06 July 2007

Skanky Calgary

Reining it in

Column -- As Calgary's 10-day, booze-fuelled Stampede bash kicks off today, the mantra quietly embraced by corporate Calgary to "drink triple, see double and think single" is coming under increasing scrutiny. Along with being a salute to Western cowboy heritage, the Calgary Stampede has blossomed into a business networking free-for-all involving scores of parties where liquor and morals flow freely. The party has become such a unique part of cash-loaded Calgary's fabric that employers tend to look the other way as entire departments leave at mid-day for a romp at the bars, show up hungover after a night of two-stepping, or even start the day off drinking tequila at one of the notorious breakfast booze-ups. The result is that divorce-law firms are in big demand after the Stampede ends and, moreover, it's common knowledge that sexual assault reports spike during the festival. But some believe the corporate revelry is getting out of hand, highjacking the event and promoting behaviour that puts employees in awkward situations.

A marker of the emerging discomfort is the recent workshop organized for the first time by the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, a Calgary-based group that promotes ethics in business and government. In the session for corporate executives to draw attention to the deterioration in Stampede behaviour, the foundation highlighted true scenarios where employees were pressured into situations that would not have been acceptable or could have resulted in legal ramifications outside of Stampede. They ranged from a rookie engineer at an oil company who was encouraged by his employer to attend a client's party where waitresses were topless, to an articling law student who was humiliated and embarrassed when encouraged to try a "booby shot" in which she had to drink from a glass placed between a waitress's breasts. "If you think your fate in this firm or company is tied to whether you accept an invitation or how you behave at an event, we're into something that is a lot more serious than what people would choose to do in their own time," said Janet Keeping, president of the foundation. The event attracted only 25 people - a measure of Calgarians' reluctance to be seen as party poopers. Officially, companies promote good behaviour. Petro-Canada sponsors Family Day at the Stampede Grounds to encourage family values, while EnCana expects its employees to abide by its code of conduct. "Sure, everybody knows that in a festival atmosphere, behaviours become festive," said EnCana spokesman Alan Boras. "We have guidelines with respect to behavioural matters and codes of conduct that are ongoing and have been in place for a long time. There is nothing seasonal about them."
(National Post 070706)

Has the 'Stampede excuse' gone too far? Now that the Stampede's started, everyone seems to now use the Stampede for an excuse for everything from hangovers to improper behavior. I don't really know if a workshop is necessary -- can't people just act and behave and consume with a bit of restraint and foresight, diplomacy and ambassadorship? Maybe that's asking too much. I think things have gotten so bad with the Stampede that for some, it's their annual excuse to throw their morals out the window and act like a complete idiot for ten days. Some even anticipate and plan for it to be their chance to act like a loose retard. Now it's almost expected behavior. Ridiculous.

Like any other city that has a huge, money-making annual event (think: New Orlean's Mardi Gras), there is always a large chunk of the indigenous population that prefers and desires to not be part of the action. Trying to get around the city on a daily basis is difficult enough with the increased numbers and traffic, nevermind having to deal with drunken sods that have no time for reasonable social discourse. I think it really reflects on the civility of the city, for which I think Calgary is sorely lacking these days. The boom and the money mean more than the community. The Stampede's reputation is now downright skanky. That's why as the years pass, I try to spend less and less time in Calgary during Stampede week. Been there, done that, tired, admittedly a bit embarrassed, and moving on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ugh... so true. Every restaurant patio I have been to in the last 2 weeks before stampede was filled with large groups of loud, boorish, obnoxious, profanity-spewing drunks. I'm talking restaurant patios here, not bar patios. Am I just getting older and less tolerant of this stuff, or is it now considered ok to be a total asshole in public, including yelling profanities at the restaurant staff? Dennis