I attended the Gay Pride Parade. The parade itself was fabulous, well worth attending – two hours of fun and entertainment from the bizarre to the extreme. However, my fellow spectators drew my almost undivided attention.
Not sure what time the parade would start I followed the steady flow of people on foot down Nelson Street. Once on Denman I found myself to be amongst a wall of people from every walk of life, young and old; male and female. The curbs along Denman had been well staked out ~ obviously by much more organized persons than me. Pretending to be looking for friends I skirted in and out of the crowd looking for a vantage point to view the parade without having to crane my neck. Ah ha I say to myself – a perfect view of the street behind a man in a wheelchair, his baby safely in a stroller beside him and his wife standing guard over both. My short stature limits me as to who I can stand behind since most times all I see are the back of someone’s neck.
Staking my ground
Sidling up behind the wheelchair I stake my ground, feet firmly planted, I look around pretending that my stop was casual, just in case I was invading on someone’s territory. As I look down the street to see if the parade is coming our way I start to become aware of the “mom” who had been bending over her child in the carriage. She obviously didn’t like a stranger getting too close to her little family as she side stepped in my direction and her body pushed against me letting me know I was invading. Feet firmly planted I swayed with the jolt. Looking at the area surrounding her I realized she had a foot of space on each side of her, including the back and front. How much room does one person need, I wondered? When her elbow caught my side I knew this was a battle I did not want to fight.
I know when I am not welcome. Time to move on.
Turning around towards the area I had just come from, my eyes checked out the curbs along both side of the street looking for any spare space I could quickly slip into. The crowd had thickened in the few moments I had taken to walk towards the beach area, giving me some concern. But I am a resourceful kind of person and diligently kept scanning the crowd. Spotting a woman in a wheel char with a fairly large space in front of her I sidled up to her and very politely asked if I could sit in front of her. Before she could think of a reason to say no I was seated down and for all intents and purposes was here to stay.
The woman on my right kept her head turned away from me, not wanting to make any contact at all. Did she wonder if I was a kook and she would be contaminated by talking to me? A person wonders these kinds of things sometimes. I looked to my left and found a family with a mom, dad, and grandparents, a boy of 15 or 16 and a young girl around 9. I was safe. No weirdo’s. A person has to think of these types of things I figured since I was attending a Gay Pride Parade in Vancouver’s West End. Not having attended one before I wasn’t sure what I would encounter firstly in the crowd and secondly the parade itself. The people around me, while not talking to me looked perfectly safe so I took my sweater off, folded it in a square and placed it under my bottom relieving the hardness of the cement sidewalk. I looked across the street at the people opposite to me sitting in the direct sun, thinking to myself that they hadn’t planned that very well had they, actually feeling a little smug.
Pushed, kicked and stepped on and I was still laughing!
The next two hours were a mixture of delight, frustration, humour and disgust as I was pushed, kicked, and stepped on by the family on my left. They thought nothing of jumping over each other in eagerness to receive the free handouts from the parade participants, knocking the basket of the wheelchair behind me. The grandfather obviously thought it was his god given right to procure at least one of everything and preferably 3 or 4.
He pushed his way off the sidewalk placing himself in front of each entertainer with his hand out grabbing from them, the beads, t-shirts, suckers and even paper advertisements that he obviously would never read. One of the parade marshals requested at least three times that he step back but he just ignored them. He even followed one of the cars, reaching into the trunk helping himself to the prizes. Gutsy I thought. I was having a hard time even putting my hand up in request for the goodies and here was this little old man practically becoming one of the float people in order to get the good stuff given away.
I was making friends!
One positive note on this exchange was that the woman on my right started responding to me as I commented on the antics of the people on my left. I suggested that if the old woman in her excitement to get some goodies, hit the wheelchair one more time I might possibly consider tripping her. This brought about a chuckle, both of us knowing I would probably never do it. But the thought made us feel better. The little girl gathered up her prizes and made a large pile on the street beside me, not really paying attention to what she had, just grasping for everything coming her way. A beautiful rose lay on the hot pavement wilting in the afternoon sun – she had dropped it in her eagerness to reach for a piece of bubble gum given out by the next contender.
My stash of goodies was piling up
I too had my little stash of goodies, a bottle of water, bubble gum, and 2 necklaces of colourful beads around my neck, pamphlets and even a condom. Just by their attendance alone ensured most people received some of the paraphernalia that was handed out in fun by the entertainers in the parade. They eagerly did their best to spread the wealth amongst everyone.
I noted that those persons who appeared to be greedy sometimes were avoided and the small children clapping in glee from their mother’s laps more than not received the prize. What a treat! In my smug way I felt it was my right to view the parade unobtrusively since I had been lucky to have such a great spot and didn’t appreciate people standing in front of me and my neighbours since we were sitting down. Can’t they tell we are unable to see around them or over them I ask? Obviously not since one young couple stopped right in front of us to watch the large float roll past. We too would have enjoyed seeing whatever there was to see. Once again I raised my voice, ever so slightly and requested that they move elsewhere if they wished to view the floats, they were blocking our way. Understanding our dilemma they must have agreed since they continued on in their journey. Laughing, my new best friend from Kelowna on my right asked if I had noticed they had been from CTV? Nope, I said, not to worry my favourite is Global. They should have known better. Just one more piece of entertainment.
After spending 2 hours sitting on the curb enjoying the antics of everyone around me I was sorry to see that the parade was ending. Wishing my new friend on my right “a great weekend” I stood and stretched my cramped bones. Who was smart asked me as I noted that the people on the curb across the street were now in the shade and the sun had come around landing on the top of my head for the past hour. As I bent to pick up my little pile of goodies I noticed that the family who had been entertaining me on my left were leaving and were not picking up the mess they had created.
You forgot your newspapers!
Without any thought I raised my voice and stated ” You forgot your newspapers, did you not want to pick them up?” They looked at me in confusion, the woman in particular glanced down at the newspapers spread out over a 4 foot area, a seating arrangement they had created to keep their clothes clean. The children skipped away in their own little world. I heard someone behind me comment “they made a big enough deal in obtaining the newspapers; the least they can do is clean it up”. Meanwhile, the grandpa grabbed the woman’s arm and pulled her in his direction. The papers, pamphlets, empty water bottles, candy wrappers and even the beautiful wilted rose were left forgotten for someone else to clean up. Hours later when asked how I enjoyed the parade my first thought was of the spectators and not the parade itself. The parade was fun but the crowd was more noticeable. What a shame.
Carol Ann Quibell is an author, freelance writer and columnist who has been RVing or camping for most of her life. After a yearlong trip throughout Canada, the USA and Mexico in the 1990’s she was hooked on travel and is determined not to stop. She loves to share information with fellow RVers and promotes travelling, camping and RVing to everyone she can.