Winnipeg

It takes two to Scissr

Originally published in the Technology section of the Uniter (Feb 4, 2015). One week, I tasked myself with exploring how this exciting new app could change the dating scene in Winnipeg. I didn’t get very far.

A new lesbian dating app features mostly tumbleweeds

Anyone who says dating is easy and stress-free is lying to you. If it was a walk in the park, most dating and hookup apps wouldn’t exist.

Many apps are designed for straight people, with same-sex options as an afterthought. A cisgender bias – assuming that sex and gender are the same thing – is pretty clear. Mix in a dash of monosexism, and you’ve got a scene that’s still pretty awkward to navigate for queer, trans, and bi folks.

I’ve spent some time on Tinder, and it wasn’t the worst thing ever. They have a slider you can set for only men, only women or both. Whenever I’d hang out in the women-only side, I got to know the There’s no one new around you screen really well after about 5 minutes.

I was pretty excited to hear that Scissr was available in Winnipeg. It’s billed as “The Bespoken Lesbian App”, so if you’re any other shade of queer, prepare for that oh-so-common mental leap. It’s an app for ladies to meet ladies, hopefully. Let’s leave it at that, and explore the Sapphic potential at our fingertips.

The main screen greets you calmly, in sepia tones. It features the back of a woman’s head, wearing a long braid that ends in a red bow. She has her hands on her hips and is gazing off across a mountain valley, confident that across those rocky peaks, she’ll find a lady lover.

I suppose the Winnipeg equivalent would be standing on top of Garbage Hill, squinting into the wind, then giving up and dashing back into your car. That’s about as long as it’ll take you to try your luck on Scissr here.

Like Tinder, the login is processed through Facebook, with a promise that they won’t post on your behalf and inadvertently broadcast your dating life. My login was rejected due to a lack of information, and I was told I could email tech support for an invitation. When my tour was cut short, I went looking for a guide.

Sally (not her real name) has used OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and Scissr. She found the interface confusing. “It’s definitely not as user friendly as the other apps, or as clear,” Sally says.

“It doesn’t tell you where people are – just how close they are to you. Which I think is the same way Grindr works – but, there’s only 3 or 4 other people in Winnipeg on it right now (and thanks to our small city, basically I just always know how far [my friend] is from me.)”

At press time, I was still unable to log into Scissr, but I’m not sure that I’m missing much. Sally put it best: “I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a city where you could go on there and see how many people are around you.”

An app can’t expand your local dating pool – all it can do is let you know who’s out there. And any app is only as good as the people using it. So if you want to Scissr, give it a try.

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Not Sorry Bus

"Canadian bus crash"

“Canadian bus crash”

Our apologetic buses are kind of a joke. Image and text, a bus front with its route banner blank, reading simply, “SORRY”. More text, added, explaining something about Canadianness in general, politeness, deference.

That one word, sorry, has the potential to hold much deeper meaning. It can be the introduction to considering the impact of one’s actions on others, to feeling some kind of regret, to intending something better for the future. On a bus-face it’s perfunctory. It’s a pre-emptive shield against future rage. How can you be mad at me? howls a cloud of exhaust fading into the distance, I said I was sorry.

It falls out of warm lips inside buses as backpacks swing into faces, bodies wrapped in parkas squeeze together more than they all would like. It’s held out like a torch to part the crowds. Excuse me, sorry, sorry, coming through, sorry.

We speak to each other like a bus marquee. Hello. How are you. I’m good. I’m sorry. Words scroll across our faces, meaning long frozen and faded, a simple redundant sound. We mean oops, we say sorry, then we scuttle off like an empty bus.

There’s a second line not shown in this bus-borne sketch of laughable Canadiana, though, the companion to SORRY. The marquee cleans, and it reads NOT IN SERVICE, then back to SORRY, and on and on as the driver races to the beginning of the route or back to the garage for either home or dead time in the middle of an all-too-common split shift.

Maybe the second line doesn’t suit the meme-makers in its factual abruptness. It’s a sharp ending to a casual tale of apologia. I have nothing to offer you and I’m leaving, says the bus. Not the meme bus, though. Maybe the meme form wasn’t made for second lines, for nuance, for both/and.

Yesterday, as the -40 wind froze my lips, I watched a bus skate by, blaring its usual banner phrase: SORRY. But the side marquee told a different story.

In a frozen half second, a moment tinier than an ice crystal, I saw the line before the second line, before SORRY was cleared and NOT IN SERVICE took its place. Right in front of my frozen eyeballs the bus nonchalantly announced NOT SORRY, and then sped away.

Those who disregard the second line won’t care that it’s now been reclassified as third, won’t care that a middle chapter has now been etched into this mini-synopsis of Canadiana, our symbolic personality edified in photos of buses poached from news sites.

But we of the icy bus stop, of the wiggling toes and dwindling hope, we who squint into the darkness looking for that familiar constellation of lights that we recognize as warmth and mobility, we care about the new second line.

Even if it’s the most short-lived of all bus announcements, it’s the truest message I’ve ever seen transmitted from public service to public.

And so I present to you the modified mantra of the frozen, passengerless, Winnipeg Transit bus:

SORRY

NOT SORRY

NOT IN SERVICE

So much brighter

Mom was the first person to say something positive about our sudden descent into deep November.

“At least the snow is here. It’s so much brighter”.

It took me by surprise a little bit. That first coating of snow is the winter primer, the foundational layer that coats sidewalks and roads and blows in drifts, borne across roads, faces, and windshields in 70 km/h gusts and whisking itself into small mounds that will later grow into snowy mountains, that first snow that isn’t really enough snow to make the world snowy but just enough to be a pain in the ass is not usually greeted – by anyone I know, at least – with glee.

I like having the snow once it’s stuck around a bit. When I can ski on it, or the river freezes and I can skate, and when it’s frozen enough that I can just shake off my boots and not be both cold and wet. But the first snow, the acclimatizing snow, is more like a rite of passage. Boots and brushes come out. Everything moves slower, every bus is late.

There are moments of wonder with the first fluffy bright flakes, sparkling under streetlights, filling the air. Their very presence reveals the hidden vastness of the space around us, around buildings and streets and the things we take for granted as being permanent. When the air is filled with flakes, you can look up and see, really see, all of the space between and around us that is usually empty, taken for granted. It’s full. It’s impossible to ignore.

But I never noticed that it’s actually brighter when the world is filled with white. I suppose on some level I knew, but now I see the light reflected off the world shining into my window, not the same damp resolute grey light of post-fall pre-snow November. It’s colder, it’s more slippery, it’s a world that demands layers and layers of fabric heaped onto our frames, it’s more dark than light. But when it’s bright, in that short 9 hours of daylight, mom was right. It’s so much brighter.

Just follow the map

I’ve driven out to the Assiniboia Downs, the horse-racing tracks at the Western edge of town, once before, not paying much attention. So in service of tonight’s big errand, I looked it up on Google Maps and found two routes.

One was very direct, but through construction sites. The other involved dipping North then West again, and then, right at the edge of town, turning onto an unmarked road for a decent stretch.

I chose the unknown diversion. Google said it’d be faster, and it didn’t look all that complicated.

I made good time and decent enough fun, initially, driving down roads I’d never seen that were made even more mysterious by the limits of night vision. I guessed that I was driving next to a railroad track as I was passed by a speeding postal van that looked like it might topple over as it hugged the turns.

I found the rollicking truck route, the highway that marks the edge of town, and snuck through like a silent whisper, guiding the Echo through a majestic underpass I’d never even noticed before.

The next step was the unmarked road. Was that it, right after the Perimeter, to the left? It looked pretty unmarked and, well, road-like. And everything else ahead was pitch black and gravel.

There was a gate and a tiny shack where in regular horse-racing business hours some poor soul likely shivered away, granting admission to the stables or whatever those bold shadows were. The gate was up, there was no one there, and some lights shining boldly in the distance. My destination, maybe? I passed through the gate unceremoniously.

Every 20 feet or so, signs warned me to yield to horses. Peering over the wheel at the road, I wondered, was I following a road or a horse-trail? Or both? It was maze-like, and I kept expecting to run into a dead end, so I didn’t rush my steed, this tiny silver vehicle creeping along hesitantly.

I carefully followed that filament of road connecting a network of spaces marked by a subtle gradient of darkness, buildings whose purposes were cloaked by night.

Approaching the track, I came to a T-shaped intersection. If I turned left, in about 25 feet I’d be driving on the race track. Looking ahead, it seemed like the most direct route but I hesitated. Google’s given odd directions before, but a racetrack segment? That seemed a bit much. To the right, it looked like more stables and possibly fence, but a dead end also meant turning around to go onto the racetrack. I couldn’t lose.

I was slightly disappointed when the road/path climbed a steepish embankment, turned a corner, and landed me right at my destination. I glanced over at the track, a smooth loop, cleared of snow, bathed in floodlights.

It would have been an honest mistake, turning left onto the track. Sure I found my way, but almost wish I’d gotten just a little bit more lost instead.