Its called many things in different parts of the world - in Liverpool and England there's different words or phrases for it - blagging, fronting; in Eire its called blarney and its exponents are said to have the gift of the gab; in New York it takes a certain hutzpah (or chutzpah) to carry it off. Some parts of the world that practice Plain English just call it lying, but there's no romance in that. Nova Scotia has its own variation on this theme, and this post is about the Nova Scotia variety.
I loved many, many things about Nova Scotia, the air, the scenery, the space, the climate, the friends we made, and most of the time, the work I did. There was, however, one aspect of Nova Scotian life that has plagued me, and still continues to, and that is the Ploppyshank Syndrome(PS). PS has been named in honour of one of its chief exponents, a carpenter who we'll call Tony (real name withheld for legal reasons), whose complete inability to take any responsibility at all for any of his actions was elevated to an art form. Shoddiness and shirking are the hallmarks of his work, and lying abou the consequences the usual outcome. He would prefer to take short-cuts, easy-fixes and "tricks of the trade" in every circumstance, even if it took him longer, cost more money and failed in every measurable way. Unfortunately as I discovered during my time in Nova Scotia, among a percentage of the population, Ploppyshankism can be as intrinsic to a culture as ugly American capitalism is in Ontario, and jingoism is among British politicians.
In the case of Tony, this manifested itself in various ways. He fancied himself as craftsman, but looked like a pan-handler, and approached woodwork with the finesse of a blind, emaciated, drunken, angry-at-life lumberjack. He proudly told me of his fishing exploits, but could'nt swim. This, you'll have to understand is not the logical "cannot swim" of the deepsea, or even inshore, trawler man. This is the "cannot swim" of the idiot who regularly takes his children 1/2 mile out to sea in his beautiful pea-green boat. A boat, as I discovered later, he'd built himself. He proudly told me that he was a woodsman, who could be dropped anywhere in the world, and who would survive. Later, on a trip to Port Hawkesbury, 2 hours away from home base, Tony got the tummy upset because Tim Horton's coffee tasted different in Cape Breton. As a man who was a self-made disaster in waiting, everything was always someone or something else's fault. For anyone who is interested in the specifics of one of Tony's incidents, see the comments section at the bottom of this post. The incident is'nt actually that funny, although at the time, once I realised he had'nt actually killed Kenny, I was able to laugh about it as a funny "typical Nova Scotia incident" in a hysterical kind of way(usually after half a bottle of Jamesons).
Up to about twelve months ago, Tony was the best exponent, (or worst sufferer of PS?) I have met. However, around 2006, a new master emerged, someone whose Ploppyshankism is as down home Nova Scotian as it gets. Step up Tammy, our property manager. I cannot reveal Tammy's real name, or the name of her company, for legal reasons, but as you may know we have been renting our Nova Scotia house to tenants pretty quietly for about four years, using the same property management company. Tammy took over this company in 2006, and the problems started - firstly monthly payments got later and later. We were very busy and at first just made polite e-mail enquiries which were met with plausible sounding replies - vacations had delayed payment, the office accounts system were being re-organised. The tendency to pay late, or not at all, however, really took hold in summer 2006, around about the same time that the company's office phone became permanently transferred to voice mail.
By the end of 2006, the company owed us three months rent, with no explanation. I had even had a meeting with the company when we went to Halifax before Christmas. Tammy, was, I was told "on vacation", but the property manager Colin assured me that everything would be taken care of when she got back. January, and now we're in the UK, and still no payment, either of the overdue rent, and now January's rent as well. I had been consistently pressurising the company for months, but as the stridency of our e-mails and phone calls increased, the company's responses decreased, apart from a pathetic string of excuses.
The excuses we have had from this company include "I'm transferring all owners accounts over to direct debit payment - once that's sorted out the payments will go smoothly" (never happened), "Our office has been broken into" (I could'nt find any Police Report or news item on this on the web), "I was in Laurencetown, looking after a broken water tank so could'nt deposit your money" (for three weeks), and twice she told us "I've couriered your money to your bank in Ontario". The first time she gave this excuse, she even invented cheque numbers and a postal reference so we could "check with our bank". Needless to say, the cheques never arrived at our bank, ever. I pointed this out to her in an e-mail that talked her through the logic of this - as the cheques had never arrived in our account, and as she'd had to subsequently deposit new cheques, how did she feel about lying so blatantly? She never replied to this e-mail. The most stunning excuse was probably the "Tammy's had a brain hemorrhage" excuse. On this occasion, we ignored the excuse, threatened legal action, and so Tammy made a miraculous recovery and came in to work the next day to sign and deposit our cheques.
We now only have three months left with the house, as we'll be selling it this year, and have given Tammy's company, and our poor tenants (who Tammy has NEVER blamed because she knows we can verify whether they've paid or not) notice to quit. We're now sort of up to date in rent, and I was looking forward to ending my relationship with this lying, deceitful,untrustworthy Ploppyshanker. I was looking forward to reducing the amount of PS I had to deal with on a day to day basis until this week. This week, I started trying to recruit realtors to help us sell the house. One of the e-mails I got stated in breathless tones "If you are looking to purchase a home within the HRM region, it would also be my great priviledge to assist you in finding a home that meets your needs" and finished with "Again, I am honoured that you have requested my services in assisting you in the sale of your home. " More Ploppyshank awaits.