During this last trip to Toronto, I re-discovered that I am not a big-city guy.
There are some who thrive in the hustle and bustle of the inner core of a major metropolitan area. They love the 24 X 7 of activity. They love the glitz, the skyscrapers, the digital surroundings. They love the mass transit options of trolleys, subways, and commuter trains.
And in some cities, they enjoy the vast underground environments.
I am not one of those people. I am not a metro-sexual.
The downtown core of Toronto is interesting above ground. But the majority of the city's core has an underground counterpart shared by the subway and the Eaton Centre – a long set of tunnels that comprise of shopping mall style. You can litterally live 25 city blocks away from your office and travel to and from work to home – and never see the light of day.
I think there are two factors that comprise my dislike for downtown Toronto:
I hate shopping malls
I truely do hate shopping malls. Perhaps for the reason that I hate shopping. But more so that I hate navigating a shopping mall. I get lost in shopping malls. If I go with a group of friends or family, and we split up – common at Christmas shopping outings – I am the guy that cannot find the meeting area. Thanks goodness for cell phones. Now I can get remote help to locate my compadres.
But the main reason I hate shopping malls is that there is no standard set of rules for traffic management. You may assume the rules to resemble those of driving – but the fact is there is no passing lane, slow lane, or intersection ettiquette. People merely wander where ever they want – and you constanly find yourself saying phrases like excuse me. I beg your pardon, or so quick as sorry. And you will never hear someone say thank you.
As I enter a mall environment, all my instinctual ettiquette in tact, I encounter all kinds of breaches of that ettiquette. People cut you off. Pushing and bumping to hurry around you. People walk straight at you with no intention to avoid you. Like a game of chicken to see who will concede right-of-way first.
And I always concede, in the begining anyway.
By the end of my period within the mall, I have been assimulated. Pushing back, bumping, pushing, and slamming into those people who refuse to step aside as I pass. I just plain have had enough.
As you pass a shop, there is constantly the shop patron emerging into the traffic area who stands there in the middle of traffic, taking that second to gather their bearings and determine their next route. Or they stand with a large group in your lane and talk about what to do now.
Shopping malls should have well defined traffic naviogation tools. Lines on the floor to determine lanes – with arrows to show direction. There should be off and on ramps. Group discussions should be held in gathering spots. Trafic lights would help – along with persons who direct traffic – with white gloves and whistles – waving you through. People should be given tail lights that can be put on their ...uh ... tails, They could blink to tell you when they are turning and beam red when they stop abruptly. There is a niche business here and I think someone should take advantage of it.
I miss my car
I miss the isolation – the privacy – the independence of my car. In the downtown core you are a pedestrian. You are truley in the mix – in the face – of every other individual you encounter.
You are at the whim of the mass transit schedule. You must wait for the subway or trolley to arrive – push your away aboard – and usually stand for the duration of your trip – hanging in to a rail and trying to look like you do this all the time. You must pay close attention to where your stop is – because if you miss it – you cannot simply get off and turn around. You must either get off and pay to get on the return train, or ride to the end – where it turns around and brings you back again until you find your stop ... again.
I like my car. I hop in my car, choose my route, have a smoke, listen to my radio, all in the comfort of my little isolation dome – the comfort of the interior of my car. I can say things like move it buddy! or #%&^ you – you $%# hole! – and know that I cannot be heard by the target of my profanity – thereby maintaining my own diginity in an indignant situation.
Those who do drive in downtown core areas do so in as much frustration as the pedestrian. Traffic lights do not allow left or right turns. Patience is essential. Parking is impossible. Driving is unreasonable.
When I got off the train in Windsor, I hailed a cab. I asked him to please take Riverside Drive so that I could enjoy the waterfront.
Across the river sits the downtown core of Detroit. No longer the metropolis it once was – it is still significant. Still significant enough to host All-Star games, Super Bowls, and this year the World Series. Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Championships.
Detroit's core is not as congested as Toronto. There is no underground or subway (although the People-Mover” El-train does visibly run throughout). The skyline from the Windsor side is actually very pretty at night. Usually when a big event in Detroit is televised, they come to Windsor to shoot video of Detroit from accross the river as it is the citiy's best presentation to the world.
And I looked at their skyline at felt like I was home. Home in my small town of Windsor. Where shopping malls can be avoided, and cars can get you any place you want to go. And the people say “Hi” as you pass them on the street.
There is certainly no place like home.