I do love Winnipeg. I am winding up a week in Winnipeg. Winnipeg has world-class shopping, entertainments, cultural experiences, museums and archives, neighbourhoods, people . . .
Just on general principle, I hate cities. I hate cities because of the traffic, the pollution, the crowdedness, and I must also mention, again, the traffic.
I just hate driving in cities.
For the first few days in Winnipeg, I took every horn honk as a personal rebuke. Didn’t matter if the horn was honking behind me, or three cars over, or at the end of a broad parking lot. I took it as a personal rebuke to my driving skills . . . of which I still have a few. But they do seem to deteriorate in cities.
Even walking in cities can be discombobulating. In the downtown, when I’m waiting to cross a busy street, suddenly a chipmunk starts chirping over my shoulder. I glance wildly about. No wildlife whatsoever. When I bring my attention back to the traffic light, which is now signalling me to cross, all my pedestrian companions are halfway across. I stumble awkwardly behind them.
Parking is usually an ordeal. Cities are not designed for car parking. Or is it the other way around? To begin, signs are confusing, apparently on purpose. Try reading a postage-stamp-sized one at 50 klicks an hour (which is, apparently, the minimum speed, if you wish to appease the horn-honkers). You can, apparently, park on certain designated streets at certain designated times on certain designated days if you can, apparently, find an open space. That’s after, apparently, you have managed to read the sign in part or in whole and not, in your haste, in error.
Yes, even when you find a genuine parking lot that will, apparently, host dozens and sometimes hundreds of cars, the ordeal may not be over. Yesterday, at The Forks, I spent 30 minutes circulating in and out of car park lanes, pausing from time to time for several minutes in the faint hope that someone, anyone, somewhere, sometime would leave.
In a strange city, you may have to learn a new car parking payment protocol. Winnipeg has pay stations. You punch your licence plate number into the computer, select the number of hours you wish to pay for (which may or may not coincide with the time you will use), and pay by card or cash.
By the fifth day in Winnipeg, I was so conversant with these pay stations that I was able to help another couple with the protocol. They were visiting from another city, called Thunder Bay, where, apparently, pay stations are a rarity.
We have no pay stations where I live, in Greenstone, a rural municipality. We do not even have curbside parking meters. That gives you some idea of how far ahead of the curve our Municipal Councillors are in the paid parking spectrum. We do not even have to pay parking to visit our municipal office or our local dentist or to check ourselves into our regional hospital. Try that in Thunder Bay and you will be slapped, my friends, slapped with unreasonable fines.
I have one more beef with the traffic in Winnipeg. Picture yourself speeding down a four-lane highway (which is actually a street) in the city. Being a visitor and being leery of city traffic, you chose the outside (the curbside) lane and away you dash at 50 klicks an hour in the “slow” lane and . . . WHAM-O!
Well, almost wham-o. Yes, there’s a bloody car ahead of you . . . parked. Parked in the slow lane. Parked in a busy lane during peak traffic hours. Parked. Not moving. Parked. And, yes, if I did not mention it, not moving.
I came upon the same car on three occasions parked in the same lane during rush hour. I do not remember all the other cars I found parked in active lanes at different hours of the day, but there were a ton of them. What the hell are the parking authorities thinking?
And here’s the topper: yesterday evening, I came across a Jeep Wrangler parked in a slow lane with a FOR SALE sign prominently displayed.
Yes, I hate cities on general principle, but I do love Winnipeg. And I do love Winnipeg drivers. I have seldom found a more congenial congregation of courteous drivers. LOVE YOU, Winnipeg drivers! I will never stop loving Winnipeg.