Having returned from my four-and-a-half day journey deep into the Land of Visible Eyeballs, aka Toronto, and walking around in the Chicago loop, I’m feeling like I’ve stepped into a movie sequel: Invasion of the Body Snatchers 3 – Smartphones Attack!
I spent four days and oodles of walking among Torontonians who were neither holding nor staring at mini-screens as they moved.
For maybe a decade now, walking from Chicago Union Station to my office and back every day, I've often counted and compared the number of people walking with or without a smartphone in their hand or looking at it as they walk. Over the years, it's gone from about 1/5 to about two-thirds of the people I see during rush hour with their phones in hand or in use.
On my first morning walk in Toronto, I spotted a grand total of five (!!!) people holding smartphones as they walked and one (ONE!!!!!) looking at it. Days 2, 3, and 4 were the same. Seriously. It felt like a pleasant time warp to circa 1996. Canucks really ARE different.
Chicago? Today at lunchtime, I was hoofin’ down Washington Street as a gauntlet of three ladies approached, heads first, eyes focused on information of obviously great importance. The one in the middle – I kid you not – had a baby strapped to her torso. At least the baby noticed me.
The trio were a mini-moving wall and my choices were to walk into traffic, squish against a picture window, ram ‘em, or simply stop and leave it up to them to figure it out. I chose the last. Just before impact, baby-mama half-glanced up and shoved into the apparent stranger beside her, who didn’t look up or otherwise seem to notice. Injuries averted. No DCFS report required, this time.
But I do want to say, I’m not a blind devotee of other cities, even great ones like Toronto. I see their faults.
In one respect, Chicago blows Toronto out of the water. This morning, the 10-minute trek from Union Station was a glorious, non-stop jaywalking jaunt through one red light after another, and I even saw a cop and he might’ve seen me too. He could not have cared less and neither did I.
In Toronto, whether at rush hour or 3:00 am on an empty downtown street without a single vehicle anywhere, you better stand and wait wait wait until the red light flickers to green before heading across the avenue (and, egad, never cross in mid-block). Otherwise, you are in serious danger of getting busted, or at least ticketed, by a Canadian copper. Seattle’s the same way, and I love that place. Bergen, Norway, too, and my grandma’s mama was from that beautiful little hamlet. But try crossing when or where you shouldn’t and the long arm of Norsky law might grab you.
Great towns, yes. But nothing’s perfect.
Photographic evidence from Toronto shows that even mohawked anarchist rebels obey the lights. And don't carry smartphones.
Actually, that's my son Jake.