(Published initially in the Ottawa Citizen 29 June 2010, and later in The Vancouver Sun, The National Post, The Calgary Herald, The Regina Leader Post, and of course, The Stratford-Beacon-Herald )
Sunday, the 20th of June 2010, Judy and I plus another couple visited Stratford for the afternoon performance of a Shakespearean play, "The Tempest" starring Christopher Plummer. The play was spectacular, but our pre-show picnic in the park adjacent to the theatre had some drama.
We sat at a riverside picnic table, surrounded by others, mostly seniors, plus scads of ducks and swans. My friend had just opened an ice cold bottle of wine to go with our gourmet lunch, when a police car pulled up and out got a "Barney Fife" (Andy Griffiths TV Show) clone, double parking his police car so it effectively blocked traffic. He swaggered over to us and defiantly announced that we were committing a crime and could get a $125 ticket for having open booze. I said I couldn't believe the municipality could be so ridiculous and he replied it was an Ontario law that has existed for a hundred years! I replied that it was still stupid and outdated, and in any case clearly aimed at wild beach parties, not sedate seniors enjoying a Sunday picnic in a quiet park. About this time my wife gave me that look, and I shut up. In any case, just to demonstrate his authority, he allowed us to re-cork the newly opened wine (which was consumed later anyway - out of plastic tumblers).
He strutted off to his next victims at a near-by table, where three middle aged ladies were quietly sipping their glasses of wine. He made them dump their wine out onto the grass. I almost rushed over and said he should arrest himself for causing the blatant destruction of urban resources (grass) as well as causing a block-long traffic back up, but bit my tongue instead.
Even if such an outdated bylaw exists, did this moron or his superiors not understand there should be discretion in its application? Regardless, in hindsight we had a good laugh at his pomposity, and enjoyed the remainder of our lunch and, after of course, the wonderful play!
PS: On 30 June I received a telephone message from a reporter on the Stratford-Beacon-Herald newspaper to please give him a call. I did and we had a pleasant chat about the incident. He evidently had talked with the Stratford police chief who adamantly supported his officer's actions. I indicated my distaste for outdated laws that didn't allow some discretion concerning their application such as in our case. Also, I mentioned all the similar situations where alcohol drinks are allowed (restaurant patios, sporting events, festivals, etc.) Of course, the police officer training program and subsequent patrol instructions should cover this though I think this officer was just trying to demonstrate his authority to bolster his inferiority complex!!!
Regardless, the following quote from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist still applies in our present day vignette: