A Travellerspoint blog

Separation Anti-Anxiety

How to Hate a Place Enough to Leave (Not that I really hate Toronto, per say, but I am starting to dislike it a little bit)...

sunny 20 °C

It’s been a crappy week. If I look back on the past 7 days, I find myself seeing nothing but memories of packing, sweating, moving, sweating, driving, sweating, talking to bureaucrats, sweating, stressing out and sweating.

Despite my desire to be a tourist in my own town for my last month in Toronto, mostly the past couple of weeks have been spent using up my time taking care of moving stuff. While it is all fine and dandy to say to oneself, “self, I am going to take care of as much of this moving stuff as I can as early as possible to free up my time in the last few days I have in Toronto,” the reality is that one cannot do enough up front. After all, I still have my apartment for a couple of days, and I still need places to sit, places to sleep, shampoo to wash my hair, towels to dry me after showering and forks to use when eating take-out Thai food.

When you are moving away, you can’t get rid of everything early, as you need so much of it to live out your last days in your old home.

That really tees me off. And that reminds me of another time when I was teed off and moving.

Back when I was a young 18 year old, living at home and getting ready to move out of my parents place and go away to university, I was, apparently, a bit of a jackass, or at least so said my mother. Quite often, actually.

Back in 1989 when I was 18, I was a bit of a sarcastic ass. I still am a sarcastic ass, and in fact was a sarcastic ass prior to 1989. In fact, that is a trait I am sure I inherited from my mother, which I hope will some mitigate any damage to my reputation that the comments I am about to repeat here that she made about me.

Back in 1989, when I would make a comment that an 18 year old sarcastic ass would be expected to make, my mother would look at me and say the following. “I know that you are just saying that to create some distance between us, so that the pain of separation won’t be as great when you leave for University.”

Her argument was that I was not, in fact, a sarcastic pain in the neck because I was a teenager with a sharp wit (honed for years by my mother), but rather I was a sarcastic pain in the neck because it was a defense mechanism to make separation more bearable.

At the time I didn’t put much stock in her theory. I didn’t feel like I was being especially sarcastic or cruel. I liked my home and my mother and I knew that I would be back there to live at some point (as I was in the summer of 1990, 1991 and then for a whole bunch of time during 1995 through to 1997), so I couldn’t see any reason why I would want to make it a less nice place to live.

However this past week has started to make me think that perhaps my mother was on to something. For with less than one week to go before leaving Toronto for London, I must admit that Toronto is really getting my goat.

It could be that Toronto is just especially annoying this week. Or it could just be that I am tired from a week of packing, moving and sweating. It could even be that I am starting to actually realize that I am 1 week away from moving to another country without a job, a permanent place to live or anything resembling friends.

But it could also be that I am just trying to make the city I am leaving less desirable so that the impending move seems more so.

Lest any of my Toronto friends think I don't like them, let me assure them all that I have had lots of fun going out with all my friends these past few weeks, so I hope you don't take this blog as an insult. Trust me, it's not being out with old friends that is needling me. It's everything else.

I find myself tired, even in the mornings after a full nights sleep. I find myself looking at boxes or furniture and sighing, just on the verge of breaking down thinking about what the crap I am going to do with the item. I find myself talking to stupid people about stupid things like what size storage locker I want, what the address on my bank statements should be (even though the bank knows that all my statements are electronic) or how long I want my mobile phone active for in Canada.

Last night, though, took the cake. I went out to dinner at a local pub, a place I have enjoyed for the 10 years I have lived in my neighbourhood in Toronto. Despite trying to look like I was intently reading a book, I still got engaged by a crazy old lady with an allergy problem (which she detailed in some depth) and a dude on crutches who apparently got some sort of brain injury in Mexico running from the police. I quickly said my goodbyes and moved on.

Next I went to another restaurant, a sports bar a few blocks away. I was hoping to sit at the bar, have a pint and enjoy the playoff hockey game. Instead I found a bar jam packed with old, creepy men staring at the bartender, a well-endowed blonder who (knowing her audience) was wearing a very low cut blouse. I left upset, not sure if it was because I felt icky because of the old pervs, or because I was upset that I couldn’t get a decent seat and be an old perv myself.

Onto the next place, a joint that is best known for showing European soccer but that does show National League Hockey during the evenings (as Euro sports tend to be on during the morning and afternoons over here in North America). I took a seat at the empty bar and watched as the puck dropped on game 3 of the NHL finals.

My peace was not to last though. A guy walked in, probably in his early 60s with a white goatee. He took a seat and ordered a beer, and started to look around the bar. I caught him looking around out the corner of my eye, and I could tell immediately that he was looking for someone to talk to.

“Damnit,” I thought, “I’ve already talked to the crazy old lady and the crutch dude tonight. Can’t I just enjoy the hockey game in peace?” So I stared straight ahead, never moving my gaze from the TV set in front of me. If he can’t make eye contact, I reasoned, he can’t engage me.

My plan worked, though the guy found others to engage. He complained to the bartender that hockey was on, and demanded one of the TVs be turned to something else. She flipped around the channels, and once the TV landed on horse racing, he seemed content.

He wasn’t content, though. He spent 15 minutes speaking to the man on his right, bemoaning the fact that we all in Canada watch hockey, even though no Canadian teams were playing, and that in 10 years we Canadians would probably all be walking around with TVs attached to our heads so we wouldn’t miss a minute of hockey.

I just kept my mouth shut and my face forward towards the screen, no doubt proving his theory that we Canadians are all hockey obsessed. While I was interested in the game, I was more interested in not speaking to him.

The guy on the old man’s right started to ignore him, so the old man engaged the bartender. She spoke to him for about a minute before the following words came out of the old dude’s mouth.

“You know, you are a beautiful girl, but your voice is like nails on a blackboard.”

Take a moment to think about saying that to a woman you don’t even know. Reread that if you like. It’s not very flattering.

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” the bartender replied. Her voice, which had moments before had a certain joyous tone to it became cold and monotone. The kind of tone that a North Korean interrogator might use right before pulling your still beating heart out of your chest.

“No, it’s not an insult. I’m trying to help you,” said the old man. “I know an opera singer who can train you to change the tone you speak with. Don’t feel bad. So many Canadian women can’t speak well.”

I could see the bartender out of the corner of my eye, and her eyes had daggers shooting out of them at the old man. I prepared for a fight, in that I put my hand around my beer, so that if the bartender came over the bar at the old man, I could quickly get out of the way without spilling a drop.

She didn’t come over the bar at the old idiot, though. Instead she did what I thought was a very composed thing. She looked at the old man and said, “well, if you don’t like my voice, then I just won’t talk to you anymore.” Then she walked away.

I was impressed, because I think I probably would have popped the old guy in the eye, or at the very least spit in his half pint of Creemore.

The old guy left quite soon after the above incident, and I was able to finish watching the hockey game in peace. A few weeks ago I might have continued on, perhaps grabbing another pint and going over and saying hello to the Ultimate Frisbee team that was celebrating a victory at the bar.

Instead, I decided to go home. I was tired from a day of moving stuff into storage and worn out from meeting three different crazy people in one day at three of what were my favourite Toronto hang-outs. I used to quite like meeting and talking to the crazy people, it is part of what makes living in an urban setting unique. But last night I just couldn’t take it anymore. Instead it just wore me out, and I couldn’t help but find a bunch of faults with the places that I used to frequent.

Perhaps my mother’s theory holds some water then. Prior to leaving a place for another pasture, you need to make your current pasture seem a little browner. That way, even if it isn’t, the new pasture will feel greener by comparison.

Posted by GregW 21:20 Archived in Canada Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences migration_philosophy

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