Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Weekday in Chelsea in Winter

This week's video:

Here in Chelsea according to the last census over 6,000 people live in blissful greenery along the Gatineau River of Quebec. In reality the people who live here number closer to 352. Three hundred are seniors living in houses built from cottages built by themselves or their grandparents or their great grandparents. Two are street people who will never be called street people because we have a plan to have more trees than streets. The other fifty are an odd-assembly of artists, store owners, stay-at-home parents, disabled people and people lost on their way to Wakefield. Which is not to say there are only 352 people wandering about the Municipality during the day. There are 3,835. One thousand one hundred are nannies. And 34 are doggie daycare walkers. The other thousand are maids but you don’t tend to see them. Two hundred are having flirtations far from the city at an out-of-the-way French restaurant. Five hundred are people skiing who have called in sick for the day. Two hundred are real estate agents and 160 are befuddled land developers and surveyors. Twenty are shut-ins who must watch winter from the windows. Eighteen are government workers and two are Hydro Quebec workers. One hundred are odd-jobbers or craftsmen who fix door knobs, sinks and driveways. Five hundred work from home in a self-made cubicle or are cooks, teachers and day-care workers. One is a reporter.

Between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., 3,835 souls are in Chelsea. Along with these are the 10 dogs who have escaped their fences and are racing happily along the highway in pairs usually. About 340 volunteers, mostly seniors, take on various projects within the vicinity of the churches, libraries and community centers between the hours of 10:00 and 3:00. During the lunch hour and at various times during the day, children can be heard playing on the school grounds or in some small park areas. There are approximately 1300 dogs who spend the day howling and barking or sleeping on front porches and in back rooms. All of the cats are sleeping near a heat source. On various days, crows can be found fighting over garbage.

At approximately 11:30, 240 people get into their mini-vans and cars and go to lunch in the city. Only a few odd cars pass through between 1:00 p.m. and 3:30. Deer and bear tend to cross the road at this time. At 3:30, 1200 latch key children are dropped off along the roads and by-ways and 100 go home to a stay-at-home parent. One hundred and fifty are left in after-school activities until their parents pick them up. At approximately 4:00 p.m. a long column of fast-moving traffic snakes endlessly up highway 5 and up the 105 usually stopping at the super mailboxes. On any given day along the 105 car accidents will occur at predictable curves and intersections. At 6:30 p.m. there is relative silence again and the raccoons will tend to forage if the weather is fine enough. If the weather is fine, about 1500 people will go back into the city to shop or otherwise entertain themselves or participate in community classes and will return in sporadic bursts after 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. when the stores and buildings close.

If the weather is not fine, along the various streets lights in living rooms flicker from the television sets and later the sounds of toilets flushing and lights being turned out echo down the quiet streets. 1300 people have managed to walk or let the dog out before turning in. Between midnight and 3:00 a.m. some cars with music thumping wake the dead as they pass by. Occasionally an ambulance or a cop car. But they are usually quiet when there is no traffic. At approximately 5:00 a.m. the joggers and the walkers can be spotted along the paths and roadways. The traffic begins to build with tradesmen leaving earlier and the mini-vans and cars following on their heels. By 7:30 a.m. the snake rushes into the city until all is quiet at about 9:30 a.m. At this time, the dogs that can, will escape the confines of their fences in pursuit of trees and grass and the scent of wilderness caught wafting in the wind.

Originally published 16 March 2003

Painting: Northern Lights / S. Shawcross / 24 x 24 / Oil on canvas / SOLD

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