Friday, October 16, 2009

The Lobsterman

I shared a cab this week with a couple. For the life of me, I could not figure out what their accent was. I figured Scandinavia. I was wrong. They were from from Pubnico, Nova Scotia, a small fishing village of 1800 people where the main industry (the only one maybe from the way it sounded) is fishing. This man and his wife (or maybe his girlfriend) owns one of the 120 boats allowed to bring in lobsters and in the off-season, he and Sheila (the wife or maybe girlfriend) are actors in the living historical village.

Pubnico is an Acadian village and evidently square one for any Acadian who wants to do genealogical research. The fisherman can trace his family back 11 generations - back to 1651 when the first of his ancestors came to Pubnico from France. I also learned that the French spoken by Acadians in Nova Scotia is more simliar to the French spoken by the Acadians in Lousiana than it is to the French spoken in Montreal or France. That was surprising, especially after all of this time since their expulsion from Acadia.

I asked if, given his profession, if he still enjoyed eating fish. From their enthusiastic answer, I'm pretty sure that's all they eat. He only fishes for lobster, but evidently some of the other crews also go out for the "fin fish" like haddock and herring. And, for anyone wondering, the lobster season opens the last Monday in November. And it's an expensive business to get into. There are only 120 boat licenses (similar to cab medallions), but when one becomes available, these days the cost is between six and seven hundred thousand dollars. And that's down from one point two million a few years ago.

The season is split into two halves, separated by the time when the water chills too much for the lobsters (maybe between January and March, but I can't exactly remember). And in the spring half of the season, they have to throw back 90% of their catch because they are either too small, females with eggs or other reasons that they probably told me but I didn't understand.

Their town has no four lane roads, they leave their keys in the car ignition, and they never lock their house because they're not sure what happened to the keys. DC is a relatively small city and they were still fairly overwhelmed. Which is understandable given that we were in rush hour traffic on the beltway.

One of the things this guy told me was that he'd been to Peoria, Illinois. I couldn't imagine how that might have come about, so I asked him. It turns out he'd purchased a $65,000 engine from Catepillar and either he'd won a trip to see the factory or that's part of what you get when you buy a big expensive engine. He thought the plant was interesting, and that the steak in Central Illinois tasted what steak should taste like, similar to what lobster tastes like straight off the boat. Given that I'm a kosher fish-eating vegetarian, I could only imagine that it's the same as eating tomatoes that you've grown in your garden. But probably not.

I think before this cab ride, the only thing I may have known about the lobster industry was a few minutes on Dirty Jobs. And then today, in the New York Times, an article about the Nova Scotia, haddock and the great expulsion.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

To Rip or Not to Rip. That is the Question.

Would you rip a page out of a phone book?

To the best of my ability, I will change irrelevant facts to present this situation as anonymously as possible. I will disclose that the other party in this story is female, as trying to write it in a gender-neutral manner is too difficult.

Recently, I was with someone who asked a receptionist for a phone book. This person took the book to a seating area to peruse the listings. Several minutes later, I approached wanting to use that same book.

I noticed that she hadn't written anything down and so I asked if she had found what she was looking for. The response was a nod in the affirmative. Puzzled, I thought for a moment and then asked if they had ripped the page out of the book. The answer, again, was a nod in the affirmative.

I asked where the page was, and then immediately noticed that there was a crumpled up tissue in her hand. I (perhaps strongly) expressed my disapproval and noted that even she knew it was not the correct thing to do since she also made an effort to not only fold the pages into a tiny square, but she also hid her handiwork in a tissue (presumably unused).

She defended her behavior. The book, she said, was from 2006. She added that most people use the internet to find information, anyway. I replied that if this site had a more recent phone book, they certainly would have let her use it and the fact that they only had an old one was even more reason not to rip out pages. And, there was no publicly accessible internet available at this location.

You can hopefully tell how I feel about this. Now it's your turn -
  • Do you condone this behavior?
  • Are there circumstances under which you could justify this act?
  • Does it matter what the subject matter was?