It’s Only Painful if You Run After It (Friday, around 1:00 p.m.)
“We’re getting a warning light that we can’t put out,” announced the pilot, who had a distinctive brogue. This was on my plane, a Porter Airlines flight perched on the edge of the runway at Ottawa’s airport, moments away from taking off on the forty-nine minute flight to Accordion City. “We’re going to go back to the terminal and see if the mechanics and assorted wizards can’t work it out.”
A few stifled groans sounded through the cabin, none of which came from me. I had no pressing appointments that afternoon, and all I had that evening were options, not commitments. The advice that Nassim Nicholas Taleb gave near the end of The Black Swan was right: Missing a train is only painful if you run after it.
The plane made its way back to the gate and docked with the jetway to let a technician on board. Meanwhile, a couple of jumpsuited mechanics walked ritual circles around the plane.
“We need to see if rebooting the systems will clear the problem,” said the pilot after a few minutes. Apparently the “turn it off, then turn it on again” fix that seems to work for 99% of computer problems also works for airplanes. “Unfortunately, this requires shutting off the electricity, so we’ll all be plunged into darkness for a few moments, but don’t be alarmed.” Our captain had a flair for the dramatic.
A few minutes later, he made another announcement. “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but we just can’t resolve this indicator light problem. We’ll have to ask you to deplane and check with the desk. They’ll assign you to one of the flights leaving for Toronto this afternoon and don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of them.”
Although you can get very far with a car with a warning light on the dashboard that won’t go off (when money was short, I managed to ignore the ABS warning light, and look ma, not dead), I’m glad that people in the aviation industry sweat these details.
The Comforts of Home (Friday, 5:30 p.m.)
I finally got to Toronto around 5:00 p.m., three hours later than scheduled, and the cab had me at my building’s front door by 5:30.
I’d lent my apartment to a friend for the month of July. She needed a place to stay while her place was being renovated, and I figured that I might need to do a little cleaning when I got back. I was wrong — the place was as neat as a pin. Nice!
I did a quick tour of every room: kitchen, the dining room that once functioned as my office (and is now a dining room again), living room, balcony (an unusually large one, suitable for dinner parties), foyer, hallway, small bedroom (once the ex’s office, now mine) and master bedroom. I wasn’t checking to see if my friend had made off with the silverware or some personal item she could turn into a voodoo doll; I was getting a feel for the place that I haven’t really called “home” in months.
This place, I thought as I looked about, it’s not half bad.
I remember thinking around the start of May, when I left for Ottawa, that it would be good to get away from it for a while. It had been our home from the summer of 2005 until just after Christmas last year, and it just felt — I’m having trouble coming up with le mot juste for it — off since she left. It felt heavy with memory. I’d even started looking around for new places to live before the Shopify job offer came around and I moved to Ottawa for the summer.
Looking at the place now, after a whole season away, it seemed different. With a little less furniture (which is all mine, and once again, it matches) and in comparison to the Swank Tank, the apartment is nice and roomy. The windows face westward, providing afternoon and evening light as well as a view of the treetops over Gothic Avenue. My couch and love seat are more comfy than their counterparts in the Swank Tank, to say nothing of the comparison between my king bed at home versus the not-quite-queen I’ve been crashing on in Ottawa. My home office has as much space as is allotted to me and my teammates Edward and David at Shopify headquarters, and it has a window! As I did the tour, I found delights in every room. I hadn’t expected that.
That’s when I decided that I’d keep the apartment.
Evening Options (6:30 p.m.)
Earlier that week, I’d put out the word that I was up for catching up with friends as part of getting back into the Toronto swing of things. I got a reply from someone quite unexpected: Jim Munroe, a super-talented local who’s written a fistful of well-received novels and graphic novels (Flyboy Action Hero Comes with Gasmask, Angry Young Spaceman, Everyone in Silico, An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, Therefore Repent! and Sword of My Mouth), coded some interesting videogames, founded the Perpetual Motion Roadshow and the Hand Eye Society and is generally one of those people who keeps Toronto punching above its weight class in cool. I gave Jim a call and was surprised to learn than he and his family had moved quite close by, a short bike ride away. I gave him a call.
“Yeah, I’m free and you can come over once I’ve put the kid to bed, say around 8:30,” he said. “I’ll understand if you have more exciting plans tonight…”
As much as I like a good crowded party, I also like having one-on-one conversations with interesting people, especially if I haven’t seen them in ages. It might’ve been years.
“No, don’t worry,” I said. “I have some options, not plans, and they’re for much later. I’ll bring some beer. See you soon!”
I searched around my closets looking for my flight suit, which I’d need later, without success. I took out an old tuxedo — Plan B — and laid it out for later. Then I hopped into the shower.
The Old Ride (7:00 p.m.)
My old bike.
I didn’t take my bike to Ottawa, since I figured I was due for a new one and would buy it there. The old bike, a Raleigh cruiser I bought in 2003 to commute to my then-new job at Tucows, was exactly where I’d left it: in the bike storage room in the garage. A quick poke at the tires confirmed my suspicions: a season of disuse had left the tires Twinkie-soft. I didn’t have an tire pump thought I’d have to hustle it down to the gas station at Bloor and Keele when I remembered reading a notice in the elevator that the building had installed an air compressor a week after I left for Ottawa. If only I could remember where they’d put it…
I found it after a couple of minutes of searching the garage, and moments later, I was flying out of the garage on two freshly-inflated tires.
I’d been riding on my new bike all summer, a deVinci Stockholm hybrid, which has a much sportier feel than my old bike. While the new bike is sleeker, lighter and speedier, the old one also has its charms, which I rediscovered as I rode it. The higher handlebars keep you more upright and the big hydraulically-cushioned seat loves your butt more than that guy from Deliverance. It would lose in a race against my new bike, but its fat ballon-y tires offer a much smoother ride; if my new bike is a BMW, my old one is a 1970s Lincoln Town Car, meant for smooth, majestic, I’m-the-king-of-town rides.
Just like the apartment, I’m thinking of keeping the old bike.