The Sarnia Mindset – Part 2 (Lots of Time)

Part 1 – Lots of Stuff
Part 3 – Just Get me to 65
Part 4 – Escaping the Difference

You don’t have to live in Sarnia long enough to know that there isn’t a whole lot to do. After you eat fries under the bridge, and then take a look at the beach (and if you’re lucky it will be summer and you can go for a swim) you are pretty much out of options. So what do we all do? Well normally, a lot of us got in trouble a lot. We would throw water balloons, do pranks, drive fast or sing songs on street corners; and that was just for us youth group types. Anyone else basically partied; and they partied hard. Booze, drugs, sex…you know the drill, it was all part of the regular lifestyle of most Sarnia teenagers, young adults and funny enough most adults. If you live in Sarnia you are probably connected to someone in the high school years who has died or been severely injured because of drinking related accidents, I know quite a few myself, probably around ten of them total in the last few years.

Basically a huge negative for Sarnia is that people have a lot of time and not a lot to do. It might be why festivals are big hits in Sarnia. Bayfest brings in over forty thousand usually every summer (this year with Aerosmith and Def Leopard), then we have Riverfest and Ribfest and Art Walk and Gospel by the Bay (haha, yes that’s right) and the list never ends. It keeps people occupied on the weekend and in controlled drinking environments.

A good majority of the people I knew from high school are still doing the same thing as they did in high school. Work something meaningless during the day and work towards the weekend. You will have a hard time hanging out with people if you aren’t a big drinker, because most activities usually include getting smashed and then doing anything next on the list. I think we have just resorted to drinking because really there is not a lot to do, and that is our creative response; not a whole lot to do looks a lot more exciting with a buzz.

At the same time, (I think this is true for probably ever city) work comes first. We’d rather work overtime then spend time with our family. We’d rather work 40 hours a week then spend 20 of those hours doing something we love. We love to work, because we love our stuff. We love to work because we love living in our nice comfy houses. We love to work because well, work means success and we love to be successful. We have lots of time here in Sarnia, (we are on the same 24 hour clock as everyone else for you Americans), yet I find that we spend it funny (as do I most cities). Working seems to occupy most of it, and then the time that we do get off we spend on the bottle or at some party. Now I realize that parties are great because of the social environments, and so maybe I’m wrong and these parties are just people building relationships. I’d like to hope I’m wrong, but I fear I’m not, I’ve been to these parties, and most relationships are built on talking about the last time there was a great party.

So here in Sarnia, we live to work and work to party and gather stuff. We’re not off to a great start. Maybe we should all just sit back a little and question where our time goes. Do we really need to work as much as we do? Do we really need to spend as much time as we do somehow pursuing more and more money? Do we really need more money so we can have more things or so we have enough to retire? What else could we do with our time? If we took 10-15 hours a week that we should be working and put it towards something else, what would that be? Do we even know? What are we working towards? Retirement? Could there be something that we work towards? Is financial stability our goal? What does that even look like or does it change every five years? Or maybe out partying our last party is the goal? Where does that leave us?

A lot of questions I’m left with when I think about how us Sarnians use our time. A lot of questions I’m left with when I think about how we don’t use our time. Hopefully I can come against this, but the pressure is on.

9 thoughts on “The Sarnia Mindset – Part 2 (Lots of Time)”

  1. The best thing to do in Sarnia is go under the bridge and eat fries from that chip truck that is there. But I suppose after a few trips there weekly you would get tired of bridges and friends.

  2. Nathan-

    Definitely something that needs to be looked into; I’ve enjoyed your thoughts so far (even if I am inclined to agree that your two points apply to north american culture in general than our little slice of heaven called sarnia).

    Not to push you in any directions, but here are the questions I have been thinking over while reading your post:

    – if sarnia is shrinking in population, why have we been able to support a walmart that is three-times the size it was when it first arrived 10 years ago? If materialism is the final word, why have other stores been closing in sarnia? (the failed downtown core, Eaton centre, Sobey)

    – it doesn’t go far enough to just state that there is nothing to do in sarnia: why is there nothing to do in sarnia? better yet, why is what there is to do at such a low cultural level? (I am pretty sure that def leopard being the event of year for a town is one of the signs of the apocalypse)

    – does the claim that people like to work long hours because hours=money=stuff really get to the base issues? Is there a more organic answer, possibly having something to do with the valley (or what is left of it) being sarnia’s main industry?

    Anyways, keeping pressing on this. Definitely something that needs more thought.

    S-Dot for life- Dan

  3. Nathan. It’s Def Leppard. not Deff Leopard. Maybe you should start looking for the positive things that go on within that negative perspective of yours. Sarnia has been an awesome place for me to live and I have so much to be thankful for. Throughout the years my family has been envolved in lots of different activities other than drinking.Waterskiing , boating , snow skiing, Christmas parades, Art Festivals, antique cars,I could go on and on with the stuff that we did without alchohol in our lives. I’m sure I’m not the only one who could. You might be interested to know that the drummer for Def Leppard has only 1 arm. Now thats cool, I wouldn’t consider that a waste of time to see. How someone overcame great loss. I might even have a couple of scotches while I watch.

  4. I agree with you. As someone who was born and raised in the city, it’s always surprised me how much shit kids from small towns get into. When I was a teen, I used to spend all kinds of time with my cousin who lived in a small town and there I get into more trouble with my cousin and his friends than my whole lifetime growing up in Toronto. It was because there was nothing else to do. In Toronto there were things to do all the time, even for 16 year olds. Plus it helped that my parents were much better off than most families.

    But yet I have to agree with Ron, I think your analysis of the situation is too simplistic. There are mutiple reasons why people buy homes, fill them with stuff and work the 9 to 5, the least of them certianly isn’t the fact that they have kids. Personally, I have no interest whatsoever in being a missionary. None. I’m not the enterprizing type and I never will be. One of the reasons is that I know that I want a family, a huge one. Even if I have to go work at a meat-packing plant someplace so that I can provide for my kids I’m willing to do it because of my family (which doesn’t yet exist). For myself and those like me, it is therefore nessessary to get a house and buy stuff. Having children is a good thing, I think you’d both agree. But someone with a pile of kids is tied down in a way that none of us are at the moment.
    This is just one of the many factors that Nate hasn’t taken into account.

  5. Dan,

    Your post astounds me and makes me laugh. You asked why if Sarnia is shrinking does the Walmart keep expanding. And why, if materialism is growing, are the downtown businesses going out of business. I’m surprised you didn’t figure this out yourself but if you switch it around you’ve got the answer to both questions and you are actually proving Nathan’s point quite well. Walmart getting bigger is a product of materialism becoming the final word. You don’t need a population growth for sales to go up. Because people are now conditioned to the fucking marketing campaign that states that you can “buy more, save more” or “buy more, spend less”, they shop at Walmart. It’s this whole idiotic mindset that no matter what the product or what goes on behind the scenes, the price is the bottom line. The cheaper it is, the more you can buy and the more “money you save”. This has driven hourly wages down, quality of product down, and most of all, people’s intelligence down as they now rely on a simple three or four digit number to influence their buying habits rather than an educated eye at a product. I could go on forever (and will). Which is also why quite a few of the downtown stores have closed down. It’s getting harder and harder to be an innovative small business person because as soon as you establish a market for a good quality, micro produced product (ie – turned a want into a need), companies like Walmart (or Starbucks) who are too chicken shit to create an original idea; take it, mass produce it, and add it to their shelves for brain dead, consumeristic,whores-for-bottom-dollar-marketing, SARNIA People to go and spend their last few pennies just so they can have one more thing to add to their collection. My life partner (Steph) works at a local health food store and has her Masters degree (soon to be PhD) in holistic nutrition. People will come to her, rape her of the information that she has paid a lot of money for, and even after showing them that her store does sell the products that she is suggesting, will go to Walmart to buy them. (A close friend even told her that they did that). Why doesn’t Walmart employ someone of her caliber? Because it would cost too fucking much. As you can tell this mindset pisses me off. Think of this. The less money you spend on something, the more you will indulge in it. Say it’s two cans of peanut butter for $3…you will most likely go through them a lot faster because you have a back up one rather than attempting to stretch it out longer. Also, when a product claims to “save you money”, what do you do with that money you have saved? YOU SPEND IT ON SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO “SAVE MONEY” ON!! You don’t put that money away in the bank to save it. And so the cycle continues…..the more you “save”, the more you can justify buying. And this is what I loathe about Sarnia People!

    God Bless!

  6. pffft sarnia sucks coming from london and moving here yahh mabe we should consider making it more interesting like that will ever happen it makes me sick to see people who are proud of sarnias little accomplishments

  7. Do you think that Sarnia is different than most other places of the same size in Ontario or Canada or North America? What you describe is striking across the continent.

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