War in London, Ontario: Why Students Suck—Then Leave

The following is a humour piece I wrote a while back. Please enjoy.

The first thing one notices upon entering the city of London, Ontario is not the uncannily high unemployment rate, nor the year-round beauty of the parks and grounds therein. Instead, one is made immediately aware of how much the students attending post-secondary school in London fucking suck.

The city has been destroyed by garbage cans piled with no more than the maximum 40 pounds of garbage out an entire day early, despite the schedule which is entirely clear and in no way confusing stating that garbage day is a different day every week and some weeks get skipped for seemingly no reason. People pick through the blue bins beside, filled with beer bottles and cans thrown carelessly in the recycle rather than returned for the deposit.

This beautiful, innocent and unassuming city, home to six serial killers at once in the late twentieth century, has been ravaged by these terrible, otherworldly beings that infiltrate the city under a pretense of higher education. London, Ontario has become a wasteland.

This is confined, of course, to the areas in which most students live. In the areas funded by the students, the neighbourhoods in which professors live, for example, or the university campus, the streets have a sheen akin to that of gold. The storefronts of London’s lovely downtown dubbed Richmond Row would truly sparkle if not for the puke deposited on the sidewalks outside the doors Saturday nights by students coming home from the bar at which they spent, at minimum, forty dollars of their (parents’) hard-earned money.

There are, at minimum, two days a year in which the partying worsens remarkably. In early September, students make their way out to the beer stores and LCBOs in London, spending sometimes even hundreds of dollars on alcohol for the upcoming ‘HOCO’ weekend. Even students from other schools will migrate to London for the celebration, donning purple ‘W’s to assimilate with the crowds. It has become the bane of existence for some true London residents who moved into those areas surrounding the university and were shocked at the fact that they were now living in  an area typical to those surrounding the university. The difference between London residents like students and those that are true London residents is simple. True London residents are old and do not like to have fun or see things from different perspectives. They are the ones keeping the town intact for they know they must.

This ‘having a good time’ which true London residents so often hear of but never themselves take part in, is truly destructive. This past year a student fell of a roof and needed medical assistance. The smashing of beer bottles and trash left out after homecoming when students take to the streets—those streets being Broughdale and Epworth—is inexcusable and students allowing themselves and others to get hurt in an attempt to party is nonsensical. It is even dangerous for the elderly and young to leave their houses at this time of year, unless, of course, they do not run with scissors. These parties have given true residents the perfect excuse to hate students.

“They are ugly and fat,” said one ugly and fat old man.

“Death to the students,” cried another, raising his sword high up above his head.

“I believe  that  bettering our relationship with the students is key. It is not the partying that is the problem, but the magnitude and the irresponsible drinking. It’s almost as if the partying that occurs in places like Broughdale happens in spite of us asking for it not to happen,” said one all too reasonable young woman. She was stabbed by the man with the sword shortly thereafter.

Worse still, there is a day at the very beginning of the school year where students take to the streets, more than just the two this time, and infiltrate the city of London, infesting it like hordes of cockroaches, travelling in groups no less than six for safety’s sake. This is the day of the Shining.

The first year students, those dubbed ‘froshies’ in a cult-like fashion to preserve the ancient university rituals wherein everyone has their own terrible role to play, head out to explore the streets of London, Ontario for the very first time as students. True London residents cower in their homes, afraid to go out or even open doors, lest they find foe instead of friend. For this is the time of year London’s students head out to spread joy not only amongst each other, but amongst the less fortunate: those who can’t breathe. No, not the dead, but sufferers of cystic fibrosis, a disease without a cure that causes people, even children to be unable to breathe easily. On that day, known as Shinearama, the joy is meant to be spread, too, to the permanent residents of London, so that they may help those in need and meet the incoming students. But instead, terror ensues. As students go door to door in small, sober, responsible groups with smiles and stickers plastered on their faces, residents hide behind curtains, watching the insanity unfold like the opening of a book. A terrible, terrible book. The time it would take, the thirty seconds to open the door and declare that they would not like to donate, is not worth it. Rather, London residents take the entire day to hide indoors, keeping the lights and television off to appear as if they are away from home. In this way, they are able to avoid the Shinearama crowds and the overwhelming guilt they feel at not donating their twenty-five cents in pocket change to children struggling to breathe.

And the fear doesn’t end there. Many store owners of London, Ontario work in storefronts off of Richmond Street, known for its many bars, which the students stagger drunkenly home from. Upon entering one of these stores, many of which are simply small businesses, unique in their wares and services—there are small restaurants, craft stores, pottery stores—students might notice a spectre-like presence looming behind them.  It is not in fact a ghost that is following them through the store, but the owner. The fear that a young person might steal or break things is real. Though most students, or their parents, have more than enough money to purchase anything they would wish to buy, store owners find they still must be wary when young people enter their stores. Even though students are the ones spending the most in their stores, simply because of sheer volume, store owners still feel the need to demonize them.

Students might even enter a fine dining establishment and get snapped at for waiting in line in front of a couple of thirty-year-olds simply because…they arrived before them? Or maybe it had something to do with those thirty-year-olds being selfish as fuck. Which could be, perhaps, the biggest problem in London, among residents, impermanent or otherwise. And that tidbit totally wasn’t a personal experience for someone to be bitter about over a year later. Not at all.

“I simply wish they would stop looting my stores.  Although I’ve never actually seen a student take anything, nor lost anymore inventory than is to be expected, I know they do it. They are, after all, students, and they have a reputation here in London. Because of the actions of a few, we must assume they are all alike,” said an owner of a small kitchen wares shop that doesn’t exist.

And it seems that that assumption will always exist, not because of facts or truth to back it up, but because of necessity.

“Basically,” said a political person of power in London, who exists only collectively among the political powers in London and didn’t actually say this out loud, “we need to be able to use the students as a scapegoat. If something goes wrong while we’re in power, we can turn the permanent residents, also known as the voters’, attention to the students. For example, the recently elected Mayor, Matt Brown, might make a major mistake as a new mayor. Perhaps this is to be expected as anyone getting used to a new job might be known to fuck up here and there, but even so, that will not be okay with the residents. Brown, however, will easily be able to turn to the students and shout, ‘They did it!’ Students have no need to defend themselves, though they could if the 30, 000 of them banded together, but they don’t because they only live here for four years. They are a criminalized group as a whole, and sometimes they really do cause destruction that needs to be addressed, but they are so fluid and changing that they themselves never stay here long enough to want to stand up for themselves or make a change in the city of London. So Brown can say, ‘Well, I may have sexually abused my secretary,'” she said, “‘for example, ‘but look, the students are smashing some beer bottles on Broughdale! I will be your hero baby—’ and here he might turn to that poor secretary and wink seductively before he continues, ‘ and stop them.’ And that is how politicians in the city of London can draw votes towards them in the elections of the future.”

And it seems to be that it is this kind of action that drives the students, and the money and talent, out of London immediately after graduation, which true London residents are grateful for. To have any more than the current students in school having parties on the weekend would put a true strain on the economy of the city. The high unemployment rate, one of the highest in the country, is not the root of the problem at all, nor is the fact that the graduates of a school that is considered one of the best universities in the country, if not more, are being driven away by a general dislike of their very existence by both politicians and residents who have old money and hope to bring in new money, money that could potentially boost the economy. The root problem, is that the students won’t obey police flyers—if they even read them—asking them to ‘Please don’t get too, too drunk’ and the police end up having to come out in droves to maintain the safety of the neighbourhood when it comes to these calm crowds. Never mind the rioting of Fanshawe students three years ago that could not be maintained and climaxed in an enormous fire which included exploding vehicles. Marie Blosh even called for the cancellation of Homecoming as a Ward 6 councillor candidate to get the vote. Western University has also been called upon to pay for the police presence during Homecoming, because, of course, the University and its Student Council have done nothing to prepare for these crowds. Other than providing safer events for students to attend, even those involving alcohol for the partiers, pamphlets to keep students safe and most important information on who they might be harming, including themselves. But that’s all bullshit compared to what the town has done—wait. What has the town done?

But by now, it’s a crowd mentality. One student said, “We will go out to Broughdale on Homecoming and have fun by getting plastered. It’s a tradition. It’s what I see others doing and I’m equivalent to a monkey—like, you know, see equals do.”

Another commented, “Shit happens. I’m late for the football game.”

A third said, “Oh, I just wanna do homework. Please don’t arrest me on my way to the library!”

The third was later arrested for ‘disturbing shit’. Or was it ‘the peace’? Libraries are peaceful places after all. Hey you! Don’t you fucking sneeze, asshole!

It is clear that the city of London is at war with itself. Permanent residents make the students into the perfect criminal—there for a moment and then gone, unable to defend themselves, while students are fitting easily into their roles as drunken idiots to somehow get back at the town that hates them for the four years they are there, before they leave that history behind  forever. And all the war leaves behind is a wasteland; a wasteland containing one of the richest and most beautiful campuses in Canada churning out talented grads, and one of the highest unemployment rates.

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