I don’t often get home to London, Ontario from Toronto. Even less often do I get home home to St. Thomas, Ontario, though that’ll be the subject of a later, more scathing rant. However, I did make the trip back to Londonia for a couple of days just last week and I noted a few distinguishing features between it and my new stomping grounds. Here’s what I miss and what I will never miss about London.
Trees. Trees are nice. I’m convinced, in a totally unsubstantiated sort of way, that we are conditioned by our primate past to love trees. Toronto has trees but they’re not the same. In toronto, trees come in planters or holes in the sidewalk. Sometimes there’s a tree in a park but even then it’s surrounded by grass and I know that whole arrangement is a charade for my benefit. London always provided me with ample opportunity to commune with nature by visiting the woods, to smell the smells of the forest, to see the trees chirp and the birds sway. I miss that.
Smiles. In London, people smile at you when you walk by . . . sometimes. In the small town where I grew up, it was common to start conversations with total strangers, to not might even be thought rude. Unfortunately no one had anything important or interesting to say so the weather was discussed at length. None-the-less it is rather nice to feel that fellow pedestrians aren’t loathing you preemptively in anticipation of your unimportance in the grand scheme of their busy urban lives. This is the sad state of affairs in Toronto’s public spaces.
Breakfast. Admittedly, this time around I didn’t indulge in cheap diner breakfast, but it is an urban injustice that I marked a long time ago. In London you can get a grand-slam breakfast for $3.95 if you know where to go. The King St. Diner, The Wort, Prince Albert’s, all fine choices for sophonsifying one’s self pre-noon. In Toronto, breakfast will cost you at least ten buckeroos. Since the food is no better and the immigrants who cook it are no better-off, I assume the remainder is paying the lease on Toronto’s downtown diners.
Traffic. There isn’t any. Why is this a bad thing you may ask? Well I am of the opinion that cars and roads should be used as little as possible. Toronto has great transit, everyone uses it, and the roads are still crammed full of cars all day and all night. This is how it should be: the road system dictating the practicality of car ownership, not the road system being adjusted to accommodate foolish auto-consumers. In London, most of the roads are empty most of the time. To me, this suggests that most of the roads are redundant and should be reclaimed as bike paths, vegetable gardens, parks, or free vagabond camping.
Nothing Happens. As a produce of Toronto’s sheer size, there is always something exciting happening, whether it be a concert, a protest, or a monkey in a sheepskin coat. When your lines of communication are cut and you fall into the suburban rhythms, whole days can go by without anything happening. London’s media also seems intent on reporting things that don’t matter at all, even to Londoners. Fine, the Mayor is going to court. That, I agree, is news worthy. Just remember that calling a news piece “public interest” is the definition of double-speak.
Transit. To get from Byron, where my parents live, to downtown, where everything is, I have to take a bus that comes once every hour until the early evening and only monday through saturday. It’s very difficult to get around in London without a car and, as you may have gleaned from my words above, I am without a car. It means you have to bum rides to get around and that stinks.
Well I’m back in the big smoke now. I have wanted to move to Toronto for a very long time and, although I’m snug as a bug in a rug in this big ol’ city, I hope I never get used to ten dollar eggs in the concrete jungle. I will always feel the pull of small town Ontario where people are kind, the air is fresh and clean, and they haven’t managed to pave over everything . . .yet.