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Entries in Statistics Canada (1)


No Loitering


A bursting, screaming hot summer day and cycling through the parking lot of a nearby church some minor matters of intrigue and confundity caught my attention.


The first thing was a shrub adorned with so many crimson roses it seemed an almost impossible miracle for a single bush to be so laden with blooms. I stooped and inhaled the dusty perfume because it's always a good thing to pause, every so often, to smell the roses, even on a scorching hot day in a church parking lot. Life is short so why not appreciate even the humblest of bounties that come our way?


And the second thing that caught my eye as I cut, on bicycle, across the lot of the local house of worship, was that honkin' surly sign next to the church door which read, and I quoteth: "No Skateboards. No Scooters. No Roller-blades. No Loitering."


Something like scales fell from my eyes as I glanced around for the church bouncer, whom I expected to descend at any moment. And I caught myself reflecting on the churlishness of this high institution, from which low trespassers might have expected forgiveness rather than venom.


A bleeding deacon


It had to be a bleeding deacon from the parish council - a lawyer no doubt - who pressed a meek little clergyperson to erect such a warning. And the purpose, one must suppose, would be to render the church legally harmless from liability should a fun-lover tumble while jumping the concrete abutment or snag themselves in the effervescent bloom of the amped-up rosebush as they merrily gas and gambol cross church property at high speed wobble. In fact I almost fell off my bike as I drew in the existential effect of both the rosebush and the warning sign. Had I fallen, Lord knows, I would have instructed my lawyer to immediately commence litigation.


Because, let's face it, the church oozes money. Or it used to be solid when people actually hung out there. But today only about one in five people can be bothered with the place, according to Statistics Canada. The legion of churchgoers is evaporating almost as quickly as newspaper subscribers. They flee, they flee! And from a church with such a sour puss attitude – is it any wonder?


Entrance to the Garden 14 x 11We too sped away to consult the Good Book, hoping to find some theological authority on which a church could conceive such a malignant message and direct it toward those who for too long linger nearby.


We first tried without success to find the passage where Abraham ties his ass to a tree and then walks twelve miles.


It can be said with certainty, and let this be a Revelation to you, that the word "fun" does not appear in the Holy Bible. Not once. Nor does the word scooter show up in that book, according to Young's Analytical Concordance. Skateboard isn't there either. But when you try roller-blade, bingo! You get rolleth and blade combined. The legalist result, from the Book of Judges, is a whole lotta shakin' going on: "And the haft also went in after the blade and the fat closed upon the blade so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out." Let me tell you I have spent some time allowing my imagination just to wander here and there over that particular Biblical imagery. And then: "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." (Proverbs)


Church therefore be warned.


But the precedent for getting down on loafers and malingerers, boarders and people such as snooker and pinball players is well established. "And going out about five o'clock he found others loitering, and he asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long, doing nothing?'" (Matthew 20:6)

Pretending to practice witchcraft


In our contemporary 21st Century Canada, loitering is a summary offence under Sec. 175 of the Criminal Code. It is there along with other summary offences such as assisting a deserter, engaging in a prize fight, possession of a weapon in public, impersonating a peace officer, disorderly conduct, public nudity, disturbing religious worship, trespassing at night, pretending to practice witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, and undertaking to tell fortunes. The maximum penalty for a summary conviction is six months in jail, a fine of $5,000, or both.

Everyone is hurting


It goes without saying - though we are about to say it - that the price for hanging around in the wrong place can be even more grave. Last week two chimps at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden in South Africa attacked a researcher as he stood in a "no go" zone between caged areas. Apparently the chimps felt their turf was threatened. Officials said the victim broke the rules by ignoring a warning and going through the first of two fences that separate humans from the chimps. (One might have thought more, or less, separated us – but that is another issue.)


In their defence the monkeys were messed up, from broken homes. The parents of one of the miscreants, Nikki, had been killed for their meat. Further, Nikki's former owners in Liberia shaved his body, dressed him in clothes, and taught him to eat at a table using cutlery.


"Everyone at Chimp Eden is hurting," said an official who noted the chimps had been isolated since the attack, although they were calm and were exhibiting remorse, all of which I trust you will find as hard to believe as I.


But then again, in an age when the local church comes out vituperously against good-natured fun and against those who would loiter to sniff the roses, nothing should surprise us. The message today is all retail: a warning sign is no protection against a malicious act of nature or calamitous Act of God – you still need decent liability insurance.


(Top Image: Arturo Lashed to a Tree 12 x 16 watercolours)