Tag Archives: Saskatoon

Public Transit: Telling Tales on Two Cities

Recent stories and editorials in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and elsewhere have accused a surprising number of Toronto Transit Commission employees of unprofessional conduct, ranging from sleeping in their ticket booths, to texting behind their wheels, to pushing the passengers around. To add to the TTC’s besmirched reputation, several of its vehicles have recently been involved in accidents that have left motorists and pedestrians seriously injured and even dead.

There are two sides to everything of course, and out of the hundreds and hundreds of drivers and other employees, this rash of incidences of inattention and frustrated behaviour is probably representative of a small minority. Most of the drivers I’ve run into as I wend my way through Toronto almost exclusively by public transit have been helpful, friendly, attentive and — for the most part — apologetic when something wasn’t working or they couldn’t answer questions. Some have even gone out of their way to help passengers with problems, remind them of an upcoming stop that they have asked about, and patiently listened to the nutbars who stand next to them and yak on and on about religion and politics as the drivers try to steer through traffic and snow to their appointed destinations.

My sympathies for transit staff increased when I read this excellent article in Toronto Life about the impact of “subway jumpers” on the drivers who become their unwilling killers.

It’s true that there are lots of problems with the transit system here — long subway delays (sometimes because of the aforementioned jumpers) are part of the fabric of daily life. When I was at a hospital recently for a minor procedure, I noticed a form that staff needed to fill out to indicate the status of scheduled patients, and one of several boxes that could be checked to indicate the reason for a patient’s non-appearance was “delayed on subway.”

Still, it hasn’t been so long since I lived in a city where the only “rapid transit” was the occasional cab driver who drove too fast, where buses sometimes appeared earlier than the appointed hour and if you missed them, you could be left standing in lethal cold for an entire half hour or longer before the next one came along, and where driver rudeness and inattention seemed more the rule than the exception. On one occasion a bus I was taking to a meeting drew up to a regular stop, and the driver quietly called in to central office for a repair team and then sat and waited for it, without bothering to inform the passengers that the bus would not be going anywhere for quite a while. In the meantime, several other buses went past to which we might have transferred.

So I am not complaining here in my new city. I am still astonished at the number of buses and streetcars that show up on a regular basis throughout downtown Toronto, and I still see the subway as a modern miracle—even if it is apparently outdated and slow compared to those of other large cities. But I also understand why everyone else here is frustrated. This, to them, is like Saskatoon Transit was to me (and apparently still is to those who continue to reside in that otherwise warm, friendly and accommodating prairie city).

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Note: I have pretty much stopped posting to this blog. After a year and a bit I no longer consider myself a newcomer to Toronto. But I do still blog, fairly often, and you can check out my other writing locations here:

I’m All Write: Some thoughts and an occasional update for those who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter

The Militant Writer: My flagship blog — I am militant about lots of stuff, and I think other writers should be too

Notions: Observations on life that I can’t think where else to put

Book Reviews:  An occasional blog

Film and Movie Reviews: Another occasional blog

Fiction Tips and Writing Tips for Bloggers are even more occasional

Some of my Short Stories

A Costly Mistake, but all is well.

Post 24

There are advantages to moving to a new city five months before your belongings arrive. One of them is that you are calm and collected when the boxes and furniture are delivered, and you are not already exhausted when you start to unpack. I am taking my time and enjoying re-discovering what I own. The move was not, however, quite the triumph I had hoped it would be from a financial point of view.

At storage unit in Saskatoon

On the morning of Sunday, April 18, right at the appointed hour (i.e., at 8 a.m.), Country Wide Movers/Allied Van Lines arrived at my storage unit in Saskatoon to pick up my belongings and bring them to Toronto. Three weeks prior to that, I had sent out quote requests to seven or eight movers. Four replied –with five estimates. The two lowest bids both came from the same company – Two Small Men with Big Hearts. (One of their estimates was for $2,300 and the other for $2.760 for the same weight and distance.) The other three were about $1,000 more. After checking on-line for the reputations of all four companies that submitted estimates, I took the lowest of the three higher bids (all of which were within $100 of one another): the one from Country Wide Movers/Allied Van Lines.

Due to the small print and confusing layout of the estimate (see below), plus the fact that it was so close in amount to the other two acceptable bids, I neglected to notice that the Country Wide quote was based on a weight of 3,000 lbs while the others were based on a weight of 4,000 lbs. I did realize that all companies would weigh the truck before and after they had loaded the goods, and revise their estimates based on the actual weight. However, if most companies figured that my belongings would weigh at least 4,000 lbs based on the list I had provided (which included 30 to 40 2 x 2 ft. boxes of books), why didn’t Country Wide?

Still, the fault is mine for not reading more closely. Never assume anything when it comes to a moving company. Or any cost estimate, I suppose.

As it turned out, the actual weight of my possessions was about 4,600 lbs, so my charge from Country Wide ended up being about $1,000 more than the estimate. In the long run, I could have got the move cheaper from ANY of the other companies. Stupid me.

Allied did do a good job of moving my things efficiently and safely from Saskatoon to Toronto. They arrived for the pickup exactly when they said they would, and they delivered when they said they would. Both times the driver called the night before to double-check the time and the address. I was very happy with the driver and his assistants in both Saskatoon and Toronto. It was only the estimator who did not leave me feeling very pleased. Considering how many problems people have with movers, I guess I should be contented that nothing else went wrong — but money is money, especially when you’re moving and so many other costs are involved. As far as I’m concerned, $1,000 is a lot of money at any time.

By the way, the Government of Canada has a very good checklist for consumers when it comes to choosing a mover. I highly recommend that others (even non-Canadians!) read it before undertaking any major move. It’s located here: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca02029.html

My apartment before the movers arrived...

And now I have all my belongings in one place. All I have to do is unpack and figure out where to put everything. I have had no second thoughts about moving to Toronto. I am already finding more work here as a freelancer than I have had before, and I’m busy with social activities, visitors from the west and south, and events I want to take in solo or with other people. And I still love the subway. 🙂

... and after the delivery

It was a good decision for me, and I am one happy former-Saskatoonie-former-Edmontonian-former-Londoner(ON)-former-Wainwrightian-current-Torontonian.

The estimate from Country Wide

Why Toronto? Why now? Why not?

The Back Story

As my fifties draw to a close, I find myself with the opportunity to choose where I want to live. My two (fantastic, interesting) adult sons are well established with careers, families and communities of their own – one on the east coast of the USA, the other in western Canada. I can’t live near both of them, and if I lived close to one and not the other, charges of favouritism might occur. (“How come she has to live in the same city as me? How come you get all the breaks?”)

I am currently living in Saskatoon, which is a city with a truly lovely river valley, a beautiful university campus and lots of fascinating people. But it’s a small city and very home- and family-focussed. There’s just not enough for me to do here: especially in winter when, since I do not own a car, I am mainly trapped indoors by icy sidewalks that whip my feet out from under me on a regular basis, and blisteringly cold winds that turn minus 20 (tolerable and even pleasant) into minus 40 or worse (intolerable).

Due to a recent escalation in the cost of rental units in Saskatchewan, I cannot afford to live in Saskatoon any more than I can afford to live anywhere else. I live mostly hand-to-mouth because since I was about 30, I have stupidly put fiction-writing ahead of earning income on my priority list. But I do have a non-fiction book coming out this fall that will allow me to offer workshops and do consulting work almost anywhere in North America, the U.K., or even Australia and New Zealand. Maybe even Mexico and India, if I’m lucky.

Where to go?

So, I asked myself, if I am free to scrabble (and scribble) for a living in the city of my choice, where do I want to be? The only thing I knew for sure was that for now at least I wanted to be in Canada.

Prior to coming to Saskatchewan in the early 2000s, I spent about four decades in Edmonton, Alberta. I have many wonderful long-time friends there who open their arms (and homes) to me whenever I go back to visit. They do not suffer from their geographical location quite as badly as I make it sound—the long sunny days of summer in Edmonton and across the prairies, not to mention what can be a beautiful, extended blue-gold autumn, make it almost worth living through the cold, dark months between. Edmonton in particular is increasingly well equipped to be a winter city, with heated walkways, indoor parking, lots of theatre and music and an outstanding transit system. But in spite of all of that, for many of the same reasons that I’m disinclined to stay in Saskatoon, I’m not interested in returning to Edmonton.

Unlike many prairie residents, I have never had the urge to move to the west coast.  The west coast is beautiful (beautiful!) but Vancouver, Victoria and most of the other cities I have visited there are just too Zen and laid back for my tastes. And the politics are weird.

Montreal is a fabulous city, too. If I didn’t need to earn my living in English, I’d welcome the idea of living there, but my French is only passable.

Ottawa…? Nope.

From the beginning, there was only one real choice. Therefore, I am moving to Toronto.

An appealing option

Although it appears I arrived at the decision to move to Toronto through a process of elimination, I could just have easily arrived at it by creating a top-10 all-time favourite list of Canadian cities. Toronto would have emerged the destination-of-choice that way as well. I grew up in Ontario, and I welcome the thought of going back. I have missed the terrain of southern Ontario since I left in 1964, and a lot of my memories are grounded in the region.

As for Toronto itself, since childhood I’ve enjoyed my visits there. I have never shared the alternating feelings of resentment and schadenfreude toward that city and its residents that characterize the attitudes of most prairie-dwellers of my age, many of whom are still bristling from the national energy policies that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his minions visited upon the West in 1980. For them, Toronto The Bad is an appropriate nickname. In fact, Toronto is a cosmopolitan, global city, with nearly 3 million residents (half of whom were born outside Canada) in the City proper, and at least 2 million more in the immediate vicinity. There is lots to do and see there, and that is what I want. (I do know that Toronto also has a winter, but I am actually more concerned about its hot and sticky summers, which I also remember well.)

The first step

So far I’ve taken only one concrete step towards moving to Toronto, and that is to buy a one-way plane ticket there from Edmonton on November 15. Everything else I need still to think about and plan.

I need to figure out, for example, where I am going to live when I get to Toronto, while I am looking for a permanent place to live. I need to decide what I will take with me to get myself through the looking-around period, and how I will get the rest of my stuff there once I’ve found a place to rent.

On the “surface” of my thinking, I am both frightened and excited about this new adventure. But deeper in, I feel quite calm and optimistic. I have hopes for Toronto in terms of my career that I’ll explain more clearly in another post, but I also feel a bit as though I’m going back to a very familiar place, and that I will be very comfortable in that setting.

I have not lived in Toronto since I was two, and even then it was only for six months or so, which gave me little opportunity to learn the layout of the city and its traffic routes. I have no clear plan regarding where I intend to live (although I have located on a map where the preponderance of violent crimes take place, and I plan to avoid those areas). It’s a bit like stepping off a cliff in some ways. But those who know me know that I like to step off cliffs fairly regularly. (I just don’t like to fall off them.)

I may be resolutely independent, and eagerly looking forward to figuring this thing out on my own, but I don’t feel as though I am alone. I do know several fellow writers in the Toronto region, and many many of my friends are regular visitors there. I also still have some friends from childhood living in southern Ontario, and even a few relatives. I’m happy to know that I can ask current and former Torontonians for advice when I need it—and that they will probably give me advice even if I don’t ask. (Fine by me as long as they don’t expect that I will necessarily do what they suggest—although I promise I will listen!)

This blog

When my good friend Larry Anderson suggested that I blog about the move, I immediately welcomed the idea. And already it feels good to have stated my intention publicly—it makes it real, and motivates me to start getting organized. But there is more to the appeal of writing here than that.  I have found great comfort and companionship in various on-line communities in the past few years, and I am sure that the one that forms around this blog will ultimately make me feel as though I may be moving to a new, big city on my own, but that I am utterly supported. So I thank you in advance for that support. (BTW, if you aren’t supportive, I just won’t publish your comments. So there. The naysayers among you can write in to my Militant Writer blog instead, where I happily take on all comers.)

I intend to blog not only before and during the move but also for several months afterward—until I’m actually settled. I’ve lived in enough places to know that a person doesn’t just move to a new place physically. It takes a lot longer than that to achieve the emotional, social, and even administrative transfer—it takes at least a year to settle in even when you’re just moving down the street.

And as far as being accepted by and accepting a new community, making it a home—well, that can take much much longer. That part can take decades. But finding a home is not my goal. As I get older, I realize that I prefer to be a visitor no matter where I am. My writing is my home, enriched by my community of relatives and friends who live around the world. Thanks mainly to the Internet, I can take the most important people in my life with me everywhere I go.

So now I have begun. If you are interested in following me on my new adventure here, you are most welcome. There’s a “Subscribe” button at the top of the right-hand column. Just click on it and follow the instructions to receive my (irregular) updates. (If all the options for subscribing boggle your mind, just click here to get the email option, and fill out the form that comes up.) I’ll try to keep the posts shorter than this in future!