Sunday, March 11, 2007

People are strange

I should know, I'm one of them after all. And I spent four years at university studying their varied and multifarious strangenesses, but I still find it hard to fathom.

The Sunshine Inn, where the Horse Doctor and I are about to spend the last night of our great Canadian Skiing Adventure, is well set up for the alpiniste. It has a large room located at the edge of the building in which special boot-drying racks have been set up. These wonderful things blow warm air into your upturned ski boots overnight, drying them and making them delightfully toasty to wear the next morning. The room also has lockers in which to put your skis. These too are heated, and have drainage at the base so that your snow-pasted equipment can dry quickly. Access to the drying room is restricted to hotel guests, so it is fairly secure, and the management requests, politely, that patrons do not take their wet skis and smelly boots to their rooms, where there's nowhere to dry them anyway.

So what do people do? They take their skis and boots to their rooms.

Why do they do it? I've really no idea.

There is a large sign on the wall of the drying room, asking patrons not to place their skis or snowboards against the boot drying racks. Doing so takes up the space for half a dozen boots, doesn't actually dry your skis, and is generally a pretty stupid thing to do.

So what do people do? They crowd the racks with their snow-crusted skis and boards, making it difficult for the rest of us to find somewhere to dry our boots.

Why do they do it? Probably because the racks are straight ahead as you come in from outside, and you don't have to open a locker door. It's so much easier to let someone else be inconvenienced.

The Sunshine Inn has a large hot-tub, capable of taking about forty people. It's outdoors, so you can get snow in your hair as you let the warm water and bubbles massage your weary muscles. It's a very civilised place, really.

To get to it, you again need your room key, and then have to pass through a changing room before exiting into the cold and a hurried dash to the pool. On the door before you step outside is a polite notice asking that you shower before entering the tub. The showers are directly behind you as you read this notice. It's not much to ask, to rinse the day's sweat from your wobbling flesh before plunging into a pool shared with other, sensitive folk.

So what do people do? They walk on through regardless and jump straight on in.

Why do they do it? Sheer laziness, and a complete lack of regard for the sensibilities of anyone else on the planet.

Yesterday, one woman lit up a cigarette whilst she was lounging in the pool, despite the many no smoking signs and the complete lack of ashtrays. Fortunately by the time I got there, she'd gone; violence against women can never be justified.

This is not a particularly Canadian problem, I hasten to add. Most of the people disobeying the rules are probably not locals, and I've encountered this kind of behaviour all around the world. It is particularly prevalent in the UK, sadly, where most people seem to think that rules are there for everyone else, not them. It doesn't stop them getting upset, angry and violent when the breaking of those same rules makes life difficult for them though. Nor do they take kindly to having their hypocrisy pointed out to them, as I have learned to my painful cost.

I don't believe in blindly following rules for their own sake. There are plenty that are just plain daft, many that are outdated and in need of repeal. But where there is good reason, and the extra effort required to abide by a rule rather than flout it is so minimal as to be non-existent, then to fail to co-operate is the worst kind of unthinking selfishness. Manners Makyth Man was the motto of my old school, and the point about manners is not your Ps and Qs, not which knife to use with which course at dinner; it's about considering the effect your actions will have on those around you. If you decide that their inconvenience is less important than your convenience, then at least you have considered them first. All too often today the sort of stupid failure to abide by a few simple rules designed to make life easier for everyone stems from a complete lack of awareness of others.

It may seem petty to moan about a woman smoking in the hot tub, but it is the little things that chip away at society and social cohesion. Record divorce rates, soaring crime and a general lack of responsibility cannot be far behind.

Gosh, this has turned into a rant. It was meant to be just a bit of social observation. Sorry.

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