Was it always thus? Were people always so thoughtless and selfish? I suppose at any point in history, a certain percentage were. The problem is worsened in cities. The bigger the city, the more people there are to share things – land, air, open skies, personal space and the respect and acceptance of others. With a lower average being spread around, the likelihood is increased of some assholery being committed by unthinking, uncaring thugs, to get what they think their share should be, fair or otherwise.
It’s difficult some times to know whether they really are as stupid and uncaring as they sound, or whether it’s a persona they’re using to achieve their ends. For years, those of us with lungs, who want to keep them, have been fighting to get smokers to stop dispensing their noxious gases in public. Locally, it’s illegal to smoke inside any public building. This just moves the problem. Now they smoke outside the buildings, and you get to run a toxic gauntlet, trying to get a passport, or making a bank deposit. *You can’t make me stop. I have a right to smoke.* No, you don’t! Their sense of entitlement vs. my right to breathe and enjoy clean air is truly awe-inspiring
I wanted to take the wife to Wendy’s for lunch one day. We climbed out of the car and faced the door. The female manager and a male friend were standing right beside the entrance, smoking. We stood beside the car for about a minute, thinking they might take the hint and move. No such luck. Finally, she noticed us staring at her, and petulantly demanded, “What?!” We’d like to enter your facility to have lunch, but can’t because you’re blocking the door by smoking. You’re supposed to move away. “Well, I thought it was nine feet.”
You’re the manager of a restaurant, and you don’t know what the bylaw is? It’s not nine feet. It’s nine meters! That’s thirty feet! Even if it were nine feet, you were only five or six feet from the door. See the orange paint that head office had applied to the curb, by the door. You’re supposed to be outside that, and downwind if you don’t mind. I should have filled in one of the How Did We Do Today forms inside, but she’d probably just have thrown it away. Maybe next time I’ll complain on-line.
On a related note….fire pits. The city is in the middle of a minor crisis about whether to continue to allow residents to have outdoor fires. This is like smoking. Your rights stop at the end of my nose – or should. Older residents, parents with young children and people with breathing problems have lobbied to have the city declare them illegal. The caring response evident in several letters to the editor have been, “Tough! If you don’t like it, close your windows!” A letter today tried to justify it by saying that his kids want to enjoy themselves roasting marshmallows and hotdogs. “Let them have a bit of summer fun.” I will, as soon as I can breathe. One letter suggested speaking nicely to your offending neighbor, and they would just stop. Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that.
Whatever the perk, there are those who seize it, and then try to prevent others from enjoying the same. We moved to the other side of the city 23 years ago, because a developer had cut down half of a huge maple forest and erected hundreds of houses near the river. As we were leaving the area, the developer wanted to cut down the other half of the bush and put up more homes. You should have heard the squeals of anguish. The ones who had taken advantage of the first forestry project now wanted the rest of the trees left, because the scenery was nice, and their kids could play there and run the dog. Many of them were suddenly against Urban Sprawl.
After the forest was inevitably cut down, houses were built right across the river from the local airport. Real Estate agents were legally required to inform potential buyers of its existence. Nobody was *surprised*, except officials who now got demands from these home-owners that the airport be restricted, or shut down, or moved. The airplanes were keeping the baby awake, or scaring the cat. The guy I wanted to schmop with a soggy diaper, was the one whose house had been built thirty years ago, half a block from the expressway, but three miles from the airport. He didn’t complain about traffic noise, but wanted the city to pay him to sound-insulate his house from airplane noise.
A drunken young female exited a downtown club and wandered across the street, where she was brushed by a passing car and knocked down. She was totally, legally in the wrong, but guess whose insurance had to pay, and whose premiums went up. A 19 year-old male rode his bicycle through a crosswalk, against the traffic flow, and was struck by a car making a turn. It’s illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, and it’s illegal to ride a bicycle through a crosswalk, and he just found out why, but pedestrians and bicyclists don’t carry insurance.
I think the next park festival we hold should be a Bring-In-Your-Ego Fair. There’ll be some whose egos are so big, they can’t drag them in. For the rest, it could be like a children’s face-painting booth. On this one, we could brush some care and consideration for others. On that big bloated ego we could paint some vertical stripes, so it doesn’t look so huge. Think it’ll work? Nah! Me neither.