The commute life

I’ve been working in my new role long enough now to have settled on a commute path that suits me. It may not be the quickest or most direct or even make sense to anyone else, but it is mine and I actually like it.

It took a few tries, different routes researched before attempted, then attempted and disliked, and attempted again, and again and then finally – I found the one that worked for me.

While taking the most straightforward route down the 401, eventually linking up to Hwy 85 into St. Jacobs can once in a blue moon shave 10-15 min off of my drive, this route means almost always being stuck traffic, surrounded by people I have noticed that do not pay nearly enough attention to the driving of the car and much more attention to the phone in the car, which means higher frustration levels.

textingdriving

It also means being in the car anywhere between 35 and 75 minutes depending on which lane is blocked by which obstruction and which areas are inexplicably jammed up. I took this route on my way in on my first day. This was also the last. I attempted the return route along the same roads, but didn’t make it past two exits before I bailed and began cutting across roads I assumed led me home.

They did.

I made it my mission to find a route that I could live with until our office relocates at some point this year – of the locations being reviewed by my boss and myself both put me well within 20 min from home, which would be a welcomed change.

When I finally did find my route, it meant taking just over 45 min to get to and from work. With the exception of getting into town to get to my neighbourhood which is so (not) conveniently placed in the middle of town, the meat of my time is spent on country roads. Leaving the city and accompanying traffic that seems to be outgrowing said city behind has translated into a peaceful, wonderfully paced drive that is keeping me sane… well for the most part.

I’ve taken note of a few common occurrences along my drive and I just want to be sure I am not alone in:

Conversing with other drivers – not to their knowledge of course: By this I mean sometimes thanking them. Usually for using their signal, finding the speed limit and maybe even taking a bit of a risk by pushing it, or finally being able to pass that tractor/horse and buggy that may be causing a small slowdown. Sometimes if I am super happy for them, I will applaud their achievement by literally applauding them. I hope they know it’s meant sincerely and from the heart. These drivers understand the point of taking the back roads and don’t mess around – I really appreciate you.

turnsignal

Conversing with other drivers – to their knowledge: My route is usually very peaceful and provides me with more patience then I normally posses when too many not so bright people gather in one spot in their vehicles on the highway. That is not to say though that I still don’t have my moments where I encounter the odd jack ass. Sometimes that jack ass is the person who does exactly the speed limit in the 70 and 80 km zones, REFUSING to give 10 or 15 over, but then flies through the 50 and 40 km zones pushing 80 through the handful of little towns I pass through, as if that is the only speed their vehicle is capable of. These people usually are conversed with through the use of my horn and maybe even a good lipping off to…from the safety of my own vehicle of course. The other type of jackass that I have encountered is the one that cannot for the life of them keep their speed and meander in a +/- 20 km range around the speed limit causing the worlds most frustrating conga line of cars that cannot pass because in 5 minutes, he’ll be riding up your butt because he a) has no control or understanding of the mechanics of his vehicle or b) is not paying fucking attention.

asshole

Celebrating the wins: When I hit all the green lights heading out of town, or two slower trucks split at a light turning left and right leaving the through way free for me to zip down, or when my chosen 8tracks playlist of the day KILLS it and gets me right in the feels for my mood of the day – I celebrate. A celebration can be any of the following: clapping, “whoo”ing or “yay”ing, raising the roof, or break out into a little dance. Which leads me to…

Car dancing: As you well know, Jacqui and I are professional car dancers and take this role very seriously. To aid in my car dancing career and deep love for music, my 4Runner is equipped with a competition quality sound system including sub and amp (yes, I am one of those people – and no, I do not care what you think when you see me rollin’ as you be hatin’). When Michael first told me his intent for the equipment was to be in my daily driver, I really wasn’t pumped about it…but now that I have it, I don’t know if I could live without it. I am no gangster by any means though. My choice of music ranges from good hip-hop like Jurassic5, A Tribe Called Quest or Shad, to contemporary piano, country, indie, electronic/chill wave and everything in between as I don’t discriminate – but I digress. The point being that I not only get in more car dancing because the length of my journey being increased, but also because with less traffic and wider, more open roads, one can feel that much more comfortable busting out their best moves. My abs thank me, I can tell.

Making Friends: Travelling the same route everyday has its little perks of familiarity and while I normally find routine monotonous and deadly, these ones seem to bring me a little bit of happy. I now know based on a few key vehicles that I see every day if I, or they, are running late or are on time. In addition I have made friends with a Great Blue Heron that flies over my truck’s sunroof on the daily at the same time, in the same spot by the river – his name is Henry and he is an incredibly majestic creature. There is also a very sweet construction crew that has been working on the road in one of the small towns I pass through for quite a few weeks – we’ve become such good friends that when they see me coming they will extend the slow sign for the reduced lane a few moments more to make sure I can sneak through before making my lane come to a stop, which always makes me smile.

On top of all of these wonderful things that may happen at some point on my drive, the bit of extra time at a reasonable pace has given me a lot of time alone to think – which my inner-introvert loves – or not think and take in my surroundings. Enjoying my commute has made the transition back into the working world even easier and I’m so thankful for this simple luxury. And to all of the hardcore commuters who have to deal with Toronto/401 traffic, and public transportation, my gratitude for my commute is present and the magnitude of this blessing is not lost on me – I promise.

~ Toni

Hug a terrorist

In high school, I clearly remember being taught that Canada is this beautiful land, full of different cultures and people, and that everyone added their heritage and history to our tapestry, making Canada a unique mosaic of people. And in the next breath, of course, we were taught that America, our southern neighbour, was a melting pot, where people’s histories and heritages were obliterated in a steamrolling of assimilation.

It might be true. And it might be false. The reality, though, is that these are polarizing ideas and they leave little room for exception. There is proof of racism and the demand for assimilation here in Canada, perpetuated even by our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is demanding Muslim women not be allowed to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. And there is proof of acceptance and ‘mosaic’ behaviour from our American neighbours, like the conversation-igniting campaign that Starbucks tried to tackle with their #RaceTogether scrawls on cups.

Regardless of where we live, what nationality we are currently claiming as ours, or how we choose to identify ourselves, we all have the same thing in common: we are all human. And this fact, again, regardless of anything else, is the most important and often the least remembered piece of any country’s puzzle.

A young Muslim woman, Assma Galuta, is trying to tackle the gap between reality and perception when it comes to race. She runs a YouTube channel where she posts filmed social experiments she has conducted. Her experiments challenge what people ‘know’ or ‘say’ about the Muslim faith and people, and what is real. Her focus is the universal commonality: we are all human.

In her first experiment, she asked people to finish her poster where she had written, “I am a Muslim, so that makes me…” She herself had put “kind” and “terrorist,” both terms that had been used to describe Assma in the past. Then, she stands on the street, asking people to write what they think a Muslim is.

The result is heartwarming – everyone who takes the time to write on her poster, leaves words of positivity and humanity. And most of them apologize for the word ‘terrorist’. It’s a nice story and a good news item for Canadians…at least, for a handful of Torontonians. The truth, is, though, she has been called a terrorist. She has experienced what she calls, Islamophobia, and hate directed at her because of her dress, her religion and her belief system. The reason for the experiment still exists – people mistreat people who are different, who act differently, who aren’t like them, instead of treating them as they really are: human.

In her second experiment, Assma blindfolds a Muslim man, Mustafa Malwa, complete with brown skin and beard, and puts two signs beside him. One reads: “I am a Muslim. I am labelled as a terrorist.” The other reads: “I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug.”

Again, the response is hopeful – people walk up to him and hug him – men, women, other Muslims, white people, black people, HUMAN people. And it’s a shining ray of light in the dark days of young, black, unarmed men getting shot without provocation, of mosques getting vandalized, and of Jewish cemeteries getting defaced.

But, of course, this is not everyone. Not every person hugs him. Not every person will trust him. Not everyone can look at him and not see a terrorist.

And this is not a small thing.

It is in the way that the media handles violent attacks, labeling some terrorist and others not. Looking for mental illness and reason behind a murder of 149 people instead of looking for a religious political slant on a horrific plane crash because the pilot who downed the plane was white.

It is in the way we handle any difference, reacting in fear when we see a line of people waiting for a bus simply because they all have a different colour of face than we do. Being suspicious of someone because their skin is darker and their hair is longer and their outfit is something we’d never wear. Judging people simply because of their appearance, their religious affiliation, their beliefs, and their ancestry.

It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. So what can we do? How can we combat stereotyping, and culture-phobia, and hate speech? How can we stop perpetuating false ideas about other religions, other cultures, other ethnicities?

I would like to propose a social experiment. I won’t record it and I won’t post it. It won’t go viral online with millions of views and hits on YouTube. But I’d still like to give it a go, because I’m unsure what else I can do, as a privileged white woman living in Southern Ontario.

Assma Galuta's favourite quote.

Assma Galuta’s favourite quote.

I’d like to challenge you to see every person you come across as human. Not as black or brown or white or pink or purple or blue. Not as fat or gay or ugly or gorgeous or thin or fit or heterosexual. Not as a stranger or a friend or a neighbour or a fellow shopper. But as human. Notice their human-ness, what makes them the same as you, what makes them a person, what gives them the right to have all the necessities of life and the right to live it fully. Notice their breath, their heartbeat, their movement, their presence. Notice them. Notice other human beings. And focus on that piece of the melting pot or the mosaic or the country that you’re in. Stop noticing the difference and start embracing, and in some instances, literally hugging, the humans around you. Because they are just like you.

~ Julia

7 ways to use your horn

To celebrate Jacqui’s monumental 1 year anniversary of being seizure free, her and I ventured into the great city of Toronto to have the incredible Alana Mule of Adrenaline Tattoo Toronto fulfill Jacqui’s wish of permanently marking the occasion.

During our journey there and as we got closer to the city, our language got more colourful, stress levels (and pee levels, to be honest) raised and the use of my horn became more frequent.

Between the drivers that clearly don’t understand that the fast lane is not for driving, the ones busier with their phones than the gas/brake pedal/steering wheel combination in front on them, the ones following entirely too closely, and the ones that plain should have never been given a license (EVER.), our conversation was quite comical and quickly became a running list of the ways you could use your horn.

Seriously though... how do they pass?!

Seriously though… how do they pass?!

1. Marking your territory: This use can be applied in two ways – a) to avoid the side-swipe- when a driver doesn’t check their blind spot and decides that the side of your car looks miraculously the same as the scenery and road and assumes it can drive there, the quick, yet firm pump of the horn wakes them up and reminds them abruptly to use their neck AND eyes when changing lanes and b) to let road bullies know that you are not going to be pushed around by their aggressive lurches towards your car and that you are in fact using the lane you are currently occupying in current space and time. Thank you very much.

2. Saying hello: I might be alone in this and even at the risk of sounding nerdy I will tell you that I get pretty excited when I see friends and family passing by or out and about while I’m driving. This use of the horn is one of my favourites – a few little taps to acknowledge that we’ve seen each other and maybe shared a smile that can brighten any dreary day.

Guilty...

Guilty…

3. Expressing emotion…all of the emotions: The horn can be used when happy, sad, irritated, aggravated, hungry, helpful, mad, grumpy, excited, elated and especially pissed the fuck off. The problem is that the horn’s intent can often be misinterpreted – unless laced relentlessly, that one is pretty self explanatory – and is left up to the perception of the receiving or intended party. Due to the array of intents, I believe vehicles should come equipped with a range of tones and intensities. That way you can specifically say “eat it” to the jackass that wouldn’t let you in, yet somehow still ended up behind you – and he’ll know EXACTLY what you mean. 👍 win, wi…er…

See?! I think this is a great idea!

See?! I think this is a great idea!

4. Celebrating: Attending school in and then later moving to Cambridge, I quickly learned what the celebratory use of the horn was all about. While I have always been a soccer fan and supporter of Portugal in any Euro or World Cup, growing up in the country I  had no concept of the celebratory use of the horn in the true sense. Then I moved to my neighbourhood, which I lovingly refer to as “Portugalt” and when my national team won a game – hell, sometimes even tied one and mingia! You knew about it.

5. Speaking ‘big city’:  In a small town, even in a smaller city, you rarely, almost never hear horns honking, especially the quantity of horn usage that you do in cities like Toronto, Montreal and New York. It’s like the language changes between people and patience runs dry once you cross the border into a metropolis area and everyone there is pretty damn immune to it. I on the other hand still find it abrasive, annoying and for the most part neccesseary. I mean, I can understand one person honking at a person who is blocking a portion of an intersection, but all 50 people that have to edge around!? Excessive.

Makes total sense.

Makes total sense.

6. Announcing your arrival: This is one of those uses that I contend the appropriateness of. If you are old friends, close family members, best buds from back in the day, forever coworkers, etc., then YES, appropriate. If you are not as familiar with the person, for example you are picking up, say the woman you have only been dating a few weeks? Then, NO, absolutely not appropriate. Just ask Michael how this went for him… er, actually maybe don’t…

7. Providing a warning shot: Much like a warning shot in terms of fire arms, the horn warning shot rings the same message – “Your ass is about to get served to you personally”, whether that be a verbal schooling, or in the extreme cases, a physical altercation is about to take place, you may want to tread lightly if ever on the receiving end.

It runs in the family...

It runs in the family…

~ Toni