Civ­i­liza­tion stinks: Or how I spent my sum­mer va­ca­tion

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial - Thom Barker

Civ­i­liza­tion stinks.

I mean that in the sense.

As soon as I got out­side the air­port in Ot­tawa, the air as­saulted my vomeronasal or­gan with the om­nipresent odour of mo­tor ve­hi­cle ex­haust min­gled with faint notes of garbage and the col­lec­tive melange of a mil­lion hu­man bod­ies.

In Toronto, I had the du­bi­ous plea­sure of rid­ing the sub­way, at rush hour no less, packed shoul­der-to-shoul­der into a metal box with the equiv­a­lent of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of the town in which I now live.

My nose, or rather my brain, was over­whelmed with the lit­eral sharp mix­ture of scent: a hun­dred flavours of body odour, along with the per­sonal prod­ucts in­tended to mask it; stale to­bacco smoke; cof­fee breath; lin­ger­ing lunch selec­tions of curry, bar­be­cue sauce, blue cheese; and, of course, farts (there’s al­ways one in ev­ery crowd).

I quickly got used to it, of course, for which I can thank sen­sory adap­ta­tion. Al­though per­haps not fully un­der­stood, the pre­vail­ing the­ory is we are ini­tially hy­per-sen­si­tive to new smells (or those re­vis­ited af­ter an ex­tended hia­tus), but once iden­ti­fied as non-threat­en­ing, our “ol­fac­tory sen­sory neurons also adapt to the repet­i­tive odor­ant stim­uli by re­duc­ing their rate of fir­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the web­site how­it­works­daily.com.

“There­fore we per­ceive the smell to be fad­ing, al­low­ing us to adapt to our en­vi­ron­ment and per­ceive new smells.” Hal­lelu­jah.

As a side note, it ap­pears the process only ap­plies to im­mi­nent per­ceived threat, other­wise we would not be­come in­ured to, for ex­am­ple, ve­hi­cle ex­haust, which has proven longterm car­cino­genic risks.

Sen­sory adap­ta­tion also ap­plies to noise. Did I men­tion the ca­coph­ony of civ­i­liza­tion that pounded my ear drums for the first cou­ple of days, but quickly be­came an al­most im­per­cep­ti­ble hum?

In fact, I know peo­ple for whom the con­stant thrum punc­tu­ated by sirens and bells and crashes, is com­fort­ing. It is the rhythm of the life to which we be­come ac­cus­tomed.

Civ­i­liza­tion stinks, it’s true, and noisy, but I love it just the same. I grew up in big cities, de­voured all they had to of­fer, cui­sine, cul­ture, sports.

On this trip, I hit all my favourite culi­nary high­lights, Le­banese, Chi­nese, In­dian, Viet­namese, Thai, Ital­ian and Mon­treal-style bagels.

I took in a cricket match on the grounds of the Gover­norGen­eral’s res­i­dence where peo­ple have been play­ing cricket since 1872. The place ex­udes his­tory.

I at­tended a Blue Jays game at the Sky Dome, which was a bit of a dud, a pitcher’s duel (not the ex­cit­ing kind) through the 12th in­ning be­fore the home team choked in the top of the 13th.

But just be­ing in the ball park on a clear, warm evening with old friends hav­ing a hot dog and a bag of peanuts singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with 25,000 of my new clos­est pals, made it well worth the price of ad­mis­sion. And now I can at least say I saw Aaron Judge hit a home run early in what is sure to be an il­lus­tri­ous ma­jor league ca­reer. I also pe­rused a won­der­ful spe­cial exhibit at the ex­quis­ite Na­tional Gallery of im­pres­sion­ist paint­ings and, while I was at it, vis­ited all my old favourites in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

Most im­por­tantly, I got to hang out with my fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly my par­ents.

It was a won­der­ful va­ca­tion. But as great as it was to visit, it was re­ally nice to get home, to breathe in the un­tainted air, to be en­gulfed by the si­lence.

It was not that long ago I could not have lived out here on the edge of the world, but when I went on va­ca­tion, I would usu­ally try to get away from civ­i­liza­tion to the wilder­ness.

Now, it ap­pears, the ta­ble has turned, I live in the wilder­ness and get away to civ­i­liza­tion.

I can’t see my­self go­ing back, at least not per­ma­nently or in the short to medium term.

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