Thursday, December 15, 2016

Notes from my 2-Day Toronto Business Trip

Notes from my 2-Day Toronto Business Trip
Martin Bodek

Day 1:

Rise and shine at 3:00 AM, Roher Standard Time (vehamayvin yavin) and have an early meal like it’s a fast day.

Uber arrives on time, and off to the airport. I arrive so early that nobody’s behind the check-in counter yet. While staring at the four walls, I get the Uber receipt, which is double the value it should be because the driver ended the trip 20 minutes after dropping me off. Good start to my day.

Once check-in shows up, it’s lickety-split from there onto my plane, which is awesome! A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400! With the wonky propellers! I’m mesmerized by them, and ooh, I’m sitting right behind them!

OMG, the landing gear comes directly out of the engines??? Is that smart?

Anyway, while I enjoy their hum, I read “The Road Taken” by Henry Petroski, and 1:25 later, I touch down in Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport - which flies right by the CN Tower first – nice and gently. I note that the tires actually bounced! Interesting. This plane is wild.

Snow is everywhere. A storm just ended, and I gather they know what to do about that in this place.

The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksman (or in this case, Yakswoman) at passport control, asks me questions like she’s actually curious about what I do for a living. I know it’s her job, but 17 questions in, it’s time to talk to the next person in line. What I do is interesting to me, not other people.

I love small airports. You just zip right through.

At the Hertz counter, the clerk asks me if I have any questions. Yes, can I pump my own gas? The answer is yes. Living in New Jersey, this is a breath of fresh air. As I assemble my papers and turn away, I ask one more question: how do I get out of here? This conversation happens:

Clerk: “You make a right and a left and maple syrup go Raptors stand on guard for thee Bieber Morissette Reynolds and you roll onto the ferry.” (or something like that)
Me: “Did you say ‘ferry’?”
Clerk: “Yes, you go on to the ferry.”
Me: “Really? I get to go on to a ferry? That’s the way out of here?”
Clerk: “Yes, you’re on an island.”
Me: “And there’s no bridge?”
Clerk: “No, they haven’t built it yet.”
Me: “Really? Okay, I’m going on a ferry!”

I have a million follow-up questions. What happens when the water freezes over, is one, but there’s no time, I gotta go.

Onto a ferry! Why am I so excited by this? Well, I haven’t been on one in…30 years, and I dunno, I feel like a kid again.

Design flaw: the ferry has three lanes, but only the middle lane can roll directly off the platform. The cars on the right and the left have to roll into the middle lane to get off. Accidents can happen, and the ferry crew has to be overly mindful. Better idea: widen lanes, use electric signaling or bars to indicate when you can or can’t roll off.

This “The Road Taken” book is having this effect on me. I’m a pedant anyway.

I roll off the ferry and into Toronto proper, which has signs a bit different from the US, but the symbols are still readable and intuitive. Cool.

I witness an accident. A small car challenged a big bus for space. Doesn’t he know that 100% of the time, the bigger vehicle wins?

The Yaksmen arrive in seconds. Everybody’s okay.

I make it to the office, daven in the car in the parking lot, and:


After work, I tour a bit, and I realize as I’m driving that I have no idea if I can make a right on red. I don’t google and drive, so I do what any New Yorker would do: I go into the front of the right lane, and hang out, waiting to be honked.

Nobody honks me. I’m not in New York. I need feedback, people!

Clearly, Toronto has more Starbucks’ per square inch than NYC. America wasn’t enough for them, they have to take over all of North America? Sing taps for Second Cup and Tim Horton’s.

I find a good radio station: 88.1, but the DJs are frightened to death of negative Celsius temperatures. Wusses.

Toronto has an avalanche of kosher options. I navigate around a world of snowbanks to find some parking, and make it to Tov Li for dinner. Quite good food!

Then off to my hotel. I inspect the gym before retiring, because that’s how I roll. They have four treadmills and a sauna, open 24/7. I’m good.

I hit my room, turn on the TV, and mostly watch Canadian news, which is basically American news, with some Canadian tidbits thrown in.

A chat with my missus, and nighty night.

Day 2:

I head down to the gym at 5:15 AM to encounter a crowd of people. Whoa, way to go, fitness crowd!

I enjoy a 4.2 mile run on the treadmill. As I step off, the attendant puts an Out of Order sign on the sauna. Grrr. Guess I’ll have to come back some time.

These 88.1 DJs are really scared of the -2º temp! Going down to -9º. OMG!

I head to Isaac’s for breakfast, and also load up on lunch and dinner. Free cookies! Good food, too!

As I get ready to pay, another customer enters and stands behind me, no smartphone in hand, just looking around. Why is that noteworthy? Because:

My corporate card doesn’t work, so we try doing American-to-Canadian cash conversion, but the math doesn’t work, and we finally use my personal card, and through all this, the guy just stands there with a smile on his face.

The people are way too chill here. Pun intended.

I do witness some road rage upon my exit, so there’s some balance in the Force.

No, really. These 88.1 DJs think minus temperatures are the apocalypse, but you know what? They don’t talk much, there are few commercials, and the music is really great.


Okay, I can’t keep talking about this radio station without giving you a sample of their great music. Here’s some that really got my attention:

Filled up on gas before heading to the airport. Corporate card didn’t work again. While I’m figuring things out, the guy behind me doesn’t honk. Honk! It’s okay! I’m in your way! I pay with my own card, but the receipt doesn’t issue. I have to head in to the shop to get it. Minor grumble. We’re rolling.

I don’t encounter any traffic until I want it: when I’m going through downtown. The traffic allows me a real good view of the place, and note places for my next visit.


I don't have to take off shoes at security, because obviously, terrorists don't use shoe bombs when traveling from Canada.

I arrive three hours early for my flight. I walk up to the counter, and ask if I can be put on an earlier one. My passport disappears from my hands, the nice lady goes typety-type-type, and she says, “There you go. Your flight leaves in 15 minutes.” Alright!

Lessons: 1) Ask. 2) Use small airports.

I’m behind the propeller again!

Before we depart, an announcement:

“The Samsung 7 is not allowed on board. If you have a Samsung 7, please present it to the crew.”

Oh really? Exactly who is going to step forward so their phone can be chucked from the plane? Useless announcement.

It rains, producing an effect on the propellers that is mesmerizing: A cone of rain seems like it’s emanating from the centerpoint of the turning blades. Awesome, striking visual. I’m not the only one who snaps pictures. I swear the guy in front of me is using a Samsung 7.

We land hard, but hey, I’m home.

It takes 40 minutes to get through passport control. While staring into empty space because smartphones aren’t allowed to be used, I overhear this conversation between two Latin Americans:

Guy: “In Mehico, is differen from New Yersey.”
Gal: “Si, differen.”
Guy: “How is differen?”
Gal: “In Mehico, is ‘Andale!’, in New Yersey, is ‘Wait!’
Guy: “Si!”

It takes me three minutes to get an Uber.

Home sweet home, in time to put my kids to sleep.

P.S. I found the radio station online: They have a live stream. Nathaniel Rateliff is on the front page, who is A1 in my book and gives a feel for the content. First song I heard is:

I’ll be hanging out for a while.

I write about stuff, as you can see. I even write books about stuff:, Buy them.


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