It started with an old man forgetting his wallet.
The old man being me, the wallet being mine, and a Monday morning crosstown appointment to get the snow tires changed.
Until, that is, I arrive at the car place and realize that, astoundingly, I don’t have my wallet with me. How is that even possible? I never leave the house without my—It doesn’t fucking matter. You did it. It’s done. Proceed.
Now, I probably could’ve just bulled ahead, the credit card’s on record, we bought the car from the place after all. They know where we live. Hey. They can keep the snow tires as collateral until I return and pay the bill.
On the other hand, it’s going to be a couple hours or so. I could get some exercise in. Walk home, grab my wallet and TTC it back. Probably before they’re even done here. A stretch but, let’s say a lost half-hour or so – fingers crossed! – because of my boneheadedness. Fine. What’s thirty minutes gone over a lifetime?
A good chunk of the walk, I make my way along Queen Street, from roughly Carlaw-ish to about Bay Street where I turn north. It is not a stretch in the least bit unfamiliar to me. But what I’m not used to, what always catches me by surprise, aside from my surprise at my surprise, is the realization of just how catastrophically we are failing as a city, as a community, as just simply decent human beings looking out for each other. It’s a gaping tragedy we’ve allowed ourselves to get used to, to accept as part of our urban fabric. We’ve hummed and hawed, wrung our hands and cold-shoulder shrugged off at-or-below the rate of inflation a vulnerable segment of society left to fend for themselves out on the tattered fringes. I think it not an exaggeration to say that swaths of this city right now wouldn’t be out of place in the cinematic universe of 1970s Martin Scorcese’s New York.
Well done, Toronto. We always did aspire toward being seen as The Big Apple of the North.
Two months from our mayoral by-election, a candidate should not be considered serious unless they have rock solid ideas on how they plan on reaching out to assist in lifting those battling the vicissitudes and fucking vagaries of a life we’ve helped inflict on them. No platitudes. No aspirational slogans. No tough guy touting of law and order while on choreographed walkabouts. Just concrete proposals for realistic solutions.
Back at home, wallet retrieved, I head out again to catch a streetcar, living where I do in what is a transit-rich part of town. I have options, theoretically. I can stand on a corner and hop on whatever comes first, going either east or south. Which is what I do. Southbound Bathurst to King, and out along the specially designed Transit Corridor. Remember that?
Because today is my day to be an idiot, and because I just blithely assume that a public transit trip will be relatively straight-forward because, as I just said, I live in a transit-rich area of the city, and because I’m not a frequent transit user, it’s third on my list of mobility alternatives around town, after me feets and me bicycle, because of all these factors, I don’t meticulously plan out my route east, I wind up, through system diversions and rerouting, a good way from my intended destination, at which time, I realize it’s going to be just as fast to walk the final leg of the trip as it would be trying to figure out a transit alternative.
In the end, through some miscalculation on my part, granted, the TTC portion of the there-back-there-back adventure is much closer in time to the on-foot segment than it is the driving section. Probably 3 times longer than it took me to drive. 3x. The Better Way.
And not that driving was in any way a little slice of transportation heaven. No, no, no.
My 3rd flub of the day, a morning chore has now bled out to an annoying part of a day, after returning with my wallet and reuniting with my car, is to not change from the walking mode of my Google Maps to the driving mode. So for the first few blocks of my trip home, I cannot for the life of me figure out why these fucking instructions are directing me where they are. Why am I not turning here?! I bellow at one point of time before realizing the mistake is all mine. But not before being taken far enough off the preferred route to land me deep into another construction maze, an unnecessary, self-inflicted construction maze that I allowed myself to be misguided into.
In all fairness (to me), being inadvertently waylaid by construction is not a difficult task right now in this city. There’s work going on everywhere in the core. Everywhere. Not a word of embellishment. Everywhere.
If I’m not mistaken, along all 4 major east-west streetcar lines, requiring route and road disruptions. There doesn’t seem to be a street without a lane closure anywhere. Again, no hyperbole or exaggeration. Nowhere. Everywhere. And I’m just talking in a roughly 5 kilometre measure, 20-25 minutes as the car drives.
Now, I get it. The city’s growing. The city’s aging. We’re building up. We’re digging down. We’re not living in Gopher Hole, Middle of Nowhere. There are going to be inconveniences. Omelets and broken eggs and all that.
There just doesn’t seem to be any sort of organizing principle at work. No well-thought out plan or approach. No sense of mitigation, of orchestration in an attempt to assist with the disorder to everyone’s life, to make the best, the better of an annoying situation.
No leadership. Just an ad hoc, frenzied free-for-all. An official imprimatur of civic disregard. Whaddyagonnado? Work’s gotta be done, folks. That’s life in the big city. Good luck. You’re on your own.
Young and old. Tall and short. Motorists. TTCers. Cyclists and pedestrians. Fortunate and unfortunate. We’ve all been abandoned by our institutions except when it becomes politically expedient not to do so, that politics capricious and tending always to lean in favour of those wielding the most power and loudest voices.
For those of us lucky enough to be able to avoid the extreme outcomes of such official neglect and desertion, like me, absent-mindedly goofing my way through a half-day of minor missteps and inconsequential setbacks, we wind up subject to mere annoyances and petty grievances, barely inflicted with less desirable options. Too many, though, face grave, sometimes life-and-death circumstances when the rest of us allow our elected representatives to avoid the job of actually governing, making tough decisions, asking more of those who can afford to offer up more. My trivial inconveniences have metastasized into others’ calamities.
Such disproportionality thrives in a willingness to accept negligent public service by those least impacted by the lackadaisical, deadly results.