Saturday, July 26, 2008

Easier Inebriation

See, while here in the US, if a city has a problem with drunks in public, they usually deal with the drunks. Oh, but that's the US. See, over there in the UK in Cardiff (that's in the UK), they decided that they should deal with the public instead. Literally. That's why the scientists there have come up with the notion that redesigning the streets to make them more "user friendly" for the drunks would be a good step toward reducing the conflict and violence. Wait. What?

Apparently, they used some computer simulations to recreate the movements of people who were staggering home after a night on the town. (They could have saved themselves all that trouble and just followed Amy Winehouse around for a few hours.) And when they looked at the results of the simulations they were shocked, just shocked, to find out that drunk people trip over things! Imagine!

So then, being the good little scientists that they were, decided they needed some hand on information and went out into the streets to find real drunks and analyze real behavior by giving breathalyzer tests to people who appeared intoxicated. They found that 25% of the individuals were so drunk that they couldn't walk straight. (Otherwise known as Wednesday in my world.) Then it starts to get weird.

According to the article from those good chaps over there at The Metro, "Simulations were then run showing crowds in various states of inebriation trying to pass through a narrow alleyway to three different destinations." Why are crowds of drunk people all going through an alley? Why are crowds of drunk people only going to THREE different locations? Are these locations BARS? I don't understand. At all. It continues confusing me when it says, "When a fifth of the people were staggering, progress was reduced by 9%, while a whole crowd of drunks led to a 38% reduction in movement." OK, so if you have one in five people drunk, you're going to slow things up 9%, but if you have a whole gaggle of drunks, then you're going to slow things up 38%. Well, if you do the math (and I know you don't, so I will), that gaggle of drunks is adapting better to their situation than the 1 in 5, because if all 5 of the 5 were drunk, you'd slow things up 45%. So I guess I'm supposed to come to the conclusion that if I'm going to get drunk and walk home through an alleyway, I should make sure that everyone around me is plastered also? Notice taken. Will do!

Now, it may surprise you that what the scientists concluded from all of this was not what I concluded from all of this. I concluded that people that are drunk experience the natural consequences of being drunk. Things take longer to do. You get lost. You fall down. You fall down and decide that would be a great place to spend the night. All natural consequences. But that's just me. And I'm no scientist. But those who ARE scientists concluded that because the drunks are so much slower at doing things (you know, because they're drunk) that they irritate those who are not drunk and, therefore, are the targets of violence. Wait. What?

I guess in the UK, if you have a slow moving drunk in front of you going through that alleyway, you just whack him and then step over the groaning, writhing body that just fell to the ground. (One quick blow to the kneecaps is all it takes!) Violence toward drunks. Interesting concept, but so what? Well, now that they've identified the problem, it must be fixed! "We must fix it so that the drunks are not so slow! And when I say "not so slow" I mean to make it so that it's easier for them to get around. You know, like relocating benches and other things they might trip over or become confused about how to navigate around." Wait. What?

Correct. According to The Metro,"The researchers plan to investigate how moving street obstacles or increasing pedestrianisation might ease congestion around nightspot." So they want to move things that could get in the way of someone who is unable to walk around the thing. How does that make sense? You're going to try to de-obstacle-ize your city so it's easier to walk through without bumping into anything?? Are you kidding me? Wow. And I thought the US pandered to the chronically inebriated.

The article also says that the scientists "hope to come up with street designs that direct late-night revellers safely home to their beds instead of into the path of trouble." Now how in the hell are they going to do that? I am envisioning many, many directional arrows all over town reading similarly to, 'Bill - Home Is This Way" "Jane - Home Is This Way" "Fred - If You See This Sign, Turn Around! Home Is The Other Way!" "Susan - Drunk Again? Keep Going, You're Not Home Yet." "Tom -Watch Out For That Curb!" Oh, what could possibly go wrong?

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that this idea might be a little bit off center. The Metro folks went with the headline, "Boffins to redesign streets for drunks." Since I am so not British, I had to look up what a "boffin" was. And I learned that a boffin is a scientist or an engineer or someone who engages in technical and/or scientific research. A boffin is usually portrayed as someone who displays both eccentric genius and a naive ineptitude in social situations or with social interactions. Ah. Thus, the headline, "Boffins To Redesign Streets For Drunks." And another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

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