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!

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