in which i accommodate another quirk of small-town life: how to hand-wash a pea jacket

About a year ago, I blogged about some quirks of living in a remote region. It's always amusing, baffling, and occasionally annoying to cope with what is and is not available in our town.

There are two hardware stores and two pharmacies, but to buy dog food, we have to drive to the next town, 40 minutes away. There's a self-serve dog wash, but no laundromat.

The absence of a laundromat is significant: there are many people in our community who don't live in nice homes with their own washers and dryers, plus a sizeable number of hikers, fishers, and sailors, who come into town to re-stock. It appears that there was once a laundromat -- one of the many empty and abandoned storefronts -- but it hasn't been in business for at least 15 years. 

There is also no drycleaner in the entire North Island. Now that my work attire is even more casual than it was in a suburban library, and Allan works from home, we seldom need a drycleaner anymore. And now I'm careful not to buy any clothes that can't be washed at home. Drycleaning is expensive and bad for the environment, so this is a nice thing to give up.

But then there is my pea jacket. I love my pea jacket. It's a quality garment, in great condition, and could last a very long time. I only need a winter-weight jacket two or three weeks out of the year now. (My big warm parka gets even less use!) So I have no need to replace the pea jacket any time soon.

I would normally have the jacket drycleaned once a year. But that's no longer an option. So the jacket had been looking less and less fresh. Then it went from not fresh to dirty.  And dirtier. It really needed a refresh, and I didn't know what to do.

The internet told me it was possible to hand-wash a pea jacket. I was nervous! Would it shrink? Would it get horribly wrinkled? Would it take a month to dry? And would it really get clean? 

I'm pleased to say the answers were: no, no, no, and yes. Here are the steps I followed.

1. First I had to find a container big enough to hold a jacket without smushing it, and to allow good flow of water. I used the bathtub.

2. Then I used a lint roller on the jacket and pulled off random dog hair.

3. I put on rubber gloves. 

4. I stoppered the drain, and ran cold water into the tub, adding a handwash soap powder. I have Soak, which is awesome (thank you SFYS!), but I didn't think it would be strong enough. I also have some Forever New, and decided to use that. I'm not one to measure things like that, I just poured in some amount and swished it around in the cold water.

5. When the tub was about half full, I submerged the coat in the water. I laid it flat on the bottom of the tub, unbuttoned, with the sleeves on the sides.

6. I set a timer for 15 minutes. Most instructions for handwashing clothes suggest soaking for 15 minutes, so I went with that.

7. When the timer rang, I opened the drain, periodically running the water to let the suds drain.

8. Then, keeping the jacket lying flat, I ran cold water into the tub, and also used a flexible shower attachment to rinse the jacket. I was very pleased to see that the water was very dirty!

9. I rinsed the whole tub repeatedly, each time letting the water re-fill so the jacket was a bit submerged, then letting it drain. The water was less dirty with every rinse.

10. After five rinses, the water was clear -- not dirty, not sudsy.

11. I put a few towels on the bathroom floor, lifted the jack from under the sides -- cradling it so no part was hanging -- and laid it on the towels. This is very important! If you handwash anything made of wool, and hang it while it's wet, the entire garment will stretch out -- and it will never go back into shape. I learned this the hard way with a beautiful sweater my mother made me, in ancient times, pre-internet.

12. After laying the jacket flat on the towel-covered floor, I used dry towels to squeeze out some water, doing one sleeve or one panel at a time. I also carefully turned over the jacket and pressed a dry towel into the fabric on the back. Then I left the jacket on the floor with the bathroom window open. 

13. When it became inconvenient to have the bathroom floor covered by a wet pea jacket, I cradled the jacket again and put it on top of a clothes drying rack, careful to place the sleeves flat on the body of the jacket, not hanging down.

14. I left the jacket there for several days, turning it over, turning it inside-out, opening it, and so forth, as it dried. In a few days it was completely dry. 

The result: it looks great! The jacket looks fresh and clean. All the dirt and stains are gone, and it's not wrinkled at all. 

The only minor negative is the jacket now smells slightly like Forever New. I am very scent-sensitive, and normally use only fragrance-free products. I didn't realize Forever New has a mild scent; for bras and other small hand-washables, it's never been a problem. I might put the jacket back in the tub for another rinse or two, to reduce the smell.

All in all, this was not difficult, and the results were excellent. Thank you, internet!


it's all about respect: why the librarians of vancouver island are taking job action

I have at least five posts in the works, but zero time to write them, because I am once again involved in a job action for library workers. I have refrained from writing about it thus far, but I feel a deep need to capture some of this on wmtc. 

In some ways, the context is much different from the 2016 strike I led against the City of Mississauga. That local comprised 400 members, ranging from Pages to Senior Librarians, and members of CUPE run their own local. We first had to break away from a composite local to re-establish our independence, and then had to forge solidarity in a large unit with greatly disparate interests, and very little trust in their union. It was a monumental undertaking -- and a hugely successful one.

My present situation is very different. I belong to BCGEU. The 48 members of my bargaining unit are all librarians with a professional designation. I am a member of the bargaining committee, but not steering our course as I did in my former role.

The frontline library workers in the system belong to CUPE. Union members have cultivated deep solidarity between the unions -- which makes this job action possible.

The two contexts demand different strategies, and different skills and experience.

Yet in many ways, the two job actions are extremely similar -- because in so many ways, all strikes and all labour disputes come down to the same thing. Workers want respect. We want respect for our labour and for our skills. 

The principal ways employers can show workers respect is by paying a living wage, and providing safe and humane working conditions. When either of these factors are lacking, and workers are fortunate enough to belong to a union, a job action may ensue.

Although I love my job as a librarian and library manager, I do not love the actions and attitudes of my employer. This story from my earliest days on the job perfectly illustrates some of the issues. I was not able to share it here, for reasons which will be obvious, but as we are now in job action, I've decided to communicate more freely. 

Day 1: communications

On my very first day on my new job, I was not told where to report. I was staying in the proper city, but there is more than one library branch in that city and I was never told where to go. 

I was supposed to meet administrators at 9:00 a.m. I had to wait in my hotel room until someone reported to work at 9:00, who could then pick up my messages and give me the required information. Then I had to drive to an unfamiliar place, find parking, get access to a building, and so forth. I was almost an hour late on my very first day.

The person who neglected to give me the information did tell the others why I was late. This can be viewed as a simple oversight, which it was. But after more than three years with this employer, I can tell you it is a whopping big pattern that is constantly and consistently repeated. I'll exercise restraint and call it "internal communication problems".

Day 2: interpersonal

The following day I was meeting a high-level administrator at a different location. She gave me directions and told me how to access the staff entrance. I misunderstood her directions and waited at the wrong door. It was December and I was waiting outside for 45 minutes. My phone (still with an out-of-province provider) was going straight to voicemail so I wasn't getting her calls.

Eventually a call got through, and I hurried to her office, full of apologies. This was her greeting: I've been waiting for an hour! My whole morning is messed up! Where were you? I was so taken aback, I struggled to explain what I thought. She spat her answer through gritted teeth: You need to take better notes!

I was dumbstruck. I thought of how I would have handled such an occurrence, with a new employee who was also new to the area and the entire system. How any decent supervisor would respond. 

Day 7: trust, respect, priorities

The following week, my manager told me I was invited to a meeting with them, their own manager, and the top administrator (the person from Day 2). My manager was acting very strangely, not making eye contact, and left in a hurry. I had no idea why.

A union steward had been assigned to the meeting. Again, I had no idea what was going on. The steward also didn't know. 

The way the chairs were arranged in the meeting, I was sitting alone, facing four people. The union steward was not sitting beside me. (Note to stewards: don't do this.) The subject of the meeting? A blog post I had written praising my new job and new employer. I was read the riot act and received notice that I was to change or remove certain aspects of the post. (I removed the post completely.)

Note that the post was laudatory. Note, too, that I had no local contacts, so there was almost no chance that library users would read the post. No matter. I had mentioned the name of the library system, and for that, I was subjected to an inquisition.

The steward confirmed that the matter was not disciplinary because no policy regarding social media had been shown to me. My head was spinning. So this might have been disciplinary?? I documented a blow-by-blow account of a strike against my former employer, and I was never met with discipline.

Every day, all the days: autonomy, trust, respect, safety, cost of living

Like nurses and teachers, librarians struggle against a lack of professional autonomy. (Gee, what do these three professions have in common??) 

Our employers frequently limit our decision-making capacities. 

Deskilling and deprofessionalization are constant concerns. 

We are not consulted or included in decisions that impact us, our staff, and our branches. Decisions are made by people who don't understand the realities of frontline public service.

We struggle with workload, as staffing models are skeletal, but plans and goals are voluminous.

We are treated disrespectfully, and our working conditions are often unsafe and scary.

And then there is the cost of living. In 2021, the cost of living rose 4.8% in Canada. So far this year it's even worse. No wage increase can keep up, but more is needed to help us cope.

Some of these issues can be mitigated by provincial safety codes, when staff are vigilant and hold employers accountable. 

Some of these issues can be mitigated through collective agreements.

That's why we're on strike.


12 reasons bojack horseman is my favourite show of all time (thoughts after re-watch)

Allan and I first watched "BoJack Horseman" in real time, from 2014 to January 2020. We liked it from the start, but as the show deepened in meaning and intensity, we became increasingly invested, amazed, moved, and sometimes awed. 

At times BH became so emotionally intense, we would be left stunned and weeping at the end of an episode, especially (as we started to notice) the penultimate episode of each season. Yet the show is a comedy -- and remains funny throughout.

A few months ago, we re-watched the show straight through, all six seasons. The re-watch confirmed my conclusion that this is simply the best series ever made. In the title of this post, I've edited that statement into "my favourite show". But in my mind, it's simply the best, ever.*

Here's why.

1. It's hilarious. BH uses every kind of humour -- incisive satire, zany sight gags, dark head-shakers, silly shtick, and of course, an endless array of animal puns. 

One of the show's running sight-gags

On the rewatch, we paused to capture all the incidental background humour, the kind pioneered by Matt Groening in The Simpsons -- names of stores, titles of books, road signs. One read: "Stop pausing and just watch the show!"

2. It's a brilliant send-up of the entertainment industry -- skewering it, but also peeling back the obvious to explore the hunger that drives it.

3. It voices so much truth. Characters voice intimate, raw, emotional truths -- truths that grab your heart, truths that you recognize with a gasp, a pang. Every episode seems to contain at least one of these moments -- yet it never feels forced or overdone, because. . .

Emotional truths: talks on the roof

4. BH is character-driven. The characters are complex -- even the seemingly simple ones. They journey, they struggle, they grow, or they don't. All hilariously. And painfully. You know them. You care.

5. It's original. BH employs an incredibly inventive, original, and effective use of animation, far beyond what's used in most adult-animation shows. There are some eye-popping, show-stopping episodes, such as the incredible "Fish Out of Water," that have gotten a lot of attention. But there are many bold techniques: an animation-within-animation style used in certain flashback scenes, a night-sky background attached to a specific emotional memory, a character's face covered by crude scribbles. This show could only have been created with animation. 

6. It's complex. BH is the best treatment of the nexus of childhood trauma, mental health, self-loathing, and addiction that I've ever seen -- a kaleidoscopic view that forces us to think, re-think, and think again. 

A visual effect signalling... something
7. It explores the big existential questions. How do we live with the knowledge of our own mortality? Why am I here, does my life have meaning? How do we embrace love and hope, knowing that our time is so short? How can I live with my mistakes? And yep, this is a comedy.

8. BH demands compassion. BoJack is a self-absorbed asshole. He does some terrible things. But the more we understand him, the more we root for him, the more we want others to forgive him, but. . .

9. BH demands accountability. Trauma might turn some people into abusive assholes, but that doesn't excuse their behaviour, because, guess what, everyone has suffered. All the assholes, and all the nice people, too, so. . .

This might be the best 20 minutes of TV you ever see.
10. The ground keeps shifting. Because it's all true, at the same time. Which tells us that we must find a way to bring compassion, treat each other with care, forgive each other when we can, forgive ourselves, but also accept the consequences when we inevitably fall short. 

Each of these 10 preceding reasons are part of why I love this show. But the most astonishing thing about BoJack Horseman is that. . .

11. It does all these things at the same time. I have never laughed so much and wept so much from the same show. And. . .

12. It does everything right. Six seasons, 77 episodes, and barely a misstep or a sour note or a false moment. An absolute triumph. 

Thank you Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Lisa Hanawalt! And thank you, Will Arnett. The role of a lifetime.


* This position was previously held by "The Larry Sanders Show". . . and the two have much in common. 

Bonus track: two references to abortion as a positive force in a woman's life, the right decision without regret. I will be forever grateful.