Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bus Stopped

Disclaimer: in no way am I saying that the people who live, work, make sexy times and raise families in the following places are bad people. I am credulous of their eyesight, but the residents of these places are, I'm sure, fine people with some sort of mass ocular disorder that prevents them from seeing the truth.

Which is: Kitchener is a total dump.

Oh, there are lovely pockets of the town. Whatever this is happens to be kind of pretty, in a what's-your-point sort of way. But vast stretches of the landscape are both really unattractive and vaguely offensive, as though the municipal government has thrown its hands in the air and said, "The hell with it, we're moving to Cambridge."

Take, for example, the bus station. It's totally groady, with the filthiest escalator I've ever seen. Think it's weird that I noticed a dirty escalator? This thing is disgusting. The whole building gives me the heeby-jeebies. Bus stations, as a rule, aren't known for their glorious architecture, but Kitchener's seems disreputable; if the building was a person, it would be seedily hanging around on a corner, trying to sell you watches from the lining of its coat. It's ingrained right down to its commuter bar ("Transfers," natch) and the fact that you have to buy Greyhound tickets on the platforms, as in not with the standard issue ticket-counter set up that is, you know, official looking. They keep the tickets in one of those Thermos lunch bags, as though the tickets need some sort of heat engineering. The whole thing seems unorthodox, and possibly illegal.

Taking the bus through Kitchener is one of those OMG-what-is-this-place deals. All the restaurants located in strip malls; the entire city seems to be housed in car dealerships. If aliens landed in beautiful downtown Kitchener, they would assume that humanity is powered, not by the sun, but by painful fluoresent tubes and pad thai. Across the street from the bus station, there is a tattoo parlour - nay, a former tattoo parlour, since it appaears to have gone out of business some time ago - named "Stray Katz." That's terrible.

This type of endemic ugliness isn't native to Kitchener's soil. It infects all kinds of small cities - Kitchener, along with Saskatoon and Burnaby, is home to about 200,000 people - especially places with an impverished downtown core and seeping sprawl along the outer rim. The downtown kind of looks like one of those "flea markets" that sell Confederate-flag bandanas and bootleg DVDs, and the sprawl is filled with big-box stores and Galactus-sized movie theatres.

I'm not demanding that Kitchener suddenly thrust a fat wad of cash into its downtown. It could start small - like the bus station, which is the pits, and unfortunately one of the transit hubs (and therefor public faces) of the city. Maybe small cities need to be more aware of their zoning outlook. Sure, Costco et al brings jobs into the area...but what kind of jobs? Low-paying, vest-wearing jobs that people need to drive to. It's kind of a losing situation all around.

Anyway, I'm just venting. I'll continue to travel through Kitchener, since it's a spoke on my wheel o' travel. I just wish the time spent there was just a little prettier to see.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Procrastination Is A...Wait For It....

End-of-term anxiety is a tough monster to beat. I, of course, am a total procrastinator, and as such, consistently ruin my own life every four months. I think this is one of the curses of the smart kids - I was going to be modest, but at this late hour, why bother? - because we're told for a number of years that we're awesome. And then we get farted out into a university system that doesn't care about our awesome sparkly specialness. It's demoralizing. I'm demoralized. I'm bummed.

In high school, at least your teachers talk to each other. This can be a drag for that one kid who started a garbage can fire in the first week of grade nine, and is now branded (probably not unreasonably) "a troublemaker." For the rest of us non-pyromaniacal peeps, however, the interteacher convos can be kind of nice: teachers know what's up. In university, I've had to go, sick as a dog, to a bunch of classes to explain why my feverish flush is not the result of some hot-for-teacher crush but a medically terrible day. Or explain that, since I've just returned from a funeral, my mind had wandered off the upcoming assignment. Things like that - things that make me feel like a jerk who's somehow let them down.

Even more frustrating is the sense that, since I'm paying gobsmacking amounts of cash to be there, the more prickly teachers are such pricks. I've had debates about whether or not post-secondary should be free. As a current student, and one who is interested in not graduating with an assload of debt, I'm firmly on the "yup" side of that debate. Making it free would also sort of justify the jerkiness of the system as a whole: at least when I'm peeved about a lousy mark that I worked for, at least I'm not also annoyed that said lousy mark cost me a couple hundred bucks to earn.

To be fair, most of my lousy marks don't come from some stray teacher holding a bullet with my name on it; they're a result of my deeply ingrained tendency to procrastinate. I'm not lazy (well, I'm not really lazy), but I am a perfectionist. I tend to rationalize my procrastination by saying, "Well, if I had really put in the effort, I'd have done a bang-up job...but this is good enough, since I did all my work for the term in seven hours. Now, let's all drink a beer." It's not so good for the soul. Or, actually, the liver. But I would say mostly the soul.

Even if I know why I procrastinate, it doesn't make it any easier to stop doing it. I resent when people tell me to man up and get to work, because that's about as effective as commanding my hair to stop growing. It's just a part of who am I. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a system that allows me to thrive with the procrastination/perfectionism dyad that wrecks me so hard...especially since all my I'm-smart confidence goes right out the window once I'm deeply into a late, sure-to-be-horrible project.

Fortunately, as the song suggests, big wheels keep on turning (turnin'!), and this Proud Mary keeps on burning (burnin'!), and the second hand keeps making its sweeps. What I'm trying to say is that time heals all procrastination wounds, since the work either gets done by the due date or it...doesn't. It usually does, and while I'm not averse to handing things in late, I like to at least offset the chance of bad lazy-work grades by getting the suckers in on time.

Still. It's hard on the soul. Not to mention the distressing trend in some of my classes to base marks on things like attendance and vocabulary terms instead of things like essays and comprehension. Because comprehension doesn't need me to actually go and spend three hours in an uncomfortable chair, listening to the deranging clickettes of a hundred laptops being typed on. I rarely write essays that are truly terrible, and I resent being told that I have to sit still and listen in order to avoid doing so in the future. Procrastination, I see you. What I need is some anticrastination. Do they make that?