I happen to be in Ottawa for a week to take a course on Oracle. Ottawa is actually quite beautiful in the downtown area but the political climate is such that you cant help but think, boy, they sure are squandering a lot of tax payer dollars here. The National Arts Centre is quite impressive. And if I look out the window of my hotel, I can stare right into the face of a huge office tower with the government logo on it. Its 10:00 at night and all the lights are on.
But most of the big expensive buildings here are privately owned, like the Learning Tree Education Centre at 160 Elgin St. It looks like the tower is owned by Bell, which has its logo on the front, but you never know nowadays. Its large by Ottawa standards. Its gloriously finished, in marble and all kinds of gleaming, expensive materials I dont know the name of. A man comes out the front with a broom and a dustpan and sweeps up the cigarette butts regularly, even in the evening.
These monstrous towers-- dwarves, compared to the World Trade Centre-- never made much sense to me. Who said we should allow people to build up 40, 50, 60 stories? Who said that just because you own a plot of land on the surface of the earth means youre entitled to do anything you want with all of the space above it? Tall buildings take the sunlight away from people, of course. They create traffic problems, and block the view and, again, as the World Trade Centre showed, theyre not very safe. Not for the obvious reason-- which isnt very likely to happen anywhere else soon, but because firemen cant reach the upper floors. In New York City, the highest floor that can be reached with fire hoses and ladders is the 37th. If there is a fire above that level, you might as well jump.
Which reminds me. I have a great idea to improve the safety of people who work in those towers. I believe that the landlords should be required to provide a hang-glider for every worker. You might think it would be crazy to try to hang glide through the downtown corridors of our modern cities, but its a lot better than the alternative.
The hotel is pretty nice but the bathroom is small and the towel rack hangs right above the toilet.
Oracle is the most expensive off-the-shelf software in the world, about $15,000 or more for the server version, and Learning Tree International charges thousands of dollars for a one-week course on how to use Oracle, but they cant afford to buy enough computers for everyone in the class so I get to share mine with Ahmed. Ahmeds a real nice guy but the trouble is that he and I are moving at different speeds here, so I sit in my $5,000 seat at times in frustration.
Learning Tree doesnt scrimp on the amenities. They have these really cool coffee machines that take little plastic cups of freshly ground flavored coffee and whip you up a very tasty shot of caffeine in no time at all. They provide you with fresh fruit, muffins, yogurt. Our trainer works in the real world, usually, and knows his stuff. The lessons are well-prepared and thorough. They were giving us an hour for lunch but the class voted to start at 8:30 instead of 9:00, take 30 minutes for lunch instead of 60, and quit an hour earlier at the end of the day.
Most of my classmates looked bored and frazzled. Its like trying to learn Russian in one week, immersion. People do exercises as if they have just been instructed on how to do heart surgery and must now repair an aorta, on their own, in fifteen minutes.
I am staying at the Lord Elgin. I dont think its a cheap place, by any means, but other hotels have jacked up their rates so much that its actually fairly competitive even though its level of service is far higher than it is at, say, the Travel Lodge or Holiday Inn. The elevators are covered with brass. The lobby floor looks like some kind of marble or other high priced tile. There is a bellboy in his funny little uniform. But hotels can be a little crazy. You pay over $100 a night for a good sleep and then get woken up by loud vacuuming and door-banging at 7:00 a.m.
The telephone in the room rings. I kid you not. You dont hear a phone ring very often anymore in this world. But it rings. Its a shock to the ears at first, a flash of nostalgia, and then annoyance: the ringing sound really is quite annoying. You would think that at the rates they charge, hotels would be rushing to put in reasonably state of the art equipment, but this phone system has got to be 30 years old. The television too, an old Zenith, would look right at home in the Beverly Hillbillies era. It has one of those clunky brown boxes on the top. When you turn it on, it goes right to the offers for movies. They want $9.95 to watch a movie in your room. This is a big profit centre for hotels. You would think, for $9.95 on a crummy tv, that at least youd be offered a pretty good choice of some reasonably current movies. Oh no. The offerings this night (October 31, 2001) are:
Rush Hour 2
American Pie 2
Planet of the Apes
They have got to be kidding! All of these movies are either colossal losers or nearly out on video where I can rent it for $3.50, or both. But the real winners are:
Three Women and a
On My Face (Mirages of Lust)
Nasty Pix 14 Triple Feature (Features 3 Adult Movies) for $12.99
Class joint, this Lord Elgin. On the outside, all expensive baubles and class. Inside, its as tacky as a Vegas strip club.
Copyright © 2001 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved.