Sorry but no pictures to share with this posting.
Wow, the daytime temperature got up into the 40s for a couple of days this past week. While it was nice to not have to wear our heavy coats, it did make the roads and parking lots quite sloppy with slush as the snow melted.
As those of you who have visited Canada know, living here is very much like living in the U.S.; lots of the same stores and eating places and many of the same customs. Of course the language is the same and they drive on the right side of the road, but then there are the differences. The greatest difference is Canada's use of the metric system. Back in the 1970s I think it was, Canada made the decision to convert to the metric system to conform with Europe and pretty much the rest of the world. Distances are measured in millimeters, centimeters, and kilometers and volume in liters. Temperature is in Celsius degrees. The value of Canadian dollars is different than the U.S. Until we become more acclimated, all of this requires some mental gymnastics to convert values into something more meaningful for those of us with a U.S. mentality. Thank goodness we have an inner ring on our speedometer that shows kph.
I am gradually getting used to talking about speed and distance with the missionaries and with the various service managers with whom we do business for maintenance of our fleet of cars. It is interesting, however, that even some service managers who are Canadian natives refer to the a car's odometer distance traveled as"mileage" rather than as the odometer reading. All of the cars in the fleet get oil changes every 12,000 km, most of our car warranties run out at 60,000 km, and the cars get sold at auction or to individuals around 80,000 km.
With the ice and snow we average about one accident a day with our fleet of 80+ cars. Most of the accidents are parking lot accidents where someone slides into someone else or backs up and into someone. As to who is at fault, about 50% of the time it is one of our missionary drivers and about 50% due to other drivers running into one of our cars. With each accident, the missionaries involved, whether at fault or not, notify the mission office and then I give them instructions how to go online and fill out an incident report. This is automatically sent to the agency (Sedgwick) in Ottawa who handles the insurance coverage for the Church's fleet of cars whether mission cars, facilities management, social services, employment services, bishop's storehouse, family services, distribution, etc. (incidentally, each of these Church services are located in the same building we are in). Sedgwick acknowledges receipt of the incident report in an email back to us. The next step (at least for me) is to contact one or two collision/body and fender repair facilities for an estimate and photos. These are sent by email to Sedgwick and they then negotiate the repair costs with the repair facility and they authorize the repair and report the agreed upon price to me. I then set up the appointment and follow the progress of the repair until completion. Typically this takes the car out of service for more than a few days and I have to work with the missionaries through the zone leaders and district leaders to arrange for the affected missionaries to get to their areas and their appointments. We have one or two cars waiting to be sold or ones coming out of the repair shop that we can sometimes work into the process and this works okay for those serving in the Calgary area but when a car is needed clear across the mission this becomes problematic. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time on the telephone.
Most of the missionaries are, of course, quite young and are inexperienced when it comes to car problems so I get called about many things, some of which are a bit amusing. Each companionship has a designated driver and that is the person who does all of the driving. Some of the missionaries coming from countries other than the U.S. or Canada do not know how to drive or have too little experience to be an approved driver, and some don't want to drive. All missionaries who have driver's licenses in their home state or country are required to provide a copy of their license as well as their driving record from their home area. More than a couple of violations usually means they wont be driving while on their mission.
'Photocop' is big in Canada; this is the local term for intersections with cameras that capture speeding cars, those that are late going through intersections, speeding up to get through an intersection when the light is yellow, etc. Speed zones crop up with very little warning and the police are famous for being quite hidden and shooting pictures of cars that are in violation, in which case you don't get pulled over at the time, you just get a picture mailed to you with the stated fine and where to go to pay it or appeal it. The fines for moving violations are very expensive. Since the mission cars are all registered to the mission office, these pictures come directly to us and we average a couple a week. The office pays the fine promptly but then the missionary has to reimburse the mission from their own funds. When a missionary gets a second such violation, usually their driving privilege goes away, often for the rest of their mission. The mission president makes the determination, but pulling a missionary's driving privileges can complicate the assignment process if the other person in the companionship is not an approved driver.
Kathy is the person who receives and enters the gas receipts and monthly vehicle kilometer reports into the data base. She handles much of the office correspondence and the mission president's calendaring of activities and appointments around the mission. She handles incoming missionary referrals and ensures that these are distributed promptly and ensures that the results of these contacts are recorded. Kathy is also my assistant with vehicle matters; while we haven't had to do car inspections as yet, this is coming as we approach the first of the zone conferences which are held quarterly around the mission. While I inspect each of the cars (I will be out in the cold), she will sit in the warm car and record the findings as I call them off. A gift certificate is awarded to the pair of missionaries who have done the best job maintaining the car's cleanliness and needed service. The inspection involves checking the car for cleanliness, checking all fluid levels and tire pressure, tire tread depth, and looking for any unreported damages, warranty items, needed repairs, etc. We can hardly wait for this (wink, wink). And one other thing to report, we have four new cars inbound to us. They are supposed to arrive within the next two weeks. These will replace some cars that are at or beyond the 80,000 km. These will be sold. We will then some additional new experiences; registering the new cars, determining where they can be best utilized (since they are AWD, they will likely go to the Banff area of British Columbia with is part of the mission), and preparing and selling the cars coming out of the fleet. I'll tell you how this goes when it happens. The Church is great at preparing guidelines to follow for all of this but there is no guarantee that all it will go smoothly. I guess I'm a glass half empty kind of guy. ;^)
We are doing well and are happy in the work we are doing. We wish you all the very best.
Elder and Sister Thorley