It’s common to say you miss a place because of the people you left behind. In the case of the Big City of my former residence, I mean that in both the specific and general sense. I miss family and friends, to be sure, but I also miss all the people. Hordes of them.
There’s an extremely comforting sense of safety in numbers when you find yourself in a big city. At least for me, I never felt like I was in danger if I found myself downtown late at night, or if I lost my bearings near a major thoroughfare, because there were just so many people around. The same is true of Vancouver, though some sections are truly dicey, but for the most part, I feel safe when walking down major streets.
This feeling is harder to come by in the city I live now, where they seem to roll up the streets after 5 pm, and aimless wandering seems like a reckless invitation. Stuck downtown one evening before an evening appointment, I ate a solitary dinner in a completely empty food court at 5:30 pm. Vendors were still open, but nobody visited them. I found out later that a man eating a late lunch alone the day earlier in the same food court was stabbed by a random assailant. The man survived the random attack, and his misfortune goes a long way to explain the emptiness of this particular food court. Not knowing the story at the time, I thought, “This is great! A McDonald’s with no line? I’m coming here every week!”
This attack and others like it, where the assailant and the assaulted have no pre-existing relationship, the scary randomness of it all, results in letters to the editor calling for an increase police presence. “With more officers, things like this wouldn’t happen!” the consensus seems to be. Sometimes I wonder if more people overall wouldn’t help solve the problem. The stabby loner has less opportunity to strike if he has to contend with hundreds of downtown diners. The purse-snatcher can’t risk the multiple witnesses of a crowded train platform. But Edmonton is unlikely to get sudden barrage of citizenry like Calgary to the south or Vancouver to the west. But what if there was a squad of people, low-level authority figures with no real power like Mall Cops or Transit Dorks whose job it was to police human behavior that was, if not illegal, at least highly undesirable? I would like to be part of that squad.
Dream: Organize a “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!!!” Society.
Goal: Achievable. The “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!!!” Society takes its name from Seinfeld, as “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY” is something George Costanza shouts after a perceived affront. It’s a catch-all phrase that means, “Why are you behaving this way when we all must coexist?” I don’t know of any governing body that would give us the capital to hire full time staffers or build a cool headquarters, but I know if we kept a few rules in check, society would adapt over time thanks to our efforts.
Plan: Create rules that the “WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!!!” Society would enforce at all times. Here are some rules.
1) Get off the phone. Take your cell and actually turn it off when you’re speaking with someone. And don’t do that thing where you’re texting while you’re speaking to someone else. This is a remarkable feat of multitasking, but nothing is worse than watching someone’s eyes slide down to their device while they’re speaking to you. This is especially important if you’re buying something at a store. Get off the fucking phone.
2) Take off your hat. I went out to dinner the other night and, while this was not a fancy eatery by any means, it was still a restaurant. From the small section where I was sitting, I counted six men sitting at different tables wearing their stupid ballcaps while eating. Look, you’re not a movie star or the son of an oil baron. You don’t need to be incognito and you expect to be so blatantly impolite. Hat goes off, sir.
3) Let other people get off before you get on. This applies to busses, subways, even elevators. I can’t believe I’m having to type this, it should be so obvious. Don’t just charge on there, idiot, wait your turn. Also, small digression, what’s your big goddamn hurry to get on the plane? Do you think the plane will take off with just you on it because you were clever enough to skip all boarding protocol and run on there? I hate these idiots. The ones who, when they make the pre-boarding only announcement for the elderly, the very young, the differently abled and that person “who may need a little bit of extra help” that I always wonder about, these jerks start standing and hovering, like they’re waiting for the bathroom. “Is it time yet? Can’t I just get on?” And THEN, these same stupid morons, stand like cattle once the plane lands. They get up and stare dumbly ahead, waiting until the last possible moment to struggle with their stupid 50 pound bag and hold everybody up. FUCKING GO! Okay, sorry.
4) Moms, feel free to breastfeed in public. I don’t know why this is even an issue, y’alls gotta feed your babies. However, Moms, be mindful of where and how your child is discovering the world around them. By this I mean, don’t let Junior just walk around a store unaccompanied. Don’t let Caydence run up and down the aisle of the bus or wail at the top of her lungs at the mall. Reign your kid in. Also, vaccinate them.
5) Adults, kids movies are for kids. Yeah, here I go again! But COME ON! Challenge your minds! Expose yourself to culture. Film is a wonderful medium, but just leave children’s entertainment to children! Parents of young children, you get a pass. Grown ass childless people? Look at yourselves!
6) Careful runners. Look, I have nothing against running as a sport, an exercise, or a way to catch the ice cream man. However, on a recent outing with my friend Shannon, who is a runner, I learned something deeply disturbing. Runners, when they run, just puke. They just vomit while they run. They run so hard they wear out their bodies and the food in their bellies comes up and they vomit. Just throw it all up. WHAT? This cannot be acceptable. I don’t want to see a group of willowy lycra-clad do-gooders take up all the space on my walking path so they can do fast-trotting stopping only to PUKE. Nope.
7) Put whatever you want into your body and I’ll do the same. Ironic, isn’t it? Puke is unacceptable in my Society, but putting waste inside your body is met with no judgement. I don’t know if I will change this stance over time but right now, today, I feel like people can eat or choose not to eat whatever they want. I’m sick of the vegans judging the vegetarians, the paleo’s judging the organics, everyone judging fat people. I’m sure there are healthier choices we could all be making, I don’t think anyone has the definitive answer. I’m also sure that something is going to kill every single one of us sooner or later, so why don’t we just lay off?
8) This is the grossest one and requires a preamble. Out for dinner (the dinner of the hatted gentlemen from earlier), one of our dining companions told this story:
“So I’m on a flight and I see this guy I recognize and give him a nod hello and he sticks his nose in the air, which I found kind of obnoxious. Anyway, we start to take off and I hear this ‘click, click, click’ as the plane moves down the runway. I look over and the guy is clipping his toenails.”
CLIPPING HIS TOENAILS? ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS? COME ON! If there’s one rule I have, it’s that I live by several rules, number ONE of which is DO NOT CLIP YOUR TOENAILS IN A PUBLIC PLACE. WE’RE LIVING IN A SOCIETY!
In reality, there’s no force that can police less-than-desirable behavior that is not illegal. But it shouldn’t be too hard to take inventory of the people around us and call out the rude nonsense. No matter where we’re from, or whether we’re navigating busy streets or empty food courts, most of us are just trying to get by. We’re all on the same team here. Let’s act like it.