A little trip to Toronto

I just returned from a trip to Toronto to visit my elderly mother during the coldest month in the city’s history. (Cue the “There’s snow in Toronto” jokes.)

While there, I indulged in the simple city pleasures of riding the subway, visiting the ROM and the AGO, eating out, watching the news, and observing the inhabitants. (I also visited some family members, and spent time with my mother. Glad you asked.)

Differences between Alabama and Ontario, #3,456 >> #3,458:

Lotteries. In Ontario, lottery ticket sales are everywhere, in convenience stores and at newsstands. They started back in 1975 as a means of raising funds to pay for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Sales were so successful that they were kept fund raising tool for community athletic programs and recreation centres (In Ontario, these are mainly run by municipalities and community non-profits). There is lottery advertising everywhere, on billboards, buses, bus shelters and on in-store signage. While visiting my mother in hospital, I watched a slow-moving patient in a gown and pushing an IV pole come to purchase his quick picks. Commonly referred to by locals as “the idiot tax“, due to the actual probability of winning. Alabama hasn’t gone down this road yet.

Runners. In Toronto, runners clad in black winter running tights and bright florescent jackets are out in the parks, on sidewalks and along the roads in all weather, clocking their daily mileage. All are, sensibly, wearing multi-layered gloves and toques. There are also many cyclists who ride through the winter. The city helps them along by clearing the park paths along the waterfront. None let the cold weather conditions stop them from what they want to do. they simply dress for the conditions. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Toronto has a large young professional population living in the city’s core. Many are doing computer or tech-related desk jobs and must build exercise into their day in order to remain focused and on-task. Running is an excellent way to spend some time outdoors before getting in behind that laptop monitor.
  2. Toronto (along with the rest of Canada) deliberately cultivates outdoor activities as a civic virtue, and an important means of community interaction. Exercise has been encouraged in public spaces for over forty years through the ParticipAction program to counter obesity and diseases related to inactivity. When you have a government-run health insurance program, it’s easy to balance the funds spent to promote activity against lower healthcare costs.

Winter fashion. People dress for the weather. Because many city residents are originally from much warmer climates, a warm coat, good boots and gloves are priority purchases on arrival. There is a distinct Canadian winter fashion ethos of quirky boots with pom-pom decorated toques, Canada Goose parkas (a distinct status symbol – they aren’t cheap) and long, slender down-filled coats. Canadians embrace this and have fun.

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