As we walked into the Canada Day Festivities the other day, I remember thinking how cool it was to see so many kids setting up lemonade stands in their yards along the road leading to Wascana Park – learning about entrepreneurship, customer service, being out in the sun instead of inside playing video games.
Then, by a weird coincidence, I saw the following story posted on Facebook about a former classmate of mine from library school whose two young girls had their lemonade stand shut down by the National Capital Commission in Ottawa.
True, the girls were apparently set up on a publicly owned meridian near their house instead of in their front yard because it was an area that would have higher foot/bike traffic but which is also pretty safe as it is closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays in the summer months.
But ultimately, it says something about society and those who follow rules at all costs that the first reaction – after lots of positive response from passersby but only a single complaint – was to shut down the lemonade stand immediately instead of finding some sort of compromise or more positive solution.
As Kurtis, the girls’ dad says in the story, he was willing to buy a permit on the spot but they didn’t allow him to do this. The officer responding could’ve turned a blind eye to let them continue selling at least for the rest of the day but with a gentle warning not to do it again in the future until they had more information or a ruling from a higher up. Or, as someone in the comments said, the officer could’ve bought some lemonade and ignored the whole thing as a violation in only the strictest interpretation of the bylaws.
Oh well, as is also pointed out in the story – the girls have learned another valuable lesson about life with this situation which will also serve them well in their lives – there is bureaucracy and there are spoil sports and there are people who don’t use common sense! (I mean, how many people do you know who’ve had rules bent for all kinds of more serious things – from people who probably jaywalk without repercussion every single day in Ottawa to adults getting out of speeding tickets to extremes like celebrities getting away with literal murder. But yeah, don’t let two kids under 10 sell lemonade!) /sarcasm
[Update: The NCC has issued an apology. This is good but I’m not a huge fan of the fact that they basically threw a junior officer under the bus for enforcing the rules that I bet some supervisor told him to enforce. This is so common too – front line staff are told to enforce rules but then, if a customer/patron/citizen makes a stink, they get thrown under the bus by management who don’t want bad publicity. A much better approach in my mind is to empower front-line/junior staff to make decisions and bend rules if appropriate. I regularly tell my staff to use their best judgment, explain to people if they’re bending rules and why, and that I’ll have their back as long as they can explain why they made the decision that they made…even if I don’t agree with it.]
(Full disclosure – I’m pretty biased about this story because the girls’ parents were pretty good friends of Shea’s and mine in library school. I once helped them move out the place they were staying, they had us over for a BBQ where we had Mexican-style corn on the cob for the first time ever and both of them were from rural backgrounds as well so we all had that in common.)