22.4.07

Urban Taxonomy.

I received a "Guide to Downtown" in the mail yesterday from the City Center Development Agency. It makes sense -- publish an indexed listing of all your businesses, to show people just how many goods and services are available. Include a map, a dining guide, some coupons, and you've got something a customer might keep next to their phone book. It's a good idea.

However, there's one thing about it that just describes this city's problems perfectly. The businesses are all listed by category. There's one business under "Furniture", three under "Music", thirteen under "Clothing", and so on. There's also one category labelled "Miscellaneous".

Now, I can't recall the last time I looked up "Miscellaneous" in the yellow pages. Basically, I interpret that as "businesses we can't fit into any existing categories." It might mean second-hand shop, but there are four of them in their own category. So, let's take a look:

Miscellaneous

  • A Perfect Playmate
  • B.O.B. Headquarters (drug paraphernalia)
  • Foxy Ladies Escorts
  • Jeanie's Eye Candy
  • His and Hers Escort Agency
  • Mystic Encounters
  • Southern Alberta Escorts

    Hm. Yes, that certainly is a miscellaneous list. No possible connecting thread whatsoever.

    Now let's look at some of the businesses which are the only ones in their category:

  • Royal Hotel Beer Vendor: "Liquor/Wine"
  • Stream Media Inc.: "Video/Entertainment"
  • Tile Outlet 2005: "Hobby/Craft"
  • Audio Excellence: "Electronics/Computers"
  • Sahuri Hutchinson Architects Inc.: "Architects"

    You know, just like all those times you go to the mall to find an architect. Now, you might call me a skeptic, but I don't think someone seeking either hobbies or crafts are going to find them at Tile Outlet 2005.

    Oh, and here's my personal favourite:

  • Mac's Cigar Store: "Convenience Store"

    Never mind the fact that a) 70% of its floorspace is magazines, b) it's not affiliated with the "Mac's Convenience Store" franchise, c) a convenience store is, almost by definition, miscellaneous, and d) they call themselves a cigar store.

    Anyway, my point is that if they really wanted a "Miscellaneous" category, they had no shortage of options. Instead, they used the category to round up all the undesirables, and sweep them under the rug. You know, the ones that interfere with our "family values" image. The ones that are a direct result of our "gas and oil boomtown" image.

    Now, there's nothing wrong with directing an economy -- but "directing" isn't the same as "really, really hoping that ignoring that industry will make it go away."
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    Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.