Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Public Transportation

To begin with a modicum of clarity, I don't hate public transportation.

In Vancouver, our public transportation system is pretty good - not as good as it was 5 or 10 years ago, but good enough nonetheless.

That said, apart from moving me swiftly to my destination, public transportation serves as a melting pot of humanity - every type of person, from the most degenerate human excrement to the clean-cut, tailored-suit wearing pompous "master of all he surveys" (insert sweeping hand gesture here).

Having lived right downtown for the past 3 years or so, it's interesting to return to daily use of Vancouver's transit system, and the denizens of those buses and trains to not disappoint. Let me tell you some of the incredible people I have borne witness to.

Electric Cart Bubble Lady: I have a terrible hatred for 90% of the people I see driving around on those little electric scooter things, and I will tell you why. First of all, when you drive one of these things on the sidewalk, you take up twice the width of a normal person. Second, most people drive their little scooter things at half of normal walking speed, which is approximately 1/5th of MY walking speed. And third, when they stop and stand up to walk into a store, it tells me that they aren't driving that little scooter around out of medical necessity, they're driving it because they are a) fat, b) lazy or c) both. Electric Bubble Cart Lady appeared to have a geniune need for her motorized scooter thing, so I won't hold it against her. With her curled up, arthritic-looking hands, I sympathize, and bear no ill-will toward her. She is, however, an example of peculiarity. See, her electric scooter thing was fully enclosed with some sort of plastic shield, opaque on top, clear around the sides and front affording her visibility. Through the plastic I could see her scratching lottery tickets with her twisted hands, shifting uncomfortably on the scooter's seat, and I had to ask myself - "How the hell does she get into this thing?".

Racially Confused Steretype Lad: It's one thing to see people dressed head-to-toe in urban "inspired" clothes, spouting racially-derived slang and generally serving as a terrible stereotype for people of their race, creed or colour. It's entirely something else to see this kind of behaviour emulated by someone of an entirely different race, creed or colour. The FUBU hoodie, the baggy jeans pulled down to your knees, referring to your companions as "nigga", a bullet of malt liquor protruding from your oversized pocket - this targets you as a stereotype if you're black, but it targets you as a complete and utter moron if you are white. The odds are good that your parents are upper-middle class, two car garage, SUV-driving, ski-chalet for a few weeks in the winter kind of people. The only thing "ghetto" about you or your background is what you saw on reruns of "21 Jump Street". Also, if you can afford the designer labels that you're wearing - your Slim Shady Switchblade hoodie? Your pre-torn FUBU baggy jeans? - yeah. You're not fooling me. I know money when I see it.

Homeless, Unwashed, Free-Riding Conspiracy Theorist: I don't hate the homeless. Generally. I'll make exceptions for those who misbehave, but I have sympathy for people who have fallen on hard times and not been able to claw their way back out. This kind of character (and there are many, I promise you)...where to begin. They enter the train car, bringing with them the stench of urine, cheap booze and terrifying body odour (it manifests as an almost-tangible cloud, extending outward from them - I can almost feel it winding around my ankle...), and plant themselves down in the seat next to the first person who is unfortunate enough to make eye-contact with them. Then the stories start. "D'you know Prince Charles is the antichrist?" he (usually a he, not always though) slurs. "Mind controlling drugs in the city's drinking water, that's why I only drink wine." and so on. Their stories usually come to an abrupt end when transit police appear to do a fare check, and of course Homeless, Unwashed, Free-Riding Conspiracy Theorist wouldn't dare spend his hard-panhandled change on something as frivolous as transit fare.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Moving & Material Wealth

Ahh, springtime. When a young man's fancy turns to love.

I however, being 30 (by no means OLD, I know), obey no such missive. My fancy has turned to solitude, and as such I find myself separating MINE from HERS, packing my life into a number of cardboard boxes, and seeking a new place to call home.

Not wanting to go into detail about this division, suffice to say the prospect of having a home all to myself for the first time since spreading my wings and departing the parental nest is one of the most positive feelings I have ever felt. Ever.

That having been said, the interim period of packing and moving is - and always has been - a torment that I would expect reserved for one of the deepest layers of hell.

Maybe it's the ability to see what typically represents a person's life, distilled down into the contents of a number of boxes.

Maybe it's the notion that one's life can be represented by a collection of "stuff".

While my bitterness is typically reserved for the acts of ignorance and and selfishness committed by mankind, in this case it is directed toward a more abstract villain - mankind's (and specifically, my own) way of acquiring a sense of accomplishment through the act of collecting material posessions.

In my heart, I know that I don't need all the things I have. I collect films out of habit, justifying each needless purchase to myself in a variety of ways - I need to listen to the director's commentary to aid in my film studies, this new edition has all new documentaries that the last 4 versions I purchased didn't have, this one is a limited edition and if I don't buy it now, I'll never have another opportunity. And yet despite being able to observe the situation rationally, it does nothing to deter my absurd spending habits, and thus a 6th copy of Night of the Living Dead enters my collection.

And to what gain? I've seen these movies a dozen times over, and yet I keep buying them every time they get rereleased. And they keep getting rereleased because people like myself keep buying them! It's a vicious circle that I perpetrate against myself.

It is a similar situation with my collection of books. As a writer, I must be an avid reader - no good writer doesn't read; writing skill can be honed via osmosis. As a complete nerd, I also play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, which means owning a vast collection of those books as well. Leave it to me to choose the heaviest hobby I could think of. A box of 20 hardcover books weighs enough to throw my back out. My collection presently fills 12 of those boxes, none of which I particularly want to carry up and down any flight of stairs.

And yet I continue. Even now, as I prepare to transfer the last of my posessions into boxes I find myself wandering the aisles of (popular Canadian electronics store) investigating the newest Blu-Ray releases (this, despite the fact that the Blu-Ray player is not among the posessions moving with me), and a shipment from (popular internet shopping service) is days away from my mailbox with three new books and a dvd.

In this, I have only myself to blame.

And even now, knowing that this problem persists, I wonder, if I could put an end to this cycle, would I?