Dear Vancouver: It’s not you. It’s me. I wanted to like you – I really did – but for some reason, we’re just not clicking. Something doesn’t feel right. And I think it’s best that we go our separate ways. I’m so sorry. You deserve to be happy, and I know you’ll find someone soon that will love you and appreciate you, and make you feel special.
You wined and dined me this weekend and provided me with a free upgrade to the presidential suite (though I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy it, having less than eight hours before the pre-workshop breakfast), but I still felt there was something missing. I don’t know what it was, exactly; maybe it was the feeling of unexpected anonymity – of being another nameless face in the crowd.
It didn’t bother me that the hotel was heaving with stylish business executives with their long black coats and leather briefcases and plastic nametags on bright blue lanyards. It didn’t bother me that your streets were heaving with hip city folk sucking on overpriced lattes like gerbils at their upside-down water bottles. I even managed to get through the first half of the day without mindlessly doodling or daydreaming or constantly checking the time.
But then you whispered sweet nothings into my ear. “There are a couple record stores a kilometer away,” you said. “You should wolf down your lunch and meet me outside. We have an hour – which is plenty of time – and maybe you’ll find something you like. You can’t go home empty-handed.”
I ran towards the lunch table, double-checked the route on Google Maps as bits of chicken fell out of my face and onto my plate and finished two sandwiches and a bowl of soup before most of the room was out of their seats. I weaved through the crowd, ran up the stairs and through the front foyer, exited the hotel, and veered to the left. I was on the 1100 block, and the record stores were patiently waiting for me on the 400 block. Wanting to make the most of my time, I power-walked around pedestrians, lampposts, post office boxes and parking meters.
I soon discovered that, while it takes roughly ten minutes to walk a kilometer in the country, it takes a lot longer in the city – especially when plagued with a dozen red lights in a row. It was madness. I watched as runners in their stretchy shorts suddenly stopped and bounced around like crazed astronauts, waiting for the lights to change. This would drive me bonkers. But again, dear Vancouver: It’s not you. It’s me.
I must have walked almost seven hundred meters when I looked above the entrance of a tall building to confirm that I was heading in the right direction. The address was 1954. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“This can’t be right,” I said. “I’m sure I was supposed to turn left after leaving the hotel. But… maybe I went the wrong way.”
Before you could say anything I turned around and power-walked back the way I had come, stopping at every red light before continuing past the hotel and down the hill. After about seven or eight minutes, I started to wonder why there were no storefronts. There were only rows and rows of townhouses and condominiums. I continued another block before checking the address on a mailbox. It read 1642.
“Dang it! What is going on?” I asked as I spun around in a circle. “Is this some kind of cruel joke?”
At this point, I should have laughed it off and gone back to the hotel. I should have socialized with other teachers while sipping subpar conference room coffee. But I’m stubborn.
I power-walked back up the hill, past the hotel, and around more pedestrians, lampposts, post office boxes and parking meters before stopping at the same tall building and looking again above the entrance. This time I noticed the letters A and D on either side of 1954. Initially, I thought that AD stood for address, but then it dawned on me that AD actually stood for anno domini. 1954 was the year the building was constructed.
The record stores were a couple blocks further down the street. They were directly across from each other, but I only had time for one. Within three and a half minutes, I found an album by American jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, and Yo-Yo Ma performing Bach’s Cello Suites.
Time was not on my side, and I nearly ran back.
I was hot and sweaty and stripped off my scarf and sweater as I flew down the hotel stairway. The presenter had already started, and I quietly slinked around five crowded tables before finding my seat.
“Don’t worry,” said the woman sitting next to me. “She just started. You didn’t miss anything.”