Friday, 9 May 2008

Lost & Evicted

I remembered a store I visited last time I was in Toronto called Essence du Papier. It was as pretentious as it sounded, and I wanted to buy some notebooks from their vast selection. Problem was, they were in the 31km of underground stores that is the PATH system. Navigating your way around is like diving into a tunnel after a Viet Cong soldier. There's no grid, half the tunnels are dead ends, signs are ambiguous, and the six subway stations and twelve food courts look identical. To make things worse, all the stores have above-ground addresses... which don't exist above ground.
I took three hours and easily thirty flights of stairs, going up and down, before I located the store. It didn't have what I was after, but they pointed me in the direction of a store that did: "Go along here for a while, then turn left and go up, then back, then past the bank, then back, then up, then when you see the street you're almost there." If I hadn't asked the name of the store I would still be shambling around the vast subterranean straightaways.
Later I took the subway up to the museum and saw the Jurassic exhibit there. Upon closing the rain was falling steadily outside, so I looked for places to kill some time before walking back home. I bought a pen in a Grand&Toy, then lingered in the building foyer outside. After a few minutes a German-sounding security guy told me,"No-one can stand here. Leave now." After three days of being back in Canada, where people hold doors open then apologise for not being completely out of your way, this came as something of a shock. I walked down Yonge St in what was a much lighter rain.
Reflecting on the incident in my head, a number of details sprang to mind. The list of institutions in the building included the Israeli Consulate. The guard was not in sight until he spoke to me. The scenario now seemed more like this: camera-viewing Israeli personnel saw a damp, slightly bedraggled young man loitering in the foyer, clutching a bag with wires coming out of it. They sent down their own security guy, who was restrained from outright hostility only because, in the back of his mind, he was pondering five ways he could kill me while leaving one hand in his pocket.

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