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Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


Commuting is harder than working

This morning I woke up, showered, put on my latex glove, cleaned my dog’s tumour, rubbed gel into it, drugged him, fed him, and took him for a walk through the barren, frozen wasteland. Then I took him home, put him inside, said goodbye, locked the door and left for work. I turned to go down the front steps, and what did I see? My dog. On the sidewalk.

I don’t know how he did that, but he did it. I called him. He didn’t come. I whistled. He didn’t come. I took off my mitten and did the hand signal. He didn’t come. He just stood on the sidewalk, with his nose pointing towards the park, looking optimistic.

It was brutally cold, and the wind was whipping at me from all directions, trying to find chinks in my seven-layered armor. I tried going back inside so that he would be eager to come in, but it didn’t work. He just stayed there. I finally had to go get him and half drag him back to the house, which pissed him off. He snarled at me, and I snarled at him. I pushed his recalcitrant butt up the front steps and into the house. We were both pissed off.

Then I locked the door and turned to go down the front steps, and what did I see? The Number 14 bus sailing by. I cursed my dog. But then I heard a kid gasp “OH NO!” as he saw the bus disappearing around the corner two blocks ahead. Did he give up and fume and curse his dog? No. He took off at a run. He was going to catch that bus no matter what. The kid was flying, but I knew there was no way in hell he could catch up with the bus. I trudged through his tracks, rounded the corner: no bus, no kid. The kid did it. He caught the bus. Crazy kid. I should have run too. I might have caught the bus. (Not bloody likely, I told myself, because I was wearing seven layers of clothing and the kid was half-naked.)

But oh well, there I was, wrapped up like a mummy and shivering at the bus stop and trying to turn my back to a wind that was coming from all directions. It was minus 34 with the wind chill. Unless you’re an Emporer Penguin, that’s bone-chillingly cold. I thought about how I ended up living in Ottawa, how my ancestors had shaped my destiny so that I wound up living in the second-coldest capital city in the world. I traced it back one generation: If my mom hadn’t fallen in love with the ship’s skipper when I was seven, we wouldn’t have moved to Ottawa. We’d probably still be living in Montreal. I know it’s cold in Montreal too, but at least they have subways. Subways aren’t windy.

As I waited for the bus, I noticed that my shoulders were up around my ears. It’s an Ottawa thing. We have lousy posture because of the weather. We’re all hunched over, trying to make ourselves a smaller target for the wind, trying to protect our necks from the cold. Our chins are jammed into our chests and our noses are tucked into our scarves. We’re scrunched, hunched and rigid. Our climate has turned us into misshapen freaks. We have pasty complexions too, with dry skin and chapped lips. And we look twice as big as we really are because of all the clothes we have to wear. We have salt stains on our pants, fogged-up glasses and tears and snot running down our faces. Frankly, we look like hell at this time of year. Fortunately we can’t see each other because our twisted Canadian posture forces our gaze downward.

The bus finally came, and I climbed aboard on my icy foot-stumps. My frozen bus pass snapped in half when I opened it to show the driver. The ride was uneventful except that the bus was overcrowded and the driver kept ordering people to move to the back of the bus, and people got grumpy from the diminished personal space, and the bus got stuck behind a transport trailer that spent ten minutes trying to back into the Preston Hardware loading zone on Gladstone Street. I tried to look at the bright side, and I found two bright sides: 1) I wasn’t spending those ten minutes outside waiting for the late bus, and 2) my frozen stumps were getting some extra thawing time before I had to get off the bus to walk the last nine blocks to work. It wasn’t much, but it made me feel marginally better.

I spent the first half hour at work sitting on the radiator, rubbing my frozen stumps and drinking hot coffee. At lunchtime I decided to stay in the office and starve rather than go outside and freeze. I sustained myself with caramels from the communal candy dish. The day passed slowly.

At 4:00 I walked the nine gusty frigid blocks to the bus stop, and I was almost at Gladstone and Bank when I saw the Number 14 sail through the intersection. I almost resigned myself to having missed it, but then the image of the half-naked boy inspired me, and I ran like hell. I flew. And you know what? I caught up with the bus! I even got a seat!

So my day ended on a higher note than it started on. Tomorrow’s going to be even better, because I cheered myself up today by booking tomorrow off so I could spare myself the ordeal of commuting.

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