A Gentleman in Moscow: Amor Towles

I am by no means immune to the charms of literary fiction. Indeed, I have advanced degrees in the location and time period of Towles’ book. However, not even the supposed charms of Count Rostov or the Hotel Metropol could keep me interested in this literary tale, bereft as it is of bon mots, startling insights, clever turns of phrase or the economy or beauty of language. Not only does not nothing happen through the entire course of the book, there is not even a hint that something will happen. Ever!

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Dear Diary (as imagined by your old friend, the 3-litre milk jug)

Dear Diary,

What a great week! Indeed, it is to laugh!

Those stupid, stupid Canadians. So stupid they think they are on to my evil plan to subjugate humanity when they, in fact, are my means of accomplishing it.

This week, that standard-bearer of the command-and-control economy, the nation that was handed the gauntlet upon the collapse of the Soviet Union — I speak of…dare I say it? It hurts to let its dastardly name pass my lips…okay, here it is then — Canada, banned….verily I say banned my use in the sale of milk products in its frozen land.

No milk shall be sold in 3-litre jugs unless and until a study pilot project perhaps taken years down the road could assess the value in selling mammalian secretions in bodies such as myself ordered the government-appointed dairy board.

How lucky the lactate-lovers of the Great White North appear to be to have such guardians of the public weal. Without such restrictions who knows the dangers that could be involved. Although such wise legislation may well result in otherwise law-abiding Canadians producing their own 3-litre milk jugs, buying bootleg jugs from neighborhood dealers that contain product adulterated with all sorts of unhealthy fillers, either for recreational or medicinal purposes, don’t be fooled. 3-litre milk jugs will undoubtedly act as the gateway for other prime-numbered lactose delivery systems. Other more potent delivery agents: 5 liter containers, seven, eleven…even, gasp, into the high teens.

Now other countries (New Zealand) claim that they have decriminalized and even legalized me, the 3-litre milk jug with little public harm. One New Zealander even claims the practice is so harmless he would buy 4-liter milk jugs “if they would fit in the door of my refrigerator.” You see where this is going, don’t you? The complete collapse of the refrigeration industry as it is inundated with demands for new space dimensions! Where will it end then, with citizens questioning every aspect of the cozy social order that leaves the elite at the top?

We all see it, that is why I am such a danger to you. It is symbolic, after all. Is not the definition of the verb “to milk” something as “to bleed, extract, cheat or extort from someone”?

Do what you want, Board of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. Have your little victory, for it is I, the 3-litre milk jug, who has already achieved world domination by using Canada itself(The Mouse That Roared) to become the entire planet’s greatest obsession and thus, master: Pamela Anderson’s luscious three liter jugs.

Who controls the world now? [sound of evil laughter fading into the distance]

Scare Canada

So, I’m standing in line at the luggage carousel waiting for my luggage, facing in the direction of the belt when I receive a full body check in my back from behind and hear the non-sequiter apology, “Excuse me, Sir,” at the same time. Brushing off my pants and getting up, I see an Air Canada attendant slamming people out of the way to get to a bag.

Might be the best service any of us received from this company in decades. For those who aren’t familiar with its unique brand of branding, the Canadian government has had to appoint a government ombudsman whose sole job is to deal with complaints from this monopoly server.

In the next few days, I’ll share two of my favourite stories of complete lack of customer service from this fine example of Soviet-era customer service.