Riga’s RMS bus company announced this Thursday that couples could pay their bus fare on Valentines Day in the a currency of a kiss.
At first glance, this seems like a charming idea, something to brighten up this time of year amid the slush and darkness of a Baltic February.
Yet the provision of couples getting a free ride depends on the couples in question being heterosexual.
This is problematic. The provision makes us wonder if we are living in 1916 rather than 2016 — or the Soviet Union rather than the European Union. Certainly, this provision changes an initially charming idea into something that is far more discriminatory and Procrustean than anything particularly romantic.
This newspaper believes that in this day and age, a policy that promotes this type of exclusion should be scolded and scoffed at rather than implemented. People love who they love, and as anyone who has been in love knows, it is never a conscious decision, but a realisation.
By favouring some couples over others, it is sending a message of condescension that goes against the true spirit of Valentine’s Day. Of course, it can be argued that there is very little spirit of Valentine’s Day left beyond the profiteering of card makers, flower sellers and restaurateurs. But this newspaper believes there is still such a spirt, and it involves a celebration of love.
As the Dutch Ambassador to Latvia tweeted to The Baltic Times: “All kisses should do.”
But in a way, even that is slightly unfair on those who have no one to kiss on Valentine’s Day. As one of our Facebook comments pointed out, couples kissing for their bus fare is manifestly unfair to singletons. another sign of couple’s smugness on a day that already is all about them. It could even be quite upsetting for those who have lost loved ones recently, or are even just newly single, or who have never been in a relationship. They could well find themselves sadly looking on at happy couples, who not only have the joy of being together, but are also getting a free ride.
More than that, it is a somewhat odd thing to do in a public bus this part of the world. Latvians, like the Estonians, and the Lithuanians — and the Finns for that matter — are generally quite reserved when it comes to public displays of affection. Showing such intimacy in front of a bus driver in return for a free ride would be an awkward and clumsy form of currenty at best, and rather cringe worthy viewing for the other passengers.
This newspaper supported Latvia's introduction of the euro in 2014, and however bad things get with Greece, it is still a good currency — and brings less embarrassment and controversy as a form of payment for buses in the Latvian capital. We suggest that whatever the day, sticking to money is probably the safest bet. Or, perhaps a quixotic idea: just make the buses free for everyone on Valentine’s Day, whether or not they kiss people, just as a way of RMS showing its true love to its passengers.
We live in hope.
But while we wait, The Baltic Times wishes everyone, irrespective of sexual preference or relationship status, a very Happy Valentines.
Editor@baltictimes.com - all replies and letters to the editor most welcome.