• One of the things that drives me to roll my eyes at politicians in general, and my British Columbian representatives in particular, is that most of them (or at least the most successful of them) seem to live in perpetual spin. When a legitimate criticism finds its way to them, their duty to their brand seems to be to misinterpret, misdirect, and/or simply confuse the issue until the previously straightforward matter is going in circles. Or, if their mistake is too damning to spin, then they simply hold up a mirror in the direction of their opposition and point out that, when the rival brand was in power, they did something similar.

    The latter is a brilliant technique for escaping the most daunting scrutiny because, for almost every level of blunder that you make, one of your enemy political brand members will undoubtably have at some point committed a similar faux pas. Indeed, when eventually the enemy retakes power, and provide their own scandals, they in turn will recall your mistakes back to the stage – and so the circle of politics continues.

    As much as my eyes roll with this spin, I can understand its origins. Much like a product on the market, it is difficult for our democratically elected leaders (and the media that covers them) to focus too much on nuance in the 30 second soundbites that define them. Nevertheless, I often wonder if there is room for a mild case of humility amongst politicians. Perhaps if former BC Premier, Gordon Campbell had been more humble in his imposition of the HST, the populace wouldn’t have developed such an unreasonable hatred for it.

    Maybe I’m wrong: maybe we the voters see humility as a sign of weakness. Perhaps, if a politician admits imperfection too often, we will think they lack confidence. Indeed, the strange modesty-free behaviours of politicians seems to back up this notion. Whereas the rest of are expected to speak of our own achievements with a modicum of self-deprecation, politicians must continually cheer themselves on and associate themselves with any successful enterprise whether they spawned it or not.

    In a few-party system like British Columbia’s, this strategy apparently will get you elected, but it will eventually get you hated. Most political leaders, no matter how popular they are in their arrival, will leave office under a hale of contempt. Campbell was one of the most successful politicians in BC history, but by the end, he was amongst the least popular leaders we’ve ever run out of office. The decapitated political party, though, can still survive by renouncing their own former head and admitting they need a fresh start. Which brings me (finally) to my point. I think I see why the Occupy movement in BC (Vancouver, specifically) seemed to lose so much of their fan base so quickly. Because they are a consensus movement, they have no one but themselves to blame for their mistakes. And so, when the criticism was stronger than standard spin could handle, instead of serving up a fall guy for us to swarm, they simply denied their flaws and claimed the press was not fairly covering them. (It’s never a good idea to attack the media that you rely on to promote your rhetoric.)

    Using my talk radio listening experience as my blunt measuring tool, it seems to me that most Vancouverites are significantly sympathetic to the Occupy movement in the US as we perceive that their financial system has betrayed them. Given, however, that Canada, whatever its flaws, has been—-my pundits tell me—-a beacon of financial security during the current world economic crisis, many wondered, when Canadian Occupiers first arrived, what our self-proclaimed 99% representatives were going to be ranting against.

    At first, the Vancouver version wouldn’t really say. They were a consensus movement, which meant, as one Vancouver representative admitted to my radio host (Bill Good), creating a coherent thesis was going to take a while. Nevertheless, the general “down with the Man; up with the rest of us” seemed to resonate with many in the populace who have never heard a pander they didn’t like.

    To their credit, some of the Vancouver occupiers were capable of discussing with the press the things they wanted changed about the world, but understandably no two occupiers seemed to think alike, and so the general notion that they didn’t know what they wanted persisted. In the meantime, many observers were becoming increasingly impatient with the Occupation of previously shared public space. The Occupiers seemed to feel that they were above the bylaw: not only were they ignoring the rules against tent structures, they renounced the authority of the fire department who had claimed that the impressive tent village was contrary to fire code. The movement did eventually conform to the fire department’s “recommendations,” but not without antagonizing their bylaw-abiding audience.

    By the time the Vancouver Occupy Movement put forth a list of 60 demands, which itemized a coherent selection of idealistic goals, for many of us, it was too much, too late. In general, my radio friends (at least those who called in to the radio talk shows) agreed with a large percentage of the ideas within the Occupy platform, but they were tired of their anti-social methodology. (And when Vancouver had to re-route its Santa Claus parade around the Occupation, that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back!)

    The trouble, I think, with the Occupy movement—-in contrast with standard political parties—-is that while, yes, most politicians will attempt to spin their way out of criticism, the Occupy party appears to feel that they are above it. After two drug overdoses (one leading to a death) in the Vancouver encampment, they were quick to absolve themselves of any responsibility as they blamed the government for not having better programs for the drug-afflicted—-their lost comrade, they implied, would have died anyway. Perhaps they were right, but their unwillingness to express a morsel of remorse or acknowledgment that they could have done anything differently themselves once again alienated their audience.

    All of that, I supposed, could be described as standard political rhetoric, but the Occupiers stepped off script forever when a few of them tried to intimidate the press away from covering these potentially damaging stories. Some Occupiers tried to talk down the “don’t broadcast our problems” wing of the movement, but they did not renounce them. In standard politics, if you provoke a scandal (or tax) too big to spin, the party has to leave you under the bus. By the nature of their consensus design, though, Occupiers can never disown their own and so are left to feebly spin the egregious behaviour of their brethren as free speech to which “they have a right.”

    Strangely, then, this is one case where critics can legitimately paint the whole organization with the same brush. The consensus movement is beholden to the actions of its least reasonable members. One caller to my radio noted that the dreadful behaviours of those aggressive Occupiers were not unlike the beasts in George Orwell’s Animal Farm whose originally righteous resistance to oppressive farmers eventually mutated into a facsimile of the very enemy they had overthrown. As intriguing as this criticism is, I don’t think it’s yet fair to this particular movement. If they continue to treat themselves as infallible, however, they may be on their way.

    The 60 demands of the Vancouver Occupy movement may be wonderful goals for our society. But Utopia is not easy to create. As flawed as Canada may be in terms of social justice, it is still, as compared to all of the societies in history, probably in the top 99th percentile. Democracy, with all of its problem areas, has so far proven to be the most effective way to achieve the best in humanity.

    However, it is certainly not perfect. For instance, one thing democracy didn’t seem to account for in its birth is that we the people may actually destroy our earth. Unfortunately, we seem unwilling to vote for politicians who will change our habitat-destroying habits. So maybe the only way to save ourselves is by overthrowing democracy with a less selfish and “now”-obsessed political system.

    At this point, though, I don’t believe the Occupy Movement in BC is the one to achieve this goal. When Occupy Vancouver received (and, to their credit, obeyed) legal injunctions to remove themselves from public sites not long ago, they promised to get their message across via flash occupations of public places such as the Skytrain. But the Skytrain is something our society has gotten right, hasn’t it?! Isn’t such public transit good for the environment as it promotes people out of their gas-sipping cars into much more energy efficient trains? And more importantly, from the 99% perspective, Skytrain service helps the majority of us to get around cost-effectively.

    But our self-proclaimed 99% reps apparently are so certain of their righteousness that they’re willing to disrupt the travels of often non-rich, green-abiding constituents. As with all politicians, I’m sure they’ll spin this contradiction brilliantly, but, if that doesn’t work—-and the 99% is as outraged as it should be by their un-green threat—-the Occupiers, sadly, don’t have the option to simply fire their leader. Consensus has no scapegoat.

    P.S. So far, thankfully, Occupy Vancouver have not lived down to their Occupy Skytrain threat. This gives me hope for their future; however, the fact that the idea was even suggested by their representatives is a discredit to their movement.

  • A Twitter version of myself recently commented, “Plenty of room for temporary Canuck fans on the bandwagon. You’re not obligated to watch the whole marathon to cheer on the final sprint!”

    I couldn’t agree with me more! As the Canucks attempt to exorcise their Chicago Blackhawk demons tonight, some longtime Van Can fans will bristle and even insult those short term cheerleaders who only come out for big games. I do not understand this resentment. Hockey is entertainment, and so, as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to take part in as much or as little of it as you like.

    (Admittedly, I can be caught teasing those newbies who try to sound like hockey pundits and make hockey proclamations that are beyond their comprehension level, but that’s a whole other snobbery.)

    Similarly, I don’t resent those of us who only watch Olympic sports every four years. It may be tough on those athletes that they don’t get daily cheering, but, sorry: this is entertainment. I’ll watch when I find it entertaining, and I happen to only find cross country skiing to be intriguing when Olympic medals are on the line.

    I may also watch a movie sequel without “supporting” the original, or view “Harry Potter” without reading the book. I don’t have a problem with me doing that, and neither should Canuck loyalists resent occasional supporters. Not only are they not hurting anybody in the process, but their fresh enthusiasm adds excitement to the hockey battle for the rest of us. In fact, it seems to me if they were there all year long, the playoffs wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

    However! If the Canucks lose tonight, I will have to aim my disappointment somewhere and so I’ll have no choice but to join in the mocking of those clamouring for the bandwagon exit.

  • Many years ago, I decided to try online dating. I assumed that it would be a place that one could get to know another person through electronic conversation better than they could in, say, a bar or a club where music tends to overpower the human voice.

    As it turned out, I was quite right that one could communicate with words instead of gestures online, but I was startled to discover that many women were shy about saying anything unique about themselves, and instead would simply state that they “loved to laugh” or “live life to the fullest”. In spite of the popularity of these claims, I found them to be surprisingly empty. How many people, after all, don’t enjoy a good laugh now and then, and who among us isn’t hoping for a life that’s full to the brim with fun stuff? Thus, rather nobly, I decided to sacrifice my own profile by turning it into a profile-makeover column wherein I ever-so-helpfully offered suggestions to people for how they might describe themselves beyond cliches so that prospective suitors could get a distinguishing sense of them.

    Predictably, few people responded to my efforts, but I nevertheless felt that I was doing my part for the greater good of the online dating community.

    Finally, one day, I received a reply from a woman who said she liked my profile a lot. After brief e-mail correspondence, she asked me to call her. I did so and soon after found myself on a date, which was so unusual in its results that it provoked the cultivation of my dating motto: “Don’t worry too much about a date in advance – it’ll either be a good date or a good story”.

    I don’t want to give away which of those two categories this particular date fell into, but I will say that, nearly a decade later, I’ve entered it into CBC’s Bad Date Story Contest.

    If you’re interested to learn the details, my story, which begins from the above-mentioned phone call, can be found here.

    Note: given the CBC contest is now closed, you are invited to share, via comments here, any bad date tales that you think could have topped mine on the CBC charts.

  • In sports, when underdogs win unexpectedly, there seems to be an almost unanimous tendency amongst such winners to suddenly deride those who predicted they wouldn’t win.

    INTERVIEWER: How does it feel to win?!

    UNDERDOG CHAMPION: Yeah, everyone was counting us out. They were all bashing us. Nobody believed in us, but ourselves, and we proved them all wrong!

    I find the indignant tone of such remarks to be a wee bit confusing. It’s as though the vindicated athletes think the pundits were maliciously targeting them in a manner akin to someone telling a child they would never amount to anything…

    PUNDIT: I predict the Rangers will beat the Blazers 4-2.

    BLAZERS’ PLAYER: Oh, great, so you’re saying I’m not good enough to win?! You don’t believe in me just like my parents never believed in me! Thanks a lot.

    Surely the players understand that, if predictions are to be made, someone has to be estimated to lose, so their designation as underdog was not necessarily mean-spirited. But maybe I’m missing the point. Perhaps the players simply don’t like being predicted upon at all…

    INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to be go into this tournament ranked number one?

    HIGH RANKED PLAYER: Actually, I find the whole notion of rankings to be disrespectful: I’m tired of being treated like a piece of meat whose results can be anticipated by non-players. Instead of typecasting us based on past performances, why don’t you just wait and see what happens? Whatever will be, will be!

    Strangely, though, such railing against complimentary predictions doesn’t seem to happen. Instead the players only seem resentful when they’re not picked to win. Actually, that’s not completely true. More accurately: they only object when they’re not picked to win, but end up winning after all. However, I’ve yet to hear an assault on predictions of losing when they prove accurate…

    INTERVIEWER: So, how do you feel about your 5th place finish?

    5TH PLACER: Well, let me first point out that everyone predicted I would come in 5th. And I just want to say ‘Screw you!’ to all those people that didn’t believe in me.

    INTERVIEWER: So you feel you should have been predicted to fare better?

    5TH PLACER: Yeah! It would have been nice if someone would have believed in me. I see that all sorts of people believed in Mr. World Record Holder over there. Isn’t that nice for him? So not only does he get the glory of winning, he also gets the pre-event accolades, too. Couldn’t those predictions have been shared out evenly? Or better yet, here’s an idea: why not treat us all like we have an equal chance of winning and not predict at all!?

    So, given that the athletes only object when they are inaccurately predicted to perform worse than they do, maybe their objection is not that their results were estimated, but instead that that the alleged experts got it wrong. Hmm, but the problem there is that if inaccuracy of prediction is the only issue, wouldn’t the “overdog” players predicted to win complain when they lose?

    INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to lose after being the favourite in this tournament?

    OVERDOG LOSER: Well, the truth is I was a little irritated in the first place when we were ranked so highly. Clearly, the so-called experts don’t know what they’re talking about. They said we’d come in first, and did we? No. I just feel really bad for the fans who were given false estimates by the pundits.

    So I’m not sure what the solution is to this apparent paradox. When I coached kids’ rollerblade hockey, a four-team tournament was divided into “Gold Medal Winner”, “Gold Medal Runner-up”, “Silver Medal Winner” and “Silver Medal Runner-up”. Admittedly, one of my ten year old players approached me afterwards and said, “Why are we being called ‘Silver Medal Runner-Up’? Didn’t we come in last?” Nevertheless, perhaps sports prognosticators can learn from such efforts to protect people from ever thinking they’ve lost…

    PUNDIT: I believe equally in all four teams in this tournament. They’re all ranked number one in my books! If I had to choose – and it’s basically a coin flip – I would rank the Bears ‘1A’, the Tornados ‘1B’, the Lions ‘1C’ and the Ravens ‘1D’.

    RAVENS’ PLAYER: Awesome! We’re ranked number 1!

    P.S. Similarly, consider Jim Carrey’s (academy award worthy) Lloyd Christmas in one of the great (and most underrated) comedies all all time, Dumb & Dumber…

    (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t view you if you haven’t yet seen this brilliant movie!)

  • SETHIQUETTE 25.11.2010 2 Comments

    So a personal irritation of mine arises when comedy talk show hosts ask what I call joke-ended questions of their guests, thus leaving their conversation partners looking silly as there’s not much for them to say. If they answer the question seriously, they look dense as they seem to be missing the joke. But, if they try to add to the comedy of the question, they often look like they’re milking a line of humour that was complete at the question mark.

    Consider, for instance, Jon Stewart’s recent interview with Harrison Ford (which was on my television last night). After spending his pre-interview comedy time pleading mockingly with his favourite whipping President, George W. Bush, to be a guest on his show (promising him a free McRib burger as a reward), Stewart asked Han Solo if he thought the entreatment would work.

    What was Indiana Jones supposed to say to that? If he responded “No” he’s stating the McObvious, but if he went with “Yes” he would seem like he was trying to add to a joke that appeared to me to be pretty much done. Thus, it seemed that Jon Stewart was not really asking Harrison Ford a question, but instead was simply offering another punchline with a question-impersonating lilt on the end of it.

    But, wait, let’s hear Harrison’s response…

    “No,” he said with an assertive chuckle at the possibility of George Bush guest appearing on Jon’s show, “not a chance.”

    Not bad. Somehow he delivered the straight line without sounding humourless.

    “Do you think,” apparently delighted Stewart painfully followed up, “I need to throw in a McHappy Meal toy?”

    Again, we were spending Bladerunner’s time on the pre-interview monologue, and I didn’t see where Harrison could go with it, and yet, amazingly, Dr. Jack Ryan didn’t look as phased as I would be…

    “You have to just be a much nicer guy,” Harrison said with another chuckle (which left his host in hysterics). “So it’s not going to happen: no, it’s not in you.”

    Both Jon Stewart and I loved this reply! Somehow, Harrison Ford had found a way out of the question-joke by not taking it on directly, and instead mocking the question right back for its ridiculousness. Mr. Stewart, are you really going to laugh at George Bush for not coming on a show that has made its career on mocking him and then ask Harrison Ford if he thinks the failed president will come on the show for a burger and toy? Fine, then the wily actor will join the joke by telling you why George Bush isn’t coming on your show.

    But perhaps this was a fluke. Surely, Jon Stewart would get him with the next question-joke.

    The McDonalds-based interview continued and Harrison Ford admitted that his 9-year-old son thinks the McHappy meal toys are dreadful.

    Jon Stewart was intrigued because his 4 and 6 year-olds still love the toys. “Between the age of 6 and 9,” he asked everyone’s favourite action hero, “when does that toy go from being the greatest thing that has occurred in life, that we must go through monsoons, over mountains by foot to get to, to ‘Ahh, it’s a piece of bleep: I’m not interested’?”

    Perhaps this one wasn’t a pure question-joke, as it contained a reasonable inquiry for another parent, I supposed, but still it felt to me that there wasn’t too much room left for The Fugitive…

    But, hold on…

    “Well, I don’t know about your parenting skills,” Harrison said to another explosive laugh from J.S., “but I would suggest that somebody should have got to this maybe a little earlier. Have you ever bought ‘em a toy? Then they would see the difference…”

    Wow! Don’t get these quotes wrong, Harrison seemed to like and appreciate Jon Stewart, but nevertheless, he brilliantly sidestepped the host’s standard attempts to make his guest the straight man to his continuing monologue. Instead, Harrison Ford absorbed the punchline-questions and punched them right back.

    You go, Solo!

  • As you likely know, Lebron “King” James (or “LBJ”) is one of the top two or three basketball players in the NBA. He’s been a superstar in his profession since, seven years ago, he transitioned from high school to play for his home state Cleveland Cavaliers in the world’s best basketball league. From the start, he was not just a great individual scorer, but also possessed incredible vision and passing ability for someone who had skills enough that he could have ignored his teammates. And, just to add flavour to his abundance of greatness, he’s a rather handsome fellow, who contains a high level of charisma.

    Strangely, though, somehow this year he has become, in the eyes of many observers, an NBA villain. You see, at the end of last season, his contractual obligation to the team that drafted him had expired and he could sign with any new team that could afford him; unfortunately for Lebron, his decision, and the way he presented it, kind of a irked a few people.

    Going in, it was estimated that several major factors would weigh in Lebron’s choice – (A) his loyalty to his original team and fans, whom he had nearly (but not yet) brought a championship; (B) his loyalty to his bank account – perhaps he would offer himself up to the highest bidder; and/or (C) his pursuit of a championship – perhaps he would sell his services to the team he felt would give him the best chance of acquiring trophies.

    Two years before making his decision, the King was already contemplating out loud his future options, which drew criticism from NBA legend, “Sir” Charles Barkley, who claimed that, until his contract with Cleveland was complete, the team deserved his full attention.

    LBJ’s response was slightly less charming that his usual: instead of taking on Barkley’s point, James instead simply critiqued the man himself: “He is stupid,” said the then 23 year-old. In Lebron’s defence of this slightly useless response, he had probably never before in his career encountered criticism and so he had little idea of the proper way to deal with it.

    This tendency to believe that he could do no wrong may have also influenced the royal star as he approached his decision before this season as to where he would play. The finalists, he assured us, still included Cleveland, but also, amazingly, the Miami Heat where another of the league’s top three players, Dwayne Wade, had already set up camp along with recently acquired free agent superstar, Chris Bosh. So, if LBJ signed there too, the team would be stacked with talent not usually seen outside of an all-star game.

    Some of us thought the idea of three superstars colluding to form one superpower team for the sake of winning a championship was somehow missing the point of the accomplishment. Winning the league’s top honour seems meaningful to me because great players are pitted against great players in a grand struggle for supremacy, but if you get there by putting all the best players on one team, that’s seems like a less difficult matter, and so therefore makes winning “a championship” a less valuable prize.

    Indeed, the afore-insulted “stupid” Charles Barkley noted that he Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson would not have signed up for the same team in their era: they preferred to play against each other.

    Nevertheless, most accepted Lebron’s right to choose his team. However, they still resented how he did it. Instead of making his choice and then – for curtesy’s sake – letting the runners up know, he staged a one-hour primetime television “reveal” interview in which he would announce his “decision” to the world that he would be… inspirational music, please… defecting to the Miami Heat.

    He explained proudly, you see, that he was taking less money to give himself the best possible chance of winning (although, don’t worry too much for poor James: the endorsements acquired in his new situation should make up the difference pretty quickly). It’s funny to me how in the sports world the selfish pursuit of winning (i.e. pursuing winning for oneself at the expense of one’s former teammates and fans) is somehow considered noble. I don’t really get why greed for glory is any more beautiful than greed for money. They’re both just about providing Lebron James with a happier life.

    Regardless, as the now dubbed “Big Three”, Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade showed themselves off in a lavish welcome to winning party at Miami’s home rink, Charles Barkley was once again shaking his head. He argued that James’ television announcement again showed disrespect for the King’s ex team, who Barkley felt deserved to be told of his decision privately before James started dating his new city.

    The snubbed city agreed with Barkley’s assessment and burned various Lebron products in effigy, while their majority owner, Dan Gilbert, wrote to the fans: “You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal. … I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE. You can take it to the bank.” He added: “This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.”

    Wow! That might have been a bit much, but why shouldn’t the guy who’s losing the most by Lebron’s decision not say everything he could to inflame his fans to stay loyal? Mr. James had a right to leave, and Mr. Gilbert, I suggest, had a right to try to mitigate the disaster by using his only remaining weapon in retaliation.

    But wait! Lebron James actually felt bad about leaving Cleveland. “I never wanted to leave Cleveland,” he explained. “My heart will always be around that area. But I also felt like this is the greatest challenge for me, is to move on.”

    Sorry, to be a nag, Lebron, but, um didn’t you say that you were going to Miami because it gave you the best chance at victory? Yeah, I think that was you who said: “I feel like this is going to give me the best opportunity to win. And to win for multiple years. Not only just to win in the regular season, or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row. I want to be able to win championships and I feel like I can compete down there.”

    So, wouldn’t the bigger “challenge” (that you seem so interested in) have been to stay with the team who wouldn’t given you the biggest chance at perpetual league dominance?

    Anyhoo. All of this is to set up, for those who weren’t previously in the Lebron loop, Mr. James’ new Nike commercial, which responds eloquently to all this hurtful criticism. Let’s watch, and then we’ll come back to me for comments. (Note: “Chuck” refers to the above-mentioned Lebron-critic, Charles Barkley.)

    Wow, I must say: that was very good work, Nike writing staff. Your answer to the damage we thought Lebron had down to his image is akin to a great piece of incomprehensible art that asks the viewer to fill in the substance. (Whatever they come up with is right!) Lebron’s not going to tell us why he left Cleveland – maybe it was for the money (and if we’re big fans of money, we’ll settle on that answer and be satisfied); maybe it was because he’s a “championship chaser” (wow, that’s very poetic and again implies some honour in his departure). Regardless, what exactly did we expect of Lebron James? He never claimed to be our role model. He’s just a man made of flesh and ego like of the rest of us. Indeed, as he repeats this question throughout the soliloquy, the fact that there is no obvious answer seems to imply that there is no obvious flaw in his behaviours.

    Most brilliant, ghostwritten-James seems to be indicating that, in the end, he doesn’t really care what we think of him. He’s gotta be him. If winning championships for his family and friends is wrong, then he doesn’t wanna be right.

    We can dress him up in the villain costume, if we want, but he’s still gotta be himself. (I especially like that, in spite of his ghostwritten insistence that he doesn’t care what we think of him, when he asks, “Should I not have listened to my friends?” he can’t help make an argumentative answer, “They’re my friends”. But, other than that one point, he doesn’t care what we think!)

    It’s a wonderful script that we can all learn a lot from: there’s really no point in continuing to dislike him – it’s not going to bother him in the slightest. In fact, his rogue lack of interest in our opinions should make us kinda like him.

    Oh, but wait! Wasn’t the whole thing a shoe commercial? Which means it’s meant to sell shoes. So… Nike of Lebron does, in fact, care what we think of Lebron James. They were using reverse shoe psychology on us! Those clever Just Doers.

  • In opposition to my recent rants (“SPACE ON BUS; SPACE ON BRAIN” & “MY FIRST LINEUP“) regarding bus passenger selfishness, I challenge me to consider this incident…

    After finishing work in the late evening on Sunday, I landed outside on the street with my usual walk-and-look-for-the-bus plan. The walk would be a simple 15 minute trek to the nearest Skytrain that would take me home, but if, on this walk, I happened to pass a bus stop at the same time as bus, I would happily hop aboard to save myself up to 10 minutes of commute.

    When, then, I spotted a bus dropping off a passenger at a stop that was just 50 yards ahead of me, I decided to make a run for the oversized van (in case it was slowed down by more exiting passengers), but my sprint was not a desperate one since I was content with my leg-powered transporation.

    As I ran, the passenger that was just jettisoned from the vehicle spotted my approach, and so pointed at the bus to ask if I was aiming for it. I nodded, and so, with no thought of why she should care about a stranger’s goals, she knocked on the outside of the bus to indicate a passenger was coming. To honour her effort, I sped up my pace, but the bus pressed forward just as I arrived.

    I was not wounded by the loss since (A) I didn’t feel the driver was obligated to the knocking-instructions of a former passenger and (B) I was still content walking. But I was touched by the efforts and concern of the stranger, who, in turn, shook her head with disgust at the departing bus.

    I assured her I was content walking, but I thanked her for her kindness – not many would look out for a stranger like that. This did not cheer her up, but it did me.

  • Given my previous rant (see “SPACE ON BUS: SPACE ON BRAIN“) about the need for a bus passenger training school, it seems only fair that I give a sample of what our consideration-challenged friends could learn there.

    I suggest we start the training with a lecture on how to correctly enter a transit vehicle: students of Bus School will discover that, before boarding any such bus or train, one lets the exiting passengers go first. (“It’s like they have a green light, while yours is red.”) This, bussing professors will explain, allows us to avoid a passenger clog of people going in two directions. To facilitate this complicated maneuver, learners will be taught to line up slightly to the side of the entry doors until their opposites have completed their exodus.

    Special emphasis will then be impressed upon the students that, “When you see passengers waiting efficiently by the side of the doorway in this manner, they are not meaning to move out of your way so that you can jump the queue and board the bus first for the best seat. (When you do that, it angers and destroys your fellow travelers’ faith in the system and reduces their own compliance with passenger protocol.)”

    If such training stops just one one anarchist transit-user from queue-jumping to collect the last good seat on the bus, it will easily pay for itself in gaskets not blown by the rest of us.

  • This is a classic rant that probably needs no repetition, but I can’t help myself. On the bus once again last night, when a large crowd began to fill it, patrons at the front of the entering group did not go all the way to the back. The result was the standard passenger-dam at the front and middle of the vehicle.

    I can appreciate, in such circumstances, that the back of the bus will naturally be less packed than the front. Passengers fill the back first, after all, and so it feels awkward to get up close and cozy with strangers for an as-of-yet only theoretical need for room. Instead standard stranger-spacing etiquette feels like it should apply.

    But when the crowd begins to run out of room at the front of the corridor, there is an understanding between new friends there that near-hugging is allowed because otherwise one of you would not fit on the coach.

    However, as I surveyed from the well-packed middle section of the vehicular hallway, I noticed – as I always do – that the back of the bus was not simply spaced reasonably according to stranger-convention; instead, there was a walk-in closet’s worth of room – and even an empty seat! You see, somewhere along the aisle to the back, a traveller or two simply stopped (like a pair of escalator-standers) and blocked the following masse. This was no simple etiquette of spacing: it was emptiness of awareness. The travelers preferred the centre of the carriage (perhaps because it was closer to the exit doors), which is all swell and good (if, that is, you don’t enjoy the bus’s hind quarters, then that is your right as a bus-goer to avoid them), but, for passengers’ sake!, make room in the aisle for those who would move into the glorious space behind you.

    And yet, on every crowded bus, there are always those who are profoundly unobservant of (or simply unconcerned with) the needs of their fellow bus-goers. It is time they be taught a lesson: I propose remedial transit-traveller finishing school for these breachers of consideration. They must be taught that with great transit comes comes great responsibility.

    Of course, it is to be expected that most such selfish travelers will fail to gain any class from these classes, but, sadly, their failure to graduate should not cost them their bussing passport (we certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from continuing to choose the more environmental option for travel); instead, I suggest we simply charge the greediest of passengers extra to ride. If they feel the need to reserve large sections of bus behind them for no one (so that they can stand cozily in the way in the middle of the bus), they should be given the responsibility to pay the lost fees of the passengers that otherwise would have fit on the ride.

    Perfect. Problem solved. I feel better.

    P.S. See “MY FIRST LINEUP” for a proposed first lesson at Bus Passenger Training School.

  • SETHIQUETTE 27.09.2010 7 Comments

    Anyone who’s had the good fortune to share an escalator with me is likely familiar with this rant: and so for their nostalgia and everyone else’s first-time enjoyment, I would like to officially announce…

    I reverse-heart escalator-standers.

    Why would a healthy individual interrupt their day (in which, I’m told, time is precious) to wait for a slow machine to carry them to their destination, when the device offers the option to move at double its speed by simply walking?

    Note of rant sanctuary: If an escalator-stander has a health condition (sore knees, sore heart, maybe escatripaphobia), or is simply tired and not in the mood to climb moving stairs, they are excused from the ire of this rant.

    Note of excommunication from rant sanctuary: The tired stander will be returned to the rant’s scope, however, if they are one of a pair of standers, who, instead of standing one after the other to allow safe passage of those behind, block both lanes of escalator travel so that those who would prefer to kill calories (instead of time) cannot proceed.

    My primary objection is to those who stand because of what I can only surmise is habit: I watch 20 year-olds arrive at the escalator and, without apparently pausing to ask, “Do we feel like adding a tiny bit of exercise to our diet?” they stop and stare ahead. I suppose they could have a good reason for the slow-down: maybe it’s their first time on an escalator and so they want to savour the experience; or perhaps they’re trying to conserve calories: why waste energy that they could store for later?

    But I think the most reasonable explanation for why most people stop on an escalator without considering walking is that they are in some sort of trance, a temporary off-button that has suddenly made time not matter to them.

    I spend most of my escalator time en route to catching Skytrains, which arrive approximately every five minutes, and so, if I slow down just enough (often because of an escalator-standing-blockade), I might narrowly miss a just-arriving train, thus causing me to get to my destination five minutes later. It’s rare that my hope is to be five minutes later for anything. Yes, Alabama, I realize that we shouldn’t “rush and rush until life’s no fun”, but, if it’s easy, and you happen to be in a hurry, why not step up?

    For instance, I’m convinced that the people standing on the escalator to go to the movies would like to get into the ticket-buying lineup as soon as possible to secure goods seats, and yet, with knees capable of gingerly climbing to the back of the theatre, they inexplicably freeze the moment their feet hit the escalator.

    Indeed, I have been late with friends to a movie, and have felt the “Kumbaya” of our mutual rush only to arrive at an escalator to witness the sudden suspension of my companions’ movement as though the matter is out of their feet’s hands: the escalator, after all, speeds up for no one – what are they supposed to do?

    This behaviour seems so irrational to me that I must find a cause to blame. Perhaps it is the fault of our oft-described “sedentary” modern western society and our tendency to avoid unnecessary movement? But I suspect something more sinister – I suspect it is our brains that are sedentary and that it simply doesn’t occur to people to keep moving on a machine that will get them there eventually.

    Evidence for this hypothesis can be found in the aforemocked people who stand two-by-two on the escalator such that they become a obstruction for any would-be non-lazy-people behind them. Surely, if it even occurred to them that some might like to get by, they wouldn’t be so selfish as to stand in the way, would they?

    If I’m right that people stand on escalators because they never thought to use the steps for climbing, then I have replaced one baffling question with another: why the heck wouldn’t it occur to them? I can understand the inclination to let the vehicle do all the moving in the case of cars or buses, but to stop, without thinking, on a device that offers you the option of safely doubling your speed of travel is, to me, a kin to riding one’s bike and discovering a slight decline and so deciding to stop pedaling so as to allow gravity to do all the work for you. If you’re tired, or in the mood to relax and look around, then you have my warmest blessings, but if you stop your exercise simply because you see no point in doing otherwise then I don’t get it. Similarly, I guess if the sun’s bugging your eyes, then there’s no need to walk to a shadier spot: after all, the earth will eventually transport you out of the sun’s gaze. So, yeah, just sit there and wait.

    All poignant exaggeration-sarcasm aside, clearly escaltor-standing is a mystery that I’m not able to solve here, but, if you are a career escalator-stander with no health reasons to justify this habit, I’d like to make a tiny suggestion: try escalator-walking just once. You may be surprised to discover that motorized-inclines aren’t as daunting as they look from the bottom.

    If, however, you still see no point in walk-riding when you could just ride, I request that you at least not stand in the way of those who would choose to stroll freely. Stay in your lane, and nobody gets glared at on my way by.

    P.S. If I were artistically inclined, I would create a cartoon of a couple standing on an escalator with no one in front of them, a crowd behind them, and a thought bubble above them that simply states, “Where does all the time go?”

    P.P.S. Even brillianter, I refer you below to Becel’s heart health commercial, the most profound advert in television history. It deals with the mystery of the escalator stander with grace and impeccable honesty.

    (The TV-broadcasted advert ends, I believe, at the first fade-out, so if you’d like to learn more, continue watching for another minute of mind-bending investigative advertising.)


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