Picture this, Internet. You’re sitting atop a breezy, glorious hill, the sun is setting, lights are flickering on to greet the night shadows, and meteors are probably threatening the very existence of our planet (in a good way). Friendly chatter surrounds you, and the evening promises some species of madness. But ultimately, something is missing from this quotidian pleasure. You look at your empty hand and realize that where nothingness is, a tasty alcoholic beverage should be.
Unfortunately, if your grassy knoll happens to exist somewhere in the United States, parts of Canada, and other sections of western countries (never been anywhere but the American and European continents, unfortunately), this beautiful glass of drunken nectar is prohibited. Open carry laws vary from country to country, the United States being notorious for splitting apart spaces into where you are allowed to drink and where holding a bottle of microbrew while lounging on a park bench can get your knees reversed by a miffed law man and his trusty justice stick.
I lived in Spain for some time, and public drinking laws were far more relaxed, although some regions had stricter police than others. I’ve witnessed police folks clear out plazas and parks of the supposed riff raff, but I’ve still not been as confused as when I’ve seen an entire house party arrested because one officer happened to spot a kid enjoying booze next to an adjacent mailbox (“they must be doing the pot over there!”).
Attitudes toward drinking, and the consumption of other intoxicants (you know, like marijuana, which should totally be a public event), in open spaces should change, especially in places where it’s a simply put, stern-faced “no-no.” I’d wager that the problem with it is that public intoxication supposedly leads to street madness and violent riots, but I haven’t seen a single mass of chilled out park or plaza drinkers ever be anything but docile and really into that off-key version of “Wonderwall” being played on a janky guitar. The issue is akin to the drinking age disaster; learning earlier is mentally healthier for the individual (I’m not saying a teenager should get hammered and wake up in a Dominoes kitchen), and being in a public place where the sole purpose of the area is not to fall into a sloshed stupor is healthy for social behavior.
Let’s do a thought experiment, shall we?
Imagine first a crowded bar with strict carding laws, a weirdly early curfew, and far too many people. All those people have been waiting to get in for a while, a sports thing is doing stuff on the big screen, and a tacit rage bubbles up around the populace desperate to be drunk before the last call bell jangles. Once that jingle sounds through the musty air, all fun will die and the evening will be over forever. Someone says, “fuck you, Brad!” and all bedlam breaks loose, the rush to guzzle shots and extremely expensive cocktails coming to a swift head. The party volcano has exploded, and someone is pregnant several days into the future, while Brad will probably never be able to dance on both feet again.
Now imagine a Tuesday, just any old Tuesday. It’s been a rough day and you need to sit down in the park for a few moments before everything starts up and shit gets real. A vender skips by with beers and you purchase one. Jerry from Human Resources sits down next to you, pulls out a small glass pipe, giggles something about the perfect sativa/indica blend, and puffs away. You sip your beer (let’s say it’s a pilsner from Ohio) and talk about projections for next quarter, maybe even pulling out that sandwich that you’ve been thinking about since 11 am. Later, after work, you join your workmates at a bar in your neighborhood that’s placed a few tables on the street, but none of them fenced in. The evening air mingles with the oaken scent of the well-priced bottle of wine. A slight bit tipsy, you drift home and then the world continues on, no one separating fun and responsibility/maturity so starkly as to create the undercurrent of anarchic angst that inevitably evolves from seven or eight too many regulations.
Obviously, the second is a utopian fantasy, but not outside the realm of possibility. If “the party,” as Brad, and the mystical Jerry, would call it, extended past surveilled walls, relaxation could set in, and there wouldn’t be a very easy excuse to identify criminality where merriment could be instead. I mean, if the same folks that make the laws really wanted control, they’d just do away with stigma entirely and citizens would be merry, drunken, stoned robots with no necessity to overthrow anything. Turn it into an app, and you’ve got total world dominance!