By Lindsay Bell
Those of you who know me, know I enjoy the odd tipple (not this early in the morning, mind you!).
You might also know I live in the slightly blue collar east end area of Toronto.
Directly to the north are million dollar homes on a gorgeous ravine. To the south, million dollar homes on the beach.
Where I live? Not so much.
But I love my little hood. It has everything you could need: Two subway stops, schools, 24-hour grocery and pharmacy, a fantastic dog park, hardware stores, restaurants, and doctor’s offices. And, my local.
My local is my local because it’s local. Like, ‘I can see it from my back deck’ local. Yes, that’s equal parts awesome and dangerous, but it provides my neighborhood with a sense of community – a ‘place’ – where everybody knows your name. (Note from Gini: “Local” means local bar, for those of you who don’t speak Lindsay.)
I got to thinking about the odd little microcosm that is my local, and how easily we can get isolated by our comfort zones – both online and off.
Scammers and Spammers
Just like the online world, my local is full of a few sketchy characters. I mean, really sketchy. I know people who would never set foot in the place. But as a veteran ‘people watcher’ (and a Maritimer!), I love it.
Whether I’m engaging with new people on Twitter and Facebook, or striking up a conversation on a patio, it’s up to me to be on the ball, eyes open, radar up when it comes to the scammers and spammers I might encounter. Life experience and a finely tuned gut instinct rarely fail me, online or off. And I would hate to miss out on the fabulous because of fear.
Community and Connections
The Interwebs have enriched my life in ways I would never have imagined. And that I still can’t quite explain to my parents. I’ve embarked on a new career, and have made an astonishing number of incredible connections online. There’s a core handful who would help me out in a heartbeat. That’s called community.
And while there are only a handful of people at my local who actually know where I live, during the past 10 years or so, I’ve also made deep connections there (heck, that’s where I met my husband!).
When you think about it, no one’s more community-minded than a guy who’s been working these streets for 40 years. Trust is a huge commodity in any community, online or off. Maybe more so in a sketchy dive bar. As I always tell people, I would rather have the shady guy on my side, than against me.
Musicians and Mobsters
Speaking of characters, what’s so interesting about social is you ‘meet’ people you would never meet otherwise. I chat regularly with industry big wigs, small business owners, bloggers, journalists, developers, and CEOs. I’m friends with people from Australia, Chile, Norway, France, the United States north and south, and all parts of Canada. My local, as a similar social petri dish, is not so different.
I’ve met artists, musicians, and filmmakers, construction workers and accountants, creative directors and chefs, veterans, and more than a few of the aforementioned shady characters. All of these people live in my neighborhood, but there’s a slim chance I would have met them if I hadn’t popped in for a pint.
People and Perspective
Whether it’s social media or my local saloon, it’s that unique mix of people, from every level of society and walk of life, that keeps me coming back, and has forced me out of my own personal comfort zones. Every day (more so this summer it seems) I hear incredible stories of success and solitude, horror and heartache, life and love, remorse and redemption. The bottom line is this: Every single person I meet, slightly sketchy or super successful, changes me in some way, shape, or form.
So, the next time you’re walking past that slightly run-down diner, or that bar that always seems to be just a little too dark, pop in for a bit. You just might meet some interesting characters and hear a great story or two.