Sunday, January 22, 2012

A tale of two cities...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…"

Okay so maybe there wasn't any despair but it certainly was winter and really really cold when this thought crossed my mind. This past weekend we went out in the town of Guelph; had a little dinner a few drinks, and responsibly called a cab to head off to Guelph Ontario's interesting downtown bar scene.

I guess as a side note / preamble to this story, I should tell you that I'm a Kitchener / Waterloo Ontario native, I've spent most of my life in this area and have called the city home for nearly a decade now. In KW we're used to a couple of truths. For starters if you park on the street overnight, especially in the winter, you'll be ticketed which is never fun about thirty dollars of not fun. On top of that cabs are pretty cheap and plentiful, other than New Years Eve you can expect to get a cab to show up to your location within minutes of the call, pretty much without exception.

Now, the first sign of trouble should have taken root in our minds when we called a Guelph cab at midnight and couldn't get through to the dispatcher. As in every cab dispatch in Guelph was overladen with calls as early as midnight even though bars don't shut down until 2:00 am. Insert big red flag here, when we finally got through to a cab company they dispatched a cab to us, probably took 20 minutes, wasn't really paying attention at that point.

Drinking, dancing, and a few hours later the bar shuts down and we join the throng of people outside in the downtown core of Guelph seeking out food, warmth, and oh yeah a ride home because we're all too drunk to drive. Unfortunately there are no rides home, people walk away from the downtown to snag cabs coming in or any cab that comes into the downtown area is already there to pick up somebody by name which doesn't bode well for the rest of us. Did I mention it's now even harder than before to call the cab dispatch, didn't get through once, not that it would matter because odds are someone is going to snag that cab on the way to us.

It's 2:30, around -14 degrees Celsius and my comrades are not dressed for an arctic adventure. We wonder around, ask for assistance or any tips on how to get a cab to pick us up and the best we get is wait in front of the cab company office for an indeterminate amount of time or catch the city bus that goes out near where we've got to get back to. The bus line is easily 45 minutes long and standing around isn't an option we want to entertain.

Here's where my wheels start turning; there are few ways out of Guelph's downtown after hours but there is something that they have plenty of... COPS, there are literally dozens of officers and cruisers in and around the downtown waiting for something to go down. Ps, cops won't drive you home, I asked several and they could care less what you feel about getting home; super depressing when a guy who is getting paid at the moment to do nothing says he can't help you out of a cold bind.

The big question/statement?! Do the fights in the downtown break out because there is no good way for people to get home? Compared to the city I live in where cabs line up in front of the bar, a safe ride home is a rare commodity in Guelph and should be a pretty embarrassing issue. Perhaps if you get the drunks out of the downtown in a timely manner maybe you'll have fewer issues after the bar; won't need to pay for the overtime for so many officers. I'm not looking to present a theory or a solution but I am trying to express how pathetic a problem this is. Perhaps the city of Guelph could start it's own safe ride home cab company that would operate during bar hours to take the strain off of it's obviously overtaxed cab companies and overworked police officers.

Anyway, I digress, just a thought... From this man's perspective I think they're going about dealing with this situation in entirely the wrong direction. If your downtown is full of drunk pissed off kids after the bar, figure out why those kids don't want to go home and sleep / drink / do whatever kids do after the bar. Fix that issue don't just put officer band-aid on the job and call it better. 

Oddly I can't find anything related on this online, I doubt I'm the first or only person that finds this annoying.

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