He is a bullrider, a live-life-on-the-edge kind of guy. So when he boldly strode down the aisle from the furthest forward seat of the double-decker bus to the stairs he did not once grab the readily available handholds. He is a grinning risk-taker, a mischievous bandit-type. So when a girl glanced up at him he smiled and winked and continued on his way to the cramped bathroom on the bus. He is a devil-may-care doer, an accidents-are-below-me sort of person. He didn’t lock the door on the bathroom when he entered it.  He appraises the situation. The toilet. A sign depicting a man standing crossed off and a sitting man check marked. Fuck that sign. He sinks his knees into the edge of the port-a-potty like surface and leans out over the hole, ignoring the mild discomfort the constant rattles of the bus bring him. They are on the highway. A reasonably measured risk.

He laughs to himself, his impeccable balance keeping him steady as he draws circles with his urine. A jarring halt brings him into the side of the cramped bathroom, causing his piss to splatter like machine gun spray across the bathroom and into friendly fire. The pain of his right shoulder is nothing to the terror of the warm, wet, sinking feeling he feels down his left inner thigh. He has successfully pissed on his pants, enough to soak through and leave a painfully obvious dark blotch. Should have worn the black pants over the light khakis. He regains his balance and his control. He evaluates the situation. A knock on the door.

“Are you alright in there?”

“Fine!” he calls back.

He scrambles into action. Toilet paper to wipe down the seat and additional spray zone. It won’t do anything for his pants though he futilely tries to soak some up anyways. What to do about the pants? He could wait for them to dry in the bathroom, which would take a while and still smell after. The smell has to go first. Luckily, there is hand sanitizer. Should overpower or at least mask the smell. But then that will take time to dry as well. He does it anyways, and although he doesn’t know it, ethanol evaporates more quickly than water. It’s hard to say whether it would have made a difference in his story if he had known. He sits down and applies a copious quantity of the hand sanitizer to the dark splotch. Then he cleans his leg. He still feels filthy afterwards.

He waits, and figures, as long as he’s here he may as well grab a quick smoke, disobeying the second of three signs. The third is a sign depicting two men in hats, one on the toilet and the other, standing x-ed out. He suspects it means that only one person may use the bathroom at a time. I like to think it means no secret mafia meetings in the bathroom. He is halfway through his cigarette when someone opens the door. He quickly covers his pants and crotch area with his hands, still holding the cigarette. The person apologizes profusely while closing the door. He breathes a sigh of relief. His pants are on fire. Ethanol burns very easily and he covered his left pant leg with a hand containing one lit cigarette. He curses violently as he tries to beat out the flames. The person outside the door is startled by how upset the man inside seems to be. She was only trying to go to the bathroom.

He looks dumbly at his pants. The lovely thing about ethanol is that it burns before your skin or clothes burn, typically speaking. Although there is still a small burnt hole in his new, expensive khakis, he is astonished to see that the dark splotch is now dry and gone and in the place of a urine smell there is only a burnt-ethanol smell, which is like a normal burnt smell but more clinical and abhorrent. He puffs on his cigarette one more time. He cannot believe his luck. He chucks the butt between his legs (the cigarette butt that is) and into the murky, man-made blue solution below. He sniffs cautiously. Just the overpowering smell of burnt ethanol. He examines his pants. No splotch. 800 degrees Celsius evaporated the water saturating the threads of his khakis very quickly.

He calmly stands, zips up, sanitizes his hands and walks out. He feels as if God himself has come down and produced a miracle; yet, even the devil helps out his own. He opens the door, smiles apologetically at the lady he rushes past in his quest to leave the lower level of the bus. He ascends the stairs and boldly strides back to his seat, smelling like he just smoked a cigarette and incinerated the hand sanitizer container. Fuck it. As long as they don’t know he pissed himself it doesn’t matter.

The lady he had smiled at on his way down the aisle glances over as he walks by, noticing that the inner back of his left leg has a few telltale dark patches on it. She laughs inwardly and judges him at the same time.


Why I stand by my decision not to vote

First of all, there are a few things I would like to address regarding the previous post, “Why I am choosing not to vote.”
Much of that was written defensively and highly informally. As a result it may have come off as inflammatory. I was surprised by how appalled many people were when I said I wasn’t voting before I wrote that post; I had not really thought it through and much of the post was an attempt to understand my own justification for why I was not voting.

The purpose of this post is to clarify and express why, chances are, next election I will not be voting barring an incredible increase in knowledge. I do not intend to discourage anybody from voting or trying to make a difference. I do encourage people to inform themselves on the issues facing our province. While I am not proud of my apathy in terms of informing myself on the political sphere, I still find a lacking return for effort on informing myself. I imagine that much like the approximately 49 percent of voters (link) who turned up this year, I have good reasons for not voting which may apply to some of the 49 percent of voters who also did not show up to the polls.  To be clear, my hierarchy of responsible citizens starts with informed voters on top, uninformed non-voters in the middle, and uninformed voters at the bottom.

Let’s do some rough math. My electoral district, full of candidates whose names I had never heard of before has about 150,000 voters. 1 in 150,000 seems to be pretty negligible in terms of decision making. Let’s say that half that showed up for the sake of argument, 1 in 75,000. Still not great, especially considering that in 2011, about 90,000 people showed up to vote making 1 in 90,000 more accurate. Of course, even if my vote had won there are 106 other ridings ultimately determining the party that wins the provincial election. So if it is for the sake of deciding which policies come about in this province, this seems like an ineffective way of making my voice heard. This is the first reason I did not vote.

Sticking with our hypothetical scenario wherein every citizen were to vote, I think it’s fair to assume that the majority of the citizens who did not show up to the polls are generally uninformed at best because anybody taking the time to inform themselves will take the significantly smaller amount of time that it takes to vote. So you now have almost half of your decision making people voting based on insufficient research. It amounts to playing pin the tail on the politician, where half the people are wearing blindfolds. Keep in mind this is assuming that the other half are informed, which I find to be highly dubious. That aside, uninformed voting can only be detrimental or coincidentally beneficial to an otherwise rational (as opposed to a random) choice. So not only did I not vote, but chances are that it doesn’t make sense to encourage people to vote uninformed. This is the second reason I did not vote.

Some excellent reasons to vote include:
1. Everyone is actually equal!
2. Responsibility as a citizen: keep the government accountable.
3. Decide what happens with your money!

I can’t help but realize that in response to everyone being equal, my uninformed, random x-marks the inny-minny-miny-mo spot is worth the same amount as your meticulously researched decision. That, in terms of keeping the government accountable to the populace, the moment I suspect my government is beginning to lose accountability is the moment I personally draw my line. Fortunately, I’ve got about (very rough estimate) 4.5 million warning canaries before the government gets to that line. And finally, after subsidized University and taxes in my earning bracket, I’m probably not paying anything to the government. So I suppose it’s a chance to get one four-millionth of a say in what happens with everybody else’s money.

But to summarize on a positive note, it is important to stay current on what is happening. The fact that I do spend more time playing computer games than reading the news means I am not actively working to make the world a better place or effecting change and I recognize that; I hope one day I will lead and/or propagate positive change. I’m not encouraging willful ignorance, I’m encouraging people to stop caring only once every four (or in this case, three) years. The problem with governments do not stem from a lack of citizen involvement on voting day, these problems stem from people only being involved on voting day. I refrained from voting because I was unable to vote responsibly, not because I disagree with democracy or the principles of accountability. Were I to be informed, I should hope that voting is the most insignificant thing I would do to create positive change in the world.

As always, feedback is welcomed.

Why I am choosing not to vote

I’ve had this discussion with several other people who all seem to think I’m ludicrously immature. I try to keep an open mind and leave room for people to persuade me. I am choosing not to vote. I’m not going to walk to the polling station and decline my ballot. I’m going to do whatever I would normally do with my life on every other day.

I have no interest in voting because

1. I don’t believe it will make a difference (this falls victim to the tragedy of the commons argument)
2. I haven’t done the research necessary to do a responsible vote.
3. I don’t believe that I have time to do enough research to ascertain who to vote for because
3.a) I am uneducated on the state of affairs in Ontario
3.b) I suspect most of the platforms thrown at us are pandering anyways 
4. My vote is a poor measure of who is (more) qualified to be in office. For this I assume that each candidate is similar enough in terms of an ability to not run the province into the ground. 
5. Even if my vote did have an effect of some kind (I’m still thinking poor return on effort here) I have no realistic way to know what effect it will have in the end. 

Now I know I’m going way against public sentiment on this one. Pretty much nobody has heard me say I’m choosing willful apathy and said, “you know what? I condone your choice.” 

Some common arguments:

1.The outcome will affect you. Yes, but not in any way that I will find to be predictable based on platforms that a) I haven’t researched and b) I’m not qualified to comment on or pretend to understand. 
2. People fought for your right to vote! Actually, what they fought for is my right to vote or not vote as I see fit. The beauty of our political climate is all I get for my willful apathy is the disapproving glares of my friends and family. If I choose to forfeit my 1 in 4 millionths of a say (I’m estimating that) in several different people I have no knowledge of nor interest in, I can thank the people who fought for democracy by enjoying the fact I’m not going to be murdered or jailed for this. 
Another variation includes “people in the world wish they could vote”. Good for them, hopefully their political climate can one day be favourable to the rights we take for granted today. It also happens to be irrelevant (much like the children starving in Africa, eat your food thing). 

The main reason I am not bothering to vote or to even decline my ballot is because I don’t believe the effect my vote will have is worth the effort. The second reason is I have faith that any leader will do their best without being allowed to make any absolutely detrimental mistakes.

Disagree with my opinion? let me know, I’m always open to a good discussion.

Under the Ground

John Stieggson leaned on his shovel. He was behind a large bunch of bushes and a tree where Mitch had declared a “safely-out-of-the-attendee-awareness-zone.” John had always thought that Mitch had a slight ego but he never commented on it. Much like John would never tell Mitch that it was correctly pronounced “yon” like yawning and not John. It’s not that he thought Mitch wouldn’t apologize and correct himself; more that Mitch would apologize too much and make sure that every other employee knew it was pronounced ‘yon’ like yawning. Mitch meant well and that was enough for John.

Mitch liked to ruffle John’s silvering hair. “This guy’s my buddy” he would say again and again. John would always give a wry smile and keep his mouth shut. He almost wished he wouldn’t because maybe then he would not feel Mitch’s words so much, and he could go on pretending to be indifferent.

Mitch hated his job, and John was the only one who knew it. John knew that Mitch felt guilty about being so good at it, as if Mitch believed he was supposed to be another element of darkness in a dark place.

It was a drafty spring day. The kind that is neither particularly pleasant, nor particularly unpleasant. John Stieggson leaned on his shovel and listened. It was just him and Mitch.

“It was a suicide, John. He was just a kid.”

Mitch always started like this. A sentence, something informative followed by the kind of comment you’d expect from any community minded person.

“There’s a lot of them at this one. There are usually less at a suicide. The ones who were truly alone, we buried them alone. This kid was just… too quiet.”

John knew that Mitch did not judge other people on their character. Mitch only believed in circumstance.

“You know we’re all kind of like animals. A large herd going through our own wilderness, and when we’re in trouble we bellow and make noise. But some people don’t make noise loud enough or soon enough. All the other animals crowd around the loudest noise possible, for us, the noise of silence. And maybe if this kid had been a little louder a little earlier the animals who signed his stupid picture would have signed his yearbook instead.”

John nodded. He felt this ache in his chest every time that Mitch started talking at a strangers funeral, well out of sight and earshot of the grieving family.

“John, they can’t understand why I do this, and I hate it so much, but I have to. I don’t think that anybody else could do it right. It isn’t about the body. It’s about the image.”

In the 7 months that John had worked for Mitch, John could swear that Mitch’s shoulders sagged a little more each time he put someone else to rest.

John had written down every word Mitch had ever said to him in his brief talks he would have ‘between men’ whenever it was the two of them on duty. Mitch had been a poet, once. Mitch was secretive still. John knew that Mitch had inherited the job from his aunt and that the secretiveness ran in the family. More than simply having taken the job from a lack of something else to do John suspected that Mitch was on the run from himself.

Mitch was smoking a cigarette, mourning his own habit more than he was the mourning the child at this point. A pensive stare into the distant sky was how the small talks always ended.

John wished he knew how to tell Mitch to stop working this job. But first he would have to hear Mitch’s story and Mitch wasn’t ready yet. The kid still visited his aunt’s grave, every evening, and John would stand in the distance. When Mitch would finally tell John his story, John would tell Mitch his. John already had a buyer lined up for the property, a respectful company, interested in decency over profit. They would leave together, then; yet, they might not leave at all. But John hoped. All John wanted was to share the story of Ellen Djerkic with her nephew, and to let him know they missed her together. Mitch was not yet ready. John would wait for him, and one day hope that Mitch could tell John Stieggson’s story, and maybe pronounce his name right too.