Nowhere To Go Drinking

With most every job I've ever worked, there wasn't really a culture of going out after work for a round at the local down the street. Doubly so now that I work remotely. At one previous job, there were occasional lunch outings to a Chinese place up the road, but the suburban-industrial-park environment we were in didn't have a handy local watering hole for us to repair to. Most of us didn't drink anyway; it wasn't that kind of work environment. But drinking per se has little to do with it.

In fact, drinking almost never has anything to do with it. It's all about having a place to sit around and feel like a person among other people, with the alcohol a way to make the job a little easier. What mattered most was being able to do it spontaneously — to just round up a bunch of people and say, "Let's go out when we're done," and not have that imposed upon you as part of some synthetic bonding ritual created by the circle you were in.

Some of why I didn't do this much in my old workplace was, I think, just my own reticence. I didn't open up easily to people back then, and when I was done with the day's work I didn't want to do much of anything but scurry back home and take care of things there. And now that I work from home and only rarely see coworkers in the flesh, I realize all the more what a missed opportunity that constituted.

What society does not really afford us is a place to just go and socialize without having to buy anything on top of it, or without imposing restrictions that tends to push its focus away from socialization. John Holt once talked about this in one of his books — we need some social environment that's not a pub, not a restaurant, not a bookstore, not even a library (which fits many of the criteria but is still reserved for specific tasks), not even a park (so that way you're not at the mercy of the elements), but some place where people can just gather freely and for free, alone or in groups, talk, share something, come and go as they please, and feel no pressure to do anything or spend any money, no corporate sponsorship hanging over one's heads, no advertising, no foofaraw.

The assault on public spaces in general has made it all the harder to conceive of, let alone execute, something like this. Maybe people figure it would only invite homeless people to camp out perpetually, which tells me the idea itself is not what's unsound, it's that our handling of poverty is so untenable that open-ended public spaces in general become unworkable by association. But all the same, I come back to this idea often. It feels like a missed opportunity.

Tags: public spaces  society  sociology 

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2019/01/04 08:00.

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