…from all walks of life. Difference is the only real common denominator. They are all different from me, of course, but also incredibly different from each other. Rednecks, liberals, young, old, Asian, Jewish, Catholic, Mexican, even (gasp) Torontonians!
I have decided to boycott Ottawa, however.
I really should be more discriminating……….. But my friends all get along. They get along with me and Sal, anyway. Mostly. Mostly Sal, actually.
And I am not all that easy to get along with, anyway. I am fine to talk to…basically…but not easy over any length of time. Keep it short. Under three hours. We’ll be fine. Scotch helps. But, still…..let us keep it under three hours, four if there’s scotch. For both our sakes.
I think that is kinda natural, tho. Ask Sal. Her limits are way longer than mine but she does have limits. In fact, if she had her druthers, I would just be a guest who left the building now and then. Preferably frequently. Keep my visits short. But she has adjusted. She just tunes me out now. For all intents and purposes, I am a guest who she just keeps tripping over. In other words: she copes.
I mention this because friends and family adjust to one another. They take ’em as they are and then filter or ‘tune’ them in or out as required. And then that is the way they deal with each other…..at some kind of ‘acceptance level’.
To some extent we do that with neighbours, too. And co-workers. To some extent we know all those people. And they know us. In a limited kind of way. Willingness to get a bit out there and meet people is an essential ingredient for this kind of social-ness. We gotta work at it a bit. Be willing to engage with strangers.
But what the city has taught me is that there is increasingly less tolerance, less room, less openness to strangers. Even customers! Less willingness to work at it. People are more and more wary of ‘others’ it seems. They are not getting close to one another. Not in the least.
Could just be me, I suppose…………?
Of course, security cameras for sale in Costco by the bushel should have been a hint. And bars on all the windows like Nicaragua kinda suggest that a rising level of suspicion and fear is a general condition rather than a specific or isolated one like it used to be. I know that. And people are busy….who has the time?
But my point is that the level of suspicion and fear in the city has risen markedly so in the decade we have been away. Very much so.
It may be that the level of fear in me has dropped. I mean, I am not afraid of bears and wolves (mostly ’cause they stay away from us) and there are not enough people where I hang out to worry about. So, it could just be me. Maybe I am simply less fearful than before. Or maybe more brave? I dunno.
But I think it is more than that. People outside of the urban areas (as few as there are out my way) are generally much more open and accepting of strangers. Rural folk do tend keep to themselves but there is rarely much hesitation in helping another if the need is there. Rural people seem to be ready to help others and get to know them – strangers or neighbours – should the opportunity arise. I think so, anyway.
By comparison, many of the urban people I have been meeting lately have been ‘cautious’. They seem suspicious. Not quite scaredy-cat but way, way more ‘distant’. They are guarded.
And so are their buildings!
Several people with whom I have struck up conversations were politely pleasant and commercially friendly but even at that, not before going through a ‘careful’ stage. They would take maybe 15 minutes or so to ‘size me up’ before being more at ease, human, pleasant, unafraid. And I was a customer!! It was like watching people change personalities in the amount of time Jiffy Lube changes your oil.
I dunno…….maybe I am wrong. (There’s a first time for everything, I guess. I could be wrong.) But it seems to me that our new urban culture is living in a more afraid sate. More afraid of everything, of course, thanks to the news and all…but it has gone deeper than that. Deeper even than Airport Security-type caution (which is way over the top in my opinion). People just seem more frightened of everything. In fact, the fear level is almost palpable. I can almost see it in their eyes. Everyone seems to be living at MarSec One and edging towards MarSec 2.
“Well, I am not so much afraid, really. But there is a lot of danger out there. Everybody knows that. I hardly ever leave my neighbourhood anymore, tho. I stay here. I have what I need. There’s a Save-On ’round the corner. I get Netflix. And traffic is horrendous. But, fearful? Not really. Parking lots, of course. And Sky Train. Surrey, of course. And downtown at night…..well, anywhere at night, really. I guess. But I have my cell and we have security cameras and Neighbourhood Watch and well, I never go out alone at night so we’re OK. But we do need more police, that is for sure!”
“Beam me back to the forest, Scotty!”