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Walk on wild side a worthy outing

Okay, we cheated. We had a nap Saturday afternoon. We had to if we were to hang out with the masses downtown when the bars closed at 2 a.m.
I am not proud of this nap. Why, in my day . . . oh, never mind, that was then, this was Guelph on a Saturday night a few decades past my prime.
If there’s a standard to be set, though, the ever-jovial police chief Bryan Larkin set the bar pretty high. He ran the 5K in the morning, was party to routine patrols in the south end busting keg parties and other liquor offences during the day, and was present at closing time in the core.
Oh yeah, there was a bomb threat at the University of Guelph sandwiched between an otherwise normal Homecoming Weekend.
We reminded ourselves, the chief is but a pup.
• • •
Yes, it’s true. At about 1 a.m. we waded downtown. The lineup for taxis was peaceful, no doubt helped by brawn keeping people in line. When we left – yes, it’s true, at around 2:25 a.m. – it was equally orderly. The new taxi system appears to be working, although there were yahoos after closing time weaving their way up Gordon Street dangerously trying to flag down taxis or any other kind of ride that might pick them up.
• • •
Speaking of transportation, it was fascinating to see the efficiency with which Guelph Transit loaded up busloads of young people and shipped them off to the University Centre after the bars closed. Downtown party-goers were packed in buses like sardines. Bus after bus carted off the young revellers under the stern watch and direction of city bylaw officers.
It was as if the young’uns knew the drill and acted accordingly.
• • •
Keeping watch was Ward 1 councillor Bob Bell. Ward 1 colleague Jim Furfaro was out earlier but had left  (perhaps he didn’t have a nap?)
Bell marvelled at transit’s efficiency and how shutting down a couple of downtown streets, peppered with lots of police, made the area peaceable, almost appealing. We agreed that most of the young people downtown were  happy-go-lucky and respectful.
Dressed properly for a cool fall night? That’s another matter for another day.
Bell’s peeve, which should be ours, too, is the cost of having 24 coppers wandering downtown, and eight bylaw control officers. All of this is on the taxpayer’s dime. This does not include the city garbage patrol that works throughout the night, nor a more thorough scrubbing the morning after.
• • •
Downtown restaurants enjoy boffo business during these wee hours. Some establishments have lineups almost as long as some bars.
If there was a downside, styrofoam food containers littered the core and routes to revellers’ respective homes.
• • •
We saw little violence this night, although a couple of fights were gurgling below the surface. Brawls didn’t break out, likely because the constabulary seemed to be everywhere.
There was one jacked-up dude, though, who kept banging himself along a wall in fits of anger. An elbow jab smashed a Cornerstone restaurant window. Still steamed, he rounded the corner only to be apprehended and charged by police.
It doesn’t get more efficient than that.
• • •
We were unsure how closing off Macdonell and Cork streets would work. We were also uncertain as to the reasons for having cars towed from those streets between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Seeing it first-hand, the plan is elegant in its simplicity. Wide-open streets with no cars means police can see you and vice versa.
There’s no hiding if you are ready to rumble or are up to no good.
Also, despite the huge volume of people, it didn’t feel like it milling about Saturday night.  This was because there was lots of room to move.
• • •
All in all, it was well worth staying up well past our bed times.
I felt a tad tired Sunday morning when I got up. I took consolation in the fact, though, that I didn’t wake up like some poor sots, hung over in the hoosegow facing a public intoxication charge.

cclark@guelphtribune.ca

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