Dispatches

Monday, June 19, 2006

If This Is society...



so·ci·e·ty, n. pl. so·ci·e·ties
1. The totality of social relationships among humans.
2. A group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture.
3. The institutions and culture of a distinct self-perpetuating group.
(source: www.dictionary.com)

Continuing my adventures in public transit, I took the GO train out of Toronto last weekend.

Now, summer weekends on the GO train are not fun for me. Saturday evenings are bad. There will always be lots of loud teenagers and families with young children who have the run of the train and use it. There will be drunk people and people making out and so on. Although I consider this bad behaviour in any public, enclosed space, it's still acceptable. People are in weekend relaxo mode and they slack off a little. They are less vigilant about their manners. But this weekend I ran into something new--people who were so obnoxious and rude that I wished they would do something that warranted use of the yellow bar (reserved for harassment, illness, etc.). It was a group of men coming home from a football game.

They were drunk. Whatever. They were loud. Whatever. They had a noisemaker that sounded, no exaggeration, like a French horn. Fine. What was so terrible about these guys? They sat and talked for the whole 30 minutes like they were in somebody's basement and no one else was in the house. The ran the gamut of proverbially expected (and mocked) North American male drunk talk.

That sort of talk may be fine at home, but on a public train where there are kids, etc., it's ridiculous. These guys swore, they spoke of women in the most degrading way (Dave--I don't care how you want to "do" Alisha from marketing), they were sexist, racist, homophobic and more.

I've always thought that taking public transit is a social thing to do. I mind my manners, and look out for people around me. And there are other people who do the same. But this group of guys was too much. They have made me re-think my "public transit as social" theory. If my theory is right, then I should have gone up to those guys and asked them to knock it off. Or maybe I should have walked by them and *accidentally* spilled something on one of them, or just tied their shoelaces together while they weren't looking.

But if my theory is wrong, and just sitting and letting my subconscious be polluted was the proper thing to do, I'm letting my membership in society lapse.

In the streets and in society I am almost invariably
cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean.
No amount of gold or respectability would in the least
redeem it,-- dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!!
But alone in the distant woods or fields,
in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits,
even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this,
when a villager would be thinking of his inn,
I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related,
and that cold and solitude are friends of mine. (Henry David Thoreau, Journal)

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