Romancing the police

Prepare for the not-news: Canada’s ageing population (the proportion of seniors increasing more rapidly than all other age groups) and declining birth rates are making immigration an important part of our world here.  This is a much discussed topic.  So what trails, in this road well-travelled by, can yours truly be hoping to tread, you wonder (or maybe you don’t wonder because you have a life, but then, you are here so perhaps the jury is still out on the you having a life part!) 

Enter the police, and specifically the Toronto Police.  This interesting engaging city that owns bragging rights to low crime rates (considering its population and big city status) and highest per capita movie theatres (perhaps second only to Mumbai – citations needed :p), is also requiring the police to boldly go where they’ve never gone before… like forming music groups and jamming with youth in trouble-prone areas, or becoming the “adult friend” in schools.

This soft-and-fuzzy relationship is new even in the mild embracing climes of Toronto.  Diversity training, bonding, and other such topics are studied in the rooms (metaphorically speaking) next to control techniques, explosives detection and interrogation strategies. 

Education is two sided.  Immigrants coming in (and herein lie dangerous waters of generalization, in which I daringly plunge without regard for my lack of swimming skills) generally are used to a different relationship with police “back home”.  Laws, behaviours, perceptions, everything is different to a significant extent.  (I say as I bow my head for being crowned the queen of understatement.)  For the police to successfully achieve this romance, the befriending is not just with the troubled youth at the schools, it’s also and just as importantly with their parents, and family at large. 

Then we’ll all hear the spontaneous music that we so like to see but disbelieve in indian films, and can sing and dance together around the ample greenery in Toronto.  And the police officers will then happily and gracefully ride off into the sunset on their gorgeous horses.  In slow motion of course.

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Aviate this

Ever wondered what it would be like if the vehicle (car/ SUV) you were travelling in suddenly took flight?  OK so maybe I’m the only one with over-active imagination and a dangerous ADD while on the road.  Different topic.  But I recently had that experience; well, almost.  In a recent short-hop flight, I had the distinct pleasure (?!) of getting into an aeroplane and going “You’ve got to be kidding me!!”.  I guess I should have clued in when, going from the boarding lounge to the plane, the walkway was sloping down.  I thought maybe the support underneath hadn’t been configured to the right height, and busy in my “Oh I miss my bed” thoughts, I kept on going with my usual innocent optimism. 

The door that I (at my average female height) had to duck to enter was another sign that something is oddly Lilliputian about this scenario.  But before I could analyze it further, the air hostess looked at my average sized carry on and said, “Would you please leave that outside, right there by the plane’s entrance?”  I’m like ‘not on your life lady!’ but outwardly “but why?  this is not checked baggage!” 

“Yes I understand, but the overhead compartment is not big enough for this, so you’ll have to leave it outside, and trust me that it’ll be there waiting for you when you arrive at your destination and alight from the plane”.   Trust my entire trip-survival package, cosmetics, toothbrush, change of clothes, and unmentionables to … no one in particular?  I guess the look of disbelief and panic on my face must have been unusually eloquent.  The hostess, very politely, explained it to me again and reconfirmed that I can choose between her way or foregoing the flight (OK I paraphrase).

Bidding my bag a tearful “see you soon!”, I (ducked and) stepped into the grand Embraer RJ135.  I’ve never been claustrophobic but this plan was literally 3 seats wide and 13 rows long.  I could stretch and knock the neighbouring passenger’s head out of the window on the other side of the plane!  And yes the overhead could barely carry a (small) pack of chips. 

The saving grace was that the hostess was exceedingly funny, the 17″ seats were leather-covered and comfortable, there were emergency exits pointed out to us, and the drinks trolley didn’t fatally injure anyone while going through the 8 inch aisle.  And my carry-on bag was waiting for me at the other end.  I hugged it tight.

Note to self: Careful of what you wish for while you’re imagining weird stuff on the road.  It just might happen!

Singled-out

I recently got asked one of the most intelligent questions in a while:  why do you want to get married.  My answer is irrelevant (to all but me and maybe the poor soul that might become my spouse).  The question is SO important. 

There’s no doubt about the practicalities of being in a marriage (it applies to common law partners just as well, but for my discussion I choose to keep it to marriage – it’s my discussion folks):  Tax benefits.  Social parity with peers (e.g. being at the same life stage with your friends, and therefore having common activities).  Always having a companion whose schedule you can completely know and manipulate.  Someone else to do the dishes.  (Database whirring away searching for other examples).

But while important, should these be the key driving forces for such a critical life decision?  The frequency of “oh you’re lucky you have such freedom” comments makes one wonder how many of these folks actually did marry for (only) such reasons.  Would it not be part of a healthy relationship to encourage and support individual needs, as well as the joint goals?  To have an attitude of service and truly enjoy making the other happy?  To have less of the eye-rolls and more of the love-rushes?

It could very well be that this only happens in my non-existent ideal world.  The same place where the social harm of debt-on-interest is understood, and parents can carry their kids’ pictures without being arrested, and young kids/adults do not go on a killing spree including themselves, and politicians’ lack of integrity is not acceptable, and food is not wasted while poverty claims millions every year.  And where no one eats baked beans on a paratha.

So how did we get here?  Oh!  (non-existent) Ideal worlds.  I remember when I was a kid (that is *certainly* not even 4 decades yet), I heard fairy tales of lights being turned on with a clap in magical lands.  It happens today effortlessly.  Because someone believed in magic.  Enough to make it happen.  While everyone else said it’s a fantasy, let it go.

I still believe.

Modeling

Nope.  Not the ‘industry’ of hip-swaying figures donning show-offy creative (for some) works .  All those looking for a rant or drool please refer to the nearest row of tabloid-glossies at your favourite (or unfavourite, whichever it may be) location.

I’m referring to the art of conceptualizing and describing (or representing) something.  At times, it’s literal – as in building cute miniatures of high-rise condo towers, complete with a jogging-barbie-with-headphones and a few models (yes now from the runway) playing tennis on the built-in courts.  In some cases it’s highly abstract – as in extreme secularism or nationalism being other forms of a rigid religious practice (where religion is a way of life).

The (unfortunate?) people who get used to the idea of modeling (and therefore seeing patterns of similarity) often fall prey to what I call a “disconnection syndrome”.  Because some logical minds see similarity and demand consistency.  If you do this in situation A, you should do the same in situation B, because both situations are the same.  Sadly, while it may feel intellectually satisfying (there’s a reason why join-the-dots is still a popular game in all age groups), and it feels great to hear our own voices, it doesn’t win any popularity votes.  People (yours truly included) may be comfortable in choosing their level of livable hypocrisy, but generally don’t like to be called on it.  (Golden time-tested rule of societal living – no one likes to be made to feel dumb, regardless of the reality.)  Therefore, the outspoken logical mind either falls into social disfavour, or chooses to curb the “outspoken” part.  Disconnection and disconnection.  Or at least it feels like it.  Until another epiphany occurs.

It’s not necessary to share all the pictures that have been drawn on the mind’s canvas.  (This is where the dots go crazy and join another stream for fun.)  The same argument holds for when proponents of a belief system (religion, environmentalists, animal rights folks, vegetarians, and many others, so no one feel excluded!) just HAVE to convince others.  It’s a compulsion.  (I’ve been told OCD‘s curable.)  I repeat, it’s not necessary to show-and-tell, or “convince”, others.  People will see what they want to and choose to see.

So be happy that you see patterns (better than seeing dead people, IMHO).  Keep them to yourself and be judicious even when asked.  And if you do find someone else who sees them too, try not to hug them so tight as to crush the life out of them.  Too few of them already.

And even fewer as cute as Bruce Willis!

Odd Job

There is a need for someone to take on the uniquely challenging position of … “Bear Management Technician”.  All interested may evaluate themselves along the following criteria:

  • You are motivated to support the Bear Wise program
    (please note that at this time it’s only the bear that’s wise, and you will be wiser after the experience)
  • You can provide effective solutions to human-bear conflicts
    (remember that in all relationships and conflict situations, things can be worked out by trusting the other party and openly sharing your feelings by talking things through)
  • You are good at determining problem bear prevention tactics
    (all that tackling practice in football, successful bodychecks in hockey, and schoolyard fights that involved hand-to-hand combat with some on-the-ground wrestling, should certainly go on your resume)
  • You can demonstrate experience in bear capture/immobilization/relocation techniques
    (a live audition with the bear will be required, and hauling half-conscious friends to their homes after a wild party does not count as relevant “capture/immobilization/relocation techniques” experience)
  • You have demonstrated tact, diplomacy, good judgement
    (see above note about conflict resolution through talking)
  • You have computer skills in a variety of applications
    (be prepared to carry a pda and google your way out of a tricky negotiation)

It’s a seasonal temporary 5-month job, so there’s a possibility of extension if the 360 evaluation by the bear community supports it.  And no bribing the evaluators with mushy bear-hugs!  All interested applicants please follow the bear-marked trail (yes you’ll know where it’s been if you’re the person for this job) and leave your resume at the mouth of the bear’s den.  Pin it down with a jar of honey so it doesn’t fly away.  Applicants selected for an interview with the bear will be notified after the hibernation period is over.

Socially distant

The free societies have SO many rules.  The only time I notice the really intricate ones is when I unintentionally break any.  Like the first time I broke the “seating rules” in a subway train.  It was the old kind of train.  Bench seats with a slippery cover.  On one of the seats there were two women.  And there was some space between them.  I went and sat between the two women.  One of them looked at me with an openly disgusted look, and stood up.

It took me a few days to figure out… it doesn’t matter if there was space, the seat was “meant” for two people.  I had encroached.  In the all-precious personal space.  Unforgivable!

And if there are available seats, the priority is to choose one that’s not next to anyone already sitting, unless I really “have” to.

Now I know better.  At the bar stools in a coffee shop, for instance, I wouldn’t sit right next to anyone, if there was a place further ahead.  Or I could sit there, but would get a “what’s wrong with you” look.

We have to preserve the hard-won freedom to have socially expected and acceptable distance.  And then pay someone to teach us how to have meaningful conversations.  While we’re safely sitting 2 seats away.

We’re funny.

Marriages End. Families Don’t.

Allow me to begin by acknowledging the blatant plagiarism in naming the post, taken from a book that I haven’t read, but came across in an article.  Good things are meant to be reused.

It’s a new holiday in Ontario: Family Day, third Monday of every February.  I am grateful for an extra holiday (work brought home notwithstanding), and the naming of it as such.  In speaking of why Premier McGuinty instituted this holiday, he said “One of the things that I recognized was that never have more parents spent more time working outside the home than at any point in our history than they do today.  I think the single most valuable commodity, so to speak, for our families would be time spent together, so that’s the motivation behind this.”

I have also encountered many reminders of how this so-critical institution is suffering, all over the globe.  A man still hurting from the pain and abuse of a step-father, over 30-40 years ago.  A woman in constant search for affirmation by her father for the last 3-4 decades, whom she’s never seen or known, and who continues to ignore her existence.    Marriages breaking up within 2 months, or after 20-30 years (when the kids leave, scarred from witnessing decades of anger in the house, and thereby entering into their own severely jeopardized relationships). Two in five (38.3%) marriages end by 30th anniversary.  One in 5 (19%) of Canadian children aged 0 to 14 did not live with both parents in 2001.  I don’t know if other important measures (such as siblings not talking to each other) are even measured, recorded or reported.

I could go on but it hurts.

In an ever-present quest to improve myself (and boy do I have my work cut out!), I was studying improvisation to help with quick-thinking.  A critical, given rule for improv to work is an attitude of “serve and support”.  This means, in a scene (or real life scenario), my job and focus is to help the other person achieve their objective, trusting that this will help me achieve mine (of making the overall scene work).  This is an inviolable rule, the ignoring of which will bring the scene crashing down.  And it is to be practiced unconditionally, that is, irrespective of what the other person may have done right or wrong.

Service, like excellence, is not a task; it’s an attitude and habit.

One of the people I care about and respect much, she and I continuously remind each other of a Gandhi quote: “Life is one indivisible whole.” In all the successful relationships I have observed, which give me hope (despite the statistics of human relationship breakdown), I see this rule of improv being applied – they truly enjoy and focus on serving other people, without ego or selfishness, and in turn making the whole scene work out beautifully, like a masterpiece of musical composition.

Here are some other rules of improv: Trust, Commitment,  Awareness, Concentration, Energy, Listening, Give and Take, Yes And… (i.e. not refuting, rather going along), Attending to (i.e. paying close attention).

What would happen to our families (and marriages), if we practiced all these, all the time.  Economic chaos for one thing – what would all the lawyers, therapists,  etc. do?  But maybe, just maybe, our scene of life could work out better.

One indivisible whole.