Departure Of The Urbanite

I don’t think I will ever get used to the soundtrack of the suburbs. Despite what Disney has taught me, morning birds chirping outside my window is more harrowing than the hammering of a construction drill.  Perhaps I’m now accustomed to sleeping through it. The smell of freshly cut grass, barbeque and dog poop doesn’t quite offset the putrid fragrance seeping from the lake into the downtown core. My expectations were for a break away from the constant rush of downtown, to dawdle, waste time and enjoy suburbia.

The consistent start and stop of the downtown roadblock on my way home is cathartic. Despite my childhood Dramamine dependency, a queasy stomach and low threshold to carsickness triggers the fond association to downtown.

I wasn’t gone long, but had forgotten the feeling.

The feeling of driving streets so empty that doubling the limit is a tempting enough challenge to accept. It’s a vaguely familiar feeling, like bumping into an acquaintance you once knew, or that person facebook keeps telling you to reconnect with. When you finally do, when you give in, you remember the reasons why you grew apart in the first place.

That realization? Uncomfortable, unsatisfying and an indulgent moment for the voice inside your head that prides itself in ‘I told you so’ s.

My interests and proximity to such interests require a city. I’m not a patient person. I like plans, dislike queues and people who walk slowly on Yonge St. I’m a perfectionist, often restless, have an aversion to bland homogeny and driving everywhere.  I am a nightmare that downtown has an inclination to conceal. My neurosis in the suburbs however manifests itself seamlessly.

The adjustment from an urbanite to a suburbanite took the entirety of my stay. I was out of my comfort zone. I am that person. The person that enjoys giving directions to tourists and explaining the lines of the subway to confused pedestrians. I smugly enjoy recommending local bars or restaurants and discovering them first. I am that person. I’ve never been so tireless.

The somber and severe disposition of the city dweller has conditioned me to do the same. Walking aimlessly through winding suburban streets and people watching at a nearby coffee shop proved to be far less satisfying yet far more pleasant than usual. People were sweet, like the day-after-Easter-chocolate sweet. It was refreshing to see strangers taking themselves less seriously. Sidewalks were no longer 24 hr fashion runways and community attitude wasn’t so biting.

There are no clear cultural divides in the suburbs. Chain stores and strip malls have a hold on the majority and the lack of distinctiveness in both residential and commercial areas is obvious. Ethnic food may be generic, garage sales replace antique markets, school buses substitute the ttc, and boutiques are outshone by big box stores, however, people have built their lives accordingly. The suburbs are constructed by components. Family, wear, tear, convenience and practicality.

The ‘we versus them’ debate lives on. It is an accepted rivalry, an elitist challenge often instigated by the cachet of a city dweller. Downtown does not fester with crime from the core, and the suburbs are not a soulless shell. Reality fits somewhere in between extremes. Segregating and comparing two polar ways of life at staggered stages is less of a comparison and more of a competition that neither could possibly win. Live and let live, stereotypes let die.

– R