the great white north

the great white north

For a while, yesterday afternoon, I thought we were in a different world. Instead of arriving in civil flakes, gently collecting in swirls and drifts, the snow arrived all at once. The sky turned dark mid-afternoon, then I saw a few flakes drifting past the window. Then the world turned white.

It’s not the best kind of weather to be driving in, but when the snow hit, everyone and their car headed for the roads, hurrying to get home before it got any worse. Ironically, it got better, afterwards, but how was anyone to know?

Then I discovered that my dad was at a mid-afternoon doctor’s appointment. His vision is not what it used to be, and he doesn’t have winter tires on his car. So we headed out to try and rescue him. We headed out in this, with the slipping cars and snarled traffic, where you could hardly see the edges of the road.

It turned out that my father had left just before we got there, and he did make it home safely, as did we. Fortunately, everyone knows about winter driving here. People drive slowly and carefully. And that van that started sliding down the hill toward us? We stopped and let him in — he ended up sliding right in front of us — and the line of cautious traffic continued on its way.

Photo taken on January 12, 2011

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Main Street

This wide street was once lined with houses and businesses. It begins where the river ferry once docked at Indian Town and heads in a beeline for the uptown core, connecting the city’s North End and its South End. In the 1970s, when huge population and economic growth was predicted for Saint John, the city widened the old street to allow for the increased traffic. Now it’s not a destination but a thoroughfare. Instead of connecting the North End, Main Street now isolates it. This six-lane road and the nearby highway have carved a moat between the North End and the central city. No wonder the newly created Harbour Passage walkway around the harbour has become so important — it’s the only walking route into the uptown which doesn’t require pedestrians to travel via a dusty and noisy concrete-and-car desert.

Taken on August 26, 2010

morning commute

I laughed the first time someone told me that the traffic was bad in Saint John. Ha, I retorted, this is nothing like Toronto! Living here, you can get everywhere in the city in 10 minutes, so what’s to complain about? That’s probably not the best way to respond to Saint Johners, who — unless they’ve actually lived “away” — will already be harbouring a grudge against Toronto, and all of central Canada to be honest, for taking away all the industry that used to be here, leaving the Maritimes with a declining population and economic base. Well, of course that’s ancient history now, I mean we wouldn’t know what to do with woolen mills now even if they had stayed here, but Saint Johners have long memories. Long memories and a tendency to complain about the traffic.

Taken on June 22, 2010

three red cars

There is an art to intersections, to driving in the city. Urban traffic has a syncopated rhythm: hurry – waaaait, stop – go! Weaving between lanes and lines is the rhumba of highways. The dance of intersections is the rhythm of the city, as you move from one set of lights to the next in an extended waltz with different partners. Cars, of course, prefer fast highways and country roads, with wide-open vistas and no stop sign in sight. As drivers, we are easily seduced by speed. We prefer open spaces and back roads, reluctant to bow to the slow dance of intersections where there are rules and courtesies and we have to wait, for a moment, for our turn.

Taken on June 15, 2010