MEDS: How I got to work on the first day

MEDS: Minimally Edited Daily Stuff

I bet you are all dying to know how my first few days of work went. Now that my work at City Hall reflects on other people, I have to be more circumspect in what I share on the Internet. I thought I might be expected to stop blogging but then decided that millions (billions even!) of readers would not tolerate the absence of my writing and that it would be political suicide to cancel me. Of course, my boss was not consulted on any of this but he’s a sensible man. He hired me after all.

On my first day of work, I headed out in pitch darkness to the bus stop beside my house. The bus stop beside my house is so dark at 6:45 am that I can’t even see my Presto card in my wallet. Which is probably why there is a Braille end to the card: it’s cheaper than a street light. Since a street light in that location would shine right in my bedroom, I’m happy to stumble a little on my way to the bus stop.

It was a sloppy rainy day, with freezing drizzle alternating with floppy wet snow. I had taken the children to the pool the day before, which was — as I texted my friend Holly — a rookie move, hair-wise. At this point, I told her, my hair couldn’t get much worst. Spoiler Alert: It Could.

I also had to wear something that would carry me from work to the new city council’s inaugural ceremony in the evening, not knowing what the dress code was for either event. I picked a long pleated skirt from Clara’s closet — Clara is my eldest daughter, not the name of an upscale dress store — the same one she had worn at her graduation last June, incidentally held at the same  Convention centre. Basically: one skirt, worn twice, at the same place.

Who wore it best? She obviously got her legs from me…

So I took the bus worrying about mucking up my skirt but who said I had a clue?

That’s when things got interesting.

I remember listening to my mother — who was born and raised in France — tell me that even after 25 years in North America, she still found it confusing to have the Atlantic ocean to the East. In France, the Atlantic ocean is to the West. I remember wondering why on earth was this information relevant to someone living in the (landlocked) Gatineau area. On my first morning of work, I understood what she meant.

I lived most of my life in the East end of Ottawa, where buses cross the Mackenzie bridge first, before proceeding downtown. Now I live in the West end and it turns out that West end buses cross downtown before finishing their routes on the Mackenzie bridge. My workplace sits near the Mackenzie bridge side of the downtown core. Like a good little bus minion, I quietly read my book until I knew the bus was approaching downtown and when I looked up, I noticed with horror that I was at Slater and Bay, on the opposite side of downtown from the Mackenzie bridge. Are you still following me?

In a split second, my East-end brain had a conniption fit and assumed that it had missed the stop. I jumped out of the bus in a panic and found myself standing confused in a puddle. But that’s not all. At this point, my brain — who was born and raised in this city — has not yet remembered that West-end buses start their downtown crawl at Slater and Bay. When you miss your stop, you start walking in the direction your bus cam from. Right? So I started walking away from where I was supposed to go.

At this point, my brain’s throbber is in a death spin. It knows it’s not going the right way but it doesn’t know why. So I whip out the Google, ashamed that I would need Google’s assistance getting to my first day of work for the City where I was born and have hardly ever left! But thankfully, the Google made it worst, at least giving the cold comfort of not really needing it (… with friends like these…)

What Google did was give me the driving directions to my work. And if you have ever been so blessed as to drive through Ottawa’s downtown core you know that it features a nightmare of one way streets, blocked streets and roads to nowhere. In the immortal words of Doc “The Hornet” Hudson: you need to turn right to go left, or at least drive around a block or two to properly align your car with your destination without driving down a one-way street. So the Google, in good Doc Hudson fashion, sent me West up Albert street towards Lebreton Flats in order to properly align me with Slater street heading East, as if I was limited by the shackles of traffic rules.

By the time I realized what was going on, I was about 1.5km away from my work and soaked to the bone. I turned around and walked 25 minutes down Laurier street to City Hall, where I arrived fashionably late with my hair in two giant icicles and my bangs dripping down my face.

Later that day, I was tasked with urban planning and roads related issues in the Ward, which invovles — I found out — a lot of reading maps upside down. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands.