Society’s Measure: Its Public Seating

Sit1The measure of a society should the simplest one: how it treats its foot-borne citizens.

When I lived in Hong Kong a decade ago I remember the continual battle with security guards — Toytown Police, I’d call them — in the mall where my office was. There were precious few places to sit to have lunch, even outside the building, and they would try to get me to move from even the most harmless of spots. I’d usually end up haranguing the poor old boys and throw my pickle at them.

The same callous attitude to pedestrians could be found at Times Square in Causeway Bay, an open, public space popular as a meeting spot . A sort of compromise was reached a few years ago, where, instead of having to move folk from their perches on a low, sloping kerb the owners put in frames that are a cross between a chair and a stool. As you can see, they’re designed to be as uncomfortable as possible so no one stays there too long, although this guy’s found a position he could be occupying for a while.

It’s shameful that what pretends to be a public place (‘Times Square’, for crying out loud!) is so designed as to make it nothing of the sort. But it’s also a measure of the society behind it: You’re welcome here if you keep moving, keep buying stuff. Just don’t get too comfortable.