Column: Carnival is a privilege
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 11:02
My streetcar ride to work during Krewe du Vieux was overcrowded — not surprising. Some of my college-aged peers, however, apparently felt entitled to something better. A lesson in Carnival etiquette is necessary.
I’m speaking to the girls in neon tutus, complaining about standing when no seats were available: “I hate public transportation!” Or the group of boys in matching North Face jackets and beads, flinging insults at other passengers and humping occupied benches.
I’m speaking to the girl with sequins on her face who cut in front of me to ask the Lucky Dog man on Bourbon if he “took Discover Card,” to which he said, “No, but I love to discover!” She scoffed at his joke, eyes narrowed as if examining a piece of dirt under her fingernail. I’m sorry, but if you have glitter on your face, you’re not allowed to be mean. You look ridiculous.
See, Carnival is all about decadence, and decadence is all about dissolving moral boundaries, regardless of social class. Decadence is an unspoken contract that says it’s ok to express yourself however you wish, as long as you don’t limit the free expression of others.
By hating on public transportation, you hate on everybody who depends on public transportation to get to work. You ridicule an institution that is essential to working class livelihood and expression. By assuming you’re entitled to hot dog stands that take Discover Card, you disrespect the many businesses that are able to operate and zone themselves during Carnival because they are cash-only.
Why not just be cool? Enjoy cramped streetcars for what they are. Be open to the variety of individuals and businesses you encounter. Dress silly. Be kind, even when it’s inconvenient.
My friend Antonio Alonzo explains that, given our numerous systemic struggles, most notably the Katrina aftermath, decadence is exactly what allows us “to sustain ourselves beyond the grief.” It’s about the businessmen drinking on sidewalks alongside homeless people, the out-of-tune songs shared across cultures. Carnival is something you participate in, not something you are entitled to. In order to be fabulous, we must be fabulous together. Otherwise you’re just a jerk in a tutu.
That said, I know you don’t normally ride this streetcar; I ride it every day. But I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. I’m scooting over — maybe we can fit three on this bench, if you’re down to squeeze, because you know that a little discomfort is so worth the party. By the way, I really like your tutu.
Chacha Murdick can be reached at