Monthly Archives: February 2014

Size Matters

By Tim Cerantola

If you think heavy traffic, over-crowded subways or wacky mayors are Toronto’s biggest problems, think again. In case you haven’t heard, Toronto has real problems now. I just found out that the CN Tower no longer has bragging right to the tallest pointy thing on the planet.

In fact, it’s much worse than that. The CN Tower has sunk to 5th place and will slip into 6th place within a month or so when One World Trade Center in New York achieves its full height. This is embarrassing.

The tallest tower honors belong to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. At 828 meters, it is 313 meters taller than Toronto’s beloved 515-meter TV antenna. So what, you say? Hey, when it comes to long pointy things, don’t let them fool you, size matters.

Really, check it out at Skyscraperpage.com. They have a listing of all the world’s present and proposed tallest buildings where, not only will you find that the CN Tower has been soundly disgraced, you will find that it has taken a severe verbal beating as a tower has-been. It’s only a matter of time before they start to refer to our tower as the CN Stub.

Now as a typical “Joe” Canadian and former Torontonian, these latest skyscraper developments strike a sad chord within me. The nerve of those upstart Dubai-ians and their Burj Khalifa. Don’t they realize that since Canada’s decline as the “most polite/nice guy” country on the planet, many of us have placed what’s left of our national pride in our freestanding structures?

Really, the fact that Canada could lay claim to the tallest thing sticking out of the ground was pretty much the main reason why many of us even bother to get out of bed and go to work. I don’t know about you, but every time I drive by that tower, I look up and feel good about Canada.

“Look kids,” I’ll say as my heart swells with pride. “It’s the world’s tallest freestanding structure!” Of course they usually respond with a curt but patriotic, “Who cares about a dumb tower? Keep your eyes on the road!”

To think, for years we’ve been able to say that ours is bigger than theirs. People respect that sort of thing. But when you suddenly find your pillar of pride has come up short, you start to lose your confidence.

Sure, I’ve heard talk of getting our tower an extension. I’ve seen ads for those kinds of things in the back of some magazines – but trust me, those things never work. Just as you’re about to say, “Hey, look at me!” They almost always fall off.

My point is, without the CN Tower to boast about, as far as the world is concerned, Canada is nothing but snow, polar bears and cold air masses. 

As for the city of Toronto, in order to merit the “world class” designation they so desperately aspire to; they’re definitely going to need a biggest or largest something-or-other to show off to rest of the planet. San Francisco has its Golden Gate Bridge. Sydney has its Opera House. Paris has the Eiffel and New York City has too many to name. If Toronto doesn’t do something quick, they’ll be stuck with the world’s 6th tallest freestanding structure. And let’s face it, who gives a rat’s backside about a sixth-banana tower?

If only I were Superman, I’d go over to Ontario Place, pull that white golf ball of an Imax theatre out by its roots, fly it to the top of the CN Tower and then bolt that sucker in place. Not only would that give our tower some much needed extra height, it would add a new tourist draw to the tower as Canada could lay claim to the world’s tallest golf tee. God’s golf tee!

I guess this whole mine-is-bigger-than-yours business got started long ago. Historically speaking, “tower-envy” started in 1372 in Pisa, Italy – upon completion of their famous Tower of Pisa.

Indeed, their skyscraping monolith gave Pisa world tower supremacy. People came from all around just to check out the view from its lofty skypod, rising a full 117 feet above the ground. It was said that from the top, on a clear day, you could see for 3 or 4 blocks.

Of course, it didn’t take long (OK, it took over 400 years) before another tower, London’s 320 foot “Big Ben” ended Pisa’s tower reign. (Said Big Ben to Leaning Tower of Pisa: If you have the inclination, I have the time).

Needless to say, the people of Pisa were saddened. Their tower and hence their town, had lost status along with the tourist bucks that came with it. But that’s when something miraculous happened.

Whether it was dumb luck or whether it was the tower’s most frequent visitor, Big-Fat Tony LoPresti – who sat and ate his lunch on the same side of the tower everyday (he refused to revolve with the other diners). Anyway, the tower started to lean noticeably to one side.

Naturally, the first thing Pisa’s town fathers did was ban Big-Fat Tony from the tower. But then something amazing started to happen. The tourists were returning to Pisa to see their tower. People no longer cared about its height. They came to see it for its unique leaning quality. For the first time in history, size didn’t matter.

OK, I guess I’m drifting here.

The point is, it was inevitable that Toronto would one day lose tallest-tower bragging rights. So, why not give Big Fat Tony a call? Imagine, the World’s Tallest Leaning Tower.

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Car Wars and the Modern Day Road Warrior

The other week, my dearest aunt, who is 91 years old and no longer drives, asked me to drive her to a medical appointment. Naturally, I was happy to do her the favour.

Now, to a 91-year-old, getting out of the house, even if only for a visit to the doctor’s, can be quite an event. For days, from the way she talked about it, you would think she was going on a long journey. Seriously, I was surprised she didn’t bring luggage. Anyway, I picked her up and off we drove.

Traffic was very heavy that day and on numerous occasions I was forced to drive a little more aggressively than usual. Needless to say, I had to bend a couple of road rules along the way. As it would happen, I didn’t yield or merge or yerge or mield or whatever it is you’re supposed to do when you see one of these bothersome road signs.

Personally, I always thought a yield sign meant ‘hurry up and merge’ – so, in very thick traffic, I abruptly zipped into the traffic flow. My auntie was not amused.

“My dear, dear boy!” (Translation: You stupid, stupid boy). “You’re not supposed to do that.” (Translation: You are an idiot!).

“I have to get a little aggressive auntie to get you there on time.” I replied.

“If you don’t get me to an early grave first.” She replied.

To be sure, a “Merge” sign is very important as it indicates that two lanes of traffic must blend into one. This is a very important road sign because the laws of physics clearly state that two cars cannot occupy the same space at the same time – unless of course, you’re in parallel universes.

(These two vehicles are obviously in the same universe).

Now, my aunt has always been a little apprehensive when it came to my driving. You see, as a teenager I developed a “reputation” in our family as being a bit unrefined behind the wheel. OK, perhaps my ‘wild behind the wheel’ reputation was a bit deserved as, like many other testosterone toxic teenaged twits back then, only three of the cars’ controls seemed to matter to me; the gas pedal, the steering wheel and, of course, the volume control on the radio. Things like signal indicators, hazard lights and that pedal thing on the floor that, from what it claims in the manual, will actually make the car slow down, well…

Traffic was heavier than usual as I checked my rear and side view mirrors for an opportunity. I needed to make a lane change to get over to my exit. All I needed was the smallest gap so that I could nose my car in. I seized the first opportunity, swiftly squeezing my car into the next lane to the dismayed honk of another driver.

“Oh my gawd!” My auntie shrieked. “Only crazy people do things like that. Have you completely lost your mind?”

“But I had plenty of room auntie.” I pleaded.

“You may think so, but that driver is waving at you – and he’s only using one finger.” She retorted. “You didn’t even signal.”

My aunt comes from the old school of driving – the one where they still give right away to horse drawn carts and always use their signal indicator. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s that annoying little knobby doo-hicky thing attached to the steering column that seems to be connected to that irritating little green arrow light that flashes on your dashboard display.

In defense of my failure to signal, years ago while commuting daily into Toronto, I learned that while negotiating bumper-to-bumper traffic, it was better not to signal your intent. If you do, all the other drivers will immediately know what you’re up to and they’ll close up all the gaps.

Seriously, whenever I signal, I can almost hear all the other drivers conspire.

“Stop him! He’s trying to make a lane change!”

Then, gnashing their teeth in anger, they all squeeze up close together and pretend not to notice me – and then I don’t get to exit until I’m 250 miles down the road, in Detroit!

If you want to get anywhere in heavy traffic, it’s best to take the other drivers by surprise with a swift, spur-of-the-moment lane change. Seriously, in the rare occurrence when the traffic gods smile upon you and some guy actually lets you in, it doesn’t mean he’s a nice guy. It probably means he wasn’t paying attention.

Anyway, as we neared the doctors’ office, it seemed that every car on the road was in an awful hurry. Then, a traffic light turned yellow as one, two, three and finally our car zipped through the intersection as I watched the yellow light change to red.

“To think, I survived a Nazi occupation in World War II but it will be a trip to the doctors in 2014 that will be the end of me.”

“Oh auntie, it’s not so bad.” I defended.

“Oh nothing!” She argued. “I shouldn’t have had that bran muffin for breakfast because now, because of your maniacal driving, things are… are…, well, they’re moving. There’s a Denny’s. I’m going to need a pit stop.”

I stopped and my aunt went inside.

I Am A Road Warrior

These days, we modern day road warriors must battle for every inch of pavement we can get. Courteous driving only bewilders the other drivers. Trust me, it’s better if you just yell, flip them the bird and then try to run them off the road.

Anyway, I got my aunt to her appointment safely – that is if you don’t count her elevated blood pressure. It seems that my aunt’s blood pressure was a bit on the high side when her doctor checked.

Auntie said the doctor was pleased with her over all health but was a bit concerned about her high blood pressure – not to mention the pale, wild-eyed look of terror on her face. My aunt assured him that she was fine and that her blood pressure will be idyllic next time – when she takes the bus.

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