It is amazing how good books will always relate back to life.
A few weeks ago I discovered that audio books could be downloaded off of the Calgary Public Library website. The selection was fairly good, though there were few books I actually recognized. One title I recognized was Fahrenheit 451. I knew the premise was that in the future the government burns books (451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns).
It is an incredibly well written book that seems as though it has predicted the future. I now see what the book discusses all around me. Either it is a society that doesn’t care about the issues that surrounds it. Or things being made with no solid foundation in reality (“flowers growing on flowers, not in soil”).
Our situation is not as dire as that predicted by the book, but I would guess we are about half of the way there.
With all of the ideas generated by this book floating around my head, and about one hundred hours of free thinking time available while working at the Stampede, I think I actually got the ideas of this book drilled into my mind and forced into my subconscious where they will probably stay for a long time.
Before I go into anymore details surrounding the above ideas, I should give a light hearted look at my job at the Stampede.
I worked in the penning area of the infield at the Stampede. It is located directly behind the infield stands. This is where they keep all of the animals that are used in the rodeo. People pass by the pens while parking their cars, or when travelling to the barns. In comparison to all other areas of the Stampede it is very, very quiet. My job pretty much boiled down to keeping the animals and humans in the area safe. No climbing! No smoking! No crawling under the fences! No sticking your arms through the bars!
Most of the issues of safety where rectified by the fact that most people aren’t stupid or even interested in doing the above things suggest. And once I got the area some no smoking signs, smoking was almost eliminated.
So truthfully, my job actually boiled down to not dying. There was pretty much no shade in the area, and I was there for 11 hours a day. So I drank lots and lots of water.
My coworker was a nice retired guy who knew the job well, was nice and good humoured. My supervisor Martin didn’t actually supervise us, since we didn’t need it and he really couldn’t do it if he wanted to. The whole group of security people in the infield and at stamped in general are very diverse.
Coreen – She seemed to always have coupons for free things.
Norman – Retired water quality expert
James - Retire tax resource officer (the federal government actually does collected taxes from criminals)
Bill - Retired junior high school teacher. There was not one minute that went by he wasn’t making a joke. (Joking with people is a good way to get them to do what you want when in security)
Rachel and Claire? - Teenagers on a trip from the UK who are slowly making there way across north America to New York.
Doug – Retired Twentieth Century Fox script delivery guy
Andrew – Always talking about stocks
Mathieu – From winnepeg
Kumar – Failed civil engineer, turn activist of everything and night watch guy.
Christopher – Parking attendant, read all the Harry Potters while at stampede in preparation for big day.
Tyler – Parking attendant, brought a water gun on the last day
There were lots more I haven't even discussed.
Alright, I think that sums up pretty much what the job was like. All in all, it was pretty good, though I don’t think I want to do it next year.
Back to how this relates to Fahrenheit 451.
I never actually saw any of the rodeo. For 10 days I was behind it listening to the announcers. What I realized was that in the context of Fahrenheit 451, the rodeo wasn’t real. It is empty. Flowers growing on flowers. It just shouts at you and you can’t shout back.
My little realm at the back was real. According to one of the characters in the book I had the three things that are necessary to really fill life up. First I had “quality”. Over the 10 days walking a back and forth I noticed millions of little things about the place. I know what the garbage, animals and hay smelled like. I watched the weather slowly change all day. I saw clouds move around the sky. I saw birds come around at the same time every day. I know what it feels like to walk all day and sit down for 10 seconds only to have to get back up. I know how even the smallest little bit of a smile can get somebody to smile right back.
Secondly I had leisure. I had all the time in the world to think. Sometimes the only people I would really see for hours on end were the parking attendants and James. Our radio was even quiet for most of the time.
Thirdly and finally, I had the freedom to make a decision. One day Martin asked if I wanted to change posts to watch the rodeo for a day. I had a vague desire to watch the rodeo, however I knew that I could decide to stay in my reality in the back. I decided to stay in the back, somehow it felt as though that is what my artistic integrity wanted me to do.
I had driven the ideas of the book into me.
And then reality decided to bang the lesson in itself. On the 9th day during the 7th heat of the chuck wagon races, there was a crash. A big crowd of people are all streaming towards the accident. Horse a still running. A woman is crying in anguish. The big black tarps come out. An out rider is screaming threats and profanity at Kelly Sutherland. A driver is not moving at all on the track, lying on his face, body twisted. I thought he was dead.
And I am security…
Our little crew barely knows what to do.
We do our best do keep the crowds back.
It is all cleaned up after a little while.
I realize that from the perspective of the Grandstand, it was just tiny colored specks moving around. It wasn’t real, it was a show. But to everybody who was right there on the field, it was real.
Two horse where killed. And the driver will have 6-8 months of recovery time. That is all it took for the point to really hit home.
Note on the pictures. You might notice how these pictures seem to reflect how I saw stampede from a perspective that is a lot different than everybody else.