Saturday, September 29, 2007

Urban Adaptation

What is it about waiting lines? Canadians seem to be drawn to them like a young child is to candy. Is it the observation that everyone is doing the same thing so why not do it too? Or is it more like an addiction-- the flavour of waiting is in the air or the visual representation of a man-made line is extremely stimulating. Or perhaps it's the need to be part of a group or herd, doing the exact same thing as everyone else. If you look back in our history, our ancestors and species before them traveled in packs. Even before this time, after the evolution of multicellular organisms, cells worked in concert in order to move from one place to the other-- a monumental step in evolutionary history and an adaptation for survival.

It seems comforting to know that a fellow Canadian is just an arm's length away, that they're not alone for the long-haul, but what comes at the end of the long wait line that we're so eager to wait in? In some cases it's to wait to see a nurse or doctor, change a university schedule, use a public toilet, or use a gas pump. Torontonians surely know that the longest wait is in TRAFFIC. Some Torontonians try to avoid using the main highways and roads during peak traffic periods, but many fail to avoid traffic or down-right choose to wait! Aside from the regular before and after work traffic, there's the infamous trek to the North on Highway 11 during the long weekends and holidays-- an idling frenzy or an environmentalist's worst nightmare! During these times of the year, if you are hungry I'd suggest not to stop at the McDonald's restaurant in Barrie, or you're likely to wait about an hour for something to eat or drink. Why is everyone stopping at the same pit stop on the same highway headed to the same place??? If you're heading to the true Northern Ontario, Kapuskasing, I do not recommend driving up from Toronto during the holidays.

This tolerance to wait in lines comes from the constant pressure to wait in lines for personal, work, or leisure needs. In regions where there are large populations it takes longer to go to and from work and to run errands because there are long wait lines in grocery stores and on roads. The Canadian federal and provincial governments have set a bad example of pressuring Canadians to wait in long lines for healthcare, road, and public transportation services. Because provincial governments did not compensate for the increasing population by expanding the roads and public transportation, there is a great problem of road congestion in the GTA and in Vancouver. Although much of Canadian tax dollars should be going to fund good quality healthcare, many Canadians are waiting in line for simple surgeries, and cancer treatment. Where are our tax dollars going? Why did Dalton McGuinty increase his annual salary by $40,000 when there is extreme road congestion, need for a subway expansion in Toronto, and wait lines for healthcare services?

Due to this negative influence by our government, Canadians, especially urbanites, have adapted to waiting in long lines for practically any service-- even to ride the Top Gun rollercoaster at Canada's Wonderland. Private businesses have tapped into this urban adaptation and used it to their advantage-- downtown nightclubs like Inside and Devil's Martini make you wait in the cold to get into a half empty room. The Loblaws supermarkets only keep 2 or 3 cashes open even though there are about 10 cashes available to use so customers are forced to wait in ridiculously long wait lines at the grocery store for no reason. Yet, Canadians will wait it out, especially if they believe that others are waiting too.

I wanted to use the bathroom at the airport and a Canadian woman was in front of me. As she walked in she realized that all the stall doors were closed and it looked like all the stalls were occupied. She bent her knees to see if there were occupants and would not let me pass her while she stood there waiting. Little did she know, ¾ of the stalls were empty and each stall door was closed but not locked. So, the woman waited for nothing, and wanted me to wait with her for nothing! This is how it is done my friends-- wait your turn or you don't belong!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

To Spend or Not To Spend?

What is it about that really big flat panel screen TV or the latest game console? What attracts people to spend money they may not even have on the latest gadgets and gizmos? What makes people dig into their overdraft so they can afford to buy that expensive material thing but haven't yet paid their rent for that month? It baffles me that so many people, young and old, go right for their wallets when they are feeling down or stressed out. They need a quick fix for their feelings of anxiety or emptiness. What are we really doing and at what cost?

Well, it varies from individual to individual but the underlying reasons for extreme affluence is to merely satisfy a desire in order to reach that desired scenario. What's wrong with the current scenario? Some less desirable current scenarios could be that people work too hard to earn a living so they desire a more favourable state. Perhaps people work so hard to support a family that they have no time for themselves so they seek a more favourable state. Thus, people may want to reward themselves after a hard and long day of work and/or a long week of work and caring for the family. The reward in turn satisfies their desire for a more favourable outcome which, on the basis of affluence, is material things like electronics, clothing, or an expensive night out on the town. Why is it that these material things can have such a positive impact on people that they can quickly recover from their feeling of emptiness?

Today's societies in many parts of the world have been set up to facilitate the growth and stability of an economy which is connected to and influences the international community. In Canada, this is the case. In addition, income earners are tax payers in order to contribute to national and provincial infrastructures. However, due to the exceptionally large size of Canada and many of the provinces like Ontario and Alberta, many regions and people are neglected. In contrast, one would think that the large amount of taxes that are collected from tax payers by the federal government can go to support important Canadian services like healthcare, the TransCanada railroad (transportation), national unity, renewable energy. But due to the lack of coordination and organization of the federal and and provincial governments in the past and present there is a loss of our tax payer money to pay government debts and beauracracy. So, the tax payer is left to consistently pay high taxes and not expect a reduction or tax break (even when economies are doing well).

So to answer my question of why material things can satisfy people's desires it is perhaps because money is constantly sucked from income earners and there is nothing to show for it. For example, the healthcare system, where much tax money is allocated, has been lacking for many years in its ability to cater to patients', or should I say taxpayers', needs! It is absolutely outrageous for taxpayers and their families to have to go out of the country to the US or China to get a hip replacement or stem cell therapy. Taxpayers are constantly being ripped off from this government service to that one and what is the outcome???? Canadians spend more money to satisfy their desires so that they can directly feel that favourable outcome!

There is a different story for low-income earners that I wish not to even get into. One point I can make is that the welfare and benefit services are only exacerbating the problem of peoples' affluent behaviour. If money is directly given to people who are not earning, it is most likely spent on material things for the purpose of relieving 'their emptiness' (stemming from being on welfare and not having many prospects). Where does this emptiness really come from??