Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Toronto the Good, And Not So Good, And Then Good Again"

I’m proud of my home town. Maybe even a little gushy. It is not uncommon for me to brag about Toronto’s basic decency and homey hospitality.

“They’ll never run you over in Toronto,” observed a younger version of my daughter, Anna, as we jaywalked across a busy thoroughfare, the cars dutifully stopping, permitting us to proceed.

To me, Toronto is that kind of town. Decent. Safe. A place where you can let down your guard.


Not long ago, our family flew in for the wedding of my niece, Jennifer, and her husband-to-be, Erik. And the fun was just beginning. The following day, Dr. M and I were scheduled to fly to London for an extended vacation.


Sunday morning. A typical spring Toronto day. (The next day it would snow.) After eating breakfast, Dr. M and I decide to go for our type of hike, the not too grueling type. I know just the spot, a short drive from the hotel.

A hike and a wedding. Let the good times roll.

We drive to Wilket Creek, home to a spingilicious hiking trail. You can smell the season’s radiance through our rental car’s windows. And they’re closed.

We pull into the parking lot. We lock up the car. We set off on our hike.

It’s really muddy, but that’s okay. It’s Toronto mud. Our sneakers get heavier as we walk. We’re taking the hiking trail with us.

An hour or so later, we return to the parking lot, scrape the goo off mud-caked sneakers with some hiking trail twigs, and we head back to our rental car.

Something doesn’t seem right.

As we get closer, we notice that the driver’s side window has been smashed in. Could it be possible? Indeed it could. Our rental car has been broken into.

A nervous investigation reveals that Dr. M’s purse, which she’d secreted under her seat, has been stolen. Dr. M had thought of locking her purse in the trunk, but she didn’t. Why didn’t she?

It’s Toronto.

Where they may not run you over, but they apparently break into your car and take off with your purse.

There’s broken glass everywhere. “Security” arrives to clean up the debris. “Security” also instructs us to make a report to the head hiking trail guy. We do. The head hiking trail guy instructs us to make a report to the police. We later do that as well. It’s turning into a different kind of a day. A less good kind.

And then it gets worse.

Dr. M realizes that her missing purse contained an item essential for our immediate future.

Her passport.

As I mentioned, we were scheduled to leave for London on the following day. No passport – no leaving. A replacement temporary passport? Not possible. It’s Sunday. Everything’s closed. Postpone the trip till we get one? Sure, but that involves a delay, and exchanging our plane tickets. And exchanging our plane tickets involves substantial penalties.

It’s a full day of reporting. After filing our report at a nearby police station, and reporting the damages to the rental-car company, we return to our hotel, where we call up and report our lost credit cards. It tells you what kind of day you’re having when the best part of it is a muddy hike.

In a desperate effort, Dr. M ransacks the hotel room, hoping she was wrong about where she had stored her passport. She wasn’t. It was in her purse.

We were both upset, but determined to keep our perspective. We were there for a wedding. (To take place in the hotel we were staying in.) We had a problem, but we weren’t the story. Jen and Erik were the story. We’re just the people who lost a passport and can’t go to London.

We’re grownups. Our priorities are secure. But inside, our heads are spinning.

It’s an hour before the ceremony. Starting to get ready, Dr. M retreats to the bathroom to take a shower. I sit in a chair waiting my turn, wrestling with a flurry of emotions, none of them helpful. I’m shaken up by the violation. I’m confused by the criminal behavior perpetrated in a city consistently promoted (at least by me) for its safety. And I’m embarrassed by my inability as a problem solver, never a plus when there’s a problem.

The phone rings in our hotel room. An officer’s calling from the nearby police station. I identify myself, and am given the message:

They’ve recovered the passport.

“You can drop by the station and pick it up.”

I hang up, and immediately tell Dr. M. We both agree. It’s a frickin’ miracle!

What a town!

Toronto robbers! They’re the best! Sure, they keep the purse, the money and all the valuables. But, despite being criminals, they remain decent people, and they surrender the passport to the police.

Okay, maybe the robber didn’t surrender the passport to the police. That’s too much. Though it’s possible, you never know. What we do know is that somebody – some thoughtful Canadian stranger – discovered Dr. M’s passport and went out of their way to deliver it to the authorities.

The story borders on the incomprehensible. On the same day that the passport had disappeared,

We got the darn thing back!

Hey, I never said Toronto was perfect. But you gotta admit:

That’s pretty good, eh?


rms said...

Ya know, I still have my parka within easy reach in the front closet. Sure it's May 5 but you never know. I'm just sayin'.

(And yes, I am in Toronto.)

growingupartists said...

I was hop, skipping and jumping with you all the way until "spring-i-licious". And then, it grew dark.

Being of the sunny disposition variety, I shy away from dark. Sorry your car always gets broken into Earl, really I am.

A. Buck Short said...

OMG! At first I thought it was going to be the Donner Party all over again. Story sort of parallels the legend where, in at least one of the films where Toronto was doubling for NY, the city sanitation department kept cleaning up the refuse and debris set dressing before it could be shot.

Ah, spring thaw. What I remember fondly is the mud being so resolute, when you stepped high to get out of it, your boots stayed stuck where they were. Yes, maple sugaring season has now likely come and gone back home in New England, but there may be a few more days in Canada.
Can you tap a juniper for gin?

Joe said...

That's TWO stories in a row with a happy ending and police involvement.

I have no idea what to make of this.

The Minstrel Boy said...

my favorite canadian joke:

how do you get a hundred canadians out of a swimming pool?

you say: "will all canadians please leave the pool now."
one of the things i've always loved about canada is the natural decency of the people. they really are like that. no hidden agenda. they are just good decent folks.

London hotels said...

This is a really nice story... Thank you for sharing. It reminded me of a trip I took to London a few years ago from Toronto.