Some days when I ride I have a destination in mind. Other days I need some randomness and so playing with the Randonaut app is a fun diversion. As I’ve mentioned before, the idea is that you tell a quantum computer to find a random location within a certain distance of you. At the same time that it is searching, you are meant to focus on an idea you’d like to be a theme for the destination. Some believe that your thoughts help manifest the outcome at the destination, I prefer to think that it’s perception bias and therefore you will find what you’re looking for. Either way you end up with an interesting ride, usually to somewhere you’ve never been and often somewhere you might never think to go – a spot in the woods or somewhere down a quiet residential street you’d never visit. Today’s ride, chosen by focusing on the word “Happiness” took me to a couple locations of the latter.
My ride takes me south toward the subway line, following the route of the bus line I would take to the subway station much of the time. Then, a kilometre or so away from the station, I was directed down a residential street and then to a “COVID-19 Quiet Street” – one of many streets deliberately calmed so that people can use them for more than quickly getting place to place – walking, cycling, ball hockey, and so on. My watch buzzes to let me know I’ve reached my first destination…
It was Pride month and many of the streetlight poles, including the one outside my destination, are wrapped in rainbow flags.
I continue onward to a second destination and all along the way I see things that make me happy. It starts with a Little Free Library – there are many around and they’ve been a lifesaver for readers during this time. People leave books they are done with in them and take others they want. They can be hit and miss in terms of good reading but I love the idea behind them.
A few doors down from the library I see another Pride display.
This makes me especially happy. I remember things being very different when and where I grew up. Being gay or lesbian was considered shameful, and rumours were whispered throughout the town. We never talked about any sort of diversity whether gender, sexual, or cultural. In High School, in the US state with the highest percentage of white people, in history class we patted ourselves on the back. There was slavery, and after that segregation and the civil rights movement but look at us now! Everything is perfect, right? But outside class people still told racist jokes or shared “scandalous” information that one teacher who moved away is now married to a black woman. We are still nowhere near where we should be, but at least more of us are able to talk about it, to acknowledge where change needs to happen. Most of all, I think we’re learning about our blind spots.
It’s so easy to live in our little bubbles and see things only through our own perspectives and the less outside information we get the worse off we are. I remember in 2014, when the Jian Ghomeshi scandal first broke. All of a sudden, women all around me in person and on social media started talking and saying “Oh, of course, this is not unusual. There are so many horrible men like this out there.” This completely shook my perception of things. In my mind, sexual assault was something that happened in dark alleys and was done by strangers. Sexual harassment was done by the rare bad boss or coworker. I assumed that most men’s ideas about how women should be treated was similar to my own unless they were monsters. Now I’m hearing that instead of there being 1-2 monsters around the world is filled with them. These conversations, and similar ones about race, gender, and sexuality are super important as this is the first step toward creating change. So seeing these conversations happening more and more is making me extremely happy.
My next destination is down a little residential street I’d never been down before but it’s so close to Danforth Avenue, a street I often go to that I know the surrounding area. The destination itself brings me a little happiness as the street is lined with more “Thank You” messages for front line workers. However, on the way out is something that makes me really happy to see. It is the only flag I have ever flown in public:
When 9/11 happened we lived in Southwest Missouri. Literally within hours, people were driving through the streets and around the square with huge American flags hanging off their pickup trucks. Within days there were flags available for sale everywhere. Many of them with slogans like this.
About the same time came the call to go to war, first in Afghanistan and later Iraq. Islamophobic, and later complete xenophobic language and even violence became the norm. This was the beginning of our really feeling like we didn’t belong here. It felt like everything that the people I shared the country with was doing was trying to alienate itself from the rest of the world – or at least those that didn’t look like them, pray to the same god as them and shop at the same Wal Mart as them. And so, as a response to the ubiquitous flags and ridiculous rhetoric we also started flying a flag with the planet earth outside our house.
And so, almost twenty years later I find myself riding around a city and in a time where people feel comfortable talking about who they are, and how they’d like to see the world improve for everyone – and to see someone else flying our flag outside their house as well. I am happy to be home.