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Guelph Mercury Editorial

Not Getting Along? Call Dad

Sue Richards, Nov 23, 2004

I've got this dry, petulant cough that won't let go. Being inclined toward self care, my first response was to check my homeopathic remedy guide for some direction. Homeopathy suits me. I like the idea that my body, if given the chance and a little remedy support, will heal itself.

The list of possible cough personalities listed in my book boggled my mind. Did I have the "dry irritating cough, back of throat, sudden onset." Or perhaps "bouts of dry tickly coughing which end in a whoop or sneeze, Adam's apple tender?" Obviously I needed further investigation.

With mini flashlight in hand and bathroom mirror light at full brightness, I opened my yap and shone the light on down. There on the right hand side of my throat I saw a protrusion so ugly that I jumped back from my own bathroom mirror in horror.

Great Sue, I thought. Now you've got way too much information for 9 p.m. on a Thursday. I glared at my image with reproach. And I knew I had to open my mouth again and look closer.

Breathing deeply, I advanced toward the mirror. With a steady mind, I flashed my light deep into my gullet, directly on the offending side. Taking note of location, size, colour and shape of the fleshy lump I shifted my attention to the left, non-threatening side of my throat. Smooth, pink rosiness greeted my eye. I definitely had a problem.

It was then that I made my second mistake. Leaving the bathroom, I went to my office and turned on my computer.

You should not Google, "flabby, red, craggy, white spotted tonsil on right hand side." If you do, you will be told that you have throat cancer. And once again, I admonished myself for my meddling ways. Then I called my doctor's answering service, and made an appointment. I needed a second opinion.

Alice has been my doctor for 15 years. After a throat briefing from me, she invited me up on her examining table and reached for her own mini light. I opened wide. She took a look.

"You have the largest, craggiest, swollen tonsil I have every seen," she claimed peering down my throat in fascination.

"What about the white speckles?" I gagged.

"Nope, I don't see any," she admitted as she focused in.

I jumped down from the table, asked for the flashlight and invited her to join me at the mirror. With the assistance of a tongue depressor, I pushed the tonsil flab aside to reveal two sesame seed sized spots.

"Ah, I've seen those before. Likely bacteria. Maybe calcification." Then she added, not throat cancer. "You should gargle not Google."

Ray Ferraro, a newbie Ward Two councillor, found himself reeling back from his own bathroom mirror after a few short months on the job. There was something ugly happening around the municipal horseshoe and Ray was determined to root it out. So, Ray made a closed-door deal with a governance doctor to access the situation and offer his opinion. That the media, fellow councillors and the public roared when Mr. Ferraro jumped the democratic process cue didn't register as part of the overall problem Mr. Ferraro was witnessing. What did we know anyway?

Albertan, George Cuff took Ray's call. A veteran politician, George has held the office of mayor in Spruce Grove, a 17,000-populated appendage to Edmonton, and is a certified management consultant with a 20-year-old consulting firm.

Thanks to Ray Ferraro's initiative, Guelph residents coughed up over $100,000 to pay George to ride on into our town and ferret out the dirty dogs that were making our municipal horseshoe clomp along so poorly. With the flashlight of an outsider, George went looking to see if our problem was bacteria, bureaucratic calcification or political cancer.

I attended Mr. Cuff's introductory Monday night council meeting back in August. As I watched the boys and girls around the shoe behave with incredible civility I was worried that the true colours of council were not going to show through. As any child psychologist will tell you, bad behaviour improves when guests are visiting.

So I was relieved to know that previously taped meetings would be part of George's homework.

Last Wednesday, I joined the full house for the reality show council meeting where Mr. Cuff reported his City of Guelph Corporate Review findings.

In homeopathic terms, here's what I heard George say about our elected team. Leadership hesitant, behaviour undisciplined, disrespect boundless, inexperience obvious, process arbitrary, bullying perpetual, trust eroded, gap wide and deep. Too big for britches. Mostly looking over shoulder. Little thought of future.

George's hundred grand second opinion was pretty much spot on the community's first impression. Council doesn't get along.

Here's my remedy. For fifteen hundred bucks, I could have purchased multiple copies of Robert Fulghum's excellent and easy-to-read book titled All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Then I could have handed them out to our leaders, invited them to join in on a reading circle and let everyone recite a page.

But as we know, not everyone is good at seeing themselves reflected in the mirror or sitting in a circle. Quite frankly, sometimes you need a good old fashioned Dad to sit you down, rap your knuckles and give you a good talking to.

Sue Richards is a social entrepreneur, artist and cultural animator. She is also a member of the Mercury's Community Editorial Board. Check out her Guelph Photo Blog.

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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