The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

PATIO FURNITURE AND THE GREAT WHITE NORTH: There are no patio furniture retailers in the Yukon Territory. That’s right, not one. Nor are there any patio furniture retailers in the Northwestern Territories, and one of the many things the Inuit aren’t into in Nunavut is patio furniture; even if they wanted some there’s no place to get any. You could argue, I suppose, that the dearth of patio furniture retailers in these areas of Canada simply reflects the architectural and climatological realities of these regions. Patio furniture, as we have known it since Leonardo da Vinci’s invention of the patio as a way of evading his income taxes in 1502, is basically a summer phenomenon, and no sooner has the Inuit wife nagged her husband into getting the patio furniture out of the garage, where the dogs have spent all winter crapping on it, and cleaning the whole set off than it is time to put the furniture back into the garage for the winter. This is enough to put many an Inuit male off the whole concept of patio furniture, as does the general lack of patios in that neck of the tundra. It is difficult at best to put a proper patio on an igloo, since the kids will usually use it as a hockey rink just when you are trying to entertain your guests with that absolutely hilarious story about how your vacation in the warm sunshine of Yellowknife almost turned into a complete disaster when Grandma fell off the sled and wound up in a polar bear.

This odd refusal to tap the market for patio furniture in Canada’s northernmost regions repeats itself in other areas as well. A detailed study of the Canadian Yellow Pages reveals that there are next to no retailers selling patio furniture in the Maritime Provinces or in Saskatchewan, and that Manitoba can barely hold its own; Manitobans who want patio furniture have to buy it online and pay prohibitive sales and VAT taxes for the privilege of sitting out on their patios and watching the sun set in Saskatchewan. Even Quebec and British Columbia, which are no slouches when it comes to the mass use and abuse of innocent patios, find their appetites pale before Ontario’s incessant demand for patio furniture. It was not always thus, of course; once upon a time proud Ontarians would hesitate to bring up the subject of patio furniture in mixed company, lest it shock their guests and lead the uninformed to mistake them for Newfoundlanders, or worse, Americans. This old prejudice has apparently gone the way of all flesh, however, as Ontarians today apparently have no qualms about hogging all the patio furniture for themselves and leaving none for Nunavut.

Defenders of this clearly abhorrent discriminatory practice will, no doubt, bring up such irrelevancies as the population difference between Ontario and Nunavut. Ontario is a fairly large place, as places go, stretching along the border with the United States from New York in the east to Minnesota in the west, and has a population of several millions of people. Nunavut is also a fairly large place, of course, but its population consists largely of caribou, which, despite the best efforts of environmentalists everywhere, have not demonstrated any convincing need for patio furniture at any time during their evolutionary history. However, this simple explanation fails one crucial test; having explained away the lack of patio furniture retailers due to lack of population, with the concomitant lack of demand, the proponent of this theory must then explain why there are no fewer than two patio furniture retailers just across the border in Alaska. There are just as many Inuit in Alaska as there are in Canada, and a wide selection of other aboriginal Americans as well, plus an equally large population of caribou, and yet there are two stores catering to the Native American /First Nation/ Politically Correct Euphemism for Eskimos and American Indians of your choice in Alaska and none in Nunavut, the Yukon, or the Northwestern Territories. Clearly, the population excuse cannot be the truth.

We must assume, I think, that human nature is the same everywhere, despite the many cultural differences that separate us, except for the area around Fenway Park, the inhabitants thereof being a race of mutants, and that if the Inuit of Alaska crave patio furniture enough to support two establishments dedicated to its sale, then the Inuit of the Canadian North share this craving just as much as their fellows across the border, but that the Canadian government is, for reasons of its own, thwarting their desire to buy some. It is difficult at best for any mind not completely taken in by the habitual doubletalk of politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa to understand why the government loathes either patio furniture or the Inuit so much that they would take active steps to keep the inhabitants of the country’s northern regions from getting a nice set of six chairs and maybe a couple of tables for their patios.

Sociologists who have carefully studied the behavior of bureaucrats in situations where questions of life and death are totally irrelevant to the issue at hand have pointed out in study after study that bureaucrats will do almost anything in their power to adversely effect a nation’s seating habits, often for the sheer pleasure of doing so. In Paraguay, for example, under the long dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, it was illegal for any chair produced in a Paraguayan chair factory not to have a large wooden knob placed squarely in the middle of the seat, the ostensible reason being that the knob would compel people to sit up straight, thereby promoting good posture and therefore good citizenship, and would prevent a nationwide outbreak of hemorrhoids, which Stroessner saw as deeply unpatriotic, if not actually communistic. Stroessner and his secret police did not tolerate communists or piles in Paraguay and so neither officially existed anywhere in the country, although The New York Times did publish a secret Interpol report on the subject in 1981 that pointed out that the traffic in Preparation H and the collected works of Karl Marx in the capital, Asuncion, dwarfed the cocaine trade and the always popular Lufthansa Paraguay uber alles tours by a factor of almost five to one.

Canada is a parliamentary democracy, of course, a proud bearer of the British tradition of the rule of law, and not some tin horn—pot—other metallic implement South American dictatorship, and so cannot arbitrarily order Canadian merchants not to sell patio furniture to the Inuit citizens of the country, and yet that appears to be exactly what’s happened here. There does not seem to be any rationale for this ban, no thirty year study by leading Canadian medical authorities that suggests that rattan, wicker, or, in a pinch, molded fiberglass, furniture causes appendectomal cancer in laboratory rats and related indigenous populations and as a consequence the government ought to keep the stuff off the Northern markets. What there does seem to be is a surfeit of Canadian bureaucrats who think watching Inuit sitting on blocks of ice is more than a little funny, especially when they jump up and start whacking themselves on the backside after they’ve been sitting on the ice for too long. I’m sure this sort of thing is very funny, in its own sad sick way, particularly if you don’t get cable and the satellite dish never seems to work the way the salesman said it would, and it seems to me that Canadian bureaucrats must not have much to do, if thinking of new ways for Inuit to look silly is all they have to do with their time.


  • At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Daftladybird said…

    As always, I've enjoyed your post. However, if I may make a correction to the name of one of our territories; it is called The Northwest Territories, not Northwestern Territories. Thank you!


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