The Sunday Magazine

A miscellany of year-end news, views, gripes and trivia - Michael Enright

Police budgets, the Trudeau "nanny flap", tattoo removal, escalator repair, and more!
Turtles, tattoos, nannies and escalators. (Wikimedia Commons; David L Ryan/The Boston Globe; Wikimedia Commons; Adrian Wyld/CP)

Some bits and pieces and scattered oddments in the dying embers of a truly horrible year.


Why is it that every time politicians and enraged taxpayers yell and complain about the power of greedy civil servants and cheating, lazy school teachers, one organized group is always exempt -- the cops. 

This is the time of year when cities and towns approve municipal budgets and money for the police department is usually the most expensive item. The delicate choreography is always the same. Councils argue that police budgets are out of control. The head of the police union says we can't cut staff because that would endanger the lives of citizens. The politicians cave in. The cops get what they want.
(Terry Asma/CBC)
This year, for the first time, the police budget in Toronto tops a billion dollars. The fact is that crime rates, even violent crime, are decreasing across all sectors. Citizens have never been safer. Being a police officer is a great career. It is secure, very well paid and safer than many other jobs. But every year, police association leadership use fear to bleed out more money. They invariably get what they want.


Dumbest news story of the year. The Trudeau nanny issue. Or non-issue. A two-day wonder. Justin Trudeau is our prime minister 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. He has small children. He needs nanny help. We should pay for it. Period. End of story.


The most interesting writer of fiction in the United States these days is Lydia Davis by a country mile. She is a short story writer. And I do mean short. Some of her stories are a paragraph long. Some are haiku-like, just one sentence. 
Lydia Davis
They are like those Russian nesting dolls with new characters and new plot twists revealed in every paragraph. Her command of the language is spellbinding. She is smart, she has a compelling sense of irony and is as funny as hell. Her take on the word "cremains" will make you shout hooray. The complete collection of Lydia Davis's stories has just been published in paper.


A news story that cries out for a follow up. A young Canadian university student was stopped at a border crossing two years ago with 51 turtles taped to his lower body. Earlier this month he pleaded guilty to six charges of smuggling. Ten of the turtles were hidden in his crotch, the other 41 taped to his legs. Okay, people, we all want to know two things; one, were they snapping turtles and two did they, at any time, threaten any of the more congenial parts of his torso. We need answers. We need The Fifth Estate.


Those of us who worry about the future job prospects of our children can relax. Two areas are opening up which will provide endless job opportunities -- escalator repair and tattoo removal. Escalators around town are always breaking down, especially on local subway lines. For example, if all the escalators in the system are working, TTC officials have plans to publicly sacrifice a goat. So far the local goat population is safe. Repair persons are coining it. When you look at the tattooed bodies of our young people, young men and women, you have to wonder when they are going to get rid of them. Sooner or later, when they get married or want a mortgage or apply for a job that does not involve setting trap lines in the far north, they will want to return to the pristine pelt of their youth. I predict tattoo removal will be as big as Uber.


Language continued its downward spiral  this year. The real shocker for me came when someone on CBC Radio said "funner" as in "that would be funner than anything else."


And I make a feckless plea to broadcasters, politicians federal and local, members of the clergy. Could we do away with the phrase "Our thoughts and prayers", as in, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."  It is uttered after every great tragedy and has become as trite as "Have a nice day."  It is supposed to evoke empathy on the part of the speaker but it ends up being meaningless. Not unlike when you call your cable company, Rogers, say, and hear: "Your call is important to us."



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