In the 1950's North American cities, particularly Canadian cities, were far less crowded places. This might have been the neolithic era of technology, where computers were decades away on the horizon, but shit still got done. This was simpler time when parents would send their 8 year olds to the liquor store to get beer and cigarettes, and nobody would bat an eye as the kids toted the case of beer back home.
Customer service usually entailed speaking to an actual human being and going to the bank was almost ritualistic. Some employers even paid cash and if you were paid with a check, the local bar was always more than willing to cash it for you.
Although I was not personally there, I'm sure that the 50's had its fair share of retards trying to fuck your day up, but I'm convinced that the percentage is way higher today. One could take a stroll or go to a bar and not have to worry about being sidetracked or sidestepping some sort of obstacle. There was far less dogshit to worry about on the sidewalk because dogs mainly lived in the country or pooped in their own yard. The concept of carrying a plastic bag and scooping another creature's feces had yet to be invented.
Dog piles on the sidewalk notwithstanding, a stroll down the street has become a far more complex activity these days. One can barely walk ten feet without being accosted in one way or another and basic retail transactions have become frustrating Kafkaesque exchanges. Here's a few thoughts on the matter.
1. Do The Walk.
While there certainly were drugs and addicts in the fifties ( Johnny Cash being one of the famous examples) drug addicts did not roam the streets with impunity as they do today. Crazy propaganda movies like Reefer Madness probably did little to curtail drug use. Crack hadn't been invented yet and drug addicts stayed behind closed doors with the lights down low.
A midday walk in the city is now an obstacle course where one has to run a gauntlet of crackheads. We've all seen them rapidly shuffling along doing their crack-walk. There is no need to avoid eye contact, because they will inevitably accost you. Talking on a cel phone or to another person don't matter to them, they want something. Most of these emaciated fast-talking cretins have mastered the art of subterfuge and are impervious to being told to fuck right off. I am perplexed by their obsession at wanting to know the time. Where do they need to go? Does the crackhouse have certain operating hours?
These human cockroaches wouldn't have survived the fifties. Good old fashioned cops with good old fashioned wooden billy clubs would have taken care of that. Crackhead was the sound you heard when the billy club did its thing and safe injection site is where they disposed of the bodies.
No smokes for you crackhead.
2. The Zombies.
If you happened to be airily strolling down the sidewalk while reading a book in fifties, they would have locked you up. Or maybe the local greasers would give a beat down just for being a goof. I still occasionally see this, but mainly by hippies who want to show how deep they are by reading some dumb book with an arcane title.
The Zombies are far more insidious. I am speaking of course of texting zombies. They can be seen walking everywhere, head bent down, intently staring at their I-phones with a pained expression as if their bowels were about to liquefy while furiously poking their I-phone with two thumbs. They will keep walking impervious to everything around them, they will keep walking through red lights like moths attracted to a flame. The world around them ceases to exist as they ignore verbal warnings, chest butts, forearm slams, screeching tires, loud car horns and irate drivers. Here's a text for ya: GO FK YRSLF.
Equally annoying are the hands free cel phone louts. Just as insidious as regular public cel phone conversations held at space shuttle -like decibel levels, this has the added comical effect of making the person look like they're talking to themselves and insane. Again; Fifties=lock up in the whack house.
As for the idiots blocking traffic as they try to decipher their GPS: " Hey Stoopid, git yerself a map!"
3. Dang Tourists.
There weren't any tourists in Canada in the fifties. Even Canadians didn't travel cuz there weren't any roads. ( The so-called Trans Canada highway is still a two lane bush road, but that's a whole other story). The really brave might venture to New York City thus explaining New Yorkers famous disdain of tourists.
Modern day Vancouver is overrun by tourists. Nearby ski resorts, a cruise ship terminal and proximity to Asia assure this town a year round steady flow of tourists. They usually travel in gaggles of six or more and always walk 4 or 5 abreast taking up the whole sidewalk. They gawk like a deer in headlights as they read all the signs on stores out loud. Sometimes they stand on the corner squinting at their upside down maps. Others can't seem to fathom even the simplest of transactions such as getting a cup of coffee ( although I must admit our money is pretty funny lookin').
This multilingual obstacle course is thankfully relegated to the downtown core and other tourist areas. If asked for directions, I never reveal the location of the truly cool parts of town and, if I'm in a foul mood, I will purposely give false directions.
I'll be seein' ya in Idaho, fool !
4. Where's My Damned Coffee.
Let's say you felt the urge for a cup of coffee in fifties. You would find a nearby diner, sit down and promptly be served a cup of coffee in an actual cup. Hell, the ashtray was right there on the table and you could fire up a smoke if the desire arose.
Getting a coffee at that Orwellian institution known as Starbucks (or one of its many imitators) is a convoluted and frustrating experience. The massive line ups are created by the ridiculous concoctions that have to be prepared and the strange Starbucks dialect that one is forced to learn. The stress levels continue to rise as you are forced to listen to soulless crappy music that they are trying to pass off as Jazz. The oppressive, sterile atmosphere makes your blood pressure rise as you are still waiting your turn. As you are waiting you should contemplate the fact that every single douchebag ahead of you who is ordering some sort of complex soy-based cup of puke that's not even on the menu will be paying with a debit card.
5. All Them Damned Hippies.
As I have stated many times before, there are many varieties of hippies and that unto itself could be an entire book. Most hippies are content with annoying people with drum circles in the park or really loud house parties. Others, however, have taken to the streets. Lacking any employment or sense of direction they will usually be blocking the sidewalk as you try to get by. If you yell at them they will get upset and accuse you of " harshing their mellow". They can easily be dispersed just by showing them a bar of soap.
Other hippies have a "cause" and they want everybody to know about it. They think nothing of harassing ordinary citizens going about their business. Sometimes they are young altruists volunteering ( cuz being paid would be wrong, man) for PETA or Greenpeace, but usually it's some ridiculous cause like save the one-armed Guatemalan dwarfs, CIA conspiracies pertaining to Kurt Cobain, Stop the Colonel from experimenting on chickens, Social Security for cats, stop the evil soap conspiracy, or some nonsense or other relating to pot advocacy ( it always boils down to pot with hippies).
The scariest hippies of all are the Hare Krishnas. They don't parade down the sidewalk too often, but when they do it's a terrible sight. They usually sport that pie eyed expression displayed by all cult members. I feel sorry for the poor kids that they always seem to drag along with them. You can hear them coming from quite a distance as they produce their cacophony interspersed with chants of " hare, hare !" How can one not be amused at this pathetic yet comical display that is way more entertaining than clowns.
No I don't want a free meal at your temple, hippie, and I think you missed a spot when you were trimming your sideways ponytail.
The point of convergence for every manner of dirtbag seems to be the liquor store. As I have previously explained, here in Canada most people buy booze at the government run store. Those stores attract freaks like a magnet and they set up camp right there.
You will see it all at the liquor store; garden variety bums, crackheads, bad buskers with their repertoire of the same 5 crappy songs, crusty punks with their cardboard signs begging for money and the prerequisite bedraggled dog in tow, really, really drunk people, freaks selling junk that they found in the trash on a dirty blanket and always one really drunk bum who just shoplifted a bottle of whisky and wants to sell it for five bucks.
They all have one thing in common however; they are standing between me and my booze. Now get the hell outta my way !
May your travels be safe and obstacle free.