tomfromhr.com a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies

16Jul/122

Tom Takes Toronto: TTC Living

For most of July, I'll be living in the city of Toronto, and sharing my impressions and thoughts under the heading Tom Takes Toronto. Click here to see the posts under this category. Though, at this time, this is the first post, so that's all you see. I realize these italicized explanations are supposed to carry over to all the posts. Oh well.

I've lived in the suburbs for most of my life. While I spent a few years in Guelph, a small college town in Ontario, the majority of my years were spent in the very picture of suburbia, Mississauga. Big box stores, huge parking lots and vast subdivisions and residential neighbourhoods were the order of the day.

I hated it.

When I was younger, and couldn't drive, I hated being tied to an unreliable transit system (not to mention, when I was very young, parents who feared I would be abducted or otherwise accosted every time I stepped on a city bus). I didn't really get how buses worked, truthfully. I still remember trying to take my first bus, and stepping back, nervously, as it swung toward me, and then watching my friend, on that bus, looking at me incredulously as the bus driver, assuming I didn't want to board, drove off.

When I passed my driver's test and was finally able to drive on my own, I was ecstatic. My parents were relatively liberal with the car (well, minivan) and so I was able to drive around a fair bit. When I moved to Guelph, the city was small enough that the majority of my world was within walking distance. The parts that weren't were accessible by a few key bus routes I learned, so that was easy.

When I moved back to Mississauga, I managed to get my own car. The freedom was exhilarating at first. To this day I still marvel at the fact that I own a car sometimes. The idea that this beautiful, wonderful machine is full of my crap, my dirt. It sounds odd, but I still find it so weird. I still think of myself as a kid, in ways, and I feel incredibly lucky to own it. Plus it is kind of a cool car. Dodge Caliber, bright red. Pretty snazzy.

However, as I started working downtown, and looking at moving into the city, it felt like an albatross around my neck. Trying to find a place with a parking space, that I could afford and was, you know, larger than a bread box, proved near impossible, unless I went so far out of the city that I practically needed the car anyway.

I started to think about giving it up. I wouldn't need it for work, I didn't think I was going to be anywhere but in the city, and public transit would be totally fine for me. 

Yeah, not so much.

Living in the city the past week or so I've been entirely reliant on public transit, more specifically the Toronto Transit Commission or TTC. Mostly, I've been pretty happy. It gets me to and from work in a reasonable time and has allowed me to stumble home after I've had a few drinks in safety.

Today, I ventured out to do some errands. I needed to drop off some dry cleaning, visit a local yoga studio and sign up for a pass, buy some coffee, and get some groceries. These places are all in relatively opposite directions, but I did the best I could to do things in some kind of organized fashion. As I stepped out, I noticed there were clouds on the horizon, but I hadn't seen any rain on the little icon on my phone, so I figured I was fine.

After the dry cleaning was dropped off and I had filled out a form for a surprisingly unfriendly yoga studio employee, I stopped at a small patio for some lunch. As I sat, it started to rain. Hard. Like, insane, monsoon, WTF-is-this-Canada-or-the-jungle hard. I was far enough back I was covered, but I figured I could wait it out. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

When it didn't clear, I eventually said "screw it" and ran for the nearest station. No worries, I figured, as I waited in the hot subway tunnel, I can get to the coffee shop via TTC. And I'm sure the rain will have cleared up by the time I get to the station I need to get to.

Nope, still pouring half an hour later.

Well, I'm sure I can take a street car to get there.

Nope, streetcar isn't running because of construction.

So I walked. I don't think I've ever been more soaked in my life, but I did it, ducking into a covered area whenever I had a moment, but by the time I reached the coffee shop I was legitimately concerned I was going to make a wet mess merely by stepping into the shop.

Thankfully, the worker did not throw me out, gave me my locally-roasted, organic, fair trade beans (I know, but they make damn good coffee) and let me sit for a while, assuring me his plastic chairs could handle my wet ass. After drying off a bit, and the rain finally letting up a bit, I decided to try and catch a street car going back to the subway on another street, so I walk down and see several street cars going the wrong direction. "At last!" I say to myself, "I've found a running street car line! I will make note of this, and wait by this sign for one coming my way." So I waited. And waited. And waited. And watched street car after street car go the wrong direction, with none in sight going the way I wanted. You know, towards that subway system that connects much of the city together. I'm sure there just aren't many people wanting to get to that subway system.

I walked it, eventually. I crammed myself into a subway car, squeezing my body as small as possible as someone sat down just a little too close to me, and tried to focus on my book (this one, which by the way, you should definitely be reading), and watch for my own subway station.

Getting back to the apartment felt like a minor victory unto itself and, to be clear, I'm not trying to pretend this is some horrible ordeal. It's not, and the fact that I can get between these areas with relative ease is a triumph of modern urban planning. Trying to do construction and run a system for a giant city on a budget is hard, I get that.

But holy crap, am I keeping my car. And, this is making me feel like, probably not living in the city. That may be my clothes, still drying from several hours ago, talking, though.

(Editor's note: This post is long, rambley and a tad unwieldy, and makes you come off a little whiney. But, it's your blog, and this "editor" is really just a device you stole from other books, namely the one you mention earlier, to hang a lampshade on that fact. Which is a phrase you learned in the excellent Stargate episode 200. And this is getting off topic. Basically, I know I'm whiney, but I still think it makes for an entertaining story. Ah, just post it.)

12Jul/121

Wine and Love: 10

So today I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week!

Wine

  • While I'm enjoying living in the city, it's not totally ideal. I can't say I love the subway, though I am getting more reading done. I still feel a little bit out of sorts, living in a place that's not mine. Though, to be fair, this is a very minor w(h)ine. Though I am hot!
  • Haven't been sleeping well the past...few weeks, now. There are a variety of reasons for this, mostly based around eating habits, sleeping in a new bed, all that, but it just adds up to me feeling off and a bit worn down. And unable to get up early. Or, well, not unable. But really not feeling up to it.

Love

 

  • I've been keeping up with blogs, and a little more with YouTube, and even doing some writing myself. I missed it, and I'm glad I'm getting back to it.
  • I went home for a little bit on Tuesday night, and being away, and living on my own, has made me really appreciate my Mom, and my house. Although it's not perfect, I will be glad to get back there for a little while.
  • I'm enjoying my time alone, but finding it is making me crave time out a bit more too. I've been out and about with people almost every day since Saturday, and I've actually enjoyed it, and not felt drained. I think this is because most nights I am coming home alone, and can shut myself off when I need to, which is great. But it's making me realize that I don't entirely hate social engagements, and they're not always super draining. So it's a nice realization, truthfully.

What are you loving, and not loving this week?

2Mar/121

Whips and Winds at Your Back

I've been sick for the last week or so. Really, I have been for a while. Nothing serious, just a low level cold that seems to crop up whenever I stress myself out a little too much and don't get enough sleep.

So this week I actually took 2 sick days, which I rarely do. When I was growing up with 2 teachers for parents, to stay home from school you pretty much had to be at Death's door. You just powered through til the weekend, or the summer, like they did. In fact, it's been an experience with them, taking vacation days. They're always worried about if I should really be taking a vacation day off just to relax, or to run some errands. I have to remind them that, if I don't take my vacation days, I don't get a vacation.

It's similar with sick days, still. I feel bad taking a sick day unless I can't physically move. After all, if I can drag myself out of bed to a computer, I could theoretically drag myself to work at a computer, right?

Not quite.

See I don't work at my desk that's a few feet from my bed. Well, I do sometimes, but a good chunk of my job involves me being physically at my desk, so that's not always an option. And going to work means getting up relatively early, getting myself cleaned up, and riding a train into downtown Toronto. And it was the idea of that commute that most stressed me out, and most convinced me I needed to take a couple days.

(That and the fact that I figured most people would not want me sniffling and sneezing all over them).

There's an energy around downtown Toronto. I work in the Financial District, where many of the major banks, law firms and other big companies make their homes. Every day thousands of people flood through Union Station and into these high rises, some of the tallest buildings in Canada. Men and women in suits, people who make more money in a year than I ever will. And surrounding it all is this energy. This kind of psychic feeling of being rushed. When you walk in the FD at almost any time Monday-Friday, 9-5, you can never, ever walk fast enough. Someone will always brush past you with a huff, even if you're running. I find myself exhausted as I make that walk, my legs aching, often a little sweaty. Part of that is cause, yes, I am overweight. But part of that is also because I feel this need to walk faster than comfortable. It's like there's a whip at my back.

When I first started down here, it felt like a wind at my back. A power, pushing me forward, the whole energy of the place empowering me. I could have it all, like these guys did. I could live the promise they had when they achieved their B.Comm's of wine, women and wealth.

And I can. But I don't want that.

If you look closely at these folks, they are constantly tired. They'll brag about how little sleep they got, how many hours they are working. They will rush past you on their way to work, and you just want to stop them and say "where's the fire?"

This energy has begun to feel like a whip at my back. It exhausts me every time I step out into it, and I come home feeling just drained. I barely sleep these days, thinking about all the things I have to do, all the things I may have missed, all the things coming up. I want to do little more than stay home and talk to my friends.

I'm doing my best to recover; trying to be more firm at work, trying to shift stuff off my plate, and to admit when I have too much.

And also? I force myself to walk slowly in downtown Toronto, to turn around and tell that whipper to stop it. I may be the guy you want to punch in the back of the head, but I stand to one side. Walk the fuck around me.