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Enemies at the Gates

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Yesterday it was very hot. Those with small ecological footprints (the unairconditioned) could be seen outside of their hot boxes, muttering mad-talk on the streets, their brains made mush by the micro-inferno’s of sidewalks with no trees. So I went to the beach — on the Island, as Hanlan’s is the best beach in the city, and as was reported yesterday, only one of two that are swimable at the moment due to our friend E-coli.

Every other cottageless person had the same idea. The line for the ferry was long, which is fine. Lots of people, finite number of boats, I expect a bit of slowness. However, the lines were chaos — people darting in and out, impossible to see which wicket each line went to. I was on the outside line, so there was this constant mass of people moving up the side, on the right, somehow becoming part of the line up ahead. This went on for over 45 minutes, watching how these people cut the line (there is little else to do in a long line but study the cheaters). Other people noticed, and the line was getting angry.

The problem with cheaters is that while they opt into a life of stress and constant scheming for very small gains — where the effort of the scheme seems to be much greater than the reward — in situations like this line other people are brought into this situation and forced to react, feeling the same (or more) stress, without the reward. Luckily, a couple of big shirtless dudes used their bikes to create a barricade when we got close to the wicket so no new cheaters could get in. They also confronted some of the cheaters — watching them react is weird. Some don’t make eye contact, others laugh sheepishly, then retreat. Others look straight ahead and stand their ground. I think they count on people being too polite to say anything. I’m glad these guys were there and into the conflict — but it was making me feel queasy inside. It might have been the heat, or that I spent the morning watching CNN’s Lebanon v. Israel coverage, but human conflict to get to the beach was depressing. My confrontation was much more passive-aggressive — taking their picture and posting on the internet. This man to the right in the white mesh tank-top entered the line ahead of me after I had waited 30 minutes already. He used his cellphone as prop — talk into the phone, people won’t call me out on cheating. Mesh shirts are offensive enough but can be forgiven, but not when coupled with cheating.

This muscle guy above with the Dior glasses was the most blatant cheater as he brought a pack of loud kissy friends with him. He stood outside of the line and watched how it worked for 5 minutes, then moved up to the chaos at the front and cut, his friends in tow. Apart from his glasses (a shame, Dior wasted on the immoral) he had a conspicuous Celtic looking iron cross tattoo on one arm. I hoped he’d be on the same boat over as me, but his cutting put him one or two boats ahead. Happily, Toronto is not as big and anonymous as people think, and he was on the same boat back as me. Does anybody know this man? Do not date this man, hire him or ask him for directions. He is a public cheater. The Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio had these signs everywhere that read, “Line jumping is cause for immediate removal from the park”. Line jumping here should be cause for removal from the city.

The parks department could solve all this by installing those temporary steel riot fences, to make line-jumping harder, and keep the chaos of such long lines down. It might help if they didn’t put the “ticket holder” quick entrance in the middle of the other lines, which made even more chaos as people had to cross the lines to get to the empty aisle.
It’s certainly easy to play arm-chair manager, but why do so many simple solutions seem to escape so many city departments? On hot days it leads a person to wonder if they really care.



  1. Careful, not having/using an air conditioner at home does not necessarily mean that one has a small ecological footprint.

    If you want to use a meaningless environmental-sih descriptor for a person without an air conditioner, try “green”, “environmentally-friendly” or “sustainable.” Having a small ecological footprint is an important concept that still meant something last time I checked. Let’s try to preserve the integrity of the concept and keep it from becoming the latest catch-phrase for greenwashing corporate marketers.

  2. Whoa. Last time I checked “Ecological Footprint” could be used in jest, and the environmental movement ain’t gonna collapse if something becomes a buzz word — there are real things to worry about. Semantics makes me want to turn my air conditioner higher.

  3. Right, real things to worry about…like people butting in line.

    If you can dedicate a whole page to someone butting in line, I think I should be allowed a few lines to comment on semantics, doncha think?

    Believe it or not, but semantics have a lot more destructive potential than some doofus who thinks he and his doofus friends are too cool to wait in line with the rest of the hot and bothered, or someone cranking up their air conditioner just to piss me off.

    Just because a word or phrase can be used in jest, doesn’t mean it should be. Especially when it’s not even funny.

  4. Funny stuff I write may not be funny at all, maybe never, that could be very true. The doofus cutting isn’t as serious as, say, global warming, certainly. Manners in public are important, but not as important as crop failure, which may or may not be as important as Hezbollah this week — but pages gets written about all of it, and it all has a place — all of it above Justine Timberlake, I hope, but then even the New York Times had a long article about his new album yesterday.

    You were indeed allowed a few lines to comment, and I, probably too rudely, said we don’t have to be so serious about everything at every waking moment. We spend a lot of time on sustainable, green and eco-friendly things on this wire and in the magazine, and some of our writers write amusing and colourful words about serious stuff, but our readers are pretty smart, mostly, and can deal with funny (or not even funny) uses and, at the same time, not contribute to “greenwashing”. I see “green” and “sustainable” used badly and innappropriately all the time, but it doesn’t diminish those words when they’re used properly. If Richard Pryor can make jokes about setting himself on fire when freebasing cocaine and not deminish the tragedy of such a thing, there’s got to be some comic potential in an ecological footprint that would even make a stiff like Al Gore laugh (certainly by someone with more talent in this area than me).

    Semantics are important though — we’re probably on the same side, but here we are, arguing about words. …thanks for being vigilent (really).

  5. I love this little exchange. It’s a perfect example in little of the difference between spacing (and the Toronto Public Space Committee, and the Psychogeography Society, and murmur, etc.) and, say, Rabble and This magazine.

    Melissa, you’re an insufferable prat of the sort that drives people screaming from your admirable causes. A big part of the success of the TPSC-related projects is that its members and adherents tend to be not only smart and committed, but realize that the ultimate goal of all these causes is for us all to enjoy life more and longer, and that to stomp on enjoyment now in the name of those causes is anathema.

    So please, continue talking, Melissa. No one’s censoring you. But I hope no one’s going to be listening to you much, either, ’cause that’d be a shame when we’ve finally, after years of putting up with Maude Barlow and Judy Rebick, got an alternative to sour-faced prudish righteousness.

  6. Oh lordy, somebody please pick me up from the floor where I’ve just died laughing. It hurts. Thank-you for the five-minute oh-so-sweet reprieve from the heat!

  7. I agree with Bert. And I also do think it is pretty safe to say that those of us with no a/c are also often non-drivers (because we care that much or because we can’t afford either one!) Soooo semantics shemantics…what about logical inference?
    I thought the post WAS really funny, but also sad. It was especially sad for me because I too had a depressing hot-day experience. But, mine was made depressing by a different kind of cheating misanthrope – the driver. Someone actually yelled at me “Why don’t you get a car b*tch”. And, that was after I was blocks away, when they caught up to me in their big van, while I was cycling up hill… ALL in response to me suggesting earlier that her boyfriend put on his four-ways as he was stopped in the middle of the road – WHICH HE DID!!! Other cars were honking at him. And I said it very calmly and politely.

    This post is not just about people butting in line – it’s about people who only look out for themselves to the detriment of others.

    OH And – I wanted to say re the original post: Yay for big shirtless dudes on bikes!

  8. This posting made my day. The line cutters on the ferry back from Hanlan’s are the worst. We all want to get home, so can we just queue and be civilised.

    Last week there was this guy with his wife and two kids who totally butt in line. And I was like “What values are you teaching your kids!?” Luckily, I and those around me banded together to make sure we got on before him, and then (the sweetest moment) was when they closed the gate just after us, and right before him and his stupid family. Karma is so great sometimes.

  9. in defense of melissa, bert, your comment reads pretty harshly dude. melissa’s point may have seemed nit picky in the way it was made, but that’s hardly grounds for insulting someone. i realize this is an internet discussion and personal attacks are the norm, but I think melissa’s point that one ought to be wary of throwing around environmental terminology willy-nily still stands (kinda).

    it’s my understanding that the lack of a specific meaning for the phrase “sustainable development” is actually a pretty big problem when trying to deal with environmental policy. because so many people use the phrase in different ways, governments and corporations can exploit the ambiguities of the terminology to pass off their preferred policies and actions as benefitting the environment.

    that said, there’s a distinction between the use of terminology in an academic journal or government report and an entry on perhaps shawn’s inaccurate use of “ecological footprint” is less harmful than in another context. I think that was shawn’s point and i find it to be worthwhile.

    re: the usefullness/relevance of this entry as a whole, shawn’s certainly right that there’s a place for this type of content. but I, personally, don’t think is the best place for griping about line-cutters. i kind of expect more. however, much like the new york times’s long justin timberlake album review, i blame only myself for reading through to the end.

  10. Jeesus murphy…

    Recognition that public spaces are powerful is the whole point of Spacing, isn’t it? So in the interest of bigger goals, we should all be responsible about what we put out in the public realm, no? One can be responsible AND still be fun or funny–they aren’t mutually exclusive. And I agree, the ecological footprint thing is NOT a huge deal. I just wanted to point it out before misuse of the term spread.

    And just to be clear, even people without air conditioners AND who don’t drive cars can have a large ecological footprint. My original point was environmentally-speaking these are all different things and they are NOT interchangeable. If this is news to you, then please, in the interest of maintaining Spacing’s reputation that their readers are smart, do some research.

    Anyway Bert, I don’t think my comment was stomping on anyone’s enjoyment–it was a side-note to an entertaining article. And I REALLY don’t enjoy being attacked for no reason. You don’t even know me, so please don’t call me an “insufferable prat.” If you’re all about everyone enjoying life, then quit being such a hypocrite by being so judgemental and calling people names.

    As Sean said, I think we’re all on the same side here, so please, enough with the nasty comments.

  11. To Rishi, who expects more, and Melissa who thinks there are larger issues, I would argue that line cutting is the most fundamental of acts. How we treat one another on a day-to-day basis is the foundation of all else: eclological footprints, reducing a/c use, bikes instead of cars, etc. People who cut in line are the same people who go on to commit a litany of other egregious inconsiderate acts. How we make sense of this behaviour and then respond to it as individuals, and as a larger society, are definitely questions worthy of discussion on the wire.

    Thank-you Shawn for taking the time to write your thoughtful, funny reflections on a topic that usually elicits angry diatribes or disheartening laments.

  12. What’s with the lack of link action in the Post article? From a feature called ‘blogtown’ I’d expect a little more.

    “feel free to check them out on Spacing Wire” is a link worthy phrase if I’ve ever seen one.

    Not to fuel the fire in this already heated (no pun intended, really) yet highly entertaining thread, anyway.