I hate people.
Maybe that’s a bit too strong. I hate crowds of people. No, even that’s not quite true. I hate mobs. Yeah, that sounds better.
I think this all started in October of 1994. October 4th, to be precise, at Commonwealth Stadium. It was a chilly night and the Rolling Stones were in town. The crowd was massive with somewhere around 60,000 people trying to get in. Colin James was the opening act and we got there in plenty of time to get in. Heck we got there almost an hour early but security was tight. Really tight. We may have gotten there an hour early but we were still outside the stadium when Colin James took the stage. It was almost a strip search by the time we got to the front and every bottle or container that could contain any liquid had been confiscated and was littering the ground behind security.
Once we got inside the crowd got denser with people packed so closely together that people could hardly move. If you picture a can of sardines, that was the crowd. People were moving slowly, very slowly. And they were getting rough. Being elbowed was commonplace. Feeling like someone else was trying to occupy the same space as you was just the norm.
Oh, I forgot to tell you, my wife was six months pregnant with our first daughter. We had lost one the previous year so let’s just say that I was nervous about the crowd. No, more than nervous, I was going out of my mind with concern. I reached around my wife with my arms and created a safe circle for her. My arms were rigid and no one could get close. The rest of us were packed in tighter than pages in a book, but she had space to turn around and look at the crowd. No one touched her, no one. We got to our seats and enjoyed the concert. It was cold but the music was good, the crowd lively and the warmth of tens of thousands of bodies kept most of the cold away.
Since that day I’ve hated unruly crowds and my dislike has gotten worse. But it’s not all crowds. We were attending the Edmonton Fan Expo back in 2015 and the crowd trying to get in was large. But it was organized and, well, civilized. Controlled chaos. Yes, there were people walking around with strange costumes, potentially dangerous instruments of paper mache, or just voluminous demonstrations of how big a hoop skirt really was. But it was polite.
People make fun of Canadians because we are polite. Polite almost to the extreme, but you know what? I like that. I like the fact that people say “excuse me” and “pardon me”. It reminds me of something I read forty years ago by an author by the name of Robert A. Heinlein:
A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.
I like Canadian society, I think we still exhibit a lot of politeness. We are nowhere near the American standard and for that, I am forever thankful.