It’s Nice of You to Ask

Observe for a while the way we ask things of people, and I think you’ll quickly notice that strictly speaking, we often don’t. We say “you could” instead of “could you?” and we put “I’d like to” where what really belongs is “may I?” We build easy outs into our invitations (“…but I know you’re very busy”) and preclude real gratitude in our requests (“…but it’s fine with me either way.”)

At our most sincere, many of us state our desires and wait, with near disinterest, for them to be met or not. We manage, with circuitous language, to request things of people without having to truly open ourselves up to someone else’s whim, mercy, or potential rejection. Perhaps it’s a rhetorical power play or emotional defence, and perhaps it’s a well-intentioned attempt to be understanding and undemanding of others.

What we overlook, though, is this: it’s nice to be asked. When you really ask, you’re telling a person that you value their time, attention, or perhaps trust. Whatever you’re asking for is not something you’d just as soon leave as take; you will appreciate it. It says you haven’t taken the person for granted.

So although we may think it’s kinder to convey indifference, the truth is often that it’s not just nice for someone else to be asked; it’s nice of you to ask.

Saving the World

I know some really amazing people. The kind of people who put a vast array of mental, financial, social, and temporal resources into improving the world around them. The kind of people who have those resources at their disposal and know how to use them to, as I always vaguely put it, make things happen. I am lucky, and every day I’m grateful to have somehow stumbled across these people.

But there are days when I feel like the tiniest little fish that accidentally swam into an ocean full of very big fish. Sometimes I can’t imagine what I could ever do that wouldn’t be dwarfed by even their middling accomplishments. In those moments, I begin to wonder why I bother to do anything at all, instead of just leaving it to the more capable people around me.

That’s ridiculous.

Don’t worry about doing the most possible good, or taking on the biggest project you can imagine. There are no all-encompassing projects. Now and then Superman gets to save the whole damn world, but usually, even the superhuman fictionally among us mostly just take care of a fairly narrow set of problems in a relatively small chunk of the planet.

If I work on making the city better for transit riders, and you work on making it better for students, and someone else makes it better for small business owners, and kids, and athletes, and homeless people, and musicians, and research and development companies, and fighter pilots…

Eventually, we start to realize the city is getting to be pretty awesome for everyone. Which is perfect. Because we need everyone.

Being Unemployed IS NOT AWESOME

Unemployment in London is a hot topic these days. And by “hot topic” I mean “pressing problem threatening to force London into a death spiral,” and by “these days,” I mean for about the past two years. Because I’m a young(ish) professional, the issue of unemployment among professionals is particularly interesting to me. Not good interesting. Sucktacular interesting. Here’s why:

When you’re trying to convince everybody that you rock and have the potential to be insanely successful, and they should get you on their team, know what doesn’t sound good?

“Oh, and my life is slowly falling apart around me because I have no money, and I’m kinda depressed, and I’ve never felt this crappy and defeated in my entire life, and yes, it seems like I’m very busy, but I’m not getting paid for any of it, and I kind of want to eviscerate myself with a rusty pitchfork every time someone says how great it is that I’m so active and how awesome I am, because OH FOR GOD’S SAKE, SOMEBODY PAY ME, PLEASE.”

So we don’t say it. We talk about how wonderful it is to be busy (so many lunch meetings because you’re always free for lunch when you don’t have a job!) and how great it is to be talking to people about their ideas and how we could help them (because we’re not busy helping anyone who’s paying us!) and that we couldn’t imagine working a 9-5 anyway (okay, that one’s just actually true. I mean, we can imagine it, especially the dental benefits, but c’mon–it does suck).

The best is when people call themselves consultants but actually haven’t been paid in, um… a while. I’m not a consultant. I’m someone who used to be, and is now severely underemployed in a job that barely pays my bills now, and won’t last much longer, and then, well, I guess I just won’t pay my bills.

And the more I try to work toward getting a better job, or doing things that benefit my community (all that activity everyone thinks is so awesome!), the less time I have for that job anyway. And I’m not the only one in this boat. We are an ocean liner full of people barely treading water, and risking drowning every time we try to get a little closer to where we want to be.*

I probably shouldn’t write this blog post, because now some potential employer is going to find it and think I’m mentally unstable and not particularly wonder why nobody else will hire me, but you know what? I don’t care. If none of us are willing to say, “Hey, it kinda frigging sucks to be us in London right now” then who the hell is going to say it?

And when someone is willing to stand up and say it on our behalf, why on Earth are we disagreeing with them?

Stop giving everyone a reason to say that every young underemployed person in London seems really happy and like they just love it here and would never leave no matter what and actually don’t want any money anyway. Because that’s what all of our elected officials and various representatives hear when we act like we have been. Like everything’s cool.

No. It sucks.

I’d like some people to please try to fix it.

Thank you.

 

*That’s a terrible metaphor. Why would people in an ocean liner be treading water? That sounds like grounds for a hefty lawsuit if you went on some kind of a luxury cruise and then ended up treading water. Oh, hey, I hope that happens to me.

Bike Lanes Aren’t Really for Cyclists (or if they are, I don’t really care, because I’m not one)

I don’t ride a bike. I don’t have one, so I’d have to steal one, and it’s my understanding that once you’ve stolen a bike you’re required to dump it in the river? I don’t know. That’s what they do in Listowel. Seems bad for beavers.

Because I don’t ride a bike, I don’t really care much about the cyclist perspective because hey, isn’t the idea of democracy supposed to be that every man stands up and speaks for himself and his own interests?*

So, here’s my perspective, as it applies to cyclists being allowed to continue to exist:

1. As a driver**, I don’t want to share the road with bicycles. For one thing, they’re slow. For a more important thing, it scares me because I know that even puny little me could crush a cyclist like a bug under even my compact car. In many instances, sharing the road may be even more scary for cyclists because in that scenario, they’re the bugs. This isn’t a hypothetical, what-if-someone-ever-got-hurt mental experiment. I know many regular cyclists who’ve been injured while properly following traffic laws by people in cars who apparently don’t think traffic laws apply to them. Those drivers probably feel bad. I wish they didn’t have to feel that way. So, cyclists shouldn’t be obliged to share the road with them.

2. As a person who doesn’t like when kids die or are seriously maimed,  I particularly don’t want children on bicycles to have to share the road with cocky motor vehiclists. In fact, I think this is probably the fourth stupidest thing humanity has ever allowed to happen. People have suggested that children under a certain age (14ish) should be allowed to bike on the sidewalk without penalty.

3. As a pedestrian, even though I don’t want cyclists to get killed or seriously maimed by drivers, I also don’t want to share the sidewalk with cyclists. You know how people who ride bikes are always saying that sharing the road with cars is scary? (Yes, you do. See point number one.) The cars are always crowding you out, and moving so much faster than you, and frankly it’s dangerous to mix these two forms of transportation together? Well, pedestrians feel the same way about sharing the sidewalk with cyclists. Especially pedestrians who don’t want to see their kids get run over by bikes (see point number two).

So the only logical solution is to ban bicycles forever!

Wait, that’s not what I was going to say. I guess since cyclists are great for the environment, contribute far less to traffic congestion (especially when in bike lanes) than cars, take up less space for parking, and are generally awesome people living healthy lives, maybe we shouldn’t extinctify them. Even if we are jealous of their tiny carbon footprints. There must be some other solution, but as you can see I’m strongly averse to sharing any part of my life with “those bike people.”

Oh, right: bike lanes.

Bike lanes would be awesome for me as a driver, a parent, and a pedestrian. And if they work out okay for cyclists, too, well… that’s fine, I guess. Frankly, I’d prefer we segregate them anyway.

So maybe we don’t decide to make it official that there won’t be any more bike lanes for ten years, hey, London?

(For those of you just tuning in, possibly from out of town, the city of London, in a bid to meet a certain goal, is considering cutting a great number of plans and services from its plans and services. One of the changes proposed to make a 0.7% increase in the tax levy possible is a reduction in the bike lane program that “will result in no new bike lanes being constructed in the City for the next ten years” (from linked doc). We, the people who don’t actually care about cyclists, think this is a horrible idea.)

*No. It’s really not. Please don’t ever misquote me. Or… just regular quote me, I guess, without adding this note.

**I know what at least none of you is thinking: Amanda, you’re not a driver. That’s true. But I have a driver’s licence and I own a car, so I’m much closer to being a driver than I am to stealing a BMX and throwing it off a bridge into a beaver dam.

Paper or Plastic? Neither, thanks.

Perhaps you’re familiar with my little “i give up” project, in which I cut excess out of my life for a variety of reasons, most of them related to tree-hugging. I introduced it here and gave up my car here. But it doesn’t stop there.

I’ve been very slowly working toward a huge goal: cutting excess packaging out of my life. As I do, I’ll blog about the little life hacks I discover that let me cut out the excess, so that if you’re so inclined, hopefully you can do it, too.
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Community Composting: it’s not crazy

A while ago, amidst much hubbub regarding London’s green bin program, I thought to myself, “Why don’t we just do this ourselves? Why not have neighbourhood-focused, community-driven compost programs? Is that crazy?”

It turns out it’s not crazy. A little research revealed I’m not even close to being the first one to think of it. (Isn’t that always the way?) Hopefully, that means I’m also not the only person in my neighbourhood who would want to participate in one.
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i give up: my car

I got rid of my car. I just officially dropped it off last weekend, but it had already been at least a month or so since I drove it, so I’ve begun to readjust to life without a car. I didn’t have a car for a couple months after I wrote one off in 2005, but other than that, I’ve always owned my own car since I bought my first one when I was 18. So, if I can do this, I think almost anyone in roughly the same situation as I am can do it. (That was pretty diplomatic, huh?)

I’m glad I chose to give up the car first because it’s turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. As a bonus, it’s also helped me improve my life in a dozen other ways. I don’t want to get all hyperbolic on you, but I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made lately. (And that’s not only because I normally make very bad decisions.)
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Have you hugged a representative today?

I don’t think I’ve been unclear about how much I’m in favour of citizen engagement with the political process.

Whether you’re signing petitions, engaging in dialogue with your representatives, or helping nominate candidates, the more you are involved, the stronger our democracy becomes.

I don’t, however, think that just being angry about things is very effective. If we want open dialogue, then let’s all be the first to go beyond voicing anger in our attempts to engage with government.
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Citizens’ Group or Hanging with Friends?

As I may have mentioned 19, 976 times recently, I moved to London a few months ago. No, not that London over there. This one over here. Before moving to London, I followed a lot of Londoners on Twitter, largely because I’d always wanted to move there. One of the things I loved about Londoners, especially as I grew more interested in politics over the past year and a half, was that they seemed to be engaged with the entire spectrum of political activity.

I think that’s a wonderful thing—to be engaged—and I wanted to raise my kids in a culture where it’s normal and you don’t get people looking at you like you’re a freak because you know what’s going on in Parliament. I was raised in a place where these things don’t particularly matter, and most people vote for the name they know the best every four or five years and then never think about it again.
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