I’ve had occasion this month to travel to two different cities in southern Ontario. The names are irrelevant, the stories are the same as a lot of other places. Let’s call them B and C. After I’d parked my car in a municipal lot in B and was walking to my destination five minutes away, the first person I passed said, “Good morning.” I thought, “Well, I’m not in Toronto any more.” When I checked out of the automated lot two hours later, I knew for sure I was somewhere else. The total charge was $2.
In city C I paid a modest $10 for two huge bags filled with fresh asparagus picked in the field out back. No one behind me at intersections honked if I was a little tardy when the light turned green. Conversations with locals included details about people, their families, their trials, tribulations and triumphs. World issues were far away. Politicians were viewed with clear-eyed candour.
To be sure, the downtown cores are a little tatty in both B and C. Malls meant to draw shoppers have not worked as well as hoped. Churches are being torn down for lack of attendance, a sad state of affairs. But new facilities are being erected everywhere with pools, rinks, and courts that are well used by the local community.
By comparison, Toronto is all gridlock and grumbling. No one here seems happy with their lot in life. In B and C, I’m sure there are the usual tragedies hidden beneath the friendly exteriors but at least the surroundings are pleasant, the people are palatable and the present day is free to be explored without big city stress.
I grew up in Guelph, a place a lot like B and C. At eighteen, I was glad to get out of there and be on my way. I’ve been lucky to live all over the world. But I can see why so many stayed where they were and why, in their minds, they are better off as a result.