“There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto.” — Cormac McCarthy
As another school year opens, I believe it is safe to say that many of you reading this paper will have had, upon more than one occasion, “a little too much fun” at some point this summer. I certainly did. While that itself is no crime, on May 17, after a wedding social and a few beers before last call at a local pub, I was charged with an infraction of the Liquor Control Act. While I understand the basic logic behind not allowing booze crazed yahoos to wander around aimlessly swilling highly taxed poison and creating a ruckus, I am still vexed by the seemingly indiscriminate application of this civil law.
Now, on the night in question, I was caught red-handed, by an RCMP officer, “in possession of liquor (about a quarter of a bottle of beer) in an unauthorized place” as I left the bar heading, on foot, to a friend’s place across the road to celebrate his birthday. Such an infraction against the Queen cost me $164. However, my girlfriend, after a court date in Minnedosa amending the improper citation she initially received (she was charged with “consumption” of booze, while really she was only “possessing” booze), was hit with a fine of $150 for the same crime. We were both cooperative with the apprehending officers, despite having seven cold Luckys (improperly seized from my backpack) dumped onto the cold, hard clay beneath our feet, and neither of us has a criminal record of any sort. — peaceful citizens enjoying Queen Victoria’s birthday.
After we were handed our citations, we walked across the road to our aforementioned buddy’s place, and vented our spleens at our unfortunate luck. Our host, Jim, who never drinks alcohol, listened attentively to the ranting.
What the hell is wrong with this backwater cesspool we’d chosen to visit for the May long weekend, I cursed? In Winnipeg, I’ve never been hit with a fine for dumping my beer when asked to by an apprehending by officer, and in many countries the world round I would never even have had to dump the beer in the first place. I drink mostly cans, I never smash beer bottles, and I only ever litter where I know that someone will pick up and benefit from my discarded can. My days of youthful, booze-fueled destruction of property are long behind me. Why, I wondered aloud, in sweet hell can I not enjoy a goddamn beer where I please in this country without fear of economic reprisal?
“Man,” Jim said, packing a bowl. “Could you imagine what would happen if all of a sudden Canada allowed drinking in public? It would be utter fucking madness! It’ll never happen. Pandemonium would ensue!”
As I mentioned, Jim never drinks. I’ve known him about 13 years, and his contempt for drunks is high, having grown up across the street from one of the raunchiest, rowdiest bars in southwestern rural Manitoba. He’s been my, and countless other drinkers’, DD countless times, and has put up with all manner of bad behaviour facilitated by consumption of booze. Jim took his bong hit, and continued.
“Canadians love boozing, partly because it’s ‘not allowed’ socially. I mean, it is, of course, but the fact that you might not be allowed to do it makes it that much more appealing. If tomorrow every drunk in Canada was allowed to walk down the street slugging booze from the bottle, society would crumble. People couldn’t handle it, they’d be drunk 24/7 for weeks on end. Strife, poverty, and violence would sweep the nation. We’d be invaded by the Danes in a matter of months. Wouldn’t that be a headline!”
I pondered Jim’s comments. After sober second thought, I had to concede, to an extent, his point. Society suffers plenty of woes due to alcohol consumption, which the state profits highly from. But does nickel-and-diming folks who drink booze in public, peaceful as they may be, accomplish anything? Does the idiot tax levied upon them even cover the costs of enforcing, prosecuting, and enacting payment from such an archaic piece of social control?
Has my citation made society a better in any way? Doubt it. Has it shown me the error of my ways, and led me to a brighter, more god-fearing tomorrow? Nope. Will it deter me from drinking outside again, when the sun is shining, the weather beautiful, and the inside of a dank tavern as appealing as, well, a dank tavern?
Fuck no. I, along with countless others, will simply roll the dice, and be prepared to dance if the deal goes down. As the Boss would say, that’s the price you pay.
– Sheldon Birnie, Comment Editor for the *Manitoban, loves Manitoba summers.*