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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Plague Notes IV



One time I went to the Canadian National Exhibition with some friends, and we decided to leave at the same time a big show was getting out from the grandstand. The crush at the streetcar loop was so bad that we could sense the decrease in ground-level oxygen. A small boy became separated from his mom, who started screaming. We lifted him over our heads and passed him, hand to hand, back to his mother.


Two years ago we went to a large wedding at the Hotel Vancouver. It was in a banquet hall on the second floor, and without thinking we piled into an elevator on the ground floor at the same time as three other groups. We were all stuffed in there, shoulder to shoulder, arms down, doors closed, and an alarm went off. The elevator was overloaded and wouldn’t move. The minutes it took for the doors to be wrenched open are seared into my mind. Sometimes I relive them during insomnia, and have to leap from bed and walk around the house, swinging my arms.

Three months ago my daughter and I were in Vancouver. Heading home, we boarded the train at Broadway, and then more people got on, and then more people, and then more, and more… The doors finally closed and the train lurched into the tunnel, and then stopped. I was back in the elevator in the Hotel Vancouver, fighting the panic that drives me from bed, but no, no escape. 

The train started moving.  Then stopped.

It started again.  Then it stopped again.

Slowly, slowly, slowly it got to King Edward Station. There was an eruption onto the platform, people breathing deeply, swinging their arms. My daughter and I ran up the stairs onto the street and down the block to Queen Elizabeth Park. We sat on the grass and I phoned my wife, who was driving home from work. I asked if she could pick us up. It would take 45 minutes. That was not a problem.

Yesterday at the grocery store it was busy. Several people were careless about the 2-meter rule. Two meters is my diameter when I'm swinging my arms.

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