A couple of mornings ago after I trucked down a load down from North Bay to Toronto, I happened to catch CBC radio’s revamped Metro Morning, and heard a very weird discussion between Host Andy Barry and a stringer. The stringer, presumably one of those pencil-necked multicultural functionaries CBC has brought on lately to put the network in touch with young people and (at the same time) the fashionable outer limits of urban inclusiveness, was talking about some sort of sado-masochist conference going on somewhere in the city. Barry was playing straight man by asking, well, exactly what it is that the S&M crowd do when they’re having fun.
I pulled the truck over to the side of the road, sensing that one of those unanswerable question was about to get a hearing, and I could feel all those hotly normal sixty year old women up in North Bay hanging over their ironing boards in anticipation. The stringer didn’t miss a beat. S&M, he said, in a voice half-way between a squeak and a lisp, is about the exchange of power, and about role playing. Right. Then he yammered on about power relations under capitalism, and about irony and transformation. I’m not exactly sure what else he said, because I was replaying the S&M images most of us have encountered at one time or another—women and men (mostly women)—trussed and gagged, dressed in painfully tight leather clothing, and suspended by chains while (usually) overweight persons dressed in motorcycle leathers apply cinches to their nipples, whips to their backsides, and whatever else they get off on.
Since I’ve never been able to make it through more than about 90 seconds of the S&M videos I’ve come across, I’m fuzzy about where these encounters lead—to screwing or orgasm or just more fun&pain, and I haven’t any idea about whether its the Sado or the Maso that gets off—or both. What I’m pretty clear on is that these are, no matter how many five or six syllable the CBC covers them with, people who like to hurt one another for fun. Maybe that’s okay in downtown Toronto, but it sure as hell ain’t normal, and I think they should be sent to one of those sensitivity training courses the government’s always ordering guys like me to take instead of being blown out the nozzle of our multicultural inclusivity hose as if they were no different than Balinese dancers.
Meanwhile, I read somewhere that Health Canada’s "Don’t Fuck" program for teenagers isn’t working—according to a study conducted by a Dr. Alban DiCenso, a professor in McMaster University’s School of Nursing. There’s a surprise. I just don’t get why these academic dipsticks running the government’s propaganda programs haven’t learned that if you tell healthy teenagers not to do something, you’re really letting them know it’s an effective way to piss adults off, and that it’s probably five times as much fun as whatever it is the authorities are trying to get them to buy into. If a five-minute educational video of middle-aged adults having sex were shown around the schools, the kids would all be celibate until they’re over 25. But no, the government experts believe in preaching virtues they never practiced when they were young. Or, maybe the problem is that this sort of person did.
While I’m on the subject of governments, the Ontario Tories (god rest Mike Harris’s shriveled soul) seem to have trouble understanding that lines of communication and chains of command work only if you have employees to operate them, and that implementing improved water-purity legislation isn’t just an exercise in public relations. These are the same guys who are currently running a medical shunt to the U.S. from every small town in the province. I guess they’re confused by the thousand or two foreign-trained doctors parking cars and doing telemarketing in Toronto, and think we’re oversupplied. Make these foreigners pass an exam, and if they do, send them out here where they’re needed. They can’t be any worse than the morons we’ve got left, and they’re less likely to spend all the government’s money running unnecessary tests on patients to cover their asses against possible lawsuits when they goof up a diagnosis.
So you don’t think we’re all obsessed with sex and government silliness in North Bay, this: While I was driving the truck near your fancy-pants College Street I found myself behind one of those urban life-style bicyclists. I’d never seen a live one before, but when I saw the black face mask with the red whistle stuck through it, I was certain I had one. That he was peddling furiously down the middle of the lane like any other motor vehicle helped the ID, too.
I managed to get past him, but he passed me again when I had to stop at a stop sign. He simply whooshed through the intersection. This annoyed me, because I’ve heard that these people demand the same rights as other motor vehicles, and that ought to mean that they operate by the same rules a motor vehicle is obliged to obey. I caught up with him mid-block next, but this time he wasn’t letting me past. So I followed him to the next intersection, this one with a woman and small child standing at the corner, hand in hand. The cyclist veered toward them—must have blown his red whistle, because they cowered, startled. Then he pulled a wide left turn into a one-way street and proceeded up it the wrong way. I blew my horn at him for this, and got to see his middle finger extended in the air as he disappeared.
I have to admit the experience leaves me hoping this particular cyclist will have a short career exercising his rights as a motor vehicle. He’d look good splattered across the side of someone’s truck—not mine of course, but you never know. Anyway, that’s how things look through the window of truck just in from North Bay. I’ll catch you next time I’m in town.
October 1, 2002 (1000 words)