Editor’s Note: This story is part of our ongoing first-person coverage of protests in Quebec against student debt, tuition hikes and Law 78, as well as actions elseware in solidarity to those causes. This post originally appeared at Outside the Circle.
Montreal, QC–I forgot to mention this in my latest blog post, in which among other things, I conjectured that the illegalista evening demos are basically a grand experiment in collective dérives, but another argument in favor of the dérive notion is the way I’ve personally been “unschooled” and/or “reschooled” through the experience of walking as contingent, random, joyful re-encounters with civic space and other people. I seem to have forgotten that traffic lights, oncoming cars, police vehicles, fancy bar or shopping districts, expensive festivals, and other assorted forms of funneling us through commodified and controlled cities exist.
Last week, I made a friend quite anxious walking, by block after block, without stopping at jaywalk after crosswalk, or various combinations thereof. She suddenly reminded me after about a half hour and multiple near misses at me (or her) getting hit by a car, bike, pedestrian, or motorcycle that it might be nice to at least pause and look both ways at that transition known as a sidewalk and then a busy street. Beyond her admonition, though, I also realize that I’ve kind forgotten about walking on sidewalks at all. It seems much more “natural” to use the much wider and more expansive streets.
All to say, it’s kind of amazing that I even noticed this stencil on an actual sidewalk, because I was not only on the sidewalk today when I glanced this “street” art but I was also trying to re-remember that I need to slow down my brisk dérive pace for traffic lights so that there’s time to for them to change from green to red and me to avoid serious bodily harm.
Still, I somehow think that what people deem as necessary common senses of civic life — such as crosswalks or cops on motorcycles — would probably become unnecessary and senseless if we started to remember more and more that our dériveshave made evening strolls feel much safer ways to inhabit the cityscape, guided by a certain social solidarity, in which, for instance, cab drivers more often than not smile and wave when delayed by the night demos, and cars more often than not stop when they simply see people in front of them, and we cross where we know we can and want to, because we’re watching each other’s backs.
Maybe this sidewalk stencil’s irony won’t even make sense if these dérives keep up for another month or two, because like me, maybe a bunch of tens of thousands of people will have forgotten to remember to follow imposed orders of how to traverse their city, and people, cars, bikes, buses, skateboards, dogs, scooters, etc., will get better and better at working it out through consensual common sense (thanks to visiting new friends from Brooklyn for reminding me of something that I’ve almost, but not completely, forgotten in over a month here: it’s pretty damned magical out there in the casseroles/illegal manifestation streets!)
- Cindy Milstein -