Hostage night in Canada

Whaddya do on a rainy night in Toronto?

MacLean & MacLean – What Do You Do On a Rainy Night in Toronto?

It started off so well. A good friend and writing colleague of mine, Patricia Flewwelling, asked me if I was interested in going to an event put on by the Crime Writers of Canada, CWCbetter known as the CWC, announcing the short lists for their Arthur Ellis awards. A handful of authors, including three I had books from, would be reading, cool people like Jill Edmondson, another author, would be there. Possibly even Paul Alves from Bookguys.ca I really wanted to meet him, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it.

bookguysSide note: if you’re interested in books or movies, check out bookguys.ca. It’s cool.

Anyway, the event sounded like an interesting Thursday night out. So I said yes.

Pat, who’s from Montreal, was staying in a Howard Johnson’s (better known as “HoJo’s”) in the extreme east end of Scarborough. So, I drove there and parked my truck. We would take Pat’s car, which is smaller than my ridiculously big fat Dodge Ram Hemi, and much more amenable to parking in downtown Toronto.

Pat shifted the detritus from the front seat to the back and I climbed in. The next half-hour was rather hilarious as I watched Pat, who is used to driving in Montreal, proceed to sputter and rage at the drivers on the 401 and Don Valley Parkway. It was then that we realized this was, in our thirteen years of knowing each other, that I was in the passenger seat.

We made it into Toronto, running late. The CWC event started at 7:00, and we were parking right around then. Pat found an underground spot, we drove in, got the ticket, and parked, then rushed out to the event.

arthur ellisOf the event, I won’t say a lot, except that I really enjoyed Howard Shrier‘s and Robert Rotenberg‘s readings, as well as a couple of others. I got my books autographed, met Jill and it was decided that a few of us would head over to a bar for a couple of drinks. I didn’t mind horribly, though I’d hoped to be home by 10:00. Howard Shrier mentioned he’d likely only have one as he had an early meeting with a publicist for his new book in the morning. Good, I thought, we won’t be late then.

Around 10:30, I started making noises about leaving. More drinks were ordered. Around 11:00, I made some more noises. Around 11:30, it looked like it was going to happen, then I realized we hadn’t paid yet, so we had to wait for checks. That led to another round of drinks and toasts.

Finally, we got out at 12:30.

Pat and I hit the streets, wet with light rain. We made our way back to the parking lot. I figured, well, it’s 12:30 now, so it’ll be at least an hour before I’m home. I’d better grab a coffee for the road. So we hit the Tim Horton’s across the street, then laden with coffee, tried to get to the car.

The garage door was down. No matter, there was a stairway leading to an entrance. I walked down it, jiggled the doorknob. Locked.

Locked?

Heading back up, I looked at the sign. Yes, it said it was open 6 am to 7 pm and, forgetting for the moment how ridiculous it is to close a public parking lot at 7 pm in downtown Toronto, I looked for the note that said something about “no entrance after hours.” There was none.

I called the number on the sign and it went something like this:

“Hi, I’m parked at the 1075 Bay Street parking lot and I need to get to my car.”
“Come back at 6 am.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No sir.”
“Look, I need that car. I’m from Courtice and I’ve got someone here from Montreal that needs to get back to her hotel room and her dog.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”

1075 Bay Street Parking...better known as the Ninth Circle of Hell

1075 Bay Street Parking…better known as the Ninth Circle of Hell

So I swore loudly and disconnected. As I did this, it immediately started to rain much harder.

With nothing else to do, Pat flagged a cab and we headed back to her hotel room in Scarborough.

We’d just gotten into the cab and were discussing options (both of us needed to work in the morning, we were trying to figure out ways to get Pat’s car) when the Wife called. “Are you planning on coming home tonight?”

I explained my situation and told her I was on my way back to the truck. As I told her this, I had a flash of a memory. A memory of me looking at my keys and weighing options.

“Oh shit,” I said.

Both the Wife and Pat said, “What?”

“I just realized,” I said. “I left my keys in Pat’s car.” I let that sink in. Pat’s car. Currently receding behind us at 110 kmph. “I can’t drive home.”

I have a real problem with keys. To find out more, read this.

My first thought was to get the Wife to drive out and meet me in Scarborough, but she reminded me that our daughter had taken the car and was sleeping over at a friend’s place. They were celebrating the end of their first year of college. “She’s likely had a couple of drinks by now,” the Wife said. So that was out. I could tell by her voice she was not happy.

It was decided at that point that I would sleep on the floor in Pat’s hotel room. Pat warned me that, because she’d been drinking, she’d likely snore. “I snore too,” I said. “No biggie.”

I apologized to the Wife, Pat apologized to the Wife, and I hung up. $70 and 30 minutes later, we got back to the HoJo’s.

Pat’s mother had been dogsitting, and offered me a ride back, but with my daughter out, there was no way I would be able to get back to Scarborough, or to work in the morning.

Now, Pat’s mom is nice, but by now it was around 1:00 am, and I’d made the decision to get up at 5:30 to go get Pat’s car right when the garage opened at 6:00. So I just wanted to lay down and sleep. Pat and her mother chatted about the dog, about pizza, etc.

I’ll be honest here. When I’m tired, I can get rude. I’m sure I was rude, but neither Pat nor her mother mentioned it. They’re both far too nice to say anything.

Me? I grabbed a couple of pillows, dropped them on the floor, took off my button-down shirt so I’d look a little presentable in the morning and stretched out in my jeans and t-shirt. Pat’s mother left shortly thereafter.

Ever tried to sleep on the floor of a hotel? The carpet’s thin. It smells. We hadn’t thought to request an extra blanket, so there I was, fully clothed, contacts still in my eyes, trying to sleep. Let me break the next few hours down for you.

1:15 – 2:00 am:
Pat and her dog Dixie settled into bed, and both started slow, regular breathing. I tried to ignore the discomfort of the floor and focus on getting to sleep. Instead, I felt the slow thrumming of that last coffee jangling my nerves and popping my eyes open. Cars and trucks drove by. Dixie breathed. Pat breathed. Then I heard the shift of Pat’s breathing and thought, wow, if that’s what she calls snoring, that’s nothing. Ten minutes later, it got louder. Then louder still. It crescendoed to a room-rattling snarl, before reaching a peak, a snort, and a sound like glib-glab, then stopped. Then the whole cycle started again, taking about fifteen minutes from first heavy breaths to final glib-glab.

2:00 – 2:30 am:
The snoring was now done for the night. Next came the argument in the front lobby. I could tell the one guy was the poor bastard manning the desk of a Scarborough HoJo’s in the middle of the night, but I couldn’t tell who the other guy was. And the yelling didn’t serve to educate me any further

“I’m gonna call the cops.”
“You aren’t gonna call the cops.”
“Yes I am. I’m gonna call the cops.”
“You won’t call the cops.”
“I’m gonna call them. I’m gonna call the cops.”
“Go ahead! You call the cops.”
“I’m calling the cops.”

Seriously. If I wrote conversations like that in my fiction, I’d immediately delete it.

Not able to sleep, I pushed a pillow up against the wall and sat, arms on knees, head on arms. Did nothing.

2:30 – 3:00 am:
Two dogs. Two separate occasions. The first, some little pipsqueak of a thing, out in the hallway, yipping, then it was quickly cut off. The second was a bigger dog, and it barked five or six times.

Gave up and stretched back out again. This floor wasn’t getting any more comfortable. Smelled like dogs and dirty feet. I tried not to think about how many feet had walked the spot where I lay.

3:00 – 4:00 am:
Gave up, turned on my side, got as comfortable as I could. Fell asleep for fifteen minutes or so. Woke up, turned to other side, got maybe another half hour’s sleep.

4:00 – 5:00 am:
Got cold. Dreamed of my warm leather jacket, sitting not a hundred yards from where I lay, locked in my truck. Pulled my button down shirt off the chair and draped it over me. Watched the time go by in ten minute increments. Amused myself by counting to six hundred to see if I could accurately predict ten minutes. Nope. Had the Canadian comedians MacLean & MacLean’s song running through my head. Whaddya do on a rainy night in Toronto? Though their answers were funny, mine were just sad. Lose a car. Lose my keys. Lay awake on a floor. Curse the world that allows parking garages to close too early.

I can’t express the precise toll sleeping on a hard, cold, malodorous floor will take on you. How badly it stresses you to want to sleep, to need to sleep, to beg to sleep, but sleep doesn’t come. Instead, the night is spent staring up at a small green light on the smoke detector, the only point of interest in an otherwise dark room. The thoughts, every time the time is checked, of, That’s XX less minutes of sleep. I have to get up in XX hours. And too soon, that last thought changes to I have to get up in XX minutes. And finally, pushing up off the floor, tired, depressed, frustrated, and feeling two decades older than four hours before.

Though I’d originally planned to get up at 5:30, boredom and my bladder got me vertical at 5:00.

Called a cab company. The cab that should have been there in five minutes took more like fifteen. The cabbie called me to ask me where the hotel was. He later admitted he was a little concerned about picking someone up in Scarborough (he normally worked the western end of Toronto).

He finally found me, and by 5:30, I was on my way back to Pat’s car.

$75.00 later, he dropped me in front of the despicable 1075 Bay Street location right at 6:00 and I walked in, ready to drop a can of whupass on whoever happened to be working that morning.

There was no one. The entire place was automated.

Tell me again why a parking garage with no humans, only automated systems, needs to be closed at fucking 7:00 pm?

Found the car, pulled up to the exit, plugged in the ticket. Wasn’t surprised to see the daily maximum of $12.00 had, of course, been doubled. Why shouldn’t they hold your car hostage overnight, then bill you $24.00 for the privilege?

At this point, as I pulled out my credit card, I could only laugh. I stopped at the exact same Tim’s and ordered a big, fat coffee. Because, you know, there’s always time for Tim Horton’s.

I drove back to the hotel in Scarborough, got there about 6:30. Parked Pat’s car, snagged my keys, took her keys back to her, then got back in my truck and, bone weary, headed home.

Got home about 7:00. Got my son up for school, walked the dog, had a shower, ironed a new shirt and headed back out to spend a full day standing in the Oshawa Centre to observe how one of my company’s stores run.

The next time I get invited to an event in Toronto, I’m still going to say yes, but I’ll be goddamned if I’ll park at 1075 Bay Street.

And it will turn out to be something better to do on a rainy night in Toronto.

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One thought on “Hostage night in Canada

  1. I am SOOOoooo sorry. I’ve felt bad ever since. I should have let you sleep on the bed. I should have stuffed cotton in my mouth. I could have slept in the shower! Anything! But you forgot to mention that my car had been keyed from front bumper to rear the next morning, so instant karma being what it is…Well, either way, you have my permission to make fun of me indefinitely.

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