I consider myself to be sort of ‘in the know’. I’ve been kicking around Barrie for three decades now. I drive around new areas and marvel at how incredible it is to enter a south end subdivision off one street, and take what feels like logical turns only to come out mysteriously on another street, facing a direction that’s absolutely baffling.

A good friend recently described Barrie’s expanding residential girth like planting house seeds that take root and spring up overnight. She’s right.

Anyway, when a breathless client of mine burst through the office door last Monday, I was pretty sure I could help. She’s new to Barrie, living in the Big Bay Point area, with an office downtown, and she was eager to exercise her franchise and cast her vote in the federal election.

“I’m supposed to vote at La Source,” she said. It’s on Madeleine Avenue. Where is that?

“Just a minute,” I thought to myself, scrambling through my mental rolodex, “La Source used to be in the old St. Mary’s School location, on Codrington at Berczy streets. I’m sure I know where it moved to.”

I shuffled through the cranium and came up with a lot of blank cards.

“Okay,” I reasoned to myself, “I can use my journalistic research skills and find this out.”

First call was to Prince of Wales School which offers the Extended French program where my daughter studied. Unfortunately, the person who answered didn’t know and didn’t care. Too bad, but an interesting customer service experience.

Second call was to the Simcoe County District School Board office in Midhurst. It went like this. “You have reached the Simcoe County District School Board. If you know the extension of the person you dialed, please enter it now.” I hit 0. “You have reached the Simcoe County District School Board. You are the fifth person in a queue of callers. Please wait on the line and your call will be taken in sequence as soon as possible.”

Time ticked by. I got older. So did my voter-client.

Finally a real person answered the phone. “La Source is not in our jurisdiction. Try the Separate School Board.”

That means negotiating the blue, yellow, white pages of any number of phone directories, some of them new and improved versions of what Bell offers, but none of them predictable. And both school boards have changed their names.

“You have reached the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. If you know the extension of the person you’re calling, please enter it now.” I don’t even know the person I’m calling! I just want to ask a question! I moaned. I hit 0. “You have reached the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. Our lines are all busy. Please wait and your call will be answered as soon as possible...”

Two more gray hairs fell onto my desk. That’s how old I was getting. Meanwhile the mental rolodex is still in operation... La Source, La Source..

When I got a real person at the Catholic School Board, they informed me that La Source was administered by a French School Board in Toronto. No, they didn’t know where La Source is now. Yes, it did use to be a Catholic School Board school.

but... good news! There’s a 1--800-number.

You guessed it!

"Merci d'avoir téléphoné au Conseil scolaire du district catholique Centre
Sud. Votre appel est important pour nous. Merci et bonne journée.
Si vous connaissez le poste de la personne avec laquelle vous désirez
communiquer, composez-le maintenant. Pour consulter la répertoire des
employés du conseil par nom de famille, appuyez sur le carré. Vous pouvez
aussi communiquer avec les services suivants :

pour les Ressources financiers, composez le 1
pour les Ressources humaines, composez le 2
pour le Service de l'informatique, composez le 3
pour les Ressources de l'intérieur et du transport, composez le 4
pour les Service aux élèves, composez le 5
pour le Bureau de la Direction de l'éducation, composez le 6
pour le Bureau de l'Administration, composez le 7
pour recevoir des informations par télécopieur, composez le 8”

Only my daughter understands this, not me.

“Okay,” I said to my client. “You’ve got the street name so let’s check out the city map. We checked out the map in one of the phone directories (a good idea which the other directory companies might want to adopt), we checked out the map I keep in my office for just such occurrences. We checked out the city’s web site.

No Madeleine St. It’s so new it’s not on any maps.

I gave up. “I’m sorry. Why don’t you get in the lineup at Elections Canada and see if you can find out anything.”

She left.

Eventually the lineup saw her get to the front desk at Elections Canada and she was directed to the brand new La Source School, off Yonge St, south of Big Bay Point Rd, west of Yonge, tucked in a brand new area.

I feel utterly defeated by this experience. I guess I need to do more driving around.

The newspapers complained that only 57% of the eligible voters turned out last Monday to select their federal members of parliament. I’m here to tell you it’s not for lack of trying!

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