Friday, February 27, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
We are in Vancouver, BC live blogging the 2009 World Wheelchair Curling Championship. The event goes for eight days, and we got here a day early just to make sure everything (high speed internet, press credentials, hotel room) was ready.
"It's good to be back in a real city," I told myself the first day as I walked to the nearest Starbucks.
It's a city, for sure, with noise and traffic and places to eat that stay open after 9:00PM. But "real" might be overstating it. I have lived in real cities, and I have traveled to real cities, and my experience has been that in real cities, people live to get things done. In contrast, here in laid back Vancouver, people live expecting that things simply can't be done, so when they are not done, well then uh oh. The motto of Vancouver should be "It's not my fault. So."
It takes some getting used to.
Here in Vancouver, population 580,000, they are preparing to host the Olympic and the Paralympic Games in 2010. The streets are torn up, there is construction everywhere, and there are several new buildings for the games. You can't pick up a newspaper or watch a tv newscast or look at an online portal anywhere in BC without being bombarded with stories about the facilities being finished on time.
Unless, apparently, you are a Vancouver Taxi driver.
We have taken a cab every day to the new Olympic/Paralympic Centre. Every day, we have had to direct the cab driver, except on the second day, when the same driver as the first day showed up at the hotel.
Ok, fine. That's not the problem. The problem is that when we try to get a cab back to the hotel, it's a giant negotiation with the Vancouver Taxi dispatcher, because they can't find this address on their maps. And they just don't seem to give a damn about fixing that.
There's a world championship event going on. The place is full of Handi-DARTs and wheelchair users. We need a wheelchair accessible taxi, and we will need one every night at about the same time. "Could you let your dispatcher know where this is? We'll need a cab every night about this time."
We either get a grunt in return, or a card with the cab company's phone number, or both. Talking to the dispatcher is like talking to the wall.
I've never been in a city of any size where this was normal.
In Chicago ("The City That Gets Things Done"), the drivers were not only required to know where everything was, they took great pride in it. In San Francisco ("The City That Knows How"), if you needed to know where ANYTHING was, you just needed to ask a cabbie. (And by anything, I mean a good Italian restaurant that's not touristy, where you could get breakfast in the middle of the night, and what the baseball scores were. Anything.)
Even in Atlanta ("The City Too Busy To Hate"), even in the runup to the 1996 Olympics, cabbies knew where the new facilities were, how much they cost, and what used to be there.
But not here in Vancouver. Here in Vancouver, the VANOC representative is amazed that the American wheelchair curlers brought their own shower benches, and that they are so self-sufficient. "Of course they brought their own stuff, they're not expecting to wait around until someone provides them with something," I did not say out loud.
Vancouver's motto is "By sea land and air we prosper"
Just not by taxi.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
It seems that Canada is an attractive destination for former Guantanamo Bay detainees. According to this story:
Many Guantanamo Bay detainees cleared of terrorist charges and slated for release have expressed a desire to live in Canada, and refugee organizations are calling for sponsors.Canadians think of themselves as tolerant, and they think Canada is racism-free, especially in contrast to the United States. I hear this often. I also heard a guy yell, "Run like you're carrying a watermelon!" while watching a football game on tv in the curling club lounge. It takes some getting used to.
When I started this post a few minutes ago, there were 244 comments on this story. Now there are 255. And despite the popularity of the CBC Television show Little Mosque on the Prairie ("Small town Canada with a little Muslim twist"), many of those commenting do not like the idea. The entertaining part is watching them complain about "terrorists" AND about Americans. Here's one:
Another bunch of bleeding hearts coming to the rescue of "presumed terrorists at some time anyhow". Of course people they are not going to say they are possibly still terrorists simply because they want to get rid of them!!! Especially, the Americans who have been critized to high heavens about that place, what a nice gesture from them to let them come to Canada with all our social programs. Probably they will land in Toronto and help our deficit get even higher? Only a few you say? Dream on, they will get all their families with the great great grand-parents and the 90 or so relatives from each family come here, go on welfare, get Medicare, some will be sick, etc, and you are saying you still want to sponsor them? Get your heads examined, now.Well the radio call in shows should be pretty interesting for the next little while.