Fall has come. It’s a time in Waterloo for growth of businesses, tourism, and economy. It’s a time for schools, learning, and knowledge. It’s a time when the weather is still pleasant and warm, and the streets in our fair corner of the tri-cities are shared by all, young and old. It’s a time for students, and for the bars.
There are two main streams of thought about this return, both for and against. One camp resists your return, and while the money you represent supports their, and our, economy, they dislike your actuality; loaded restaurants and bars, packed streets on any given week night, loud parties, and stumbling drunks. Not even to stray into the tax dollars for all this extra police “work”.
However, the other camp rejoices in your return. Businesses and services boom as students fill their housing, dine in local restaurants, and buy from the local shops and stores. Students support the credit system and then the local businesses; being on the other side of the counter, I should know. Some maintain jobs, legitimizing their credit and enjoying a richer school experience. And mostly, they are here to learn, all aspiring to this or that dream, something I can’t help but applaud. Education is the idea behind everything our community stands for at its’ heart. We, apparently, support this growth as the “World’s Most Intelligent”.
The months of summer moved by quietly in this city. I know as I worked, cooking, in many of our restaurants and bars. It’s a natural calm for those ingrained in the industry. Orders are slashed and everything behind the grill moves a littler slower. It’s not the storm we face during the months of school, and we prepare accordingly.
My question is why, upon your return, do we find ourselves picking sides community-wide? As an “Intelligent” community, should we not look forward to planning for an economic swell, which we use and depend upon for eight months of the year? Why only now, with the annual re-appearance of students, do we find this vocal and literal rift?
Perhaps we can find the answer in the habits of we, the students. Many of us, especially those not dependent on a pay-cheque, can attempt the mind-bending labour of devoting ourselves to our studies. However, with today’s education system there is not much room for creative growth, only rigid learning; adhering to the knowledge of our forefathers. I applaud the few students who manage to study in our park or our restaurants, rather then the cramped dorm quarters or student lounges. Regardless of habit, however, this requires an incredible strength of will and mind. Study can’t be had forever.
We are students by choice and by life, and so we find ourselves at the crossroads. Students seek release in wild parties, bars and restaurants, society among peers. The comfort and abandon among new-found friends. The youth of new replace the youth of old in the habits and luxury of young humanity. The activities are even the same; rarely can an elder generation say that they didn’t once drink a round or smoke a joint among friends. Most can claim a trip to the bars and restaurants that serve as our drinking halls or the houses of friends and family for the pleasures of beer and liquor.
Then we encounter one another on the streets; the youth and the old. Suddenly things have changed. We seem to speak different languages; guarded looks and lowered heads in a community I find one of the friendliest and safest I’ve lived in.
As a youth, however, I know that we are in our alienated state by default. As young consciences, we are easily confused when confronted with authority. And overall, we are not the most respectful individuals when self absorbed. Then debauchery hits and we ride the current. We drink and smoke in guarded excess. We revel in the freedom and comfort of the night and to hell with tomorrow.
Personally, I’ve made some of my strongest connections in this way. I have friends and moments that without my debauchery I would never have had. There are things in moments, that words cannot describe, embodied by cold bottles and cans, funnels, and that special smoke going around. These are staples of generations, no matter the age gap.
And so I say, respect. Due respect for those pioneers and innovators of debauchery before us. Due respect for those of us here now. Encourage communication in our community – be it a smile or hello – and I’m sure in time these opponents will find common ground. And at the end, we, the younger generation of bar warriors, will carry our compatriots home to rest.