April 19th, 2005

Fishy Circumstances

Streetcar Roundtable

Eventually, I made it to the back of the crowded streetcar. The woman who'd made it there just before me took the last seat, but that didn't bother me. I didn't need to sit. A polite young man offered me his seat, and I declined. I was willing to sit, but I certainly didn't need anyone giving up their seat on my behalf.

The woman who'd just sat down commented on how rare it is to hear anyone offer to give up their seat on transit, on how rare the gentlemanly spirit is, how many pregnant women with children on their back go seatless. A good-natured pessimist sitting in the corner pointed out that women can't have it both ways, that a generous offer is often taken the wrong way. At this point, I joined in to observe that politeness should be true regardless of gender: you never know which of your fellow streetcar passengers is ill, has been on their feet all day, is feeling dizzy... If you're willing to stand, it never hurts to offer up your seat.

The young man who'd offered me his seat was an idealist working in commerce. The pessimist thought he was giving in to an abusive and corrupt system. The first woman and I, the optimists (but not idealists) of the group, pointed to how it was more effective to change the system from the inside. If he had dreams of changing the way commerce and capitalism works, he was in exactly the right profession. The pessimist - a pleasant fellow - pointed out the fundamental flaws with every system we mentioned but, when questioned, admitted that human beings are fundamentally corruptable, that there is no workable system in the world. Somewhere along the line, the discussion ended up moving from parenting and day care models for consumerist young people learning to be polite to others in the world, to the role of government and commerce in society at large, and their role in providing role models for the generically-identified "young people of today."

A woman in the row in front of us turned around to exclaim, "Only in Canada would you have this discussion on a streetcar!" Shortly thereafter, when a seat became free, she joined us. She'd done her Masters thesis at the London School of Economics the previous year on one aspect of the topic we were discussing - sustainable development for the young people of tomorrow. She gave her business card to the outspoken idealist. Another man in the corner, who'd been occasionally joining in, gave her his card. At some point, the pessimist asked if we were all in business. I wasn't, and they asked me what I would do with my degree.

The idealist left us first, and then it was my stop. "Same time next week!" said the man in the corner, only partly kidding.

Of the Chocolate-Maker

Chocolate is made of Cocoa, the Product of the West-Indies. It is stripped of its Shell, or rather Husk, and wrought upon a Stone over a Charcoal Fire till it is equally mellow, and then put into Moulds, which shapes it into Cakes. To perfume it they mix it with Venello.

It is a hot laborious Business, but does not require much Ingenuity. Journey men's Wages is from Twelve to Fifteen Shillings a Week, but are not employed much in Summer. They require Heat to work with, but cold Weather is necessary to dry it.

From R. Campbell, esq. The London Tradesman. Being an Historical Account of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, both Liberal and Mechanic, now practised in the Cities of London and Westminster. Calculated for the Instruction of Youth in their Choice of Business. (London: T. Gardner, 1757). Chp. 69. Sec. 9. p. 280.