I grew up walking on small-town streets. That was years ago. Cars did exist by then, in case you're wondering, and our town even had a stoplight. I walked most places because we had only the one car and our father drove it to work (five blocks) so he could use it to go to Lafayette or Logansport during the day to pick up photo cuts and other newspaper-related items.
I do not miss those days. Now I walk on big-city streets, with a surprise around every corner. Recently I walked to and from my ophthalmologist's office on Dundas Street West, just north of the intersection where Dundas heads off to the east and Roncesvalles continues south.
My 25-minute walk to the office was uneventful. While I was in the office, I installed my hearing aids so as to be able to follow instructions ("look at the blue spot on the wall"), and in the course of the examination two different sets of drops were dropped into my eyes. I had, of course, failed to bring my sunglasses from home. When I left the office, the sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. (Pardon me if I insert here one of my three Russian sentences: Na nebye ni oblaka, which means "In the sky, no cloud.") As I hit the street for the walk home, I was assaulted by the bright-white sidewalk. My hat shields me from the actual sun, but the sidewalk brilliantly reflected the light straight into my wide-open pupils. I was under stress.
Crossing the street at the lights made me appreciate anew the difficulties that older people (older than I, that is) experience. When you can't see where to put your foot (the streets are uneven) you must walk more slowly—and the pedestrian signal begins flashing its countdown before you are halfway across the street. Here's hoping the Buddhist influence widens and more and more motorists develop the patience to wait, serene, while we totter through the crosswalks.
The sound! Not as great as in some cities, I know—the cities where car horns announce the aggressive drivers who will run you down at the drop of a hat. Nonetheless, Toronto's streets are noisy if you navigate them with your hearing aids in position.
So there I am, assaulted through at least two of my senses, feeling my way down the hill and then up the hill. As I pass the northeastern edge of High Park, I encounter a family on the move: baby boy in stroller, pushed by granddad, with grandma by his side. Grandad is going a fast clip. Grandma almost jogging beside him. And Baby Boy is in heaven. As the stroller whizzes down the hill (I, poor thing, am headed up), his face is alight with the joy of the wind, the sun, and speed. With the widest possible grin he faces whatever the day will bring.
Not thirty feet later I pass a mother with her under-three-year-old daughter. Holding the little girl's hand, the mother fairly flies down the hill, and the poor baby is running on tippy-toes as fast as she can. But still she is an anchor on her mother's arm, slowing her down like a jet plane's parachute deployed on landing. Poor stressed baby. Poor rushed mommy.
Dr. Seuss was right. There's always something to see on Mulberry . . . er, Bloor . . . Street.