Today's Three Takeaways
Take a breath. Christmas isn’t as stressful as you think it is.
On the other hand, watching people flip out in parking lots is rather amusing.
Whether it’s “War on Christmas” or it’s commercialization, people will always find something to complain about. Figure out what Christmas means for you and don’t let anyone take that away.
Joel’s Journal - Entry #51 - 21/12/2016
We hunted at every corner, searching, twisting, turning, stopping. Cars boxed us in, horns honked and more than once it looked like we would never escape, as cars turned in front of us and just as I looked over my shoulder to reverse,4 another set of headlights appeared there too.
This is the absolute bedlam of trying to find a parking spot at the Toronto Christmas Market.
The drive down from Oshawa had been a breeze, save for a little bit of not surprising traffic on the Don Valley Parkway. I didn’t mind though, the DVP is honestly one of my favorite parts about the drive into downtown (that may change if they start tolling me to take it), but driving through the Don Valley, and beneath those massive bridges at Millwood and Bloor, is simply amazing. I love the romanticizing of the Bloor Street Viaduct by Michael Ondaatje in his book In the Skin of a Lion, and if you can ignore the fact that it was previously one of the most popular places in Toronto to commit suicide prior to the Luminous Veil being installed, the bridge is just simply beautiful to look at.
After the trip in, M and I stopped at Nathan Phillips Square to check out the ice rink and Toronto city hall, something I was rather excited for. Call me a nerd, but it’s fascinating to see the heart of the municipal machine that runs one of the largest cities in Canada.
We were surprised by the small pop-up Christmas market that was happening in the square and after sampling some free product that made my beard feel and smell delightful, and grabbing a coffee from the cafe inside city hall, the two of us headed for the Christmas Market.
Now, let the parking wars begin. Little did we know that we had actually come at the best time, and that in a few hours, all hell would break loose.
The market was gorgeous. It was nearing 4 p.m. and with the winter sunset starting to begin, the luminance was fading from the day and the lights strung above glowed brighter with each step. Small cottage looking shops lined one side of the cobblestone street, backed by the large red brick and green trim of the distillery buildings that call the location home year round.
The crowds were pretty thick and the moving was slow, but that was okay. We had no realistic plans to do any shopping down there, we were only there for the experience. The tiny shops were all swarmed with people, and those not looking to get closer to the huts were all either taking pictures of friends while fighting off the crowds walking between them, or taking selfies with large sticks jutting into the air like periscopes.
Before going further into the chaos, we headed to the Mill Street Pub to make a reservation, as the place was more than likely going to be busier than Time Square on New Years Eve.
It was about a 45 minute wait and after getting our names on the list, we set back out in the cold to explore a little more.
The walking streets filled up with each passing minute and the moving was slow. Many of the stores were the same way as people pushed and nudged their way closer to counters selling trinkets and over-priced goods that nobody ever really needs.
I didn’t stress though, that’s not what Christmas is for me. People are always either so worried about the “War on Christmas” or that the holiday has been too commercialized and is now only about the gifts and buying expensive shit for people. To me, it’s not, and plain and simple, let everyone else worry about what they think the holiday is about or what it has become.
I love Christmas. The warm feelings, the time with family, buying a gift for someone that I know they will love and have never sprung the dollars for to get themselves. It’s about more than that too, it’s thinking about other people and reaching out to those you wouldn’t normally, or helping out others.
Christmas is about coming together, not about pulling apart. So I’m telling you now, forget about all this talk of commercialization and the worries about whether you’re allowed to say “Merry Christmas” or call the shrub in your living room a “Christmas Tree” or a “festive bush”. Call it whatever the hell you want and don’t let the media and internet trolls ruin your thoughts of this holiday season.
When my phone vibrated with a text from the restaurant, M and I were not far and immediately headed into the warmth of the pub where we were led to a small table against the back wall.
It was there that we spent a couple hours eating some good food and having a couple drinks. It was one of those moments that made me realize how lucky I was.
If I had known what was coming when we left the pub though, I probably would have prepared myself a little bit more.
The crowds were twice as thick as when we’d gone in, like a fence had broken somewhere and unleashed a hoard of people who had been pushing anxiously to flow into the cornucopia of Christmas, cobblestones and tchotchkes.
Sticking as close to one another as we could, we pulled our coats tighter around us as the cold had descended. Our breath plumed into the air before us and disappeared into the night, along with the majority of my patience.
Eventually, we made it back to the entrance, which was aswarm with people trying to get pictures of the Toronto Christmas Market sign all done up in lights. We pushed through, got the other side of the street, and admittedly grabbed a shot of our own.
The parking lot though, oh my goodness, the parking lot.
All of the rows were backed up and snaked with cars with their signals on waiting for other cars to leave. Pushing between bumpers and fenders we made it back to my car, only to find we were boxed in by another waiting behind me. Showing a little bit of Christmas spirit, I got the man’s attention, pointed at my spot, then gave him the thumbs up. He reciprocated the gesture and began to back up to let me loose.
We dropped into the car, and I quickly popped it into reverse. Unfortunately, the space created by the car behind me had immediately been filled by another car, who apparently fed up with waiting had attempted to pull around, only to get jammed by another car ahead of him.
The only thing to do was laugh.
Looking straight ahead, there was the edge of a large pile of snow, close enough that my passenger side tire would become snarled in it if I tried to move forward. It was tempting though, as there were no parking barriers and a gap in the fence leading to the street was right there. However, if I tried to turn and avoid the snow, I would definitely hit the car beside me.
The gates of heaven opened up and the angels began to sing when the white SUV beside me pulled forward and opened the gap wide enough that I immediately pushed the car into drive and jumped into the clearing. The street in front of me was lined with traffic for at least two blocks in every direction. I was given an opportunity to push into the street when a lady driving a black SUV pulled into the parking lot I’d just left. The problem for her was that the lane I was pulling out of was not actually an exit or an entrance. Instead of being greeted by an entrance into the parking lot, she was met with the backs of parked cars. Following her lead, another silver Jeep pulled in behind her, blocking her in and the traffic flowed in to eliminate any chance of escape.
I glanced in my rearview mirror, saw her head hanging out the driver side window, sharing some loud Christmas cheer with the car behind her. I laughed, saw my opportunity for escape and pulled out into the street, leaving the chaos behind.
All in all, it was quite the experience.
Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas!