Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Thoroughly Odious Sound

I slowly lifted my head, unsure of what I was hearing. The sound that woke me Monday morning seemed to be blaring outside the house. It was the kind of sound that might have blasted across the unfortunate landscape of Chernobyl as the reactor melted all those years ago.

Either way, as I stared at my clock, I came to the conclusion the authorities were trying to warn us about something. There had been a large police operation in the neighborhood the day before and perhaps this sound warned the operation was continuing. Then again, it might be a tornado warning.

I decided it was time to take the necessary precautions. I sat up, pulled on shorts and a t-shirt, but, as I started to step away from the bed, the nasty sound suddenly and inexplicably, stopped. I went to the window and looked out. I saw nothing.

Concerned, I groggily stumbled down the hall and, entering my son’s room, I asked, “Hey, Tristan, did you hear that sound?” Upon hearing my voice, he seeemd to suddenly wake and then, reaching for his iPhone, he looked at the time.

In an instant, it all became clear. The thoroughly odious sound that woke me must have been his alarm clock, which he turned off, so he could drift-off.

Realizing I had been awakened and duped by his alarm, I spun on my heel and grumpily muttered, “Time to get up.” Slightly frazzled, I wondered what inhuman corporate clown would add such a hideous noise to the list of sound effects available on its smart phone?

Stupid phone.

The worst part is that it didn’t even wake him up! He was merrily going back to sleep!

Later that morning, I told him what I thought was happening. Of course, he shared my traumatic experience with my wife and together, they apparently had a great laugh.

The sound I thought was coming from the window was insidiously travelling down the hall. We’ve been leaving our bedroom door open to let the air conditioning flow in. As a result, the same infernal sound woke me yesterday and today.

I asked him what name the iPhone assigns that particular sound. He said it was simply called, “Alarm”. I could offer a much more colorful label.

As I drove him to school this morning, I admitted the sound woke me up again today, which prompted an almost gracious offer on his part, to change the sound.

To what; an air raid siren? Uh, no thanks.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Audit Adventure

It was, appropriately, Friday the 13th when I got the message from Canada Revenue Agency. I was instructed to call them back and when I did, Monday April 16th , they claimed I’d been randomly selected for an audit.

There are approximately 33 million Canadians in this country and I was randomly selected for an audit! Go figure.

The Revenue Canada Agency flak generously offered to conduct the audit at our home. How sweet. No, thanks! Who in their right mind would want an audit done at their home? I said it would be fine at their office and so the date was set for May 8th at noon, at Revenue Canada offices on Jean Beraud Avenue in Laval.

They sent a letter dated April 17th, confirming, “Audit of income tax return for 2009”. In the letter, I was instructed to bring the kitchen sink and all relevant receipts for it. The letter further instructed me to bring all sales invoices, sales reconciliations, shipping records, all business bank account statements, duplicate deposit slips, cancelled cheques and bank account reconciliations, all credit card statements, lines of credit statements and loan/mortgage documents, including the repayment schedules and purposes of the loans and on and on. I was instructed to also bring all personal bank account statements, bank books, transaction records, cancelled cheques and bank account reconcilations. Blah, blah, blah, signed Tina Frazori, Audit Division, Canada Revenue Agency.

Never one to let a wildly fun opportunity slip past untested, Susan decided to accompany me; good thing, too, because, as it turns out, a “Richard Dagenais Audit” really means a “Richard Dagenais Family Audit”. Susan had to provide relevant documents and Revenue Canada insisted on seeing Tristan’s bank account! It seems chance had deemed us possible cheaters and now, we had to be ruled out as possible cheaters.

When we arrived, we were led into an “interview room” where we were interrogated for just over an hour. “Audit”, I learned, is just a shorter word for “investigation”.

We were interrogated in great detail about earnings, accounts, savings, investments, properties, spending habits, costs, lifestyle and we were asked us about our non-existent lottery winnings, vacation homes, planes, boats, snowmobiles and exotic excursions. We were asked to sign forms granting Revenue Canada access to bank accounts, statements and loans. Somewhere along the line, I had apparently managed to achieve multinational status!

I admitted I had a safety deposit box with nothing in it.

As the impersonal grilling went on, I began to seethe internally. The morning television show where I had been working as a feature reporter was cancelled in 2008. The next year proved very challenging for us. Through good fortune and hard work, I managed to avoid going on employment insurance, found enough freelance work, but still cashed RRSP’s to help pay bills.

Toward the end the hour, no longer able to contain my indignation, I finally blurted out, “Do you catch many high-rolling cheaters by doing this? We’re just people who were lucky to get through that year!” I went on, “I find Revenue Canada’s complete lack of humanity indecent and disgusting.” Then, curtly, I demanded, “Are you done? Can we leave now?”

Susan, perhaps rightly, called my outburst, "unnecessary".

People who lose their jobs and, not just me, should be given a break by the government. As a taxpayer, I would happily subscribe to a program that gave earnest, hard-working, newly-jobless Canadians a break. Tax bills could be forgiven, RRSP’s savings paid back, or a few months of their mortgage could be paid by the government. A little humanity could go a long way to encouraging people to continue contributing any way they can. Fewer EI claimants would be a good thing.

Finally, we were instructed to pick up our tax papers at Revenue Canada offices on Wednesday of this week. Susan went in to sign for our material while I waited in the car. The letter in the file said simply, “We confirm that no changes will be made to income previously reported.”

Thanks for that.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Jaw-Dropper

Working on the morning show several years ago, I organized a visit to a Montreal event that featured drum battles. For one of the segments, I agreed to a drum battle, live on the air, with the drummer who had won the event the year before. His name was Isaac Dumont.

One drum set was set-up in a boxing ring surrounded by red ropes and the other, in a boxing ring with blue ropes. Isaac was positively dazzling!

His sticks were a blur not only for the way they moved around the drums and cymbals, but also for the way he would twirl them in the middle of lightning-fast passages. I've stayed in touch with Isaac and I recently found out he'd been to California to compete in the electronic drum world championships. He finished fourth in the world! He had won the right to advance to the Roland V-Drum World Championships by winning the Canadian title.

I asked if he'd be willing to come on "Focus Montreal", the Global Montreal interview show and talk about electronic drums, the competition and perform for our viewers. He agreed and will be on the show tomorrow at 11:30am and again, at midnight. Not only did he speak enthusiastically and perform a blistering drum routine, he also shared a special announcement with viewers!

There are quite a few drummers at Global Montreal and they, along with other staff members, were blown away by his drumming talent and flare!

If you're into drums, music, talent and a wailing good time, check out my interview with Isaac, tomorrow.
If you miss it, log onto our website , click "video" and go to the show you missed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Favorite Coach of All

She has a giant heart and is, I always say, too nice. She’s quite patient and fair with the children on her teams and, over the years, she’s been far more tolerant of idiotic parents than I would have been!

She’s been coaching Tristan’s basketball teams since he was five years old. She’s led her teams to several league championships and has been recognized more than once as “coach of the year” in soccer and basketball! She’s also coached softball.

She vehemently denies she’s competitive but, as we go up or down a flight of stairs, she always tries to reach the top or bottom first! Secretly, she’s pathologically competitive! I’ve watched her play broomball games where I was certain she would be escorted away by attendants from the local asylum.

Susan’s team finished 8-and-6 this season and didn’t win the championship, but at today’s end-of-season banquet, she was recognized with a plaque for her years of dedicated coaching and league administrative work. She cooks at the banquets, looks after registration, solves a variety of season-long administrative challenges and hops up and down on the sidelines in a manner befitting a fairly intense coach!

I love watching Tristan play sports and it’s been great fun watching Susan coach.

There’s been anguish, stress, excitement, satisfaction, frustration and always, dedication to the children on her team and their feelings. I wish she’d coached me when I was a kid; I’m sure she would have been my favorite coach of all. She is anyway.

Storybook Season

Last year at about this time, I interviewed the captain of the McGill Redmen hockey team for our show, Focus Montreal. They had made it to the championship game only to lose to UNB.

The Redmen had a wicked season and made it back to the championship game this year, winning the CIS championship against Western!

McGill women have already established the superiority of their team and hockey program, but it’s the first time the school has won a men’s national hockey title. Congratulations to my alma mater!

I interviewed team captain Evan Vossen again this year and it was an entirely different interview; positively storybook!

Evan was playing in the final game of his five year university hockey career, in overtime of the championship game, when he scored the game-winning, tournament-winning, championship-winning goal! What a tremendous way to cap off his McGill hockey career. I wish him equal success in his future hockey and professional endeavors!

It was a pleasure speaking with Evan and so exciting to see McGill win the national title.