The Day-to-Day Business of Living

Welcome to my neighbourhood.

I live in Côte-des-Neiges, Montreal, where posters record the day-to-day business of living. They hang off utility polls, bus shelters, and mail boxes. They’re in plain sight for passersby to read and rip a phone number tab. They tell stories of work, home, and domesticity.

Warehouse clerk wanted. Live-in caregiver needed. Cheap driving instructor available. “Bedspace” for rent. New daycare.

Handwritten posters share poles and walls with word-processed flyers. Most feel rushed. Their authors designed them with nothing more than a Sharpie and lined paper, or a red marker and the cardboard lid of an aluminum take-out container. Some tape, too.

I’ve watched righteous residents remove homemade posters one utility pole at a time. I’ve observed public transit workers clean bus shelters with sponges and soapy water.

They rip and clean in vain. People post every day and every next day.

Welcome to Côte-des-Neiges.

Women domestic workers have lived in the neighbourhood since the 1950s. Back then, the state recruited nurses and teachers and granted them permanent residence; most of the women arrived from the Caribbean. Today, the state recruits temporary caregivers through its Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). Most of the women migrate from the Philippines.

A phone number tab for a nanny agency. Seranta “allows you to free from stress by providing selected personnel to take care of your children and house.” I wonder whether former nannies run Seranta.

This poster hung from the window of the 161 bus shelter at Van Horne/Côte-des-Neiges. The 161 brings “live-out” domestic workers from Côte-des-Neiges to the nice houses of Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead.

Warehouses and factories recruit workers from Côte-des-Neiges. They seek candidates with the “ability to work under stressful conditions.” I found this poster near a metro station (Plamondon) where, every day, thousands of people walk by.

This handwritten poster promises a real job.

Labour organizers and employers recruit from the same streets and through the same method: the poster.

Using Meetup to organize young workers.

Elaborate and printed, handwritten and descriptive. Represent.

These posters are in a shelter along the 124 bus route that connects Snowdon/Côte-des-Neiges and Westmount, a city whose households employ staff.

Some live-in nannies and domestic workers rent rooms or “bedspaces” where they retreat on Sundays, their day off. Students originally practised bedspacing in Manila and the Philippines. Today, nannies in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore, bedspace on weekends for privacy and genuine time off. They are also called weekenders.

Someone used medical tape to hang this poster.

Notice the traces of past posters. Above are typical multipurpose posters targeting one audience. A sugar shack outing and a room to rent: Filipinas only.

A tidy poster. I’ve seen this one over and over again over the years. Same font, same message, same bedspaces.

The bottom ad caught my attention. I recognized the barely legible handwriting from a poster I’d seen on someone’s front door a street over from mine. “For Rent” it read. If out of paper, check your recycle bin for cardboard take-out lids and cereal boxes.

Some posters don’t survive the rain. Posters advertising new daycare centres pop up every week, or so it seems. Just a few weeks ago, the apartment below ours became a daycare centre. Did the woman make a poster to recruit parents to leave their babies in her care?

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8 thoughts on “The Day-to-Day Business of Living

  1. Wow, Steph, this is a great document of changing social history in the neighbourhood. Really cool. Plus, I thought ‘Yeah, there’s posters in every neighbourhood’, but then I read it and now I know there’s something unique about the quality of the posters in Cote-Des-Neiges, no doubt.

  2. An eye opener, I walk to work sometimes and see the posters but never stopped to look. I will now, just to see if it differs here.

    • Thanks. Do the posters remind you of a specific neighbourhood or area of Berlin? I was there 15 years ago, but don’t remember the city’s posters or flyers.

      • Yes for example Kreuzberg or Prenslauerberg ;) But Berlin has changed a loooot since then btw! You should revisit, definitely! :)

      • One day, I will return to Berlin. I would love to see the changes. I remember going to Kreuzberg, but I don’t remember Kreuzberg ;) One day!

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