Monday, October 18, 2004

The Mellow/Uptight Contradiction

One of the first things I noticed about Montréal is how mellow everything is when it comes to trespassing. There is a wide train line that is the border between the Plateau and Rosemount. On the north (Rosemount) side of it, there is a bike path that's quite cool. It runs behind some factories and the dump and old incinerator. The train tracks are next to you on the other side of a chain link fence. There are signs on the fence that say private property, trespass forbidden and punishable by law blah blah all the crap that train yards and tracks always have. But right after that there is a huge hole in the fence and someone had put down a pallett as makeshift steps. I really wanted to go in but thought I'd wait until I cased out the area a bit more, got a lay of the land and a sense of how things were done here.

Well I got a sense pretty quickly when I passed a woman walking her dog along the train tracks. And then a little later an older guy with his two dogs. And I saw numerous other people go through the holes in the fence just to get to the other side. It turns out these tracks are a vital part of the community here! I found a short cut that allows me to get off the bike path and to a park, allowing me to avoid three busy intersections. For a bonus, I get to pass the Belle Geuele brewery (much more on the beer here later) and sometimes smell the fresh hops a-brewing!

It's the same down at the old grain silos in Vieux Montréal. They are all fenced off, but if you just go around the outside, you can get into these really cool areas where there are ladders leading up to the high walkways. I'm too scared to go up there, but it looks possible. And nobody comes barking or yelling at you (or arresting you), all freaked out that you're on private property. It's incredibly refreshing. It gives you a sense that people and the powers that be here recognize when something is practical and useful that there is no need to apply all kinds of arbitrary rules restricting it's access. I have seen this with many things in Quebec.

On the other hand, there is also a great deal of bizarre and arbitrary formality. The biggest one I've encountered is that you have to have an appointment to open a bank account! There is some officious secretary at the entrance to the bank. I tried at 3 different banks. Don't they want me to open an account? Do I have to bring my resume next time? Needless to say, I'm keeping my BC credit union account and probably going to go to Royal Bank or something. Maybe there is some reason for this that I don't know about, but it seems more an inheritance from France, Europe where status is still really important to people.

And signing up for anything is always a big hassle with so much excessive paperwork and waiting. I appreciate that the government does a lot for the people here, but do they have to keep such detailed track of it! My french course (which is incredible) requires that I sign 5 different pieces of paper for each two month session. I don't even know what any of them are, but I feel like I'm selling my property to the railway or something. But everyone is generally so nice about the whole process, that it doesn't make me as insane as the same kind of thing in the states or the west does.

It's just weird how mellow they are about some things and so totally uptight about others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have to have a funny name to sign in? anyhow, this made me laugh out loud and reminded of when we first moved to a part of Oakland with a fancy golf course. I wanted to take you 2 kids for a walk but was quite nervous about sneaking on. Well, we did and there was a lady with a dog, two kids flying kites and a couple of walkers. and the occasional, very occasional, golfer.