April 30, 2003
Even though Toronto is in the grip of SARS hysteria (which is really blown way out of proportion) and playoff fever (definitely NOT blown out of proportion), the Supreme Bitch managed to take a few days out of her busy schedule recently to come and visit me. This, predictably, involved an excess of alcohol, vast expenditures of money, lots of belly laughs and hours of in-depth girl talk. We even managed to outline three book proposals together.
She arrived on Monday night for a three-night stay, bearing easily twice as much luggage as I took to Ireland for a fortnight. I came to respect the wisdom in this after I talked her into purchasing an Anne Klein coat, a Dana Buchman jacket - I even haggled the shopkeeper down by about $40 on her behalf -- pet supplies, magnets, cosmetics and assorted stationery. She's been here twice and each time I've persuaded her to purchase hundreds of dollars of consumer goods.
As everyone in the city feels that the SARS thing is largely a creature of the media, we didn't take any special precautions against infection. But maybe it's me. One of the advantages of agoraphobia is that those afflicted are usually pretty safe from infectious disease. Although I do leave the house when I must (work, shopping, etc.), I spend a great deal of my time right here and this strategy dramatically limits my risk of exposure.
Roughly two weeks after her visit, the World Health Organization advised travelers not to visit Toronto for fear of contracting SARS. Our mayor (a notable loon easily provoked into diverting displays of hysterics) is going berserk. In an effort to counteract the bad publicity the city has been getting, he appeared on Larry King Live and gave an interview that showcased his abundant idiocy in all its excruciating glory. If another tourist EVER sets foot in this town after his performance, I'll be mighty surprised.
Unless you're hanging out in hospitals, your chances of catching SARS are pretty slim (based on what we know so far about the method of its transmission). And let's face it: the death rate of this virus is 4%, which is statistically less than the death rate from garden variety flu. There is no panic on the streets of Toronto - though Chinatown businesses are in trouble. The TTC ("Toronto Transit Corporation" -- known to locals as "Take The Car") has reported little deviation in user numbers, which means that well over a million people are using public transit every day. I've only seen 2 people in the entire city wearing masks (apart from health care workers of course). The public health authorities are being very sensible about it - people who exhibit symptoms are told to go to special clinics and those who fear they have been exposed are asked to stay in voluntary quarantine for 10 days. With two notable exceptions, everyone has complied. There has been no need to legislate compliance. Nobody will suffer financially from being off work - the government will be providing compensation for the quarantined and public health officials arrange food deliveries so nobody has to leave their home.
While city officials are moaning about the loss of tourism revenue, I for one couldn't be happier. I'm delighted that we aren't going to be overrun this summer, although I will miss the Americans who arrive with skis during July and August when the temperature routinely hits 32 degrees celcius. In the past I've had a lot of fun with them. For example, in response to one of them asking where a certain store was, I told him to continue driving north on Yonge Street and make a left after the last light. Given the fact that Yonge Street is approximately 2,000 kilometers long, my guess is that he's still driving.
Does that make me a bad person?
I hear the Yanks are pissed at us because we are on the verge of completely decriminalizing marijuana. Go figure - a nation of 300 million yahoos armed to the teeth, shooting themselves, each other and anyone else who gets in their way without a second thought and they're worried about a little weed. If you ask me, if there was ever a nation that could afford to mellow out a bit, it's the US.
That being said, recent events have demonstrated that the Yanks are a
little trigger-happy these days. In the interests of keeping things cool
(we wouldn't want to attract as much attention as, say, Syria), below is
This Hour Has 22 Minutes "Apology to America". Colin Mochrie said it
much more succinctly than I ever could:
"On behalf of Canadians everywhere I'd like to offer an apology to the United States of America. We haven't been getting along very well recently and for that, I am truly sorry.
I'm sorry we called George Bush a moron. He is a moron but it wasn't nice of us to point it out. If it's any consolation, the fact that he's a moron shouldn't reflect poorly on the people of America. After all it's not like you actually elected him.
I'm sorry about our softwood lumber. Just because we have more trees than you doesn't give us the right to sell you lumber that's cheaper and better than your own.
I'm sorry we beat you in Olympic hockey. In our defence I guess our excuse would be that our teams were much, much, much, much better than yours.
I'm sorry we burnt down your white house during the war of 1812. I notice you've rebuilt it! It's Very Nice.
I'm sorry about your beer. I know we had nothing to do with your beer but we feel your pain.
I'm sorry about our waffling on Iraq. I mean, when you're going up against a crazed dictator, you want to have your friends by your side. I realize it took more than two years before you guys pitched in against Hitler, but that was different. Everyone knew he had weapons.
And finally on behalf of all Canadians, I'm sorry that we're constantly apologizing for things in a passive-aggressive way, which is really a thinly veiled criticism. I sincerely hope that you're not upset over this.
We've seen what you do to countries you get upset with.
Till next time,