It doesn't actually feel like springtime just yet, but it's coming any day now. In theory at least, we will all soon be basking in the glory of sun-filled days and comfortably warm nights. Like prisoners tasting freedom for the first time, sun and heat-starved Montrealers will soon emerge from solitary confinement to happily roam the streets with a renewed sense of hope.
Around this time every year, we start noticing that things are slightly different outside-the air bears the unmistakable olfactory combination of budding flowers and dog poo; the store windows begin displaying sandals, shorts and miniskirts, along with bright colorful accessories; and the snow, once a dominant fixture in our urban landscape, quietly melts away into the atmosphere. But the most striking change is that there are people everywhere-cheerfully lounging on last year's stale grass in the park, sauntering along busy streets, leisurely sipping cappuccinos on terraces, cruising around on their bikes.
We might selfishly want springtime all to ourselves, but sharing it can be just as fun. Here are a few simple rules of etiquette that we should follow before we embark on another spring season in Montreal:
If you're patient, your table will come
It is so typically Montreal-at the first sign of spring, we flock to café terraces like sheep to the slaughter. On one particularly nice day last week, I did some window shopping on the sunny side of Saint-Denis and I was shocked to see that every terrace was packed to its fullest capacity, with people waiting in line to be seated. While the lineups were mostly peaceful, I did notice one or two fights break out over who was there first and which table belonged to what group. The waiters and waitresses have to become one-part rodeo wrangler, one-part bouncer, and one-part social worker (comforting those who've been waiting in line for a while).
In the midst of our spring fever, one can easily be tempted to cut in line to get one of those coveted seat in the sun. Just remember this: we've all suffered, so wait your turn.
These sidewalks are made for walking
I was walking down Saint-Laurent a couple weeks ago when I was nearly sideswiped by a bicyclist riding at full speed on the sidewalk. As that familiar feeling of sidewalk rage came rushing back, it occurred to me that, especially during springtime, people are oblivious to what goes on around them.
As we all know but tend to forget, bicycles and rollerblades are not meant to be used on busy sidewalks-or on nearly any sidewalk for that matter: Section 492.1 of the Quebec Highway Safety Code states: "In no case may the driver of a motorcycle or moped or a person riding a bicycle drive or ride on a sidewalk except where necessary or where so directed by a sign."
Basically, if you don't want people shooting dirty looks your way or shouting obscenities as you pass by, ride on the road.
What goes around comes around
You know what they say about April showers ... My friend was waiting for the bus one very rainy day not long ago and realized that she had forgotten her umbrella at home. As she stood there, soaked to the bone, a well-dressed man stood right next to her under the shelter of his huge family-sized umbrella. He looked at her and when his cold stare caught her pleading glance, he rudely looked away. He didn't offer to share his safe haven with her-he just let her suffer.
All I can say is that it will rain again, and that guy will eventually forget his umbrella. And when that day comes, let the raindrops fall where they may.
Dumpster diving can be a win-win situation
Spring comes hand in hand with spring cleaning, and one person's garbage is another person's gold. In the past few weeks alone, our sidewalks have been piled high with old couches, chairs, books, computers, TVs and VCRs-and we're just getting warmed up. It feels good to throw something out, knowing that it will live on (in one form or another) in someone else's house. So, in order to give people a chance to properly look through the hidden gems of your trash, I suggest putting items out a good twenty-four hours before garbage day; it's the neighborly thing to do.
The dumpster diver also needs to follow certain rules of etiquette:
1. Don't go behind a closed fence to reach a dumpster.
2. Don't leave a mess. Leave the dumpster better than you found it so those who enjoy this hobby may continue to do so.
3. Don't take paperwork with people's confidential records.
4. Take only what you can use; leave the rest for someone else.
There's a Google map project that was recently started in New York City that raises dumpster-diving to a whole new level. When you're out-and-about and spot something fabulous destined for the trash, you can take a cell-phone photo of it and post a description and the item's location on their website. Even better is freecycle.org, an international online community that trades items instead of trashing them. It has over two million members worldwide; its thriving Montreal chapter boasts 7204 members.
It seems everyone's diving right in to this trashy trend.
Daisy Goldstein shares her quirky insights on life in the city. Her column appears every two weeks. Read more columns by Daisy Goldstein.