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Smoked Meat Diaries #2: Nowhere to Turn

Posted by Will / March 29, 2009

20090328-notraffic.jpgAfter three exhausting days of driving from Winnipeg, La Belle Fille and I found ourselves on the outskirts of Montreal. Thank jeebus. Bienvenue à Montreal!

Driving into Montreal for the first time was akin to one of those overplayed scenes from an 80s movie: The soundtrack cranks out a rocking pop tune with lyrics alluding to "a fresh start" or "tryin' to make it in the world" (think anything by Journey). A dude/dudette is driving a car - usually a convertible with the top down. They're wearing sunglasses, big smiles on their faces, driving over a bridge towards a large city where they're moving to start a new life in a small-fish-big-tank-type scenario. The bridge is important - they must always be shown driving over a bridge, a literal passage from old world to new, symbolized no other way than to physically cross an actual bridge. Finally, there is absolutely NO traffic. They are zipping over that bridge (often in the middle of the day...probably rush hour). But no traffic.

Our experience was strikingly similar... for the most part. Rocking pop tune: Check. (For us it was "Dressed for Success" by Roxette). Sporty automobile: Check-ish (Orange Mazda with the sunroof OPEN! - high five). Sunglasses: Check. Shit-eating grins: Check. Bridge towards large city: Check. No traffic: Negative. What's the opposite of 'no traffic'? Because that's what it was like for us. Totally harshed our buzz as far as I'm concerned. Instead of cruising into Montreal singing "Shaping me up for the big time baby!" we slowly inched our way over a series of bridges under construction. My iPod instinctively shuffled to Nirvana's "Something in the Way."

At least this gave us a few moments to brace ourselves for the inevitable confusion that would ensue once we actually entered the city and attempted to find our apartment. You see, La Belle Fille and I are not exactly the best at finding things. Some would say that we are "directionally challenged." I would go so far as to say that we each lack about 99% of what a normal human is capable of in terms of encoding, storing, and retrieving directional information. Quite frankly, it's amazing we found each other (or maybe, that explains everything).

You think I'm exaggerating? Case in point: we received the same set of directions from multiple people in two different languages to get to a specific address in Montreal and you'd think that we were a couple of stoned frat boys trying prove Fermat's Last Theorem.
Direction Giver: Okay, so follow Sherbrooke all the way to McTavish and turn left.
Me (back in the car): So I think he said go down Ste-Catherine, turn right on the Cartier bridge, and then start foaming at the mouth when you reach Longueuil.

20090329-stoplight1.jpgIt took me three weeks in this city before I could reliably point north... from my own front door. I had no clue. And what's with the whole North-South-East-West system, anyways? I'm no cartographer, but from my estimation, when people are saying "North," they actually mean West with just the slightest northern tilt. Sometimes I feel like I'm the subject of an elaborate Truman Show-type prank and the whole city is in on it. "Pssst, yeah, we're still messing with him. North is Southwest today. Pass it on."

I quickly discovered that Montreal is not an easy city to drive in. Drivers are hyper-aggressive, cabbies think they're at Nascar trials, cyclists are out of their minds, and pedestrians are apparently unaware of the factoid that getting hit by a car often results in death. Making turns suddenly became a challenge. It wasn't just the no-right-turns-on-red thing. When I wasn't busy trying to understand why everyone was honking at me when I turned right at a stop light, I was having just as difficult a time trying to turn left. 90% of intersections have signs that indicate no left turns. Are left turns a new thing? Were they just legislated, and slowly being introduced to drivers? And when you are allowed to turn left, it usually involves a green traffic light that blinks rapidly for a few seconds. Completely foreign to me and, in my opinion, not very intuitive; the first time that happened, I didn't know whether to turn left or find a glow stick and start raving. Several times I was forced to make three consecutive right turns in order to ultimately make a "left turn." Plus, I wasn't really sure if I wanted to go left. We were still lost.

20090329-bridge1.jpgSo after about 5472 right turns and a few strobe-light induced left turns, we somehow managed to find our apartment. Finally, we were home in Montreal. Phew. And even though we might have gotten lost a few times, the moment we walked through that door together, I felt like I had finally found my way [loving embrace, fade to black, roll credits].

Relevant song: "Dressed for Success" by Roxette
Tried to make it little by little/ Tried to make it bit by bit on my own/ Quit the job, the grey believers/ Another town where I get close to the bone.

Photos by Midnight Poutine flickr pooler Humanoide, and users Premshree Pillai and djwerdna



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