Monday, April 8, 2019

Welcome to Toronto!

I’m pretty sure it’s something in the water. Something that seeps into the bodies of people in Toronto and … activates them.

I’m doing my annual “urban infusion” month in Toronto. Before this month, all I knew about Toronto was that it was in Canada and wasn’t Montreal, but I’m not even sure what “not-Montreal” meant.

So I did my research and discovered that Toronto was loaded with theater, with art, with neighborhoods, with public transit – all my prerequisites. I bought tickets, signed up for email newsletters, squelched several pre-trip anxieties. But the British-thing still haunted me, the part where people don’t talk to strangers in public. I can still flinch over the trauma of my first week in London, my week of zero human interaction. Weren’t Torontonians kind of British?

There I was in Union Station, facing a steep staircase with Robin’s massive suitcase and the need to find a Shoppers Mart to buy a transit pass. What’s a Shoppers Mart? Or rather, What’s a Shoppers Mart?!? how am I going to find one? how will I get downstairs? and WHY can’t Lyft find me where I am because three drivers have abandoned me after supposedly reaching me where I’m NOT?!?
Then one very nice man carried my suitcase down, another walked me to the front of a hotel so Lyft would have a destination, and another gave me a specific address to tell Lyft. I am beyond grateful.

Two hours later, Presto transit pass and library card in hand, I was an hour early for a library program. Everyone else was there with a friend or knew the staff or was a “regular.” I could always read a book, but David, the man next to me, engaged me in conversation and, before I knew it, we had exchanged contact information so David could send me some additional information. We’re now Linked In.

Two nights later, I happened to sit next to the theater reviewer at a performance. She knew all the local companies, the casts, the playwrights, the artistic directors; she was in her element. She and I discussed theater, watched Iphigenia get sacrificed, and afterwards, Lynn offered me a ride home.

Yesterday, I stopped in at a Japanese restaurant to ask about their miso soup. I left, but several minutes later, the owner found me at my bus stop to tell me something else about miso soup. He offered to give me the paste so I could make some by myself at home.

Do you see it? This spirit of welcome, of assistance, of openness, of friendliness?

[Alert! You cannot read these next few paragraphs without noting my delirium of excitement about the miracles of right-time right-place. I can’t put exclamation points after every sentence.]

In the library calendar, I discovered that the Toronto Public Library has a special Arthur Conan Doyle Collection РSherlock Holmes and fairies and s̩ances and spiritualism Рand that the annual lecture with the Friends was to be held Friday!

So, again, I walked into a room where I knew no one, but this organization has been together for 18 years and they all knew each other very, very well. A man and woman approached me, introduced themselves, asked what brought me here. Turns out Barbara has written a play about Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harry Houdini meeting in the afterlife with unresolved issues about Arthur Conan Doyle; and she introduced me to Mike, the man next to me, who is head of the Bootmakers of Toronto. I am just in time for their bi-monthly meeting about Mycroft Holmes and more and more Sherlock! (Now I must use exclamation points!)

It’s not just that one Sherlock Holmes fan by luck found herself in the midst of many, many Sherlock Holmes fans. It’s that they welcomed me, they invited me in. How many times have I been at a meeting or gathering back home where lots of people called hellos out to others and moved seats to sit next to friends and there were some New People or Strangers who were on the periphery? How we might say hello … but then get right back to our conversations? Did I ever offer a Stranger a ride home? Did I embrace the Stranger?

I’ve been in Toronto only five days, and yet I’m flush with the warmth and friendliness shown me. Maybe it is in their water – it seems pretty widespread and contagious – but I’m not going to forget how welcomed I feel. I’ll bring that back home with me.


  1. You've found why (US) Americans so often repatriate to Canada. It was our first choice for relocation -- a circumpolar nation familiar in so many ways -- but Canada's point system for entry settlement discriminated in a big way against being in our 50s.

    So, here we are, in the UK, where there ARE welcoming folk -- just outside the big cities. That's why we'll relocate to a smaller town in the next few years after FT work with no pension is finally complete.

    Anyway, have fun! I meet lots of Toronto Canadians here in London and I've liked every single one of them.

    1. I had no idea about this point thing, but I'll check it out. And I thought your plan was closer than "the next few years." They call themselves Torontonians!

  2. Being received in a welcoming manner is lovely! I would also credit your sense of a warm reception to your willingness to get out there and do things that you are passionate about, and your openness to speaking to strangers.


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