My Week 24: Etiquette for Travel, and a Life of Pi Moment

Wednesday: Things that there should be etiquette manuals for:

This week, a new sign appeared in the elevator in my building. There are always signs—the last one was announcing the presence of a massage therapist in the “sister building” next door, which ticked me off a little, because the “sister building” also has the swimming pool and hot tub. My building has the PET SPA. I’m not really seeing any equity here. I can USE the swimming pool, but that means having to carry all my stuff either outside across the courtyard, or down through the parking garage, and then change in the change room instead of sauntering downstairs with a swimsuit and cover-up on. Although I would never do that anyway because it’s not in my nature to either saunter, or walk around in public half-naked. Anyway, the new sign said this: “Please do not throw cigarette butts off your balcony.” It went on to explain WHY cigarette butts should not be thrown off balconies—they can land on other people’s balconies and set fire to things, they disturb people’s enjoyment of their outdoor space, they could land on a pedestrian below, and it was a contravention of the Condo Act, etc. My source of amazement was that anyone should have to EXPLAIN why cigarette butts shouldn’t be thrown off balconies. And then backing that truck up just a little bit more, what kind of idiot would throw a cigarette butt off a balcony in the first place? But there must be several people doing it, because it was a professionally made sign and all, not one of those cardboard jobs handwritten with a Sharpie, like when I put a TV at the side of the road in Port Burwell (I’ve done this with a few items there actually—I have a special sign that I made out of a cereal box that says, “I’m free and I work. Take me home”. This can be applied to almost anything, and I’ve gotten rid of a lot of junk that way.) The sign continued on to ask others in the building to report it if they saw someone throwing something off a balcony. Or someone, I assume. So it occurred to me that throwing garbage on the ground is a human behaviour that I really just don’t understand. I could no more toss a coffee cup on the ground than I could bark at someone on the street. (And there are actually people who do that too, if you read this blog regularly). But Toronto is the cigarette butt capital of the known world, from what I can see as the snow continues to melt. Some businesses actually hire people to sweep up the cigarette butts and garbage off the sidewalks in front of their buildings in an effort to keep the city looking clean, but it’s a losing battle because there are way more people who litter than there are people who sweep up after them. Yesterday, outside of Shopper’s Drug Mart, a worker was sweeping garbage into a dustpan, and this guy who had just finished his cigarette said “Here you go,” and threw his still-lit butt into the dustpan, like he was doing the world a favour. Maybe it’s just the way people behave in large cities where they don’t really feel any responsibility towards other people or ownership of their shared space, but people do things in large cities that they would never do in a friend’s backyard. For example, if you were at a party at a friend’s house, would you throw a cigarette butt out the second story window onto your friends below? Well, if you did, you can pretty much guarantee you’re never getting another party invitation. But aside from the whole cigarette butt mystery here are some other things that I really feel there should be etiquette guides for.

1) Revolving doors: You all know how much I hate revolving doors. I actually agree with them in principle—they help keep in the heat in very cold weather (which apparently has become ALL YEAR in Canada) and they allow more people to go in and out of a building more easily. IN PRINCIPLE. The trouble is, there are seemingly no rules regarding their use, no common understanding of HOW one should use a revolving door. There are a lot of very self-absorbed people out there who honestly believe they are the only people who exist, and approach revolving doors as if they’ve just reached the finish line of a 100 metre dash—one more last push and there’s a medal waiting on the other side. Regardless of who else is already in the door. The other day I saw an elderly woman almost thrown to the ground when a young guy in a business suit, talking on his cell phone, pushed through like he was Usain Bolt and there was a Nike ad campaign at stake. Using a revolving door properly should be fairly straightforward: 1) Wait until it’s safe to enter. 2) Don’t push so hard that you make the people ahead of you fall down.

2) Escalators. Escalators are one of my favourite things in the world. Stairs that do the walking for you. Whoever invented this brilliant method of travel deserves the medal that people think is waiting for them on the other side of revolving doors. But again, there’s no apparent general understanding of HOW to use escalators if other people are on them. If you’re alone, do whatever the hell you want. Same goes for revolving doors, and a lot of other things too probably. But if there are other people on the escalator, don’t walk up the moving stairs until you’re right behind them and then sigh loudly and impatiently. If you want to walk on your own, TAKE THE STAIRS. The grocery store where I do a lot of shopping has an up escalator, a down escalator, and an actual staircase in the middle. It never ceases to surprise me how many people will try to push past you on the escalator instead of using the stairs, which are there expressly for people who WANT TO WALK. Leave the escalator to us slow and lazy people. I got really thrown for a loop the other day when I tried to go down the escalator at Marshall’s and it wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure how to navigate it initially and became very disoriented about halfway down. It felt kind of like when you’re on vacation and you wake up in the middle of the night not sure where you are. Except when THAT happens, there aren’t any people trying to shove past you because you’re “going too slow”. Here’s the rule for using an escalator: 1) Get on a step. 2) Stand on the step until you get to the top or the bottom. Easy peasy. It’s 10 seconds on the escalator or 11.3 seconds if you push past people to walk up the escalator while it’s already moving you towards your destination. You’re not saving time–you’re just increasing the odds of getting elbowed hard.

3) Tail-Gating: Tailgaters are jerks at the best of times, but it’s the people who tailgate in really heavy traffic that I don’t get. So we’re all on the 401. Every lane is full and creeping along at about 20 km/hr. Sure enough, there’s that one guy in the “fast lane” (which isn’t any faster right now because it’s a TRAFFIC JAM) who keeps zooming up right to your bumper, flashing his lights, and generally being an a-hole. Here’s the question—where the hell do you think I can go to make way for you? I can’t change lanes, and I can’t get the 50 million cars ahead of me to move for me either, so back off. Here’s the best way to function in heavy traffic. 1) Realize that the world will not turn any faster no matter how much you will it to. 2) Put on some great music and dance in your seat. It works for me.

I experience make-up awkwardness that is eerily like the novel Life of Pi

The other day, I was talking about the novel Life of Pi with someone, and the scene where the main character, who has joined three different religions, accidentally bumps into his priest, imam, and Buddhist pandit at the same time. None of them know that he’s a member of the other’s faith, and they all start arguing over him. Well, the exact same thing happened to me not too long ago with my 3 Lancome and Estee Lauder ladies. OK, it doesn’t exactly have the spiritual impact and importance of Pi’s experience, but it was still a humbling experience. I’ve been buying make-up from Wilma, Betty, and Veronica (no, those are not actually their real names, but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were?), for many years individually, with none of them aware of the other’s existence. I used to alternate between The Bay/Wilma and Sears/Betty, buying something from each one. Why would I do that? Because Sears and The Bay also alternate the times that they give away free gifts with the purchase of a product, and I love free stuff. Then Betty got moved to the Estee Lauder counter at Sears and Veronica took over, which made me then obligated to start buying things from Estee Lauder as well as Lancome to keep those free gifts coming. The other day I was in Sears, about to sneak past Betty to get to Veronica, when suddenly I saw Wilma standing by the Lancome counter and she saw me! What the hell was she doing in Sears?! Then the worst thing happened—Betty and Veronica both saw me at the same time and they all converged on me, each one giving the other confused looks as it became apparent that they were all headed for the same target. Clearly, they each believed that I was their exclusive client—how was I going to explain this? So I did what Pi did in the novel. I whispered “Lord, avert their eyes from me”, and then blurted out, “I just want to love make-up!” Then it was all smiles, as they immediately understood why I had been a make-up tramp. Turns out that Wilma and Betty had done their Lancome training together, and Veronica was friends with both of them. They all agreed that as long as I spread the wealth and was fair in my purchases, none of them had an issue with me buying from all of them. Make-up is so much easier than religion.

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