Thursday, July 28, 2005

New Pet Peeve: or, Fuck Metro

You're walking to work in the downtown core, thinking about the day ahead, enjoying the summer weather, which seems finally to have arrived to stay. A crosswalk is ahead, the red hand flashing. You're used to dodging homeless people, junkies, and panhandlers as you make your way to work; after awhile, living in the city, you've struck a balance you can live with between being compassionate and having firm boundaries, and they've sort of faded into the background, as a sort of unavoidable urban noise. At the corner, though, as you approach, is a brand new nuisance, awaiting you: a smiling person in a green smock is thrusting a free newspaper at you. You've looked at the newspaper; it is decidedly short on news. There are lots of pictures, mostly of the beautiful, famous, and well-dressed, and tiny, barely-meaningful blurbs for stories -- the print equivalent of soundbites; significant events of the day reduced to an eye-catching (some would say crass) headline and a tiny paragraph, given equal space with Brad Pitt's recent hospitalization or Britney Spears' need to diet. All are sort of jumbled together in no apparent order, and subordinated to the shining happy icons of success that smile from each picture. It's pure crap culture, not even as respectible as a tabloid, and you loathe pretty much everything these newspapers stand for: the obsession with celebrity, the trivialization and commodification of experience, the diminishment of the language, and the ascendancy of the short attention span; but more than that, you resent that the vendors (two or three at every busy interesection, usually, during peak hours) are thrusting the paper at you as if they're offering you something. Dodging these smiling, well-groomed flunkies with their "free paper" extended is worse than having to dodge homeless people; at least the homeless need the money that they're begging you for. The publishers of Metro certainly don't; their papers are just an excuse for advertising, an attempt to make money under the pretext of giving; all they hope to do by handing the papers out is create a niche for their paper, which no one really needs, so that they can guarantee future advertising revenue for themselves. The concern for the reader is as slight as the concern for the events of the world that the paper pretends to deal with: the Metro website -- which is entirely skewed towards potential advertisers -- describes their audience as a "demographic group (which doesn't typically read) daily newspapers but is most attractive for advertisers." They boast, like they're proud of their achievements, that "Metro is therefore not only delivering a new generation of newspaper readers but also the ‘premium TV audience’ that advertisers so prize. Metro is a prime time ambient media that reflects modern people’s busy lives and capitalizes on the downtime commute in the morning to deliver a unique global audience."

Prime Time ambient media? Does someone have a submachine gun I can borrow?

To drop the second person artifice, I can't express with sufficient disgust how I feel when these people stick their advertisement-vehicle in my face. Metro, alas, has an international reach -- Vancouver is merely the newest city they've extended their operations to. They're producing crap that no one needs, and thrusting at us at every fucking corner. We don't need them; no one does; they should go learn how to make money by doing something useful. The vendors don't even appear to be particularly poor; if at least they were homeless, Metro wouldn't have created a whole new class of people to dodge on the way to work...

A suggestion to anyone who might read this -- unless you genuinely feel that Metro is adding to your life (which is hard for me to imagine), ignore this paper when it's thrust at you. Give an icy look to the vendor and walk on by. There'll be copies lying around the office when you get there, if you need them (they might actually be useful for starting fires or as a last-ditch substitute for toilet paper, in an emergency). Don't encourage these people; if no one takes their crappy rag, they'll eventually give up and leave Vancouver.

Alas, I expect they're here to stay...

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