of my father was the reason behind mine.

I guess it all comes down to how you want to frame it.

RIP, Fields.

no parking


The notice in the elevator was titled: Bicycle Storage in Parking Garage. The one pager went on to say how, according to Section 4.3a of the Condominium's Declaration, each parking spot shall be used and occupied only for the parking of a motor vehicle.

Rules are rules.

Clearly, in the picture above, you can see how my non-motorized vehicle is an issue. The rubber tip of the handle bar leaning up against the wall. Its problematic tires touching the cement floor. It is casting shadows on the wall and creating a distraction from the number painted two feet above it. (Just in case we forgot which spot was ours.) I mean the thing is just sitting there, paralyzed, and taking up space that could be used for...a larger motorized vehicle I suppose.

The bicycle is a menace. An eyesore. Dangerous and unsightly, hazardous and unsafe and needs to be removed.

We have lived in this condo for a year and a half and this is the first talk of parking spot regulations. There are two floors of parking in the underground, roughly 350 units in the building, which makes for, I'm guessing, about 75 or 100 bikes.

The aforementioned notice went on to state that several bikes have gone missing and have been vandalized. That is unfortunate. However, I've had bikes stolen (while locked) from outside my place of work and from my old apartment where the bike was locked to the wooden stairs outside the front door. The thieves took apart the wood railing and stole the bike. At least they left the wood so we could put the railing back together. Once, just my gel seat was stolen. That's just weird.

At the condo, I stopped locking my bike (to itself) a few months ago because I'd seen other bikes unlocked. And nothing happened. My philosophy is if someone wants my $99, twelve speed from Canadian Tire that badly, they should take it.

In the condo's defense, there are several bikes other than mine down there leaning against walls, taking up space behind parked cars. Can you believe some bikes are even using kick stands? Standing upright in an empty spot that should only be used for a motor vehicle. There are two adult sized bikes and two kids bikes leaning up against each other, against a wall, in a spot where there is no car. A whole group of them, bunched up together in an empty spot...the horror!

And that's only P1. I've never even seen P2. Who knows how many unlocked bikes are loitering around down there.

I get that vandalism and theft if bad.
What I don't get is why I am being offered the following two options:

(a) pay $5/month for the use of bike racks that have been installed (which is why the notice was delayed until now), with a $40 mandatory payment up front to cover the storage from September through April

(b) put the bicycle in the storage locker

Here's the thing...

(c) I am not going to pay an additional $5/month to park my bike in a rack that I never wanted and do not need

(d) The storage locker is already full of camping equipment, Christmas ornaments, golf clubs, winter boots, etc., you know...stuff you store

And in fact, there are more than two options.

I could park it outside the public bike stands on a busy street.
I could ask the neighbours with a garage, if I could use a few feet for my bike.
I could put a bike rack on the car and store the bike there.
I could lock the bike to the car itself.

But I am not going to do those things.

What I have opted to do, is bring my bike up to the apartment every evening when I get home and lug it down through the stairwell every morning when I leave. It's not so bad. There's no additional cost. I feel in control. Exercising my rights as a tenant. Because it's up to me what I put in the entrance way of my apartment whether it be a welcome mat, a coat rack, or a bike.

Incidentally, CBC radio ran a great series called Know Your Rights - an on-the-ground and in-the-field exploration of our rights as Canadian citizens where host Craig Norris navigates the complex world of what we legally can and cannot do in our country.

I haven't listened to the whole podcast yet but I intend to, just in case things escalate with the condo board. I'm guessing they'll have something to say about me bringing my bike up in the elevator. The Declaration likely states something about how the elevator is to be used only for human or canine occupants. Wait till they see my pony.

I'm not even one of those hardcores that cycles all through the winter. Up the street Set Me Free bike shop offers free winter storage if you do your Spring tune up with them. Sold.

Rules are rules.
And some people have nothing better to do than to enforce them.