My Visitor’s Eyes


Two pictures taken during my recent trip to Toronto for a job interview: one showing a bustling and expanding skyline and the other of one of many homeless people living in the downtown core. Author: David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.
Two pictures taken during my recent trip to Toronto for a job interview: one showing a bustling and expanding skyline and the other of one of many homeless people living in the downtown core. Author: David Gay, with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

Toronto. I was born and raised there, long before amalgamation made it even more the urban giant it is now.

When I was growing up, there was a saying that Toronto was the city the rest of Canada loved to hate. It was easy to see why: it was the financial engine of Canada, the capital city of a province that once was “a place to stand, a place to grow”.

Was.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to an interview in Toronto for a job opening at a company that was moving to Kitchener. The interviewer, the president and owner of this company, paid for my travel costs (thank you for that!), so there was no need to worry about taking a hit to the wallet for something that might not work out.

I had planned to return to Toronto when time from my job search and finances permitted, but around the summertime and certainly not this soon, but an interview is a job opportunity no matter what or where. As I packed a laptop and purchased online a GO Train ticket for the next morning, I was looking forward to seeing Toronto again. Kitchener is a great city but I have missed my hometown so much.

After I disembarked at Union Station, the first thing that struck me was how different Toronto looked since I left 4½ months ago to reboot my life and improve my chances to find work.  The streets were filthy. Everything looked run-down and worn. The look on the face of nearly every person that passed by was dour and glum. I wondered what had happened since I left for Kitchener that wrought such a change in my hometown? The terrible winter we had? Mayor Rob Ford scandal? Leafs playoff chances?

After the interview was over, I went to a nearby Tim Horton’s and fired up my laptop for a job search before I headed back to Kitchener. As I sipped my coffee and browsed Indeed,  it finally hit me. I understood what happened to Toronto since the time I left.

Nothing happened. It has been this way for quite some time. I was seeing Toronto for the first time not through the eyes of a citizen, but though the objective, unbiased eyes of a visitor. I was seeing the symptoms of the Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery etched into a city that once was an object of envy, had a bright and glorious future ahead of it, held so much promise of greater thing yet to come. Toronto, perhaps even all of Ontario, was now a shadow of itself from better days.

I had my interview, but my visit to Toronto turned out to be less enjoyable than I hoped for. It felt more like visiting someone I cared about in a palliative centre.

Thanks for reading!

David

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